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The 5 Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain

September 1, 2019

The 5 Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain

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Whether your cat is underweight due to diabetes, poor dental health, stress, hyperthyroidism, or something else, the best cat food for weight gain is one that addresses the problems behind his low weight. There’s no one-size-fits-all in feeding an underweight cat, but calorie-dense, easy-to-eat foods are essential.

That’s why we recommend Wellness CORE Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey, & Chicken Liver canned cat food as the best cat food for weight gain. A smooth pate texture, relatively high calorie content, and species-appropriate recipe make it a good option for cats of all ages who need to put on a few ounces or more.

But again, not every cat is the same. When you’re trying to help your cat gain weight, honoring his preferences is more important than ever before. To help you find a food that works for your cat and your unique situation, the following list includes a diverse array of foods. You’ll find a prescription diet for cats in crisis, single-protein food for cats with food sensitivities, kitten food, and dry food for cats who like their meals to crunch.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Moisture-rich to help decrease the risk of dehydration
  • Primarily made from easily-digestible animal protein
  • One of the most calorie-dense wet foods on the market
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  • Primarily made from easily-digested animal protein
  • Elevated potassium and B-vitamins help cats to feel better
  • One of the more calorically-dense foods on the market
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  • Omega-3-rich formula
  • Features highly-digestible sources of animal protein
  • A relatively calorie-dense food
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  • Made with 98% meat and organs
  • Zero carbohydrate content
  • Calorie-dense to help your cat lose weight
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  • Rich in highly-digestible animal protein
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation
  • Most cats like the way this food tastes
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How Do You Choose The Best Cat Food For Weight Gain?

Though your cat’s unique health profile will dictate his specific needs, the best cat food for weight gain universally provides a combination of palatability and calorie density.

The Best Cat Food For Weight Gain Is Rich In High-quality Protein.

You could give your cat a high-calorie diet that’s loaded up with starch and sugar, but that wouldn’t support vital muscle mass.

Instead, the best cat food for weight gain keeps your cat strong and healthy with plenty of protein. Look for high-quality, highly-digestible protein from muscle meat and organs.

Palatability Is Vital. The Best Cat Food For Weight Gain Tastes And Smells Great.

When you’re fighting with loss of appetite, you need to find food that your cat is willing to eat. Choosing delicious food can be a lifesaver.

It can be hard to predict which foods your cat will want to eat, but in general, those that contain a mix of muscle meat and organs tend to be a hit.

Look for foods that contain liver or “natural flavors”, a palatability aid made from hydrolyzed animal tissue. If you can’t find a food that gets your cat eating, food toppers and warmed food can help.

Dry Food Is Calorie-dense, But It’s Not Always The Best Choice For Cats Who Need To Gain Weight.

Although dry cat food is highly palatable, calorie-dense, and easy to feed, it’s usually not the best choice for weight gain. It’s not the best choice for cats in general.

What dry food has in palatability and caloric density it lacks in moisture—vital for sick cats—and often, protein digestibility. Dry cat food isn’t our first recommendation for weight gain, but if your cat refuses to eat anything else, it can be a good option.

Best Cat Food For Weight Gain: Our Top 5 Picks

Overall Best: Wellness CORE Chicken, Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 12% Min
  • Fat: 7.0% Min
  • Fiber: 0.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Moisture-rich to help decrease the risk of dehydration
  • Primarily made from easily-digestible animal protein
  • One of the most calorie-dense wet foods on the market
  • Soft pate texture is easy to eat

Cons:

  • Contains dried potatoes
  • Contains several stabilizing gums

At 38 calories per ounce, this food is more calorie-dense than some kitten foods. It’s primarily made from nourishing sources of animal protein, with chicken, turkey, chicken broth, chicken liver, and ultra-dense chicken meal occupying the top spots on the ingredient list.

Though it contains dried ground potatoes, the food is generally low in carbohydrates and is a species-appropriate option for your carnivore. In addition to the flavor of the main ingredients, the food gets a boost from the additive “natural flavor”.

The food has a smooth pate texture that makes it an easy-to-eat option for cats with dental issues and a poor appetite.

Best for Cats in Crisis: Hill's Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care with Chicken

Product Info:

  • Protein: 8.5% Min
  • Fat: 5.2% Min
  • Fiber: 0.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Primarily made from easily-digested animal protein
  • Elevated potassium and B-vitamins help cats to feel better
  • One of the more calorically-dense foods on the market

Cons:

  • Only available with a veterinarian’s approval
  • Contains corn flour

If your cat needs emergency nutritional support, this prescription food from Hill’s may be a good option. The food is formulated for cats and dogs recovering from surgery, traumatic accidents, and serious illness.

The food is on the calorie-dense side, with 180 calories per can or about 33 calories per ounce.

The recipe emphasizes easily-digested animal protein sources. The food has elevated levels of B vitamins and potassium to help cats feel better during convalescence.

