What to do if your cat wants to eat all the time?

This cat wants to eat all the time.

Photo by Steph M.

Does it appear that your cat is hungry all the time? Does he want to eat no matter when you last fed him? In this article, we are going to discuss possible causes and, most important, solutions to excessive eating in cats, also known as polyphagia.

Remember, polyphagia itself is not a disease. It’s a symptom, either behavioral or medical. In order to fight it, you must find the source. So, we begin with…

1. Rule out any health conditions that might be causing your cat to want to eat all the time

Have your veterinarian examine your cat thoroughly. Common medical reasons that may cause a cat to be hungry all the time are worms, diabetes mellitus, tumor, insulin shock, and many others. Most veterinary handbooks list about 10 to 20 health conditions that may result in polyphagia. Kittens and lactating female cats might also have an increased appetite. If the veterinarian diagnoses your cat with a disease, appropriate treatment must be started in order to proceed. In many cases, treating the disease is all it takes to stop your cat from being an excessive eater.

2. Strictly schedule your cat’s meals

First, take a look at the label on your cat’s food, and find the correct amount to give your cat daily according to his weight—his normal weight, that is. Divide this amount into two to four meals and make sure you present them on a strict schedule.

Yes, look at a clock. Feed several meals per day strictly at the same time. No extra treats! If you’ve been free-feeding your cat, say goodbye to this practice. We want to get your cat into a normal eating habit, and this will not be possible without limiting his access to food. The strict schedule will also create some predictability for your cat. By this, we mean that, since we are going to limit his food access, his stress will go up; offering food at predictable times will help limit his stress.

3. Ignore your cat’s begging for food.

We can assure you with 100% certainty that, when you start limiting your cat’s access to food, he will begin to meow, purr, and walk beside you all day long.

IGNORE this behavior!

Shooing your cat away or petting him will only reward his behavior and give him a glimpse of hope that “My human heard me and knows I want food, so, if I insist more…” Cut that out. If your cat is meowing or purring right in your face, ignore him.

4. Decrease your cat’s boredom.

Although you should ignore your cat’s begging, don’t abandon him completely. To redirect his thoughts away from food, you will need to occupy his body and brain most of the time. In nature, cats normally spend most of their day gathering food. They hunt small rodents, and after they capture and eat one, they groom themselves, take a nap, wake up, and start thinking about capturing another one. Their lives are occupied with gathering food.

Household cats, on the other hand, do not need to gather food. It is readily available. If household cats do not have something to fill their time, they may start “gathering food” by purring and meowing at their owners. So what should you do?

Play with your cat! Groom him, talk to him. Give him the attention he deserves. Buy him a cat tree, toys, or a cat-friendly dog. Installing a few perches might be very helpful as they will expand the territory available to your cat enormously. For more tips, read our other articles on how to make your cat’s life interesting and how to modify your house to make it more appropriate for your cat’s basic needs.

Above all, however, remember that the main concern if your cat is hungry all the time is his health. Plenty diseases are associated with this behavior, so you should not take it lightly.

Cat Behavior / Cat Health Tags: , ,

13 Comments

  1. Thank you for this. My 15 year old indoor/outdoor cat has suddenly started meowing for more food, even after having eaten her usual amount of food for the day. I suppose a trip to the vet is in order.

    • Hi, and thank you for your feedback.

      We hope your cat will be fine, and are happy you have made the decision showing your cat to the veterinarian.

      Actually, a vet visit must be considered in almost any behavior changes, because cats, as hunters, rarely show their weaknesses, and changes in their behavior is one of the early signs something may not be right.

      We hope your cat will be fine!

  2. shelley stover says:

    my cat is 18 years she was a stray when we foud her never really freindly kept to herself she looks bad all bones she ats like she is straving even eating dog food or getting in the garage can she is an indoor cat her fur looks terible she pulls big tuffs out what isgoing o with her

    • Hello, your cat should be seen by a veterinarian. There are far too many options possible so there’s no point in guessing over the internet. Let the vet examine her and appoint the treatment.

  3. Hello,
    I have a american short hair that almost a year old. We started her on an adult indoor formula diet, cause she was gaining a lot of weight on the kitten chow.We feed her a cup of dry food in the morning and at night. We even had to start putting our dogs food up cause she will. She has even found out where we keep their food and gets inside the bag and would eat some more. She seems healthy, drink normally and plays with our dog just fine. She just eat all the time!

    • Hi, it looks like you should measure your cat’s daily requirement of the food, according to label on the package, and make sure you do not exceed it. Also, we do not know what’s the activity levels of your cat, do you play with her before meals and on the other times, as well as how’s her weight changing after the switch to indoor cat food?

      Besides all, the vet visit is still necessary. Of course, since your cat is still young, many diseases, like Diabetes Mellitus or Insulin shock are of low probability (while still possible), but medical assessment in such cases is a must.

      Because, if you reduce the amount of food your cat gets, but do not cure underlying problem causing increased appetite, it may do damage.

      Also, has your cat been wormed lately?

  4. Aniko Kovesi says:

    I have 3 cats, 2 of them 17years old, and 1 is 1year old.
    The old ones have overacting thyroid and they are taking medication for it, But one of them a Siamese wants to eat all the time. If I go to the kitchen she is right there and demanding food. Even if she ate 5 minutes ago she is demanding food again. She eats only can food, she does not touch the dry food, what is always available.
    It is very annoying, I do not know what to do, maybe it is just in her mind, I don’t want over feed her.

    • Hi!

      Increased appetite is a very common symptom of Hyperthyroidism and the only way of dealing with the appetite thing is to make his health back in balance. Your veterinarian is your best friend on this path.

  5. The most common reason cats overeat is cheap low quality (ie low protein) food. Unlike humans and dogs, cats are obligate carnivores so any grain, rice, peas, berries, etc. serve no nutritional purpose because their digestive system can not break down carbohydrates. Therefore, cats will eat more of food with fillers because they are hungry for the protein. Fillers are added solely to increase profits, but are marketed as healthy, nutritionally balanced food to loving but unwary cat owners.

    • I can agree, most commercial foods are low protein and, if we compare required daily food, it turns out to be large can of commercial versus several teaspoons of our homemade diets.

      And yes, I also agree, even if the daily recommended amount is fed, the cat may still feel hungry which eventually leads to overfeeding.

      Thanks Diane for your addition!
      Māris

  6. My cat is 3yrs old she will eat I measure her food she eats in the morning and night and its a constant begging all the time she trips me running to her food bowl thinking I’m going to feed her. She doesn’t play with toys cat nip nothing she runs throughout the house with my son but all she does is meow for food and rub on me and sometimes gets my 4yr old to feed her he will fill her bowls and and she will eat till she throws up please help

    • Signe & Maris Munkevics says:

      Hello, Alissa!

      The problem may be in the fact that your cat “doesn’t play with toys cat nip nothing”, because you really have to get her moving. We have an older article here: how to get a lazy cat to play.

      You could also try using a puzzle feeder or food dispenser ball so your cat eats slower, and the meal is longer and she does not throw up. Besides, veterinary should also confirm that your cat is okay, as increased appetite is a common symptom in several conditions. You could check her weight, because, if she eats so much and does not get obese, it may indicate that something is not right.

      best wishes,
      S&M

  7. She eats all her food then she is begging for more right after she eats it and I buy her that nurtition chow where the first ingridiant is meat not corn so its healthier

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