How Long Can A Cat Go Without Eating?

By: Jill Caren / Last Updated: 12/08/2021
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How Long Can A Cat Go Without Eating?

Cats are pretty darn good at surviving, but that does not mean they are immune to the risks of not having enough food or water.

Knowing your cats eating habits is important to understanding their overall health! If they eat a full bowl of food every day then suddenly stops eating – it is important to understand why.

Below are some things I learned in talking to my own veterinarian when my cat Snoopy decided to go without food for a few days.

I took her to the vet on day 3 of her not eating. She was drinking fine and had no issues going potty, but she is normally a good eater and just stopped.

For Snoopy thankfully it was just a case of her being a finicky cat. It turned out the cat food we had been using changed their ingredients and something in the new formula just did not appeal to her. She would rather go without eating then eat whatever they added in the food!

We started her on a different food and all has been well ever since. So, sometimes your cat not eating can really be something simple – or in some cases, not so simple.

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Eating?

Cats should never go more than 2 or 3 days without eating.

They rely on a diet that is protein rich and when they do not get enough it can result in illness and possibly death. Their livers do not support their bodies like other animals, which means they cannot process fat easily.

Cats cannot live 2-3 weeks without food!

I have seen some websites say cats can live up to two weeks without food – please understand this is not safe or recommended!

Not eating – or drinking can be signs of serious issues, so do not wait more than 2 or 3 days tops to take your cat to the vet!

Reasons A Cat Might Not Eat

If you notice your cat not eating, there could be many reasons as noted below. Most commonly it is because your cat is feeling sick. But there are times it might be another reason.

  • Change in diet. This is a big one as cats are creatures of habit. If you have recently changed foods and your cat is not eating the new food, go back to the old food for a few days. Then slowly mix the old and new together to transition them to the new food if you prefer they eat that. Remember, some cats may never acclimate to a new type of food.
  • Sick. Illness is a common reason a cat may stop eating. If you notice they have not eaten in a couple of days a trip to the vet is highly recommended. If you notice your cat vomiting more than normal or acting off from their usual behavior – you should get to the vet sooner than later.
  • Stress. Did you recently move? Is there a new baby in the home? Did you bring another pet into the home? Think about anything that may have impacted their lifestyle and understand this can prevent them from eating like normal.
  • Medication. If your cat was recently prescribed medications for other health issues, these could be causing their belly to be upset which in turn prevents them from eating. Patience is what you will need with this issue.
  • Dental disease. While not a huge issue in younger cats, if your older cat is not eating this could be the cause and would definitely require a vet visit. The pain they are feeling is what would be preventing them from eating. You can try giving them soft food if their diet is normally hard – but a vet will help clean the infection and give them antibiotics to minimize their pain.

What Happens When Cats Go Without Food?

If it is just a day or two that they go without eating and no other signs of illness are present – it could just be they have a belly ache or just feel under the weather.

Hey, we all feel “yucky” sometimes – pets are no different. So, it may not be something to worry about yet.

At this point, it may be a good idea to reach out to an online veterinarian just to see if they can offer some advice.

If by day 3 your cat still refuses to eat, then you should start to be concerned and get your cat to you local veterinarian.

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Hepatic Lipidosis

Some cats might be diagnosed with Hepatic Lipidosis or fatty liver disease from not eating enough.

This disease occurs because a cat’s body is not getting enough calories and the cat’s body needs to use fat storage for energy.

This can result in liver failure from excess fatty deposits – also called Hepatic Lipidosis.

Signs of Hepatic Lipidoses in a cat include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Jaundice
  • Constipation

If you notice any of these issues in your cat, then a veterinary trip is highly recommended.

Malnutrition

Maybe you have been busy and have not been 100% sure how long it has been since your cat last ate.

Was it 24 hours? Was it 2 days? Was it two weeks?

Maybe several people feed your cat and you are not all keeping track if your cat doesn’t eat.

Whatever the reason, we wanted to make sure you are aware of some signs of malnutrition. This can happen if your cat has not eaten for a period of time, so if you notice some of these signs – please take your cat in of a veterinary visit as soon as possible.

  • A cat that is malnourished will lose weight very quickly – that might be the first thing you notice.
  • Skin will become very dry and may appear flaky.
  • A lack of interest in grooming themselves or playing.
  • Coordination issues may become an issue.
  • Overall weakness and lethargy.

Ultimately, if you wait too long to address issues that may be due to malnutrition your cats organs may begin to fail. Once they get to this point it is hard to nurse them back to health.

Getting Your Cat To Eat

If you are a cat owner – you know getting a cat to do anything they do not want to do is not easy. But there are things you can do to try and stimulate their appetite.

If your cat refuses to eat then you can try a few things to encourage them to eat.

  • Wet food. If your cat typically eats dry cat food maybe change it up a bit and offer them some wet food in addition to their dry food or as a replacement.
  • People food. Try cutting up some cooked chicken or tuna as a topper for their dry food or as a special treat. Be sure not to use canned tuna as it has added salt!
  • Food toppers. Some pet brands offer what are called food toppers. These are usually filled with cat loving goodness and may be just what kitty needs to get that appetite kick started.
  • Environment. If something has changed in your home (new pet, baby etc.) you should try feeding your cat in a new location. Feed your finicky feline in a quiet location that is stress free.
  • Heat Food. Sometimes heating wet good can help release additional odors that a cat cannot resist. Some cats may find the food more tasty when heated too.
  • Clean Bowls. We are all guilty of it. Maybe you went a little longer than normal when cleaning the water and food bowls. Keeping them clean can inhibit growth of bacteria which may turn your cat off.

What If My Cat Is Not Drinking Water Either?

Cats need both food and water to survive. It is recommended to not let them go more than 24 hours without a drink of water.

While cats can survive a few days without water, you do not want to wait that long. Dehydration can happen quickly in a cat so it is not worth waiting!

Jill Caren CharityPaws

Jill Caren

Jill is an avid animal lover who spends her time helping animal rescues by photographing homeless pets and through her work on CharityPaws.

She is currently owned by Cleo, an American Pit Bull Terrier and Snoopy Cat. Her inspiration comes from her girls Ginger and Riley (RIP) – pit mix sisters who were loved family members for almost 15 years.

You can find her on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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