How Long Can Cats Go Without Food and When to Be Concerned

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/3/20242-4 minutes
person feeding a Maine Coon cat wet cat food

Whether you find a stray, or you’re concerned about your cat not eating, you might be wondering how long cats can go without food. It’s important not to overlook this for long, but just how urgent is it to see a vet? 

Below you’ll find a guide on how long cats can go without food and water, along with the effects of not eating and drinking. Read on for more information.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Food?

Theoretically, cats could survive 1 or 2 weeks without food, provided they have water. However, any period longer than 24 hours is concerning. Cats will get significantly weaker the longer they don’t get enough nutrition. After just 2-7 days without food, cats are at significant risk of hepatic lipidosis, a severe liver condition.  

It’s best to see a vet urgently if your cat is either eating nothing or a lot less than usual for more than 24 hours; while a very occasional day of fasting is unlikely to harm them, early intervention is more likely to be successful and significantly reduces the likelihood of your cat needing more intensive treatment. A cat not eating its food could also indicate a potentially severe health problem. 

If your cat is very lethargic, vomiting repeatedly or showing other concerning symptoms, it’s often best to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible rather than waiting for more than 24 hours. 

Can a Cat Go 24 Hours Without Food?

Cats can go 24 hours without food, but it’s not healthy for them. A cat not eating for 24 hours is also a sign that something might be wrong so it’s best to call a vet. If your kitten has not eaten for 24 hours, you must call a vet for assistance as young animals can deteriorate very rapidly.

How Long Can Cats Go Without Water?

Cats can survive without water for 2 to 3 days, but after 24 hours without water, cats will become dehydrated. Dehydration then causes stress on their organs, which can lead to other complications such as organ failure. Cats should have access to fresh water every day. However, don’t worry if your healthy cat eats wet food and doesn’t seem to drink much; cats can gain a lot of their water from their food

Cats’ survival without water also depends on their environment – if they’re in a hotter climate, they’re likely to get dehydrated quicker. It’s important to keep this in mind if you notice that your cat is not drinking water.

What Happens if Cats Don’t Drink Water for a Few Days?

Cats cannot survive without water for more than 2-3 days. With many cats getting a lot of their water requirements from wet food, it’s important to note that a cat that isn’t eating food is often also becoming dehydrated.

The solution to your cat not drinking enough water could be as simple as giving them fresh water every day, or a new, possibly different shaped, bowl. You may also want to try running water like a tap turned on low. However, if their water drinking habits are out of the ordinary, this could be a sign that something is wrong. 

A caveat to this is that a cat drinking a lot of water can also be a sign of dehydration or an underlying health problem. If you’re concerned that your cat is either dehydrated or drinking excessively, make sure to contact your vet.

How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food?

Kittens are constantly growing and need the right nutrients to ensure they’re strong and healthy. How long kittens can go without food depends greatly on their age. Very young kittens (dependent on their mother) cannot go more than a few hours without feeding. Older kittens may be able to go for a couple of days without eating, but after 24 hours they may become malnourished and weak. Because they are smaller and their bodies are still developing, lack of nutrition can have negative consequences faster.

If your kitten is not eating, make sure to contact your vet sooner rather than later.

What Happens if Cats Don’t Eat for a Few Days?

If a cat doesn’t eat for even a few days, there are some health risks. It can lead to severe liver disease as their body attempts to use stored fat for energy but struggles to process this. This is especially likely in an overweight cat that suddenly stops eating.

If you notice that your cat has had a sudden change in their eating habits and hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours, it’s important to contact your vet. A cat not eating can be a sign of illness, so it’s important that they’re checked out.

We hope this guide to how long cats can go without food was helpful. If you’re concerned about your cat not eating, it’s always important to contact your vet for advice and treatment to prevent the situation getting worse.

For more expert tips on feeding your cat, explore our other cat feeding articles.  

Related articles

striped cat eating from a silver food bowl
Cat owners may want to change food due to false rumors about food safety, but misinformation may lead to unsafe transitions. Learn when to switch cat food from cat experts.
cat crouching
person in a green hoodie holding a coffee cup, sitting on the kitchen counter with a grey, striped cat
Man sitting chair with cat eating Fancy Feast and a phone with the Pet Feeding Guide app displayed

Customize Your Pet’s Nutrition

Get a personalized feeding guide for your dog or cat from Purina’s nutrition experts.