Your cat can go several days without eating. If your cat refuses to eat, there is a problem somewhere. If your cat refuses to eat, remain calm as the problem can be minor and an easy fix. If your cat is still not eating and has been 24 hours, call your vet for recommendations. However, your cat cannot go over three days without drinking sufficient water. Cats become dehydrated quickly.

However, if your cat is drinking more water than usual and is not eating, this is a concern related to possible diabetes or kidney issues that develops more frequently in older cats. It is time to have your vet check your kitty for any underlying health problems.

Why Is My Cat Not Eating But Is Drinking Water? 

Cats are good at hiding an illness until the illness starts to exhibit unusual signs and symptoms. From simple to complex, there are many reasons why your cat is not eating but is still drinking water. These reasons can be minor with a quick fix or more severe, demanding a treatment plan by your veterinarian.

  • Problems with Food Types and Textures

I have six fur babies, and they have trained me well as to what foods they will and will not eat and the textures they accept or refuse. Cats are picky when it comes to food. You may be giving them fish, and they do not like fish; thus, they refuse to eat because they prefer chicken. You may be giving them meaty bits or shreds, and they don’t like this texture. Perhaps they want a pate texture. After a time, you learn your cat’s food and texture preferences.

  • An Illness or Terminal Condition

An illness is a top reason why a cat refuses to eat. You need to monitor your cat closely. Even though a cat can go a few days without eating, you need to call your vet if your cat still refuses to eat after 24 hours. The vet can find out why and start your cat on a treatment plan so they can start feeling better sooner.

  • Dental Issues

Cats can develop cavities and rotten teeth. Cats can have mouth infections and injuries, inflamed gums, abscessed teeth, broken teeth, oral tumors, and inflammatory issues that the vet will need to treat.

  • Gastrointestinal issues like inflammation of the stomach, IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, parasites, colitis, or cancer decrease appetite. Other possibilities include the following.
  • Kidney disease, kidney infections, urinary tract infections and obstructions, urine crystals
  • Pancreatitis
  • Indigestion, constipation, digestive obstruction
  • Vaccinations and medications
  • Anxiety, depression, and stress
  • New foods, spoiled foods, food dislikes
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Seasonal changes
  • Finding food elsewhere

Some professionals say that cats can go two weeks without eating, and this thought scares me to death. Yes, cats can go longer without food than they can without water. However, cats are small, and going without food can cause weight to drop quickly.

Lack of food causes weakness and increased fatigue. Your vet can find out the problem and get your cat eating again. You need to call your vet if your cat continues to refuse food after 24 hours. When I have experienced this with any of my cats, I allow them to eat anything that tastes good until they recover from whatever is making them ill. I do not feed my dinner to any cat due to seasonings, salt, pepper, or other vegetables that can be toxic to them. I will allow water-packed tuna or a piece of baked chicken or fresh, totally deboned fish.

How Do I Get My Cat to Eat?

Once your vet discovers the problem of why your cat is not eating and can treat the problem, your cat should begin eating again. However, if there are no underlying health issues and your vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, you must put your detective hat on and start ruling out reasons why your cat is not eating. Your vet can possibly give you some suggestions. The following are some helpful tips.

  • Try to determine what type of food your cat likes and the texture. Never buy an overabundance of food until you know your cat’s preferences.
  • Does your cat prefer dry food, wet food, or a combination?
  • Some cats will not eat out of plastic bowls and prefer glass or metal or vice versa.
  • Some cats prefer a flat plate versus a bowl. However, my cats shove food off the sides, so I use small bowls that are not too deep in the middle. There are tiny barbs on cats’ tongues that make their tongues feel rough. These barbs help them pick up food.
  • Is your house stressful and noisy or quiet at mealtime? Cats like to eat away from other pets and where there is not a lot of noise and activity. My cats will refuse to eat if there is too much activity around them. At those times, they do not trust their environment.
  • Entice your cat to eat again by offering tuna on occasion.
  • Try baby food.
  • Cats, as a rule, do not like to eat food that is cold and right from the refrigerator. Warm it up slightly. Do not give your kitty hot food!
  • My cats refuse to eat any moist food set out for too long.
  • Ask your vet about short-term vitamin shots, over-the-counter vitamins, or an appetite enhancer.

What To Do If My Cat Is Not Eating, But Will Drink?

Over the last 30 years of being a cat parent to many cats, I have found that cats always have a reason for doing what they do. If your cat is not eating, but is drinking, you win half the battle. Your cat is not out of the woods yet because there still remains a problem that you must figure out. This is assuming that your cat passes its physical exam.

Cats are picky eaters, but never let them go for more than 24 hours without food and seek your vet’s advice when your cat does not eat. Cats refusing to eat becomes more severe than dogs and other animals because cats can rapidly lose weight. It is vital to respond to this problem as soon as possible.

  • If your cat has underlying health issues that your vet is treating, your cat should start to eat soon, depending on what the problems are. I try to entice them to eat by offering a teaspoonful of tuna juice or cat gravy found in any pet store.
  • I try to mix their favorite food with a bit of extra gravy or cool water.
  • You can buy Lil’ Soups found at most pet stores.
  • Never starve your cat because they will not eat a particular food, such as a vet’s prescribed food.
  • Consider changing the food brand, type, consistency.
  • In severe cases, you may have to feed your cat with a large feeding syringe and use a mixture of pate and water.
  • Vets sometimes place feeding tubes in the cat in difficult situations.
  • I am not a fan of giving table food to cats. However, you can try to bake a piece of chicken, give it some water-packed tuna, a boiled egg, or other meat that has nothing on it.
  • Feed small amounts only, and baby-step your cat’s appetite back. Cats that are trying to regain their appetite should never be overfed.
Author

I created and currently run Kitty Cat Tips, the website that you can go to when you have questions about your cat's behavior. It's my hope that you find Kitty Cat Tips to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your cat. You can read more about me and my website here.