Why Is My Cat Always Hungry? 5 Reasons

Is your cat always hungry? There may be more than a few extra pounds at stake. From hyperthyroidism to diabetes, here's why a cat won't stop eating.

A gray cat looking up from his food bowl.
A gray cat looking up from his food bowl. Photography ©Ukususha | Thinkstock.

Have you ever thought, “Why is my cat always hungry?” You’re not alone. As a cat guardian, you know that a cat who won’t eat for a day or so means a trip to the vet. But did you know that a cat who is always hungry can be a sign of health problems, both physical and psychological? Here are some answers to the question, “Why is my cat always hungry?”

Cat covering eyes.
A cat who is always hungry might have roundworms. Photography by Katerina Maksymenko | Shutterstock.

1. Your cat has worms

Is your cat always hungry? Roundworms can mean a cat who is always 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 always hungry, 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.

A fat white cat with a bowl of half-eaten cat food.
A cat who won’t stop eating might just be bored or hungry. Photography ©Svetlanais | Thinkstock.

3. Your cat is bored or lonely

A simple answer to, “Why is my cat always hungry?” 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, or free feeding him, all day. If you want to have a supply of food available, provide it in puzzle toys, which will make your cat 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

Is your cat always hungry? As in humans, 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? Unsurprisingly, another answer to, “Why is my cat always hungry?” is that 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.

Another thing to remember when wondering, “Why is my cat always hungry?”

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 is 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.

Tell us: Is your cat always hungry? How did you solve the issue?

This piece was originally published in 2015.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Ukususha | Thinkstock.

Are YOU always hungry, even after you eat? Here are a few reasons why >>

Read more about feeding cats on Catster.com:

91 thoughts on “Why Is My Cat Always Hungry? 5 Reasons”

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    1. I never even considered that I should be taking my cat to the vet for his eating all day, he had a kitten he played with they where soulmates with how attached they where to each other but his kitten (was about 6 months or older) was hit on the road and he was frantic for days looking for him and then finally gave up and devoted his life to being a house cat- we had noted that he was the only cat that had not slept inside even 1 night in his 2 years since he was born. Now we can't keep him outside for 20 minutes. I'll still see the vet though, he's going on 30+ pounds and eats very little all day we suspect it's his tummy is so full he can't hardly eat a normal amount at once like the other cat who is fit and healthy.

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  5. Hi one stray cat came to my court is male cat this cat come only to eat and then leave come only 5 times every day for food and water and then leave is one young small in age cat very energetic and friendly .How i can do this cat stay i like him and i want to adopt this cat but always leave.I tried one time to put him inside my house and he couldn’t stay nowhere he turned all the house and went up to dinner table.He done some damages and then i took him again to my court.

  6. I have a 17 lb cat 6 year old she has health issues I have her on a strict diet trying to get her down to at least 12 lb so the feeding instruction says to feed her so much I give her a fourth of a cup twice a day she was doing fine all of a sudden the last week and a half she Eats her food up like there’s no tomorrow but she loves her water she’s been tested so many times my vet tells me there’s nothing wrong her lungs aren’t no worse but she’s starting to get a fatty liver she never wants to play I cannot motivate her I don’t know what to do and every time I take her to the vet it seems like I just wasted a lot of money for unanswered questions he wants me to buy food like Hill’s Science Diet but there’s no good nutrition in that I try to give her grain free dry food just protein but nothing seems to work!!I PS she’s an indoor cat

    1. An appetite that increases and excessive or increased thirst are two signs of feline diabetes. If you’ve noticed increased urine output (especially if her urine smells sort of fruity or milder than the usual high ammonia cats urine), that’s another sign. But I wouldn’t wait. Cats hide illnesses very well. I had a cat that was full blown diabetic before I had a clue. Have a vet check her out.

    2. An appetite that increases and excessive or increased thirst are two signs of feline diabetes. If you’ve noticed increased urine output (especially if her urine smells sort of fruity or milder than the usual high ammonia cats urine), that’s another sign. But I wouldn’t wait. Cats hide illnesses very well. I had a cat that was full blown diabetic before I had a clue. Have another vet check her out.

    3. Why are you measuring the meat into 1/4 cup? Why not simply try “a handful”, or cut the 1-lb. package into a number of sections with a knife, or squeeze a decent amount into the bowl so that your cat can decide when to stop?

