10 Best (High Calorie) Cat Foods for Weight Gain in 2019

Obesity is a problem that is running rampant through the pet population. In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention suggests that nearly 60% of cats are obese.

But what about the opposite problem?

Being underweight is just as unhealthy for cats and can increase a cat’s risk for a variety of medical problems as well as a lower quality of life. Unfortunately, many cats naturally lose weight as they get older, but there are other issues that can lead to unhealthy weight loss.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the things that cause a cat to lose weight and how to treat them. We’ll also talk about healthy ways to help your cat gain weight, including tips for choosing the best high calorie cat food for weight gain.

What Causes a Cat to Lose Weight?

For many of us, unplanned weight loss sounds like a dream come true. When your 12-pound cat suddenly loses 2 or 3 pounds, however, it represents a significant weight loss and can actually be very dangerous. But what causes a cat to lose weight?

Weight loss in cats can be linked to a wide variety of dietary and health issues ranging from allergies to hormone imbalance. Here are some of the factors that can cause a cat to lose weight:

  • Refusing food. Cats are notorious for being picky eaters, so if your cat is losing weight, it may be because he simply no longer likes what you’re feeding him.
  • Dietary changes. Similarly, if you’ve recently changed what you feed your cat and he doesn’t like it as much as his old food, he may refuse to eat it.
  • Food allergies. Cats can develop food allergies and sensitivities to nearly any cat food ingredient which can trigger digestive upset and weight loss.
  • Stress or anxiety. Sometimes cats stop eating when they feel stressed or anxious – particularly if there has been a recent change to their environment.
  • Old age. Many cats have trouble keeping weight on as they get older – they are also at a higher risk for health problems like diabetes and cancer.
  • Intestinal parasites. Also known as worms, intestinal parasites can cause digestive symptoms as well as weight loss if the problem goes untreated.
  • Hormone imbalance. Hyperthyroidism and other health problems that affect the cat’s hormone balanced can easily lead to weight loss.
  • Dental problems. Cats are just as prone to periodontal disease as humans and dental problems can make it painful or uncomfortable for the cat to eat.
If your cat is losing weight despite eating a normal amount, or if he seems to be eating less than usual, you should take him to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose the underlying cause of your cat’s change in weight or appetite and provide you with guidance for how to treat the issue. Once you know what’s causing the problem, you can take steps to help your cat gain weight.

Healthy Tips to Help a Cat Gain Weight

If you’re wondering how to make a skinny cat gain weight, the solution may not be as simple as just feeding him more. Simply increasing the amount of food you give your cat may help him increase his body weight, but he may end up putting on fat instead of muscle.

The goal in helping an underweight cat gain weight is to improve the quality of his diet while increasing his bodyweight in a balanced way. You want your cat to gain muscle before he gains fat.

Here are some simple tips to help your skinny cat gain weight:

  • Switch to wet food. If your cat is having trouble chewing or simply isn’t interested in his dry food, switching to wet food might encourage him to eat more.
  • Implement structured feeding times. Creating and sticking to a feeding routine is good for cats, so have a structured feeding time that lasts 10 to 20 minutes instead of leaving food out all day.
  • Try a cat weight gain supplement. If your cat is severely malnourished and needs to gain weight but has a hard time keeping down food, a cat weight gain supplement is a good place to start.
  • Switch to a high-calorie cat food. The only way to help a skinny cat gain weight is to increase the number of calories he gets each day, so a higher calorie cat food will help.
  • Feed your cat treats made of 100% meat. Small bites of cooked chicken, deli turkey, or other meats are a great way to boost your cat’s protein and calorie intake to help him gain weight.
  • Try warming your cat’s food or add a food topper. Some cats simply prefer to eat their food warm, so try mixing in some warm chicken broth or a warmed food topper.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. If your cat simply doesn’t eat a lot, make sure the food he does eat is made from high-quality ingredients. The hope is that as his nutrition and overall health improves, so will his appetite.

Now that you have a better understanding of how to help a cat gain weight, you may be wondering more specifically what to feed an underweight cat. All cats require a healthy, balanced diet but the exact composition of nutrients in your cat’s diet is particularly important if your cat is underweight and/or malnourished. Keep reading to learn more about what to look for in high calorie cat food.

What to Look for in a High Calorie Cat Food for Weight Gain

If you’re wondering what to feed an underweight cat, remember that the number of calories is just as important as the nutrient they come from. You want your cat to gain weight, so you’ll need to increase his calorie intake, but you want most of that weight to be muscle rather than fat. This means you’ll have to increase your cat’s protein intake.

