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Why is my cat always hungry? A vet's feeding advice

cat always hungry? Cat looks up from food dish
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your cat seems to have a stomach like a bottomless pit, their behavior might start driving you up the wall. So, if you find yourself frantically searching for answers to 'Why is my cat always hungry?' look no further. 

There are many reasons why your cat might have an insatiable appetite, including medical and behavioral reasons, or you may simply need to dish up the best cat food to fully satisfy your feline's nutritional needs. 

If your feline friend gets hungry hours before their mealtimes, or they spend all their time begging noisily and giving you 'cupboard love', this article will explore how to tell whether your cat is hungry or simply gluttonous, and more importantly, what you can do to tackle this bothersome behavior. 

Is it normal for a cat to always be hungry? 

Everyone wants their furry family member to be happy and well, with a healthy appetite. However, a healthy appetite doesn't mean they should be indulging in more food than they need. Just like humans, some cats care more about food than others! 

Some cats are happy to graze throughout the day and naturally self-regulate the amount they eat only to take in the calories they need. However, other cats can seem to be hungry all the time, and if left to graze as much food as they liked would quickly pile on the pounds.

 So should you worry if your cat is always hungry? Well, as a general rule, if your cat's appetite has always been a bit excessive it's more likely to be a behavioral cause like boredom, greediness, or wanting attention. But if your cat's appetite suddenly changes, this could be a sign of a medical problem. 

Why is my cat always hungry? 

cat waiting to be fed

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here are some of the main reasons why your cat might seem to be hungry all the time: 

1. They’re greedy 

It's true; some cats are just a bit greedy! What's more, if they overeat regularly, their stomach will stretch, meaning they need more food to feel full. So, it's easy to see how some podgy pets can seem so hungry all the time despite eating lots! 

2. Worms 

Worms and other parasites can cause diarrhea and affect the absorption of nutrients in the gut. This causes your cat to feel extra hungry because they're not getting the calories they need. In severe or prolonged cases, cats can lose weight despite their increased appetite. 

3. Hyperthyroidism 

Hyperthyroidism is a relatively common disease of older cats where the thyroid glands release too much thyroid hormone. This causes your cat's metabolism to speed up. Cats with hyperthyroidism are often ravenously hungry but lose weight even with the extra calorie intake.  

4. Diabetes 

Another medical condition that can cause your cat to lose weight and be extra hungry is diabetes. Diabetic cats aren't as good at using glucose as an energy source, so they tend to eat more. If your cat has diabetes, you might notice them drinking and peeing a lot too. 

5. Cancer

Like in people, many types of cancer can affect our furry friends. Certain cancers can cause diarrhea, vomiting, or a reduction in absorption of nutrients from the gut. These types of cancer can cause weight loss and a lack of appetite. On the other hand, many cancerous tumours can grow rapidly. This uses valuable energy and causes your cat to eat more. 

6. They’re on medications 

Some medications can cause hunger as a side effect. Steroids are the main culprit, but some other drugs can also cause increased hunger. If your cat’s new appetite started at the same time as they went onto a new medication, this could explain why your cat is always hungry. You can call their vet to double-check if hunger is a side effect of the medication, and how to handle it. 

7. They need a different food 

Not all foods are created equal! If your cat seems extra hungry, it's worth looking at the nutritional information on their food packet. You need to make sure that it contains lots of energy and good levels of protein and carbohydrates. A trial on a new diet with a higher protein content might make your cat more satisfied. 

8. They’re not really hungry 

Just because your cat seems to be demanding food, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re hungry. Cats can eat because they’re bored, or they might just be rubbing against you and meowing because they want your attention, rather than an extra helping of biscuits. 

Is meowing always a sign of hunger? 

If your cat meows, they are trying to communicate. This doesn't necessarily mean that they're hungry, but hunger is one of the reasons. Meowing can also be a sign of pain, stress, fear, curiosity, or boredom. So, although placing a fresh bowl of cat food in front of your noisy kitty might keep them quiet for a moment, they might not have been meowing for food after all. Try giving them some attention instead!

cat meowing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to tell if your cat is hungry or greedy 

If your cat is eating a lot, it's important to determine whether they're hungry or just greedy. After all, if your cat needs the extra calories due to illness the last thing you want to do is put them on a diet. So how can you find out if your cat is greedy or genuinely hungry? Firstly, if they have any other symptoms or you're concerned that they might be unwell, it's best to take them to a veterinarian for a health check. Secondly, check their food to see that it contains the proper nutrients. 

If they're not up to date with parasite treatments, this could also be the cause, so it's worth administering a veterinary-approved wormer to see if that helps. You can use distraction techniques like puzzle feeders and extra playtime as well as plenty of attention to see if this stops your cat from asking for food. If nothing seems to be working, though, speak to your veterinarian.

How many times a day should I feed my cat? 

Every cat is different. Some like to graze throughout the day, whereas others are happy eating at set mealtimes. Which cat feeding routine you choose will depend on your lifestyle and your cat's weight and ability to self-regulate. 

For instance, if your cat is a bit podgy and is likely to scoff their entire bowl in one sitting and then come begging for more, it's probably not wise to leave food down all day! Unless your cat is a grazer, offering two or three meals a day is reasonable. However, make sure you use the guidelines on the cat food to help you work out how much to feed them. 

Why is my cat always hungry but skinny? 

If your cat eats constantly but stays skinny, it could signify that something is wrong. This might be as simple as worms or other parasites. But they could also have hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or another medical condition. A veterinarian should examine them, perform some tests, and give the necessary treatment to help them reach a healthier weight. 

Why is my cat always hungry but fat? 

If your cat is always hungry and a bit overweight, they might just be greedy, bored, or craving more attention from you. However, diabetic cats are sometimes fat, so it's worth checking with a veterinarian before putting them on a diet. If it turns out your cat is just greedy, they’ll be able to give you advice on safe weight loss in cats.

Fattest cat

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ways to resolve cat hunger 

If you've checked that your cat has had recent treatment for parasites and their food is full of good quality nutrients, it's time to look for other reasons why they might be acting hungry. 

Try keeping them occupied with a puzzle feeder or spending extra time playing with them or fussing them. This will help rule out boredom and lack of stimulation as a cause. However, if your cat still seems hungry despite this, you should contact a veterinarian. 

When to visit the vet 

If your cat's appetite changes suddenly, whether it's larger or smaller, it's best to visit the vet. If you are concerned that your cat overeats, but they seem healthy in other ways, you can try changing their food, worming them, and giving them some enrichment like new toys and games. However, if you notice other symptoms or if your cat is losing weight, you should visit the vet without delay. 

Conclusion

When working out why your cat is always hungry, it can be hard to decide whether they are just greedy or if there's something wrong. Most hungry cats are greedy, but there are some common medical conditions that cause extreme hunger, too. If in doubt, your local veterinary clinic should be able to help you find out why your cat is always hungry, as well as advise you on a healthy weight for your cat. 

Dr Hannah Godfrey is a small animal vet with a love of dentistry and soft tissue surgery. She lives in Wales with her partner, son, and their two cats.