close up of a tabby cat eating from a stainless steel bowl

Best High Calorie Cat Food For Weight Gain

There are few, if any, cat foods on the market that are marketed as “high calorie cat food for weight gain”. We see kitten food, food for senior cats, vegetarian, gluten-free, adult active and others, but nothing that purports to make your cat a fat little kitty! I suppose it just doesn’t sound right. But, in some circumstances, we do need cat food that can help a skinny wretch put a bit of meat on the bones quickly!

In this article, we will check out why your cat or others out there may need a diet that can help put on weight. We will check out what sort of calorie numbers your cat should be eating so you can work out if you are just plain underfeeding your cat. We will offer some good solutions that you can use in their diet to help get to the correct calorie numbers or boost their intake if that is what they need.

Why Might My Cat Need High Calorie Cat Food?

Basically, your cat may need a high calorie cat food diet if they are a little bit on the skinny side. They may just need a short period on high-calorie food for a quick weight boost. They may have underlying issues that require treatment and then building up with the diet. They may have age-related issues that mean they can only absorb a proportion of the calories they are ingesting so they need as many as they can get. Let’s take a look at why your cat might be skinny and see what the potential solutions might be.  

It is growing and needs calories to support growth.

Kittens go through a massive growth spurt from the early months of life until they are two years old. To achieve this growth they need plenty of calories in relation to their size and those calories have to be good calories – lots of protein with fats and some carbs in moderate proportion.

Manufacturers have realized that to provide for the growing cats’ needs, they require decent levels of energy and nutrients. They produce food to suit and market it specifically as kitten food. The result is essentially a high-calorie quality food.

If your cat is still a kitten and is on the skinny side don’t be tempted to go for cheaper adult foods. Make sure you go for kitten food that will have the nutrients and calories to support their growth. Check out the figures below to make sure you are not underfeeding your kitten.

Additionally, if you think your cat needs a boost then a high-quality kitten food can supply extra calories in short order.    

Your Cat is pregnant and needs calories for pregnancy

A pregnant cat or a cat that is nursing young will require significantly more food than normal for obvious reasons. But how much more? (Ans think double and you are nearly there!) You can get the official answer below but safe to say, if you feed a pregnant cat on the same routine as normal it is not going to take long before it starts to look skinny. If they are pregnant their weight will rise as the kittens develop so the clues are in how they look and probably how they are pestering you for food.

If you have an unspayed cat and they are suddenly hungry all the time or persistently calling for food then chances are you are going to hear the patter of tiny feet shortly. At the moment there is not much evidence on the market of foods specially prepared for pregnant or nursing cats. Most vets suggest as appetite increases in the last few weeks of pregnancy and then during nursing, you should feed your cat more regularly and supplement with kitten food for extra calories.

Your Cat Has parasites

If your cat is looking skinny for no apparent reason then it may be wise to get a health check-up and get some treatment for all the parasites that might cause weight loss. The most common parasites that can give rise to weight loss in cats include roundworm, tapeworm, heartworm, and giardia. All these generally require veterinary intervention to close out.

Once you have treated your cat for parasites you will probably need to feed them up with additional meals and higher quality foods to get them back in good shape at a healthy weight. This is when you need a cat food for weight gain to help them bounce back.

Your Cat Is Aging And May Have Age-Related Health Issues

From about the age of 7, most cats start to slow down. They generally spend more time indoors and their metabolism slows down much like humans in middle age. At this stage, it is usually recommended that you move your cat onto a “senior” diet. These “senior” foods tend to have fewer calories but high levels of protein and sufficient vitamins and minerals to support an aging cat with a slowing metabolism.

However, aging cats also tend to suffer from fading senses of smell and taste and this can negatively impact on their appetite. Owners need to evaluate whether their cat is eating properly and taking on board the correct amount of calories to keep them in good shape.

Additionally, older cats often suffer from age-related health problems like kidney disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism, bad teeth, and bowel disease. All these conditions can result in the cat eating or absorbing fewer calories and becoming gaunt or out of shape. At this stage, you need appetizing, easy to digest food that has a high level of calories to keep the cat in the best shape possible (as well as medical intervention in some cases).    

Your Cat Is Not Getting Fed Regularly

Sometimes your cat might not get fed regularly and you might not even know it. In multi-cat households or houses with dogs as well as cats, food might be stolen by other pets leaving a cat short on calories and looking thin.

Sometimes if no one person is responsible for feeding, everyone may assume the cat has been fed when no one has seen to it – resulting in a cat with no regular feeding schedule or a history of missed feeds.

In both these situations, you may not even realize your cat is on a diet!

If your cat is looking undernourished and you live in a household where they may miss out then the first thing to do is monitor the situation and try and spot the cause. If the cat is not getting fed regularly then allocate a human feeder and a safe eating location to ensure the cat gets a meal undisturbed. Once you have a regular schedule on lockdown, boosting calories should be fairly easy to achieve.  

Your Cat Is Not Getting Fed The Correct Amount

Even well-meaning owners can struggle with the question of how much to feed their cat. It is not unheard of for owners, who fear overfeeding their cat, to actually underfeed their cat. A young cat leading an active outdoor life can easily have higher calorie needs than say the average cat and their recommended portion size as outlined on food packets.

