Just like their pet parents, cats need enough food and plenty of water to survive. When they go on too long without these, it could lead to serious medical conditions, even death in the worst-case scenario. However, a cat’s appetite may change throughout its life, and especially true for a stressed or sick cat, or when there’s a sudden change in their food.
In this article, we answer the question, “How long can a cat go without eating” while sharing the possible reasons why they might suffer from a loss of appetite.
How Long Can a Cat Go Without Eating?
The short answer to this question is that cats can survive between 1 to 2 weeks without food as long as they get enough water. Moreover, cats can only survive for a couple of days without any access to water. But this isn’t always the case; cats might not survive as long without water and food, and their survival will depend on their breed, age, health, and environmental changes.
For instance, older cats with an underlying problem such as kidney disease living in cold climates may not live very long without enough water and food. While cats can live without food for up to 2 weeks (something that feral cats do), it’s never a good idea to let them do so. Apart from being potentially fatal, living without food for a long time can result can lead to serious consequences.
Always look for veterinary attention if you plan to leave for an extended period of time — you can also look for a cattery or hire a cat sitter.
What Happens to Cats When They Starve?
While cats can survive without eating for up to 2 weeks, doing so can have dire consequences. Only 3 to 4 days after their last meal, cats will start suffering from disease. Their protein will become depleted, and their bodies will begin breaking down fat reserves, leading to fatty liver syndrome, or the accumulation of fat in their liver.
This condition is called hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver disease and can lead to liver failure. Moreover, cats that become dehydrated will often develop organ failure, including kidney failure. If your cat has a health condition such as hyperthyroidism, it can be predisposed to dehydration, so be sure to give it access to water.
Even if a cat survives dehydration or starvation, it can still experience health problems such as weight loss, medical issues, and lack of nutrition.
Why Do Cats Stop Eating?
There are different reasons as to why a cat may stop eating, which range from stress to underlying health issues. If your feline friend stops eating, you’ll find that its health can deteriorate quickly, which is why it’s important to find out why it refuses to eat. Below are some of the most common reasons why your cat has stopped eating.
Cats that are stressed will find it difficult to eat. If your pet cat hasn’t been eating well or at all, it might be due to stressors such as a new cat, a baby in the home, or a new home. Apart from a change in appetite, cats will also go through behavioral changes, which include aggression, hiding, and being withdrawn.
Giving them new food is a common reason why cats may refuse to eat; because they’re creatures of habit, you shouldn’t suddenly change your cat’s food without giving them time to get used to it. While there may be times when it can’t be helped, doing this abruptly can cause a healthy cat to become ill. This is because cats are sensitive to changes in their diet and can suffer from inflammatory bowel disease if they’re allergic to certain food items.
If you intend to switch your cat from wet food to dry food, be sure to give it small meals first, especially if your feline is a finicky eater.
Cats suffering from fungal infections and inflammations could stop eating, especially if they’re running a fever with a high body temperature. Such problems could be caused by tummy bugs, a bite from other cats, a virus, or an abscess.
What Causes Poor Appetite in Cats?
Apart from the reasons above, there are other factors that may cause your cat to keep eating but at a reduced rate, which include the following.
- Dental Problems: If your cat is in pain due to a sore mouth, they won’t be able to eat as much as they usually do.
- Inappropriate Bowls: If your food bowl or water bowl is too deep and reflective, your cat may not like it and won’t use it to eat food.
- Dirty Bowls: Cats are very clean creatures, and will avoid using soiled and dirty bowls. Moreover, they may pick up bugs from dirty bowls, so be sure to clean them regularly.
- Frequency of Feeding: If your cat is fed large meals once or twice a day, it may not be able to eat everything in a single sitting. Moreover, their stomachs are quite small, which means they’ll eat little but more often.
- Recent Vaccinations: Some cats will often stop eating for 24 to 48 hours after being vaccinated, and this may also mean they have a decreased appetite. Be sure to call your vet if this happens.
What to Do When Your Cat Stops Eating?
The cat’s body is sensitive to sudden changes in its diet and may refuse to eat new food given to them if they’re not happy with it. In many cases, the lack of appetite in cats will need treatment from your vet, which could include pain relief, antibiotics, and fluid therapy. Along with these treatments, your vet could help you encourage your cat to eat through the following.
Cat owners can provide shallow bowls for their cats or offer multiple bowls spread throughout the home to give their cats easy access to fresh food and water. If there are multiple pets in the house, ensure that they don’t have to compete for their food, and always serve enough for the number of cats you have.
Feed an Appropriate Amount
Pet owners should only feed their cats the right amount of food overweight cats will become overweight as a result of overfeeding, so as long as you keep refilling their bowls, they will come back for seconds. To prevent the development of obese cats, be sure to feed them a little bit at a time, up to 4 to 5 times a day, and make sure that they have access to water at all times.
Add Appetite Stimulants
If your cat is used to eating dry food all the time and has gotten bored of it, be sure to add something new to their bowl. You can try to stimulate appetite by switching up your cat’s diet with some wet cat food or heating up the food to release its natural aromas.
Address Dental Issues
Sometimes, elderly cats will find it hard to chew when their oral health isn’t in top shape. While this may not be common in indoor cats since you can see what they eat regularly, outdoor cats may be chewing on things they shouldn’t be while outside. Dental diseases of all kinds will make it hard for your cat to eat much food, so you must have them checked by your vet.
We all know that cats are obligate carnivores, but there are a number of reasons why your feline companion may suddenly lose interest in eating. If your furry friend has particular eating habits, you need to pay close attention to the underlying cause of its lack of appetite. To maintain a healthy adult cat, you need to ensure that your fur baby never goes hungry or thirsty — if your cat hasn’t eaten in more than 24 hours, be sure to see your vet.