As a cat guardian, you know that if your cat goes off his food for more than a day or so, a trip to the vet is probably in order. But did you know that constant eating can be a sign of health problems, both physical and psychological? Here are some reasons why your cat may be overeating.

1. Your cat has worms

Roundworms can cause your cat to become very hungry, because the worms are taking all the nutrition from his food before he can get it. Ironically, a roundworm-infested cat may look fat, as the parasites cause his body to swell.

Roundworms are contagious to humans, so if you suspect your cat has them, bring a fecal sample to your vet to have it tested.

2. Your cat has hyperthyroidism or diabetes

These diseases both cause a vast increase in appetite: hyperthyroidism does so because your cat’s metabolism is burning too many calories, and diabetes because your cat’s body can’t convert sugar to energy — and the nutrition doesn’t even get into his body in the first place. If your cat is eating constantly and still losing weight, and especially if he’s also drinking a lot of water, get him to the vet as soon as possible.

3. Your cat is bored or lonely

Just like humans, some cats will eat because they’re bored. The solution to this problem is to provide your cat with more stimulation and to stop leaving kibble out for him to munch on all day. If you want to have a supply of food available, provide it in puzzle toys, which will cause your cat to have to work for his meal. This will help him burn calories and keep his mind engaged.

Be sure to provide other intellectually stimulating toys (or maybe even a kitty friend) to keep his mind off his dish. You can also buy automatic feeders, which provide access to a set amount of food at set times of day.

4. Your cat is depressed

Overeating can be a self-soothing behavior for cats who are depressed or grieving. I’ve seen this happen: I once met a couple who had a cat they’d exiled to the basement after their baby was born. In response, the cat started eating to self-soothe, and the result was incredibly sad.

If your cat is depressed, try drawing him out of his shell with gentle interactive play. Give him "love blinks" — close your eyes slowly, leave them closed for a second, and then open them slowly, while thinking "I love you."

5. Your cat’s food isn’t meeting his nutritional needs

You know how when you eat fast food, you’re usually hungry an hour later no matter how much you ate? Poor-quality cat food can have the same effect on your cat. And like a person who eats a lot of fast food or who can only afford starchy foods, your cat will eat and eat because he can’t satisfy the true hunger (for nutrients) at the root of his desire to eat. Try feeding canned food; it’s typically more nutrient-dense, tastes better, and the cost ends up being about the same as kibble when you feed your cat the proper amount.

Remember that cats’ stomachs are extremely small: a couple of tablespoons of canned or raw food or (not and) a third of a cup of kibble per feeding is about all a cat needs to stay fit and healthy. Of course, if your cat a 20-pound Maine Coon, he’ll need a lot more food than a petite Singapura, so be sure to work with your vet to figure out the most appropriate amount to feed your feline friend.

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