2023 Best Cat Food for Weight Gain: Bulking Up Your Skinny Kitty
While many adult cats become overweight, there are also those that are visibly too skinny. It’s true some cat breeds are naturally slim like the Oriental Shorthair, Russian Blue, and Devon Rex cat breeds.
But some cats just don’t eat enough or are fussy, which prevents them from reaching a cat's ideal healthy body weight. In this case, the right cat's diet is one that your slender cat should want to eat more often.
If your usually healthy cat loses weight, an underlying health issue could be the root cause. If this is the case, the best pet parent immediately plans a visit to the vet for a medical check-up.
There are several possible causes of a cat's appetite loss. It’s a condition called anorexia that can be life-threatening if the liver is forced to process stored fat in the body due to the lack of food intake.
This review aims to guide pet owners about weight loss in cats: its possible causes, practical remedies, and the best cat food for weight gain.
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- Choosing the Best Cat Food For Weight Gain
- What To Look For?
- Best Cat Foods For Weight Gain
- 1. Feline Natural Lamb & King Salmon Feast
- 2. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe
- 3. Stella & Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Dinner
- 4. Go! Solutions Carnivore Chicken, Turkey + Duck Recipe
- 5. Instinct Original Pate Real Chicken Recipe
- 6. Wellness CORE Natural Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver
- 7. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pate
- Best Topper and Supplement for Gaining Weight
- About Skinny Kitties and Weight Gain in Cats
- Why is my cat so skinny but eats?
- How long does it take for a cat to gain weight?
- How do you feed a skinny cat?
- Is there an appetite stimulant for cats?
Choosing the Best Cat Food For Weight Gain
In any health condition, a proper diet is integral to achieving the best of health. If you have healthy cats, the right diet will maintain their good health. And if you have sick cats, poor-quality cat food could make their condition even worse.
What is the right cat’s diet? It's imperative to provide them with cat food that has high-quality animal protein sources, wholesome ingredients, and complete and balanced nutrition. The best cat foods offer excellent-quality ingredients.
As for underweight cats, there are certain qualities in a cat's food that can help them gain a few pounds, or stimulate their taste buds.
Is dry food better than wet food? Not necessarily. This really depends on your cat’s preference. Remember, the objective is for your cat to eat enough to attain a healthy weight.
So it’s important to consider what your cat likes to eat. Wet food or canned food is usually more preferred by cats because of its palatability and more intense flavors.
It’s also better for senior cats or kitties with dental issues as wet food is easier to chew and digest. But wet food is generally more expensive than kibble. You may want to mix canned food and dry food for cost efficiency.
On the other hand, commercial dry food is typically fortified with many of the essential nutrients needed by cats.
Dry food also helps prevent plaque and tartar build-up on teeth. And by the way, typical dry cat food has higher carbohydrates and calories than wet food, which can aid in gaining weight.
What To Look For?
Again, we cannot emphasize enough the need to get pet food with high-quality and natural ingredients.
Avoid commercial pet foods with unnamed animal protein sources, artificial additives and preservatives, cheap fillers, and poor-quality ingredients.
For your puny cat, here are some qualities to look for in finding the best cat food for weight gain:
Of course, the no. 1 requirement is for your skinny cat to want to eat the adult cat food or kitten food you give.
Many adult cats are finicky eaters and may disapprove of some quality cat foods even from premium brands. You may opt to try small portions of different cat foods to discover which ones your cats prefer before buying in bulk.
High-Calorie Cat Food
High-calorie cat foods can help as the extra calorie intake will naturally help your underweight cat gain weight as opposed to the average cat food.
For commercial dry food, the caloric content should be at least 3600 kcal/kg. For canned food or wet food, the caloric content should be at least 800 kcal/kg.
If you have the extra bucks, freeze-dried or air-dried raw foods offer delectable and high-calorie diets that your kitty will likely adore.
Premium Animal Protein
Cats are said to be obligate carnivores, meaning they need animal proteins to survive. Diets with high-quality animal protein sources as the first ingredient are the best cat foods to feed your cat.
Premium animal protein comes from high-quality meat of a named animal like chicken, turkey, lamb, fish; or even high-quality named meat meals such as menhaden fish meal, chicken meal, etc.
Don’t settle for an unnamed animal ingredient because the quality is probably poor, or it could be a mixture of different body parts from different animals, including possibly zoo animals (e.g. animal derivatives, meat by-products, meat meal).
High in Fat
A cat's food with extra fat content can also help add a few pounds. For dry cat food, the fat content should be at least 15%, while a minimum of 4% fat for canned cat food is ideal for underweight cats.
