Conventional knowledge dictates that the more you eat, the more likely you are to gain weight. And you think the same thing should apply to your cat. But sometimes, things are not that simple. In this type of situation, many factors can come into play. Here is a brief look at these factors and how these impact your cat’s inability to gain weight..
Why your cat is always hungry but still skinny
The underlying reasons behind your cat’s appetite and weight problem can be broadly divided into three categories: food-related problems, psychological issues and illnesses.
You hardly say no to your cat when he asks for food. In fact, you are sure that you give him more than enough food than his needs.
1. Food quality
In this scenario, one of the first things that you need to check is the quality of his food. Besides quantity, quality plays a critical role in your cat’s weight and overall health.
You might think that you are giving your pet a sufficient amount of food in terms of quantity. But what about the quality of the food? Does it provide enough calories and nutrients to fully nourish your pet?
A kitten needs 200 kcal per day while an adult cat will need somewhere around 240 to 280 kcal per day. A cat’s caloric requirement can increase if it is pregnant or recovering from an illness or medical procedure.
You might be feeding your cat just enough in terms of quantity, but if the quality of the food is not enough, your cat may not be receiving enough nutrients to keep him sated and healthy.
This is particularly true if you are feeding your pet with low-quality cat food or if you feed him with leftovers. Additionally, if the cat food you serve to your pet has insufficient quantities of iron, magnesium, and vitamin B12, your pet may find it hard to feel full for a sustained period.
You should also take into account the type of food you give to your cat. In general, dry kibble is more calorie-dense than wet food.
2. Eating schedule
Another important thing that you should check is your cat’s feeding schedule. Cats are creatures of habit and they like consistency in their feeding times. Otherwise, if there is no structure in their eating schedule, they can constantly beg for food or even steal your food.
Kittens should be fed thrice a day. This will allow them to get enough energy and nutrients to sustain growth. Once your cat reaches the age of six months, you can feed him twice daily.
Upon reaching adulthood, you can continue feeding him twice a day or shift him to a once a day feeding schedule. If your cat is otherwise healthy, feeding him once a day will not compromise his health.
Cats like consistency in their feeding schedules. This is because like humans, they have a simple stomach structure. After eating, their stomachs become empty in a matter of eight to 10 hours. And when the stomach is empty, their body sends a signal to their brains that they should eat.
In turn, this trains a cat to know when to expect to be fed. And if you deviate from this schedule or do not maintain a structured feeding time, your cat will definitely be hungry between each feeding time.
Your cat may be hungrier than usual because he is not eating enough due to distractions in his eating environment.
For example, if you own a few cats, you should be aware that there will always be a dominant cat. This cat gets first dibs on the food. Once he has had his fill of food, the next cat up in the hierarchy gets to eat next. And if your skinny cat is low on the hierarchy, he may be eating less than he needs to. It is also possible that the other cats are stealing his food.
In this scenario, it is a good idea to keep the cats separated during meal times, allowing them to enjoy their meals in relative peace.
It is possible that your cat gets too distracted during meal times that he cannot eat properly. Perhaps the kids are too raucous or maybe there is an ongoing construction nearby that creates distracting noises. All of these can bother a cat that would rather eat quietly.
If your cat seems to remain stuck in the same weight and body size despite his voracious appetite, he may be suffering from a medical condition.
Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid is a disorder that is quite common in cats. Although cats of both genders can be affected by this condition, older cats are more susceptible to it.
The condition is attributed to an excess amount of the T4 hormone in the affected cat.
A cat with an overactive thyroid will show signs of weight loss even if his appetite increases. Along with this, an affected cat will also show other symptoms like diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, panting, hyperactivity, and panting.
Because hyperthyroidism shares a few symptoms similar to diseases like kidney failure, intestinal cancer, and diabetes, a cat needs to undergo a battery of tests to confirm if he indeed has an overactive thyroid.
Treatment for the condition can range from the prescription of Methimazole to surgery to radioactive iodine therapy.
