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How Many Days Can Cats Go Without Food? Vet-Reviewed Facts & Tips

Genevieve Dugal

By Genevieve Dugal

Cat not eating food

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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As a cat owner, you know how picky your feline friend can be. They are known to turn up their noses to food, avoid drinking water when they should, and even refuse cuddle time with their pet parents when they are upset. While you may be sad when they avoid your affections, the true concern comes into play when you realize your cat isn’t eating or drinking either, as it should.

If you’ve ever wondered how many days your cat can go without food, you aren’t alone. Many of us cat parents have been curious as to when we should reach out to veterinarians or if we just need to try new foods for our finicky felines. Cats can go for up to 2 weeks without food. The unfortunate side of this timetable is that after a few days, dangerous side effects come into play.

Let’s take a look at cats and their need for food. This will help you understand the importance of food for their overall health and why they shouldn’t go without their needed nutrients for extended periods.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?

Like we mentioned, a cat can survive for up to 2 weeks without food when a water source is available, but they should not be put in this situation.  Cats are obligate carnivores and require meat as part of their diet for survival. When they are deprived of meat, the body begins to use fat reserves to keep itself energized. Due to these needs, after only 3 days, a cat can become severely sick.

Cats should eat every day. While this is possible for pet cats, others may not be so lucky. Strays and feral cats often go for days without a proper meal. This is one of the main reasons these cats are often in poor health when they are rescued.

hungry cat with green eyes waiting for dinner in front of empty bowl
Image credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

What Happens When Your Cat Doesn’t Eat

When a cat’s lack of food makes the body use fat stores for energy, the liver can become overworked as the fat is moved to the liver to turn into energy. Hepatic lipidosis is common in cats who go longer than 3-4 days without proper nutrients, especially in cats that were overweight before they stopped eating. You’ll also discover that this disease can come on very quickly.  If your cat continues to go without proper nutrition, its organs will begin to shut down.

The 4 Reasons Your Cat Isn’t Eating

Picky eating cats normally give in, eventually. But if your cat is truly going without food for extended periods, there could be bigger issues you should be paying attention to. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common reasons your cat may not be eating properly.

1. Illness 

Cats are known to stop food intake when they aren’t feeling well. As the pet parent, it’s your responsibility to know when things aren’t right. If you notice your cat isn’t eating and is showing other symptoms such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea you should contact your veterinarian for an appointment.

2. Stress 

Cats are emotional animals. If they are feeling stressed or uneasy about changes around the house, they may avoid food. When this happens, pay extra attention to them and help them work through the issues. If not, they’ll be visiting their pal the vet.

3. Dental Problems 

We all know how hard it is to eat with a sore mouth. If your cat is showing signs of difficulty eating its food, avoiding chewing on one side of its mouth, halitosis or showing signs of distress when you touch its head or mouth, a dental visit may be required.

4. Medications 

Medications prescribed by your cat’s veterinarian may cause loss of appetite. When your cat is on medicines, you should be aware of any possible side effects they may experience.  Cats may also avoid eating their food if they become aware there is medication in it.


sad lonely cat
Image Credit: medveda, Shutterstock

Ways to Get Your Cat to Eat

In some situations, if your cat isn’t eating, being patient is the only answer with the support of your veterinarian. Medications and illnesses must run their course before your cat will start eating normally again. If this isn’t the cause of your cat’s loss of appetite, a change of food may be called for. Remember that any change in food should be done gradually. Start with adding a little of the new food to the original food and change the proportions over about a week.  If they still refuse to eat properly, then contacting your veterinarian is a must. They will be able to help you determine any issues your cat is suffering from and get them on the road to recovery.

In Conclusion

While your carnivorous cat can go 2 weeks without food, after only a few days, this can become dangerous. To promote a healthy feline friend, you should keep a close eye on their appetite. When you see changes, consulting their veterinarian is important. This will keep your cat at a healthy weight and feeling their best.

Featured Image Credit: Elena Kutepova, Shutterstock

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