Friendly Claws is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?

Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

Most house cats are prone to overeating and obesity, especially when they are spayed or neutered. But that’s not the only problem where eating is concerned. Believe it or not, it can go the other way too.

In normal circumstances, cats not only have to eat – they also love it. Just like any other being, evolution has taught them to enjoy the feast whenever and as much as possible, so they could endure possible famine cycles better.

But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, they can lose their appetite or just refuse to eat. As you are thinking of yet another delicious treat your cat used to love but now doesn’t seem to notice, you’re wondering what’s wrong with her.

Why Does My Cat Refuse to Eat?

There’s a number of reasons your cat may have lost her appetite. The rule of thumb here is that it never happens without a reason. He probably has a health issue. Check out some of the most frequent reasons why cats refrain from eating.

  • Trivial reasons. For example, she ate something weird or yikky, or there may be a hairball stuck in her throat. To help her pass the object, try acquiring a lubricant – there are specialized lubricating gels or other medicines that help cats deal with hairballs. However, if the appetite loss persists for more than one day, the reason is probably more serious.
  • Stressful period or environment. You know how you sometimes lose your appetite when living through a stressful phase? It can happen to your cat too, for a number of reasons: you might have moved to another place, got a new household member, or the cat might have lost a beloved human or animal companion. Even though it sounds hard to believe, cats do have their own ways of grieving, much similar to ours.
  • Minor to average health issues. Food poisoning can often result in reduced appetite, along other symptoms such as throwing up or diarrhea. I am listing it as a minor issue since it’s usually easy to cure with proper care under your vet’s supervision. However, the problem may also be a consequence of an early disease of vital organs such as kidneys, liver, bowels. Make sure to also check his teeth. Just like you have trouble eating when you’re having a toothache, your cat might experience it as well.
  • Serious health condition. I hate to talk about this, but every cat parent has to hear it: loss of appetite might also signify a really bad problem such as cancer. The older your cat gets, the risk gets higher. And this isn’t to say you should freak out whenever Fluffy says no to a meal. It’s just to say that loss of appetite can sometimes ring a red alarm.

When Should I Start to Worry?

As I said above, you should be concerned even if he or she skips just one meal. For a healthy animal, it’s normal to have a healthy appetite. Since cats don’t normally betray that they are sick, abstaining from food is one of the signs you should never ignore.

However, if non-eating persists for 24 or even 36 hours, you should understand it as red alert. Your cat might have a serious health problem, and rushing to your vet is the first thing you need to do.

If she isn’t refusing food altogether but only eats smaller amounts than usual, it’s also a cause for concern. Anorectic behavior that persists for a longer period of time can cause hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease. It happens because the organism tries to mobilize any excess fat from the body in order to survive. But since there’s no protein intake, the liver just can’t handle that much fat on its own and gets damaged.

Short Answer

In theory, cats could live for days or even weeks without food, provided they hydrate normally. But you mustn’t wait nearly as long to react. Even though some felines are picky by nature when it comes to food, there’s a difference between fastidiousness and starving – and you shouldn’t take any risks where your pet’s well-being is concerned. So, how long can cats go without food?

If your feline friend is refusing to eat for more than a day, seeing a veterinarian is a must.

About The Author

Scroll to Top