How Long Can A Cat Go Without Food?

Russell Cargill

how long can a cat go without food

Has your cat stopped eating recently? If so, you might find yourself wondering, how long can a cat go without food.

It can be kind of scary when your cat loses their appetite, especially since our cats are usually the ones reminding us that their food bowl is empty.

In any case, this is bad for cats, especially kittens!

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they MUST eat meat to maintain their health. Kittens must eat high-quality kitten food until they’re 12 months old.

Food and water intake for cats is very important when it comes to their overall health. 

In this article, I will explain how long cats can go without food and the health risks when cats don’t eat properly.

How Long Can A Cat Survive Without Food?

Cats can survive anywhere between one and three weeks without eating if they have access to water. Without drinking water, they will only survive about three days.

However, if they aren’t provided with protein and proper nutrition, they can die within three to four days, even if they are properly hydrated.

Genetically, cats aren’t designed to live off their body’s energy or fat stores, and doing so for a period of time can cause liver failure or kidney disease.

The harsh reality is cats won’t survive very long without proper food and water intake. 

In fact, no creature can go without food or water for a long time. If your cat is skipping meals or rejecting water, there’s an underlying reason.

Why Has My Cat Stopped Eating?

why has my cat stopped eating

If your cat skips a meal here or there, it may just be that your kitty is being fussy with their food. In any case, keeping them healthy is the primary responsibility of a cat owner.

If your cat stops eating suddenly, and that’s accompanied by weight loss, you must act fast by getting them to a vet asap. 

Often, cat behavior is difficult to understand. If your cat suddenly stopped eating their food, there could be a few common reasons why, including the following:


When cats are ill, they often stop eating. Cats are naturally programmed to hide any weaknesses in case they become vulnerable in the wild, their inability to consume food is one of the most common signs that something is wrong. 

Consult a veterinarian as soon as possible if your cat appears sick, lethargic, or has a fever.

Dental Problems

An adult cat can have dental problems just like humans, most notably tooth decay or tooth root abscess. 

Cats may avoid eating due to any pain in their mouth that’s too much for them to cope with.

Signs Of Dental Issues Are:

  • Reluctance to eat
  • Chewing on one side of their mouth
  • Avoids any contact with their head
  • Won’t let you touch their mouth or teeth

As cats age, their teeth are prone to damage and infections. If you notice any of the signs above, it’s important to get them treated by a veterinary dentist immediately. 

Staying on top of your cats’ teeth hygiene is important if you want them to live a long healthy life. You can lend them a helping hand by brushing their teeth for them at least once a week. 

Taste Aversion And Boredom

Some cats are picky about their food, and sometimes they may no longer like a particular brand or type of cat food

Cats may avoid food that tastes or smells different from what they’re used to. Even though new foods are often recommended for cats, some cat breeds have very sensitive taste buds and might not welcome any change in their diet.

If you’re going to change their food you should start slowly. Give your kitty a new flavor of the same brand of cat food, and if they return to eating, you can try a different flavor.

If you are changing from dry cat food to wet cat food, you should mix the wet food into the dry food slowly over time starting with a 80% dry mix and 20% wet. 

After a few days you can increase the ratio of wet food and continue the process. 


An overactive thyroid, also known as hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis, may stop a cat from eating altogether. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones.

Usually these cats have a very high body temperature and if you touch them, their skin feels hot.

If your cat is exhibiting symptoms of hyperthyroidism, get them to a vet immediately for treatment.

Blood Sugar Levels

If your kitty’s blood sugar drops below a normal range due to illness or disease, known as Hypoglycemia, they will stop eating.

Again, this is a very serious medical condition that requires immediate medical attention from your veterinarian. 

Upset Stomach

Your cat may just have an upset stomach. The same way we feel a little “off” after eating a questionable late night kebab.  

If your cat is vomiting or has diarrhea, this could be a sign that they have ingested something toxic. 

If the vomiting persists and their appetite does not return to normal after a couple of days, book a vet appointment to make sure there isn’t a more serious issue.

If your cat has a sensitive stomach you will need to make sure you are feeding them sensitive stomach cat food to avoid any further issues. 


Medications and feline vaccinations can sometimes cause loss of appetite. 

Consult your veterinarian if there are any side effects from the medication your cat is taking. 

Depression Or Anxiety

Cats can quickly become depressed if they lose a close mate or caregiver. 

It is generally temporary, but if they refuse to eat or drink for long periods of time, they can suffer serious consequences. 

The same can be said if they are anxious about recent changes in their lives.

What Can Happen If My Cat Doesn’t Eat Enough?

For cats to survive, they need specific nutrients from their food and water. Hepatic lipidosis, a liver disorder that is fatal if left untreated, can occur when cats stop eating or cannot find enough protein in their food. 

