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How Many Days Can Cats Live Without Food

↯ Key takeaway points

  • A healthy adult cat can technically survive without food for two weeks, but serious consequences can occur after just three days.
  • If a cat has not eaten in 24 to 36 hours, it is important to contact a vet right away.
  • Cats can experience two types of anorexia: true anorexia and "pseudo-anorexia."
  • Treatment for anorexia depends on the diagnosis and may include appetite stimulants, supplements, or intravenous feeding.
  • To entice a cat to eat, try adding canned food, heating the food, adding low-sodium chicken broth, and providing a quiet and safe space. Also, keep the cat hydrated.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Licensed veterinarian and animal behaviorist with over three years of experience and a Ph.D. in Poultry Science.
Published on
Wednesday 13 December 2023
Last updated on
Monday 30 October 2023
How Many Days Can Cats Live Without Food
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When your cat stops eating, or you spot an outdoor cat who looks like they haven’t eaten recently, it’s natural to be concerned for their wellbeing. As such, you may ask how many days cats can live without food.

So, how long can a cat live without food? When does it become dangerous for a cat to go without a meal? And what are the signs that your cat is struggling with their food? To find out, read on with us today.

How Many Days Can Cats Survive Without Food

Your healthy adult cat can technically survive without food for two weeks. However, a cat who does not eat for two weeks will always suffer serious consequences. After just three days, your cat’s body begins to use fat reserves for energy. This puts them at great risk of hepatic lipidosis, as a cat’s organs cannot use fat reserves efficiently. And, according to VIN, enteral-assisted feeding is a possibility for any cat who has not been meeting its resting energy requirements for three or more days. So, be sure to contact your vet right away if your cat has not eaten in 24 to 36 hours.

So, while a healthy adult cat can live without food for two weeks, it does not mean that it should. Failing to provide your pet with food for this amount of time puts them at serious risk of illness, discomfort, and distress. Always provide your feline friends with a high-quality, balanced, and nutritious meal every day as required. Your cat is an obligate carnivore, and as such, they rely on nutrients found in animal products. A cat requires high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a small amount of carbohydrates. Among these, your cat also needs a range of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to be healthy and happy.

Reasons Why Cats Are Not Eating

When asking how long a cat can live without food, it’s important to understand why a cat would go without eating. In cats, there are two types of anorexia. These are true anorexia and “pseudo-anorexia.” Both types involve reduced food intake, but pseudo-anorexia involves a cat who is hungry but cannot eat due to difficulty chewing, swallowing, or digesting food. Some leading causes of pseudo-anorexia in cats include dental disease, abscess behind the eye, cancers or tumors of the digestive tract, pain in the facial muscles, and pain anywhere in the body. Conversely, true anorexia can be caused by systemic disease, stress, poisoning, nausea, gastrointestinal blockage, and medication side effects. In order to diagnose your cat’s condition, your vet will carry out a physical exam to look for any obvious physical explanations. Then, diagnostic tests may be done, such as a blood test, ultrasound, or biopsies if applicable.

What to Do If Your Cat Is Not Eating

Treatment for a cat with true or pseudo-anorexia depends on their diagnosis. It is important that your vet diagnoses the cause of your cat’s struggles before appropriate treatment can commence. For instance, a vet may prescribe an appetite stimulant where appropriate. If your cat is struggling with a mineral imbalance, your vet may prescribe supplements. When your cat’s gastrointestinal system is not working properly, your vet may recommend intravenous feeding by a specialist. So, your vet can help your cat with specific treatments, but you can incorporate some simple steps into your cat’s diet to help them at home.

Overall, the steps you can take include:

  • Reduce environmental stressors
  • Offer food your cat is used to
  • Move food away from litter trays
  • Use a wide shallow feed bowl
  • Increase palatability (adding broth, warming)

Add Some Food Toppers

Firstly, you can try adding canned food to top of your cat’s dry food. Oftentimes, canned food has a more intense flavor and provides more moisture. You can also try heating your cat’s food to body temperature (around 38C) to stimulate their appetite. If you do this, be sure to stir the food after to ensure that no hot pockets remain. If this doesn’t entice your cat, try adding low-sodium chicken broth to give some more flavor. All of these changes help to make your cat’s meal more palatable – in other words, tastier and more enticing! So, if you’re asking how many days a cat can live without eating, don’t panic just yet – some inappetent cats are easily enticed by a topper or two.

Provide a Quiet and Safe Space

A leading cause of true anorexia in cats is stress. As such, consider if your cat is too stressed to eat. This may be due to other cats or other pets interfering with meal times. Other members of your household may unknowingly make your cat feel unsafe whilst they eat – when your cat eats, they are particularly vulnerable to threats and being caught off guard, so they must feel that they are safe and secure whilst they eat. To combat this, provide your cat’s meals in a safe and secure place that is not open to other members of the household.

Keep Your Cat Hydrated

In cats, anorexia and dehydration go paw in paw. An anorexic cat will quickly become dehydrated, and a dehydrated cat will lose their appetite. As such, maintaining your cat’s hydration is essential for piquing their appetite. You can do this by adding more canned meals to their diet, adding low-sodium chicken broth on top of their dry food, and providing clean, fresh water every day. If your cat refuses to drink, always ask your vet for advice. Your cat may require fluids that only a vet can provide in order to feel better.

When to Seek Veterinary Help

If your cat fails to eat a meal within 24 to 36 hours, it’s important to seek veterinary help as soon as possible. Significant health issues can arise if your cat goes without a meal for a few days, or fails to eat full meals for a few weeks. The most immediate concerns for anorexic cats are dehydration and a weak immune system. This goes even for cats who are already overweight. An obese cat who fails to obtain enough calories will begin to use their fat stores, which leads to fat entering the liver. This goes on to cause hepatic lipidosis and liver failure if untreated. So, do not keep your overweight cat from eating in a bid to reduce their weight. This only puts your cat at greater risk of ill health.

The consequences of anorexia in cats include:

  • Reduced immune system function
  • Reduced recovery from infections
  • Decreased tissue repair and wound healing
  • Increased risk of drug toxicity
  • Increased risk of hepatic lipidosis

So, how many days can cats live without eating? Two weeks is the maximum, but your cat should not go without a meal for more than two or three days. Failure to eat will lead to severe health issues that only your vet can assist with.

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