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Ask A Vet: Why Is My Cat Hungry All The Time?

Does your cat seem to be hungry all the time? Does she race you to her food bowl? It seems like cats think that their bowl should be full all the time.  Most everyone who has a cat knows the drill. We can’t walk by the food area without attracting attention. People make jokes about cats’ diaries declaring that they are being starved by their “captors”. But statistics show that obesity among companion pets has reached epidemic proportions.

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Consider that it might not be just food that your cat really wants. Sure, if you give her food, she will probably eat it, but was it really what she was trying to tell you? Maybe she loves the whole feeding ritual. Maybe she associates the food bowl with the other positive things that happen there. When you feed her, she has your undivided attention and she knows it. You probably talk to her and pet her while you are preparing her meal. You always feed her in the feeding area and the food bowl is associated with the release of happy chemicals in her brain. The whole area around the bowl is awash with good vibes.

John W.S. Bradshaw, in his book The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, proposes that people mistake a cat’s desire to interact for hunger and erroneously offer food every time the cat seeks. You can try to understand your cat’s request better.When you head toward the food bowl and he is meowing and rubbing on you, try talking to him without the food and see if he is happy. Play time before a meal is a very good idea. It is fine if you want to end the play session with feeding, but do not immediately assume that your cat only wants to be fed. Eating at the end of a chase seems normal for your cat’s metabolism and a daily playtime will make your cat happier.

Also, don’t forget that wild felines hunt small prey and can make several tiny kills each day. They must expend energy and thought to do so. Having food available all the time is not something that you cat is wired for and he might not be as healthy in this situation. He does, however, like multiple small means. If you can redirect some of his behavior away from food and onto what he is really seeking, you will improve his body and his brain by giving him what he really wanted, which was some quality time with you.

If your cat truly does seem hungry all the time, yet appears to be losing weight, he could be suffering from hyperthyroidism (a metabolic disorder that has become all too common in our domestic cats) or even from diabetes. Increased appetite in the face of weight loss is an important sign that something is wrong and you need to tell your vet.

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