My Cat Has Developed a Ravenous Appetite

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses the possibility that diabetes or hyperthyroidism could be the reason.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: Sept. 11, 2009, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: My cat is 15 and recently all he wants to do is eat. Is this a sign of a medical condition?

A: It probably is. A lot of people think that when it comes to appetite, only a poor appetite could be a sign of illness.  They look at a cat with a ravenous appetite and think, “Whoa! Look at him eat! He must be feeling great!” In fact, a ravenous appetite could be a sign of a metabolic disorder. 

The most common metabolic disorder causing ravenous appetite in an elderly cat is hyperthyroidism, a glandular condition in which the thyroid gland in the neck produces excessive amounts of thyroxine, the main thyroid hormone. This increases the cat’s metabolism, and they lose weight. They try to compensate by increasing their food intake, but they often cannot keep pace, and they lose weight despite a ravenous appetite.

Diabetes is another disorder that can cause ravenous appetite.  After a cat eats, the blood sugar level rises. The pancreas releases insulin, which allows the sugar in the blood stream to be utilized by the cells for energy.  Diabetics are deficient in insulin. Without insulin, the blood sugar cannot be used for energy. As a result, these cats always feel hungry. The classic signs of diabetes are excessive thirst, excessive urination, ravenous appetite and weight loss. Your typical cat acquires diabetes around 7 or 8 years of age, although cats of any age can be affected. I’ve diagnosed cats with diabetes at age 15, but it’s not very common.

You need to take your cat to your veterinarian and have a senior blood panel performed. Diabetes and hyperthyroidism are easily diagnosed through blood tests.

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Reader Comments

CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

11/1/2013 8:26:01 AM

Jan -- Your cat might have another condition. According to our vet expert, continual appetite increase is a sign of secondary illness: LINK

See if your vet can perform additional tests or if you can seek out another vet.

Jan    Boulder, CO

10/30/2013 6:16:05 PM

my cat has normal blood level; current doc thinking his kidneys are not functioning well (based on blood work) and maybe lymphoma or irritable bowel disease (high creatine levels; spongy, smelly stools, not using litter box for stools, ravenous appetite). In last 1-1/2 year, have been treating with water (via transfusion) and steroids to ease the symptoms. We go from he uses his litter box(s) to he uses none. He's 16-17 yrs old; he's still cleaning himself but he also appears to have arthritis in his hips (He's a maine coon cat) Good days, he still plays; BUT he IS RAVENOUS ALL THE TIME & I spend $20/week on wet food that he will eat sometimes. Maybe when he turned 11 or so, he lost a bunch of weight (protein levels were down when we took him to the vet); we got his weight back up with "wet" food (as opposed to dry food which he had previously always eaten). He's also still eating occasional dry food, as well as wet. Is there anything out there to make this cat feeling he's NOT starving to death, even if he is, because this current ailment has been going on for almost 2 years and believe, he is not underfed!

Todd    Agusta, GA

9/17/2009 3:13:21 AM

Good article.

Anon    City, CA

9/16/2009 8:06:31 PM

Excellent article!

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