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Is my crying cat REALLY always hungry?

Discussion in 'Cat Behavior' started by meditatingmind, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. meditatingmind

    meditatingmind Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Aug 26, 2008
    KY bluegrass
    Our cat Leo has been with us for about a week and a half, and the last few days, she has been steadily escalating her requests to be fed. She will follow you around, meowing, and if you show interest in her, she will lead you to her food bowl and meow more and more loudly. She's been waking us up at night crying, but we've been ignoring her so as not to reinforce a begging behavior. The first few days, she showed zero interest in us cooking and eating our people food, but now even that seems compelling to her.

    She weighs just under 8 lbs, and the vet says she's a good weight just as she is. She's a small cat in terms of her frame. We have been feeding her 1/4 cup dry in the AM and an evening meal consisting of about 1/8 cup dry food and a bit later, 2 tsp of wet food mixed with water. She gets her 2nd meal very late in the evening, hoping she will stay full through the night. We're feeding her Science Diet dry food, which I know is not great, but we got two free bags of it (from the shelter and the vet) and budget-wise we need to use it up if at all possible. Are we just not feeding her enough, or is she burning through those empty carb calories so fast that she gets hungrier more quickly than she should? I had her at the vet last Friday (about the time this started) and she got a thorough checkup and a 100% clean bill of health. No signs of fever or other behavioral changes.

    Any thoughts? She acts like she's starving to death, poor thing!

  2. epona

    epona TCS Member Top Cat

    Jul 24, 2006
    London, England
    How old is she, and how active? A young active cat will burn more calories than an older one that spends a lot of time sleeping (sorry I know that is stating the obvious!) Has she been wormed?

    I can't advise about the amounts you are feeding as I'm not familiar with US measurements, Science Diet is not the best there is and they will eat more of it than a higher protein food, but as it was free and what she is used to then there is no harm in using up what you have before gradually switching her to something better quality, which she will need a bit less of.

    With my greedy boys I split their daily rations into 3 small meals, spreading their feed like this helps to minimise begging and pleas of starvation - they are getting the same amount of food over the day. My belief is that this fits better with the natural behaviour of a predator that would catch one small meal at a time and go out hunting again when next hungry.

    Don't forget that moderate hunger is a normal part of life, it's the body's signal that it is time to look for the next meal, and it is neither cruelty nor neglect for your pet to be eagerly anticipating her meal when it is served up. [​IMG]

    I think in the long term getting her onto a higher quality food will help, cats can have problems getting proper nutrition from the high cereal content of foods like Science Diet and it can leave them wanting more, hopefully others familiar with US measurements will be able to give detailed advice about suitable feeding quantities [​IMG]

    It is also likely that she is asking for attention, playing with her using interactive toys such as wand toys or toys on strings that you can dangle for her will help her to feel fulfilled - a cat doesn't just eat, it hunts too, and a cat that has limited or no hunting activity may still feel hungry even if sufficient food is supplied, because in its mind it has not completed every part involved in finding and eating a meal - playing with her before mealtimes can help simulate that hunting experience [​IMG]

  3. aswient

    aswient TCS Member Super Cat

    Dec 28, 2006
    New Jersey
    I give my guys and girls Fancy Feast, I think a can is 3 oz. each? I give one in the morning and one in the evening for each cat, plus dry food is in their bowl all the time. None of my cats really have a weight problem.

  4. yosemite

    yosemite TCS Member Veteran

    Apr 26, 2001
    Ingersoll, ON
    Since SD is not a very good quality food she probably needs more of it to get the same nutrition as a better quality one. She may well be very hungry. I would suggest 1/2 can of a fairly good quality wet in the am and for supper with 1/3 cup of a quality dry for noshing on during the day.

    I feed Merricks wet and Orijen Dry. They are very pricey in Canada but not too bad in the US. Sharky has also given good food examples a number of times in this forum so you could do a search.

    Try to stay away from foods with by-products and lots of grains. I've found that even though the better food costs a bit more, they eat less, poo less and thus save me money in the long-term on both food and litter.

  5. happilyretired

    happilyretired TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Jun 30, 2008
    Upstate New York
    She may be hungry as others have noted (I feed mostly wet, so I don't know how much dry is sufficient), but it also may be the "new home." I adopted a 5-year-old male about 3 months ago, and for the first 6 weeks, he acted as though he were STARVING, getting completely hysterical whenever I was in the kitchen and gobbling all the food I gave him (which I knew was more than he needed). In addition, I always keep a bowl of dry available in case the cat is hungry during the night, but nothing would satisfy him (i.e., he wouldn't eat the available dry but demand to be fed).

