7 Best High Calorie Cat Foods: Our Guide to Help Cats Gain Weight Safely

Is your cat skinny? Does he need to gain weight? If so, a high calorie cat food for weight gain might be the answer. In this article we’ll discuss the following:

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  1. Reasons why a cat would need a high calorie diet;
  2. What to look for in a high calorie diet;
  3. Tips to help a cat gain weight safely;
  4. Our overall best pick for a high calorie cat food.

We’ll tell you what you need to know about putting weight on your cat to keep him healthy.

We hear so much today about obesity in pets that underweight pets tend to get little attention. However, there are plenty of cats that need to gain a little weight. This happens for all kinds of reasons and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad owner.

It can be difficult to find cat foods made for cats that need to gain weight. Most cat foods that focus on weight are formulated for cats that are overweight or obese. These foods have less fat than regular cat food and they are low in calories. “Weight control” usually translates to “weight reduction” in pet foods.

But don’t give up hope. We can help you find good cat foods – wet and dry – for cats that need to gain weight. There are also some good toppers and tasty treats that can encourage cats to eat more. We’ll help you find and choose the best high calorie foods for your cat.

11 Reasons why a Cat would Need a High Calorie Diet

There are lots of reasons why a cat might lose weight or need a high calorie diet. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Senior cats often start to metabolize food less efficiently than when they were younger. Even if your older cat is eating the same amount of food, he may not be able to use the food as efficiently as he did when he was younger. Older cats can start to lose weight for this reason.
  2. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is not unusual in cats, especially as they get older. Your cat can have an increased appetite but show weight loss and sometimes vomiting. Hyperthyroidism means that the thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone. It is the opposite of hypothyroidism or low thyroid. Hyperthyroidism is relatively common in cats while hypothyroidism is more common in dogs.
  3. Diabetes is becoming more common in cats. This can cause increased appetite with weight loss. Increased thirst and urination are other symptoms.
  4. Kidney disease is another health issue that can result in weight loss along with increased thirst and urination. CRF or chronic renal (kidney) failure in cats often leads to weight loss.
  5. Anxiety and stress can cause some cats to lose weight.
  6. Gastrointestinal problems can affect some cats, including inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, constipation, and pancreatitis.
  7. Cats can have problems with food allergies or food sensitivities.
  8. Toothache can prevent a cat from eating. Owners can easily mistake toothache for a lack of interest in food, especially in older pets. Having your vet check your cat’s teeth and fixing any dental problems can help get your cat eating again.
  9. Cancer and cardiovascular disease can lead to weight loss.
  10. Worms and other intestinal parasites can cause your cat to lose weight.
  11. Competition. If you have multiple cats in your home, sometimes one cat can be prevented from getting as much food as he would like.

Before you change your cat’s diet or try to make him gain weight, we strongly recommend that you have him checked by your veterinarian. Many of these health issues would require a specific diet to help your cat with his treatment instead of just adding more calories to his diet. It’s important for your veterinarian to identify – or rule out – possible health problems before you make dietary changes.

If your vet doesn’t find any health problems with your cat, then you can go ahead and look for a good high calorie cat food for weight gain or a high calorie cat food for senior cats.

What to look for in a High Calorie Diet

When you’re looking for a good high calorie cat food, we suggest that you look for the following:

  1. Forget about weight control cat foods. Most weight control and metabolism cat foods are formulated for overweight and obese cats so they are low in fat. They can be low in calories so they won’t help you if you are trying to encourage your cat to gain weight. You might be lucky and find one that is formulated for cats that need to gain weight, but they are few.
  2. We haven’t found any cat foods that are labeled “high calorie.” You probably won’t find any cat foods that claim to be fattening either. Marketing departments don’t tend to like that label. If your cat needs a high calorie food, try looking for high protein cat foods. Your cat may not need a high protein cat food but many of these foods are also higher in fat and they tend to be higher in calories. You can look through them and find foods which have a protein percentage that you’re comfortable with feeding. Note that if your cat has kidney disease, talk to your vet before feeding a high protein cat food. Generally, you can feed a high protein food until your cat has moderate or severe kidney problems but we urge you to speak to your veterinarian.
  3. It is possible to give your cat food that is too high in fat which can produce its own set of health problems. Be sure to look for foods that are labeled “complete and balanced.” Foods should have an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for your cat’s life stage. The exception to this is foods that are only meant to be fed on a limited basis, for short-term feeding, and as toppers or snacks. These foods should be identified for supplemental feeding only. You can add these items to your cat’s regular diet but your cat cannot eat a total diet from these foods.
  4. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your cat can gain calories from carbohydrates, especially if you are feeding a dry cat food. Cats do not process carbohydrates well so even if a food contains lots of carbs, your cat can’t use them efficiently. You might gain weight from eating pasta but your cat won’t gain weight from eating lots of carbs. Your cat needs to gain weight in a healthy way from the protein and fat in his diet.

