My cat has become obsessed with food! Help please.

This is the cat behavior problem for the day: “My cat has suddenly become obsessed with food. She does not want to play much anymore. She prefers to get into food containers. She was spayed about a year ago. She is about 18 months old. She started this behavior when the weather changed. Unfortunately, I am not home a lot at the moment.”

I will endeavor to find a solution but as usual I am always open to suggestions and the thoughts of visitors.

Cat licking their lips after eating
Cat licking their lips after eating. Image: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Perhaps some further information is needed and therefore it would be useful to ask the cat’s owner some more questions such as:

How do you know that your cat is obsessed with food when you are out a lot? I suppose you see her eating when you come home. The point I am making is whether this cat is genuinely obsessed with food. Is she putting on weight? How much are you feeding her daily and what sort of food is it? This may be a perception problem. Some cat owners may think that their cat is eating too much because they themselves eat very little. They project this thought onto their cat. I have a page on the required calorie intake of an adult cat which may help if this is applicable (see link below).

RELATED: How many calories does a cat need?

On the basis that this cat is genuinely obsessed with food, as you say, and has less interest in playing what might be the problem?

Firstly, I cannot immediately see a connection between a change in the weather and an obsession with food….so for the time being I will ignore that.

Diabetes?

In the early stages of diabetes, a cat tries to compensate for their inability to metabolise blood glucose by eating more food. Later on, there is a drop in appetite. So, the early signs of diabetes are a large appetite, frequent urination and drinking lots of water. The symptoms are accompanied by unexplained weight loss. When diabetes become more advanced there is a loss of appetite. Diabetes is certainly an illness that needs to be checked out. And as you might know, it is an increasingly common condition in domestic cats and affects 1 in 400 cats. This is often due to obesity in cats. There’s an epidemic of cat obesity according to vets with as many as 50% of all domestic cats in the West being overweight.

Pancreatitis, hyperthyroidism and some medications can produce similar symptoms one of which is to eat more food during the early stages of the disease.

Hyperthyroidism

The first signs of hyperthyroidism are dramatic and include an increased appetite. The normally finicky eater begins to wolf down everything put before them. And the cat becomes more active. Hyperthyroidism is nearly always caused by cancer which causes an increased production of thyroid hormone.

Boredom?

One of the first (and only?) non-health causes that comes to my mind is boredom. If your cat is at home, indoors all day and you are away all day, which seems a possibility, your cat might feel very bored due to a lack of stimulation and might feel some emotional stress. This might lead to comfort eating. This in turn might make her more sluggish and less likely to play. She may be overweight and that takes away motivation to play.

RELATED: Can cats become comfort eaters?

Bearing in mind what you have said about not being around much, this is my favoured response to your question for help. I sense that this is a case of eating for pleasure because you aren’t around enough to interact.

Stress

Stress is linked to boredom. Acute boredom can lead to stress. And therefore, this is part of the boredom heading. Being left alone all day can lead to separation anxiety which in turn leads to stress and possible comfort eating to alleviate the feeling of stress.

Spaying?

For completeness I have added this heading.

“Spaying does not make a cat fat and lazy” (Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook page 426 4th ed.)

Spaying can slow a cat’s metabolism. A lack of exercise is the cause of obesity. There is nothing that suggests that spaying make a female cat obsessed with food.

Diet?

In my experience, dry cat food can become somewhat addictive because of the flavourings they add. And if a cat is under-stimulated because their environment lacks enrichment and there is a lack of interaction between cat and owner, as is suggested in the circumstances described by this cat owner, it is entirely likely that a domestic cat may find some stimulation in eating.

What about a change in diet? High quality wet cat food should be tried. The amount should be as stated on the packet or as stated by your vet. Alternatively, a simple Google search will probably do. PoC has a page on the number of calories a cat needs.

False pregnancy

This does not apply in this case but I have added this heading for completeness because other people will be reading this article and their female cat might not be spayed. It occurs when ovulation happens but the eggs remain unfertilised. It is caused by progesterone. Occasionally the unspayed female cat will have an increased appetite and gain weight.

As you can see from the comments, I have republished this page with amendments and additions to try and make it more helpful. The comments, no doubt, will be helpful too.

Below are some more articles about appetite.

22 thoughts on “My cat has become obsessed with food! Help please.”

