How long cat can go without food? We address different cases and discuss what to do according to the situation.
If we think of adorable pets, Cat is the first word that will hit most peoples’ mind. Though there might be a strong objection from the dog lovers! Domestic cats are lovable, delightful carnivorous mammals, of the family Felidae and also known as Felis Catus. They require proper grooming and vigilance when they live indoor as they naturally become dependent on their owner for all the basic necessities. Specially, maintenance of a proper food schedule is important to uphold the health of a cat along with other care and attention.
So, in today’s article we will try to give an appropriate guideline on the proper food schedule of a cat, how long Cat can survive without eating or even drinking and what can be the adverse effects of starving beyond specific time.
How long can an cat go without eating?
An adult cat can sustain for 1-2 weeks on an average. For many cats this time maybe only 3-4 days. But that depends on their overall health and also on the amount of water they are drinking. They easily run out of residual energy as their livers are not made to support their bodies for a long time when they are not receiving energy regularly through food. However, there’s no universally applied timetable for every single cat species present, all felines will experience more or less same physical and emotional changes when deprived of food though the time span may differ.
Other important factors that may affect the survival rate:
- Age- Kitten won’t survive as long as adult cats.
- Weather-cold or hot weather.
- Genetic heritage.
- Emotional state- Stress and other negative emotions.
- Pet’s activity level.
- Most of the time the cat owners remain in a dilemma regarding the reason of cat’s refusal to food. In this case when to see a vet? A span of 24 hours of starvation should be okay, but if the cat starves for 2 days, it is strongly recommended to see a vet.
Health problems due to starvation:
- Some of the severe reasons for which a cat can refuse to take regular meals might be:
- Dental disease which may cause him pain white eating.
- Kidney disease
- Ingestion of foreign material
- Arthritis and UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
- Non-medical reasons:
- If same kind of food is given to a cat for long time then he can become bored due to monotonous food. So, food of different brands should be fed so that their taste buds get different flavours after every 3 to 4 months.
- Cats may also stop eating if they get stressed for some reason like change in the environment or their daily routine.
- If the cat is under medication for some reason or has just been vaccinated then there is possibility of lack of desire for food.
How long can a feral cat go without eating?
Which cats are called feral cats? Are they same as stray cats? NO! There’s a lot difference between them.
- Feral cats: Those cats who never had human companion and have not been a part of household ever are called feral cats. Generally, they are not friendly and can survive by themselves.
- Stray cats: Those cats who had a considerable amount of contact with humans and were owned at some point of their lives.
Being unowned and totally independent feral cats always look for food on their own. They can survive for 64 to 72 hours without food but that does not mean that their normal physiology will be intact. They remain at the risk of developing life threatening condition like complete dehydration, fatty liver disease etc.
How long a sick cat can go without food?
A sick cat can’t live without food more than 48 hours and becomes dehydrated within 24 hours as they are weakened due to altered physiology.
In order to restore their normal health, they need to be fed properly, sometimes, even more than normal amount even if they refuse to eat or drink. In this case they need more care and needs to be encouraged for eating so that they again come back to their routine meal gradually. Some tricks that can be applied:
- Attempt should be taken to hand feed the cat rather than keeping the food bowl in front of him. This will make him feel that he is given more importance which cats adore. But this should be for time being otherwise the cat will get habituated to this service.
- As cats love fish they can be served with strong smelling fish like sardines. They find the food appealing if the smell is good and strong. Tuna juice can also be drizzled over the cat’s regular meal. But this trick might be ineffective if the cat has a blocked nose due to ill health.
- The temperature of the food should be brought into consideration. Temperature of around 100-degree Fahrenheit will be sufficient.
Only food is not enough for regaining perfect health, water is also essential in this case. Though convincing a cat to drink can be more challenging the following way might be of some help:
- Grasping the attention of the cat by keeping a tap open. A running water source may tempt a cat into drinking.
- Water bowls can be kept throughout the house.
- Drinks like tuna juice can be added with water to get some extra flavour.
