There is no denying cats love food, but what happens when yours seems to be hungry all the time? If your cat shows signs of an increased appetite, begs, whines or gets aggressive around its food bowl, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition. It could also be that your cat is bored, craving your attention or even experiencing a psychological issue.
Whatever the reason, you must get to the bottom of the problem as quickly as possible to prevent any long-term health or behavioural issues.
In this article we are looking at how much cats should eat, reasons why yours has suddenly become a gobble-guts and how best to break bad begging habits.
Let’s start with how much a cat should be eating.
How Do I Know If I’m Feeding My Cat Enough?
Because all cats have different eating habits, it is not a case of one diet fits all. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow depending on your cat’s age, its health and of course, the type of food you are feeding it.
Feeding your kitten
At birth, a kitten drinks its mother’s milk up until about four weeks of age. By eight to 10 weeks, it should be eating solid food. Like babies, kittens are growing all the time and their mum’s milk has all the essential vitamins and minerals they need to develop healthy brains, eyes and muscles.
Because they have loads of energy and tiny tummies, it is best to feed them small amounts of food at regular intervals. Kittens between three and six months old should be fed three times a day, while kittens six months and older should have two meals a day.
Feeding your adult cat
Cats are considered adults between the ages of one and eight. During this stage, it is recommended that you feed your cat one to two times a day. Keep in mind other factors will also determine how much food your cat should eat. For example, an outdoor cat that is active will have different nutritional needs to one that stays indoors.
However, an indoor cat might not necessarily burn as many calories as one that spends all its time outdoors, so you might need to adjust the amount of food accordingly.
Feeding your senior cat
While you might not think of your kitty as old, cats over the age of eight are considered seniors. Cats over eight are considered ‘senior’, which means they are not as active. To maintain its weight and meet its nutritional needs, it is essential to change your cat’s food to one with less protein but still packed with all the vital vitamins and minerals.
Dry Cat Food vs Wet Cat Food?
We are often asked which food is better for cats – wet or dry? To be honest, it is entirely up to you, your needs and budget and of course, your cat’s personal taste. However, the one you choose to feed them should meet your pet’s nutritional needs, depending on its age, overall health and level of activity.
5 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Is Hungry All The Time
Cats are creatures of habit, and will usually let you know when it’s time for food. They might meow at you loudly, rub their tail against you or even walk over to where they know their food is stored. This type of behaviour is normal. But what’s not normal is a cat continually begging for food, gobbling up everyone’s leftovers, crying or meowing in between meals.
Along with always being hungry, if your cat is drinking more water, losing or gaining weight, needing to wee more than usual, vomiting or has diarrhoea, there may very well be an underlying, and potentially serious, health issue.
Possible reasons your cat has an increase in appetite include:
- Behavioural problems
Let’s take a look at each one in a bit more detail.
Quite simply put, intestinal parasites or worms steal all the nutrients in your cat’s food, leaving it feeling hungry all the time. Worst of all, even though your cat is no longer getting essential vitamins and minerals, it will still look like it is gaining weight because these parasites cause abdominal swelling.
In the UK, the most common parasites in cats are tapeworm and roundworm. If you have an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea to worm it once a month, while indoor cats can be wormed every three months, as a precautionary measure.
Cats, like humans, can also suffer from diabetes. They are unable to produce insulin, and as a result, are unable to convert sugar into energy. To increase their energy levels, cats will eat more.
Other symptoms include drinking more water and weeing more frequently. Once diagnosed, diabetes can be managed with insulin injections, but it can lead to long-term health problems for your cat if left untreated.
Hyperthyroidism is more common in adult and older cats and can lead to an increase in appetite. Other symptoms of an overactive thyroid include:
- weight loss
- drinking more water
- Needing to wee more frequently
- a change in behaviour
If hyperthyroidism isn’t treated, it can result in serious health problems for your cat down the line.
Cancer can also be why your cat is always hungry, especially if the tumour is in the stomach or intestines. This is because they do not get all the nutrients they need from their food, which leaves them feeling hungry.
If there is no medical reason for your cat always being hungry, there is a good chance that it is a behavioural problem. Just like us, a cat eats when it is bored, depressed, lonely or stressed. If you suspect this might be the case, we recommend spending more time with your kitty, giving it attention just before dinner time and providing plenty of mental stimulation.
Whatever the reason, for your cat’s health and your peace of mind, it is crucial that you get to the root of the problem as quickly as possible. Keep a record of how much your cat is eating, any other associated symptoms, as well as weight changes. And book an appointment with the vet.
Breaking Your Cat’s Bad Habits
Once, and only once, you have ruled out any medical reasons for your cat’s ravenous appetite, it is time to break the bad habits. Patience and perseverance are vital while doing this, and it is worth noting that things might get worse before they get better.
Ignore the begging
As difficult as it might be when your kitty gives you the look, giving in to the constant begging will only reinforce the bad habit. If your cat meows, whines or gives you the “I’m starving” stare when you’re in the kitchen or near its food bowl, ignore it. Any attention, good or bad, is attention and will encourage your cat even more.
Don’t free-feed your cat
While free-feeding isn’t usually a problem, it can be when you have a fierce feline wanting food all the time. Rather than just filling a bowl with food and leaving it on the floor, we suggest sticking to scheduled meal times so that your cat gets into a routine. Never leave bowls on the floor, even if they are empty. For cats, it is often a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Change your behaviour
If you think your cat is begging as a way of getting your attention, you might want to change your behaviour. If your cat only gets your attention at mealtimes, it’s going to beg, meow and cry for food, even if it’s not hungry. Interacting more with your kitty throughout the day will quickly put an end to these attention-grabbing cries.
Don’t feed the frenzy
Does your cat come running every time you go near the kitchen in the hopes of being fed? Whatever you do, don’t feed the frenzy. Instead, pick your cat up and take it into a room or a quiet spot in the house and let them calm down. You could also try distracting them with a toy while you’ are busy.
Make your cat hunt for its food
We’re not suggesting your cat turns feral to feed itself, but it might be a good idea to make it work for its food. Remember, cats are natural-born hunters and a little bit of mental stimulation and physical activity while eating will stop them gulping their food down. It also gives their brain a chance to get messages from its stomach that it’s full.
When all else fails…
Call in a cat behaviourist. They will be able to identify the underlying cause and work with you to find a solution. Understand, however, that even with the help of a professional, it will take time for your cat to unlearn bad habits.
Remember, when it comes to your cat’s eating habits, how much, or little, it’s eating can tell you a lot about its overall health. Before you do anything, we advise that you speak to your vet to rule out any serious medical issues as quickly as possible.
Have you got a greedy cat? We would love to hear how you handled the constant begging, whining and meows. Let us know in the comments below.