- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
When you think of a pet begging, the first animal that comes to mind is probably a dog. But cats can be food-obsessed, too. (There’s a reason they end up on so many people’s counters.) Unfortunately, a cat who’s always hungry can be a sign of some serious health problems.
5 Reasons Your cat is always hungry
OK, so we’ve already established that your cat seems to think it’s chow time all the time. Why is that?
It turns out, some of the reasons are psychological (any cat owner will tell you just how big cat personalities can be!) but others can be a real sign of disease.
One big red flag: If your cat went from a pretty normal food routine to being ravenous, there could be something wrong. Check in with your vet when you notice any significant changes in your cat’s eating habits.
1. They’re Not a Fan of Human-directed Feeding Schedules
According to the experts at Vet Help Direct, feral cats will spend 12 to 24 hours hunting for food, and they’re often used to eating small meals regularly, rather than being on a feeding schedule set by humans. While many cats get used to eating bigger meals a couple of times a day, some of them don’t. They start to beg regularly even when they’re not hungry, especially if you’re giving in with treats.
Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP, a veterinarian at Animal Care Clinic in San Luis Obispo, CA, writes that sometimes cats beg for food—especially people food—because they’re curious.
But cat owners will have to be careful to keep curious kitties away from this food, which will require both keeping them off counters as well as giving them something else for entertainment.
Cat toys or catnip treats can be helpful. So can aging, since younger kitties tend to be more inquisitive than older ones.
3. Feline Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is relatively common (perhaps up to 2% of cats develop it) that either causes a shortage of insulin or a poor response to the insulin that is being produced, depending on whether it’s type I or type II.
Diabetes makes it difficult for your cat’s body to process glucose for energy, which leads to excess glucose—sugar—in the blood, according to PetMD. A newly bottomless hunger is one of the common symptoms of diabetes.
Other symptoms include a cat getting super thirsty and peeing more often. Untreated diabetes can quickly turn into an emergency, but cat owners who treat their pet’s diabetes can see their pets live to old age.
4. Thyroid Issues
Hyperthyroidism is another common disease in cats. According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, it’s most often caused by benign tumor on one of the thyroid glands, which leads to an increase in thyroid hormone production.
Increased appetite, especially when paired with weight loss, is one of the most common signs. Other signs include weight loss, increased thirst and urination, and even vomiting and diarrhea. It’s important to get it treated as the thyroid hormones affect the cat’s entire body, especially the heart and kidneys.
5. Digestive Issues—Including Cancers
While irritable bowel disease usually leads to appetite loss, if your cat isn’t absorbing enough nutrition, they could end up hungrier, according to Vet Help Direct. Tumors in the digestive area can lead to a similar issue. So if your kitty goes from a regular appetite to suddenly starving all the time, it’s worth checking in with a vet.
What a Normal Appetite Looks Like for Cats
Cats are happiest when you split meals into at least two feeding times per day, about 12 hours apart, according to VCA Hospitals. But more frequently also works—think the breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner schedule that you probably maintain. Routine is key, and you’re in charge of the routine.
Your cat’s age makes a difference in how much food you’ll need to feed them. Growing kittens may need three meals a day regardless of your schedule. Both wet food and dry food are appropriate, just make sure their water bowl is full, particularly when feeding your cat dry food.
If your cat seems to like their food too much, it may be worth switching to a food that is a little less delicious so they’re not as tempted to overeat. You can slow them down by putting their meal in a puzzle toy.
Just make sure you know how much food they should be getting so you don’t overfeed. And definitely avoid “free feeding” your cat, where you set out their food and let them graze. That can lead to cats, and even kittens, becoming overweight.
Unlike dogs, many cats aren’t going to come running when you set down their food. But as long as they’re eating enough, it should be OK. If you’re lucky enough to have several cats, an eager hungry kitty paired with a relaxed eater may be especially challenging. You’ll need to experiment—that may mean feeding cats in different rooms.
More Cat Advice
Why Do Cats Get the Zoomies After Using the Litterbox?
When Your Cats Are in It Together: 10 Best Cat Litters for Multiple Cats
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