Cats are resilient. We often hear about them returning to their lost homes after days or weeks. That only goes to show us that cats are perfectly capable of surviving on their own. But is that always the case? And how long can a cat go without eating?
We’ll answer these questions and more:
- Loss of Appetite in Cats
- Reasons Why Cats Refuse to Eat
- Side Effects of a Lost Appetite in Cats
- What to Expect When a Cat Doesn’t Drink Water
- How to Bring Back Your Cat’s Appetite
- How to Increase Your Cat’s Water Intake
- When to Seek Veterinary Help
Let’s start by exploring the cause of the issue.
Loss of Appetite in Cats
Cats can become finicky depending on what, when, and where they eat. But if your cat repeats this behavior, you might get worried. Plus, familiarizing yourself with the cat’s eating habits can be tricky, particularly if you’re trying to manage different mealtimes or take care of an outdoor cat.
But How Long Can a Cat Go Without Eating?
On average, a cat can survive one or two weeks without food as long as it has a consistent water supply. Still, if it doesn’t have access to a protein source, a cat not eating may last three to four days, even with ample water. But without water and food, it’s unlikely that a cat would survive longer than three days.
Note that if a cat eats little or no food in two days, it can become malnourished and need immediate veterinary care. Like humans, cats need a regular supply of water and food to stay healthy and happy.
Why Do Cats Refuse to Eat?
Apart from being picky about mealtime and everything else, a cat may refuse food due to a health condition. If your cat stopped eating and drinking, consider the following reasons.
Dental Pain, Infection, or Injury
Imagine you have inflamed gums or a sore tooth. Then, eating food would feel like torture. And it can be the same for a cat drinking but not eating. If your pet avoids food, only chews on one side of the mouth, or it doesn’t let you pet its mouth or head, your cat may need a dental check-up.
If your cat will not eat or drink, perhaps it has a tummy issue. When that’s the case, it may not want to eat anything until it recovers fully. If your cat has diarrhea or vomiting, maybe it ate something that doesn’t agree with cats.
If the vomiting continues and your cat doesn’t regain its appetite, take it to the vet to ensure it isn’t a serious problem.
Vaccination or Medication
If you just got your cat vaccinated or received medicine, it’s normal for a cat to lose its appetite. Regardless of the reason, you must know when to take your cat to the vet immediately.
How long a domestic cat can go without eating? To answer that, we need to consider its stress levels. A cat or kitten can also stop eating because of a stressful life event, like moving to a new house, changes in the routine, or new additions to the family. The good news is that it usually doesn’t last long.
Familiar or New Food
Cats can be selective about what they eat. Some can enjoy a flavor for months or years and suddenly realize they don’t like it anymore. We get it. Anyone can have a change of heart.
That’s why manufacturers make cat food in different flavors. Consider trying a few options or another brand.
Old Age & Slow Metabolism
If an older cat is not eating but drinking water, that might indicate an issue with the intestines, stomach, pancreas, or other parts of the digestive system. In this case, your cat may feel abdominal pain, leading to vomiting or related issues.
Overall, a decrease in a cat’s appetite is often the first tell-tale sign of a problem with its digestive system.
Side Effects of a Lost Appetite in Cats
If your cat has lost its appetite, you might notice some adverse. Let’s explore the most common ones so you can be prepared.
How long can a cat go without eating and suffering malnutrition? Tow days might be enough, but it can take a lot longer before you notice. For instance, it can happen because of a home-cooked diet if a veterinary nutritionist didn’t approve it.
In case you suspect that your cat suffers a severe lack of nutrients and vitamins, it’s best to visit the vet.
While you’re petting your cat, look at its fur to check if the skin is scaly or dry. Make sure you check the whole body and not just one spot. Your cat might have isolated scaly or dry skin patches, particularly if the nutritional deficiency has just started.
A cat not eating or drinking for 3 days or more will develop a nutritional deficiency and stop grooming itself. If your cat no longer licks its fur or has crusty patches, consider going to the vet.
Using your finger, gently open your furry friend’s mouth and check the gums for swelling. They might look red and puffy. Consider following these tips:
- Don’t put your finger into the cat’s mouth, or it may bite you.
- Consider wearing gloves for safety and hygiene.
- If it’s a stray cat, let a trained professional check the gums. The vet will also check if any of the cat’s teeth are broken or damaged.
Remember to be gentle and handle your cat with care. Also, if everything’s fine, give it some dental chews for cats that will help keep things that way.
How long can a domestic cat go without eating? If you notice your cat accidentally bumps into furniture or has problems finding its bowl, it’s been long enough to develop eyesight issues.
A metabolic disability can cause extensive fat to build up around a cat’s liver. That can lead to hypoglycemia and a sharp decrease in insulin levels. Consequently, the liver won’t be able to perform its routine functions. The disease is called Hepatic Lipidosis. Sadly, 90% of all cases result in fatality.