Here are some other things to look for in high calorie cat food:

  • High calorie content. The only way to help your cat gain weight is to increase his caloric intake. Look for a cat food that is high in calories, so you don’t have to drastically increase the volume of food you feed him – this is particularly important for malnourished cats.
  • Premium animal proteins. Protein is the foundation of a healthy diet for all cats but is particularly important to help skinny cats gain weight and build muscle. Look for a cat food that contains a minimum of 30% protein, but more is usually better.
  • Higher fat content. Cats require a minimum of 9% fat in their diet, but underweight cats can benefit from a cat food that contains at least 20% fat to help them gain weight.
  • Rich in moisture and flavor. If you’re trying to get your cat to gain weight, he needs to eat more so choosing a cat food high in moisture and flavor will make it more appealing to your cat.
  • Limited number of ingredients. Many cats who are underweight are also malnourished or experiencing digestive issues. Limiting the number of ingredients in your cat’s food can make it easier to digest and may also help address food allergies that are contributing to weight loss.
  • No artificial additives. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives have no place in a healthy cat food, and if your cat needs to gain weight, you should focus on natural, high-quality ingredients to ensure that the nutrition he receives is properly balanced.

By now you should have a clear picture of what to feed an underweight cat, so you’re ready to start shopping! If you’re still not sure what the best cat food is for your cat, keep reading to see our top 10 picks for the best high calorie cat food for weight gain.

The Top 10 Best High Calorie Cat Foods for Weight Gain

The best cat food for weight gain will be higher than the average cat food in calories, protein, and fat. Protein is essential to help your cat build and maintain lean muscle while fat is a highly concentrated source of energy. Both of these nutrients are best from animal sources to ensure digestibility. Here are our top picks for the best high calorie cat foods for weight gain:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery Service

Our Top Pick for the Best Highest Calorie Cat Food Overall for Weight Gain: When it comes to healthy and balanced nutrition, fresh food is best for cats. If you’re looking for a fresh food that will provide high-quality nutrition with customizable calorie content, NomNomNow is the way to go. NomNomNow is a fresh food delivery service that allows you to receive monthly shipments of freshly prepared, perfectly portioned fresh cat food. Choose from two recipes (chicken or fish) and work with an advisor to adjust the calorie content of your cat’s meals. Both recipes are made from premium quality ingredients and grain-free for maximum digestibility and nutritional quality. Because the food is prepared fresh, it is naturally higher in moisture and flavor which makes it ultra-palatable for even the pickiest of cats. Plus, you’ll feel good about feeding your cat the best of the best.

  • Pros: Freshly prepared, automatic monthly shipments, grain-free for digestibility, real animal proteins, customizable calorie content, pre-portioned packages, all-natural ingredients
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive to feed as a staple diet, only two recipes to choose from

American Journey Duck Recipe Grain-Free Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Affordable Cat Food for Weight Gain: Many high-protein, high-calorie cat foods are also high on the price range, but that’s not the case for this American Journey Duck Recipe Grain-Free Cat Food. The American Journey brand is Chewy’s own creation, and there are several cat food recipes to choose from, all of which are grain-free and packed with protein. This particular recipe features real duck as the main ingredient and a premium source of animal protein. It is completely grain-free for digestibility but rich in protein and healthy fats to help your cat build muscle and maintain healthy energy. It is full of flavor and made in the USA, so you can rest easy knowing that you’re feeding your cat a high-quality product. This recipe provides a full 40% protein and 15% fat with 410 calories per cup. It is supplemented with plenty of fiber for healthy digestion as well as probiotics. It also contains chelated minerals and essential vitamins.

  • Pros: Affordable price, 40% protein content, real duck as main ingredient, grain-free for digestibility, plenty of fiber, rich in omega fatty acids, probiotics and chelated minerals, 410 calories per cup
  • Cons: Contains chicken ingredients (some cats may be sensitive), contains some plant protein (pea protein)

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Food

Our Top Pick for the Most Popular Cat Food for Weight Gain: The Blue Buffalo brand offers a wide selection of products, but the entire Wilderness line is designed to be high in protein and entirely grain-free. This Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Food is an excellent option if your cat needs to gain weight because it contains 40% protein, 18% fat, and nearly 450 calories per cup. This recipe features fresh chicken as the primary ingredient with chicken meal as a concentrated source of supplemental protein. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids to help your cat regain the healthy condition of his skin and coat with plenty of fiber for regular digestion. This recipe is entirely grain-free for easy digestibility and contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. Plus, like all of Blue Buffalo’s recipes, it is supplemented with LifeSource bits which contain an ideal blend of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants for balanced nutrition.

