How long can cats go without food?

One of the scariest problems a cat owner will ever face is if your cat stops eating. I have personally been through this on several occasions, only one of which ended well. So, I have done a ton of personal research into answering this question and making sure ensuring your cat has the best chance of survival.

So, how long can cats go without food? 24-48 hours, after this your cat can begin to use their fat stores for energy. A cat is using fat stores for energy can suffer a life threating condition called hepatic lipidosis. This can quickly cause liver failure in your cat which is fatal.

I have very sadly witnessed this first hand a few times. Where my cat got sick, was unable to eat for as little as two days, and then was too frail and unable to recover. It is truly a heartbreaking thing to go through. And over something as simple as keeping your cat eating!

So, remember, no more than 48 hours and your cat needs to see a vet if they have stopped eating. Do not wait!

Can a cat go without food for a day?

Your cat can go one day without food, but I would NEVER risk it. Once your cat starts burning through their active energy stores, their body will start looking for a new energy source. Fat!

This is where it gets very dangerous for cats.

A cat’s body is not able to properly convert fat stores to energy. Due to this, when they enter a state of starvation, anywhere from 24-48 hours, the fat broken down reduces the liver function. This causes the liver to swell and eventually yellow. This will cause a jaundice in your cat, yellowing of the eyes, as well as several other complications ending in death.

So, in my opinion do not risk this. If for any reason you feel your cat has not eaten for the past 24 hours, I would take the following steps.

My cat hasn’t eaten in 24 hours, what to do?

Below are numerous suggestions you can try to entice your cat to eat and what you should do if none of this works!

  • Kitty smorgasbord – Buy several different types of wet food and open all the cats up in front of them. Let them have their pick!
  • Baby Food – Human baby food, just pick up some that are pure turkey or chicken and warm them slightly.
  • Treats – Offer your cat their favorite treats, some food is better than none.
  • Chicken stock and wet food – Just warm some wet food in chicken stock and turn it softer.
  • Tuna fish – Sometimes human tuna fish is a strong enough smell to entice them to eat
  • Karo Syrup – Rub a little dab of this on their gums. Cats get low energy when they don’t eat that can cause their appetite to drop. This can give them the pep to eat again, sometimes!
  • Favorite human treats – Got a go to food your cat loves? Scrambled eggs, bacon, turkey…if you know your cat likes something you eat, cook it!
  • Vet visit – If you try the above and your cat does not eat anything, I would get them to the vet immediately!

The above are just suggestions that I have used in the past during my times of need. Some of these worked for me personally and some did not. But rather than have you searching the internet for solutions, I wanted to provide all the ones I found in one place.

Can a cat starve itself to death?

Yes! Not intentionally, but sadly due to the way their livers process fat your cat can and will starve itself to death.

Unlike people, your cat will never get hungry enough where it will just eat. Instead by the time your cat has reached this state it is already in a state of liver failure. And far to weak and lethargic to want to do anything, let alone eat a meal.

Your best course of action is to follow the above steps if your cat has not eaten in a 24-hour window and see if you can entice them to eat before they start to metabolize fat stores for energy. You need to avoid hepatic lipidosis at all costs in order to save your kitty!

What if your cat is not eating much but otherwise acting normal?

This is quite common for cats. Cats are very good at masking illness, it is a survival tactic to make them not appear to be weak prey for other predators.

But internally you cat can be in a great deal of distress.

Once your cat is going into enough of a calorie deficit to start losing weight it is only a matter of time before they will start using fat stores to make up for this energy. And as mentioned earlier this will lead to hepatic lipidosis, or liver failure.

If you notice your cat is still eating something, then you are in a better state than a cat that has given up eating entirely.

You should be able to entice a cat that is still eating to eat more using the steps above, since he does have an appetite still.

And at a worst-case scenario you should be able to get to the vet and get your cat on steroids that will increase his appetite before any serious damage is done.

If any of my cats go into a state of eating less than they normally do I instantly go into a state of high alert. Never down play a low appetite in cats. The unfortunately are just not build to handle malnourishment well.

How can I prevent my cat from starving proactively?

The best way to make sure you are aware of that your cats are being healthy and eating properly is by being a good cat owner.

Know your cats! Pay attention to their behaviors and diets!

If one of my cats starts acting different, I know instantly, because I spend my time at home hanging out with my cats…playing games, having treats and giving them dinner.

I know who likes what treat. Who likes each brand of wet food and flavor. Who plays with toys and who doesn’t.

If for any reason I placed a wet food down and my cat Tigger didn’t come running, we would probably be at the vet the next day.

Part of making sure your cat doesn’t go without eating is by visibly seeing them eating on a regular basis. If you have one cat this is pretty simple. The food bowl gets lower or the wet food you placed is gone, well then you know your cat at their dinner.

But in multi-cat households this is trickier. You need to ensure you are visibly seeing your cats eat, cause if you don’t by the time you notice they lost a lot of weight it is probably too late.

How long can cats go without food – Conclusion

In closing, you are responsible for the health and well being of your cats. Always strive to be the best cat owner you can be. Take an active role in your cats’ diet by making sure they are getting their meals in daily.

If for any reason you ever feel that your cats are not eating, then play the role of an over concerned parent/pet owner. It is okay to take your pet in to the vet prematurely and get a perfect bill of health.

But you will feel terrible if you don’t and something happens to your kitty.

If you ever feel stuck in this situation and need help you can always reach out to us on Cattify and I will try and provide assistance in this hard situation!