However, for sick cats or senior cats, you may want to consult the veterinarian first to ensure the extra fat won’t do damage.
If your skinny kitty has food allergies or intolerances, it’s safer to get a limited ingredients diet to reduce the chances of an allergic reaction due to certain ingredients.
Best Cat Foods For Weight Gain
Feline Natural Lamb & King Salmon Feast
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Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe
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Stella & Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Dinner
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Go! Solutions Carnivore Chicken, Turkey + Duck Recipe
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Instinct Original Pate Real Chicken Recipe
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Wellness CORE Natural Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate
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Merrick Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pate
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- Feline Natural Lamb & King Salmon Feast
- Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe
- Stella & Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Dinner
- Go! Solutions Carnivore Chicken, Turkey + Duck Recipe
- Instinct Original Pate Real Chicken Recipe
- Wellness CORE Natural Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate
- Merrick Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pate
1. Feline Natural Lamb & King Salmon Feast
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb Heart, Salmon, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver, Lamb Blood
Our overall best cat food for weight gain is Feline Natural Lamb and King Salmon feast, which is an absolutely appetizing diet for your picky and skinny kitty.
The freeze-dried goodness of real lamb organs from 99% grass-fed lambs in New Zealand and real salmon meat from sustainably caught salmon will very likely entice your slender cat to feast on the delicious cat food more often.
Helping your adult cat gain weight is easier with this high-calorie cat food as it offers an astounding 37% fat content, apart from the 44% protein pack.
It also has a remarkable 5197 kcal/kg caloric load. Whether you feed this diet as regular cat's food or as a topper to other cat foods, your slim kitty will greatly benefit from the superior calorie intake. It’s also enhanced with other necessary nutrients like taurine, Vitamin E supplement, and folic acid.
This dry cat food received great reviews at Chewy.com, with 93% of respondents giving positive comments. The majority said the cats loved this chow, even reportedly going to the extent of ripping the bag open.
Some also loved the strong salmon aroma. There were a few customers however that claimed their finicky cats wouldn’t touch the bowl.
- High in Calories
- High in Fats and Protein
- Ingredients from the wilds of New Zealand
- Freeze-dried process allows better palatability for picky eaters
- Made with excellent animal protein sources – real lamb organs and salmon meat
- Zero grain, gluten, corn, soy, dairy, rice, cereals, GMO ingredients, potato or other fillers
- Kibble size may be a bit too big
- Kibbles are too fragile; prone to crumbling
2. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney
Much like our top choice for best dry cat food for weight gain, Ziwi Peak’s air-dried lamb high-calorie cat food offers very similar gains.
This premium cat food is made with outstanding natural ingredients from New Zealand headed by high-quality lamb meat and organs from free-range lamb that make up 96% of the protein content, plus a dose of New Zealand green mussels, a known superfood.
The air-drying process preserves all the nutrients and flavors in these top-quality ingredients to make an excellent diet that’s almost like pure raw food but without unwanted bacteria.
Helping your underweight cat gain wealth can be a breeze with this cat food’s stellar 33% fat content to go with the equally great 5600 kcal/kg caloric count.
It also packs a high 35% protein for lean muscle mass. No cheap fillers or artificial additives are added to the formula.
Many pet owners gave this chow the thumbs up, saying their kitties emptied their bowls. Most of them found the ingredients very satisfactory.
Amazingly, a good number of ferret owners also said their pets loved it. But there are also a few negative reviews, mostly about their picky cats not too impressed with this recipe.
Some also found this air-dried diet too dry for their liking.
- High in fats and calorie-dense diet
- Made without added carbs or fillers
- Real lamb meat and organs from New Zealand
- Contains whole-prey ratios of 96% meat, organs, bone and New Zealand green mussels
- Pet owners complain of horrid smell
- Slightly drier than other freeze-dried recipes
3. Stella & Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Dinner
First 5 Ingredients: Duck With Ground Bone, Turkey With Ground Bone, Turkey Liver, Goose, Turkey Gizzard
When it comes to freeze-dried pet food, Stella & Chewy’s is undoubtedly one of the finest out there.
Using the best quality ingredients, in this case, real duck and goose meat and organs from farm-raised poultry, and organic plant-based components like pumpkin seeds, dandelion, and dried kelp. It’s also enriched with probiotics to boost the cat's digestive system, along with other must-have nutrients.
This freeze-dried cat food has a rich load of calories at 5290 kcal/kg, fat (30%), and protein (40%), suitable for underweight cats.
As a highly popular high-calorie cat food, over 90% of customers at Chewy.com gave sterling reviews with some of them ecstatic about how it helped their cat eat more for weight gain.
