The 8 Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain

By Nadine Oraby | 2021 Update

While most pet parents worry about their cats gaining too much weight, the opposite is just as bad.

An underweight cat is at risk for many health concerns that can impact her quality of life in the long term. This is why making sure your cat maintains a healthy weight is crucial. While obesity is a serious health problem, many senior cats are at risk of becoming underweight as they age. This is why you need a certain balance of nutrients to ensure your cat stays healthy.

When it comes to weight loss, there are many reasons your cat could be losing weight. Sometimes underlying medical conditions can lead to unhealthy weight loss and a low appetite for your cat. After your cat has received treatment for their health conditions, you should feed them a high-quality calorie-dense diet to help them gain weight. Below are some of our top recommendations to help your cat gain weight.

The 8 Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain

Best ProductsRatingTop Ingredients
1. ORIJEN: Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Cat Food4.7Beef, Pork, Whole Mackerel, Beef Liver, Wild Boar…
2. Wellness: Complete Health Chicken & Rice Formula4.5Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Rice, Barley, Oats…
3. Solid Gold: Indigo Moon High Protein Wild Alaskan Pollock & Eggs Recipe4.4Ocean Fish Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat, Pollock…
4. Instinct: Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken4.5Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas..
5. Ziwi: Peak East Cape Canned Cat Food4.2Mutton, Lamb Broth, Goat, Whole Kahawai, Goat Tripe…
6. Merrick: Purrfect Bistro Healthy Grains Real Salmon + Brown Rice Recipe4.5Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, Barley…
7. Nulo: Freestyle Duck & Lentils Recipe4.5Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Cod, Whole Peas…
8. Blue Buffalo: Wilderness Denali Dinner with Wild Salmon, Venison & Halibut4.5Deboned Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Pea Protein…

1. ORIJEN: Regional Red Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Beef, Pork, Whole Mackerel, Beef Liver, Wild Boar

This recipe is great for helping an underweight cat gain weight since it is rich in protein (40%) and fats (20%). This Orijen Regional Red recipe is a blend of premium proteins and fats from a variety of animal sources. It contains a delicious combination of beef, pork, fish, boar, and lamb. Orijen’s Wholeprey approach includes the best meat, meat organs, and bone for a balanced and nourishing meal.

This recipe also contains pollock oil, a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids that are responsible for brain, eye, and coat health. Pumpkin, apples, and butternut squash add fiber, vitamins, and minerals for digestive and immune support. Additionally, the kibble is coated with freeze-dried lamb and beef for maximum flavor.

2. Wellness: Complete Health Chicken & Rice Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Rice, Barley, Oats

This Wellness Complete Health recipe is rich in premium chicken proteins. Rice, barley, and oats provide fiber to encourage easy digestion. It is a balanced recipe with ample protein and fats to promote weight gain. If your underweight cat has health issues, this recipe contains a variety of nutrients to support whole-body health such as glucosamine, taurine, and chondroitin. The additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants support your feline’s immunity.

This premium recipe is made with the finest local non-GMO ingredients. It is easy to digest and boosts gut health due to added probiotics.

3. Solid Gold: Indigo Moon High Protein Wild Alaskan Pollock & Eggs Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Ocean Fish Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pollock

This recipe by Solid Gold is rich in lean proteins from chicken, eggs and fish. Peas provide a low-glycemic source of carbohydrates and fiber, making this a recipe that is suitable for felines with diabetic concerns. Functional superfoods such as blueberries, pumpkin, and cranberries enrich this recipe with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune health. Additionally, it also contains taurine to promote healthy vision and heart function. This is a delicious but simple recipe that is free of grains and artificial additives.

The healthy balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids from fish oil helps your feline look and feel her best. Abundant live probiotics encourage gut health and boost immunity.

4. Instinct: Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas

This recipe by Instinct contains a variety of lean proteins from chicken, turkey, and fish to encourage lean muscle development which can prevent additional weight loss. Wholesome carrots, apples, and cranberries add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to make this a balanced meal. The proprietary probiotic blend in Instinct’s recipes encourages healthy digestion and boosts gut health. This premium kibble is made with the finest local ingredients without any grains, gluten, or artificial additives.

This recipe is also highly palatable for underweight cats that struggle with maintaining their appetite. It is coated with freeze-dried chicken and chicken organs for a nutritional and flavor boost.