10 Tips to Help a Cat Gain Weight Safely

An average adult cat normally needs between 20-35 calories per pound every day to maintain his weight. Indoor cats are at the lower end, requiring about 20 calories per pound a day; and outdoor cats are at the upper end, needing about 35 calories per pound per day. So, if you have an indoor cat that weighs 12 pounds, he would need about 240-250 calories per day to maintain his normal weight. If your cat is intact (not spayed or neutered), he will need more calories. You can use a calorie calculator for cats like the one from Pet Nutrition Alliance to figure how many calories your cat needs.

  1. Underweight cats will need more calories. If your cat is severely underweight, you should work with your veterinarian to solve the problem. If your cat is slightly underweight, you can increase your cat’s meal size; feed him several smaller meals per day; or, if you have multiple cats and one cat isn’t getting his fair share, you can feed him alone so he gets all the food he wants.
  2. If these solutions aren’t helping, you can look for a cat food that is high in calories to help with weight gain. Many good cat foods will have a guaranteed analysis that will show (in a canned food, for example) 10 percent crude protein, 5 percent crude fat, 1 percent crude fiber, 78 percent moisture, and 3 percent ash, with added taurine. Those are perfectly ordinary figures that you might see in many canned/wet foods. The dry matter basis for this food works out to be: 45.45 percent protein, 22.72 percent fat, and 4.54 percent fiber. It supplies about 28 calories per ounce of food or 97 calories in a 3.5 ounce can. Most adult cats can do all right eating this kind of food. However, if your cat needs to gain weight, you’ll need to look for a cat food, dry or canned, that has more calories.
  3. We do encourage you to look at the dry matter figures for any food you are considering, wet or dry, so you can make real comparisons. You need to be especially careful when comparing canned foods since cans are often all different sizes. You can’t compare a can that’s 3.5 ounces with a can that’s 5.5 ounces unless you do a little math. You can find a number of dry matter basis calculators online.
  4. Many cats prefer canned food and cat experts recommend canned/wet food because of the added moisture. If your cat is being picky about food, we suggest that you feed him whichever kind of food he prefers, whether that’s canned food or dry food. If he will eat more kibble, by all means, buy him dry food to eat. Your goal is to get him eating more at this point. If you buy kibble, make sure your cat is drinking plenty of water so you can avoid urinary tract problems. In the same way, if your cat will only eat canned food from the dollar store, give him all he will eat if he’s gaining weight on it. You can worry about trying to upgrade his food after he has gained some weight.
  5. If you have a senior cat that needs to gain weight, we suggest a senior check-up at the vet. Many older cats (and dogs) start to lose weight as they get older. This is often due to metabolism changes. Your cat can be having difficulty breaking down and using his food like he once did. He could be showing signs of some vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of this. Talk to your vet about possible supplements. You can look for a good cat food that is higher (not lower) in protein, easy to digest, and which has plenty of calories. Avoid senior cat foods that are lower in protein and lower in calories. There are no official nutrient guidelines at this time for older pets and many pet food companies have, in the past, combined weight loss food with senior food – which is the last thing many older cats need if they are underweight.
  6. You can also try giving your cat a good kitten food. These foods usually have more calories and more protein than regular cat food. Although they are formulated for growing kittens, they can be a good choice for an adult cat that needs to gain weight.
  7. For cats that need to gain weight you can also add some high calorie toppers to their food to make them tastier. There are some good ones available such as PureBites Mixers. Sheba Signature Broths and Fancy Feast Creamy Broths don’t contain many calories but they can make ordinary cat food more appealing to your cat. Cat-Man-Doo Sprinkles Crushed Bonito Flakes Cat & Dog Treats are another favorite topper, especially for dry cat food. If you need to get quick calories into your cat, try Tomlyn Nutri-Cal High-Calorie Dietary Cat Supplement, Vetoquinol Nutri-Cal Oral Gel Dog & Cat Supplement, or Tomlyn Nutri-Stat High-Calorie Dietary Dog & Cat Supplement.
  8. You can also offer your cat some safe foods, leftovers, and tasty bites from your own kitchen. There are some things that cats shouldn’t eat, but a little chicken or a small bite of steak would be fine if your cat is interested. You can also put a little yogurt or some grated cheese on her cat food to make it a little more appealing.
  9. Warming your cat’s wet food is another way to make it taste and smell better. Just use caution and don’t put a can in your microwave.
  10. Don’t try to make your cat gain a lot of weight in a short period of time. It’s healthier for your cat – and more likely to be permanent – if he gains weight slowly. Talk to your veterinarian and set realistic goals about how much weight your cat should try to gain weekly or monthly. It may be just a couple of ounces per week but it will add up over time with steady gains.

