Can a cat live with thyroid problems?

Hyperthyroidism is a common cat condition that generally affects older felines. 

It occurs when one or both of the thyroid glands in the neck become enlarged and overactive, resulting in a rise in the production of hormones. 

This increased metabolic state can have a negative impact on a cat, placing higher stress on their organs, and potentially leading to a drop in overall health. 

The underlying cause of hyperthyroidism is unknown. Cats diagnosed with it can go on to lead healthy, happy lives for many years, provided the disease is caught and treated early. 

The symptoms do tend to develop over time, so pet parents need to ensure they are educated on what signs to look for.

This is a serious condition and one that can be fatal if left untreated. 

If you believe your cat is presenting with any of the associated symptoms, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. 

What are the symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats?

  • Increased appetite. As your cat’s body uses up more energy due to their overactive thyroid(s), you may begin to notice them crying out for food, or water, more often. 
  • Weight loss. One of the most common signs. Despite an increase in appetite, the fact your cat is burning through calories at a rapid rate could see them start to lose weight. 
  • Restlessness/difficulty sleeping. You may begin to see your cat’s activity levels spike as their metabolic rate rises. The irritability can also stop them from sleeping, and in some cases can lead to aggressive behaviour. 
  • Increased urination. If your cat has suddenly started urinating at different spots around the house, there could be an underlying medical condition. Hyperthyroidism is known to bring on frequent urges to urinate.  
  • Difficulty breathing. Respiratory issues can be brought on by hyperthyroidism. Cats suffering from a shortness of breath may also become stressed, which can lead to added health complications. 
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea. Overeating, due to an increase in appetite, can quickly give rise to digestive distress.  
  • Rapid heart rate. Excess hormones in the body does mean an elevated heart rate can be quite common, even when your cat is resting or asleep. 
  • Weakness/fatigue. The overactivity and sleep disruption caused by hyperthyroidism will inevitably result in tiredness.
  • Poor coat condition. The coat of a cat struggling with hyperthyroidism may appear unkempt, matted, or greasy. You may also notice them shedding extra hair. 

How is hyperthyroidism treated?

When checking for hyperthyroidism, a vet will perform a physical exam on your cat. This will most likely involve inspecting their neck for an enlarged thyroid gland. If hyperthyroidism is suspected, they may conduct blood and urine tests. Although hyperthyroidism can be an extremely serious condition, thankfully, there are numerous treatments available. These include: 


  • Medication. Daily oral medication, in tablet or liquid form, can be administered to control the production of thyroid hormones. This will need to be given to your cat for the rest of their life. As soon as you stop the medication, symptoms will return. Be wary of side effects such as vomiting and weight loss, and ensure you schedule regular veterinary appointments.  
  • Radioactive iodine therapy. Radioactive iodine is safe and can be extremely effective when dealing with hyperthyroidism. Administered as a single injection, usually simply given under the skin, this is an option for pet parents who may struggle administering medication every day and are worried about surgery.
  • Surgery. Your cat’s thyroid glands can be removed through surgery, which is a permanent solution removing the need for lifelong medical treatment. The operation does have a good success rate, although, like with any surgery, risk is always attached.  Following the surgery, you will need to schedule regular appointments with your vet to ensure healthy thyroid hormone levels are being maintained.
  • Home care. Whichever treatment you decide to opt for, closely monitoring your feline’s condition, weight and eating habits will be necessary for the months and years to come. Regular health check-ups with the vet will also be required. 

Can diet help a cat with thyroid problems?

Diet plays a huge role in helping cats with any medical condition, and hyperthyroidism is definitely no exception. 

It is common for felines with thyroid problems to lose weight, as well as suffer muscle wasting, due to their metabolism changing.

Even following treatment, returning to their original weight can be a gradual process and one that should be monitored closely.  

This means meals containing essential nutrients are more vital than ever. 

Be sure to feed them a high-calorie diet containing high-quality animal protein, which will help bolster their immune system and build muscle. 

Recipes such as our Chicken Breast with Cheese in Broth Tin or the Tuna with Salmon in Jelly Tin are packed with protein-rich meats that will fuel their body, helping them combat hyperthyroidism. 

Wet food’s high-moisture levels should also counteract any increase in urination. 

Encore recommends feeding natural wet and dry foods as part of the same diet so your cat benefits from true nutritional balance.

Encore kibble is made with 80% high quality protein from real meat, packed with goodness, and adds variety to a diet while contributing to overall health. 

It is imperative you monitor their weight regularly while on medication, or after surgery.

If you have concerns over the amount of food your cat is eating, or despite your efforts, they are still struggling to put on weight, speak with a vet.

Share this article