How long can a cat eat without food? This is a question that you would likely ask if you went on an extended vacation, and your cat has run out of food to eat. Or when your cat just refuses to consume the food you prepared for her.
Don’t worry; your cat won’t pass away if she hasn’t eaten in 2-3 days. According to Dr. Lou Budik of the Transit Valley Animal Hospital in New York, healthy cats can go for weeks without food or water.
So even if you were stranded in another country or location because of unforeseen circumstances like a snow storm, you don’t need to fret. Your cat should be fine even if she has no food at home.
However, a cat that simply refuses to eat or drink water for several days is a different case altogether. It may lead to serious health problems such as dehydration and hepatic lipidosis.
Dehydration in cats
Dehydration happens when a cat’s body has loss an excessive amount of fluid. We’re not only talking of water here, but also electrolytes such as chloride, sodium, and potassium all of which are essential for your cat’s normal body function.
Usually, dehydration is caused by illnesses such as diarrhea, fever, diabetes, and heatstroke.
One clear sign that your cat is dehydrated is when there’s loss of skin elasticity. You can check skin tenting by gently pinching an area of his skin, preferably at the chest or back.
After you release the pinched area, observe how fast or slow the skin returns to place. In a dehydrated cat, the skin would usually remain in a pinched position instead of returning immediately into place.
If your cat’s skin didn’t return to place right away, then you should bring her to a veterinarian.
Other signs of dehydration in cats include dry and tacky gums and listlessness.
Another health problem that may arise if your cat refuses to eat for an extended period is hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. This is considered as the most common type of liver disease in felines.
When your cat has not eaten for a long period, fat cells in their bodies are metabolized for energy. This is in response to starvation. The fat cells, however, build up in the liver due to the lack of available protein.
The accumulated fat cells build up in the liver, disrupting its normal function in the process. The affected cat further loses her appetite and worse, feels sick. This further complicates the situation.
Aside from lack of appetite, the following are some of the signs of hepatic lipidosis in cats:
- Small tools in the litter box
- Hiding in unusual places like the closet
- Weight loss
Your cat won’t just refuse to eat for no reason at all. The following are some of the common reasons why cats starve themselves:
- Introduction of a new diet without her getting acclimated to it. Cat owners should know that felines are not great at adapting to sudden diet changes.
- Introduction of a new pet in the household, like a new dog or cat. This can cause environmental stress, and lead to your cat starving herself.
- Stressful situations, like guests who stay in your house for an extended period. Your cat could get distressed and this can affect her appetite.
- Even the birth of a baby can cause environmental stress on your cat.
If left untreated, fatty liver disease in cats can potentially lead to death.
What to do to encourage your cat to eat
So what can you do to encourage your furry friend to stop being starving herself? Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- If you just switched foods and your cat won’t even touch what you prepared for her, go back to her old food.
- If your cat refuses to eat dry food that she has been eating the past few weeks then perhaps the food is starting to go bad. You must replace it.
- Look for a highly aromatic canned food. Cats prefer smelly canned food, especially if it is warm.
- Pet her when she shows interest in the food you are giving her. This should encourage her to eat.
- Feed her in a part of the house that’s free from noise or distraction.
- If you are still unsuccessful in making your stubborn cat eat, bring her to a veterinarian. The specialist may give her an appetite stimulant.
Cats are survivors by nature. They can go for weeks without eating food. Thus, there’s no need to panic if you are out on an extended vacation and you left your pet at home without any food.
But this doesn’t mean that you should neglect poor appetite in cats. A cat that simply refuses to eat may be suffering from a more serious health condition like hepatic lipidosis.