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6 Rich High Calorie Cat Food Options for Weight Gain

Is your senior cat underweight, or have you adopted a rescue who needs to add on a few pounds? Finding a quality high calorie cat food is an excellent place to start.

In this post, we’ll delve into the benefits of a high calorie cat food for underweight kitties. Our favorite? The Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Raw Infused Dry Cat Food. 

Our top 6 high calorie cat food choices:

  1. Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Raw Infused Dry Cat Food
  2. Nulo Adult & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  3. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Natural Canned Cat Food
  4. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food
  5. Purina Pro Plan TRUE NATURE Natural Adult Canned Wet Cat Food
  6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Wet Cat Food

Reasons your cat may need a high calorie diet

There are several reasons why your cat may need a high calorie diet. Sometimes it’s due to old age and other times, because of health problems that caused a decline in weight.

However, if you notice that your cat has lost a significant amount of weight, consult your vet. They’re likely to need an examination to rule out diseases.

For pregnant and nursing cats, high calorie cat food helps keep them healthy and capable of producing enough milk.

High calorie cat for for malnurished cats

How do I know I have an underweight cat?

According to the ‘Body Condition Score’ chart for cats, a cat is underweight when you can no longer feel any fat when touching your cat’s body. Their ribs are clearly observable by sight alone on short-haired cats. They also have a prominent abdominal tuck.

The average cat weighs ten pounds but your cat’s breed will dictate their appropriate weight.

Why do cats become underweight?

Cats can become underweight due to several reasons including many health problems like hyperthyroidism.

Senior Cats

When your cat approaches their golden years, health problems are inevitable. Weight loss also becomes more prominent due to issues like arthritis. Take note when your cat’s behavior changes as weight loss can be an indication of numerous problems. You may need to move their water and food dishes closer to where they hang out if their joints are achy!

Also, about 30 to 40 percent of cats aged 10 to 12 years old have problems digesting fat and protein. Weight loss in older cats is often attributed to chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, and dental problems.

If you notice that your older cat is losing weight, contact your vet.

Diseases and health problems of underweight cats

Cats tend to hide their pain. If your cat is vocalizing a lot, hiding, and not coming out then you should see your vet as there may be a health issue.

We’ve listed a few below:

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes Mellitus is a serious and complex disease. And sadly, it isn’t uncommon in cats. Between 0.2 and 1 percent of cats in the general population are believed to suffer from diabetes.

Diabetes affects the hormone insulin. This is a condition in which the body cannot properly produce or respond to the hormone insulin. This results in elevated levels of the sugar glucose, which is the main source of energy for the body.

The Cornell Feline Health Center tells us that the cells in a cat’s body need sugar in the form of glucose for energy. And glucose in the blood needs insulin. Insulin signals when the time is right to absorb glucose. By absorbing glucose, cells get the vital fuel they need and lower levels of glucose in the blood.

Although experts are yet to find all the possible causes, carbohydrates could be a culprit. 

With this in mind, it’s important that you treat your cat’s diabetes.

This disease can ultimately lead to a coma or even death in severe cases.

Being obese increases your cat’s chances of getting diabetes. If you notice any of these signs or other behavioral changes, consult your vet!

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is quite common in cats. It generally affects older kitties.

Overproduction of thyroid hormone or hyperthyroidism is common when cats get older.

It occurs when a nodule on the thyroid gland overproduces thyroid hormone.

Some possible factors include excesses or deficiencies in the diet. It could also occur from chronic exposure to environmental toxins. These can come from either the environment or food.

Because of the influence of thyroid hormones, this often leads to other problems and weight loss is at the top of the list. So, it’s essential to know the symptoms:

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease in cats is a persistent loss of kidney function.

The kidney is in charge of many things. Most importantly, it filtrates the blood and makes urine. If kidney cells are sick, they may be able to come back and return to function. If the kidney cells have died, they cannot be replaced.

So, when the functions of the kidney decline, it can cause a variety of health problems. This includes weight loss.

Cancer

Cancer can have devastating outcomes for both humans and animals.

