Is My Cat Starving, How Long Can Cats Go Without Eating?

All animals need food and water to survive, and felines are no exception. But exactly how long can cats go without eating?

There is no universal answer to this question, but cats can survive around one or two weeks without food, provided they have access to water. Without food and water, a cat won’t survive longer than three days.

While it’s not unusual for our feline friends to refuse to eat or drink at some point, you shouldn’t ignore this. A change in appetite is often the first sign of some underlying health issue.Sudden weight loss and dehydration can lead to severe medical problems such as liver and kidney failure, so it’s essential to react on time.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the common issues that cause cats to stop eating and drinking and what you can do to solve this problem before a visit to the vet becomes necessary.

How often do cats need to eat?

Indoor and outdoor cats require a daily intake of food and water to live a long and healthy life. All cats must eat and drink every day, regardless of their age, breed, or health conditions.

Although every cat has different dietary needs, outdoor cats may require more calories than indoor cats because they lead more active lives. Also, cat food that’s specifically formulated for indoor felines typically contains fewer calories to reduce the risk of obesity in cats.

Can cats go 36 hours without food?

Every cat is different and has its own eating habits. Some cats are extremely finicky, so it isn’t surprising if they skip a couple of meals. Other cats may vomit occasionally because of a sensitive stomach or from hairballs and eat less as a result.

Also, some cats have chronic respiratory issues and suffer from nasal congestion. This may weaken their appetite. It’s essential to monitor your cat’s behavior and reactions closely to be able to notice when something is out of the ordinary.

If your cat refuses to eat for 24-36 hours without any apparent reason, you should call the vet, even if the cat continues drinking water regularly. Refusing to eat for days can cause serious health issues, so your pet needs to be treated on time.

Why do cats go through periods of not eating?

If your cat is going through a period of not eating, or if they haven’t been eating as much as they normally do, there is usually a good reason. Below are several reasons your cat may be avoiding eating.
how long can cats go without food

Health and wellness

Keep in mind that any health related issue that is causing your cat to stop eating warrants a trip to the vet. Here are a few of the most common health related issues that can cause a cat to lose their appetite.

Respiratory problems

Cats can have respiratory problems that inhibit their ability to smell and even see. This can directly impact their appetite, as cats have a weak sense of taste and rely almost entirely on their sense of smell when it comes to food. If your cat’s nose is congested and they can’t smell the food as a result, it’s very likely they won’t eat it.

Also, cats that suffer from lower respiratory tract issues may have trouble breathing, which can cause them to eat less.


Diminished appetite is most commonly the sign of a digestive system problem. It can be anything from irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux to parasites and tumors. Digestive issues are often accompanied by frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach pain.


Obstruction occurs when your cat ingests a foreign body such as strings or plants or develops hairballs that get stuck in its stomach or intestines. A stuck object prevents food from going through the digestive tract and may cause your cat to vomit and avoid eating altogether.

Dental pain

It’s common for cats to fracture their teeth as a result of chewing on sharp objects such as pieces of wire, wood or plastic bags or sustaining an injury during fights. Another common dental disease is gum inflammation, which occurs when bacteria from plaque accumulates on a cat’s teeth and reaches the tooth base. This causes mouth pain and makes it difficult for them to eat.


Your cat may be unwilling to eat due to stress and anxiety. Bringing a new baby to your home, getting a new pet, moving to a different location, or even changing furniture can cause your cat to feel anxious and eat less.

Food issues

Another common set of reasons cats will quit eating are food related. Here are a few reasons your kitty may be refusing to eat:

Food flavor, texture, or shape

Cats are notoriously picky eaters. It’s not unusual for a cat to enjoy a certain food flavor for months and suddenly stop liking it.

Also, some felines prefer certain food shapes and textures over others, and they refuse to eat food that doesn’t match their preferences. Some cats enjoy dry food, while others prefer wet canned food, so it’s necessary to be in tune with their eating habits to prevent any food issues.

