Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Cat under Food and Water Stress
Name: Asimikas
Status: other
Grade: other
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: USA
Date: N/A 
 

Question:
How long can a domestic cat live without food, and drink water only?



Replies:
Asimikas,

If at all possible, attempt to coax food into the cat by mixing wet cat food with water until 'soupy', and use a syringe to inject food into the back of the cat's mouth. The cat probably won't like this, but if you try repeatedly and with gentle firmness, you may successfully get food into the feline.

From observing a case as a veterinary assistant, a cat refusing solid food can go several days on water alone. Then, the cat generally begins to refuse water as well and there is a noticeable gauntness about the body shape of the cat. The skin on the back, for example, when gently pinched will not quickly spring back to laying flat as it should --- this indicates serious dehydration on a subcutaneous level, indicating the cat needs an IV to get fluids in quickly before organ failure etc. Again, this is the general series of events I observed in a vet's office when a cat was brought in, having refused food for more than a few days. A vet should definitely be contacted if a feline has refused food for two consecutive days or more.

I hope this helps!

Jane Perrino


The answer to that question is actually, annoyingly, it depends, but the range you are talking about is 1 day to maybe 10 days. This being said, although a cat may survive, it is likely to have long term, possibly fatal, organ damage as a result.

Interestingly, an obese or overweight cat would die much sooner than a young skinny cat, should it go without food, even for a day or two. Cats get a condition called hepatic lipidosis, and the more fat a cat has, the greater a risk they have for developing this disease should they go without food. That's because, at a very basic level, if a cat doesn't get food, its body is extremely good at mobilizing its fat stores, which go to the liver. The liver is unable to process the amount of fat that starts to arrive, resulting in fatty liver accumulation and liver failure. It is for this reason that putting cats on diets, particularly fat cats, is always something that needs to be discussed with a veterinarian and undertaken with great care (even just putting a fat cat on a strict diet can cause hepatic lipidosis) Hepatic lipidosis is often irreversible and fatal. It's also why if a cat ever stops eating or goes without food, even for just a day or two, it is important it gets taken to a veterinarian asap.

Hope that helps!

Susannah Sample
University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Science
Click here to return to the Veterinary Topics Archive

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory