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How Long Can a Cat Go Without Eating? What Owners Need to Know

It is a stressful time for any parent when their child isn’t feeling well – including pet parents. So when you notice that your cat isn’t eating well, you might already be on high alert. But how long can a cat go without eating? And what is the best way to increase their appetite?

While it could be as easy as changing their diet from kitten wet foods to dry, other times, it can be a symptom of a bigger problem. Read below to find out why your cat may have lost their appetite and how long they can go without eating.

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Can Cats Go 24 Hrs Without Food?

Yes, cats can go a whole 24 hours without food. But should they? No.

Generally, kittens need to be fed three times a day. Adult cats need to be fed twice a day, 12 hours apart. Any more hours apart or a widely inconsistent eating schedule could run the risk of giving them digestion complications like gastritis or liver ailments.

To avoid this, use a cat feeding guide to find the best option for you and your fur kid. You should also try to feed them a controlled diet on a monitored schedule.

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How Long Can Cats Go Without Nutrition?

A combination of food and water is essential to your cat’s nutrition and well-being. Felines can survive for up to two weeks without any food, but only if they have access to drinking water. They can only survive for about three days without hydration.

So, while it is possible for them to survive a few days without food, leaving them alone without food for more than 12 hours is never ideal. If you plan on staying away from home for more than 24 hours, arrange a pet sitter to refill your kitty’s bowls or get an automatic cat feeder like this one to help you out.

Cat eating from the food bowl.

How Long Can A Cat Go Without Eating Before I Should Worry?

If you notice your pet hasn’t touched their food for more than 24 hours, it could cause concern.

Next to toddlers, cats can be some of the pickiest eaters. This study suggests there’s more to it than just a pet acting out. Regardless of why your fur baby isn’t enjoying their meal, skipping one or two meals now and then is okay. Even the pickiest cats will eat a bit of food here and there.

Once you notice your cat’s lack of appetite, keep a close eye on their behavior. You know your pet better than anyone else, so you’ll be able to see easier if they’re showing signs of pain. You’ll also be able to see if they’re showing any other symptoms, alongside their disinterest in food.


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5 Reasons Why Your Cat May Not Be Eating

If you notice your pet not eating, it can be pretty worrisome. But there can be a variety of reasons why their appetite may be waning. Here are a few causes.

1. Psychological Reasons

Believe it or not, cats can get depression. They are also not immune to stress and anxiety. These psychological reasons could cause a lack of appetite or an increase in vomiting.

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Of course, there could be many reasons why they could have these problems. It could be because of previous traumas, separation anxiety, or they could simply associate specific food with traumatic experiences like a recent hospitalization.

The first few steps would be to take them to a vet and remove them from the stressors, but if you’re dealing with a severe case, you should consider getting a cat behaviorist involved instead.

2. Digestive Issues

If your pet is burdened by constipation or indigestion, one of the very first signs will be a lack of appetite. Other signs may also include them arching their back to relieve tension on their stomach, vomiting, and heavy breathing. If you notice any of these, take them to a vet.

Cats are curious beings, and sometimes that comes at a cost to you and a big tummy ache for them. Occasionally, they might scratch something poisonous like a plant or eat something they shouldn’t.

If you suspect that they’ve eaten something potentially dangerous, I’d recommend calling the vet and monitoring their behavior in case it was something toxic.


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3. Dental Problems

Sometimes it’s not the food that causes a lack of appetite but your feline’s mouth itself. If you notice your cat drooling, check their teeth and gums for any signs of dental problems.

Gum disease shows up in the form of swollen gums, foul breath, and bleeding. You may also notice that your kitty brings their paws to their mouth more often to try and soothe themselves.

cat teeth

If this is the case, increase their oral hygiene by taking them for professional cleanings or brushing their teeth at home with a pet finger toothbrush like this one three times a week.

4. Illness

Often, loss of appetite is merely a symptom of another illness. This is why it is vital to monitor the situation to gauge the severity of the illness. Sometimes it could be something as simple as a cat cold.

When cats get colds, it can affect their respiratory system, which prevents them from tasting or smelling their food. This could cause them to be disinterested in their yummy meal. Most colds don’t last more than ten days, but if you don’t notice an improvement within four days or your cat doesn’t eat for longer than 24 hours, seek veterinary advice.


5. Change in Routine

Cats, like humans, can suffer from neophobia– the fear of new things. That is why a sudden change in routine or environment can cause strain.

Similarly, a sudden change in your cat’s food may cause them to lose interest in eating altogether, at least temporarily. To rectify this, you can try to switch back to the old food or slowly start incorporating the new formula with the old one until they’re used to it.

Sometimes a new family member or pet in their space can cause them to feel uneasy. This may also cause them to always be on ‘high alert’ and not want to eat. The best way to deal with this, especially if it’s a permanent change like a newborn, is to create a safe space for your cat with everything they need, from food to litter box and toys.

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Final Thoughts on How Long Can a Cat Go Without Eating

Your cat’s disinterest in food could range from severe reasons to trivial causes, like a fussy cat that’s just a picky eater. However, if you’ve tried everything to get your cat to eat, but they’re still not budging, consider taking them to the vet.

While cats can survive for a few days without food and water, it doesn’t mean that they should. Every kitty deserves fresh food and drinking water two to three times a day for optimal health. So, if you notice your fur baby hasn’t eaten anything for more than 24 hours, it’s time to go into super pet parent mode.

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