Is your cat eating constantly? Are you worried that overeating could be dangerous or even cause death?
When a cat is overeating, he is at risk of becoming obese. Obesity shortens the life expectancy of a cat and causes other secondary diseases. If left untreated, overeating and obesity can result in your cat’s death.
There are several reasons your cat may be overeating and ways to control those behaviors. Read on to find out more!
Consequences of overeating
The number one consequence of your cat overeating is obesity. A cat is obese if he is 20% over his ideal body weight.
The ideal body weight for a typical domestic shorthair is approximately 10 pounds. Other breeds may vary.
The Maine Coon, for instance, is a larger cat breed and can weigh up to 25 pounds and still be considered healthy.
Obesity reduces a cat’s life expectancy, with the 8 to 12-year age range at the highest risk. When a cat is obese, he has excess body fat.
This fat can cause inflammation of the cat’s tissues. The inflammation stresses the cat’s systems and can lead to disease.
Another major cause for concern when your cat is overeating is diabetes mellitus. Diabetes in cats is very similar to the human version.
Diabetes is when a cat’s body doesn’t respond to insulin. Since the body cannot process insulin correctly, it breaks down fat and other stores within the body to produce energy.
A common symptom of diabetes is overeating but not gaining weight. Other symptoms include the following:
- Extreme thirst
- Increased urination
- Frequent UTIs
- Dull coat
- Decreased activity
There is no cure for feline diabetes. Obese cats are at the highest risk of developing this disease.
It can be treated, but it is a lifelong illness that shortens life expectancy. Untreated diabetes can cause early death.
Cats can develop heart disease from overeating. The more your cat eats, the more he packs on extra weight.
This takes its toll on the heart, which has to pump harder to compensate for the extra weight. A cat who overeats can be at risk of developing high blood pressure.
If your cat breed is more prone to heart conditions, extra weight from overeating can exacerbate those conditions leading to a heart attack.
Why would a cat eat more than enough?
If you have an unspayed female, you may want to take her to the vet to check for pregnancy if she is eating a lot.
Pregnancy can cause your cat to have an increase in appetite. She is feeding more than herself, so she needs more nutrients.
Cats are usually pregnant for about 58-70 days; a pregnant cat may not show weight gain until the last few weeks of her pregnancy. So, you may not realize she’s pregnant until she’s about to give birth.
If you find out your cat is pregnant, be aware that overfeeding a cat during the final stages of her pregnancy can result in obesity and increasing labor difficulty.
It can also stress the kittens. It is best to feed your pregnant cat smaller, more frequent meals over the course of the day.
Certain prescription medications can cause overeating. For example, steroids can be used to treat asthma or acute illnesses. This medication increases hunger in cats.
Cats who take these medications regularly are at a higher risk of developing obesity and diabetes. It is important to control how much your cat eats if he is on medication with this side effect.
Certain diseases can cause overeating, too. Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS) can make your cat hungrier because its intestines aren’t absorbing as many nutrients, so your cat is trying to compensate.
Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease where your cat’s body overproduces cortisol. The body usually maintains cortisol in smaller amounts.
When your cat’s body overproduces this hormone, it stimulates your cat’s appetite leading to weight gain.
Hyperthyroidism is when your cat’s thyroid is working overtime to maintain your cat’s hormones.
Since the thyroid is having trouble regulating these hormones, it can increase your cat’s metabolism, resulting in an increased appetite.
Cats, like people, can develop eating disorders. Many cheap brands of commercial kibble are full of carbohydrates and empty calories. It can be a lot like eating junk food.
Also, if you give your cats a lot of treats, those can be addictive for your cat. You may have noticed that your cat eats the whole bag when you leave the treats out unsupervised.
Well, he has become addicted to them, similar to humans becoming addicted to candy. This can cause your cat to overeat.
Cats can also overeat if they compete with another cat.
Low-quality ingredients in cat food
Low-quality ingredients in cheap cat foods can cause your cat to overeat, trying to gather the necessary nutrients.
A cat’s diet should be well-balanced. Cats are true carnivores and cannot tolerate plant material in their diets.
Many cheaper cat foods will load their formulas with grains and plant materials as cheap alternatives to meat.
This is not good for your cat’s health. Always try to buy cat food with plenty of high-quality proteins.
Helping an overweight cat
Remove the food bowl after 15 minutes.
One way to prevent your cat from overeating is by taking away his bowl after 15 minutes.
First, give him his normal kibble. Let him eat like normal. After 15 minutes, take away the bowl and clean out the kibble.
This will keep your cat from overeating by snacking throughout the day.
At first, your cat will be really upset by this change. It will take time for him to adjust. However, as long as you are feeding your cat the correct amount for his weight, he is not actually going hungry.
Get a time-release feeder.
Time-release feeders are a great way to portion out your cat’s eating without you having to monitor them.
You can set a time for the feeder to release cat food, and it will deliver it at that time. This helps your cat get on a set schedule for eating instead of eating whenever he likes.
Many of these feeders have portion control options for you to set the perfect amount for your cat to eat. This way, you are controlling how often he eats and how much with the touch of a button.
Don’t give in to begging.
A cat will beg for food throughout the day even if he is not hungry. This is because he knows you will feed him if he continues to beg.
As hard as it is to resist your cat’s pleading, it is in his best interest to have a scheduled, portioned meal.
He will eventually learn the new routine and won’t beg all of the time.
How to prevent your cat from overeating?
Measure how much you feed your cat.
The best way to prevent your cat from overeating is to measure how much he should eat each day. For example, A 5lb neutered cat should have 137 calories daily.
Age, activity level, and weight affect how much you should feed your cat. To calculate how much that amounts to in servings, look at your cat’s food packaging.
Take the calories per serving measurement and divide it by your cat’s caloric needs.
Switch to high-quality cat food.
Cat food with better ingredients will be more nutritious for your cat. This may help to stave off excess hunger and decrease their appetite.
High-quality cat food should include meat such as chicken, beef, turkey, or duck as its main ingredient.
Low-quality cat foods contain a lot of grains. If the bag says “wheat middlings” or “corn gluten,” try to avoid those foods. Those types of grains are factory leftovers with very little nutritional value.
A higher quality food will fill your cat up more and provide the essential nutrients he needs. He won’t overeat if his nutritional needs are being met.
Encourage your cat to exercise.
Cats become obese when they don’t exercise. Indoor cats are at the highest risk of obesity. So, play with your cat each day.
Also, provide him with plenty of toys and space to play. A cat tower or cat tunnel may be great motivators to get your cat up and playing.
Some owners even opt to get their cats a harness and leash and take them outside to walk and explore. Cats eat more if they are bored.
Then, their sedentary life encourages them to pack on weight. As little as 15 – 30 minutes of playtime a day can help your cat maintain a healthy physique.
Overeating can result in death if your cat becomes obese. There are many health problems associated with obesity.
However, with good quality cat food and portion control, your cat can maintain a healthy weight. If your cat is overeating, try to discover the cause and treat it accordingly.
Overeating doesn’t have to be a death sentence. There are options to keep your pet healthy for many more years to come.