  1. If my cat went missing and someone found her, took her in, took her to the vet and had her mutilated while all the time I was looking for her I would be furious, Carole how could you be so insensitive as to put a cat that is likely already traumatised by losing her home in one way or another through such a horrendous procedure when she isn’t even your cat! And front claws only, does that make you admirable in your own eyes? Well sure the cat is obsessed with eating what else has she to do but sit still and do your bidding, and all she gets for it is 2 miserable cups of dried food daily, you’d have been doing her a bigger favour by advertising her as found and either reuniting her with her (admittedly ignorant for using a flea collar) owner or rehoming her with someone who doesn’t pay a vet to amputate healthy and vital body parts.

    Reply
  2. You say we also had her declawed front claws only as if it was something to be proud of like rescuing her and having her wormed where in reality its the worst thing you could have done to her.
    I agree with Ruth she’s comfort eating,what else has she got in life now,she’s in a strange home feeling vulnerable living with a strange cat and can’t even exercise as cats need to because you’ve had her toe ends and claws taken away.
    I can only suppose you had your other cat crippled the same way because like too many more Americans you didn’t think that cats come with claws because they need them.
    I also agree you need to take a look at the articles on declawing to see just what you have done to that poor cat and maybe then you’ll think twice in the future or if you don’t like that cats have and need claws then let someone else take any future strays in,don’t ruin any more cats lives.

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  3. We found a stray cat about 6 weeks ago who was wearing a flea collar. In a vet check, she is about 1 1/2 years old, spayed. She had round worms and tape worms when we first found her. She has been treated for both and is now worm free. We also had her declawed, front claws only. We’ve had the vet run several blood tests on her. She’s is in great health and not diabetic. However, she is hungry all the time. We feed her 1/3 cup of dry food, 2 times a day. According to the package directions, it is the top end of the quantity of food she should get for one day. She has gained 2#. We’ve tried Science Diet, Nutro, Wellness brands. Nothing seems to satisfy her. There is another cat, also an adopted stray which has been here 2 years before her. We don’t know what to do. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • I would stop the dry food. Try high quality wet food instead. Being hungry all the time is only a problem if she is putting on weight to the point where she becomes overweight. I believe, not everyone does, that the unnaturally high carbohydrate diet of dry cat food can encourage overeating. It can cause mild hypoglycemia which encourages eating too. Try a more natural cat food (wet) and play with her when possible. That should keep the weight down. I don’t think the other cat is making her hungry unless there is some sort of competition going on. Do you put separate bowls down? I would, and keep them apart to avoid competition. Perhaps she feels she has to compete. That is a wild guess.

      Reply
    • The cat is probably comfort eating because of having been a hungry stray and Michael is right she needs wet food, not dry all the time.

      I’m afraid I wouldn’t have any faith in the advice of a vet who declaws cats, why on earth would you take a stray cat in and then have her toe ends amputated almost immediately? As she was spayed and wearing a flea collar (horrible dangerous things but obviously her previous owner didn’t know that) it’s likely someone somewhere is looking for her, she may have been lost for a good while and scavenging, therefore had worms.

      You will now have to watch her for mental/physical health issues from the declawing, for the whole of her life. PLEASE do some research into the cruelty of declawing, Michael’s PoC has many articles about it and change to a vet who doesn’t break his/her sworn oath to cause no animal to suffer.

      Reply
      • I agree with Ruth. Sadly, you automatically declawed your cat as if it is entirely normal. A lot of people, particularly those with a sensitivity towards the cat and a respect for the cat, find declawing completely abnormal, strange and cruel. It is a shame you declawed her. Please read the articles on this site. There are over 150! This is a good starting page:

        Recently Declawed Cat Pictures. Thanks for listening.

        Reply
  4. It’s the easy availability of very tasty, high calorie food. I know I often eat if I am bored, tired or indecisive. None of these mental states have anything to do with hunger, but there I am standing in the kitchen with my hand in a bag of potato chips (crisps) anyway. Monty will then appear, look pointedly at me and say, “Meow?” Or he’ll purr really loudly, his way of telling me he wants something. So we are kind of in it together with the bad snacking habits. Exercise helps us both keep our weight somewhat under control. Exercise is key, but with all the electronic gadgets and convenient appliances many people just don’t move around enough.

    Reply
    • I am the same. I have become a bit of a comfort eater. Thankfully I go to the gym these days every other day and row 4 miles in 30 mins. That burns fat. I do believe that the domestic cat can also be a comfort eater particularly when, as you say, commercial cat food is designed to make them eat. The more they eat the more people buy it. It is just commercialism.

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