    Someone on this board suggested that shelter cats are often insecure about their food source and behave this way for a while. It took almost two months before he calmed down. He still gets into a frenzy at feeding times, but he doesn't demand food constantly as he did before. In addition, once he felt "secure" about his food, he ate less for a while to regulate his weight--i.e., anything "extra" he gained during that early period is gone.

  6. emmylou

    emmylou TCS Member Super Cat

    May 2, 2006
    That doesn't sound like enough food to me. My vets have always said to free-feed kittens and adolescent cats as much as they want. They're still growing and need more nutrition; plus they're much more active and so need more food to sustain their energy level.

    I wouldn't restrict the diet of a young cat at all. Leave dry food out and the problem will disappear.

    My family has always free fed dry, with two wet meals a day, and we've never had a problem with cats' weight. Once cats learn that they aren't going to starve and that food will always be available, they tend to self-regulate their food intake.

  7. meditatingmind

    meditatingmind Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Aug 26, 2008
    KY bluegrass
    Thank you all so much for the input. You asked some questions... She's 2 years old, and moderately active. DH and I have a good hard play session with her for about 30 minutes twice a day and she amuses herself by running around a bit on her own. Otherwise, she does the normal cat thing - naps aplenty.

    What has been said about a shelter kitty being nervous about food supply makes good sense, as well as the newness of her surroundings even though she doesn't seem actively stressed. And I'm glad to hear someone else had a cat that behaved the same way. Her nighttime crying seems to be more about being reassured she isn't alone than about hunger. We don't let her in our bedroom because of some allergy issues, so I'm sure when we disappear, she gets worried. A couple of times I've had to get up and go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If she's outside the door meowing, she will run in the bathroom with me, and spend the whole time rubbing against my legs and purring. I give her some good love, and when I go back to bed she stops meowing. Bless their little hearts - I can't imagine how stressful and worrisome the shelter must be. She seems to know she's in a good place now, but if I were her, I wouldn't trust it yet either!

    So sounds like we need to bump up her intake a bit. I was really shocked to read the ingredients on the HSD bag - I don't know much about cat nutrition yet, but I know enough to realize that the top 5 ingredients include corn, corn gluten, chicken by-products (what is that, even?)... Doesn't sound good at all. I was under the impression that HSD was good food and in the upper echelons of quality. I think we'll still try and use the HSD until it runs out, but I'm doing my research now on what kind of food to put her on after that - the HSD will NOT continue. Thanks again for all the suggestions! They are much appreciated.

  8. emmylou

    emmylou TCS Member Super Cat

    May 2, 2006
    Is she crying outside the bedroom door at night? My cat did this when I first got him, and it was miserable. It turned out the only place in the apartment he felt safe was under my bed, so I was keeping him out of his safe space in a room where he was alone. I relented and let him in, and things got much quieter and calmer.

    Since you can't let yours in the bedroom due to allergies, maybe you could set up a hiding place for yours in the other rooms... like a cat condo, or a cardboard box with a small entry hole and lined with a soft blanket.

  9. stephanietx

    stephanietx TCS Member Veteran

    Dec 1, 2005
    I was going to mention that she may not be getting enough nutrition from what she's eating. I don't free feed, but have set feeding times, because both of my girls were getting a bit "fluffy" from all the carbs in dry food. I now feed a set amount of dry per day at set times. I also feed mostly wet, which is served for breakfast and dinner. I feed Royal Canin dry and Merrick's wet. We also add some raw to the wet food.

  10. enuja

    enuja TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Jul 20, 2006
    The two and a half meals sounds like a very good system!

    Try giving her as much food as she wants, but still restrict her to mealtimes. For example, put out 1 Cup of dry food in the morning, and then pick it up less than a hour later, and put it back down in the evening. This way, she'll be getting as much food as she needs, but she won't be able to eat out of boredom throughout the day. If you keep track of how much she eats, you can measure out meals in the future, and even decrease them if she's gaining weight. If you do it this way, you can put to rest any fears that she's not getting enough food.

  11. cococat

    cococat TCS Member Top Cat

    Feb 2, 2007
    Is she spayed? Did I miss that?

  12. jack31

    jack31 TCS Member Top Cat

    Nov 1, 2007
    Cincinnati, OH
    Its a shelter cat so I would assume she's spayed.

