No Food for 2 Days. Can Cats Survive?


Cats are known for being independent creatures that don’t rely too much on humans for their survival. But just how long can they go without one of their most basic needs – food? It’s a common question for cat owners who are going away or if their cat stops eating.

While the idea of a cat going days without food may seem extreme, you might be surprised to learn how long they can survive. This article covers everything you need to know about how long cats can go without food, the health consequences, how to monitor their health, and when you need to seek veterinary care.

Cats’ Natural Eating Habits

In the wild, cats are opportunistic eaters and hunt small prey frequently throughout the day. According to How often should you feed your cat?, feral cats eat about 8 to 12 small meals in any given 24 hour period. Feral cats get most of their moisture from their food and don’t tend to drink much water separately. Cats have a fast metabolism, so they need to eat frequently to fuel their energy needs.

Studies of feral cats show that they tend to eat about 9 mice per day on average. According to Feed Cats Like They Eat in the ‘Wild’, the typical feral cat will kill and eat approximately 9 mice throughout the day. Cats are predators with a strong natural hunting instinct, so they prefer to eat smaller portions more frequently.

Cats’ Energy Requirements

Cats have unique energy requirements compared to humans and other animals. According to Animal Medical Center of Chicago, the average 10 lb indoor adult cat needs around 200-300 calories per day to maintain their weight and activity level. This can vary based on factors like age, activity level, and metabolism.

Kittens and younger growing cats need more calories – generally around 300-400 calories per day for a 10 lb kitten. Senior and less active cats may only need 180-200 calories per day. The key is finding the right calorie balance to maintain an ideal weight and health.

Cats have a faster metabolism than humans. Their energy requirements are higher per pound of body weight. This allows cats to utilize protein and fat from their prey-based diets efficiently. It also means cats can lose weight quickly if they do not eat enough calories regularly.

Health Consequences

After only one day without food, a cat’s metabolism starts to slow down and their liver will begin to produce ketones to break down fat for energy (1). By two days without food, a cat’s protein and fat stores start becoming depleted, their liver enzymes become elevated, and their blood sugar drops dangerously low (2). At three days without food, extra fat begins breaking down, leading to a condition called hepatic lipidosis, which can cause severe liver damage and be life-threatening if left untreated (3).

Additional effects of prolonged starvation include muscle wasting, anemia, abnormally low body temperature, electrolyte imbalances, and a suppressed immune system. Dehydration can also develop rapidly if a cat refuses to eat or drink over several days. Overall, lack of nutrition makes cats prone to organ failure and renders them increasingly weak and lethargic.

Kittens and senior cats may start exhibiting serious health consequences after just a day or two without food. Similarly, cats who are overweight, ill, or have underlying medical conditions deteriorate faster when not eating (1, 3). Any cat that goes more than 2-3 days without food is at high risk for starvation-related complications and requires prompt veterinary care.

Monitoring Your Cat’s Health

If your cat is not eating normally, it’s important to monitor them closely for signs of starvation. Some key signs to look out for include:

  • Dry, scaly skin – Cats need nutrients like fatty acids and vitamins for skin health. Malnutrition leads to a dull, flaky coat.
  • Muscle wasting – Starvation causes cats to lose muscle mass and become very thin and frail.
  • Fatigue – Without proper nutrition, cats lose energy and become lethargic.
  • Poor coat condition – Starving cats stop grooming themselves, leaving their fur matted and dirty.
  • Diarrhea or constipation – Malnutrition affects gut health and causes abnormal feces.
  • Dull, sunken eyes – Eye problems like conjunctivitis can occur due to vitamin deficiencies.
  • Weak immune system – Nutrients are needed for immune function, and starving cats get frequent infections.
  • Neurological signs – Thiamine deficiency can cause staggering, circling, seizures.

It’s crucial to identify the signs early and get veterinary care right away if your cat stops eating. The longer a cat goes without food, the higher the risk of liver damage, heart problems, and even death. Checking your cat’s body condition score regularly can help detect early weight loss.

