Hungry Cat makes me INSANE
October 5, 2008 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Why is my cat always hungry?

I have an 11 year old indoor Maine Coon cat who is currently driving me to drink. He has always been a needy cat who begs for food and attention, but the last few months have ratcheted his behavior up to insanity.

I can't cook food in the house without him climbing onto the counters, meowing incessantly. I can't open the fridge without him trying to climb in and get something. I can't leave the trash can unsupervised in the kitchen or he'll tip it over to get food out raccoon style. I am constantly hiding my food--I even ate a sandwich in the bathroom the other day to get away from his whining.

He has Iams cat food available to him all day and night long, he has water always available to him, and I feed him a can of fancy feast wet food a day (1/2 in morning, 1/2 at night). When I relent and give him table scraps (deli meat or chicken), he scarfs it down as fast as he can so he can beg for more.

He's an indoor cat, so he hasn't been exposed to anything outside. I've checked his stool for worms and so far, nothing. I've googled and some folks suggest thyroid conditions while others say it could be diabetes.

He's not overweight--if anything, he's lost weight in the last year or two. He's about 10 pounds now. I have another cat in the house who is 10, eats the same foods, and doesn't drive me crazy, so I don't think it's the food (either type or quantity). The other cat doesn't eat all of the food for both either--if anything, I have to protect the wet food of normal cat from crazy cat or crazy cat will eat both dinners.

1) Any ideas what could be wrong with my cat? (YANAV, I know).

2) Any home/OTC remedies I can try prior to an expensive vet visit?

3) Any suggestions on DC area vets that offer cheap labs/visits? I cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars for anything these days, including, unfortunately, my cat.
posted by batcrazy to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe he has worms?
posted by demon666 at 11:31 AM on October 5, 2008

"When I relent and give him table scraps (deli meat or chicken)..."

I think you've answered your own question there. It's worked before, and he's betting it will work again, if he's just persistent enough.

That's my guess.
posted by wayward vagabond at 11:33 AM on October 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Is he also thirsty a lot? The always being hungry and losing weight could be a sign of diabetes - this is what I suspected of my cat and sure enough that was it.
posted by at 11:36 AM on October 5, 2008

Ask your vet for instructions on how to do a glucose level on your cat's urine. The vet may even provide you with a few of the test strips they'd use. A low or normal level may not necessarily rule out diabetes, but a high level may indicate that it's worth a look. I had a cat who became diabetic at about 10 years old, and he also showed significant weight loss coupled with ravenous appetite. Is your cat drinking a lot more lately?

On preview, high-fives
posted by hangashore at 11:43 AM on October 5, 2008

Blood tests can tell you if it's diabetes. With diabetes the food your kitty eats goes right through its body, and without added insulin, he gets little nutrition, so is constantly hungry. We've had two cats over the years who've gotten diabetes at around age 10. I'm dittoing AllStar to note whether he's also thirsty. The fact that he is losing weight is a sign of diabetes...thirst would be another sign. My daughter gives her kitty insulin shots twice daily and he is happy and healthy and more personable than ever; she takes him in every few months to check how he's been doing and the vet adjusts his insulin levels if needed. Not too expensive to either diagnose or treat. And the shots are very easy to learn to give, they are just under the skin, not a muscle-type shot--and with a tiny needle...kitty will likely not even notice. It's certainly worth a check.
posted by mumstheword at 11:50 AM on October 5, 2008

Could also be thyroid problems. I'd definitely take him to the vet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:53 AM on October 5, 2008

Second hyperthyroidism. I had an old cat who developed it. She lost weight quickly, was always hungry (I gave her food probably 6x/day), and had a very fast pulse—these are all signs of it.
posted by adamrice at 12:01 PM on October 5, 2008

Hyperthyroidism is common in cats his age. Based on the ravenous appetite and weight loss, its what it sounds like to me. You'll need a to take him to the vet for a blood test to confirm.
posted by entropy at 12:10 PM on October 5, 2008

We had a cat that was always ravenous. Turned out to be both hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Get his blood work done, and it should be simple to find out.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 1:16 PM on October 5, 2008

I also have a male maine coone who can be needy and annoying. Here are my tricks:

Cat in a bag: When he's being a pain I put him in a fabric sack (pillowcase, duvet cover, or down the leg of my yoga pants) and loosely tie the end shut. Leave it on the floor so he doesn't bumble off the bed or anything. My guy actually likes it- he sits in it purring for 20 minutes or so, then starts worming around til he gets the loose knots out and frees himself. Then he stares at me proudly and wanders away with his tail up. I swear to god he likes it.

