How Long Can Cats Go Without Food? All You Need To Know

Cats can survive for up to two weeks without food if they have access to water.

However, without access to protein, they can die within three or four days even if they are hydrated.

This is because their livers are not able to support their bodies for long when living off only stored energy.


Ask a Vet

If your cat hasn’t eaten for days we recommend you speak with a vet ASAP to help you work out what’s going on and what needs to be done. JustAnswer allows you to talk in real-time to veterinary experts for a small fee.

Help – My cat isn’t eating

Cats lose their appetite for a variety of reasons including sickness, pain, dental issues, stress, anxiety, depression and even a simple dislike of the food being offered.

If your cat hasn’t eaten for over two days, then that is a cause for alarm. A visit to the vet is necessary to help find the underlying factors as well as an appropriate course of treatment for your cat.

It’s best to know how long your pet can go without eating before he begins to shut down and it’s too late to take them to a vet!

How long can cats go without food?

On average, your cat can survive for one to two weeks without eating.

However, if they do survive that long they are likely to be seriously ill and in need of immediate veterinary attention.


Cat’s organs shut down very quickly if they don’t eat.

Unlike dogs and humans, their livers are not made to support their bodies for long living off their body’s energy stores alone.

In some cases, cats can die in three or four days without any protein intake, even if they are hydrated.

Can a cat go 24 hours without food?

Yes, an adult cat safely can go 24 hours without food. It tends to be okay if this happens one time but it should not happen regularly. Ideally, cats need to eat at least every 12 hours. If your cat has access to food but has not eaten in 24 hours it’s best to call your vet for advice.

How long can kittens go without food?

Kittens are more vulnerable, depending on their age and health they can survive 12 hours – 4 days without food. It does not take long for a kitten to become malnourished and weak without eating.

Kittens less than 6 weeks old will need veterinary attention if they have not eaten in 12 hours while older kittens should be taken to the vet if they have not eaten in 24 hours.

How long can an elderly cat go without eating?

Depending on their health, elderly cats can survive around 1 week without food. If the elderly cat is also unwell, they will already be weak and may only survive a couple of days without eating.

It is common for elderly cats to have less appetite but they should still eat small amounts often. You may have to make the food more appealing for them by offering different flavours and textures, warming the food up, and spending time encouraging them to eat.

Should I worry that my cat isn’t eating?

While it is okay for a cat to not eat for 24 hours, it is worth contacting your vet about the problem. If they don’t eat for more than 24 hours, take them to the vet for a health check. There are very harmful consequences the longer your cat doesn’t eat.

Organ failure

Your cat’s body survives on the nutrients they ingest in both water and food.

Once your cat stops eating, his organs slowly begin to deteriorate. A cat’s digestive system shuts down first, then the brain, and lastly the heart, which lasts the longest.

Hepatic lipidosis

Hepatic lipidosis is a grave illness of the liver that happens in cats because of starvation.

Its primary cause is either your cat refusing to eat or due to a disease.

Kidney failure

Your cat’s kidneys will fail once he is completely dehydrated.

This needs immediate treatment if your pet is to survive.

Why won’t my cat eat?

There are certain reasons why your cat won’t eat, and it isn’t only because he could be sick! Just like humans, cats make choices when it comes to eating. Here are some causes as to why your cat suddenly seems disinterested in mealtimes:


Can I give Paracetamol to cats?

The most likely reason why your cat doesn’t want to eat is that they are suffering from an illness that makes it too painful to eat.

This is a major health problem that needs to be solved immediately, especially if you notice other symptoms such as fever, nausea or fatigue.

Lack of flavour

Your cat may be disinterested in her food either because she’s become bored with it or because there’s no flavour in her new food. Yes, just like humans, cats don’t like eating food that doesn’t taste good!

Pain when eating

If you feed your cat dry food, consider whether they may have problems with their teeth. It is possible that they are either growing old, or has sensitive teeth that cause pain when chewing food.

Dry Food May Be The Reason Why Your Cat Refuses To Eat
Dry food may be the reason why your cat refuses to eat

Side effects from medicine or vaccination

If your cat has just been vaccinated or is taking medicine, then there is a chance that lack of appetite is causing their disinterest in food.


Did you introduce a new pet or human into the house? Or are you travelling with your cat?

Sometimes the stress of change may be too much for your cat causing them to not feel like eating.

What happens if a cat doesn’t eat for 3 days?

If your cat doesn’t eat for 3 days take them to the vet immediately. 3 days without food is already long enough for the cat to begin feeling the effects of malnutrition and hepatic lipidosis.

Take them to the vet to help find the cause of the lack of appetite and for necessary treatment which may include fluid therapy or medication.

How can I get my cat to eat more?

tabby cat eating from a food bowl

If your cat isn’t eating, here are some ways to remedy it:

Slowly incorporate food

If they are recovering from a sickness or are currently taking medication, allow them to eat food slowly.

Feed by hand and praise the cat when they eat.

Change food

Try wet cat food so they feel more comfortable while eating. Or, try to add more flavour to their typical cat food by adding pet gravy.

You can also add a small amount of chicken or tuna, however, be careful with feeding your cat tuna as while cats can eat tuna eating too much of it can cause other issues.

If you are having trouble finding healthy wet food for your cat Wellness Signature Selects Natural Canned Grain Free Wet Cat Food (below) might be a good choice.

Wellness Signature Selects Natural Canned Grain Free...
  • GRAIN FREE: grain free, complete and balanced everyday nutrition for your cat.
  • QUALITY INGREDIENTS: Hand-packed delicate flakes of protein from real tuna & wild salmon in a delicious sauce.
  • ALL NATURAL: Contains only premium, all natural ingredients with no meat by-products, wheat, corn or soy.
  • EASY TO SERVE: Custom-design, upside-down can and easy-open lid make mealtime quick and easy.
  • SUBSCRIBE & SAVE: Hassle-free way to save 5% and always keep your pantry stocked.


When feeding your cat, do it in a quiet, private area where they can eat in peace. Allow them to eat their food slowly without forcing them, like dribbling a bit of food into their mouth or using a syringe.

When to seek medical help

If your cat still refuses to eat even after several days of starvation, then you’ll need to get them checked out by a vet as your pet may have a more complicated problem or illness.

How long can a lost cat survive without food?

A lost cat can survive up to 2 weeks without food as long as they have access to water. If your cat is lost they may be finding their own food sources by hunting or scavenging which can help them survive for longer.

How long can a sick cat go without eating?

A sick cat should not go for more than 2 days without eating. They are already weak and immune-compromised so will be impacted by malnutrition quicker than a healthy cat.

In conclusion

What if you left your cat alone for a few days and forgot to feed them? While it’s worrying to leave them abandoned like that, there are situations where it may happen.

Not only that but there are also times when your cat won’t eat for a few days due to a stomach bug or sickness, which is why it’s good to know how long they can survive without eating food.

This way you know when to take them to a vet if things get worse!