Unlike dogs, most cats won’t beg for food. However, my cat is always hungry and meowing. No matter how much food I give her, she still whines for more. Sometimes, it is tempting to give in to her calls and feed her just so she’s quiet!
If you’re experiencing the same type of situation, you probably want to get to the bottom of it. I know first-hand how annoying it can be when your cat meows non-stop. Besides, overeating can cause weight gain. In other cases, an increase in appetite is indicative of an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.
Thankfully, you’re in the right place! After getting fed up with my cat’s food obsession, I decided to figure out why. There are eight possible explanations, all of which I explain in detail on this page. Plus, I share tips on how to manage your cat’s obsessive appetite and annoying meows.
Is My Cat Really Always Hungry?
The first thing I want to touch on is this: a meowing cat is not necessarily a hungry cat! Cats might be vocal for other reasons, and just so happen to be meowing in the kitchen or near their food. They are probably looking for attention rather than being actually hungry.
However, truly hungry cats will also meow excessively. A meow is a vocalization that cats exclusively use to communicate with humans. When meowing near their food bowls, your cat could be saying, “I’m hungry, so please give me more food!”.
So, how can we tell the difference between these two scenarios? Is your cat always hungry and meowing because of it? Or is your cat meowing for attention knowing they will receive your full attention at mealtimes?
If you know what to look out for, it should be easy enough to tell which applies!
A cat that is truly hungry all the time will generally:
- Paw at its food bowl or the cupboard in which its food is stored
- Eat the food extremely quickly when it is served
- Stop meowing immediately after being fed
Why Does My Cat Want to Eat All The Time?
Having a good appetite is essential if you want your cat to be in good health. Cats need to eat to obtain all the nutrients that their bodies need. However, overeating is the opposite of good health.
If your cat is hungry all the time, it is usually because of one of the following reasons:
- Their diet is not well-balanced and they are not getting the nutrients they need
- Their digestive systems are unable to absorb the essential nutrients from the food they eat
- They are using up more energy than they are getting through their diet
- They’re not really hungry at all, but are using mealtimes as a cure for boredom and to seek attention from their owner
In any case, it is a sign that something is wrong. This could be an underlying medical condition that is impacting metabolism or digestive function. Alternatively, it could be a psychological problem such as stress or boredom.
Here is a look at the possible explanations in more detail.
Just like people, some cats are greedier than others. One cat might be able to stop eating when they are full, whereas another will struggle to listen to its body. It will continue to eat and eat and eat, despite no longer being physically hungry. Some cats do this up to the point of being sick!
However, most cats that are satisfied in other areas of their life won’t be constantly meowing for food. If they live in an enriching environment full of other exciting stimuli, food falls further down the priority list. Therefore, boredom is a common cause of food obsession in cats.
Take a look at your cat’s home environment. If you were a cat, would you be satisfied? Do they have all their essential needs covered? Have they got plenty of toys to play with? Do they have cat trees to climb and scratch? Are you there to show them the love they deserve?
If you answered no to any of these questions, try making some changes to your cat’s environment to make it more enriching. You might discover your cat that was once always hungry and meowing is no longer hungry at all. As it turns out, they were never hungry in the first place – they were just bored!
2. Attention Seeking
Do you know when cats get a lot of attention from their owners? Around mealtimes! Therefore, it is possible that your cat appears to be always hungry, when they are instead using feeding time as an avenue to get your attention. Your cat is constantly meowing for food, knowing that your attention will come with it.
Excessive vocalizations are not the only sign of an attention-seeking cat. My cat meows a night when I go to bed as she wants my attention throughout the night. Others might exhibit destructive behaviors, such as excessive scratching at the furniture or not using their litter box. To them, any attention from you is seen as good attention.
The best way to deal with a needy cat is to put time into playing with it and petting it each day. Cats have a reputation for being aloof and independent. However, they do still need their owners! Make sure you give your cat at least some of your undivided attention every day.
