Some cats can be crazy about food and unfortunately, obesity is one of the most common problems seen in our feline friends. There can be many reasons behind your cat’s food frenzy.
As an example, Otto, an eight-month-old male Siamese, was so obsessed with foods that he was diagnosed to have a psychogenic abnormal feeding behavior. This made him aggressive around food.
There is no set guideline on how much to feed a cat because it will depend on several factors such as age, size, breed, type of food, the amount of exercise it gets and whether it is neutered.
As a rough estimate, a neutered, average weight, middle aged, indoor cat should receive about 20 calories per pound per day, and the same cat which lives mainly outdoors should receive about 35 calories per pound per day. This can be fed split over 2-3 meals per day, or left down for the cat to graze on.
But due to mistakes in feeding, certain health conditions or problems with the quality of the food products, cats may still be hungry if following that estimate.
What Affects Cat’s Eating Behavior?
Excessive eating or increased appetite is called polyphagia. It is important to maintain your cat’s diet by feeding the right amount of food and nutrients that it needs. You should carefully follow the feeding guidelines on the packet of food to know how many grams you should give your cat.
Observe the following possible causes of frequent hunger in your feline and look for a solution immediately:
1. Low-Quality Food
High-quality cat foods are always preferred as they reach the cat’s nutritional needs better compared to the low-quality ones. Like the fast foods that we eat, substandard cat foods also don’t satisfy their hunger.
Wet cat foods are popular as they are perceived as more palatable by cat owners. However, since moisture is the main percentage of wet foods, they can be of significantly less quality than dry foods.
If you notice that your pet always gets hungry, you should consider assessing the quality of the food you are providing and swap to a higher-quality cat food.
Low-quality cat foods can cause a plethora of health problems and will require more volume to be offered. Therefore, even though they might be cheaper, they will not save you money in the long run.
A high-quality cat food will have a high percentage of meat-sourced protein when analyzing the dry matter concentration. It should not be bulked up with cheap, unnecessary carbohydrates, such as grains, and rather should be complimented with a balanced recipe of nutritious vegetables.
If an unneutered female cat had recent contact with an unneutered male cat, she could be pregnant. Pregnancy causes the body to use significantly more energy to feed the growing kittens, and therefore the cat’s appetite will increase.
Signs of pregnancy include enlargement and darkening of the nipples, and at a later stage, enlargement of the belly and nesting behavior.
Pregnant cats can get exhausted from light activities and as their energy requirements are increased. This can make them hungrier than usual. Make sure that your cat gets enough rest if it is pregnant.
Speak to your veterinarian to work out if your cat is receiving enough nutritious food during her pregnancy; that way both the mother and kittens will be as healthy as can be.
Exercise naturally burns calories, and so to maintain a healthy weight, an active cat will need to eat more.
If an active cat were to eat the amount recommended for a sedentary cat, then it will become hungry, as the body is giving it a signal that it is using more calories than being taken in.
Exercise is a good thing, and therefore shouldn’t be curbed if the cat is hungry, but instead the owner must adapt their feeding to make up for the required calories.
Outdoor cats will use more energy than indoor cats, and younger or playful cats will use more energy than older cats. If an active cat is seeming hungry or losing weight despite being offered more food, then a food specifically for ‘active’ cats should be considered.
4. Cats Are Opportunistic Eaters
Cats are born to be hunters, which means some will hunt all day long for birds and mice. They will do this whether they are hungry or not as their natural instinct tells them that they don’t know when their next meal will come.
In the same way, some cats take the opportunity to eat as often as they are offered food, and therefore if they are fed ad lib, then they may continuously eat and can easily become obese.
In addition to this, competition with other pets can happen if there are more than one animal in the house. Cats should have separate feeding bowls in order to avoid aggression. But some cats tend to eat the food on other cat’s bowl once they have finished theirs. You should give each of your cat its own space if you own two or more.
5. Health Problems
A change in appetite for no reason should always be investigated by a veterinarian as it could be a sign of ill-health. If your cat always seems to be hungry but doesn’t gain weight, it can be very alarming. The extreme and frequent hunger of your cat could potentially be associated with the following conditions:
Diabetes is common in overweight cats, as the pancreas has to work extremely hard to produce enough insulin. Insulin is the product which decreases the blood sugar level of the cat, but when the pancreas is overworked, it stops being able to produce enough. Therefore, the blood sugar level rises above the normal range, which can initially cause the cat to feel hungry in the early stages.