But there were a few that said their picky kitties only licked the rehydrated crumbs and left the dried meat. Some also thought the morsels were too big. And a few had complaints about the rehydration taking too long.
- High in calories, fat and protein contents
- Made with real duck and goose meat and organs
- Stimulates the appetite & supports the overall immune system
- Freeze-dried raw meat keeps natural nutrients and flavors intact
- Formulated with added vitamins and minerals, probiotics and taurine
- Morsels are quite big
- Takes some time to rehydrate
4. Go! Solutions Carnivore Chicken, Turkey + Duck Recipe
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, De-Boned Chicken, De-Boned Turkey, Duck Meal, Turkey Meal
For the best cat food for weight gain among dry kibbles, Go! Solutions Carnivore dry cat food presents a terrific high-calorie cat food option to help your underweight cat gain weight.
This first-class dry food boasts premium animal protein sources. In fact, the first seven ingredients in this diet are from high-quality animal proteins – chicken, turkey, duck, salmon and trout.
This is truly rare even among the most prominent brands. 84% of the protein content in this kibble is derived from animal protein.
For the extra flavor boost, this formula includes natural meat flavor from fish to help whet the cat's appetite. It also has chicken fat and salmon oil for the essential omega fatty acids for skin and coat health.
Additionally, this dry cat food has a fantastic array of fruits and veggies for important nutrients, carbs, and fibers, like pumpkin, apples, carrots, bananas, blueberries, cranberries, lentils, and broccoli.
And yes, it’s teeming with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even probiotics for the cat's digestive system.
Great for reaching your cat's ideal weight, this kibble offers a caloric content of 4298 kcal/kg, which is pretty high for dry food. It also has a fat load of 18%, and a remarkable 46% protein bulk. It’s also free of cheap fillers and artificial additives.
91% of the comments were encouraging, with many revealing how their kitties empty their bowls. Cat parents are particularly happy about the first seven ingredients in this recipe being animal proteins.
One customer also claimed his kitty stopped puking after switching to this kibble. The most common quibble with this kibble is that it’s too small.
A few also complained about being too round, which causes the tiny kibbles to roll off the cat’s mouth.
- Grain and gluten-free recipe
- Crafted by a team of pet nutritionists
- First 7 ingredients are animal proteins
- Packed with vital nutrients and probiotics
- Contains fillers
- Customers complains of smell
5. Instinct Original Pate Real Chicken Recipe
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Ground Flaxseed
This grain-free high-calorie food is among the favorites for picky cats as it is both nutritious and delicious.
As expected, this wet food is made of excellent ingredients led by real chicken meat from cage-free chicken, turkey meat, and chicken liver, which account for 95% of the pate, and with the flavorful chicken broth.
This wet food has a high-fat content of 7.5% when most canned foods typically have fewer than 5%. The caloric load is also impressive at 1239 kcal/kg, another high for wet food.
Reviews are mostly positive. Some cat owners say this best cat food is safe even for food-sensitive cats. A number of critics however complained about the pate being too soupy.
- Free from fillers
- Highly palatable
- Delicious pate texture
- 95% of the pate is derived from real chicken and turkey meats and chicken liver
- Too soupy
6. Wellness CORE Natural Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chicken Meal
If it’s wet food your fussy cat wants, this recipe is one she’ll probably love.
Made with premium meats from chicken and turkey, plus chicken liver and turkey liver, and blended in savory chicken broth, this pate is a great choice for your underweight cat.
With natural flavor and salmon oil, and fortified with taurine and other essential nutrients, it’s a tasty and nutritious meal to bulk up your skinny furry baby.
The caloric content is surely above average at 1194 kcal/kg, on top of a high 7% fat load. The protein content is pretty high too at 12% to help attain a lean muscle mass.
Only 12% of the over 200 reviews at Chewy.com showed adverse remarks for this product. Most customers say their choosy kitties enjoy this canned food for weight gain, and a good number also liked the pate's texture.
On the contrary, there were some that found the pate too dry. One thought the company had a change in the formula that made it less moist.
- Clean and natural ingredients
- Yummy flavor and smooth pate texture
- Real chicken and turkey meats are the first two ingredients
- With nutrient-dense superfoods & added nutritional supplements
- Lacks a little bit of juice
- Inconsistent quality per batch
7. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Salmon Pate
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Deboned Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Natural Flavor
Still another notable pick for wet foods is Merrick Purrfect Bistro salmon pate.
With excellent ingredients led by real deboned salmon and chicken meat as its main protein sources mixed with delectable chicken broth and natural flavor, you get a nutritious cat food delight that many cats would be thrilled about.