  7. Pingback: Why Is My Cat Always Hungry? – kittycatc.com Why Is My Cat Always…

  8. Hi, my indoor cat seems to be hungry all the time. I use an auto feeder and he gets fed a small amount of food 4 times a day. He also gets a few treats throughout the day. He’s recently started begging and even getting on the counter and trying to eat our food. He’s never done anything like that before. He also doesn’t seem to be losing or gaining weight.

    1. If he isn’t gaining weight, feed the poor cat! Sometimes we don’t give enough food, like if your cat is more active than you know. But you should also first take him to the vet to rule out illness.

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  15. My cat will eat until he barf and then eat again. He has no stop.
    I control is intake of food. And he is always begging for more.

    1. Hi there,
      These articles might help your situation. We also suggest working closely with your vet:

  16. Kristen Schroeder

    Does anyone know of an automatic feeder that can dispense 12 meals per day and has a meal size of about a tablespoon?

    My cat has a condition where he can only eat about a tablespoon of kibble at a time. He needs to eat every two to three of hours though, in order to meet his daily food needs. His vet internist suggested an automatic feeder but I can’t find one that will dispense 10+ meals per day and has a meal size that small. While the vet doesn’t fully understand my cat’s condition yet, the cat doesn’t have any of the more common issues. But if he eats more than his tablespoon (about 10 grams) then he will vomit the entire meal within minutes of eating.

    Thanks for any help.

    1. Does you cat have megaesophagus? My cat does, I’ve found that she can’t even eat dry food, she has to eat wet food only. I mix it with a little water and feed it elevated, and she’s down to vomiting only once per week now, she used to daily. The elevated feeder is 3d printed by a guy I found on Instagram, it’s really helped

    2. Look at automatic pond fish feeders. I see one at walmart website that will despense 4 times a day. You would need to buy at least 2 and have them dispense at offset times.

    3. The Petnet Automatic Feeder can do what you need, however, it only goes down to 1/16 of a cup, which is about 3 tsp. If that helps any. I have mine set to feed 7 small portions throughout the day

    4. Use more then one feeder if one does say four times and you need ten then three feeders two set at 4 times and one set at 2 times obviously not at the same time of day but it will work if you set all the times right

    5. No, because food that is acceptable for cats to eat would clog this type of machine. There would be meat all over the gears and it would be very difficult to wash all the notches every couple of days.

  17. My cat has been refusing to eat dry food for about the last 4-6 months. He will only eat wet food, which he normally received 1 can of Fancy Feast brand a day. Then I noticed he was getting thinner. I took him to the vet and we have ruled out diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. The vet says his lungs, eyes, ears, heart, and intestines feel/sound fine. His bowel movements are fine, he urinates normally, he’s not vomiting, and he’s not lethargic. We did a blood test and all 4 of his liver values came back slightly elevated. He’s now eating 2 1/2 cans of Fancy Feast a day and still losing weight. The vet is checking for pancreatitis and rechecking his liver values. She also mentioned IBS. But I get the feeling she’s at a loss to explain what’s wrong.

    1. I hate to say it but this sounds exactly like what my cat did when he had hyperthyroidism.

      I’d have your vet check again or get a second opinion.

      Also, if this is hyperthyroidism, any and all ‘exams’ to rule out problems with the heart, lungs etc are pointless because hyperthyroidism masks a lot of health problems until after it is treated either with a prescription of radioactive iodine.

      We had two cats with hyperthyroidism and one of them was so bad before he had radioactive iodine that he was eating 5 cans of food a day. After the treatment, the heart condition that had been masked by the hyperthyroidism presented and we had to start treating that.

      Also, you’d know if your cat had IBS. Trust me.

    2. The problem is that food has too much carbohydrates in it. Look for a limited ingredient meat. Most cats tolerate turkey OK that would be a good one to start. I feed nature valley instinct limited ingredient turkey or lamb. The website catinfo.org As a chart listing the nutritional components of all the popular brands of cat food so you can figure out how much protein fat, charohydrate and minerals are in each food. That website has a step-by-step guide to switching the cat from one Food to another.

    3. I would change your cats food completely. If you don’t like cooking one yourself, Buy a roasted chicken at store and pull meat off bone and chop up meat and serve your cat portions from that along with a vitamin. Don’t forget the minerals and vitamins. Maybe our pet food is lacking in what your cat needs. Good luck!

    4. Found this article on web, “In the vast majority of cases, a definitive diagnosis of hyperthyroidism is based on a simple blood test that shows elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, between 2 percent and 10 percent of cats with hyperthyroidism will have normal T4 levels. One possible explanation for this is that in mild cases, T4 levels can fluctuate in and out of the normal range. Another is that concurrent illness will suppress elevated T4 levels, lowering them into the normal or high-normal range and fooling the veterinarian into thinking that the cat’s thyroid status is normal.” Not sure if it helps.