5. Ziwi: Peak East Cape Canned Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Mutton, Lamb Broth, Goat, Whole Kahawai, Goat Tripe

Ziwi’s East Cape recipe is a flavorful and hearty meal for your feline. Made rich in protein from grass-fed lamb, goat, and whole kahawai, it provides a good balance of protein and fats to encourage weight gain. It is a moisture-rich pate with tender chunks of meat and fish, organ meats, and bone. This recipe is the best for cats struggling with unhealthy weight loss that have low appetites. Since this recipe is highly palatable and nutrient-rich, it can encourage eating.

Superfoods such as green tripe and antioxidant-rich kelp promote vitality, while chondroitin and glucosamine from New Zealand green mussels supports joint health.

6. Merrick: Purrfect Bistro Healthy Grains Real Salmon + Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, Barley

This Merrick recipe is great for an underweight cat with digestive sensitivities. Premium salmon, chicken and turkey proteins promote lean muscle maintenance, while brown rice and barley provide carbohydrates and fiber for digestive support. This kibble is fortified further with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to provide a balanced meal that supports your feline’s immune system. In addition, taurine is also included to promote the health of your pet’s eyes and heart.

This kibble is made with the finest local ingredients without any fillers or artificial additives. Merrick handcrafts its recipes in small batches to ensure peak nutrition and flavor for your feline.

7. Nulo: Freestyle Duck & Lentils Recipe Grain-Free Indoor Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Cod, Whole Peas

Nulo’s Freestyle Cod and Lentils recipe is a great option for an underweight cat since it contains a variety of proteins from duck, chicken, turkey, and fish. Lentils add iron and fiber which strengthen muscles and promote healthy digestion. This recipe also includes wholesome non-GMO fruits and vegetables which make it a balanced meal. An underweight cat will benefit from the good balance of protein and fats in this kibble.

Your feline will love this delicious kibble that is easy to digest due to added probiotics. Nulo’s recipes are simple and protein-rich which is exactly what an underweight cat struggling to maintain a healthy appetite needs.

8. Blue Buffalo: Wilderness Denali Dinner with Wild Salmon, Venison & Halibut Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Salmon, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Tapioca Starch, Peas, Pea Protein

Blue Buffalo’s Denali Dinner is a premium recipe made with a variety of proteins including fish, chicken, and venison. The meat is followed by sweet potatoes and carrots for a complete and balanced meal. Fish oil and flaxseed in this kibble provide your feline omega fatty acids from brain, eye, and coat health.

The natural sources of fiber in this recipe encourage easy digestion. Additionally, it is supplemented with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits, a blend of essential nutrients chosen by animal nutritionists. This is a carefully balanced recipe which can encourage healthy weight gain in your feline.

9. Feline Natural: Chicken & Lamb Feast Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Lamb Heart, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver, Lamb Blood

This Feline Natural Chicken and Lamb Feast is precisely what the name suggests. It is a protein-rich diet that is biologically appropriate and made with wholesome, natural ingredients. Delectable chicken and lamb meat adds protein, while nourishing lamb organs enrich this recipe with a variety of nutrients. This freeze-dried raw food contains ample protein and healthy fats that will certainly encourage weight gain for your cat. Additionally, it also contains antioxidant-rich kelp and taurine for immune, heart, and eye health.

Simple and delicious, this recipe is appropriate for kittens, nursing and pregnant mothers. For a complete meal, just add equal amounts of warm water.

10. Rachael Ray Nutrish: PEAK Grain-Free Natural Woodland Catch Recipe with Chicken, Trout & Salmon Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Peas, Pea Protein

This Rachael Ray Nutrish Woodland Catch recipe includes a variety of proteins from chicken, turkey, and three different types of fish. The peas and sweet potatoes serve as a low-glycemic source of carbohydrates and fiber. This simple grain-free meal is free of any fillers or artificial additives so it is safe for felines with grain allergies or intolerances. It is also fortified with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune health.

This delectable protein-rich recipe is a hearty meal that can encourage eating in cats that struggle with their appetite. It is also made with the right balance of proteins and fats to encourage healthy weight gain as well as lean muscle maintenance.

11. American Journey: Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Dried Egg Product

American Journey’s Chicken and Turkey recipe is a grain-free meal your feline will love. Made with a high amount (40%) of delectable chicken, fish and turkey proteins, this recipe is perfect for a skinny feline that needs to gain weight. This kibble also features nutrient-rich superfoods such as pumpkin, blueberries, and spinach which provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune support. It is crafted using the finest ingredients from all around the world with zero wheat, corn, soy, or artificial additives.

