Domestic cats are an incredibly resilient species. They have been known to thrive in all kinds of environments from the comfort of a loving home to the harsh world of inner-city streets. But how long can cats go without food in any kind of environment?
The answer depends on a number of different dietary factors. Let’s explore a few of them in-depth.
What nutrients does my cat need?
Although domestic cats have long since learned to incorporate kibbles into their diets, they are still obligate carnivores at heart. In other words, most of their daily nutritional needs can only be found in animal products.
While this doesn’t mean that you should suddenly transition your cat from commercial pet food to a steady diet of birds and mice, it does mean that you should be scrutinizing your cat’s food labels more closely. Look for pet food that is rich in protein, moderate in fat, and minimal in carbohydrates to start with. You can also ask your veterinarian for second opinions on whether a brand you’re considering is right for your cat’s unique needs.
Should I feed my cat dry food or wet food?
The kind of food you should feed your cat is subject to intense debate among cat owners. Some believe that dry food is an abomination, while others think it’s just as serviceable as wet food. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each can help you decide which one to buy for your cat.
The Pros of Dry Food
Dry food comes in large bags. This makes it a more cost-effective option for most cat owners than wet food, which is often sold by the can.
Dry food also has a long shelf life. It can be stored for at least 6 weeks after being opened. It can also be left in a cat’s food bowl for up to 48 hours.
This time-frame can be highly convenient for cat owners who are away from home most of the day. It allows them to tend to their daytime responsibilities without worrying about whether their cats have been getting enough to eat.
The Cons of Dry Food
The primary disadvantage of dry food is its lack of moisture content. This can make it hard for some cats to digest. These include older cats and cats with a health condition regardless of age.
The next disadvantage of dry food is its high carbohydrate content. Some people think carbohydrates are bad for domestic cats because their wild ancestors had a minimal carbohydrate diet. Furthermore, it is believed that too many carbohydrates in a cat’s diet can either contribute to or cause obesity and diabetes in cats. These medical issues can lead to other serious health problems down the road.
The Pros of Wet Food
Wet cat food contains higher volumes of animal protein than dry cat food.
Wet cat food also contains up to 75% water. This, together with an ample supply of water, can help your cat meet its daily moisture requirements. Moisture can improve your cat’s ability to digest food, which can be a boon to your cat’s overall health.
The Cons of Wet Food
The higher-quality ingredients of wet cat food mean that it is more expensive than dry food.
Wet food also spoils faster than dry food does. Hills Pet Nutrition, Inc., for example, recommends cat owners remove any wet food that their pets have not eaten after 4 hours. This can be a problem for cats that eat on a free-feeding basis or for cats that prefer to eat overnight.
Additionally, while open cans of wet food can be stored in the refrigerator for a maximum of 7 days, uneaten leftovers cannot. They must be thrown away to protect your cat’s health no matter how expensive they were.
At the end of the day, the two most important factors to consider when buying cat food should be whether it provides the nutrients your cat needs and whether your cat actually wants to eat it. Try different brands of both dry and wet food until you find one that your cat loves.
How often should you feed your cat?
Regardless of whether you’re in the dry or wet food camp, you should feed your cat their preferred food based on their age. DVM Francis Kallfelz recommends that kittens, for example, be fed at least three times a day. Older cats, on the other hand, can maintain a healthy lifestyle with only one meal per day.
How much should you feed your cat?
As with how often you should feed your cat, how much you should feed your cat depends on your cat’s age. Older cats require less food per meal than younger cats, who are still growing.
Another factor you should consider when deciding meal portions is your cat’s size. The large Norwegian Forest Cat, for example, requires more food to stay healthy than a breed that only weighs 5 to 10 pounds.
However, like other cat preferences, nutritional needs vary widely even within the same breed. Follow the portion recommendations on the back of your cat’s dry food bag or wet food can and monitor your cat to determine their ideal meal portions. For a more in-depth guide check out the Ultimate Cat Feeding Guide.
What can I do when my cat won’t eat anything?
Cats are notorious for being picky eaters. But being a picky eater and refusing to eat are two very different problems. The former is a personality trait, while the latter requires your immediate attention.
Just like with people, a loss of appetite in cats can be a symptom of a psychological issue, the side effect of a new medication, or the early signs of a serious illness. Offer your cat small amounts of fresh liver or tuna to rule out the worst-case scenario. These foods have been known to stimulate some cats’ appetites.
You can also try adding fish oil, broth, or cooked egg into your cat’s canned food. These foods are chock full of the protein that your cat needs to stay happy and healthy.
How long can cats go without food?
You should book an appointment with your preferred veterinarian straight away if none of the above methods are encouraging your cat to eat again. Try to set your appointment within the next few days if possible. Cats can live for one to two weeks without food. However, this can be cut down to only a few days if the cat has also stopped drinking water.
In conclusion, the number of days cats can go without food varies from cat to cat. This is because a variety of different elements can impact a cat’s ability to survive a serious circumstance like refusing to eat, such as what kind of food the cat was eating before it stopped eating and how much water it was drinking after the fact. That being said, you should never take a chance on a cat’s life — whether it’s your own, someone else’s, or even a stray. Always consult a veterinarian as soon as possible when a cat is going without food or water.
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