Weight loss is one of the first symptoms when it comes to feline cancer. You should also look out for lethargy, loss of appetite, and unusual hiding. Feeding a pet with cancer is also a balancing act. The goal is to provide optimal nutrition to support the immune system.

Dental problems

Cats can hide symptoms of dental disease for months or even years. Sometimes owners that did not realize their cats had dental disease cannot believe the change for the better after a dental procedure. For cats especially, it is very important they have regular oral exams by your vet.

Focusing on preventing advanced periodontal disease in your pets is extremely important. Our pets need regular dental cleanings and their teeth should be brushed daily!

Environmental factors

Sometimes, a change in the environment can cause a shift in your cat’s eating habits. This usually includes stress, anxiety, or depression.

If your cat undergoes psychological stress, they may stop eating. This will eventually lead to weight loss so you’ll need to watch your cat’s behavior carefully.

Other reasons may include excessive noise, other animals, and dirty food dishes. Clean those food bowls daily!

What can I give my cat to gain weight?

How to help your cat gain weight

If you fear that your cat might be underweight, we recommend that you first contact your vet. You need to confirm there are no underlying medical issues and talk through a plan with your vet to help them gain weight.

Try these quick tips below with your vet’s guidance:

  • Place the food bowl in a quiet spot: If your cat is nervous, make sure that their food isn’t near a scary object like the dishwasher. Feed all your animals separately so they’re not competing with each other.
  • Vary their diet: Whether your cat eats kibble or canned food, mix it up once in a while. For instance, if they eat dry food daily, replace one meal with a canned option. Consider toppers for their diet. You can also make home made cat food.
  • Serve more meals or try free-feeding: Most cats prefer to graze during the day. To help your cat gain weight, try giving them access to smaller portions throughout the day. Or simply leave a bowl of their favorite kibble for them to nibble on as they like. Consult with your vet beforehand to determine the diet you should be offering.
  • More cats mean more food bowls: If you run a multi-cat household, all your cats need to have equal access to food. Sometimes, a more dominant cat prevents others from eating. Always have an additional bowl in a more secluded spot.
  • Heat the cat food to make it more palatable: Giving their food a quick turn in the microwave increases its aroma. This may make your cat more inclined to eat. Be sure that you use a microwave-safe bowl and avoid giving it more than 10-seconds.
  • Add liquid to the cat food: Try applying a small amount of chicken broth or fluid from a tuna can. This may enhance the flavor and aroma.

high calorie wet cat food for weight gain

What can I give my cat to gain weight?

Once you’ve ruled out health problems, the next step is to look at your cat’s diet. We recommend that you talk with your vet to create a comprehensive plan.

Opting for high calorie foods for cats is probably the best way to help your cat gain weight.

With dry cat food, your cat receives a lot of calories per mouthful. That said, it depends on whether your cat wants to eat it.

Fortunately, there are plenty of high calorie cat food options, both dry and wet. For canned or wet food, try opting for paté textures as opposed to the more soupy, gravy-filled options. With 78 percent moisture, canned food is wonderful for cats that are dehydrated and many are!

Another way to help your cat gain weight is by offering healthy treats and snacks.

Keep a small bag of special food or treats with you. Offer them some pieces in between meals or during snuggle time. Your cat will probably enjoy this but remember to cut back once they’ve reached a healthy weight.

3 tips for choosing the best high calorie cat food

Below are three tips to help you find the best high calorie cat food for your kitty.

1. Give them what they love

When you’re looking for cat food for weight gain, it’s important to prioritize their preference since cats are picky. Find cat food they find palatable but within their dietary requirements.

You may also want to consider the type of food—wet or dry. If your cat prefers one over the other, it’s probably best to go with what they enjoy. Changing up the type of food might make them feel less inclined to eat it.

2. Ingredients

Looking at cat food labels can be confusing! The AAFCO now has guidelines on what brands must include and what claims they can’t make.

  • Always read the cat food label: There is a system for listing the ingredients on your cat’s food label, and understanding it will help you pick the best ingredients.
  • The FDA mandates that ingredients must be listed from most to least based on their weight.
  • The majority of your cat’s food is made from the first few ingredients listed, so be sure they aren’t fillers. Instead, look for whole foods.