The food has a creamy texture that makes it easy to eat, plus it’s highly palatable. Customer reviews suggest that cats like eating the food and that it helps them to gain weight.

Best for Seniors: Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 9.0% Min
  • Fat: 5.0% Min
  • Fiber: 0.2% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: New Zealand

Pros:

  • Omega-3-rich formula and controlled phosphorus make this food a good option for underweight seniors
  • Features highly-digestible sources of animal protein
  • A relatively calorie-dense food
  • Easy to rehydrate with warm water, making the food highly palatable

Cons:

  • Extraordinarily expensive

Of all the age groups, senior cats are most likely to need to gain weight. If your cat is a senior in need of extra weight, his needs are largely the same as other cats—with a few key differences. In addition to protein and calories, underweight seniors need food that is relatively low in phosphorus and, ideally, contains an omega-3 supplement like salmon or menhaden fish oil. These anti-inflammatories are indispensable for cats with joint problems and inflammatory conditions.

This food nails a lot of the factors we look for in the best cat food for underweight seniors. Unlike a lot of freeze-dried foods, it isn’t too high in phosphorus and shouldn’t put excessive strain on the aging kidneys. It contains green-lipped mussel as a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s and, potentially, joint health support.

As a freeze-dried food, the product is minimally-processed and retains much of the nutritional value of fresh, raw meat. With plenty of animal-sourced nutrients and highly-digestible protein, this food supports lean muscle mass.

Best for Sensitive Stomach: Hound & Gatos Chicken & Chicken Liver Formula Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 9.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Made with 98% meat and organs
  • Zero carbohydrate content
  • Calorie-dense to help your cat lose weight

Cons:

  • Some cats refuse to eat this Hound & Gatos cat food

This paté from Hound & Gatos has 201 calories in each 5.5-ounce can or right around 36 calories per ounce. That’s dense. And it’s one of the few truly meat-based canned foods on the market. The food is 98% chicken muscle meat and liver, ingredients that deliver oodles of protein for strong muscles.

The remainder of the food is constituted of agar-agar as a binding agent, salmon oil as a source of those all-important omega-3s, and the synthetic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that make each meal nutritionally complete.

This food is great for cats who enjoy it, but unfortunately, it doesn’t get consistent results in feline taste tests. Instead, a decent percentage of cats don’t seem to like the smell or taste of this product. If your cat enjoys it, though, it could be a great choice for weight gain.

Best Dry: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Recipe Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 43% Min
  • Fat: 25% Min
  • Fiber: 2.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Air-Dried
  • Made In: New Zealand

Pros:

  • Rich in highly-digestible animal protein
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation
  • Most cats like the way this food tastes
  • Extremely calorie-dense

Cons:

  • Moisture-depleted food may increase your cat’s chances of becoming dehydrated
  • Expensive

Though high-moisture food is preferable for weight gain, dry food is fantastically calorie-dense and, if your cat refuses to eat anything else, is better than nothing. This food from Ziwi Peak is a particularly good option. It’s an air-dried food primarily made from mackerel, lamb, lamb heart, lamb tripe, liver, lung, kidney, and bone. This makes it an extremely calorie-dense food with high protein content and not a lot of carbohydrate matter.

New Zealand green-lipped mussels lend omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients.

Thanks to an air-drying process, the food retains much of the nutritional value of raw meat while being safe to handle and store out of the refrigerator.

Helping Your Cat Gain Weight

The first step to helping your cat to gain weight is identifying the reason he’s underweight.

Weighing too little is different from weighing too much. Cats are seldom underweight because they’re eating the wrong food or exercising too much. Instead, an underweight cat is usually underweight because there’s something wrong.

So before you try anything else, find out why your cat is underweight so that you can treat the problem at its source. Cats who are underweight due to kidney disease may need a low-phosphorus diet. Diabetic cats who’ve lost weight will benefit from a low-carbohydrate diet and insulin therapy. For cats with intestinal worms, diet isn’t an issue and you’ll need to focus on getting rid of the parasites.

If you determine that diet is a part of the solution, you’ll need to employ a combination of strategies to get your cat to eat more and to ensure that whatever he does eat is calorically dense.

The following are mix-ins, supplements, and palatants that can help your cat to eat more and take in more calories.

Food Toppers And Treats To Encourage Your Cat To Eat

  • Bonito flakes
  • Bone broth
  • Unseasoned chicken, turkey, or beef baby food
  • Chunks of raw or cooked unseasoned meat
  • Canned sardines packed in water
  • Canned tuna packed in water

Calorie-dense Supplements

Through a combination of condition-specific treatment, a great diet, and these supplements and food toppers, you should be able to bring your cat back to a healthy weight. Most of the foods listed above are good options for both weight gain and maintenance, so there’s usually no need to transition to a new food once your cat has reached his goal weight.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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