Salmon oil is part of the formula for the vital omegas that will help your kitties have a shinier coat and healthier skin.
This pate, which can also serve as kitten food, has a decent fat content of 5%, and a rich caloric load of 1155 kcal/kg, with a minimum of 10% protein too.
The majority of buyers at Chewy.com gave this wet food their approval, with several pleasant remarks about its quality ingredients and taste.
Some also said their food-sensitive cats were fine with it, and that some of the cats also gained a healthy body weight after a couple of months.
However, a good number of comments mentioned a change in the formula that isn’t as good as the original, citing inconsistencies in the texture, smell, and taste.
- Budget friendly
- High-quality and natural ingredients
- Fortified with taurine, vitamins and minerals
- Appropriate for both indoor and outdoor adult cats
- Made with real deboned salmon as the first ingredient
- Some customers noticed inconsistencies in the formula
- Customers noticed the packaging change: steel to aluminum
Best Topper and Supplement for Gaining Weight
Wysong Optimize Chicken Topper
As for toppers that can help entice your cats to eat more, we find Wysong Optimize Chicken Food Topper as the boss of food toppers. This tasty topper also doubles as a treat for feline chicken fans.
Made with real chicken, green-lipped mussels, and a variety of mushrooms and cheese, this delectable meal enhancer is packed with all the rich flavors that many kitties love.
Mixing this with your cat’s meals not only increases its palatability but also enriches the meal with all the natural nutrients to help give cats’ overall health a boost.
Aside from a protein boost from chicken, this topper also offers joint support from the green-lipped mussels.
It also has probiotics that help improve cats’ digestive health. A healthy gut is vital in maintaining pets’ overall health.
This allows them to absorb more nutrients from their food, which is especially important in cats that are not as food-motivated as others.
Tomlyn Nutri-Cal Gel High Calorie Supplement
And for our recommended food supplement to help your underweight cat gain weight, you can’t go wrong with Tomlyn Nutri-Cal Gel High-Calorie Supplement for Cats.
This is a highly recommended supplement for growing kittens, sick or stressed cats who have decreased appetites.
This supplement comes in a gel form that is easy to administer. It also makes it easy for young kittens, old cats, or those who have difficulty chewing to ingest.
This concentrated formula has vitamins and minerals that can help jump-start a cat’s health, as well as encourage her to increase her food intake.
It has omega fatty acids that support multiple aspects of their overall health, including joint health. It is also enriched with taurine which cats need for healthy hearts and eyes.
The high-calorie gel is great at giving kitties an energy boost as well.
About Skinny Kitties and Weight Gain in Cats
If you notice that your cat is losing pounds without you intentionally trying to trim her weight down, she could be having a health disorder that caused the unhealthy weight loss or lose her appetite.
Cats with fluffy fur are hard to see for weight loss so a regular weight check is in order. Senior cats are also more prone to weight loss, which typically signifies a health problem.
Common Causes of a Cat’s Weight Loss
Insufficient Food Intake
A cat’s weight loss could be because she is not getting enough food even if she wants more.
This is typical of multiple cats in a household where some bullies take more than their share of cat food or obstruct other cats’ access to their food bowls.
Weaker cats try to avoid confrontation and just walk away and skip meals. If you have many cats, try monitoring them during feeding time to ensure that each cat gets enough food intake.
A change in diet could also have some effect if the new food has a lower calorie content than the old one.
Sick or senior cats could also have difficulty trying to get to their food bowls if these are placed in higher or challenging locations.
If your cat is suffering from bone or joint conditions like arthritis or has some injuries, she could struggle to make the jump to get to her food.
Another common origin of a cat’s weight loss is having intestinal parasites, which can be pretty common in cats, especially outdoor cats.
Cats can get parasites from untidy places or from eating animals outdoors or dead animals. Pregnant cats may also transfer parasites to their kittens when nursing.
Make sure to clean and disinfect your cats’ playgrounds to avoid catching parasites. If you suspect that your kitty has intestinal parasites, have her feces checked by the vet.
A simple deworming process can clear your cat’s gut of these parasites.
Diabetes could be the reason for your kitty's weight loss. It’s a common health issue that needs medical treatment. Untreated feline diabetes could be fatal. Also, diabetic cats tend to drink more water, which leads to frequent urinating.
Senior cats and cats over 8 years old are vulnerable to feline hyperthyroidism, which is a condition where the thyroid releases high levels of thyroid hormones into the body that speeds up metabolism, thus causing rapid weight loss.
Your cats tend to feel hungry more often and have a high heart rate. Symptoms include frequent meowing at night and difficulty sleeping. This condition also requires veterinary supervision.
