Perhaps you have taken in a stray cat who needs to gain weight. Perhaps your senior cat is having a hard time keeping her weight on. Perhaps your kitten is growing so fast his appetite can’t keep up.
Whatever the reason your cat needs to gain weight, we have selected 9 best high calorie cat foods to help. Typically, the best way to help a cat gain weight is to offer as much dry food as they like with the addition of twice-daily wet food meals. This way your cat can eat a high-calorie dry food throughout the day while still getting the high moisture and high-fat content of the wet food. Moisture is critically important to cats, so don’t skip the wet!
In selecting the best foods to help your cat gain weight, we have looked beyond the total caloric content. We considered where these calories come from protein, fat, or carbohydrates. Cat’s bodies are adapted to getting most of their energy from protein and fat. Carbohydrates can give a quick energy boost to cats who need it, but to build muscle, repair the body and keep organs healthy, we looked for foods with high levels of fat and protein.
One must also consider that cats who are underweight likely also have a sensitive stomach. We looked for foods with poultry as the primary protein source. Chicken, turkey, and duck are typically more gentle on cats’ stomachs.
In many cases, it is favorable to have underweight cats of all-ages eat kitten food. The higher fat, vitamin, and mineral content of kitten food will help your cat gain weight. The main consideration with feeding an adult cat kitten food is to check the phosphorus content. Phosphorus is needed for growing bones, but the excess can be hard on an adult cat’s kidneys. When recommending food, we have been careful to select foods that do not have excessive phosphorus levels, regardless of if they are marketed for kittens or adults.
Here is the list of top high calorie wet/dry cat foods for weight gain –
Best All-Natural Wet
Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula
This kitten food is one of the highest calorie on the market. Not many brands can beat Wellness’ 122 kcal/3 oz can food. It will be a great calorie boost to underweight cats of all ages.
The food is primarily chicken, so it should agree with most cat’s stomachs. Most cats seem to really like this food too, even though it is the typically less cat-popular paté texture. It might have something to do with the low carb content of 3.2% on a dry matter basis. It might be all the added fish oil for omega 3s. (Unfortunately, when cats were asked they only responded with “meow.”)
Wellness has also done a good job of controlling phosphorus levels on this food. At 1.94% on a dry matter basis, it’s not a low-phosphorus food, but the levels are not unreasonably high either. Trace minerals should be well utilized by your cat, as they are supplemented in as “proteinates,” instead of cheaper, less digestible, sources.
This food only comes is 3 oz cans, which adds convenience, but cost can add up quickly. The price is similar to other foods we have chosen, but you will not have the ability to buy in the more economic 5.5 oz size.
Wellpet, the company behind Wellness, is an institution in the natural pet food world. They are owned by an investment group, but operate independently and are able to focus on making great food. Wellness has a good reputation for quality control, despite outsourcing production to co-packers.
At 521 kcal per cup, this Canidae food should help you kitty gain weight fast. Not many foods can beat this high calorie level. The primary ingredients are chicken and rice, so this food should be good for any sensitive stomachs too.
This food is well formulated, with only 1.37% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. It also has added salmon oil, so you know that your cat is getting the omega 3 oils they need. As an added bonus, this food also includes probiotics. This can help restore a healthy gut in an underweight cat.
This food has a similar price to the other dry foods we have chosen here.
Canidae has been a cornerstone of the natural pet food market for many years and they are still family owned. Canidae has a good track record of quality and safety. They have long contracted out their manufacturing, but they are moving to make everything in-house with their purchase of Ethos Pet Nutrition. This helps them ensure that your cat food is safe and high quality.
Best Trusted Brand Wet Food
Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Liver and Chicken Entree
This kitten food offers a whopping 208 kcal in a 5.5 oz can. This is truly amazing considering that the texture of this food is minced, not paté. This is great news for picky adult kitties.
The protein in the food is high and primarily comes from meat and eggs. This is great news for growing kittens and recovering grown-ups alike. Hill’s has added fish oil too, essential for providing omega 3s. They also have kept phosphorus at 1.22% on a dry matter basis, which is the perfect balance for growing kitten bones without stressing adult cat kidneys.
Carbohydrates are low in this food, with the addition of some corn starch likely added to improve texture. There is plenty of protein and fat to help a cat gain healthy weight in this food.
The price of this food is similar to the Wellness kitten food, but Hill’s offers 5.5 oz sizes. Buying the larger size can allow for significant savings in the long run.
Hill’s is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, and the extensive knowledge resources of this company go into designing their pet foods. Hill’s makes a point of investing in a team of veterinary nutritionists and has the resources to do so.
Hill’s does all of their food production in-house in order to maintain high quality control. Their extensive research and testing of their foods occurs in the product development phase and in quality and safety checks throughout production.
