A package of doughnuts mysteriously disappears. You leave the room for a minute and your peanut butter and jelly sandwich is gone. Family members deny knowledge. Later, when you find the empty doughnut package behind the sofa with bite and claw marks on it, you realize Kitty has a problem.
You've probably heard of or know people with obsessive/compulsive disorder, or OCD. Affected individuals might compulsively wash their hands or exhibit other repetitive behaviors. Cats can also suffer from various forms of OCD, including compulsive eating. Siamese and exotic breeds are more prone to the disorder. In addition to the OCD, cats with this eating disorder are likely to become quite overweight, if not downright obese. Stress also factors into compulsive eating—cats with few other outlets find pleasure in food, as is true with some people. After consulting with your vet, ask her to recommend an animal behaviorist who can help you and Kitty work through these issues.
Pica is the eating of inedible objects, such as cat litter, soil, paper or any other unsuitable thing. This behavior might indicate a mineral deficiency, so bring your cat to the vet to get to the bottom of it.
Although wool-sucking isn't eating per se, it's a common and related compulsive disorder. Affected cats constantly chew and suck not just on woolen items, but on cotton, plastics, synthetic and other materials. This behavior might relate to early or sudden weaning. If cats progress from sucking to eating these materials, the compulsion becomes a health issue.
Compulsive eating doesn't necessarily mean your cat has OCD. A ravenous appetite can be a sign of serious illness. That's especially true if what your cat consumes is generally considered edible. Take Kitty to the vet for an examination and tests. Among the most common conditions causing insatiable hunger in felines are diabetes and hyperthyroidism. Both involve his endocrine system. Suspect either if your cat is also drinking excessively and flooding his litter box. Daily insulin injections can control your cat's diabetes, while medication or surgery can help with hyperthyroidism.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Cats with inflammatory bowel disease experience chronic diarrhea. Some might also exhibit compulsive eating, usually of the edible-items variety. Your vet can recommend a diet that might control this behavior, along with medication for the IBD.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.