Why Do Kittens Act Like They Are Starving?

Kitten eating

Have you ever observed a kitten frantically devouring its food as if it hasn’t eaten in days? (If not, you haven’t met Winston and Joey: They’ve perfected the starving kitten routine!) This seemingly insatiable appetite can leave many pet owners puzzled and concerned. There are quite a few reasons behind this behavior, from natural instincts to the unique needs of growing kittens. Let’s delve into the factors at play, so you can ensure your little furball receives the proper care and nourishment.

Why Does My Kitten Act Like I Don’t Feed Him?

Your kitten may act like you don’t feed him for several reasons, including natural instincts, growth-related factors, social behaviors, and psychological influences.

Let’s explore these factors in more detail:

Why Your Kitten Acts Like He’s Starving

Natural Instincts of Kittens

To appreciate why kittens act as if they’re perpetually hungry, it’s crucial to consider their natural instincts. In the wild, feline survival hinges on their ability to find food and fend off competition. This drive to consume and protect their sustenance is ingrained in their behavior, even in domesticated kittens. This instinct may manifest itself, making it seem as though they are not fed enough.

Rapid Growth Phase

Kittens experience a rapid growth phase during their early months, which requires a substantial amount of energy and nutrients. As a result, they tend to have a voracious appetite to meet their increased caloric and nutritional needs. This hunger may give the impression that they are not receiving enough food.

  1. High Energy Requirements: During their early months, kittens expend considerable energy to fuel their growth, explore their environment, and develop motor skills. Consequently, they require more calories than their adult counterparts.
  2. Nutrient Needs: A balanced and nutrient-dense diet is vital for kittens to grow and develop optimally. As a result, they crave foods that provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, such as proteins and fats.

Social Behavior

Kittens might also view eating as a bonding experience with their human caregiver. They may associate food with positive reinforcement, attention, and affection. Consequently, they may act as if they’re not fed enough to elicit more attention and care from you.

Kittens’ hunger-driven actions can also be attributed to social factors, particularly in multi-cat households.

  1. Competition for Food: In a group setting, kittens may vie for their share of food, as they would in the wild. This can lead to seemingly insatiable appetites as they attempt to out-compete their siblings or other pets.
  2. Bonding with their Caretaker: Kittens may also associate food with attention from their caretaker, strengthening their bond. As a result, they may display a ravenous appetite to garner affection or reassurance from their human companion.

Psychological Factors

Certain psychological factors can also contribute to a kitten’s exaggerated hunger.

  1. Food as a Source of Comfort: Kittens may find solace in eating, much like humans sometimes do. If they’re experiencing stress, anxiety, or other emotional upheavals, they may turn to food for consolation.
  2. Anxiety or Stress-Related Behaviors: In some cases, kittens may develop food-seeking behaviors due to anxiety or stress. This can lead to a perpetual state of hunger, even when their nutritional needs have been met.

Feeding Recommendations for Kittens

To ensure your kitten receives adequate nutrition, it’s important to adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Appropriate Portion Sizes: Consult your veterinarian to determine the correct portion size for your kitten, taking into account factors such as age, weight, and breed.
  2. Scheduling Regular Meal Times: Establishing a feeding routine helps kittens develop healthy eating habits and ensures they receive the nourishment they need.
  3. Choosing a Balanced and Nutritious Diet: Select a high-quality kitten food that meets the nutritional guidelines established by organizations such as the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
  4. Monitoring Weight and Growth: Regularly monitor your kitten’s weight and growth to identify any potential issues or concerns.

Should I Let My Kitten Eat As Much As It Wants?

While it’s crucial to provide adequate nutrition for your kitten’s growth and development, it’s not always advisable to let them eat as much as they want. Allowing your kitten to eat without limitations can lead to overeating, weight gain, and obesity, which can cause health issues later in life.

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Is It Better to Underfeed or Overfeed a Kitten?

Neither underfeeding nor overfeeding your kitten is a good option, as both can lead to health issues and negatively impact their growth and development. It’s essential to strike a balance and provide the right amount of food for your kitten’s specific needs.

Underfeeding can result in malnourishment, stunted growth, a weakened immune system, and developmental issues. Overfeeding, on the other hand, can lead to weight gain, obesity, and an increased risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint issues.

To ensure that your kitten is getting the appropriate amount of food, follow the previous feeding recommendations.

Joey eating

Oh, human, you seem so puzzled. Yes, of course I’m still hungry! I’m a growing kitten… My little tummy needs to be filled constantly! I can’t help it if my growth spurt makes me hungrier than a lion on a diet! Just keep the food coming and nobody will get hurt. #AlwaysHungry #SnackTimeIsAllTheTime #FoodIsLife #FeedMeMorePlease #StarvingKitty


How Do You Deal with a Food-Obsessed Kitten?