Animal protein and fat are crucial ingredients that should be included in your cat’s food. Because your cat is an obligate carnivore, it needs nutrients like taurine.

However, if your feline friend has lost weight, we recommend asking your vet about the best choices. Focus on fat content.

If you want some help, we recommend checking out the AAFCO nutrient profiles. Here, it shows the recommended percentages.

3. Consider the Brand

Be wary of low-quality brands. These are often foods with ‘fillers’ and other low-grade ingredients.

You see, your cat will need to eat twice as much to make up for the lack of nutrients. This means that you’ll be buying food more often than with a quality brand and you’ll end up spending more.

If your cat has a medical issue they’re likely need a special diet.

What is the best high calorie cat food?

To find the best high calorie food for cats, we researched dozens of brands and ingredients.

1. Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Raw Infused Dry Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01G5FSLKO&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B01G5FSLKOFor cats who prefer dry cat food, we found this option from Merrick Backcountry. This is a grain-free, raw-infused kibble.

The first ingredient is real, deboned chicken. It’s a high protein food, providing your cat with most of their essential nutrients. In addition to this, it contains quail and duck.

The kibble contains freeze-dried, raw poultry pieces and is entirely free of grains and gluten. It’s a lot kinder to your cat’s digestive system while helping them with weight gain.

The formula is rich in omega fatty acids, promoting healthy fur and skin. Merrick Backcountry produces all its recipes within the U.S.

If your cat isn’t into game birds, the brand also offers a “pacific catch” recipe.

Pros

  • Food contains freeze-dried raw pieces
  • High in protein and natural nutrients
  • Made with real deboned chicken
  • Includes omega fatty acids, improving the cat’s coat
  • Free of grains and gluten
  • Made in the U.S.

Cons

  • Not all cats will eat freeze-dried food
  • The freeze-dried pieces are often too big

2. Nulo Adult & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00NRBB4XG&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00NRBB4XGFor kittens and young adults, we suggest this recipe from Nulo. This is a grain free dry cat food high in calories, and excellent for a growing cat.

This is a high meat/low carb formula. Yes, we know this is about cat food for weight gain, so why is this good?

The high protein helps your cat build and maintain lean muscle mass.

To keep the carbs minimal, Nulo incorporates low glycemic ingredients. This includes components such as sweet potatoes, lentils, and chickpeas. These additions also provide a lot of natural energy, which is sufficient for a cat. It’s a high calorie cat food that gets most of its calories from protein.

In addition, Nulo added its patented BC30 probiotics. This aids in keeping a healthy gut flora. In turn, it supports digestion, immune response, and metabolism regulation.

The kibble consists of small, disk-shaped morsels.

Pros

  • Suitable for adults and kittens
  • High in protein but low in carbs
  • Supports healthy muscle gain and maintenance
  • Food is enriched with natural nutrients
  • Includes Nulo’s patented probiotics
  • Small, kitten-friendly morsels

Cons

  • The food pieces might be too small for adult cats. Some may even disregard chewing and simply swallow them whole
  • Not as high in calories as other recipes

3. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Natural Canned Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B008RWG0TS&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B008RWG0TSIf you want to treat your cat with exquisite food, we suggest Instinct Original’s lamb recipe.

This is a high calorie wet cat food for weight gain. The recipe consists of 95 percent lamb, turkey, and liver. For the lamb, the brand uses high-quality, grass-fed sources, ensuring premium results.

For the last 5 percent, Instinct includes vegetables, fruits, and other wholesome ingredients. It claims to be free of grain, corn, wheat, potato, soy, and by-product meal. The cat food also doesn’t contain artificial preservatives or colors.

The recipe comes as a paté style. You can serve it on its own, or as a treat when it’s time to pamper your cat.

Instinct makes all its cat food in the U.S. This formula is suitable for both adult and senior cats.

Pros

  • Includes high-quality, grass-fed lamb
  • Contains 95 percent animal protein
  • Comes with additional, wholesome ingredients
  • Free of fillers
  • Works as a standalone meal or topper
  • Made in the U.S.