  18. My cat always hungry , he eats my other cats left overs and biscuits. I have stopped giving him treats and getting fatter. I believe he must weigh about 6 kilos . Both my cats are 8 years. The other cats is his normal weight.

  19. I have an old cat it’s about 15 -18 yrs. old, she was found as a kitten because of her loud mouth when she was less than 4 months old. I can’t afford to run the test to find out just what’s going on with her but she has a problem with always starving and then turn around with diarrhea with some blood in it. If you got any suggestions it would be appreciated. I’m on a small fixed income but yet I try my best to feed her and about 20 others I keep feeding front of including the ferals know where to come into house but they eat & leave!

    1. Hi there Mary,

      Thanks for reaching out and we are sorry to hear about your cat. We suggest contacting a vet about this. Here are some articles for help on affording proper veterinary care:

      9 Ways to Find Affordable Vet Care for Your Cat

      Need Help with Vet Bills? How to Get Help With Your Cats’ Vet Bills

      Additionally, here is an article with more information on cat diarrhea:

      Wondering Why Your Cat Has Diarrhea? What Causes Cat Diarrhea and What to Do

    2. Okay I have some suggestions first of all try cooked chicken and feed them some chicken that will help fill them up plus it has some good vitamins like protein your cat has to need of a lot of protein as they get older second of all you could possibly be worms you can buy them at Walmart it where medicine is called dewormer and there’s also if that has to be that that don’t work there is a vitamin you can get usually at the veterinarian but also chewy.com sells it it’s all-in-one vitamin and it is good to help give the vitamins for energy for the animal so it won’t be so hungry good luck

    3. Margaret Sullivan

      Mary your cat might have coilitis. When I got my Persian 5 years ago she had coilitis, took her to a herbal vet, she hasn’t looked since , same problem with my little female Cavalier King Charles , got her last year at 8 weeks old same problem, she’s perfect now. Hope this helps and good luck with your cat.h

    4. Sounds like you should give up you cat to a no kill shelter so it can get the medical attention that it obviously needs. By not doing so, you are making the cat suffer unnecessary. That’s cruel.

  20. My 13 yr old orange tabby is drinking copious amounts of water. Her blood tests for diabetes, renal disease and hyperthyroidism are negative.
    Any thoughts as to what it could be?

  21. We still have not solved the issue. We have two cats both 13 years of age. My fiance adopted them both at a few months old from a shelter. They became mine as well about three years ago when we got engaged. Fiance says fat cat has been like this since about three years old. She eats the same exact thing her sister does, but still gets fat. We have tried everything. Recently we switched to a high protein no carb food and eliminated all dry food. We do not give her treats or table food. The doctor said it was the carbs, she gained a pound in three months! All of her health is okay. She constantly begs for food. The only time she does not is when she’s sleeping. We ignore her. She licks the mat where her food is that’s how sad it is. She will finish her food and come to us immediately and ask for more. A few years ago she got so clever that she was opening the cabinet and had ripped a hole in her dry food and was having herself a buffet. But now we are certain she is not getting any extra. We have done the math we are not under feeding her. But if we reduce calories just a little she knows and will cry and cry and cry. She pushes her sister out of the way and tries to take her food. Luckily we are able to put the sister’s food up high and the fat cat is too fat to jump and get it. She has tricked every automatic feeder we have ever used. What is wrong? We play we her she’s active ? When we put the food down, she gobbles it up like it’s going to run away, I am not sure she even tastes it!

    1. Maybe you should try giving her some human cooked chicken that has good protein in it and it also will fill up the cat a lot faster than the silly cat food that you buy in a store and instead of feeding her you know a bunch of the time it might have an idea that you need to feed her more often such as like give her some chicken in the morning and noon and night or whatever but let her eat until she’s done once she gets the protein that she needs then she’ll stop doing

      1. Cats need a proper calcium/phosphorus ratio. They can’t get it eating plain cooked chicken, and will get sick from the lack of calcium and other nutrients. There are several websites that detail what a cat needs if you make food for them

  22. Pingback: Core Cat Food Diabetes

  23. my 6 month old kitten is now known as “the food thief ” he is always looking for food and if person is eating he tries to steal the food and drink the milk, he is jumping into the sink to get any tyhing that might be there,

    out side he now goes to the neighbours to steal the other cats food – result he is now vomiting because of his alley cat behaviour, he just dosent seem to want to learn cat food for him and everything else is out of bounds.

