What to do if your cat is always hungry

Does it appear that your cat wants to eat all the time? Does it seem he is hungry, no matter when you last fed him?

Increased appetite is a common eating problem, or should we say “a feature” of cats. In this article, we are going to discuss possible causes and, most important, solutions for addressing increased appetite in cats (also known as polyphagia).

this cat wants to eat all the time and is stealing a burger
Photo by Steph M.

Remember, polyphagia itself is not a disease. It’s a symptom, either behavioral or medical, of another issue. To fight it, you must find the source.

1. Rule out any health conditions that might be the reason why your cat is always hungry

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. Very troubling is when a cat eats excessively, but loses weight simultaneously. 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, you should start an appropriate treatment. In many cases, treating the disease is what it takes to stop your cat from being an excessive eater. But what if your cat is fine and healthy?

2. Is your cat getting enough food?

After you know there is nothing wrong with your cat medically, there are two more possible concerns to address. Your cat may indeed be hungry. Ask these questions:

  1. Is your cat getting enough food daily?
  2. Are your cat’s meals spaced evenly apart from one another?

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 healthy weight, that is. Divide this amount into three to four meals and make sure you present them on a strict schedule.

Yes, look at a clock. Feed your cat several meals per day, strictly at the same time. No extra treats! It will create predictability for your cat, which means that, if a meal comes at 10 o’clock, there is no reason for him to beg for it at 8 o’clock. of course, he will, but if you are consistent, he will soon stop.

Provide your cat at least three meals. If you have been feeding your cat at 8 am and 8 pm, you can only blame yourself if your cat wants to eat all the time. Twelve hours is a considerable time to wait, given the fact that cats naturally eat up to 10 meals a day.

3. Provide your cat’s meals through activity

In nature, cats typically spend most of their day gathering food. Cats hunt rodents, birds and other small animals. After they capture and eat one, they groom themselves, take a nap, wake up, and start thinking about obtaining another one.

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?

Cat playing with a treat ball
A treat ball is a great solution if a cat begs for food constantly. Photo from YouTube video by riccij.

Feed your cat through playing. The most straightforward answer is the so-called food dispenser cat toy. It is a hollow toy ball with an opening, which, if filled with cat food, releases kibbles one by one as your cat plays. It will make the meal longer and will also force your cat to do some “work.”

Our clients have achieved excellent results, and we oueselves enjoy Catit’s “Treat Ball” and PetSafe’s “Slim Cat”, but there are plenty more available.

Other options for you are food puzzles, hide-and-seek games and, of course, the good old-fashioned “play with your cat for 10 minutes before every meal”—the latter being extremely useful, but not that welcomed by cat owners.

Of course, you should not forget to provide your cat activity and attention at all the other times. There are many benefits of regular playing, petting, or even talking to your cat.

IMPORTANT: There is no rule as to how much you should play with a cat. But there is a rule that the more activity your cat gets, the less he will beg for food. Besides, playing is undoubtedly not the only activity available for your cat. See here for other activities for cats.

4. Ignore your cat’s begging for food

Cat meowing
Is your cat meowing to get food from you? Ignore it! Photo by David Sutterlütti, CC BY-SA 2.0

It is likely that the most annoying thing you find about your cat begging for food is his meowing, purring, and walking beside you all day long.

IGNORE this behavior!

Your cat begs for food because he knows it either gives him food or your attention. We’re not even talking about not feeding your cat when he meows for food or preventing your cat from stealing food in between meals.

Even 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…” Don’t let that happen.

Above all, however, remember that the primary concern, if your cat is wants to eat all the time, is his health. Plenty of diseases are associated with this behavior, so you should not take it lightly. If your cat has put on some weight, you can find how to deal with obesity in cats here.