This process can happen very quickly with cats since their livers do not function the same way humans’ and dogs’ do. Continuing to starve will also cause a cat’s organs to shut down.

How Can I Encourage My Cat To Eat?

orange cat cat eating

You’ve tried it all. The best of the best wet food, fresh dry food every other hour, and even switched bowls numerous times and nothing seems to work. 

Safe to say you have a fussy eater, not to worry many cats are, and thankfully I have some tips to get even the fussiest of cats to eat.

Try raw chicken or raw fish. Cats are carnivores meaning their natural prey is meat. Offcuts of your cooking meat are a good way to give them that raw chicken fix.

If your cat still isn’t eating, below are some helpful tips to encourage them to eat:

Slowly Incorporate Food

Allow your cat to eat their food slowly if they are recovering from illness or are on medication.

Feeding them by hand is a good way to do this. It’s also a good time to strengthen that bond between the two of you. 

Introduce A Puzzle Feeder

A puzzle feeder can help. A puzzle feeder is a type of food bowl that forces your cat to slow down their eating and use their natural hunting instincts to get the food. It can be an encouraging tool to get them excited about their food again. 

Change Their Food

You can try to switch their food type over time if you think they could be getting bored of their current diet. 

There are many types of cat foods available such as: 

You can also add small amounts of chicken or tuna to their current diet. 

However, don’t feed your cat excessive amounts of tuna. Even though cats can consume tuna, too much can cause other problems.


Cats naturally feel vulnerable when eating so, when feeding your cat, do it in a quiet, private area where they can eat in peace. 

When To Seek Medical Advice

In the event that your cat still refuses to eat after several days, you need to take them to the vet to avoid any medical issues.

There could be bigger issues at play causing their lack of appetite. 

Hydration Is More Important

dorothea oldani c01oPaDbxWw unsplash

Dehydration in cats is very dangerous, more so than your cat not eating for a few days. For every 5 pounds of body weight, a cat should be drinking 4 ounces of water.

If you’re curious about how much water your cat should be drinking on a daily basis, there’s an easy way to calculate how many ounces of water your cat needs every day.

For example, if you have a 10-pound cat they should be drinking about 8-10 ounces of water a day. As mentioned, that equates to about 4 – 5 ounces for every 5 pounds of body weight. 

If you feed your cat wet food you may notice them drinking less than the recommended amount above. 

Don’t worry too much, this shouldn’t be an issue as wet food contains a lot of moisture and helps keep them hydrated. 

If your cat is eating dry food, then they may need to be drinking a lot more water as dry food is very low in moisture.

A cat that refuses to eat is bad, yes, but a dehydrated cat is far worse. It’s absolutely crucial to make sure your cat is getting enough water intake. 

Going long periods without drinking can cause irreversible issues, wreaking havoc on their health.

Over 80% of your cat’s body is made up of water, just like us. Every organ, tissue, and vessel needs it to function. Cats are already prone to dehydration, so for them to stop drinking completely is a highly time-sensitive matter.


Cats need nutrients to survive and if they don’t eat or drink anything then health problems can develop quickly that may require hospitalization.

If a cat only refuses to eat for one day it is probably not necessary to see the vet right away. Instead, try to get the cat to eat and see how it goes for a couple of days.

If you can’t get your cat to eat or if they’ve gone without food or water for several days then take them to a veterinarian immediately.

Consider An Automatic Cat Feeder

Automatic cat feeders have been known to increase stimulation and help cats who don’t eat regularly.

I’ll include one of my top-recommended automatic cat feeders below.

Iseebiz Automatic Cat Feeder 3L Pet Food Dispenser

Iseebiz Automatic Cat Feeder, 101oz/3L Timed Cat Feeder...
  • Flexible Meal Schedule: Iseebiz...
  • Personalized Recordings: Press and hold...
  • Dual Power Supply: Power Supply(5V DC...

The Iseebiz feeder is a cool bit of kit. With the ability to record a 10 second voice clip of you calling your pet and the infrared sensor to stop overfill it really is a complete automatic feeder.

With the ability to operate on battery power you can pretty much place this anywhere throughout the home. The design is sleek and the build quality is above par. Users enjoy the programmable time schedule.


  • Portion control
  • Voice recorder
  • Programmable schedule timer
  • Power cord


  • Small display
  • Bit pricey

Automatic cat feeders are great for those weekend getaways or work trips. If you are going to leave your cat at home for a day or two then they are a must.

Some other automatic cat feeders worth mentioning are the Petnet SmartFeeder and the WESTLINK Automatic Pet Feeder.

Last update on 2024-06-15 at 07:26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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