Cat Survival: How Long Can Cats Live Without Food & Water?

Cats appear to be survival specialists with their self-sufficiency and resiliency. But how long can cats live without food and water?

Your cat's body is about 75% water, so dehydration can be a dire situation. They also present unique issues when faced with a lack of food. Cat owners should always make sure that fresh water and food are available for their pets. But in an adverse situation, just how long can cats live without food or access to water?

Cats and Food Intake: Water from Food

While freshwater is optimal, many cats get a significant amount of their water from the food they eat. This is particularly the case for domestic cats fed wet food and feral cats who eat prey animals. Because much of cats' water is extracted from what they eat, sometimes it can appear as though a cat isn't drinking enough, when in reality, it's well-hydrated.

Cats and Evolution

It is believed that cats evolved in a desert environment where water was scarce. Cats are carnivores and ideally would get most of their water from the prey they eat. Because of this, they naturally have a low thirst drive, which means they don't have a natural tendency to seek out a separate water source frequently.

Modern Dry Foods Can Present Problems

This presents complications for cats fed with dry food. Dry food, as the name implies, contains very little moisture. Cats fed with dry food need almost all of their water to come from a separate source.

Cats are also incredibly picky about their water source. They often dislike chemical smells in tap water and avoid standing water.

Many cats prefer to drink running water, just like their relatives in the wild. Few wild cats would tolerate standing water, as they understand it could be stagnant and possibly dangerous. Domestic cats have the same instinct. But what if a cat doesn't have access to food or water? In a survival situation, how long can cats live without food, or even more importantly, how long can they live without water?

How Long Can Cats Live Without Food?

Homeless cats obviously face times when food is scarce. But unfortunately, this can happen to pets, also.

Pet cats can be deprived of food for a number of reasons.

Sometimes cats are left unattended for spans due to owner emergencies. Owners who are hospitalized or evacuated suddenly from their homes, for instance, are unable to adequately supply their cat before leaving home.

Cats can also escape the house and become lost. Many domestic cats lack the skill and strong instinct required to find food on their own. Irresponsible pet sitters can be an issue as well. If they fail to check on the cat and monitor their food supply, a cat could face starvation.

If any adverse situation should arise, how long can cats live without food? The answer can vary depending on water availability and the individual cat.

Assuming They're Healthy, How Long Can Cats Live Without Food?

A healthy cat with access to water can survive for up to two weeks without food. Dehydration is the main issue. If this isn't a factor, the cat's body can use fat stores for energy.

While all animals use fat stores for energy when food is unavailable, this survival mechanism can present issues for certain cats.

Hepatic Lipidosis: What You Should Know

When animals enter a period of starvation, the liver packages fat in proteins and sends it out into the bloodstream for energy. Hepatic Lipidosis happens when there is no food available to provide the proteins, this fat can accumulate in the liver and disrupt normal liver function. This can be very dangerous for cats, potentially causing irreversible damage.

More Fat Doesn't Equal Better Survival Chances

Though it may seem as if an obese cat could survive much longer without food, they often develop this serious liver condition much sooner than younger, slimmer cats. In susceptible cats, hepatic lipidosis from starvation could be fatal in 2-10 days.

How long can cats live without food? The answer depends on their hydration level and their previous state of health.

You can help prevent a starvation scenario for your cat by providing enough healthy food daily, investing in an automatic feeder, and by always making sure anyone who might care for your cat is dependable and responsible.

How Long Can Cats Live Without Water?

Cats become dehydrated very quickly, and the effect on their health can be devastating.

As with many animals, water is essential for organs to function, metabolic processes, and toxin removal. Water is necessary for maintaining good circulation, efficient digestion, and elimination of waste products through urination and defecation. Without water, these processes can quickly become compromised and organs involved can diminish in function or shut down completely.

Wild or Feral Cats Compared to Domestic Cats

Wild and feral cats get a lot of their water from the type of food they eat. They are obligate carnivores, which means they hunt and eat meat. While it may seem that these cats don't drink much, they're usually well-hydrated and don't require much water from another source.

But what about domestic cats who have no access to water?

The water-food relationship is still a factor.

Wet Food versus Dry Food

Cats who are fed wet food get up to two-thirds of their required water from that food. These cats will not become dehydrated as quickly in the absence of water.

Cats who are fed dry food will dehydrate quickly, as they will get little to no water from what they're eating. Without another source of water, they're not able to replace lost fluids. Cats can survive 2-4 days in the complete absence of water, meaning they also do not have access to prey or wet food.

Environment and Health Factors

Higher environmental temperatures and preexisting health conditions can cause dehydration in your cat to occur much faster. Heat is an important factor to consider. Cats sweat through their paws, so high temperatures cause water loss. They tend to groom themselves more in hot situations, using saliva to cool themselves. In extreme heat, cats sometimes pant, also.

All of these cooling mechanisms cause water loss.

Health Conditions Put Cats at Greater Risk for Dehydration

Older cats and cats with diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease are more prone to dehydration. These cats would become dehydrated much more quickly than younger, healthy cats.

Also, cats who have been ill can quickly become worse without water. This is due to several reasons:

  • Avoiding water previously due to illness and are already slightly dehydrated
  • They may have been vomiting
  • They may have had diarrhea
  • Water is of the utmost importance

You may wonder, how long can cats live without food? But a lack of water is the bigger concern, as health deteriorates quickly without it. It is crucial that you provide fresh water for your cat. If they are picky or uninterested, take measures to make the water more appealing.

Keep in mind that cats are particular about their water source. Always use fresh, filtered water. Consider buying a water fountain for your cat, as they prefer running water over standing water.

If you will be away from your cat for a long period, make sure to provide several sources of water if one is spilled, evaporates, or is completely drained by a thirsty feline. If your cat is left without water for some unforeseen reason, it has better survival chances if it was well-hydrated in the first place.

Cat Survival: An Overview

A cat's survival in a starvation situation varies depending on age, health, and pre-existing conditions.

So just how long can cats live without food? The answer depends on these factors:

  • Age
  • Health
  • Current weight
  • Water access

A healthy cat of normal weight can survive for up to two weeks if it has access to water.

Obese cats are at a greater risk of the liver condition hepatic lipidosis in a starvation situation. With extra fat building up in the liver and no protein from food to package it up and send it out to the body's cells for energy, their liver can quickly become fatty.

Age and Health Matter

Older cats and cats that have certain medical conditions have less of a chance for survival without food. The length of survival time for these cats varies greatly depending on their age or disease progression.

So, how long can cats survive without water? Water is vital to most animals, and cats are no exception! Without water, virtually all processes in a cat's body are compromised. Water is vital to most animals, and cats are no exception! Without water, virtually all processes in a cat's body are compromised.

Healthy, well-hydrated cats can live without water for 2-4 days.

Older cats, cats who have been ill, and cats with certain diseases will suffer dehydration quickly, within 1-2 days. Cats are unique animals with incredible survival skills. But they are also our pets and depend on us to meet their needs. There are plenty of ways you can do to make sure your cat has access to food and water, even in an emergency or unexpected absence.

Prevention Is Key

When you take proper measures, you won't have to wonder how long cats can survive without water or food? You'll know they've got what they need. Consider several watering options to encourage your cat to drink and to ensure water is always available.

Food should be accessible also. There are also many benefits with an automatic feeder you may not have considered before.

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