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Will Cats Overeat If You Let Them? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Visnja Radosavljevic

By Visnja Radosavljevic

siamese cat eating food from bowl at home

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Many owners leave out their cat’s food bowl to let their pet eat periodically throughout the day. This system can work sometimes. Some cats know when they’re full and won’t eat anymore, but others are overenthusiastic and will consume food even when they’re not actually hungry, causing them to overeat.

Overeating in cats is dangerous because it can lead to various health problems, such as obesity. It’s your responsibility to provide a proper diet for your feline and notice any changes in their behavior, such as overeating, to prevent issues.

Read on to learn more about overeating in cats, from how to recognize the behavior and why overeating is so dangerous for felines to how to prevent this problem and how much your cat should be eating.

Is Overeating a Common Problem In Cats?

Overeating is a common problem in cats, and it’s especially noticeable when you look at the statistics about feline obesity. According to a recent study on pet cats in the U.S.A., around 26% of felines are overweight, and 33% of those are obese.1

Those statistics show that overeating is a common problem for pet cats, which is why as cat parents, we must reduce the potential for overeating and promote healthy eating.

However, to help cats eat healthily, lose weight, and not overeat, you need to find the root of the overeating problem.

russian blue cat eating dry food in bowl
Image Credit: Felice Wölke, Unsplash

8 Reasons Why Cats Overeat

Felines are not constant gazers, but they can develop this behavior if given 24-hour access to food. Some may never seem satisfied, though, regardless of how much food you give them. But why?

There are various reasons that your cat may have an increased appetite and eat more than usual, including the following.2

1. Poor Diet

Cats need a diet that will provide them with all the necessary nutrients and calories for proper development.

If your cat has a poor diet with low-quality, carbohydrate-based foods, they will likely eat more due to a deficiency in nutrients. Cats need a protein-based moisture-rich diet to thrive.

2. Boredom

Some cats eat more than others because they’re bored. You should always provide an engaging and stimulating environment for your cat to ease boredom. Try to provide fun toys, scratchers, climbers, or anything else that your feline likes to keep them entertained.

3. Aging and Metabolism Changes

As a cat gets older, their muscle mass and metabolism change, which can lead to excessive hunger. If you notice that your older feline is eating more, it’s best to speak with your vet and determine if there are any dietary changes that you need to make to help your feline stay healthy.

persian cat eating dry food
Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

4. Side Effects of Medications

Certain cat medications, such as prednisolone and appetite stimulants, can cause side effects, including overeating. If you notice an increased appetite in your feline while they’re consuming specific medications, talk to your vet, and see if alternative medications will reduce this problem.

5. Intestinal Parasites

When a cat has intestinal parasites, such as tapeworms or roundworms, and develops a severe infection, they may experience excessive hunger. The parasites inside the cat’s body are stealing most of the nutrients, causing increased hunger but keeping the cat underweight.

If you notice that your feline eats in large quantities but is not gaining weight or is losing weight, you should talk to your vet. They will likely run tests to verify your cat’s health status and might prescribe medications for your feline.

6. Diabetes Mellitus

When a cat has diabetes mellitus, their body is incapable of breaking down glucose to create energy, leading to an increased amount of sugar in the bloodstream. When this happens, cats experience increased appetite, followed by losing weight and showing other signs, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dull coat
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Listlessness

7. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism occurs in cats whose thyroid gland overproduces certain hormones. When that happens, many cats can experience excessive hunger due to hormonal changes in their body.

This condition can cause various other problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and increased urination. If hyperthyroidism is the cause of overeating, your cat will need a vet check to get the necessary diet or medication to manage this problem. However, in severe cases, some felines may need radioactive therapy or even surgery to remove their gland to prevent further problems.

long haired cat eating food from a cat bowl
Image Credit: Seattle Cat Photo, Shutterstock

8. Malabsorptive Diseases

Diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or intestinal neoplasia can lead to issues with the small intestine, where your cat’s body is unable to absorb nutrients from food properly.

Therefore, malabsorptive diseases lead to increased appetite and weight loss. When such health issues occur, your cat will need a vet check with further testing to get to the source of the problem and determine the proper treatment.

What Are the Dangers of Overeating in Cats?

Overeating in cats can be a big problem, especially if it happens continuously for a long period of time. Since your feline is consuming more food than their body needs, they will quickly become overweight and eventually, obese.

With excessive weight gain, most cats become less active and more lethargic, and they could become sick. Obesity puts cats at a higher risk of developing other health conditions, such as:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Cancer
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Anesthetic complications
  • Liver diseases

How to Know If Your Cat Is Overeating

Cats need enough food to maintain their daily energy loss and get needed daily nutrients. However, eating too much food will quickly make them overweight.

By observing your feline’s weight and body condition score you can tell whether your feline is overeating or not. But since most people see their cats every day, it may be hard to notice any changes in their weight.

Try one of these tricks:
  • Feel your cat’s ribs — Gently press on your cat’s ribs. If your cat is at a normal weight, you’ll be able to feel all of them. If your cat is overeating, you won’t be able to feel any of their ribs or only a few of them.
  • Look at your cat’s tail and hips — A cat’s tail and hips act as secondary storage for excess fat. That said, these areas shouldn’t contain any fat deposits if the cat is healthy, has a normal weight, and is eating well. If there are fat deposits in these areas of your cat’s body, they’re likely eating too much food.
  • Check your cat’s abdomen — Observe your cat’s abdomen from the side, at a distance, and up close. You should be able to see a tuck around your cat’s waist area as the abdomen should be narrower than the chest. If they are the same thickness, your feline is likely overeating.
woman feeding cat
Image Credit: Tobyanna, Shutterstock

What Should You Do If Your Cat Is Overeating?

If your cat is overeating, you should first determine the reason for this behavior. Start by taking your feline to the vet to rule out any possible health problems or get medications if the cause is health related.

If your feline is healthy but keeps overeating, try to reduce their boredom, and create a more stimulating environment to increase their activity level. Also, ensure that you’re providing them with high-quality foods with the nutrients that your cat needs for development.

As long as you provide a proper balance of mental and physical stimulation along with a healthy diet, your cat should eat in normal amounts and maintain a healthy weight.

A Word of Caution

Cats should never lose too much body fat too quickly, or they can suffer from fatty liver disease. If you wish your cat to lose weight in a healthy way, speak to your veterinarian about making a safe, slow, and steady weight-loss plan for your cat.

Final Thoughts

Many cats will overeat if you let them, which is why you are responsible for preventing such behavior. Keep your cat healthy by offering them healthy and nutritious foods, keeping them active, and mentally stimulating them daily to prevent boredom. If you’re doing everything right but your cat is still overeating, consider speaking to your vet to determine if there’s a health issue.

Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

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