      1. Hi, my cat is 15 years old and cries constantly. He will not eat even the gourmet cat food — we have tried all kinds. He only wants what we are having. Every time we use the microwave he comes into the kitchen and cries. The vet checked him out and we know he has bad plaque on his teeth, but cleaning them under anesthesia is too risky. He loves whipped cream. He wants is to be held constantly. If I bend over to pick up a shoe, he comes over purring. He is a sweetie but I don’t know how to satisfy him!

  24. I have 2 cats, they’re twin sisters. They both hate each other, like any normal set of twin sisters. We think that one of my cats is pregnant, or she has phantom pregnancy. Anyway, the “pregnant” twin started eating more, and now she has moved onto morning sickness, “yay”. I’m not sue why, but the cats keep fighting over food even thoughhh they eat in seperate bowls, and they’re trying to eat everything. I feed them twice a day, and leave a bit of dry food in their bowls so they can eat through the day, like they used too. We’ve moved onto the original feeding schedule, but for some reason my cats are always desperate for food. They would scratch my legs until I put the food on the ground, and if I locked them out so I could fill the bowls in peace, the would scratch and meow at the door. They keep jumping into the bin too and keep ripping up old food packets. You cant leave anything out with them around.

    I can understand why my “pregnant” cat might be eating more, but I think my other cat is just jealous, but to be honest, back at our old house, she would eat the other cats food if it was left alone. She might just be going back to her eating everything in sight phase. ‘Cus I mean, thats what cats do…

    1. Hi Luna,

      Thanks for reaching out. You may want to try feeding each cat separately in a different room. We also suggest spaying your two cats as it might help alleviate some territorial issues. Please contact a vet or behaviorist for specific advice.
      Here are some articles that might help further:


  25. My male neutered cat, six years old is always hungry,
    He is or was a smallish cat but he is getting much bigger !
    He is heavy to pick up now, i am sure he is eating somewhere else too.
    Other than this he seems in good health, good coat of fur, clean eyes, no vomiting or even retching.
    Any thoughts ?

    1. “Eating somewhere else, too”? So you must be letting him go outside? That’s an easy fix — keep him inside. He should not be going outside anyway.

      1. You have got to be joking!! You call that advice?? Stop your cat going outside?? If the 6 year old cat has always been an outdoor cat, locking him inside wouls literally kill him from having no stimulation compared to being outdoors!! How would you like it of someone said, right you’re not allowed to leave the house and im going to feed you less because you’re getting fat?

        By the way, i have an outdoor cat who is eating alot more than he should be, however, to sort out this problem, i will be taking him to the vets, not locking him in until he dies of depression….

        1. Cants should not be going outdoors. There is plenty of ways for them to get indoor stimulation. Outdoor cats wreak havoc on the balance of nature as if it wasn’t screwed up enough by humans already. Do your part as a cat owner.

  26. I have a cat that i took from a woman who had a litter and we had her fixed at 12 weeks and had every test know to cats done and she is perfectly healthy no worms no issues and she use to be a nibbler when she got dry cat food and she was happy with that, as a treat i thought i would surprise her with some canned cat food, my mistake now she will NOT eat dry and looks at you as if you had given her poison and screams her head off till you have to give her a can but not just one can a day she sometimes devours 3 or 4 cans in one day and if you don’t give it to her she will scream and run under your feet till you trip and fall. Lesson learned never try and surprise a cat or you will be the one surprised but we do love her so much. thanks for listening

    1. Ok here’s what I would do. Try mixing the dry with the canned. I give my kitties dry in the morning, and then 1/4c dry mixed with 1/4 canned at night for their dinner, and I’ve never had issues with them wanting canned all the time. I also fed them perina indoor, and they love it. I hope this helps if you haven’t found an answer yet ????

    2. Congrats she just trained you yo follow her orders. You’ll need to put your foot down and really ignore her demands she will understand eventually it might take around a week to a month

  27. I have a 3 year old and she is about 25 pounds. and all she wants to do is eat. I am not sure if this is because when we had a dog she would see him getting scraps and would think she should also but we didnt. she will stare you down for food and at feeding time she starts to talk to us to let us know that feeding time is coming. even if it is 2 hours before that time. I am not sure what is wrong with her. we only give her a cup of food a day at night. should we be giving her more?

