Dear Doctor: New cat’s insatiable appetite


Q. After a number of months, we have taken in a feral cat who finally seemed to want to live “on the inside.” We are glad for that but are surprised at how ravenous he always seems to be. He scarfs down his food and never refuses a treat. Having had and observed cats for many years, we are more used to seeing them turn up their nose at food and eating very daintily. Are some cats simply more like dogs when it comes to appetite?

Pilar de Leon
Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

Dear Ms. de Leon,

A. Some cats who have had to forage for themselves their whole lives have a hard time letting go of the “eat it while it’s there” approach. They have gone hungry — perhaps often — and have taught themselves to eat whenever food is available. It can take a good year before a once-feral cat becomes comfortable with the idea that “there’s more where that came from.” And some cats who used to live outside remain spooked for even longer about not knowing where their next meal is coming from.

That said, it’s possible your new cat has come to you with a medical condition that causes increased appetite, known as polyphagia in doctor-speak. Conditions that can make a cat ravenous include diabetes and hyperthyroidism. For that reason, you should have your pet’s veterinarian rule out diseases that could lead to the constant desire to eat.

If it turns out the reason for the frenzied eating is medical, treatment will calm the appetite. And if it’s behavioral, give your cat some time. As long as you don’t overfeed him, he won’t become overweight.


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