Why Is My Cat Always Hungry? What Could Be Wrong?
While kitties are smart enough to know when it’s time for their next meal, there are cases when their “hunger” seems out of place. It is not common to see cats beg or whine for food in between meals. That is why when you see this behavior in your pet, the automatic question is “what could be wrong with my pet feline?” This is understandable. Any loving pet parent can identify the slightest change in his or her pet’s behavior. As such, when their cat seems always hungry, pet owners would like answers. Here are some of them.
One of the most common culprits as to why your cat is always hungry is because of the presence of intestinal parasites. When these parasites invade the gastrointestinal tract of the cat, they live and thrive there. What this means is that they feed off the organism itself. When a cat eats, it digests the food ready for absorption into the blood. However, because of the presence of these intestinal parasites, these nutrients never get absorbed into the cat’s blood. The parasites eat and utilize the nutrients, fueling further growth and rapid proliferation. Over time the cat can become malnourished because it is no longer absorbing enough nutrients for its cells, tissues, and organs to use.
Before this happens, the cat’s cells will try to signal the brain that they are not receiving sustenance from the digestive tract. As such, the cat’s brain will trigger its hunger region to initiate some of the behaviors that we associate with hunger. You may see your kitty increase its vocalization or will try to look for food on top of the dining table.
Managing intestinal parasitism in cats is easy enough if you know how these parasites can get transmitted. For instance, roundworms can get transmitted by eating rodents and other small animals that may have the parasite larva. There are medications that can help treat the infestation. But the best form of prevention will be to limit, if not avoid exposure to organisms that harbor the parasites.
The thyroid gland is an important organ that’s involved in the regulation of the cat’s metabolism. We often associate metabolism with the body’s ability to maintain life. It talks about the use of energy to sustain life itself. Hence, the thyroid gland is responsible for regulating how fast or how slow these energy-intensive processes should proceed. This is in an effort to maintain life.
In hyperthyroidism, the function of the thyroid gland is at a frenzied pace. As such, you can expect that the metabolic rate of the cat also throttles or speeds up. What this means is that the cat will use up more energy much sooner than normal. For instance, a normal, healthy cat may need about 500 calories every day to supply all of its energy requirements. For a cat that has hyperthyroidism, it may need 1000 calories for it to sustain its energy requirements.
Now, if you are feeding the cat only 500 calories per day, then it makes perfect sense why it will still be hungry. The 500 calories you are giving it is not enough to sustain its hyperthyroid condition. Treating hyperthyroidism in cats depends on the nature and severity of the condition. In most instances, diet therapy and medication are enough to address the condition. In more severe cases, surgery and radioactive iodine therapy may be necessary.
Another possible reason why your cat is always hungry is feline diabetes. In diabetes, the cells are not able to utilize the glucose present in the blood. In a normal cat, glucose gets transported from the blood and into the cell by a carrier molecule known as insulin. The cell is able to utilize glucose as its energy.
In diabetes, there is insufficient amount of insulin that can transport glucose across the cell membrane. In other cases, there may be sufficient number of insulin, but they are somewhat resistant to their carrier function. Overall, this leads to the accumulation of glucose in the blood. We call this hyperglycemia and is one of the hallmarks of diabetes.
Since the cells are not receiving glucose, they send signals to the brain telling it that they are starving. As such, the brain will initiate a series of responses designed to increase the appetite. The cat will want to eat more – a condition we call polyphagia. If they don’t increase their food consumption, they will feel lethargic and weak. But of course, most pet parents will ignore these signs because they don’t want to “overfeed” their pets. What they don’t know is that their pet is already showing one of the classic signs of feline diabetes.
When we talk about cancer, we almost always think about loss of appetite. Cancerous growths have this uncanny ability to suppress the appetite, making one feel less hungry. Over time, there is massive loss of weight. However, there are also certain types of cancers that can make the cat feel hungrier than ever before.
There is a rare type of cancer found in certain cats that can affect a section of the pancreas. This cancer is known as glucagonoma. It is a type of pancreatic cancer that can lead to an abnormal increase in blood sugar. The problem with this cancer is that the cells that produce insulin can also get damaged. Without insulin, it would be impossible to move the glucose from the blood to the cells. As such, the cat will feel hungrier than ever. It will want to eat on a more frequent basis. It may also want to increase the amount of its food every meal.
Any cancer that can affect the absorption of nutrients, hamper the function of insulin, or produce excessive growth hormones has the potential to make a cat feel hungrier.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
When the intestines get inflamed, there’s a chance that your cat may not be able to absorb all the nutrients it needs. Inflammation of the intestines can lead to a more rapid transit or movement of digested food. Because the movement occurs at a very rapid rate, there is not enough time for the nutrients to get absorbed into the blood.
There is another reason why the presence of inflammatory bowel disease may cause a cat to always feel hungry. Inflammation can cause changes in the structure and function of the mucosal layer of the intestinal tract. When this happens, food particles may not get digested in the correct manner. The intestines may not be able to digest proteins into peptides and amino acids. It may also not be able to turn fat into lipids and fatty acids. In other words, these nutrients will only pass through the intestines and out of the cat’s anus.
It’s no wonder then that your cat will still feel very hungry. It is not getting the nutrients that its food is supposed to give your cat.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
We mentioned above that problems in the pancreas can lead to an increase in appetite in your cat. This is related to the endocrine function of the pancreas. However, the pancreas is an organ that also has an exocrine function. It produces digestive enzymes that break down proteins into amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and carbohydrates into monosaccharides.
In exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, the pancreas is not able to produce enough amounts of digestive enzymes. As explained in the section on inflammatory bowel disease, the absence or insufficient supply of digestive enzymes can lead to undigested food. Proteins will remain as proteins, not as amino acids. Fats will stay as they are and not as fatty acids.
The issue is that the intestinal lining only allows smaller molecules – glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids – to pass through and reach the blood. If proteins, carbs, and fats don’t get digested, then the cat will pass them in its stool. Since the cat is not absorbing these nutrients in its blood, it will still feel hungry.
This is a kind of disease in cats that features an overproduction of growth hormones. This hormone is responsible for body-building and tissue regenerating processes in the cat’s body. In other words, the hormone facilitates processes that are critical to the growth and development of the kitty.
We understand that any process that has something to do with building tissues will require energy. It will be a lot similar to having hyperthyroidism again. The only difference, of course, is that the problem here is in the pituitary gland of the cat. Because there is an increased need for energy, the cat will want to eat more and with greater frequency.
When your cat is always hungry, there’s a chance that it may have any one of these medical conditions. Or, it could also be that it is only bored, depressed, or not getting the nutrients it needs from the cat food that you’re giving it. The bottom line is that if you notice any change in your pet’s behavior, a trip to the vet should provide you the answers.
- Is Your Cat Always Hungry, or Obsessed? – PetMD
- These Conditions Can Starve Your Pet, No Matter How Much She Eats – Mercola Healthy Pets