If you are asking the question, “How long can a cat go without food and water?” this is likely because there has been a significant change in your cat’s appetite; or your cat has completely stopped eating.
Like humans, cats can survive longer without eating than they can without drinking. On average, cats can survive up to two weeks without food but can only go three days without water. Though this is the case, your cat can develop serious and life-threatening health problems the longer he or she goes without food.
If you are noticing a change in your cat’s eating habits, you have a right to be concerned. To best help your cat, you need to learn what can cause a cat not to eat as well and how long a cat can go without food.
Reasons Cats Refuse to Eat
The reasons cats will not eat are numerous. The most common reasons cats refuse food are sickness, boredom with the food, pain when eating, vaccination and medication side effects and stress. Let’s explore each of these reasons in detail as well as how to remedy such situations.
The most common reason cats refuse to eat is due to illness. When cats are ill, they feel unwell, thus they lose their appetites. Other problems that are usually present when a cat is ill are lethargy, fever and nausea.
Sometimes, cats will experience pain when they are ill, especially if an infection is present. Respiratory infections will especially make cats lose their appetite because these types of infections make cats feel unwell, and they can also prevent cats from being able to smell their food.
Cats use their sense of smell to see if foods are safe to eat. When cats smell their food, they are checking to see if the food is spoiled or is poisonous. When cats are unable to smell, they are uncertain whether the food is safe to consume, so they refuse to eat because of distrust.
Intestinal problems can also cause cats to lose their appetites. Common intestinal ailments that interfere with eating are inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, viruses, parasitic infections, constipation, gastritis, ulcers, and cancer of the digestive tract.
What to Do When a Sick Cat Will Not Eat?
When sick cats refuse to eat, it is best to get medical attention. Resolving or treating the illness is key to get cats to eat again. Of course, there may be appetite difficulties during the recovery process or during the time it takes to find the proper treatment for a long-term illness.
How Can I Get My Cat’s Appetite Back?
While going through the recovery process or when trying to find the proper treatment for a long-term illness, cats may struggle with appetite difficulties. If this is the case for your cat, there are certain foods you can feed your cat that may provide appetite stimulation. These foods are as follows:
- Wet cat food
- Turkey baby food
- Chicken baby food
Whether you feed your cat baby food or wet cat food, make sure to heat it up as heating the food will bring out the aromas more. Also, when you feed baby food, make sure there are no other ingredients besides the plain meat as seasonings are toxic to cats.
Boredom with the Food
Sometimes, cats stop eating when they get bored with their food. This often happens when cats eat the same food repeatedly, and they grow tired of it. Just like humans, cats can grow tired of eating the same food all the time.
Contending with Boredom
If you sense that your cat is bored with his or her food, you need to make things interesting. You can do this by offering a wide variety of foods or even toppings to see what will grab your cat’s attention. When you find foods that your cat likes, continue offering them.
If you want to prevent your cat from becoming bored with food in the future, change your food offerings at mealtimes. For example, you can offer your cat meat to eat for one meal, and you can offer salmon for another.
[Related Article: 5 Best Automatic Cat Feeder For Multiple Cats(Buying Guide)]
Pain When Eating
Pain is another reason cats will refuse to eat. Cats will experience pain when eating because of mouth sores, gum inflammation, gum disease, and gum infections.
Resolving the Pain
Once you treat the underlying cause for your cat’s pain, your cat will begin eating again. In most cases, antibiotics and medications for inflammation will solve problems with the mouth, teeth and gums. In more severe cases, surgery will be required.
Vaccination and Medication Side Effects
Medications and vaccinations can sometimes cause cats to lose their appetites. Some common medication and vaccination side effects that can interfere with eating are loss of appetite, nausea, and lethargy
Often, cats will begin to feel better within a day. Just in case it takes longer for side effects to go away, medications can be prescribed to mitigate these side effects so cats will feel comfortable enough to eat. If your cat is experiencing side effects from medications or vaccinations and it is going on longer than a day, consult your vet for help.
Stress is another reason cats can refuse to eat. Common stressors that can cause cats to lose their appetites are a major move, a new baby, new pets, a traumatic event or prolonged separation from owners.
How To Get A Stressed Cat To Eat
Many times, cats will begin eating again once the stressors disappear. Sometimes, however, medication may be needed if cats still have not yet recovered when the stressors are gone. Some cats are more sensitive than others and may need extra help coping.
Will A Cat Starve Itself To Death?
Cats survive on the nutrition they receive from their food. Without food, cats’ organs begin to deteriorate. Cats begin to experience organ failure in a matter of days.
First, their digestive systems shut down, and then their brain follows. The last organ to fail is their heart.
Another serious and potentially life-threatening problem that cats can experience when they have not eaten for extended periods of time is hepatic lipidosis. Hepatic lipidosis is a problem with the liver that occurs when cats stop eating. When cats face complete dehydration, their kidneys fail.
[Related Article: How Much Wet Food To Feed A Cat Before They Overeat?]
If your cat has gone longer than 24 hours without eating, you must contact your vet. Your vet will give your cat the help that is necessary to restore his or her appetite. Additionally, you can avoid facing heartache as you can keep your cat from going into dangerous territory and potentially losing his or her life.
Knowing how long a cat can survive without food is important. This way, you will not wait too long to get your cat medical attention. Knowledge is power, and understanding how to help your feline family member will ensure the best possible outcome.