Expired food

It’s always a good idea to check the expiration date on the food before giving it to your cat to make sure it hasn’t gone off. If you notice an unpleasant smell, the food may be spoilt, and your cat will notice it, too.

how long can cats go without water

The risks of weight loss in cats

Sudden weight loss is dangerous for all cats, but especially for those that are overweight. When an obese cat isn’t getting enough food, its body starts using fatty deposits in search of energy, and the liver aids in the process.

For the liver to function properly, it needs a sufficient amount of protein. Otherwise, too much fat may attach to the liver and cause hepatic lipidosis. It takes several weeks for this condition to develop and it often results in liver failure. After such severe organ damage, your pet’s life is at serious risk.

If you have an obese cat that suddenly starts dropping weight, make an appointment to see your vet immediately.

How long can a cat go without water?

Generally, all cats can survive without water for a maximum of three days. Outdoor cats can go without water slightly longer than their indoor friends because the prey they catch contains fluids.

Kittens and extremely active cats will become dehydrated faster than senior cats that don’t move as much. Also, cats that eat wet canned food are likely to survive without water longer than felines that only eat dry food.

Factors that increase the fluid loss

Cats regularly lose fluids from urinating and sweating, but the decrease in the number of fluids can also be caused by health issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, kidney and urinary tract diseases, and diabetes, among others.

Why do cats refuse to drink water?

Cats can be particular about their water bowls and may refuse to drink from bowls they don’t like. Some bowls are made of plastic that can irritate the cat’s skin. Others may be too deep for them to feel comfortable while drinking, and they may even mind if the bowl is too close to their food.

The type of water you give them can also be an issue. Some cats prefer drinking running water over still water in a bowl. If your cat prefers drinking from moving water, it’s a good idea to get them a pet fountain.

Regardless of the method, it’s important to remember to change the water daily and keep the water bowl clean at all times to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Dehydration in cats is life-threatening!

Cats don’t have a strong urge to drink water, which is why they could easily become dehydrated. Even if they eat enough food, not drinking enough water will put their health at risk.

When deprived of water, cats not only lose fluids but also electrolytes, which has a negative influence on digestion and circulation. Also, insufficient water intake causes toxins in the body to build up and it weakens a cat’s immune system.

Dehydration can result in organ failure and even death if not treated on time, so it’s necessary to take your cat to the vet as soon as you notice the symptoms.

How to tell if your cat is dehydrated or malnourished?

In addition to a change in appetite, you’ll be able to spot whether your cat has lost weight by picking it up. Your cat will feel lighter and their spine will be more pronounced. If you want to be completely sure, you can also weigh your cat on a set of scales.

How To Weigh Your Cat At Home: PDSA Petwise Pet Health Hub

With dehydration and weight loss alike, your cat can become lethargic, weak, and depressed. Also, their eyes may look sunken and dull. If the white part of the eye appears to be yellowish, this could indicate hepatic lipidosis.

Constipation, thick saliva, or dry and sticky gums can all be signs of dehydration.

How to get your cat to eat and drink

There are some tricks you can use to stimulate your cat’s appetite. If your cat eats dry cat food, try introducing them to a new kibble that comes in a different shape, size, or flavor. You can also add warm water or broth to your cat’s kibble to soften it up and increase its moisture content.

You can also try warming up wet cat food or use home-made cat food recipes to serve your cat fresh meals.

When it comes to getting your cat to drink more water, you can try using shallow water bowls or pet fountains, if your cat prefers running water. You can also add water to any cat food to increase their daily intake of fluids.

So, how long can cats go without eating?

Felines can usually survive three days without food and water, but all cats must eat and drink water every day to stay well-nourished and healthy.

There can be various medical and food-related reasons why your cat has stopped eating or drinking, but it’s important to be in tune with their habits to notice a behavior change.

Try changing the type of food and water your cat usually consumes to get them back on track. If none of this works, you need to schedule an appointment with your vet.

Ana Markovic