Unlike obese cats, underweight cats are seldom the result of simply eating the wrong food or getting the wrong amount of exercise.
The root cause of your cat’s underweight status almost invariably goes much deeper than the food bowl.
While it is a good idea to choose high-calorie food that will help your cat to gain weight, it’s more important to identify the cause of their weight issue and treat your cat accordingly.
Before we get to the list of the top 5 best cat foods for weight gain, let’s learn more about underweight cats and the best ways to help them gain weight.
First, evaluate your cat’s weight.
Consult the following body condition chart to evaluate your cat’s weight.
If your cat is a 1, 2, 3, or 4 according to this body condition chart, they’re considered too thin and it’s time to intervene.
Reasons why your cat may be underweight:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Worms or intestinal parasites
- Poor dental health
- Inadequate nutrition
Also Read: Best Cat Food for Diabetic Cats
Also Read: Best Food for Cats With Kidney Disease
Quick Look: Our Top 3 Cat Food for Weight Gain
Wild Calling Cowabunga 96% Beef
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Chicken
Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d
If your cat is in the “too thin” weight class, think about taking them to your veterinarian for a health evaluation. The above list is far from complete, and it’s almost impossible to diagnose the cause of your cat’s low weight at home.
What is the best cat food for weight gain?
Chiefly, the best cat food for weight gain is one that addresses the root of their weight problem.
Again, your cat’s unique situation dictates their dietary needs.
Generally speaking, an abnormally low weight is the result of either a poor appetite, mouth problems, or a condition that’s preventing them from maintaining a healthy weight. The latter category includes intestinal worms or a thyroid condition.
In most cases, this means that the best cat foods for weight gain provide a combination of palatability and calorie density.
Remember that senior cats need high-quality protein to prevent muscle wasting.
Senior cats, with their tendency to lose muscle mass and become “skinny old cats”, are usually the first group to require food for weight gain. It was once recommended that senior cats eat low-protein diets due to a possible connection between excessive protein and the kidney failure experienced by so many senior cats.
More current research, however, indicates that a diet rich in high-quality animal protein can help to prevent sarcopenia of aging – the muscle wasting associated with old age.
If your cat has a poor appetite, choose foods and supplements that help to rev up their desire to eat.
It’s terrifying to watch your cat refuse meal after meal. Because it’s so important to ensure that your cat continues to take in sustenance, you’ll need to think creatively to encourage your cat to eat.
Here are a few foods, food toppers, and supplements that have a history of encouraging peckish cats to eat.
- Bonito flakes
- Bone broth
- Duck fat
- Unseasoned chicken, turkey, or beef baby food
- Chunks of raw or cooked unseasoned meat
- Canned sardines packed in water
- Canned tuna packed in water
The following are calorie-dense diet supplements that help you to force your cat to take in calories without spending much time at the food bowl:
- Egg yolks
- Purina Fortiflora Feline Nutritional Supplement
- Wysong PDG Canine/Feline Food Supplement
- Tomlyn Nutri-Cal For Cats
Don’t think that because it’s fattening, dry cat food is necessarily the best cat food for weight gain.
Although dry cat food is highly palatable, calorie-dense, and easy to feed, it’s usually not the best choice for weight gain.
For one, dry cat food doesn’t offer the moisture that your cat requires to stay healthy.
Secondly, dry cat food is often a bad choice for seniors and other cats with poor dental health. If your cat has lost weight due to oral pain, dry kibble will only exacerbate the problem.
And third, compared to wet food, dry food is more likely to contain low-quality protein sources like pea protein and corn gluten meal. These are never a good choice for seniors, who require ultra-digestible protein to maintain kidney health while supporting healthy muscle mass.
All this said, if your cat refuses to eat anything else, by all means feed them dry food.
Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain
Wild Calling Canned Cat Food – Cowabunga 96% Beef Review
Each 5.5oz(156g) can contains 223 calories.
First 5 Ingredients: Beef, Water Sufficient for Processing, Beef Liver, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor
With 223 calories in each can, this is one of the most calorie-dense canned foods on the market.