  • Pros: High in protein and calories, grain-free for digestibility, real chicken as main ingredient, supports healthy digestion, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chelated minerals, probiotics
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, contains some plant protein (pea protein)

Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Weight Gain: Many cats who need to gain weight are senior cats, but low bodyweight is also a concern for kittens. This Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food is a great choice because it is formulated for both adult cats and kittens – you can feed your cat the same recipe throughout his entire life. This formula is naturally grain-free for digestibility but very high in protein, fat, and calories. It features fresh chicken as the first ingredient with three supplemental sources of animal protein to follow – chicken meal, turkey meal, and deboned cod. It also contains plenty of essential fatty acids to provide your cat with a concentrated source of calories as well as support for his skin and coat. It offers a full 40% protein and 20% fat with 486 calories per cup. Simply put, this recipe is an excellent source of high-quality and high-calorie nutrition for cats who need to gain weight.

  • Pros: Formulated for adults and kittens, high in protein and fat, several premium animal proteins, grain-free for digestibility, plenty of fiber, chelated minerals, probiotic supplements, 486 calories/cup
  • Cons: Somewhat expensive to feed as a staple diet, may be too high in fiber for some cats

Ziwi Peak Venison Recipe Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Highest Calorie Wet Cat Food for Weight Gain: If your cat prefers canned food, this is one of the best options in high calorie wet cat food for weight gain. This Ziwi Peak Venison Recipe Canned Cat Food is a high-quality source of balanced nutrition for all cats and one of the best canned cat food for weight gain options. It features fresh venison as the first ingredient which, in addition to being a complete source of animal protein, is also a novel protein. This means that there is a low risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities, especially since the recipe is also grain-free and made with a limited number of ingredients. This formula contains 92% fresh meat, organs, and New Zealand green-lipped mussels (a natural source of joint-supporting glucosamine and chondroitin) to provide 45% protein measured by dry matter basis. It is rich in calories and fat as well as natural flavor, so not only will it help your cat gain weight, but he’ll love eating it.

  • Pros: Real venison as main ingredient, limited number of ingredients, novel protein and carbohydrate, grain-free recipe, 45% protein by dry matter, chelated minerals, high in fat and calories
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, may be too high in fiber for some cats

Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe Dry Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach and Weight Gain: If your cat is malnourished or needs to gain a lot of weight, it is important to choose a recipe that will provide for his calorie needs without being too harsh on his stomach. This Nature’s Variety Instinct LID Grain-Free Rabbit Recipe Dry Food is a great choice because it is made with a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk for triggering food allergies and sensitivities. This formula is also made with rabbit as a novel source of protein, providing 35% protein and 19% fat. It contains coconut oil and canola oil to ensure the ideal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. Overall, it provides over 450 calories per cup and is loaded with real meat ingredients to improve the flavor and palatability for your cat.

  • Pros: Novel protein source (rabbit), limited number of ingredients, rich in omega fatty acids, 457 calories per cup, chelated minerals, freeze-dried rabbit coating for flavor and nutrition
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, first source of fat is plant-based (canola oil)

4 More Top-Rated Calorie Dense Cat Foods for Weight Gain

If the high calorie cat foods above don’t seem like the right fit for your skinny cat, don’t worry! There are many other options out there. Here are four more we recommend:

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe Dry Food

When it comes to gaining weight, protein and calories are extremely important, and this Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe Dry Food is loaded with both. This formula features several sources of premium animal protein including chicken, duck, and quail to provide 42% protein as well as plenty of natural flavor. Plus, this recipe consists of high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites to provide a boost of nutrition and natural flavor to improve palatability for picky cats. This cat food is grain-free and loaded with antioxidant-rich veggies but still nutritionally balanced thanks to the inclusion of chelated minerals and vitamin supplements. It contains just under 400 calories per cup and offers an excellent balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

  • Pros: Several premium animal proteins, high-protein kibble and raw bites, grain-free for digestibility, rich in omega fatty acids, chelated minerals, and probiotics
  • Cons: Could be higher in fat and calories, contains some plant protein (potato protein)

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food

Fresh chicken is a premium source of high-quality protein for cats, and it is the key ingredient in this Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food. This recipe is uniquely formulated for indoor cats which means that it helps to prevent hairballs and is supplemented for balanced nutrition. This formula contains real chicken as the first ingredient but also contains supplemental sources of protein like chicken meal and turkey meal to provide 38% protein. This formula could be higher in fat, but it does provide 445 calories per cup with is a good number for weight gain. It is naturally grain-free to ensure digestibility with plenty of fiber for digestive support. It also contains chelated minerals and probiotics in addition to essential vitamins.

