How Long Can A Cat Go Without Food And Water?

Feral Cats Vs Domesticated Cats

Feral cats are self-sufficient because they hunt and eat for themselves. Through this way of life that they have adapted to consuming food intermittently, allowing their bodies to store food as fat.

The process enables them to go without food for longer periods of time compared to that of the domesticated feline.

Domesticated cats usually have a freshwater supply and a feeding schedule, so they are adapted to consuming multiple small meals throughout the day.

They are better able to regulate their metabolism, and could not go for as long of a period without food compared to that of a feral cat. 

Nutrition of the Dog and Cat: Waltham Symposium Number 7 – Google Books

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Water?

A cat’s existing health condition will play a big role in determining how long it can survive without food and water. On Average, a healthy cat can go up to three days without water.

Dehydration will set in after twenty-four hours, becoming severe after three days. This can lead to acute kidney and heart failure.

Even though acute kidney failure can be reversed if treated early with fluids and medications, renal damage may persist in some felines.

Acute intrinsic renal failure in cats: 32 cases (1997–2004) | Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association | Vol 232, No 5 (avma.org)

Symptoms Of Renal Failure Due To Dehydration

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Seizures

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Food?

If a cat has access to water, it may be able to go as long as one to two weeks without eating.

Just like humans, cats need nutrition for their bodies to function properly. Minerals and vitamins will soon become depleted leading to malnutrition, causing an array of health conditions.

Nutrients such as healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, and protein are all needed for a cat’s wellbeing and longevity.

Cats also need a compound called Taurine in their diet. Taurine is an amino acid responsible for the functioning and development of the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and skeletal development.

Without Taurine, cats can go blind, experience heart failure, and many other adverse health conditions.

Taurine is added as a supplement to cat food to provide the necessary daily requirements. Feral cats get this much-needed amino acid through the consumption of their prey, as taurine is found in the tissues of animals.

Taurine for Macular Degeneration, Enlarged Heart (Heart Failure), Gallstones? (projectavalon.net)

Symptoms of Malnutrition

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Poor coordination, stumbling into objects due to loss of vision
  • Drooling
  • Swollen gums
  • Weight Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry and itchy skin

Reasons A Cat Stops Eating And Drinking

Although cats may go without water for one to three days, and food much longer, it’s recommended to investigate why your cat is not drinking or eating.

It could be something as simple as a distaste for the chosen food, the food bowl itself, or something more complicated, such as a medical condition.

Further investigation is always warranted, especially if it exhibits any of the above signs and symptoms. Below is a list of other reasons your feline friend may have chosen not to eat or drink.

Intestinal issues

 If your cat has bloody diarrhea or is vomiting excessively, it could be because of an intestinal blockage, or another serious medical condition. It’s recommended to contact your veterinarian immediately.

Stress

 Cats can get stressed fairly easily, especially with loud noises, new people, and surroundings. If stress is the determining factor, it usually takes twenty-four hours for stress levels to drop.

Some cats need daily anxiety medication.

Dental issues

 Cats can get periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a painful infection of the gums. If you see your cat pawing at its mouth, schedule a vet visit.  

Respiratory issues

 Cat’s can experience respiratory issues for several reasons. Asthma is a common reason, as well as heatstroke, exposure to toxins and nasal infections.

One common household toxin often overlooked is the use of essential oils. Many of these oils are dangerous and can become life-threatening if inhaled by our felines.

If your cat’s breathing seems to be labored, call your local veterinarian immediately.

Pain

Cats don’t always exhibit pain, especially when around unknown people. You know your cat the best, so if you notice your cat is not eating or drinking, and has a change in behaviour, it could result from pain. 

Dirty water bowl

Always make sure the water bowl is free from debris and hair. Wash the bowl daily, especially if it is plastic. Plastic dishes are prone to absorbing odors. 

Ways Of Enticing Cats To Eat And Drink

If you feel your cat isn’t drinking enough water, even after all medical reasoning has been ruled out, you can try a few of these options. 

  • Place multiple water bowls around the house
  • Place a small cat fountain in the water bowl
  • Ensure that the water is always fresh
  • Use a ceramic or metal bowl instead of plastic
  • Change the flavor of food
  • Add a little broth to hard food
  • Add the juice from canned fish to hard food

Medical Conditions Caused By Not Eating And Dehydration

Feline Hepatic Lipidosis

 A form of liver disease, also known as fatty liver disease. This disease results from a buildup of fat cells in the liver, usually brought on when a cat abruptly stops eating.

It is reversible if caught early through feeding methods, usually forced until the cat eats on its own again.

Feline hepatic lipidosis – Wikipedia

Heart Failure

 Water keeps the body hydrated, allowing organs to function properly.

Dehydration will eventually put a strain upon the heart, causing it to beat and work much harder than normal, potentially leading to distress within the muscle of the heart.

Acute Renal Failure

 Acute renal failure can occur in cats that become dehydrated.

The kidneys suddenly cease to filter toxins and other wastes from the bloodstream. This condition can be treated successfully if caught early through intravenous fluids. 

Macular Degeneration

 Macular degeneration can occur in cats that have stopped eating or who are malnourished.

The lack of a compound called taurine is responsible for this condition if a cat cannot gain access to it. This usually happens over time and can lead to blindness.

Final Thought 

There are many reasons a cat may suddenly stop eating and drinking. Some reasons may come on suddenly and dissipate just as fast.

You know your cat best, so if you are concerned about your cat not eating and drinking, then it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.

Veterinarians can also offer expert advice on enticing your cat to eat and drink once they rule medical conditions out. Just like us, it’s perfectly fine to get a second opinion for peace of mind. 

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