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Why Is My Cat Always Hungry? 9 Potential Reasons for Excessive Eating

There are many different reasons why a cat may seem excessively hungry. Sometimes, it is possible that they have an underlying condition causing the excess hunger. Your cat may either be unable to feel their fullness signals, or they may be unable to digest their food properly. If they can’t get the proper nutrients out of their food, they may need to eat extra to get the same number of calories another cat would digest with less food.

Pregnant cats will also start eating a bit more towards the end of their pregnancy. However, this is usually not as much as owners expect. Unborn kittens don’t actually need that many extra calories.

Of course, there are a few non-medical reasons that your cat may be eating extra sustenance. Compulsive behaviors and boredom can both cause overeating.

If your cat suddenly starts overeating, we recommend taking them to the vet. There are a few different problems that can cause overeating and require vet attention.

Below, we’ll look at some of the problems that can cause overeating and excessive hunger.

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9 Possible Reasons Why Are Cats Always Hungry

1. Parasites

If your cat is infected by parasites, they will likely need to eat more. This is because the parasites will consume some of the nutrients your cat takes in. Therefore, they’ll have to make up for this by eating more.
Usually, they don’t eat so much more that pet owners notice. They only need an insignificant increase in calories. However, some cats will overcompensate by overeating. This may especially be the cause if your feline is overly skinny or has other symptoms of parasites.

This condition will require veterinary treatment, but it usually isn’t terribly difficult to treat. Most cats can be treated easily with medication. Parasites are most serious in kittens and older cats, as they need complete and balanced nutrition even more than adult cats.

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2. Boredom

Exotic Shorthair Cat sitting by the window
Image Credit: Wutlufaipy, Shutterstock

Just like people, some cats may eat because they are bored—not necessarily because they are hungry. If this is the case with your cat, it is often best to only provide them with a limited amount of food. Otherwise, they may overeat and become obese. Adding extra stimulation inside your home may also help.

Many cats will enjoy extra toys and climbing equipment. You may want to consider purchasing a variety of toys and switching them out regularly so that your cat doesn’t get bored.

Of course, you should rule out other health problems before you assume that your feline is simply bored. While this may very well be the case, you don’t want to assume your cat doesn’t have an underlying health problem when they do.

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3. Incorrect Food

Cats that are fed an incorrect diet may be unable to meet all their nutritional needs. Therefore, they may eat extra food to help compensate. This is often the case with low-quality foods. Just because your cat is eating a lot of food doesn’t mean that they love it. Instead, they could simply need to eat more because it isn’t very calorically dense.

If you switch your cat’s food and they suddenly start eating more, there are two things that might be going on. The food may actually be tastier, which will make your cat eat more of it. Just like people, cats are more likely to overeat something that tastes yummy.

On the other hand, the food could be less calorie-dense, which may also cause your cat to eat more of it. One of the best ways to tell the difference is to check the new food’s ingredient list. If it has fewer calories listed, that is probably the issue. The same is likely true if the ingredients are lower-quality. They may not have the same level of nutrients as the old food, so your cat may have to eat more for the same level of nutrition.

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4. Diabetes

cat and vet. II_Stock-Asso_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

Cats with diabetes are unable to digest their food properly. This can cause them to become constantly hungry.
Cats with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, or their cells may resist the insulin. Insulin tells your feline’s cells to use the sugar in their bloodstream. These sugars are your cat’s main source of fast-acting energy. If your cat’s cells don’t utilize this sugar due to a lack of insulin (or insulin resistance), then your feline won’t be utilizing all the energy from their food.

While they are technically eating enough calories, they may feel like they are far hungrier than they need to be. This can happen suddenly or slowly, depending on the exact kind of diabetes your cat has.

Diabetes requires a special diet in most cases, which your vet can discuss with you. Most cats don’t actually need to be given insulin, though they may in extreme cases. Most cats do just fine with a change in diet and medication. Either way, you will need to take a trip to your vet to get your feline evaluated.

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5. Cancer

Sadly, some forms of cancer can affect your cat’s digestion. This may make them unable to properly digest their food, causing them to feel hungrier than they should.

This situation is similar to diabetes. However, the problem with processing food is usually somewhere in the cat’s digestion system. For instance, if your cat has stomach cancer, their stomach may not function properly, decreasing the number of nutrients they are able to absorb from their food.