    1. Hi Tracy,
      We suggest contacting your vet. These articles might help, too:

  28. i HAVE a cat Her name is big girl and shes always gets hungry all the time shes has biscuit during the day and food at night the only problems shes seem to be getting skinny and losing weight too quick i think its best i take her to the vet and have her check out my guess shes probably have diabetes not sure,

    1. Hi Smokey,

      We definitely suggest taking your cat to the vet. This article might help, too. Hope your kitty feels better!

  29. My cat is 9yrs old (we took him in from a neighbor when he was 3yrs old) and he has always been VERY thin. You can feel his bones. He eats like a horse. In the Summer time it’s his “killing time”. He is on the go through out the day during the Summer. Daily he brings home and eats at least 3 mice, chipmunks or shrews. He is fed 1-can of wet food 6:00 am and 1/2 can about 4:30pm along with “Beyond” dry cat food that is left out daily. He gets his shots when needed, we have had his blood & poo tested – our vet has found nothing wrong with him. We treat him like he is one of our children. We had someone turn him in to the Animal Shelter because they thought he was being treated in-humane. He is VERY vocal when he is hungry; which seems to be all the time. What is wrong with my kid (cat)!

    1. My cat used to scream loudly when he wanted fed. And he wouldn’t stop until he got food in his bowl. I got him a talking sound button, and taught him to push it to get food. Now he pushes it for food or for extra attention. It is a lot less loud than the yelling he was doing, and less disruptive to the neighbors. Now I’m teaching him “wait”, so he’ll push it once, and then go back in a minute or two and push it again if I haven’t responded!

      Side note, I got him the talking button that says “I’m surrounded by idiots”, which also provides a good laugh when company is over. Just make sure it’s one that presses easily. The first one I got from Barnes and Noble and it required a firm press to make noise so it didn’t work.

  30. Since my cat had a tooth pulled he wants to eat all the time. I have stopped giving him dry food. Canned food never seems to be enough. He gobbles it like a dog. Very unusual for him

    1. Wow!!! That is exactly what is going on with mine now!! Tooth pulled yesterday, Th e VERY minute she got home….2 cans of fancy feast and more! Was your problem resolved?

  31. I caved and took in this stray cat that’s been hanging around my house. Luckily, my husband didn’t mind. However, I’m a little concerned since her appetite has changed. It sounds like that could be caused by poor quality cat food. I’ll have to talk with a vet and see what kind would be good for my pet.

  32. Some cats just like to eat. 5 years ago we adopted a mom cat and 2 of her newborn babies that were left at our vet. The mom and one of the boys now weigh about 8 pounds and the other boy weighs twice as much. He’s also a completely different color than the mom and the other boy. We figure he takes after his dad.

  33. I think there is one thing missing on this list. Hope is doesn’t happen to many cats though! It has been about 20 years ago now we had a tuxedo cat turn up on our door. He was the thinnest cat I had ever seen. As poor and thin as he was the first thing he wanted was for me to pet him. The vet warned me that I had to be super careful to only feed him to,y amount of food at first because his stomach had shrunken so much if he got a decent amount of food he would get sick. It took 3 weeks to get him past the tipping point where he started playing like a normal cat. He was a great normal cat except when it was time to eat. He would eat like no other food existed and he had to eat it as fast as he could. Always kind of broke my heart that that never left him!

    1. That’s what my Louie does. I adopted him from a shelter and I’ve never been able to ever leave food out for him because he would gobble it all down as fast as possible. That was about 7-8 years ago and it has never changed.

  34. Carollynn Manfredini

    My cat eats like that all the time she acts like it’s her last meal she has a respiratory infection on and off for the past year now but between the sneezing and gobbling down her food I don’t know what else to do is anybody out there can help me?

    1. I have a 19 1/2 year old female cat that started sneezing. Vet gave medicines but when smashed into her feed she won’t eat it. She was feed Purina Gentle dry food and some Friskies canned food. I stopped giving her a bowl of dry food. No the sneezing has stopped 99 %.

  35. My Edmond put on three pounds in the first two days that I had him. Our vet explained to me that as a shelter rescue we couldn’t know his background. I started following the vet’s recommended food guide. I only put food in the dish when it was empty, but I measured it now and he didn’t get more than 3/4 cup a day. It took six months, but he’s a nibbler now!

  36. We have a rescue cat that someone dumped while pregnant. The first month we had her she use to pig out and empty the food bowl right away. We keep food in bowls at all times. Once she realized she would never be left without food to go hungry, she changed to a nibbler like the other 4 cats we own and stopped being a little piggy.

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