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It's no surprise that your cat needs proper and balanced nutrition to live a long and pawesome life, but if you've ever found yourself wondering, "Why is my cat hungry all the time?" it's time to take a closer look into your cat's eating patterns.
Why Is My Cat Always Hungry?
Cats are typically grazers who snack throughout their waking hours, so if your cat finishes their meals and asks for more, this may indicate a problem, ranging from boredom and medical causes to simply needing more calories. Different commercially available foods have different caloric contents, and you can typically find a guide on the food container.
Because every cat has a different metabolism, ask your veterinarian for guidance on determining your cat's ideal body weight. Your vet can suggest how to adjust your cat's meal plan to safely reach and maintain their target weight. Your veterinarian may even recommend switching your cat to one of several other food options that can help them feel full and satisfied between meals.
When a "Healthy Appetite" Is More Than "Healthy"
If you have trouble easily feeling your cat's ribs or you can't easily identify your cat's waist when looking down from above your cat, they may be overweight. A consistent feeding schedule may be all that they need. Many pet parents choose to free-feed their cats; however, this can lead to extra pounds and unwanted health consequences, such as joint disease and diabetes mellitus, for those cats who lack self-control.
Remember, your cat's needs will vary depending on their size, energy level and health. Your cat's age will also play a role, as a cat's metabolism slows as they age, similar to our own. Your vet will be able to provide a target weight and daily calorie number your cat should be consuming.
Any way you look at it, if you can answer the question, "Is your cat always hungry?" with a "yes," it's time to talk to your vet. They can determine if there's an underlying problem or simply a cat who's eating out of boredom.
Cat Always Hungry? How to Occupy the Boredom Eater
Some cats are better than others at cutting themselves off from the kibble when they're no longer physically hungry. No different from some humans, some bored house cats have been known to snack purely out of boredom. Unfortunately, snacking when they aren't actually hungry can lead to a host of medical conditions, including obesity, osteoarthritis, urinary problems and diabetes mellitus. According to Cornell Feline Health Center, obese cats are twice as likely to pass away when they're middle-aged (that's ages 6-12 for cats) compared to cats with a healthy weight. With this in mind, keeping your kitty occupied with activities beyond another trip to the food dish is a smart move on your part and well worth the effort.
Originally used in zoo settings, food puzzles are a great way to stimulate kitties and mimic an environment nature selected them for. Making your cat work for their food can not only improve their health but it can also decrease unwanted behavior problems that often arise out of boredom, such as anxiety and destructive behaviors. According to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, food puzzles with rounded surfaces are best, so cats can easily bat them around. Many food puzzles are available on the market to stimulate your kitty, giving them a mental workout along with some physical exercise.
Cat Hungry All the Time? Medical Causes of Increased Appetite
Is your cat always hungry? If your cat never seems to reach satiety, it's best to have your vet examine them to ensure there isn't an underlying medical concern.
- Hyperthyroidism: This occurs when there's an excess of circulating thyroid hormones. Weight loss despite an increased appetite is a classic sign of this hormonal disease. Other signs may include muscle wasting; vomiting; increased thirst and urination; and behavioral changes, such as nervousness, hyperactivity and increased vocalization.
- Internal parasites: These parasites can quite literally steal the food your cat ingests, making your cat appear endlessly hungry, even though they aren't getting the nutrition they need to thrive. Just because you don't see worms in your cat's stool doesn't mean their gastrointestinal tract is parasite-free. An unkempt coat and runny stools are other signs.
- Diabetes mellitus: Also known as sugar diabetes, this condition causes cats to have a strong appetite while losing weight. Other clinical signs are increased water consumption and urination.
- Cancer: Though a nonspecific diagnosis, cancer is another cause of increased appetite in cats. Systemic and intestinal cancers, in particular, can increase a cat's caloric needs, while they often don't appear to put on any weight.
Is a Hungry Cat Always a Cause for Concern?
Each cat has a unique ideal weight and number of calories to achieve this weight, and this number may rise and fall throughout their lifespan. While it's easy for cats to gain weight, especially as they age and their activity levels fall, most cats will temporarily protest when their food is adjusted to an appropriate amount.
Keep in mind that this protesting is different from a nonstop appetite. If your cat seems insatiable or there's a change in your cat's appetite abrupt enough for you to notice, this usually indicates an underlying problem that warrants a visit to your vet.
Dr. Laci Schaible
Dr. Laci Schaible is a small animal veterinarian, veterinary journalist, and a thought leader in the industry. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Texas A&M University and her Masters in Legal Studies from Wake Forest University.