  • Pros: Protein-rich, naturally grain-free, contains 445 calories per cup, several premium animal proteins, rich in dietary fiber, supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics
  • Cons: Could be higher in fat, contains some plant protein (potato protein)

Solid Gold Indigo Moon High-Protein Wild Alaskan Pollock & Eggs Grain-Free Recipe

For cats who need to gain weight, protein and calories are important, but you still need to make sure your cat’s nutritional needs are being met. This Solid Gold Indigo Moon High-Protein Wild Alaskan Pollock & Eggs Grain-Free Recipe is an excellent choice because it is a holistic, all-natural formula. This recipe is grain-free and gluten-free for digestibility, but super-high in premium animal protein. It features wild Alaskan pollock, chicken meal, and ocean fish meal to provide 42% crude protein. This recipe is also very high in fat and calories (20% and 455/cup) which makes it a great choice for weight gain. Plus, because the recipe is all-natural and holistic, you can feel good knowing that it will nourish your cat’s body from the inside out with the use of any artificial additives or by-products.

  • Pros: Several premium animal proteins, rich in essential fatty acids, high in protein and fat (40% and 20%), over 450 calories per cup, grain-free and gluten-free, holistic and all-natural ingredients
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, contains some plant protein (potato protein)

Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Food

Protein is essential if you want your cat to build and maintain lean muscle mass and protein is the highlight of this Wysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Food. This recipe features organic chicken as the main ingredient with supplemental protein sources like chicken meal and turkey meal. It is loaded with grain-free fruits and vegetables which, in addition to providing plenty of fiber, provide natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. This recipe is rich in essential fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids to support your cat’s healthy skin and coat. It is supplemented with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption as well as probiotics for healthy digestion. Overall, this recipe provides 60% crude protein and 15% fat with around 490 calories per cup. Plus, it is starch-free, so there is a low risk for triggering problems with yeast infections or bacterial overgrowth.

  • Pros: Several premium animal proteins, starch-free and grain-free, fresh fruits and vegetables, rich in omega fatty acids, contains 60% protein, chelated minerals, and probiotics
  • Cons: Could be higher in fat, contains plant proteins (potato protein)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What do you feed a malnourished cat? – If your cat is malnourished, he may have trouble keeping down food. It is important to start with a simple diet to help your cat start digesting and absorbing nutrients properly again before you introduce too much variety into his diet. You can start by offering small amounts of tasty food like sliced ham or cooked chicken to entice the cat to eat. As he regains his appetite and can keep down food, you can switch him to a high calorie cat food to help him gain weight.
  • How can I tell if my cat is underweight? – It is not always easy to tell if a cat is underweight, particularly if he has a long or thick coat. Some cats are simply leaner than others as well, so you’ll need to take a closer look at your cat’s body condition to determine whether he’s underweight. Place your cat on a table and look at him from the side. If you can see a marked indent between the ribs and hips or if you can actually see your cat’s ribs or spine through his skin, he may be underweight. If your cat is underweight, you should also look for signs of malnourishment such as low energy and poor coat condition.
  • Why is my cat so skinny but eats all the time?  – If your cat seems to be losing weight no matter how much he eats, you should be concerned. Weight loss despite normal food intake can be a sign of a serious underlying health problem such as intestinal parasites or hyperthyroidism. It is fairly common for older cats to appear especially hungry and to eat a normal amount while remaining thin. This could be indicative of diabetes or a benign tumor in the thyroid gland, and you should consult your veterinarian.
  • How many calories should a cat eat to gain weight? – Generally speaking, the average indoor cat needs about 20 calories per pound of body weight to maintain his weight. For outdoor cats, that number could be as high as 35 calories. If you’re wondering how to make a skinny cat gain weight, multiply your cat’s current weight in pounds by 20 to find his maintenance intake. Then, increase that number by about 20% to help him gradually gain weight. Another option is to simply refer to the feeding recommendations on your pet food package and feed your cat the amount recommended for your cat’s goal weight rather than his current weight.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is essential if you want your cat to live a long, happy, and healthy life. For many cats, gaining weight is a problem, but there are also cats who have trouble keeping weight on. If your cat is getting up in years, suffers from a health problem, or is simply a picky eater, he might not eat as much as he should and may need help gaining weight.

Balanced nutrition is always the priority when it comes to your cat’s diet, but if he needs to gain weight, you also need to focus on protein, fat, and calories. If you’re not sure how best to help your cat gain weight, try one of our top picks for the best high calorie cat foods to gain weight reviewed above.

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