It’s made with nothing but beef, water, binders, sunflower oil, supplements, and an additive labeled as “natural flavor”. This is usually made from hydrolyzed animal tissue and is an intensely palatable ingredient.
Because the food is 96% meat, it’s rich in the highly-digestible protein that your cat requires.
Customer accounts of this food’s texture vary. Some describe it as dense, others say it’s pasty, and some say it’s soft and smooth.
- One of the highest-calorie foods on the market
- Made with 96% meat – ideal nutrition for your cat
- Appetizing formula helps to entice cats to eat
- Free from artificial colors, flavors, and chemical preservatives
- Some people say this food has a strange or unappetizing texture
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey & Chicken Liver Formula Canned Cat Food Review
Each 5.5oz(156g) can contains 213 calories.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chicken Meal
This high calorie cat food for weight gain has a smooth pate texture that makes it ideal for senior cats and those with dental issues.
It’s made primarily from chicken, turkey, and chicken liver, all of which are highly-digestible and biologically available sources of protein. It’s grain-free and relatively low in carbohydrates, making it an appropriate choice for cats with digestive issues.
- Moisture-rich canned food supports overall health
- Made with highly-digestible animal protein
- High in calories to help your cat gain weight
- Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
- Has a soft pate texture ideal for sensitive teeth
- Contains dried potatoes, which aren’t a necessary or nutritious inclusion in cat food
Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care with Chicken Canned Dog & Cat Food Review
Each 5.5oz(156g) can contains 180 calories.
First 5 Ingredients: Water, Turkey Liver, Pork Liver, Chicken, Turkey Heart
This prescription food from Hill’s Pet Nutrition is specially formulated for cats and dogs in desperate need of nutritional support. The a/d diet is recommended for cats recovering from serious illness, accidents, surgeries, along with metabolic changes.
At 180 calories per can, this is a relatively calorie-dense food formulated with animal protein sources, which help to support lean muscle mass. It has increased potassium levels to prevent potassium depletion and increased B vitamins to assist in convalescence. To increase its palatability, the food is formulated with plenty of delicious liver.
The pate texture is creamy-soft for sensitive cats.
- Specially formulated for cats in desperate need of nutrition
- Increased potassium
- Calorie-dense and made with highly-digestible animal protein
- You can only buy this food with a prescription
- Contains corn flour, which some may find objectionable
Hound & Gatos Chicken Cat Food Review
Each 5.5oz(156g) can contains 201 calories.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Calcium Carbonate, Agar-Agar
With 201 calories in each can, this is one of the most calorie-dense foods on the market. Like all Hound & Gatos foods, the recipe models a “paleolithic diet”, containing just meat, water, binders, and supplements.
The food is 98% chicken muscle meat and liver, which means that the food is rich in high-value animal protein. This helps to support healthy lean muscle mass. With such a high concentration of meat, there’s no room left for carbohydrates, making this an ideal food for cats with diabetes or a sensitive stomach.
The texture of the food is a soft pate that’s easy for cats to eat.
- Made with 98% fresh meat and nourishing animal protein
- Zero carbohydrate content
- Calorie-dense to promote weight gain
- Free from chemical preservatives, artificial ingredients, and animal by-products
- A notable percentage of the feline population seems to dislike the flavor of this food
Go! Sensitivity + Shine Grain-Free Duck Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food Review
Each 5.5oz(156g) can contains 206 calories.
First 5 Ingredients: Duck, Duck Broth, Turkey Liver, Dried Egg Product, Potatoes
Officially formulated for cats with allergies, this duck-based pate offers 206 calories in every can and is highly palatable for cats who need to gain weight.
The recipe begins with fresh duck and turkey liver, which are appetizing and highly-nourishing sources of animal protein and nutrients to support a healthy weight. Unfortunately, the recipe also includes potatoes, flaxseed, sweet potatoes, carrots, and apples, all of which aren’t necessary additions to your cat’s diet.
- Made with a nourishing concentration of animal protein
- Calorie-dense to help cats put on weight
- Soft pate is easy to eat
- Highly appetizing with very positive ratings from customers
- Contains numerous plant ingredients
Still searching for the best cat food for weight gain? Click here for an in-depth list of cat food products with nutrition information.
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.