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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.