This American Journey recipe is a delicious blend of meat and wholesome fruits and vegetables that will encourage weight gain. Taurine, omega fatty acids, and probiotics promote the overall health of your feline.

12. Stella & Chewy’s: Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride

Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner is a great option for underweight cats with diabetic concerns. This simple and clean freeze-dried recipe is as good as a limited ingredient diet. It is rich in essential amino acids from chicken, while nutrient-rich chicken liver adds flavor. Made with 98% meat ingredients including bone, this is a biologically appropriate diet rich in protein and fats for weight gain. Additionally, it is supplemented with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a balanced meal.

This recipe is made in Stella & Chewy’s own USA kitchen with cage-free poultry and 100% organic-certified fruits and vegetables. It also contains ample fiber and probiotics for easy digestion.

13. The New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co.: Meow Wild Venison Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Wild Venison, Lamb, Lamb Green Tripe, Lamb Heart, Lamb Liver

This New Zealand Natural Pet Food Co. recipe contains a great deal of protein (60%) and fats (20%) which makes it a great option for cats struggling with severe weight loss. This freeze-dried raw food is made with venison, lamb, and lamb organs for a balanced and biologically appropriate diet. This simple and clean recipe is free of grains, glutens, and artificial additives, so it is safe for cats with digestive sensitivities. Additionally, it also contains coconut and hoki oil which are excellent sources of Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids to ensure the health of your feline’s brain, eyes, and coat.

Manuka honey and antioxidant-rich kelp boost your feline’s immunity. The New Zealand green-lipped mussels in this recipe are rich in glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

14. Go!: Solutions Carnivore Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey + Duck Recipe Dry Cat Foo

Top Ingredients: Chicken Meal, De-Boned Chicken, De-Boned Turkey, Duck Meal, Turkey Meal

This Go! recipe is rich in protein from chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, and trout which encourage lean muscle maintenance. This grain-free recipe provides complete nutrition with additional fruits and vegetables that support immune function. It is also supplemented with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a complete meal. Additionally, it contains salmon oil, a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids to promote healthy skin.

This Go! recipe is a delicious meal that will encourage a healthy appetite and weight gain. Since it is free of grains, fillers, and artificial additives, it provides healthy premium nutrition. The addition of prebiotic fiber and probiotics which ease digestion is helpful for underweight cats with IBS.

Buyer’s Guide

Obesity is an increasingly common problem in pets with an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs being either overweight or obese. It can put your pet at risk for multiple health issues including diabetes and heart disease. While obesity is a major health issue, being underweight is just as bad. If your cat is underweight, he is at risk for brittle bones and other health issues. The best way to make your cat gain weight is with a highly palatable and calorie-dense food that is rich in animal-based protein and fats.

How Can I Tell if My Cat is Underweight?

If you are unsure if your cat is underweight, you can easily evaluate his body condition. If you notice the following, that means your cat could be underweight:

  • The ribs are visible.
  • There is a severe abdominal tuck.
  • You can feel and see your cat’s vertebrae and hip bones.

If you notice the following in your cat, you should take him to the vet to determine his true body condition score. The best approach to addressing unhealthy weight loss in your cat is determining the cause. As soon as the cause is eliminated, you can feed your cat a nutrient-rich diet to help him gain weight again and prevent weight loss in the future.

The Causes of Weight Loss in Cats

Getting your cat to gain weight can become much easier once you figure out the cause. There are certain medical conditions that specially affect senior cats that are linked with weight loss such as:

1. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is fairly common in cats and can cause severe appetite suppression. As a result, your cat might eat less or skip meals, leading to unhealthy weight loss. In this situation, you should feed your cat as much as possible of any food they enjoy.

It is also important that you keep the amount of phosphorus in their diet as low as possible to prevent future bouts of the illness. The best food for a cat with kidney disease is rich in protein from highly digestible animal sources.

2. Diabetes

Diabetes can be easier to manage depending on the severity of the illness. Although it might take some time to manage symptoms, you can switch your cat over to a commercial cat food that is high in protein, has moderate healthy fats, and minimum carbohydrates to help him regain lost weight.

Additionally, the carbohydrates in your cat’s food should be low-glycemic, for e.g., peas and sweet potatoes. These carbohydrate sources will not lead to a rise in blood sugar levels.

