Why Are Animals Always Hungry?

Why Are Animals Always Hungry?

If you have a dog, you might have noticed how they will eat every drop of food in their bowl and still beg you for more. Are they really that hungry all the time? Here we will take a look at why some animals really are always hungry – and why some just act like it!

Why are animals always hungry?

There are a couple of reasons why animals are always hungry, including the need to get energy got their bodies and due to their body size. But then there are also some reasons why animals appear to be always hungry. First, we will look at the reasons why some animals are truly always hungry.

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Energy

Some animals use a lot of energy in their day to day activities. And that energy has to come from somewhere! Animals eat food in order to provide their bodies with the nutrients and energy that they need to survive. Animals that exert a lot of energy, such as birds when they are getting ready to migrate, need to eat as much as they can in order to be ready to complete the tasks that they need too.

So as they are preparing for a flight, birds will be very hungry and will eat a lot in order to store enough fat to make it through their journey. Animals that hibernate, such as bears, do something similar when getting ready for hibernation. Additionally, for some animals, such as the koala, their preferred food source (in this case eucalyptus leaves) does not give them a lot of energy, meaning they have to eat more of it in order to survive.

Body Size

Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) mouse in natural habitat. This is one of the smallest mammals in the world.
Eurasian pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus) mouse in natural habitat. This is one of the smallest mammals in the world.

Biologist Elmer Finck points out that in many cases, small animals eat more than large animals. This explains why small creatures, such as birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and mice are always eating and always hungry. They snack on little bits that they find throughout the day in order to meet their body’s needs.

Take for example the pygmy shrew. These tiny creatures native to Britain weigh less than an ounce, but they can eat one and a quarter times their body weight- every single day!

On top of the animals that are truly always hungry, there are also animals that just give the appearance that they are hungry all the time. Think of it this way: there are many other reasons besides just hunger why an animal will eat. Since many animals appear to be constantly eating, they give the appearance that they are also hungry all the time.

But that is not necessarily the case. Here we will take a look at why some of your favorite animals may appear to be always hungry and always eating.

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Conditioned

Some animals who are seemingly always hungry may have been conditioned to be that way. This can happen with both domesticated animals and animals who live in the wild. A rescue dog or cat who spent some time living on the streets as a stray may have learned that whenever they see food, they should eat it – and fast.

Sad Stray Dog
Sad Stray Dog

This will prevent other animals from getting their dinner and it also makes them appear to be extra hungry! Similar things can happen to wild animals as well. An animal living in nature can run into times where food is scarce for them too. Then, when they are finally able to chow down, they may eat it ravenously.

Furthermore, in both of these cases, both wild and domesticated animals can become conditioned to eat like this so that every single time they come across a meal they eat. They remember the times when they were hungry and so they eat whenever (and whatever) they can make sure that they do not suffer from that hunger again.

Eating Less Frequently

Unlike animals who just could not get the food, they needed (as seen in the conditioned section of this article), some animals, such as tigers and lions, do not eat every day. While you probably sit down for three meals a day with a snack here or there in between, animals in the wild do not have such a rigid eating schedule.

There will be days that these animals do not eat at all. Then, when they do get a kill, they will eat a lot or save it so they can eat more later. They will do this by guarding their own meat against other carnivores. So when these animals do eat, it gives them the appearance that they are very hungry, because they are stuffing as much food down as they can.

Furthermore, certain snakes, such as the Burmese python, only eats once a month, so when they do eat, they eat a lot, making it seem like they are extremely hungry (which they probably are after going a whole month without eating!).

Food Motivated

Most types of animals are very food motivated (unclosing us humans!). This comes into play in many domesticated animals, such as dogs or cats, or animals that can be trained. This is handy when you are trying to teach Spot how to sit (a “high value” treat is one of the best tricks for pet training), but most animals do not know to stop eating when they are full. So they will just keep eating and eating until they are feeling sick.

Dopamine

You might have heard of dopamine and how it affects the brains of humans. Dopamine is also known as the “feel-good chemical.” And it is not only humans who have dopamine in their brains- animals have dopamine too! And just like how eating our favorite foods makes us happy when animals eat, dopamine is released in their brains as well!

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Dopamine is released when animals eat yummy foods, and it makes them feel good. So why wouldn’t they want just to keep eating when it makes them feel wonderful? To put it in comparison, when we go to a buffet at our favorite restaurant, we often eat until we are more than full because everything just tastes good and it makes us happy, right? The same thing happens with animals!

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Grace Tynemouth

Grace Tynemouth is a freelance writer and an avid animal lover. In her free time, she loves playing with her dog Vegas, reading, and watching movies.