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How Long Can Cats Go Without Water and Food? What You Need to Know!


Mar 9, 2023
domestic cat lying on floor and looks up attentively to something it hears


domestic cat lying on floor and looks up attentively to something it hears

Cats may be finicky creatures, but they are also creatures of habit. If your cat has suddenly stopped eating and drinking, it is definitely a cause for concern. While cats can survive up to 2 weeks without food, it is not healthy for them. However, if they are not drinking water, they will only survive for 3 or 4 days.

Time is vital for restoring your cat’s feeding and drinking habits. This article will share some tips for how to tell if your cat is eating and drinking properly. If you cannot get your cat to eat or drink, reach out to your vet immediately.


How Long Can Cats Go Without Food and Water?

Cats can go without food longer than they can go without water. If your cat is not eating but is drinking, he can go up to 2 weeks. However, if your cat is not drinking, he will not last longer than 4 days.

This is because water is essential to the most key parts of the body. Without it, several vital organs will swiftly lose their ability to function, and your cat’s body will shut down. Dehydration can occur within 24 hours, so returning your cat to healthy drinking habits is essential.

How Much Food Do Cats Need? 

Assuming you are feeding your cat quality dry food high in protein, your indoor cat needs around ⅓–½ cups each day (approximately 170–250 calories per day). If your cat starts to go too long without food, his stomach can fill with extra acid, which can cause him to vomit.

Since cats are creatures of routine, it is best to feed them regular amounts at regular times. If your cat has a feeding routine, it will be much easier for you to notice when that routine has been disrupted.

ragdoll cat eating cat food
Image Credit: Snowice_81, Shutterstock

How Much Water Do Cats Need? 

Measuring your cat’s precise water intake can be difficult, and in most instances, you shouldn’t need to. Still, a general rule veterinarians recommend is that cats drink around 1 cup for every 10 pounds. Some cats may drink more or less, so the most important thing to know is how much is normal for your cat.

How Long Can a Kitten Go Without Food and Water?

Kittens will not survive long without food and water. At most, the average kitten will survive 2 days without food. But even after a day without food, a kitten will suffer extreme malnourishment and may need immediate veterinary care.

There are nuances to feeding a newborn kitten, as their steady growth will demand different feeding requirements every few weeks.

Age Food Required Times Per Day Fed
1–3 Weeks Their mother’s milk 8
3–4 Weeks Their mother’s milk and gruel 7
4–5 Weeks Their mother’s milk and gruel 6
5–6 Weeks Gruel 5
6–7 Weeks Wet and dry food 4
7–8 Weeks Wet and dry food 3
8+ Weeks Wet and dry food 2–3

Why Is My Cat Not Eating?

Trying to figure out why your cat is not eating can be a frightening and frustrating process. There are many reasons why a kitten or cat may have stopped eating1, and the quickest and most efficient way to discover why is to consult your vet.

Old ginger cat resting on couch
Image Credit: shymar27, Shutterstock

Why Your Kitten Won’t Eat His Food

  • He doesn’t like his food.  While your kitten is being weaned towards adult food, he may be increasingly picky about what he eats. By changing the flavor, consistency, or shape of his food, you may be able to entice him to eat.
  • He has an upper respiratory infection. Upper respiratory infections can block off your kitten’s nasal passages, meaning he cannot smell his food. He might not eat it as a result.
  • He is intimidated by other pets. If you provide a safe, solitary space for your kitten to eat, he may be more comfortable.
  • He consumed a foreign object. Kittens are curious creatures, and they may munch on things they shouldn’t. If your cat has eaten something he shouldn’t, you will need to take him to the vet to get the object removed.

Why Your Adult Cat Won’t Eat His Food  

  • He is sick. Whether it is an upper respiratory infection or something else, illnesses in adult cats can affect their appetite. If you suspect a medical issue, take your cat to the vet immediately.
  • He has dental problems. Dental problems can cause inflammation and pain in your cat’s mouth, so if you notice any redness or sores, this is a sign that he needs medical care.
  • He is suffering from digestive issues. Gastrointestinal problems such as inflammation, nausea, and intestinal obstruction may impede your cat’s desire or ability to eat. Your vet will be able to determine and treat the root cause.
  • He is dealing with heightened emotions. Anxiety, stress, or depression can impact your cat’s ability to eat.

Why Is My Cat Not Drinking?

Cats do not require as much water as some mammals2, so if your cat is not drinking as much as your dog, it is entirely normal. However, if your cat drinks less than usual, it is a cause for concern. Here are some of the following reasons why your cat may not be drinking as much:

  • His water bowl is not clean. Cats are very particular about the cleanliness of their water, so if your cat’s water bowl is not clean, he may avoid drinking from it.
  • He has a dental disease. Dental problems can make drinking uncomfortable or painful for your cat.
  • He does not feel safe enough to drink. If the water bowl is in an area with high foot traffic or a lot of noise, your cat may be too stressed to go near it.
  • He has a medical condition. Many illnesses will cause your cat to avoid drinking. If you suspect a health complication, consult your vet.
bengal cat drinking water
Image Credit: kalyanby, Shutterstock

How to Know if Your Cat is Dehydrated

The signs of dehydration can be subtle, so it is essential to monitor your cat’s behavior and well-being closely. Some indications that your cat is dehydrated include the following:

  • Skin tenting
  • Dry gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

If you notice any of these signs, it is vital to get professional treatment for your cat right away.



Realizing that your cat is not eating or drinking anymore can be scary. Although cats can go a couple of weeks without food and a few days without water, it is still detrimental to their health. When a cat or kitten stops eating or drinking, there may be an underlying medical cause. To ensure your cat’s safety and well-being, reach out to your vet when you notice any signs that your cat is no longer eating or drinking.

Featured Image Credit: Dima Berlin, Shutterstock

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