To get energy, the cells inside your cat’s body need glucose. In turn, glucose needs insulin to enter a cell. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and signals the cells when it is time to absorb sugar.
When a cat is suffering from diabetes, it is either his body cannot produce sufficient insulin or his body does not respond properly to the hormone.
Cats usually succumb to type 2 diabetes where there is an excessive amount of glucose in the blood because their bodies cannot respond properly to insulin.
Among the signs of diabetes in cats are weight loss coupled with an increased appetite. This is because the cat’s body needs to find other energy sources like its fat and protein stores. Along with this, an affected cat may exhibit other symptoms like frequent urination and excessive thirst.
Diabetes treatment includes insulin therapy and food management. The goals of these treatments include restoring normal glucose levels and appetite and minimizing or eliminating the symptoms associated with the disease.
Feline inflammatory bowel disease or FIBD is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract which includes the stomach, intestines, esophagus, and colon. Any of these body parts can be affected by FIBD.
The inflammation in any of these body parts can interfere with the absorption of food. This is why an affected cat can have loose and watery stools and frequently throw up.
And because cannot get enough nutrition from the food he is eating, your pet may become unusually hungry.
The true cause of FIBD still eludes scientists. However, they suspect that genetics, bacteria, parasites, stress, and food allergies may play a crucial role in the disorder.
Although cancer can rarely cause a skinny cat to be always hungry, there are instances wherein a tumor can make a feline ravenous.
For example, if a tumor is found along the gastrointestinal tract, it can adversely affect a cat’s ability to absorb food, much like FIBD.
There is also a possibility that a tumor found in another body part facilitates the over secretion of hormones like IGF-1, making the affected cat burn more energy than usual. In turn, this can make the cat crave more food.
But these instances are uncommon. Usually, when a cat has succumbed to cancer, his appetite decreases.
5. Parasitic worms
Tapeworms, hookworms, and roundworms can gain access to a cat’s body through fleas, other animals in your house, or even fleas. And when these parasitic worms enter your pet’s body, these can change your cat’s eating habits as well as affect his weight.
Parasitic worms, especially roundworms, are fairly common in kittens. In most instances, mothers pass on the parasite to their children through the milk. In adult cats, the most common parasitic worm is the tapeworm.
If you notice worms in your cat’s feces or vomit, take a sample to the vet and avoid medicating your cat by yourself. Your vet will know the appropriate treatment for your pet based on the type of parasitic worm that has infected him.
If you are sure that your cat is healthy and is not secretly afflicted with a disease, there may be a psychological reason behind his increased appetite without the accompanying weight gain.
It is possible that your cat is just bored because his mind and body are not properly stimulated through play, exercise, and interaction with his humans. Here, he is redirecting his need for stimulation to eating.
Many cats associate food with positive experiences. But some cats go a step further and become addicted to food and to the attention they get when you cave into them when they beg for food.
On the other hand, if you have adopted a cat from an abusive home, he may have developed food insecurity. Here, the cat may scarf down his meals because in his mind, somebody might steal his food or he does not know when he is probably getting his next meal.
How to curb your cat’s overeating tendencies
If your cat is otherwise healthy and free from diseases, it is vital to stop his tendencies to overeat. Otherwise, he can become obese and become vulnerable to diseases.
Start by sticking to a strict eating schedule. Cats like routines and you can train your pet to eat only during certain times of the day.
Next, make sure that your cat is eating quality food. Although high-quality cat food can be more expensive, you can end up saving more in the long run because your pet will need to eat less to be satiated.
If your pet tends to inhale his meals, consider switching to a food puzzle. This will stop him from eating quickly while stimulating his hunter instincts.
Resist the urge to give in to your cat when he begs for food. It would also be helpful to keep the family’s dinner table a cat-free zone.
If you have other pets in your home, make sure that each one eats separately. This will help reduce stress in each of your pets.
Finally, set aside time to play with your cat. This will help reduce boredom and prevent begging for food just to get your attention.
Image: istockphoto.com / Angela Kotsell