How long can cats survive without food and water?
Answer: depending on circumstances, about a maximum of 10 days without water and 35 days and more without food. The argument is below. I am open to counterargument.
On the face of it, the answer is not that difficult to find because almost every month there is a story in the online news of a cat trapped in a shipping container or a removals container for weeks, and against the odds survive. This surprises us.
I can remember one cat (“Socks”) trapped in a shipping container for 34 days without food and water. However, it was decided that the cat probably drank water from condensation formed on the inside of the container. There was certainly no food or water in the container.
At the time Socks was 11 months-of-age. When found, he was understandably desperately thin at half his bodyweight and dehydrated.
Today there are two cat survival stories. BBC News have the story of Sinbad an eighth-month-old ginger tabby-and-white cat from Egypt. He stowed away inside a container of luxury Egyptian linens bound for the UK.
The distance was 2,000 miles and the duration was 16 days. The container was delivered on a lorry to a business in Moreton-on-Lugg, Hertfordshire. The ship docked at Felixstowe.
It was declared a miracle that he made the journey without food or water. Sinbad was of course extremely hungry and thirsty when he was discovered. But the photo of him indicates he was reasonable healthy. Sinbad may have obtained water from condensation but the RSPCA said that he had neither water nor food for the 16 days.
Another story concerns two overweight cats who survived a month without food. It appears that they had access to water. Their owner died and her body was only discovered after a month.
She had overfeed her cats: a tabby and a calico. The fat helped to keep them alive.
We know that cats often drink very little water because they get it from wet cat food or prey. The domestic cat is descended from a wild cat that is adapted to arid conditions. This has carried through to the domestic cat who has a low thirst drive and who produces strongly concentrated urine.
However, my guess is that Sinbad licked the container for condensation. The limiting factor for survival is obviously water. I can’t find an answer to how long a cat can survive without water as it is probably variable depending on the individual cat and the circumstances. It is probable that the time limit on water is similar to humans but somewhat longer. After about a maximum of 7 days humans usually die without water although depending on the individual and circumstances he may survive for more than a week. Humans can live on water alone for weeks (more than 3 weeks we are told).
My guess is that in the Sinbad story he drank condensation and without that he probably could have survived for around a maximum of 10 days, in which case the RSPCA would be incorrect. As can be seen by the cat container stories cats can survive without food for over 30 days but once again this must be dependent on circumstances. If someone can add some info in a comment that would be useful.