Whether they’re active kittens or full grown adult cats, cats must consume food regularly to survive and thrive. They need about 24 to 35 calories a day per pound to keep them within their normal weight range. These calories are spread out into smaller meals that sustain them throughout the day. (In fact, a few tablespoons of canned food or ⅓ cup of kibble can already fill a cat’s small stomach!) If you notice that your cat is constantly eating, always asking you for food, or looking for food in her bowl more than usual, she may not be really hungry. Instead, she may be experiencing a health-related problem or manifesting her feelings through the way she eats.
To cat parents and foster carers reading this post, please remember that this article is only a guide. We want to equip you with all the information you need to assist your cat. Consult with a veterinarian as soon as you notice any major changes in your cat’s eating habits.
Does it seem like your cat is hungry all the time? Here are 7 possible reasons why:
1 Your cat’s daily nutritional needs aren’t met.
Feeding your cat incorrectly can make her feel hungry all the time. Underfeeding her or giving her low-grade cat kibble won’t provide her with the essential nutrients she needs to get through the day. To make sure you’re feeding her right, speak with your vet and factor in your cat’s age, size, needs, and health concerns.
Kittens grow rapidly during the first few weeks of their life, so they need to consume mother’s milk or kitten glop, and eventually, high-quality soft food containing a balanced mixture of protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fat, and carbohydrates. Meanwhile, the energy requirement of some senior cats notably increases by the time they turn 13. They lose their ability to digest fat, so they need more calories to make up for the deficit.
2 Your cat is bored or lonely.
Neglected cats may turn to food to keep themselves entertained. Common signs of cat boredom include overgrooming, chasing or fighting with other pets, lack of curiosity, and moping around the house.
To combat boredom, provide your cat with an enriching environment by setting up scratching posts and high spaces to hide, making toys (create toilet paper rolls or a lavish cat house!) you can both play with, or even building her an outdoor catio. If you’re leaving your cat for prolonged periods of time, it’s best to get her a companion in the form of a trusted cat sitter or a newly adopted kitten that she can bond with.
TIP: Make sure to introduce a cat to a kitten slowly so that both cats won’t get stressed out.
3 Your cat is depressed.
Aside from boredom or loneliness, your cat may also be depressed. There are many possible causes of depression, ranging from changes to a cat’s daily activities to loss of daylight hours during wintertime.
If your cat is depressed, she may be acting in unusual ways. Symptoms include a noticeable increase or decrease in appetite, activity, and vocalizations. Aside from these changes, other cats may exhibit the following: anxiety, lethargy, pacing, hiding, crouching, lack of interaction with humans, lack of interest in favourite hobbies, sleeping all the time, undergrooming, inappropriate urination, destructive behaviour, aggressive behaviour (biting, scratching, or hissing), and needing more attention than usual.
Depression may also be caused by health-related ailments, so a medical check-up is needed to determine if there is something wrong with your cat. If your attention is what she badly needs (40% of cats act depressed as a result of boredom), make it a point to play with her for at least 15 minutes once or twice a day. Recommended total daily playtime is between 20 minutes to an hour.
4 Your cat has gastrointestinal parasites.
Gastrointestinal parasites can cause your cat to eat all the time and never feel full. Depending on the parasite that attacks her, it can either eat the nutrients consumed by your cat or stop her from properly digesting her food and absorbing its nutrients. The most common intestinal parasites found in cats are roundworms. They affect 25% to 75% of cats, especially kittens and young cats that spend time outside. Other parasites include hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and stomach worms, as well as one-celled protozoan organisms such as isospora sp., giardia, and toxoplasma.
If you suspect that your cat has parasites in her stomach or intestines, bring a fecal sample to your veterinarian. (Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after getting a sample to avoid parasitic infection.) The veterinary clinic will search for microscopic evidence of parasites such as eggs and larvae. Once the parasite is determined, your cat will be given the corresponding oral deworming medication.
5 Your cat is suffering from hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
Hyperthyroidism and diabetes are two diseases that are common in older cats. The first is caused by an increase in production of thyroid hormones from an enlarged thyroid gland. The second is caused by the cat’s inability to produce enough insulin to balance her blood sugar levels.
Both diseases prevent your cat from properly transforming food into energy and nutrients she needs, thus making her eat more. Aside from a marked increase in hunger, cats suffering from diabetes and/or hyperthyroidism may also drink and pee more. Additionally, those with hyperthyroidism may also vomit, have loose stools, have dry-looking coats, and act more hyperactive.
6 Your cat may have a pancreatic condition.
A bigger appetite may also be due to your cat’s pancreas. She may have Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), a condition that stops her pancreas from secreting enzymes that help digest food after a meal. EPI results in maldigestion, which triggers increased hunger. It may also be accompanied by vomiting, severe diarrhea (often with greasy stools), unkempt haircoat, and weight loss. Blood is drawn and analysed to determine if your cat has EPI, and if the condition is present, she may have to eat food mixed with powdered digestive enzymes.
7 Your cat is experiencing bowel problems.
If your cat is suffering from intestinal problems, such as an inflammatory disease or intestinal cancer, a side effect may be an increase in appetite. When her bowels are irritated, it can affect her intestine’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients. To compensate for this inability, she needs to eat more.
If you notice any sudden changes with regards to how much your cat eats, monitor her closely and share your observations with your veterinarian. Rule out possible health reasons and work together to find ways to reduce her hunger pangs. At times, her hunger may be a combination of physical, mental, and emotional factors, so be patient in finding the answers.