Polyphagia in cats can be either psychological or it is the result of a very serious underlying disease in your pet. It can be just as dangerous as polydipsia, which is excessive drinking on the part of your cat. However, it does not always lead to an excessive weight gain, as with some underlying conditions, it may actually cause a weight loss.
Polyphagia in cats is a condition where your pet develops a tremendous appetite to the point of being ravenous, and if it is severe enough, it could be described as being gluttony. Whatever the actual cause is in your cat, it is a condition that can become very dangerous.
Obesity in cats is one of the largest health problems facing cats and it is estimated that over 40 percent of all adult cats are obese. Obesity will cause difficulty in breathing as well as difficulty in walking.
However, it is extremely important to understand this condition in your cat can also be a nutritional disorder where they are either not getting the nutrients, or the nutrients are not digesting or absorbing.
Polyphagia in cats is often associated with older cats that are undergoing both physiological and psychological changes as they age. It is quite common for older cats to become either extremely ravenous as they age or the inverse, where they become extremely finicky of what they eat.
There are also several underlying conditions that can cause older cats to eat more, but in most of the cases the exact cause is not actually known as it is often too late to determine the actual cause.
Bad Feeding Practices:
Cats of all ages are placed at risk by owners of what is referred to as ad libitum feeding practices where your cat is allowed unlimited amounts of food whenever they desire. This is most common in feeders that are made for dry food and as soon as the supply in the dish is empty, it automatically refills.
Cats that have no regulated feeding habits will naturally start to over eat. Once it has started, it is very difficult for them to stop. The same is true with treats as they can produce an expectation on the part of your cat. There is nothing wrong with treats, but if not regulated, most cats will expect more.
Cat food that is extremely palatable should most definitely be limited, as your cat can become almost obsessed if not controlled properly. Bad feeding practices are the biggest cause of Polyphagia other than disease.
Endocrine or Hormonal Disorders:
There are three very definitive Endocrine disorders that can cause Polyphagia; Diabetes mellitus, Hyperthyroidism, and Cushings Disease.
There are two forms of Diabetes Mellitus, Type I and Type II, and both forms are extremely dangerous as your cat will suddenly start to overeat because they can not breakdown the calories into energy. No matter how much they eat, they will lose weight.
Because of this, your cat starts to breakdown their own body fat for energy. It is estimated that 75 percent of cats that get Diabetes mellitus contract the type I form which is where the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin for energy have been destroyed. As a result, they rapidly lose weight. Cats with this form need an immediate supply of insulin to survive.
Type II diabetes affects 25 percent of cats with the disease and although the cells can still produce insulin, it is extremely high in blood glucose. With this form of the disease, they can survive without insulin supplements but it will be extremely important to control their weight as their appetite will increase dramatically.
Hyperthyroidism is the most common Endocrine disease and over 90 percent of cats will lose weight with this disease even though they have an increased appetite. This disease is caused by the thyroid producing an excess amount of cells in the thyroid gland. This disease affects primarily middle aged and older cats but is easy to diagnose and if treated properly, your cat can live a normal lifespan.
Cushings disease is not as common in cats as in dogs, but it can still cause Polyphagia. It is a condition in which the adrenal gland produces glucocorticolds at too high of levels. It alters the metabolism in your cat and increases their appetite as well as increases the disposition of fat. It must be carefully managed or your cat will can an excessive amount of weight.
There are also two types of gastrointestinal diseases that can cause Polyphagia in cats: Pancreatic atrophy and malabsorption.
Exocrine pancreatic inefficiency, also called Feline EPI, is a condition where your cat can not properly synthesis and secrete digestive enzymes from the pancreas. This condition in your cat will lead to both a rapid weight loss as well as several vitamin deficiencies.
Malabsorption is especially dangerous in your cat and can cause a weight loss even with an increase in eating. This is a condition where there is a deficiency in the absorption process of one or more nutrients and as a result is disrupts the normal processes of both digestion and absorption in your cat.
If your cat suddenly starts to overeat or even if they are putting on gradual weight, something is wrong. In a majority of the cases of Polyphagia in cats, it will simply be the result of not properly feeding and regulating your cats eating habits, but it could also be caused by something a lot more threatening.
If your cats is suddenly eating a lot more and losing weight, there is definitely something wrong and you need to get your cat to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.