In some cases, underlying medical conditions affecting your cat’s metabolism cause an excessive appetite. In particular, hyperthyroidism is often to blame. This is a metabolic disease whereby the thyroid gland is overactive and produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.
This hormone plays a key role in stimulating metabolism, so excessive amounts running around the body cause your cat’s metabolism to speed up. This means they burn through energy much more quickly, leading to hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhea, and an increased appetite.
Yet despite the increased appetite and excessive eating, your cat will probably lose weight. Indeed, you’ll likely find yourself wondering “Why is my cat always hungry but skinny?”. However, if you think about the cause of the disease this makes sense. They’re burning through the food they consume so quickly, and so none of it is gained as extra weight.
You’ll need to book your cat in for a checkup with the vet if you think it has hyperthyroidism. Your vet will be able to discuss treatment options, which could include anti-thyroid drugs, iodine therapy, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland. Both iodine therapy and surgery are curative treatments.
4. Parasitic Infections
Internal parasitic infections such as worms are extremely common in cats. There are several different types of worms that you might be dealing with, the most common being:
- Roundworms: Roundworms are free-swimming worms that live inside your cat’s intestines. They live off the nutrients that your cat has consumed before they can be absorbed by the body. As a result, your cat’s appetite will increase and they might be hungry all the time.
- Hookworms: Hookworms latch onto the membrane of your cat’s intestines and feed off the blood. This impairs the ability of these cells to properly absorb nutrients from the diet. Again, this can mean your cat is always hungry and meowing for food.
Other symptoms of intestinal parasitic infections include your cat throwing up after eating. If your cat has diarrhea but seems fine, this could again be down to worms. This can lead to weight loss, dehydration, and lethargy. Depending on the type of infection, you might see small white specs in your cat’s feces.
Cats with internal parasitic infections will need to be dewormed. You can purchase dewormer medication over the counter, but it’s better to speak to your vet for advice. This is especially true if you have young kittens – most dewormers will be too strong for their little bodies to handle.
5. Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes mellitus is pretty common, especially with senior felines. Cats with this disease cannot control their blood sugar levels. This is either because the body does produce enough insulin or is unable to recognize insulin.
In diabetic cats, blood sugar levels soar after a meal. However, the sugar in their bodies cannot be properly utilized. Therefore, despite having high blood glucose levels, the cells in their body cannot access this sugar and send signals to the brain telling your cat it needs to eat more food. This means most cats with diabetes are always hungry and meowing.
The most notable symptoms alongside excessive hunger are increased thirst and urination, alongside weight loss. However, while many cats show an increase in appetite, this isn’t always the case. If you notice your older cat not eating but drinking, diabetes is a very likely explanation.
Thankfully, diabetes mellitus is manageable. Your vet will usually recommend insulin injections which act just like the insulin naturally produced in the body. This enables blood sugar levels to stay under control. Regular veterinary appointments are then required to check the insulin injections are still working.
Do you have an unneutered female cat? If so, another reason why your cat is obsessed with food might be that she’s pregnant. Successful cat mating is very likely as females ovulate immediately after sexual intercourse. And when cats are in heat, they’re pretty insistent on finding a mate!
An increased appetite isn’t the only indication that your cat is carrying a litter. Other symptoms of pregnancy and pre-labor signs in cats include:
- Nesting behavior in the days and weeks coming up to the birth
- Pink swollen nipples, also known as “pinking”
- A swollen abdomen later on in the pregnancy
- Weight gain due to an increased appetite and growing kittens
- Sleeping more than usual to conserve her energy for the kittens
- Morning sickness, nausea, and vomiting
- Changes to your cat’s usual heat cycles
The only way to know for certain whether or not your cat is pregnant is to take her to the vet. They’ll be able to confirm your suspicions and give you an indication of how far gone your cat is. You’ll need to prepare everything for the birth and start thinking about finding homes for the new arrivals.
7. Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can also cause your cat to want to eat all the time. Many cats see feeding time as a pleasurable experience. Much like humans, they overindulge when they are feeling stressed as a means to calm themselves down.
However, this isn’t always the case! All cats respond differently to stress, and some will lose their appetite entirely. Neither option is good. Overeating and an obsession with food can lead to weight gain and obesity, whereas undereating can lead to weight loss and other complications.
If your cat is stressed, you will probably be able to pick up on other symptoms too, such as:
- Increased hiding behaviors
- Aggression towards people and other animals
- Being extremely needy and affectionate
- Failure to use the litter tray despite being litter trained
- Excessive scratching at furniture and carpets
- Becoming more withdrawn from social situations
- Excessive vocalizations and crying
- Overgrooming to the point of hair loss
Any of these signs – especially when seen in combination with one another – all point towards a stressed-out cat. Cats are very sensitive and tiny changes to their environment or routine can make them feel anxious. So, think about anything that might have changed and spooked them.
Where possible, try and remove or limit these stressors. This will help your cat to feel calmer and more relaxed. However, sometimes this isn’t possible. In these cases, let your cat hide and have time to themselves. At the same time, try and make their environment as stimulating as possible Once they have adapted to the changes, their appetite and meowing should return to normal levels.
8. Poor Nutrition
Finally, it could be that your cat is constantly meowing for food because their diet is not well balanced. Despite eating a lot, their bodies still aren’t getting the exact nutrients they need. So, cats act obsessed with food while they search for the nutrients they’re missing.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they rely on a meat-based diet to survive. Without eating meat, cats won’t physically be able to survive. Proteins and amino acids and essential for them and must make up the bulk of all cats’ diets. Fats and carbohydrates can still be included but in lower quantities. Vitamins and minerals are also important for good physiological health.
However, a cat’s precise nutritional needs depend on multiple factors, such as their age, energy level, overall health, and underlying medical conditions. If your cat is always hungry, it could be that their precise needs are not being met.
Most high-quality commercial cat foods will meet a cat’s nutritional needs. When choosing cat food, make sure you select one intended for their stage of life. However, if you are feeding your cat things such as cooked meat and fish, your cat could be missing out on other important nutrients.
I recommend speaking to your vet about your cat’s diet if you do have any concerns. They will be able to tell you exactly what your cat should be eating to be in the best health possible.
Should I Worry That My Cat Is Always Hungry?
It can be worrying when your cat is always hungry and meowing. However, try not to panic! Take your cat to the vet to see if they are suffering from any of the aforementioned medical conditions. If they are, your cat is in safe hands. And if not, you need not worry about their constant hunger as much.
With that being said, it’s important to not succumb to your cat’s calls for food. If you have checked your cat’s portion sizes and know have been given the all-clear health-wise from a vet, don’t overfeed your cat! It can be tempting to do so – especially if your cat is meowing through the night – but you must resist giving in.
Why? Overfeeding your cat will lead to weight gain and potential obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for many health conditions, increasing the likelihood that your cat will fall sick. Your cat needs to be at a healthy weight, which is only ever done by diet management and exercise.
You don’t want your cat to be too skinny either, which also has its disadvantages. My cat is so skinny I can feel her bones, which is still considered a healthy weight. However, if you notice your cat’s ribs and spine visibly sticking out, then they are underweight. In this case, you might want to consider giving your cat a little more food after all.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
My cat is always hungry and meowing, but I try my best to not give in to her! If you’re struggling with the same issue, go to your vet right away. You need to rule out medical conditions first and foremost. Then, look at improving your cat’s home environment. It needs to be as enriching and stimulating as possible. If your cat is entertained, food will be the last thing on its mind!
Dawn Easley says
My cat is overweight and only wants treats. Has plenty of toys and I show him plenty of attention and love. I don’t know what to do.
Please take your cat to the vet. If the one you have doesn’t help, it might be a good idea to find another one.