Many felines will hide most signs of cancer, such as pain. It can be quite hard to tell when your cat is sick, as they have evolved to mask any sign of weakness. In the wild, acting obviously sick would usually mean being attacked by a predator or another cat. While our felines don’t have to worry about this today, their instincts still tell them to mask any issues they may be having.
Therefore, it is important to listen to potential symptoms, even if they seem minor. Other symptoms of cancer include vomiting, weight loss, and lethargy. Of course, you will need to take your feline to the vet for an evaluation.

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6. Hyperthyroidism

fat cat_Andreas Almstedt_Pixabay
Image Credit: Andreas Almstedt, Pixabay

Your cat’s thyroid produces hormones that affect your cat’s appetite and weight. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid makes too much of a specific type of hormone. This is usually caused by a benign tumor on the thyroid, though it can be a sign of other problems as well.

With too many of the thyroid hormones circulating in their body, your cat’s appetite will be overactive. They will eat more—even though they don’t need to. They will also likely lose weight, as the thyroid hormones will cause their body to use energy too quickly. Other symptoms include hyperactive, panting, and vomiting.
Cats usually aren’t in pain; they’ll just act a bit weird. For this reason, we highly recommend taking your cat to the vet at the first sign of a problem.

This condition is very treatable, usually through daily medications. Sometimes, surgery may be used to remove the extra thyroid gland, permanently curing the problem in most cases. Radioactive iodine therapy can also be used, as it will cause the thyroid gland to shrink.

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7. Aging

Some cats will experience decreased appetite as they get older, but some will begin eating more. Usually, there isn’t much you can do about this besides limit the amount of food and increase your cat’s physical activity.

Obesity is a serious problem in all cats. In fact, most cats are overweight. This can be even worse for older cats who have an increased appetite, as they are likely less active than they were when they were younger. Therefore, it is important to adjust your cat’s lifestyle to ensure that they remain at a healthy weight.
Obesity can lead to all sorts of problems, and it is important to keep your aging feline as healthy as possible.

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8. Schedules

Some cats may cry for food at mealtimes simply because they think it is mealtime. If you’ve recently changed your cat’s schedule, it is likely that they simply haven’t gotten used to the new feeding timeline.

For instance, let’s say you usually feed your cat in the morning. However, you’ve recently switched their feeding time to the evening. They may still cry for food in the morning, even though they just ate the night before.

The only thing that will correct this behavior is time. Don’t give in to your cat’s demand for food and stick to the new schedule. Eventually, your cat will figure out what is going on and stop asking for food at inappropriate times.

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9. Eating Too Quickly

Cat eating cat food from a bowl
Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

Occasionally, cats will eat faster than their brain can keep up with. This will cause them to still feel hungry even after their food bowl has been emptied. They will feel full after a few minutes, but they may cry for more food in the meantime.

If your cat gobbles down their food in only a few moments, we typically don’t recommend adding more food. Fast eating usually isn’t a sign that your cat is terribly hungry. Instead, it could easily be that they just eat fast.

Usually, cats that once experienced food insecurity will eat faster than those that haven’t. However, this isn’t always the case. Some past strays will eat at a completely normal speed. Some housecats will gobble down their food as quickly as possible—even though they’ve always had enough food.

Some cats may even vomit after they eat their food too quickly. Usually, this will prompt them to want to eat more, even though they’ve technically already eaten enough food.

There are many ways you can slow down your cat’s eating speed, luckily. One of the easiest ways is to invest in a slow feeder. These are special food bowls that make the kibble a bit harder to get than a regular food bowl. Your cat won’t eat it as quickly since they’ll need to spend some time maneuvering it out of the bowl.

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Final Thoughts

Cats may act excessively hungry for a multitude of reasons. Some cats simply act hungrier because they are bored or aging. Others may have an underlying health condition that is affecting the way their food is digested. For instance, diabetes, cancer, and hyperthyroidism can all cause this problem.

If your cat suddenly starts eating more than normal, we recommend taking them to see a vet. Your vet can eliminate the possibility of any underlying health conditions. You should not just assume that it is something else until your vet rules out potential health problems.

If your cat isn’t sick, then you can begin looking at their lifestyle. Perhaps they spend most of their time lying around, which could be a sign of boredom. If your cat doesn’t have many toys or climbing structures to play on, you should consider purchasing some.

Cats that eat too fast can be given a slow feeder, which should help them slow down. You typically can’t just convince a cat that they need to slow down.
In general, before you pour a bit more food into your cat’s bowl, check for any symptoms that may explain their extra hunger.

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Featured Image Credit: Simon kadula_Shutterstock