Dealing with a food-obsessed kitten requires a combination of strategies focused on providing adequate nutrition, establishing a routine, and addressing any underlying issues. Here are some tips to help stop your kitten from being food-obsessed:

  1. Consult a veterinarian: Speak with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate portion sizes, feeding frequency, and type of food for your kitten’s age, weight, and breed. This ensures they receive the right amount of nutrients and calories for healthy growth and development.
  2. Establish a feeding schedule: Create a regular feeding routine with set meal times, rather than free-feeding. This helps your kitten understand when to expect food and prevents overeating.
  3. Provide a balanced and nutritious diet: Choose a high-quality kitten food that meets established nutritional guidelines to support your kitten’s growth and overall health.
  4. Use puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys: Engage your kitten’s natural hunting instincts and make mealtime more stimulating by using puzzle feeders or food-dispensing toys. This can help redirect their food obsession and provide mental enrichment.
  5. Offer smaller, more frequent meals: Break down your kitten’s daily food intake into smaller portions spread throughout the day. This can help satisfy their hunger and prevent excessive begging.
  6. Monitor weight and growth: Keep track of your kitten’s weight and growth to ensure they are developing properly and receiving the right amount of food.
  7. Provide adequate playtime and exercise: Engage your kitten in play and physical activities to keep them occupied and burn off excess energy. This can help distract them from constantly seeking food.
  8. Reinforce good behavior: Instead of giving in to your kitten’s begging, reward them for displaying good behavior, like sitting quietly or playing with toys. This can help break the cycle of food obsession.
  9. Address underlying issues: If your kitten’s food obsession persists despite implementing these strategies, consult your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical or psychological issues that may be contributing to the behavior.

When to be Concerned About a Kitten’s Appetite

While a voracious appetite is often normal for kittens, there are times when it might warrant concern:

  1. Signs of Illness: Loss of appetite or sudden changes in eating habits can indicate underlying health issues. If you notice any unusual behaviors or symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately.
  2. Overeating and Obesity: While kittens require more calories than adult cats, overeating can lead to obesity and related health problems. Monitor your kitten’s food intake and weight to ensure they are not consuming excessive amounts.
  3. Underlying Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, such as parasites, gastrointestinal issues, or endocrine disorders, can cause a heightened appetite. If your kitten’s hunger persists despite proper feeding and care, it’s crucial to seek veterinary advice.

How Do You Know When a Kitten Is Starving?

Determining if a kitten is starving requires paying close attention to various signs, behaviors, and physical indicators. If you suspect your kitten is not getting enough nutrition, look for the following warning signs:

  1. Visible weight loss: A kitten that is not receiving enough food will likely experience noticeable weight loss. You may be able to see their ribs, spine, or hip bones protruding.
  2. Lack of energy: Starving kittens may exhibit lethargy or lack of energy due to insufficient calorie intake. They might be less playful, sleep more, or show less interest in their surroundings.
  3. Poor coat condition: Malnourishment can result in a dull, rough, or patchy coat, as well as hair loss.
  4. Stunted growth: Kittens that are not receiving adequate nutrition may experience stunted growth, failing to reach expected size and weight milestones.
  5. Constant crying or vocalization: A hungry kitten may cry persistently, signaling that it is starving and in need of food.
  6. Begging or scavenging for food: A kitten that is constantly seeking out food, attempting to steal food, or eating non-food items may be starving.
  7. Weakness or difficulty walking: Starving kittens may display muscle weakness, unsteady gait, or difficulty moving due to a lack of proper nutrition.
  8. Sunken eyes and dehydration: Malnourished kittens may show signs of dehydration, such as sunken eyes, loss of skin elasticity, or dry, tacky gums.

If you notice any of these signs in your kitten, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible. They can assess your kitten’s condition, recommend appropriate dietary adjustments, and provide any necessary medical intervention to ensure your kitten receives the proper nourishment and care.

Do Kittens Cry for Food?

Yes, kittens do cry for food. This is normal behavior that serves as a means of communication between the kitten and its mother or caregiver. Crying for food can be attributed to various factors:

  1. Hunger: Kittens have a small stomach and rapid growth rate, which means they need to eat more frequently than adult cats. If a kitten is hungry, it will cry to let its mother or caregiver know that it requires nourishment.
  2. Mother-kitten communication: In the early weeks of life, a kitten relies on its mother for nourishment, warmth, and safety. Crying for food is a way for the kitten to communicate with its mother and signal that it needs her attention and care.
  3. Bonding with caregivers: When a kitten is raised by a human caregiver, it will cry for food to signal its needs and strengthen the bond with its caretaker. This behavior helps the kitten establish trust and a sense of security with its human companion.
  4. Learned behavior: In some cases, kittens may learn that crying for food results in receiving attention or affection from their caregiver. This may lead them to cry more frequently, even if they are not particularly hungry.

To ensure your kitten’s needs are met, it’s crucial to establish a regular feeding schedule, provide age-appropriate and nutritious food, and monitor their growth and overall health. If you have concerns about your kitten’s crying or feeding habits, consult your veterinarian for guidance and recommendations.

Read also: Why Does My Kitten Keep Meowing?


Kittens act like they’re starving for a variety of reasons, ranging from their rapid growth phase and high energy demands to social factors and psychological triggers. By understanding these factors, you can provide the proper care and nutrition for your furry companion. It’s vital to monitor your kitten’s weight, growth, and overall health, and consult with a veterinarian if you have any concerns. By doing so, you can ensure your kitten thrives and develops into a healthy, happy adult cat.

The 3 Reasons Why Your Cat Always Acts Like They’re STARVING

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