However, Hill’s has the drawbacks of any big corporation in that they are slow to change and are beholden to the bottom line. They certainly have the ability and know-how to make the best cat food in the world, but are hindered by their complex supply chains and huge corporate structure.
Best Trusted Brand Dry Food
Purina Pro Plan True Nature Kitten Chicken and Egg
This food has some of the highest calorie count on the market. At 591 kcal per cup, your cat or kitten should gain weight quickly with this kibble.
This food markets itself as grain-free, but like most “grain-free” kibbles it still uses significant amounts of other plants to add in starch. In this case, Purina has chosen cavassa and peas. It would be preferable to use gentle grains as a starch source, such as brown rice, as to not upset sensitive stomachs. However, reviews indicate that this food sits well with cats and is very tasty too.
This food also has very well controlled phosphorus level at 1.02% on a dry matter basis. This makes it an excellent choice for kittens and seniors alike who need to gain weight. There are also omega 3s, as this formula has added fish oil.
The main drawback on this food is the high pea protein content, which will almost certainly be “burned” for energy rather than building muscle. It would be better to see a larger portion of the protein in this food come from animal sources.
Purina invests quite a bit in ensuring that cats actually want to eat their foods. Purina is owned by Nestle, and uses their large resources to make sure their foods are safe, consistent and tasty. However, Purina doesn’t invest in nutrition as much as similar brands such as Hill’s or Royal Cannin do.
In some ways this food is a perfect example of the corporate philosophy of Purina. This grain-free food is clearly trying to capitalize on a trend, rather than actually offer the superior nutrition that people believe is behind grain-free. We still love this food as a way for your cat to gain weight though. You simply cannot argue with the high calorie content and well loved taste.
Best Senior Cat Wet Food
Nature’s Logic Duck and Salmon Recipe
At first glance, Nature’s Logic appears to be like any other all-natural cat food brand. Let us assure you, it’s anything but.
This company formulates all of their foods without the use of synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements. This is a tremendous task. It ensures that all of the nutrition available to your cat comes from real food, and is highly usable by the body.
Recently, there has been a lot of attention on how synthetic vitamins are used differently from person to person. In humans, subtle genetic differences can determine if your synthetic B vitamins are able to be used by your body. This area of research is relatively new, and as you can imagine, is basically non-existent in regards to cats. So the idea behind Nature’s Logic is to make sure you cat is getting all of their vitamins and minerals from wholesome ingredients, not laboratories.
Now what does this mean for your cat? Well because of the unique formulation of this food, it is incredibly low in iodine and low in phosphorus. If hyperthyroid is part of the reason your cat needs to gain weight, the low iodine content will help greatly. The 0.69% dry matter phosphorus level will also reduce any stress on the kidney; critical for the senior cat.
At 230 kcal in a 5.5 oz can, this food will help your cat gain weight quickly. The dry matter carbohydrate content is 4.8% in this food, leaving plenty of room for protein and fat to fuel your kitty. The salmon will provide omega 3s while the duck will provide the protein your cat needs.
This food’s price is in the middle of the pack for all-natural pet foods. This is great for such a quality food. As long as paté texture is okay with your cat, this food should be a hit. We’re hoping they come out with other textures soon!
Nature’s Logic doesn’t manufacture their own food, but they are very transparent about everything. They make an effort to have a representative present for the manufacturing runs and have never had a recall. They may not have the resources of a big pet food brand, but being small and independently owned has allowed them to keep to their core values.
Best Senior Cat’s Dry Food
Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken
Typically, senior cats who need to gain weight have an underlying medical condition. It is more important to treat whatever the condition is than to feed a high calorie food.
If your senior cat has kidney disease, feeding dry food is not recommended, no matter what kind. The increased moisture content from an all-wet diet helps the kidneys significantly.
That being said, we have chosen Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken as the best choice in dry food for senior cats who need to gain weight.
Most cats enjoy the taste of this 510 kcal per cup dry food. The chicken and wheat formula should agree with most cats’ stomachs too. Phosphorus levels are very low, 0.69% on a dry matter basis, which is critical for senior cats. Even older cats without diagnosed kidney disease can use the reduced stress on their kidneys. This was clearly Hill’s thinking on this low phosphorus content.
The protein in this food is primarily from chicken, which is especially important in senior cats. Animal proteins are better utilized to build muscle. Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of corn gluten meal in this food, a plant protein. It likely adds to the texture of the food, making it more palatable to senior cats. Fish oil is also listed as an ingredient, so we know that the all-important omega 3s have been included.
This food is the perfect example of Hill’s as a company. The food is nutritious and tasty to cats, but it is high in plant protein. It would be great to see corn gluten meal replaced by an animal protein without compromising palatability. Hill’s certainly has the human talent and financial resources to develop such a product, but regularly fails to do so. Corporate supply chains and the bottom line frequently get in the way of a superior product.