3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Cats with digestive issues have trouble absorbing the nutrients from their diet. Cats that suffer from IBS can become underweight due to recurrent digestive issues such as diarrhea. For cats that are struggling with IBS, a diet that is rich in nucleotides (found in lamb, liver, and dark leafy greens like spinach) can help strengthen the small intestine.

Along with highly digestible animal-based protein, your cat’s diet should also contain prebiotic fiber and live probiotics which encourage gut health.

4. Dental Problems

More often than not, your cat might stop eating just due to bad teeth. Especially if your cat suddenly stops eating rather than gradually eating less or skipping meals, bad teeth are the most probable reason. In this case, you should ensure dental hygiene and brush your cat’s teeth often to prevent future dental issues.

5. Skinny Old Cat Syndrome (SOCS)

In some cases where your cat’s weight loss is not liked to an underlying health condition, it could just be due to age. In healthy cats, SOCS is usually observed in cats that consume diets high in starches and carbohydrates. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. However, many pet food companies add excess carbohydrates to bulk up food.

In order to prevent SCOS for your cat, you should increase the amount of protein in their diet as they age. For most cats, the recommended amount of protein in their middle ages is 36-40% to prevent the loss of lean muscle tone in senior years.

Simple Tips to Help Your Cat Eat More

Cats tend to be picky about many things ranging from where they sleep to what they eat. If your underweight cat refuses to eat, try the following tips:

  • Try switching the flavor of your cat’s food. Cats often tend to become bored with what they’re eating and will simply stop eating. Switching your cat to a new food or just changing the flavor could encourage them to eat more. In general, cats enjoy the taste of chicken, fish, and rabbit the most.
  • Your cat might also stop eating because he finds dry food unappealing. You can use some warm broth to make your cat’s food more appealing and easier to eat. Switching to wet food could also fix your cat’s eating problem.
  • It could also be the case that your cat cannot derive proper nutrition from the food they are currently eating, leading to weight loss. Switch to a different formula that is rich in protein, has minimal carbohydrates, and contains highly digestible ingredients.
  • Scheduling mealtimes might encourage your cat to eat enough. Set the food out three to four times a day for 15-20 minutes so your cat eats enough by the end of the day.
  • There are many options when it comes to topping your cat’s food. You can opt for moist toppers, as well as freeze-dried raw meat. The additional aroma and flavor could encourage your cat to eat more.

How to Choose The Best Food for Weight Gain

Cats are obligate carnivores and have a biological requirement for a high-protein diet. The protein should always come from highly digestible animal sources.

In order to help your cat gain weight, a diet rich in protein is the best option. Research suggests that cats whose diet does not include at least 36% protein are at a high risk for unhealthy weight loss with age.

1. Quality Animal Protein

Meat is essential for your cat and plays many vital roles in their bodies, including maintaining a healthy weight and lean muscles. Your cat’s new food should contain at least 40-50% protein from quality animal sources to encourage weight gain. All the cat foods mentioned above include 40-46% protein so they are ideal for an underweight cat.

2. Higher Fat Content

Fat is the best source of calories for your cat, rather than carbohydrates. Your cat’s new food should contain at least 18-30% fat from animal sources such as chicken fat and fish oil. You can also opt for a recipe that contains a high-fat protein source such as beef, lamb, and pork.

3. Clean and Natural Ingredients

When it comes to an underweight cat with digestive issues, less is more. Recipes that contain fewer simple ingredients along with a high ratio of animal-based protein offer the most nutrition and can encourage weight gain for your cat. Avoid recipes with fillers, animal by-products, and artificial additives as these can hinder digestion and have no nutritional value for your feline.

4. Low Carbohydrate Content

Carbohydrates are the main culprit behind weight loss in senior cats which is why you should look for a food with minimal carbohydrates. The ideal food for your cat should contain less than 10% carbohydrates from highly digestible sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

5. Beneficial Supplements

With wholesome natural ingredients, supplements are also necessary to ensure the health of your cat. With underweight cats, niacin, prebiotic fiber, and probiotics are the best since they can aid healthy appetite and digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my cat underweight even though he eats a normal amount?

If your cat is eating a normal amount and not gaining weight, it could be due to underlying health conditions such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and kidney disease. You should consult your vet to determine the cause of your feline’s weight loss.

How much should I feed my underweight cat?

There is no definite answer to this question since it can vary based on age, weight and activity level. However, feeding your cat a high-calorie formula should help him gain weight. Scheduling mealtimes and smaller portions could also help your cat eat more.