It’s very important to bring the cat back on the proper track of food habit, because long term altered food habit may result in malnutrition. The symptoms may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Swollen gums
- Loss of coordination
- Poor eyesight
These conditions may act as additive to the existing illness and worsen the health condition of the cat. So, a quick start for complete recovery is a must.
How long can a cat go without food after surgery?
After surgery the cats are seen to have some temporary personality changes often becoming more aggressive or unusually quiet. This changes maybe the result of anaesthesia and medication given after surgery which should not last more than 24-48 hours.
The cats may develop a sensitive and upset stomach after surgery and may refuse to take food up to the day after surgery. But by the day after surgery the cat should return to his normal food habits. A close monitoring of his eating and drinking routine is required at this time.
How long can a cat go without water?
The wellbeing and health of a cat starts to deteriorate rapidly if they stop drinking water. One day without water will not cause major damage other than dehydration but is it okay up to 3 days? NO! 3-4 days without water may result in organ failure which will ultimately lead him to death. Water is essential for normal physiological activities like maintaining proper blood circulation and metabolic processes along with removal of toxin and other waste products from the body. So, vital functions of the body will be compromised in lack of water and organ shut down maybe be imminent.
Cats get most water from the food they eat. So, they can get severe dehydration even if they stop eating. As they don’t have a strong sense of dehydration, they will also not take any initiative to drink extra water. However, lazy adult cats lose less water than active kittens and younger adults.
Reason behind cat’s refusal to drinking water
The reason behind cat’s refusal to drinking water is not only sickness. It can be for other reasons too:
- Some cats do not like water in the bowls, they prefer bottled water.
- Many cats refuse to drink from a bowl if they don’t like it. They are often choosy about their water bowl. Mostly cats refuse to drink from a bowl if it’s too deep or made of skin irritating plastic.
- Some cats prefer running water over still water.
How long can a cat survive locked in a shed?
Cats can survive almost everywhere if they have enough food and water to drink. They are generally mentally very strong and can survive for weeks and even for months locked in a shed without getting depressed unlike humans.
But if a cat gets locked accidentally in a shed without the notice of the owner and is deprived of food and water then he can’t survive for more than 1 or 1 and a half week.
Cute Cat Needs Love and Attention.!
Apart from considering the adverse effects of starvation, it is very important to focus on the proper diet of a cat so that he remains healthy and away from any kind of disease. It’s said “Prevention is better than cure”. This should be strictly maintained in all aspects of care.
Cat food schedule:
How frequent should a cat be fed? How to estimate the amount of food required? What are the ideal foods for a cat? Lots of question like these wanders in the mind of a new cat owner. As an answer to all these we can take a look to the following information.
Ideal foods for cats:
Wet or canned food:
This food contains essential nutrients and sufficient amount of water required for the cats. But are needed to be fed in proportionate amount otherwise it can make the cat fat and cause obesity. It is also known as the specially formulated formula for the cats.
Generally, adult canned food contains 28 calories per ounce approximately, or 1 calorie per gram.
They are thought out as a good choice for the cats though they lack in the amount of water content. This deficiency can be fulfilled by adding some extra water with the food before serving it to the cat.
Usually, dry food contains 100 calories per ounce approximately, which equals to 3.5 calories per gram.
Cucumber, whole grains, cooked fish and meat, cheese can also be given to the cats in correct amount.
Foods to avoid:
Some foods are likely to cause adverse effects to the health of the cat. The list of the food should be kept in mind while feeding them:
- Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins
- Raw meat and fish
- Raw eggs, tuna
- Chocolate, gums
Things to be kept in mind while feeding a cat:
- Too much milk should be avoided.
- Not to keep the food open for the cats.
- Overfeeding should be avoided.
- The feeding schedule should be adjusted proportionately if extra treats are given.
- Water should be made available for the cats all the time.
Amount of dry and wet food according to weight:
Cat’s Weight (lbs)
Dry Food Per Meal(g)
Wet Food Per Meal(g)
Calculation of daily calorie requirement:
Calorie requirement depends on the weight of the cat. This formula can be used to estimate the amount:
- 0.6 - Indicates a cat prone to weight gain.
