How Long Can Cats Go Without Eating?

As a pet owner, it is all-natural to get worried sick when your paw friend refuses to eat. Who would not worry, right?

Half of the time, they are just being finicky eaters and just needs a bit of variation in the menu.

Another half of the time, there may already be an underlying cause that is worth the worry. Either way, you have to keep track of your cat’s eating pattern and observe for signs of starvation.

With cats’ inability to express how they are feeling, loss of appetite can be quite alarming!

So how should one know when it is time to take a trip to the vet’s clinic? How long can cats survive without any food intake? You will find out soon enough.

How Long Can a Cat Live Without Eating?

Cats are able to survive up to two weeks without any solid food so long as they are still drinking water. If you have noticed that your cat is not eating its food, check if it is drinking enough water.

This is quite important because most cats get their water intake from the food they eat.

So if cats won’t drink water and stop eating as well, that is when the real problem starts! Dehydration may happen and it should be taken seriously as cats can die in a few days without water.

What Happens if They Stop Eating and Drinking?

Any animal that stops eating will slowly lose energy and strength as there are no nutrients for the body to use. They might Feline hepatic lipidosis or commonly known as fatty liver disease in cats may also occur when they starve and this could lead to liver failure and death.

If there is no water intake, however, not only will the body cease to function properly but the internal organs will slowly fail and cats may suffer from their long term damage and eventually die.

cat looking at food, but not eating

What Are The Possible Reasons Why a Cat Would Not Eat?

Sometimes, they just got too used to the food being served that they got bored with it.

Or sometimes your cat is just not a fan of a particular brand when you are trying to mix things up. Aging, nasal congestion, and hairballs are among other non-medical reasons why your feline friend would refuse to eat.

But unfortunately, not all reasons why a cat would not eat are all harmless and not cause for panic. Sometimes, it can be a sign of discomfort from an illness that your poor kitty is enduring.

Diabetes, pancreatitis, kidney diseases, dental issues, urinary tract infection, and upper respiratory tract infection are common grave reasons why a cat would stop eating.

When To Go To The Vet?

It is important for pet owners to know the specific eating behavior of their pets. It is normal for some cats to skip a meal or two.

Some with chronic respiratory problems will normally experience a decrease in appetite and therefore eat less. Pet owners of such cats mentioned above would normally wait for a few more days before going to the vet.

If it has been at least two days that your cat has not been eating or once you observe early signs of dehydration, go to the vet immediately!

What are The Signs of Dehydration and Starvation?

Dehydration should be treated as an emergency. Cats’ body weight is 60% water and with no water intake for a prolonged period of time, their organs may suffer.

Unsure if your cat is dehydrated? There are ways to check for dehydration at home. Do the scruff test.

Pull the skin away from the back of your cat’s neck, observe how the skin retracts. It is a good sign if the skin snaps back immediately. If not or if it may seem like it is gliding back, then your cat needs to be hydrated.

The gum test is also one good way to check if your cat is suffering from dehydration. Press a finger unto your cat’s gums.

After release, there should be a small white spot from where your finger was lifted. In a healthy cat, it takes about 1-2 seconds for the color to change back to pink.

Sunken eyes, dry mouth, lethargy, dry skin, and chronic panting are a few signs of dehydration. If your cat is refusing food intake, you should monitor for extreme weight loss, lethargy, swelling in the gums, poor coordination, shallow breathing, and muscle wasting.

If any, or worse, all of these are notable, go to your vet. STAT!

What Can Be Done Before Your Vet Appointment?

If a vet is unavailable and you are worried sick about your feline friend’s well-being, you may try to help it while waiting for the doc. You can actually help your cat by squirting water and wet food into their mouth using a syringe.

If your cat is spitting out the syringe contents, close its mouth for a brief second. If your cat vomits food, let it lick ice chips throughout the day.

Again, this should not be done as the ONLY remedy but just a temporary relief that you can do while waiting for an expert to see and examine your fur baby.

Tricks To Get Your Cat To Eat

If your cat is used to canned food, try a different brand or flavor. It could also help if you warm the food prior to serving.

If you are using dry food, trying out different shapes and sizes might also help. Something new might just spark your pet’s interest. Variety is always a good idea in enticing a picky eater.

Sick cat not eating anything

In Summary

Starvation in cats is a serious matter as it often results in dehydration. When suffering from both and left unattended, your furry friend may be facing dire complications or possibly even death.


As a responsible paw parent, it is your responsibility to know your cat’s eating pattern and preferences. Why? Because with cats, you won’t know that there is something wrong until it is too late.

They have a tendency to hide illnesses until it is quite obvious. They may act normally even if they aren’t eating.  That is why you have to pay close attention and know when to call for professional help.


Jo Singer is a former breeder of pedigreed cats, including Siamese, Russian Blues, Burmese and Oriental Shorthairs.

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