Overall Best High Calorie Cat Food

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food

Instinct By Nature’s Variety Original Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food is frequently recommended for cats that need to gain weight. It’s high in animal protein with 95 percent chicken, turkey, and chicken liver. It has 5 percent vegetables and fruits; and zero grains. No potatoes, corn, wheat, soy,  by-product meal, artificial colors, or preservatives. It has 11 percent crude protein and 7.5 percent crude fat with 193 kcal/5.5-ounce can; 105 kcal/3-ounce can.

6 Top Rated (5 Star) Cat Foods that are High in Calories

Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate Canned Cat Food

Merrick has several canned formulas in the Purrfect Bistro line that are high in calories. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Chicken Pate Canned Cat Food is rated highly by customers. It’s grain free with chicken as the first ingredient. It has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and no corn, wheat, or soy. Contains yucca schidigera to promote gentle digestion. It has 185 kcal/5.5-ounce can; 110 kcal/3-ounce can, with 10 percent crude protein and 5 percent crude fat.

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe with Chicken, Duck & Quail Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

If your cat prefers a dry cat food, we like Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe with Chicken, Duck & Quail Grain Free Dry Cat Food. Some of Merrick’s Backcountry Raw Infused formulas are very high in protein and calories. This formula is grain free and made with chicken and turkey, plus freeze-dried raw meat bites of game birds such as duck and quail. It has zero by-products, additives, gluten or anything artificial. No corn, wheat, glutens, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It has 42 percent crude protein and 14 percent crude fat. (Remember that kibbles have higher nutrient percentages because they have much less moisture than canned foods.) This food has 395 kcal/cup.

Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

If you want to feed your adult cat a kitten food to help him gain weight, Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food has lots of calories. It has 416 kcal/cup; and it has 33 percent crude protein and 21 percent crude fat. That’s because kittens need lots of calories while they are growing. This food is formulated for kittens and pregnant and nursing cats but many people do recommend good kitten foods  for cats that need to gain weight. It’s complete and balanced for kittens, with added vitamins, minerals, and fish oil. It also has amino acids to boost the immune system and added taurine for good vision and a healthy heart.

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey & Chicken Liver Formula Canned Cat Food

Wellness also has some canned foods that are frequently recommended for cats that need to gain weight. Wellness CORE Grain Free Chicken, Turkey & Chicken Liver Formula Canned Cat Food is grain free and nutrient-dense. Chicken and turkey are the top ingredients. Contains no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, or carrageenan. This formula has 12 percent crude protein and 7 percent crude fat with 116 kcal/3-ounce can; 213 kcal/5.5-ounce can.

Purina Pro Plan Classic Adult True Nature Natural Turkey & Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Purina Pro Plan makes several cat foods that could be good for helping a cat gain weight. We like the True Nature product line, in particular. Purina Pro Plan Classic Adult True Nature Natural Turkey & Chicken Entree Grain Free Canned Cat Food is made with real turkey and chicken. It’s grain free and contains no corn, wheat, or soy. And it has no added artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. This formula has 11 percent crude protein and 5.5 percent crude fat, with 109 kcal/ 3-ounce can; 200 kcal/ 5.5-ounce can.

Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Indoor Care Turkey & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

If your cat likes a dry food, we also like Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Indoor Care Turkey & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food. This formula has 40 percent crude protein and 14.5 percent crude fat, with 445 kcal/cup. That’s a lot of calories in a cat food. This food is specifically formulated for indoor cats so it also has natural fiber to help control hairballs. Real turkey is the number one ingredient. Purina has qualified veterinary nutritionists, very good quality control, they conduct food trials, and they spend a lot of money on pet food research. Even if you don’t like all of the ingredients in some of their foods, the nutrition works.


There are lots of reasons why a cat can be underweight ranging from health issues to competition with housemates to anxiety. One of the first things you should do if your cat needs to gain weight is have your veterinarian check him out so you can rule out any serious health problems. Once you know that your cat is basically healthy, you can focus on finding a good food that your cat will eat. This isn’t always easy since cats that need to gain weight are often picky eaters. Try to keep your cat eating and give him the kind of food he likes, whether that’s canned food or kibble. You probably won’t find any cat foods labeled for weight gain but foods that are high in protein often have more fat, too, and more calories. Check out these foods to see if they will appeal to your cat. Encourage your cat to gain weight slowly instead of trying to force him to gain a lot of weight all at once. This will be healthier for him in the long run.

One Comment

  1. Thank you! I have a very energetic 10 month kitten and he cannot gain enough weight. Will use suggestions when shopping today.

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