The Hangry Cat

hangry catYou know the one –puss has become cranky or aggressive, is always hungry but is losing weight.

Other signs may include restlessness or nervousness, increased vocalisation, a poor coat, drinking and urinating more, intermittent vomiting, defecating more, and heat avoidance.

Many people believe these signs are to be expected when our cats get older and it’s a normal part of aging.

Although these signs are certainly common in the older cat, they are not normal, and should always be investigated by your veterinarian. One possibility is your cat will be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

Hyperthyroid simply means overactive thyroid.

Your cat’s thyroid glands regulate the speed at which your cat’s body metabolism works. It does this by producing a hormone called thyroxine (or T4) that regulates the speed of all body processes.When your cat produces too much of it the metabolic rate soars, and your cat has become hyperthyroid.

Hyperthyroidism is diagnosed following a simple blood test. A small sample is sent to the laboratory to measure the T4 level.

There may be concurrent disease which the vet may choose to test for also. The most common would be for kidney (renal) disease, another common disorder of older cats.

Hyperthyroid treatment may involve diet, tablets or a transdermal gel placed on the cat’s ear, all requiring daily administration for the rest of the cat’s life. The only curative treatment advised is I-131 or radioactive iodine, available at only a few veterinary clinics in NZ.  Your cat will need to be away from home from 7 to 21 days.

Ongoing monitoring will be required, involving blood tests to measure the T4 levels. This will let your vet know if the treatment is working or dosages need to be altered. How frequently depends on what stage of treatment they’re at.

Cats that are treated for hyperthyroidism can go on to live a happy life.