Providing Food

It’s important to ensure your cat always has access to food when needed. Here are some tips:

  • Feed your cat at least twice daily and leave dry food available between meals. Cats prefer to eat small meals throughout the day.
  • Place food bowls in easily accessible areas. Cats like to eat in quiet, peaceful spots. Have multiple feeding stations around your home.
  • Try different food shapes and textures if your cat gets bored. Mixing wet and dry food can make mealtime more interesting.
  • Consider getting a microchip-activated pet feeder to dispense meals if you’re away for extended periods. This ensures your cat has access to food.
  • Make dietary changes gradually by mixing in new food with your cat’s regular food.

Ensuring your cat has consistent access to palatable food will help prevent hunger and encourage good eating habits.


Reasons Cats May Refuse Food

There are many possible reasons why a cat may refuse food. Common illnesses that can cause appetite loss in cats include dental disease, kidney disease, cancer, liver disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism, and feline diabetes (source). Other factors like stress, anxiety, depression, side effects of medications, and pain can also lead to reduced appetite.

Cats experiencing nausea or indigestion may go off their food temporarily. Consuming something toxic or unsuitable for cats, like antifreeze, chocolate, onions, grapes, or raisins, can also make them unwilling to eat (source). Dental disease is a very common reason for appetite loss in cats. Bad teeth or sore gums make it painful to chew and eat. Some cats may continue to eat but get very thin because it’s such an effort.

As obligate carnivores, cats can be very picky about food. Some may stop eating due to a change in diet, food bowl location, feeding schedule, or type of food offered. Healthy cats may occasionally miss a meal or two, especially if distracted or busy. But any significant, prolonged decrease in food intake warrants an exam by a veterinarian to check for underlying illness.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

There are certain situations when you should seek immediate veterinary care if your cat is not eating:

  • Your cat has not eaten for over 48 hours. Cats can survive for short periods without food, but anything longer than 2 days requires medical intervention (
  • Your cat is a kitten under 6 months old. Kittens cannot go as long without food and can develop serious health complications if not eating (
  • Your cat is vomiting frequently and unable to keep food down.
  • There are signs of lethargy, weakness, or inability to stand.
  • Your cat has a known health condition that is exacerbated by not eating.
  • Your cat is not drinking water or urinating normally.

In all of these situations, immediately contact your veterinarian, as they can assess your cat’s condition and provide supportive care such as IV fluids and appetite stimulants. The sooner the underlying cause of inappetence can be determined and treated, the better the outcome for your cat’s health ( Do not wait longer than 24-48 hours to seek veterinary care if your cat stops eating.

Caring for a Starving Cat

If you find a cat that appears to be extremely malnourished or starving, the first priority is to provide emergency first aid and care. According to How To Nurse a Starving Cat in 6 Simple Steps, it is critical to rehydrate a starving cat before introducing food.

Offer the cat fresh water frequently in small amounts. Do not give milk, as this can cause diarrhea. You can also use an unflavored electrolyte solution, which helps replenish salts and minerals. Give this in small amounts with a syringe or dropper.

Once the cat is rehydrated, you can begin offering a high-protein, high-fat canned cat food. Feed only a teaspoonful at a time every 1-2 hours. This allows the cat’s digestive system to adjust without being overwhelmed. Go slowly and be patient.

According to How to Nurse a Starving Cat Back to Being Healthy, the goal is to provide nutrients and energy to help the cat recover, while not overloading its compromised system. Small, frequent feedings are key.

Make sure the cat has a warm, calm area to rest and recover. Monitoring the cat closely is important to watch for signs of improvement or complications. Consult a vet as soon as possible for additional care instructions.


To recap the main points, cats are obligate carnivores with a high metabolic rate that requires regular meals to maintain energy and health. Though adult cats can survive 48-72 hours without food, prolonged starvation can lead to liver damage and other complications. Always monitor your cat’s food intake and note any decrease or change in appetite. Try tempting fussy eaters with different foods and flavors. If your cat refuses food for over 24 hours or shows signs of illness, take them to the vet promptly. With care and attention, you can identify issues early and intervene to get your cat eating again.

By understanding cats’ nutritional needs and looking for warning signs, you can keep your feline friend happy and healthy. Monitor their food intake daily and don’t hesitate to involve the vet if you have any concerns. With the proper diet and care, your cat can continue thriving for many years to come.

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