Best Budget Wet Food
Dave’s Gobbleicious Gourmet Dinner
Dave is at it again with his affordable and nutritious cat food! It’s beginning to seem like Dave’s Pet Food makes every list of ours! At 202 kcal in a 5.5 oz can, this food will add weight to your kitty quickly.
This food goes over just about as well as any other paté. This food is better liked by cats than a lot of Dave’s recipes. Give this one a try even if your cats have rejected Dave’s in the past. Dave also offers a nutritionally similar food if your cat is craving a different flavor, Poultry Platter.
This food has significant carbohydrates in it, 15.9% on a dry matter basis. They primarily come from flaxseed, carrots and sweet potatoes, which are great complex carbohydrate sources. The protein comes from meat, so it will be highly usable for your kitty.
This isn’t a low phosphorus food, but the phosphorus levels are controlled to a reasonable level of 1.82% on a dry matter basis.
The only significant criticism we have of this food is a lack of an EPA and DHA omega 3 source. Flaxseed is a source of omega 3s, and is great for kitties, but the ALA omega 3s that are present in plants cannot be converted to EPA or DHA. Omnivores, such as humans and dogs, can make this conversion but cats cannot.
For an average healthy cat they will likely get enough EPA and DHA from the chicken and turkey included in this food. Still, it would be advisable to add a salmon oil supplement, especially for a cat trying to gain weight. As a bonus, most cats think that salmon oil on top of their food is a tasty treat!
Dave’s pet food is a regional brand in New England, so it may be difficult to find in stores outside of the area. The company is small and outsources its manufacturing, but it has a good record of quality control.
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grammy’s Pot Pie
If your cat or kitten is not a paté fan, this is the weight-gain food for them. At 170 kcal per a 5.5 oz can there are plenty of calories in this chunky minced texture. The food comes packed together in a can with little gravy, so for pickier cats we recommend mixing with a fork and adding some water to make the food more of a “chunks in gravy” style. Your kitty may also wish to try the Thanksgiving Day Dinner flavor, as it has similar nutrition and texture, but with turkey in addition to chicken.
Besides the high calorie count, the formula for this food is simply great. Phosphorus is a well controlled 1.28% on a dry matter basis. Salmon oil is added for all of those healthy omega 3s. Carbohydrates are at 10.5% on a dry matter basis and come from a variety of sources including peas, potato, sweet potato and carrots.
All of the goodness in this food comes at a similar price as the other brands we have recommended here.
Merrick was bought by Nestle Purina in 2015, but maintains an independent operation from its parent company. They have their own production facilities and have a decent track record for food safety. They also take customer service seriously and are relatively transparent.
Merrick has been rapidly expanding and has hit some growing pains in product consistency. However, the fact that they are expanding their own manufacturing rather than outsourcing will have strong long-term safety and quality benefits.
According to Merrick, they have their own R&D formulation team but also use the resources of Purina to design their pet food. This is a great balance as it allows for them to draw on the much larger knowledge base of Purina while maintaining their nutritional philosophy.
For Diabetic Cats
Instinct Original Real Beef
If poultry just doesn’t work for your cat, we recommend this 95% beef cat food. Few foods can beat the calorie count at 222 kcal per a 5.5 oz can.
This food is great stuff. In-fact, we recommend it as our top choice for diabetic cats. Carbohydrates are at a low 5.4% and phosphorus is at a low 1.2%, both on a dry matter basis. This means phosphorus is enough for a growing kitten, but well controlled for an adult cat.
Because this food is nearly all beef, it does have a higher price than the foods on this list. The taste of this food is as popular with cats as most other patés. If your cat prefers red meat, this food should be a hit.
The carbohydrates present in this food are from peas, carrots and flaxseed. These should be easy on your cat’s stomach. Instinct goes as far as listing the omega 3 oil content, so we don’t just have to guess based on the fact that they add fish oil.
The company that makes Instinct is Nature’s Variety. This company has managed to take the advantages of being corporate structured while maintaining their core values. They have an in-house R&D team and hold regular meetings with outside experts to review the product line.
Nature’s Variety does contract out the manufacturing of their canned foods. However, the company makes raw diets in-house so they are well aware with the realities of manufacturing. They have a reputation for having some of the tightest guidelines in the industry for their co-packers. Quality and safety is no joke to Nature’s Variety.
3 thoughts on “9 Best High Calorie Cat Foods for Weight Gain”
Thank you so much. This was amazingly helpful. I have 12 cats , many who are 10 years and over
So glad you found the article useful! Remember, weight loss in senior cats can be a medical issue so it is a good idea to make sure that a vet checks any health concerns are taken care of in addition to feeding a good food. 🙂
Only one cat needed to gain weight, but the information in regards to senior cats seems to apply very well! I have a large group of cats that will all be over 10. I feel that I can go shopping today and pick a quality food for them all