How Long Can Lions Go without Eating? How Often do they eat?

The King of the Jungle actually doesn’t live in the jungle, but on the wide plains of Africa and into India.

These powerful cats are the second largest in the world next to tigers.

Clearly these felines require a lot of food. In fact, zoos sometimes have to spend up to almost $7,000 to feed a single lion each year. But what about in the wild when food is scarce?

How long can lions go without eating? 

Lions are known to go without eating for around a week, however they can go up to a month without eating,as long as they have source of water available. Generally lions will hunt every 2-3 days,however only about 30% of their hunts are successful, How long they can go without eating depends on how successful they are.

How Often Does a Lion Need to Eat?

In general, an African lion usually feeds every three or four days. In the wild, how often they hunt depends on the amount of food available.

They may actually go up to a week or more without food if hunting is scarce. In zoos, caretakers try to imitate a lion’s feeding schedule in the wild by giving lions a few “fast” days per week

What do African Lions Eat?

Wait—aren’t all lions African lions? Yes, but there are actually two subspecies of lion that have been identified and they don’t all live in Africa. One subspecies, the Panthera leo leo, lives in West and Central Africa along with India. The other, Panthera leo melanochaita, is found in South and East Africa. 

African lions’ eating habits include a large variety of animals since both subspecies of lions are not picky eaters. They will eat pretty much any other animal they come across including even birds, eggs, and snakes.

Even though they are such versatile eaters, they do have a favorite food that can make up to 90% of their diet. Their preferred prey tends to be medium to large animals known as ungulates.

These are animals with hooves such as zebras, giraffes, gazelles, water buffalos, wildebeests, etc. Larger animals such as elephants and rhinos also appear in their diet, but lions tend to hunt only the old, weak, and young of these larger animal groups. 

Besides hunting, lions are not above resorting to scavenging (consuming dead animal carcasses) or stealing from other predators such as hyenas or leopards. 

How Long can a lion go without Eating? Lion eating a bird
Lion eating a bird

How Much Food Does a Lion Eat in a Day?

The amount of food a lion eats per day depends on their size and sex. Large male lions may eat around ten pounds of meat per day while a smaller female lion is able to get by on five pounds. Again, though, this is an average. Most lions don’t eat every day, whether in captivity or in the wild.

Especially in the wild, lions aren’t always able to predict the availability of food since that depends on the success of their hunt. Actually lions have a pretty poor success rate for hunting.

At most, they are able to catch and kill their prey only around 30% of the time. Unlike their cheetah cousins, lions are not as fast as some of the prey they hunt, and they can easily tire out. 

Because of their poor hunting success rate, lions may have to go long periods without food. When they do succeed in a kill, they may gorge themselves on the meat and then spend the next several days resting in a feline food coma.

In fact, lions have been seen resting in the same spot for as many as three days without getting up for either food or even water.

How Many Days can a Lion Survive without Food?

If that 30% success rate plummets, like it will for older male lions kicked out of their pack, how long can a lion go without food before it dies?

The answer is unclear. They are probably able to go more than a month without eating as long as they are getting enough liquid. That is actually true of many species.

Even humans may survive up to a month without eating as long as we are able to get plenty of water.

Even with an impressive length of time a lion can go without food, starvation is not an uncommon fate for lions—especially the males. Male lions usually have a rough time of it. If they manage to survive their early infancy and childhood, they are kicked out of their pride at around two to three years old.

They then must survive on their own until they grow strong enough to take over another pride. After killing the cubs of the pride he takes over, the male lion experiences his peak for around three to five years.

He rules the pride, mates with the females, and usually has first dibs on each kill carried out by the females of the pride. All too soon though, another male or group of males takes over his pride.

Then he’s back to wandering by himself, often eventually dying of starvation.

Of course there are some interesting exceptions to this. In one report, a group of male lions had a change of heart when a dominant male they had ousted almost starved to death. In a rare display of generosity, the male lions allowed their former competitor to feed with them. 

How Long Can a Baby Lion Go without Eating

A baby lion cub that is still nursing usually feeds several times throughout the day. Unlike human babies, though, a cub can last up to twenty-four hours without nursing when the mother is away.

This ability is vital to the cubs’ survival since their mother gives birth to them and raises them up for as many as three months away from the pack. This means the mother must be able to leave her cubs to go hunt by herself so she has enough energy to care and feed her cubs.

For a lone lion hunter though, the success rate is even lower at only 19% at most.

Even though a cub may be able to last without nursing for a whole day, their chances of survival are not great. Only around 80% of cubs live longer than two years. Besides being hunted by another predator like hyenas, cubs are at risk of dying early in prides that are too large or too small.

When prides are too small, there is an increased chance of fighting over territory and which males control the pride. Male lions may challenge the dominant males of other prides, and if successful, will usually kill all lion cubs younger than two years old.

In large prides, it may be hard to find enough prey to go around. 

female lion eating on grass
female lion eating on grass

How Long can Lions Go without Drinking

Surprisingly, lions can go quite a long time without drinking water since they can get enough liquid from their prey. If water is available, the average lion might typically drink once or twice a day.

When water is scarce, researchers have observed lions surviving five to even nine days without drinking water, provided they catch enough prey.

Lions are also probably able to go so long without water partly because they tend to rest during the hottest part of the day. Similar to your house cat, lions can spend up to twenty hours resting during the day.

Even young lions seem able to slack their thirst with food.

One cub six months old did not drink for seven days in a row. Of course his pack did kill several animals in that time period which he presumably was able to get moisture from.

With such a large body to feed, you would think that lions have to eat often. Surprisingly, they eat much less frequently than we do, but a lot more food at a time. The typical lion eats as much as ten pounds a few times a week.

If it needs to though, it can go for more than a week without eating. On the other hand, if food is plentiful, but water is limited, a lion may survive a week or more without drinking.

Not only are these creatures impressive in their power and beauty, they’re also amazingly adaptive in their ability to survive when food and water are limited.