When your cat's appetite diminishes, your concern escalates as you stuff her into the carrier and set off to consult with your veterinarian. A sudden and sustained decrease in appetite is usually a sign of trouble brewing. While owners in the opposite scenario are quite happy to see their cats gobble their food with gusto, a sudden and sustained increase in appetite can also be indicative of an underlying health problem and should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Find out how to determine if your cat's appetite is higher than normal and what may be causing her insatiable gorging.
The Hoover Impersonator
A mild and temporary increase in your cat's dining enthusiasm at her bowl could simply be the result of offering her a new food flavor that she really enjoys. Signs that her appetite has grown to voracious levels include the following:
- Counter surfing in search of crumbs or unsupervised edibles
- Persistently pawing and vocalizing at family members who are eating in desperate hopes of handouts
- Scavenging wastebaskets and floors wherever food has been disposed of, prepared or eaten
- Pilfering food from toddlers' hands and family members' plates
- Scoffing down her entire meal at once and looking for more food minutes later
- Devouring her food rapidly and regurgitating it
- Haunting family members who enter the kitchen by tagging along with plaintive demands to be fed
- Chewing on inedible objects, such as a plastic laundry basket or a metal fixture
In short, your cat has turned into a virtual vacuum cleaner with a mission to seek out all morsels that have not yet been consumed. If your cat exhibits these signs of gluttony, your veterinarian will need to determine the cause of her insatiable appetite, also known as polyphagia, in order to get her hunger pangs under control.
Two Common Health Causes
While some illnesses, such as chronic kidney disease, cause a decline in the feline appetite, others have the opposite effect. Two of the most common feline diseases to cause notable increases in a cat's appetite include the following:
- Hyperthyroidism is a condition that is defined as having excessively high levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. This raises the affected cat's metabolic rate. Her appetite may soar, yet her body weight and muscle mass decrease.
- Diabetes mellitus is a condition in which insufficient amounts of insulin are produced, or the insulin that is produced is unable to adequately carry out its function of metabolizing food into energy, namely glucose, for the body's cellular functions. This results in high glucose levels in the blood, and cells turn to the body's stored proteins and fats to convert into alternative energy. As this occurs, the cat's appetite increases. She drinks more and consumes more food, but she begins to lose weight nonetheless.
Both of these illnesses can be diagnosed through specific blood tests, and they can both be managed to improve your cat's health.
Other Medical Causes
There are some conditions in which a cat's gastrointestinal system is not digesting the food adequately and nutrients are not being absorbed for use in the cat's body, which results in the cat's constant feeling of hunger. Some such conditions include the following:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Cancer in the intestines
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, which is a rare disease in cats and in which there is a lack of digestive enzymes that are normally produced and stored in the pancreas
- Intestinal infections that disrupt the absorption of nutrients
- Lymphocytic cholangitis, which is a liver disease
- Intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms, hookworms and roundworms
There are other potential medical causes beyond your cat's gut to consider when sleuthing out the cause for your cat's need to feast. Some of these causes include:
- Cushing's disease, which is a rare condition in cats and in which the adrenal gland produces abnormally high levels of hormone cortisol
- Feline acromegaly, which is characterized by the secretion of a growth hormone
- A tumor or trauma that has impacted the brain's satiety center, preventing the brain from signaling to your cat that she is full
Some medications carry the side effect of an increase in appetite. Some such drugs include the following:
Pregnancy also causes the expectant cat to consume more food.
Other Causes for the Constant Chow Down Mode
Overeating can be the result of factors that are not medical. Some of these explanations include the following:
- High stress levels
- Competition with other pets at the food bowl
- Cold environmental temperature
- Being fed a low quality food that contains a high level of carbohydrate fillers, which do not fulfill a cat's nutritional requirements to thrive
Before making changes to address any of these possibilities, be sure to have your cat's health evaluated by your veterinarian to rule out the aforementioned health conditions. If your cat is diagnosed with an illness, providing an endless buffet in an attempt to satiate her appetite will not fix the problem. The specific illness must be treated or managed in order for her appetite to normalize, and such treatment is essential in improving her longevity and quality of life.
Contact a center like Loving Care Animal Hospital to learn more.