If your cat develops a nutritional deficiency, its body won’t have healthy muscles. As a result, your cat won’t be too active, so you won’t see it jumping or running around the house.
Keep checking your cat for falling, circling, or an uneven gait. Also, if your cat can’t coordinate itself while walking, it may have weak muscles.
Diarrhea & Vomiting
A cat that isn’t getting enough nutrients can easily become sick because its immune system won’t function correctly. So how long can a cat go without food? Here are a few signs to pay attention to:
- Drinking and eating less
- Acting confused
When a cat doesn’t get enough nutrients, lethargy and fatigue can become a lot more common. Even though cats sleep most of the time, they still have active periods. But if your cat doesn’t move as much as it used to or has problems getting up, it may be malnourished.
What to Expect When a Cat Doesn’t Drink Water
You might have a hard time noticing the signs at first. For instance, an older cat not eating but drinking could signify gastrointestinal issues. But if your cat is vomiting, it’s most probably losing fluids. Since you’re looking for the subtle signs of dehydration, pick up your cat and get ready for an in-home examination.
Start by checking the gums. If they’re dry or sticky, your cat may be dehydrated. A hydrated cat has slippery and moist gums with a pink color. So if they’re yellow or gray, your cat might have other diseases, too. For instance, yellow gums can mean your cat has Jaundice.
But how long can cats go without water? It takes about three days for their health to worsen.
Another way to know if your cat is dehydrated is to take a skin turgor test. It can help identify the elasticity of a cat’s skin. To do this, gently gather your cat’s skin behind the shoulders and the neck and pull it up. If the skin falls back down immediately, your cat is okay. But if it remains upright and slowly returns to its position, your cat may not drink enough water.
Still, that may not work for all cats. For instance, older or leaner cats can have less elastic skin. A far more severe sign of dehydration is sunken eyes.
Here are a few additional symptoms to look out for:
- Kidney Failure
- Diarrhea & Vomiting
- Bad Breath
- Change in Frequency of Urination
- Heart Failure
So how long can a cat go without eating or drinking? And what can you do about it? Let’s find out.
How to Bring Back Cats’ Appetite
Before you panic, try the following solutions.
Place the Dish in a Quiet and Safe Area
If your cat’s not eating food in its usual feeding location, it’s possible that something in that spot scared your pet, and now it fears going back.
In this case, you may have to test several new locations before your cat finds a good mealtime spot. Also, you can place Amazon’s Feliway Diffuser near the bowl to calm down your cat. The pheromones mimic those a cat’s mother emits while nursing.
Clean the Bowls
Cats prefer eating from bowls that smell like them, so we don’t recommend doing this too often. Still, it can help if your cat stopped eating and drinking.
Generally, cats like to keep themselves clean and want their surroundings clean, too. If their bowl has a foul smell or any impurities, your cat may not want to eat from it.
Offer Wet or Baby Food
A cat’s nose is almost as important as its eyes. And like us, it can tell them whether a meal is tasty or not.
While dry cat food doesn’t have too strong of a smell, the right wet cat food cat has a delicious aroma for your pet. For picky eaters, we like to try Merrick Backcountry wet food on Amazon. The protein-rich recipe in gravy usually does the trick.
Add Moisture to the Dry Food
A cat not eating is a cause for concern, but you can try to make the food more appealing and see if it helps.
Experts say that cats love the smell of amino acids and the flavor of protein. So to increase your cat’s appetite, you can add CARU Chicken Broth Meal Topper from Amazon for an irresistible meal.
Additionally, studies show that CBD oil for cats is another way to increase their appetite.
Heat It Up
Do you like your dinner straights out of the fridge? Even if you do, your cat probably prefers it warm. Try to heat it to stimulate your pet’s appetite.
Increasing Your Cat’s Water Intake
How long can a cat survive without food? Not as long as it can survive without water. If your cat’s refusing to drink water, you can try the following methods:
Offer Purified or Mineral Water
You must ensure that your cat has access to fresh water. Ideally, you should change its water bowl twice a day and clean it regularly to prevent bacteria from building up.
Water can come in many forms. Perhaps your cat would prefer it in chicken broth flavor. Plus, that can add more essential nutrients.
Place Multiple Water Bowls Around the House
If you have more than one pet, consider putting multiple water bowls around your house. Like us, cats can be lazy, and having water nearby can ensure they get enough of it.
How Long Can a Cat Go Without Eating Before It Is an Emergency?
A regular check-up is essential for your cat’s health. It will ensure your cat has all the needed vaccinations, and you can catch symptoms of dangerous diseases early on.
Generally, you should do that once or twice a year. But if you notice any of the symptoms above and they persist, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Just two days without food can have terrible consequences for the animal.
Cats may have excellent survival instincts, but that doesn’t mean we should leave them on their own in times of need.
So how long can a cat go without eating? The answer can be anywhere from two days to two weeks. Don’t hesitate to visit a professional if your cat displays symptoms of malnutrition.