Do you have a cat that constantly begs you for food? Or perhaps your cat suddenly seems hungry all the time? While this may just be a sign of a healthy appetite, constant hunger and overeating can be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
Let’s look at some of the reasons which could explain why your cat is always hungry, including when this may indicate a more serious health problem.
Reasons why your cat is always hungry
Poor quality diet
The type of food you are feeding your cat may not be meeting their nutritional needs. Cats need a diet rich in animal-based protein, fats and certain vitamins and minerals. If their diet lacks these essential nutrients, they may constantly feel hungry regardless of how much they have eaten.
This can be a problem when you feed low-quality kibble or cat biscuits which are usually high in carbohydrates. Our vet compares feeding your cat kibble or biscuits to a human who eats McDonald for every meal. Just like humans who eat a lot of junk food, a cat on a poor-quality diet will be constantly hungry and prone to gaining weight.
As cats grow older their appetite often increases. This is due to their metabolism slowing down, which can cause them to feel hungry more often. Older cats cannot digest food as efficiently and need to increase their food intake to compensate for this. Because of this, as your cat grows older it may be necessary to switch them to a diet designed for senior cats. This will contain high-quality, easily digestible protein, helping your cat to maintain weight and satisfy their hunger.
If your cat is bored or lacks stimulation, they may turn to food for entertainment or as a distraction. Over time, this behaviour can lead to frequent eating and constant hunger for food.
Changes in your home environment, such as moving house, a new baby, or new pet can disrupt your cat’s normal routine and cause stress and anxiety, which in some cases will lead to an increased appetite or excessive eating. A cat suffering from depression may also overeat as a form of comfort, just like humans who are emotional eaters.
Medication side effects
Increased hunger in cats can be a side effect of certain types of medication including:
- steroids to treat inflammatory conditions, allergies, and some cancers.
- antihistamines used to manage allergic reactions, such as hayfever in cats
- thyroid medications to treat hyperthyroidism such as methimazole or carbimazole
- medications to manage behavioural issues such as fluoxetine (Prozac) or amitriptyline.
If your cat is prescribed any of these medications, it is important to be aware of any potential side effects and to monitor your cat’s appetite and weight.
Certain medical conditions can also cause an increased appetite in cats. These include:
One of the first symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats is weight loss and feeling hungry all the time. This is due to the thyroid gland producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, which increases metabolism and appetite. Cats with hyperthyroidism also show symptoms such as excitability, increased thirst and urination, and an unkempt, matted coat.
Before Max’s hyperthyroidism diagnosis, the first tell-tale sign was that he was always hungry, even after he’d just eaten. Max has always been an incredibly active adult cat with boundless energy – but suddenly, he couldn’t seem to get enough food and he wasn’t putting on any weight.
In cats with diabetes, insulin resistance, inadequate insulin dosage and fluctuating insulin and blood sugar levels can lead to increased hunger and unexplained weight loss. You may also notice your cat drinking and urinating more than usual.
Certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma or adenocarcinoma can lead to malabsorption of nutrients and increased hunger. This will be accompanied by lethargy, weight loss, and intermittent vomiting.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, leading to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and weight loss. Cats with IBD may experience increased hunger as their body is not able to obtain the necessary nutrients from cat food to satisfy their appetite.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a progressive disease in which the kidneys gradually become less functional. If your cat seems to be thirsty and more hungry than usual, these could be a symptoms of early-stage kidney disease.
Factors such as increased urination, poor nutrient absorption and metabolic changes can disrupt the digestive system and explain why your older cat is constantly hungry. Other signs of chronic kidney disease include halitosis (bad breath), a dull, matted coat, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
Some gastrointestinal parasites, such as roundworms and tapeworms, can cause increased hunger in cats by depriving them of nutrients. Cats with worms often eat frequent, large meals high in calories yet still lose weight. This is because the parasites in their gastrointestinal tract steal the calories and energy from the food your cat has eaten.
What to do if your cat is always hungry
Rule out any medical issues
If you are concerned that your cat is always hungry, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any undiagnosed medical issues. This is particularly important if you notice other issues such as your cat losing weight and increased thirst. These subtle signs are often an early indication of age-related degenerative disorders, such as diabetes and hyperthyroidism which are always easier to treat if diagnosed early.
If your cat has a medical condition that is causing increased hunger, your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet that is formulated to manage your cat’s condition and help control their appetite.
Prevention against parasites
Ensure your cat is regularly dewormed and protected against intestinal parasites, as severe infestations can cause increased hunger. Follow your veterinarians’ recommendations for parasite prevention and treatment which may differ based on whether your cat has access to both indoor and outdoor environments. If your cat goes outdoors, consider an enclosed outdoor area to reduce their hunting activity and risk of parasitic infections.
Review your cat’s diet and feeding schedule
Make sure you are feeding your cat the appropriate amount and type of food. Feeding high-quality food that meets your cat’s nutritional needs will help to stave off hunger. Check the feeding guidelines on the food label and make sure you are feeding your cat the right amount based on their weight, age, and activity level. We feed our cats a balanced raw food diet which they are thriving on.
Cats are creatures of habit and prefer a consistent routine, they like to be fed at the same time each day. If you are unable to provide this, then consider an automatic cat feeder which can guarantee your cat’s dinner will arrive on time. This will help in reducing anxiety and excessive hunger linked to irregular meal times.
Provide enrichment and mental stimulation
Providing mental stimulation will help to prevent boredom and reduce the likelihood of your cat constantly asking for food. Cat toys, scratching posts, cat towers and interactive play sessions are a great way to keep your cat mentally and physically active. Treat balls can also be a fun way for your cat to show off their hunting skills, with the reward of tasty cat treats at the end.
If your cat finishes their daily ration of food too quickly and is then hungry for more, slow feeders and puzzle feeders are a good way to extend your pet’s mealtimes without increasing portion sizes. These feeding bowls make it harder for your cat to take a mouthful of food, helping extend the time it takes for your cat to eat their food.
There are many reasons why your cat may seem to be always hungry. Addressing the underlying cause, maintaining a consistent feeding routine, and seeking veterinary advice are crucial steps in managing your cat’s hunger and ensuring their overall health and well-being.