Give him the Fancy Feast while you cook, so he'll eat and then go lick his entire head for a while. Should buy you 20 minutes or so.

Catnip while you cook. I put the catnip right in the very corner of my cat's napping shoebox so he has to really cram his face in there to get at it.

When you're cooking and he interrupts, say NO and put a "talk to the hand" gesture right in his face. He'll back off. Repeat each time he bugs you: NO, and make your hand into a wall an inch ahead of his nose, fast. He'll get the message.

The bag is the best, though, and it's funny.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:42 PM on October 5, 2008 [3 favorites]

Wait, is the cat actually hungry, or just needy? Is he eating all the dry food every day? From your Q, it sounds more like he's bored than actually hungry. Hungry for attention, maybe.

Oh, one more strategy:

Grow some grass for him (basically just sprouted oats or barley, sold as "catgrass"). Keep it on a high shelf. Put it on the floor as you begin to cook, so he has his own little fun thing to play with and snuffle in. Put it up on the shelf as soon as dinner's over. Make it into a special thing that he only gets for 20 minutes a day, so he's excited every time you bring it out and plays with it, not you.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:46 PM on October 5, 2008

I'm in the "worms" camp... a couple of times when we've had a cat that was ravenous, it eventually passed tapeworm segments. It would be prudent to check his droppings if you can, and maybe even bring in a fecal sample to the vet so you can at least rule that out.
posted by crapmatic at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2008

It definitely could be serious stuff that you want to deal with sooner rather than later - this sounds a lot like my cat when his diabetes was not diagnosed yet, especially the weight loss despite ravenous eating. I second the above suggestion to do a urine test first, if you're trying to avoid an actual vet trip. That will give you some preliminary numbers for the vet to know if you really need to bring him in for a more thorough blood work-up. I don't remember how expensive the urine test was here in PA, but I seem to recall it wasn't too bad. The bloodwork was more expensive, if I recall correctly, so you might as well start cheap.

I have no idea whether there's any similar testing you can do to rule out a thyroid problem without a vet trip, but it might be worth asking if you're calling the vet to talk about doing a urine test anyway.
posted by Stacey at 2:15 PM on October 5, 2008

Also, Maine Coons are just fucking insane anyway.

But yeah see a vet.
posted by schwa at 2:17 PM on October 5, 2008

That is way too much food for a 10 lb cat - dry food free fed AND a can a day? He's likely being overfed. If you took the cat to a vet they are going to say you are overfeeding him.

I have a cat that acts crazy about all food, and one that couldn't care less about food. Nothing is wrong with either of them - many humans like food much more than others.

I do think you should take him to a vet to rule out any medical problems, then get both the cats on a better diet. Neither of those brands of food are good. Anything you can buy in a grocery store - thumbs DOWN.

My dad's Maine Coon was also nuts about his food. In the last few years of his life he begged for food constantly, but wouldn't eat it until my dad stuck his finger in it :)
posted by jesirose at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

That is way too much food for a 10 lb cat

never met a 10-lb maine coon before. with maine coons, you're lucky if they're only 20 lbs!

nthing the bloodwork to check for hyperthyroidism and/or diabetes. a good senior cat blood panel only costs about $85 here in IN. not sure about DC.

good luck!
posted by CitizenD at 3:50 PM on October 5, 2008

Apply for CareCredit, and see if you can find a vet who accepts it. Pet health costs is one of the things it's made for.
posted by bettafish at 4:29 PM on October 5, 2008

Definitely go to the vet. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, and even cancer can have this symptom.
posted by batmonkey at 4:49 PM on October 5, 2008

I could have written this! My 20-pound Maine Coon is a nightmare of neediness, crying and carrying on if I even look at the kitchen, let alone enter it. He will even roll over and pose, bloated-roadkill-style, in front of the kitchen if I ignore him when he does this. As whiny and weepy as he is, the crazed pushiness and melodramatic death scenes greatly diminished after he had thyroid surgery. He was also on anti-anxiety meds for a little while too, but that was related more to issues stemming from his abuse and abandonment.

So... if it's a thyroid issue, there were a few different options for treating him, ranging from inexpensive-in-the-short-term medication, expensive-ish surgery, and really really expensive radioactive iodine treatment. My vet is the best ever and he's just north of Baltimore if that's within reach for you -- let me know if you want his number.
posted by kittyb at 7:12 AM on October 6, 2008

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