Cons

  • There seem to be some quality control issues. Some cans contain very watery food
  • Might contain pieces of bone

4. Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B007M0I850&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B007M0I850We found this canned high calorie cat food from Wellness Core. It’s a natural, grain-free recipe, made with turkey, chicken, and herring. It contains 199 calories per can.

It contains wholesome doses of cranberries and Menhaden fish oil.

It’s fortified with minerals and essential vitamins. This includes a blend of fish and flax omega acids, supporting skin and fur. Additionally, there’s DHA, aiding in brain and eye development.

The nutritional philosophy of Wellness Core is that a cat thrives on a meat-based diet. So, its formulas are high in animal protein and free of artificial fillers and components.

The formula is also high in moisture, satisfying your cat’s hydration needs. It promotes a healthy urinary tract function. You can serve it alone or as a topper on dry kibble.

Pros

  • High in calories
  • Works to support healthy eye and brain development
  • High in animal protein
  • Fortified with cranberries and Menhaden fish oil
  • Enriched with essential minerals and vitamins
  • High in moisture

Cons

  • May not be palatable for all cats

5. Purina Pro Plan TRUE NATURE Natural Adult Canned Wet Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01EZRBSEA&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B01EZRBSEAThe Purina Pro Plan is another canned high calorie cat food. It’s a natural recipe with real chicken and liver.

This formula is suitable for adult cats. It offers high-quality ingredients and there are no fillers including corn, grain, soy, or wheat, providing your cat with a balanced, wholesome meal.

Each serving offers 25 essential minerals and vitamins, as well as taurine. This supports your cat’s overall health.

The canned food consists of tender morsels with a powerful taste of chicken. It also contains a lot of moisture, providing 78 percent per can.

Purina offers several other flavors if your cat isn’t into chicken. You can also choose salmon and chicken, beef and liver, as well as trout and salmon.

Pros

  • Includes real chicken and liver
  • Free of grains and other fillers
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
  • Rich in moisture

Cons

  • Not as many calories as others in our list
  • Includes gluten

6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Wet Cat Food

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00QT4U75Y&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=lelubobo 20&language=en USir?t=lelubobo 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B00QT4U75YIf you’re looking for high calorie cat food for senior cats, we recommend Blue Buffalo. The Blue Buffalo Wilderness brand is an ideal senior cat food option as it’s designed exclusively for mature cats.

This is a paté style canned food that will help kitties gain weight. There is significant protein content from real chicken supporting healthy muscle growth.

In addition to this, it also includes DHA, which promotes cognitive development.

Blue Buffalo makes cat food without grains, poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, or soy. The food has no artificial preservatives or flavors.

Pros

  • An excellent recipe for older cats
  • Easy-to-chew paté style
  • High in protein
  • Contains no artificial ingredients
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
  • No fillers
  • Contains real chicken

Cons

  • Not all cats like paté cat food

Final thoughts

What should you do if your cat is losing weight? There can be many reasons including pregnancy, age, disease, and even stress. Feeding high calorie cat food is the best way to help them gain back weight.

All the options on our list are worth checking out. But our favorite is Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Raw Infused Dry Cat Food. It’s a grain free dry cat food, made with deboned poultry. The option is excellent for both adult cats and kittens and is naturally high in calories.

FAQs

1. Is kitten food higher in calories?

It may feel strange giving your adult or senior cat kitten food. But since kitten food is higher in calories, fat, and protein it makes perfect sense. Once your cat returns to a healthy weight, cut back on the calories. You don’t want an obese cat!

2. Does dry food make cats gain weight?

Dry cat food tends to have more calories and fat. These additional calories can help your cat gain weight. Make sure that the high calorie cat food you choose contains all the essential nutrients for your cat.

3. Is my cat underweight?

The best way to find out if your cat is underweight is by using the body condition score chart. 

A cat is underweight when you can no longer feel any fat when touching your cat’s body. Their ribs can be clearly seen on short-haired cats. They also have a prominent abdominal tuck. If this is the case, it’s time to feed them some high calorie cat food.

Alina Prax
Latest posts by Alina Prax (see all)
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