This is a discussion post. I don’t know the answer and neither do the scientists as far as I aware. We know that people eat for pleasure; as a means to alleviate stress or as a coping mechanism. You might call it emotional eating. In fact a lot of human overeating is due to eating for pleasure rather than for calories. It is a response to stress or depression and perhaps on occasions boredom.
Domestic cats should instinctively self-regulate their intake of calories. Dry cat food sometimes confuses them in this respect and I wonder if domestic cats can also suffer from emotional eating which also overrides their ability to self-regulate calorie intake.
One problem is that a lot cat owners have difficulty in knowing if their cat is stressed or bored. Or they are unconcerned about the possibility that their cat might be emotionally upset. Also in the US, for good reason, around 50% of cats are kept indoors (source: American Pet Product Association’s National Pet Owners). This can be a source of cat boredom. How concerned are their human guardians?
If a cat does eat for pleasure (and dry cat foods are coated with taste enhancers which can encourage this) and becomes overweight it might be wrong to reduce the amount of food available to that cat because it might increase the cat’s level of stress. This could result in eating more or finding other ways to cope with stress.
It may be possible for a cat guardian to deduce that if their cat is overeating that they have psychological issues which need to be dealt with. I am being highly speculative and merely raising a question. It is an area of cat caretaking which is almost never discussed or analysed on the basis that I rarely bump into it when surfing the internet.
The domestic cat obesity crisis in the US is well documented. There are several reasons why about 50% of felines are considered obese in the US, one of which might be linked to stress induced boredom or stress due to other causes. One source (cbsnews.com) states that about 58% of domestic cats are obese. More work is needed to understand feline obesity.