Most cats love food, but eating disorders can cause serious health problems for some.
While human eating disorders are known, eating disorders that affect cats are not generally understood by cat parents. These eating habits have a variety of causes and treatments and you definitely should consult your vet if you see unusual behavior.
Here are five cat eating disorders you should know about.
Some cats will eat as much food as you give them.
To some extent, this is normal behavior. Cats are opportunistic eaters in the wild, so many consume the food that is least available.
Some cats may feel the need to compete for resources with another pet in the house in order for them to eat as much as possible. Often times the overeating problem is more like an overfeeding problem.
If your cat begs for food nonstop all day, it is likely because he knows you are going to feed him. This is behavior that you need to change as a pet parent.
Overeating can lead to obesity and complications like liver disease, diabetes, breathing disorders, pain from physical exertion, gastrointestinal problems, and more.
There are other problems that can increase a cat’s appetite and cause them to beg for food or overeat.
Some cats get hungry more often with age. Medication can increase appetite. Diabetes and insulin-related tumors can affect blood sugar levels and cause hunger. Improper diet or the inability to absorb nutrients due to gastrointestinal disease can also affect appetite.
Certain breeds are also more likely to overeat. If your cat’s eating behavior is unusual, you should see a veterinarian to have tests done for medical problems.
If overeating and begging are persistent behavior problems, you may need to consult a professional behaviorist and adjust the way you feed your cat.
2. Eat too fast
Eating too quickly can go hand in hand with overeating, but it comes with its own set of problems.
Some cats devour food without taking enough time to chew or digest it. They risk choking or vomiting if they take their meals in just a few gulps.
Cats that eat too quickly can develop gastritis, which is inflammation of the lining of the stomach. These cats may have behavior problems such as extreme food monitoring or aggression if another animal or human approaches while they are eating.
They can also finish their meal quickly and take food away from other pets.
As with overeating, the reason cats eat too quickly can be out of competition. This can start early in the kitten’s breastfeeding when kittens sometimes have to compete with siblings for breast milk.
Over time, this competitive behavior can become stronger into adulthood. Cats that have lived as strays for a while may particularly feel the need to compete for resources. It is common in cats that live with other animals, but it can also occur in cats that live alone.
Some ways to curb this behavior include feeding small portions, sometimes single bites, one at a time so that your cat has to eat more slowly. Providing your cat with a comfortable place to eat away from other pets will make them feel good too.
There are special feed troughs and bowls force the cats to work a little harder for the food, which slows them down. If your cat is showing signs of aggression, it may be time to see a behaviorist.
3. Malnutrition or anorexia
Malnutrition or anorexia can be a big problem for cats. Symptoms include weakness, unresponsiveness, weight loss, lethargy, depression, diarrhea, vomiting, and more.
Some distinguish between anorexia, which is extreme loss of appetite, and pseudo-anorexia, where a cat wants to eat but cannot because of pain or illness. For treatment, it is important to identify the cause of the malnutrition.
Loss of appetite can result from drugs, diabetes, kidney disease, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal problems, immune diseases, cancer, exposure to toxic substances, stress, or changes in the environment or diet, among other things.
Because the causes of anorexia in cats are so numerous, you need to see a vet for diagnosis and treatment.
If the cause of the loss of appetite is psychological, it is a good idea to relieve your cat’s stress and anxiety. The physical and mental stimulation will help remove some of the nervous energy your cat may be feeling.
If you’ve moved your cat’s environment, provide safe spaces such as boxes and perches to keep your cat comfortable.
If your cat doesn’t like a new food and is picky about it, try mixing some with the old food so it can gradually get used to it, or contact a veterinarian to adjust your cat’s diet to a more appropriate or desirable one to move.
Pica is eating things that aren’t food – from cotton to plastic to stones and more.
Certain breeds are more prone to developing pica, and some cats weaned prematurely as kittens may develop a habit of suckling on things, which can be a precursor to pica.
It can be dangerous, causing gastrointestinal blockages, suffocation, poisoning, and more.
There are several reasons a cat might start eating inedible items, including both physical and psychological. Nutritional deficiencies can lead to abnormal eating.
Cats who are anemic may eat their own litter, and some will eat grass or plant matter to make up for nutrient deficiencies, which can be problematic if plants are poisonous or have been treated with toxic substances.
Medical problems like leukemia, FIV, diabetes, or brain tumors can also cause pica. See a veterinarian to rule out these causes.
Psychological causes are boredom, stress, attention-seeking, and separation anxiety.
Treatment may include diet changes or medication. For psychological reasons, providing mental and physical stimulation, as well as removing stressors in the environment, can help cats feel more comfortable.
Remove the item the cat likes to chew or eat and replace it with a safe alternative such as a Puzzle toys will help too. If the behavior persists, contact a behaviorist.
5. Coprophagia – eating feces
Coprophagia, or fecal eating, is more common in dogs, but it can also occur in cats.
Feces contain bacteria and parasites that are harmful to cats and can transmit disease.
Sometimes coprophagia is normal behavior. For example, new mothers of cats sometimes eat their kittens’ feces as part of their normal grooming habits, which their kittens sometimes mimic.
Cats can also eat feces to keep their personal space clean.
There are also certain medical causes that lead to coprophagia. Certain parasites and appetite-increasing diseases can cause a cat to eat anything it can, including feces.
Diabetes, malnutrition, vitamin deficiencies, or thyroid disease can all lead to coprophagia. Neurological disorders that affect brain functions can also lead to coprophagia and other strange behaviors.
Eating feces can be caused by the same causes as pica, and some even call it a form of pica.
To rule out medical causes, you need to see a vet to do tests and find treatment.
The psychological causes of eating feces are similar to pica, including attention-seeking, boredom, anxiety, or stress. Make sure your cat has a potty spot and clean up the mess right away to avoid the poop eating behavior.
Cats need mental and physical stimulation, as well as safe spaces to be comfortable and stress-relieved. Reducing anxiety will go a long way in treatment, but you may need to consult a behaviorist as well.
Have you ever had a cat with an eating disorder? How did you treat it Let us know in the comments below.
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