    We got our guy from the shelter in May and he too acted as though he was always starving. But now that he is used to the feeding schedule and we have determined how much to feed them both he has settled down.

    He used to eat so fast too but that has settled as well--I think his prior life on the street played a role in this as well.

    I don't blame you for wanting to go ahead and finish the Science Diet--free food is free food, and although its not great, it isn't going to affect the cat long term to eat it for a couple months. Do your research and decide not only what you think is best for your cat but what is best for you. We want our pets to have the very best but it shouldn't be a huge sacrifice for us in my opinion--ultimately our best interest needs to come first.


  13. meditatingmind

    meditatingmind Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Aug 26, 2008
    KY bluegrass
    Yes! She sits right in front of our bedroom door and cries. She does this on and off all night. DH is building her a deluxe kitty condo (he loves carpentry) and right now she has 24 hour access to her carrier, which is in a dark place and has her blanket inside.

    And yes, she's spayed. She came to us from the shelter spayed, fully vaccinated, microchipped and on a regular schedule with Revolution.

    I like the suggestion some of you have made about a kind of modified free feeding. I actually did that yesterday... I gave her more dry food than I thought she could eat at once, and came back a couple hours later and picked up the excess. I'll see how that works over the next few days.

    DH and I got a couple books from the library on feline nutrition, one of whose authors recommends raw feeding. We're still not quite sure how we feel about that, but we're trying to develop the best nutrition plan for her that we can manage. I'm a vegetarian, so we usually don't have meat in the house, but I would definitely make an exception for Leo's health and happiness.

    Again, I'm very relieved to know that this isn't unusual behavior for ex-shelter kitties, and that she will likely get over it at some point. We've been worried about her, especially about this issue since she seems so nicely settled in otherwise.

  14. brokenheart

    brokenheart TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Sep 10, 2007
    Tapeworm! You might want to have the vet check her for tapeworm. That's how they act - constantly starved, even if they just ate one minute ago. It's very easily treated by the vet.

    Especially when a cat's recently been brought home from a shelter, tapeworm is always my first thought for a constantly ravenous cat. And they stay skinny no matter how much they eat. Does she have diarrhea?

  15. meditatingmind

    meditatingmind Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Aug 26, 2008
    KY bluegrass
    Well, I might have suspected that, too, but she was given some anti-tapeworm meds a week ago when I had her at the vet. This was more as a prophylactic, since the vet saw no signs of an infestation, but thought it would be wise since she had been in a shelter and Leo's Revolution doesn't protect against that. I've examined her feces, too, and haven't seen anything suspect. No diarrhea, everything in the litter box is a-OK.

    I think she may very well be hungry, and I gave her an increased amount of food yesterday, but there also seems to be something else going on, since she would still follow me and cry even when there was food left in her bowl. She'd still lead me to her bowl as before, meowing like crazy, but it was never empty. There's nothing different/wrong with the bowl itself that I can see - we haven't moved it, it's cleaned every day, there's no water spilled around it, etc.

  16. fastnoc

    fastnoc TCS Member Top Cat

    Feb 10, 2008
    hmmm. Ok now i'm curious.

    I free feed my kittens. I have two big bowls that are always full of dry food. Then once every day or two I give them a split can of sheba premium cuts.

    Is free feeding bad? they aren't fat at all

  17. arlyn

    arlyn TCS Member Top Cat

    May 9, 2005
    Needles, CA
    Free feeding works for some, and not for others [​IMG]
    I free feed, my adult girl is 14 and a nibbler, she also gets 3oz of wet every evening.

    Kittens though should always be free fed until their activity level drops as they enter adulthood and then judge feeding based on individual cats.

    For the OP: Since you mentioned that she gets slightly manic at night when you disappear into the bedroom, try setting up a radio for her to softly play classical music or talk radio (or a classical CD on repeat/book on CD on repeat).

  18. zane's pal

    zane's pal TCS Member Super Cat

    Oct 10, 2007
    Charleston, WV
    Father used to free-feed Zane when he was an indoor-outdoor cat, but after we had to convert him to indoor only he turned into a furry soccer ball with legs, so we had to go to feeding him set amounts. He's now a furry rugby ball with legs.

  19. fastnoc

    fastnoc TCS Member Top Cat

    Feb 10, 2008
    lol that really made me laugh!

  20. zane's pal

    zane's pal TCS Member Super Cat

    Oct 10, 2007
    Charleston, WV
    Thanks, but that really is the only way to properly describe him. He was practically spherical before we started to practice portion control.

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