- 1.2 - Indicates a neutered adult cat.
- 2.5 - Indicates a growing kitten.
Through this we can only estimate an average amount as a whole but every individual cat has his own requirement. So, if feeding according to this formula makes him underweight or overweight, then it’s not a must to follow this. Whatever amount of calories per day help to maintain the ideal weight of the cat, is the amount, they should be fed.
Kitten feeding chart according to age:
Amount Per Meal
Every 2 hours
Every 2-3 hours
Every 3-4 hours
Every 4-5 hours
Every 5-6 hours
Weaning: wet food
Every 6 hours
Kitten feeding chart above 8 weeks of age:
Food per Meal
1.5- 4.5 pouches
5 to 5.5 pouches
Cat during gestation
Minimum 7.5 pouches
Combination feeding (mixture of dry and wet food) of kitten over 8 weeks’ age:
Dry food per meal (g)
Wet food per meal (g)
Meals per day
After this stage the dry and wet food of the cat should be estimated by their weight.
The food schedule of a cat can be changed from kitten food to adult food at the age of 8-12 months, but it is recommended not to change the food suddenly. Initially both type of food can be mixed and fed to the cat and then completely convert to adult food after some time. In this way the cat will easily adjust with the new feeding pattern.
Complete and balanced feeding guide:
Small cat (up to 2.5 kg)
1/3 - 3/4 cups
1/3 - 3/4 cups
(1 cup = 240 ml)
Medium cat (up to 5.5 kg)
3/4 - 1.5 cups
3/4 - 1.5 cups
Large cat (up to 7.5 kg)
1.5 - 2 cups
1.5 - 2 cups
Kitten (1-6 months)
Requires 3 times more food than adult.
Requires 1.5 times more food than adult.
Do all the cat owners follow a scheduled feeding time for their cats? NO! Some people free feeds their cat and some follow a specific schedule whichever is easy for them. Now what is free feeding? Which one is better for the cat? Let’s take a look!
Free feeding cats:
This a convenient method of feeding not only for the cats but for most of the pets. Here, a bowl filled with food is kept for the cat round the day and is refilled if the level of food seems low. It’s a easier way for those who are working and the cat remains alone at home. But it has got some demerits too:
- Limited to dry food as wet foods don’t remain fresh for very long if left out.
- The cat may become obese due to over eating.
- If there is more than one cat then everyone may not get the same amount of food. Even one cat may eat all the food while other remain in starvation.
- The cat’s eating habit is hard to monitor.
Considering all the cons of free feeding, scheduled feeding seems the best on the basis of maintenance of proper health of a cat.
Transitioning cats to scheduled feeding:
If we want to train a cat for timely feeding from free feeding we have to go through a slow and gradual process. Physiological changes occur within the body if the schedule is changed and so the cat requires some time to adopt to this new routine. For a successful transition we need to chalk out the following things.
Amount of food he used to eat in 1 day (24 hours):
Free feeding cats roam around the whole day and nibble food whenever they feel it necessary. The cat should be monitored for a few days and the amount of food he intakes should be recorded.
Record food schedule
The recorded food schedule should be analysed and the amount to be given per meal should be determined. For example: If an adult cat weighing (10-12) lbs require (216-248) calorie then this total amount of calorie can be divided into very small 8 to 10 meals initially during transition which can be further reduced to 3 big meals.
Particular time, place and signal should be fixed for the cat.
Specific time should be maintained everyday in order to make it a habit for the cat. If they once become habituated, they will come to the designated place at the designated time by himself.
Single place should be used for serving the food every day. If the place keeps changing each day then the cat will be in dilemma about where to go when it’s meal time.
A word or phrase should be chosen to call the cat when it’s time for food. Any specific sound or bell will also suitable in this case.
Initially, the cat may not be able to finish the meal at a time and leave the food unfinished but gradually the cat will be able to finish the big meals at a single sitting and that’s when we can call it a successful transition.
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