Some common feline viral diseases like FIP, FeLV, and FIV could also cause cats to lose weight. Your vet should provide the proper treatment.
If your cat has kidney disorders, unhealthy weight loss is certainly one of the symptoms. Again, it’s a must to have the vet diagnose your furry pal.
Cancer and Tumors
Cancers are typical causes for losing weight in cats. The vet will need to do a series of tests for a proper diagnosis. Some benign and malignant tumors are also known to cause unhealthy weight loss in cats as some of the cancer cells eat up calories.
There are many reasons why your kitty can be stressed, anxious, or even depressed. These unhealthy emotions tend to cause your cats to lose appetite or avoid the food bowl.
Cats actually get easily upset by a number of things including dirty food bowls or bowls near the litter box, loud noises, or other animals and cats. The loss of another pet or certain changes in their abode may also trigger depression.
Teeth and Gum Problems
Dental issues are common in cats. They may have a gum infection or wound or may have broken or decayed teeth that inflict too much pain. Outdoor cats are more susceptible to dental problems.
Some disorders in your cat’s G.I. tract such as inflammatory bowel disease or food allergies may be why your cats lose weight.
Especially for senior cats, organ failure normally results in a cat’s unhealthy weight loss. Some common feline diseases such as heart, liver, pancreas, or lung diseases could also trigger weight loss.
Helping Your Underweight Cat Gain Weight
The first step to helping your underweight cat gain weight is to determine the causes of her weight loss. If there are underlying health issues that result in losing weight or losing appetite, these must be quickly identified.
Next is giving her the right food and also the right amount. Again, the vet is the best person to give recommendations.
Visit the Vet
If you suspect that your cat is unintentionally losing weight, have the vet assess her condition to find out hidden disorders.
You can also ask the vet for recommendations for the proper cat’s diet, amount to feed, and frequency of feeding. The vet may even recommend some medication to stimulate the appetite.
Feed Smaller Amounts But More Often
Instead of feeding your underweight cat once or twice a day in large quantities, it may be better to feed smaller amounts but more frequently in a day, like one tablespoon-full every 3-4 hours.
Cats have a small digestive system, which won’t be able to digest large amounts of food. This will also greatly reduce vomiting, which is common in cats.
If you’re feeding your kitties wet food, or a combination of wet and dry food, it helps to warm up the meal before serving in a microwave oven for about 15-30 seconds.
This will help intensify the smell of the food and entice the cats. Make sure the food bowl is microwave-safe.
Treats in between meals can certainly help your underweight cat gain weight more quickly. Just make sure the treats are healthy.
Freeing your cat from stress would likely get her appetite back. Find out the origin of her stress or anxiety and try to fix it. If it’s another cat, try separating them. Some cats prefer to eat alone as they are naturally solitary hunters.
We want our pets to have a healthy weight, which helps prolong their lives. Help them attain a healthy weight gain with the right diet and nutrition. If your cat is losing weight fast, there could be an unseen health issue.
Bring your kitty to the vet for diagnosis. The vet will provide the right courses of action, which could include medical treatments or just a simple diet change.
To help your underweight cat gain weight, ask the vet about her ideal weight. You can help gradually achieve that ideal weight.
Ask the vet how to calculate the amount of food you should give your underweight cat, including the right calorie intake, as well as the frequency of feeding.
As for the right cat food, you need to find out what she prefers – wet or dry food, chicken or fish, etc. To entice her to eat more, she must like the food.
Try different options until you figure out her favorite. You can purchase small packs of different cat foods just to see her preferences.
But whichever cat food you choose to give your underweight cat, make sure it is made of high-quality ingredients and has complete and balanced nutrition.
Why is my cat so skinny but eats?
Conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect the absorption of nutrients in the GI tract and contribute to weight loss, even if your cat is eating well. Other causes may be related to food allergies or certain GI infections.
How long does it take for a cat to gain weight?
We recommend monitoring the body condition score and activity level to adjust the caloric intake accordingly, once the ideal weight and body condition for the frame of the cat has been achieved. The entire process can take a few months and weight gain should be a slow and steady process.
How do you feed a skinny cat?
Just be sure to only feed her skinless white meat. Remember you cat's daily meal should be mainly a well-balanced cat food. Try adding a very small amount of the liquid from canned tuna or unsalted chicken broth to your cat's food.
Is there an appetite stimulant for cats?
Mirtazapine is a drug that was initially developed to control nausea but has been shown to be an effective appetite stimulant in cats. It has been used for quite some time by veterinarians trying to improve their patients' appetites, but the issue of giving it to cats that won't eat has been problematic.