Diabetes Mellitus is a condition wherein there is a shortage of the insulin due to either the pancreas genetically deficient (Type 1) or the pancreas being overworked (Type 2).
Insulin signals to cells to take sugar out of the blood, which can be used for energy. After the initial symptom of hunger, it can quickly progress to loss of appetite, vomiting, increased urination and drinking, and even death if left long term.
Diabetes can be easily diagnosed with a urine sample, so if you are concerned about your cat, ask your vet for some non-absorbent kitty litter so that you can collect a urine sample to be analyzed.
On the other hand, if your cat has already been diagnosed with diabetes and you are injecting insulin on a daily basis, an increased hunger might be a signal that you are giving too much insulin. This can be dangerous as an overdose of insulin can lead to the cat having seizures and even going into a coma.
- Parasite Infestation
Intestinal parasites in your cat, such as roundworms or tapeworms, can make your pet hungry. Cats with a worm burden might have a swollen belly and skinny ribs, or it can look completely normal. Also, the feces may be diarrhea, or like the physique, could look completely normal as well.
Microscopic examination of the feces is suggested to know what kind of parasite is lying within your cats’ intestines. Medications are available for treatment, but better than treatment is prevention. Therefore, all cats should have deworming treatment every 3 months if they are outdoor cats or hunt, and every 6 months if they are exclusively indoor cats.
Hyperthyroidism in cats is characterized by the overproduction of a thyroid hormone, called thyroxine, by an overactive thyroid gland. Excessive thyroxine causes an increase in metabolism which leads to weight loss and an increased appetite. It is a common condition in older cats.
Through a blood test, the veterinarian will be able to diagnose if your cat has hyperthyroidism. Many options for treatment are available. Usually a veterinarian will advise to stabilize the condition with tablet medication, however once stabilized, the thyroid can be surgically removed, or treated with radioactive iodine. Some owners, though, will choose to maintain their cats on chronic medication.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD is type of gastrointestinal disease caused by a reaction to certain proteins in a cat’s diet. The body thinks these proteins are ‘foreign’ and therefore reacts to them as if they are harmful. However, the intestinal linings become infiltrated with numerous inflammatory cells, which in itself is harmful. T
here are several different types of IBD and the most common in cats is eosinophilic inflammatory bowel disease. Because of this condition, the body struggles to absorb the nutrients through the intestinal wall into the blood. As a result, even though the cat is eating food, it is not using it, and the body will become hungry as it needs more energy and nutrients.
A cat with IBD tends to be hungry yet lose weight and usually have diarrhea. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose IBD though ruling out other causes of weight loss first. IBD can usually be controlled with a diet change to a novel protein which the body will not react to, which might be an unusual meat such as venison or duck, or it may be a diet with hydrolyzed proteins, which the body will not recognize as proteins.
- Intestinal Cancer
Due to the inadequate absorption of the food, several intestinal cancers can cause hunger in cats.
Adenocarcinoma and leiomyosarcoma are examples of gastrointestinal cancer which is more common in older cats. They are difficult to diagnose at an early stage and can be bad news if only picked up at a later stage.
The veterinarian will ask about the complete medical history of a cat. Physical examination will also be done to check if there is an abdominal mass. Blood tests might be done to narrow down the cause of illness, however x-rays or abdominal ultrasound are usually the means by which intestinal cancer is diagnosed.
Treatment method will vary on the location and severity of cancer. If the cancer hasn’t spread further than the intestine, surgery may be curative, however if it is a more advanced stage, chemotherapy might be needed to bring it into remission.
How To Solve Your Problem?
It is likely that there is an underlying cause if your cat is extremely hungry. You must look for the reason why your pet behaves that way and seek treatment. Neglecting your cat may lead to weight loss and affect his welfare.
Always check the label of your cat’s food to make sure that the food meets the right amount of calories your cat needs for its weight, and if you are providing enough high-quality food and your cat is still hungry, then seek the advice of your veterinarian.