If you put food down at set times rather than allowing free feeding all day you may find you underfeed your cat. If the cat is an indoor-only cat you might notice weight loss. If the cat is an outdoors cat it may turn into a more avid hunter or visit other households looking for food.  

How Many Calories Should My Cat Be Eating?

It is usually a bit of a guessing game for owners when it comes to deciding what to feed their cats. I am sure most of us mainly go with the advice on the tin or bag, mixed with a bit of an idea as to the personal eating habits of our cats – but then if the cat has bad habits and you are close but not exact, you can easily end up under-feeding or overfeeding.

Luckily, the bright people at the National Academy of Sciences have taken the time to look into this everyday problem and have come up with all the answers here. If you check out the link you can get all sorts of amazing info on nutrient breakdowns, vitamin and mineral doses, and of course, calorie requirements for cats in all stages of growth and lifecycle.

It really is an eye-opening read. However, to save you some of the hassle here is what you should be feeding your cat in terms of calories based on weight according to the NAS :

5Lb Cat10Lb Cat15Lb Cat20Lb Cat
Kitten(after weaning)200 cal/day
Lean Domestic Adult Cats170 cal/day280 cal/day360 cal/day440 cal/day
Overweight Domestic Cat180 cal/day240 cal/day280 cal/day310 cal/day
Pregnant/Nursing Cat336 cal/day603 cal/day851 cal/day1091 cal/day

Assuming you are reading this because your cat is lean and needs fattening up – at this stage, you can now weigh your cat and identify what should be normal in terms of feeding. The calories included in food should appear on the packaging so it should be straightforward to plan what to feed your cat to boost them up.

To give them that boost you can either put out additional food and hope they have the appetite/capacity to eat extra volume or you can opt for high-calorie food which will give them more calories for the same weight/volume of food.

You can also try some of these tricks to get your cat to eat more:

Tips and Tricks To Get Your Cat To Eat More

If you realize your cat is not getting enough calories and have tried to increase the food available to them but still don’t think they are eating enough you can try some alternative strategies to get your cat to eat more. Check out some of these tricks that can make a big difference to a cat that is reluctant to eat :

Feed Small Meals More Often

You might get a greater number of calories into your cat on a daily basis if you change meal times and opt for more numerous meals throughout the day but with smaller quantities of food at each meal. 

It is a bit like us snacking through the day – you end up eating far more than you should because you discount small snacks as not real meals, additionally snacking seems to perk up your appetite so you actually end up feeling more hungry and eating more.

Many cats like to eat and then come back to the bowl later. If when they come back the food has gone a little stale or dried out this can be off-putting for the cat. Go for smaller meals but more numerous so food is always fresh or supplement their normal food with some high-calorie cat treats.  

Try Feeding In A Different Location

Unknowingly, you might be feeding your cat in the wrong location. Imagine visiting a restaurant and having to sit next to the restroom. Your experience of the restaurant is unlikely to be as good as possible and you might not stay any longer than you have to. 

Could be the same issue with your cat – the area you are feeding them in may make them feel vulnerable or uncomfortable and they just cut short their meal or rush instead of making a good job of it. 

Are you feeding your cat in a busy walkway in your home making it hard for the cat to settle? Is your cat feeling overlooked or vulnerable? Try a change of location and see if it makes a difference to their eating volume and frequency.

Additionally, try numerous feeding areas at the same time rather than just the usual single spot. You never know – just walking past some food more often in unexpected locations might have them tucking in more often.

Don’t Feed Near Water

Lots of owners put food and water together – seems natural to humans to eat and drink in the same place. To cats, this is not necessarily a good thing. In the wild, cats have an aversion to killing and eating near their water supply for fear of tainting the water. Your cat might think eating near water is just all wrong and instinctively unnatural.

Try moving water and food apart to different locations and see if this has an impact on how much your cat either eats or drinks. You might find they end up eating and drinking more!

Try Warming Food Up

Some cats are just very picky. It might not be the flavor of the food they dislike, it could be the temperature.

If you feed your cat wet food it could be a good idea to try raising the temperature of the food so it resembles something more like the body temperature of a fresh kill! 

Often, warm food has more flavor and better consistency than cold food. After all a congealed cold slab of food is not very natural or appealing compared to a warm, juicy slice! 

It might be worth trying to heat up your cat’s food to see how they react – it may be just a case of getting the food up from stone cold to room temperature.

Feed-In Different Places If You Have Numerous Cats

If you have several cats in the house you might find that they are putting each other off. Your cat might feel less pressure to wolf down food and vacate the area if the individual cats are fed apart from each other without pressure from one another.

Simply locate food bowls in different areas to reduce tension and food times.

Vary Food Or Change Up Flavors

Your cat could be bored. If you are feeding the same food day in and day out there is a chance your cat might have lost interest or worse, developed a food sensitivity that makes eating off-putting. If your cat licks food but doesn’t eat it might have lost interest.

Try changing flavors to see if you can inspire your cat to eat more. Don’t assume your cat wants to eat stuff that you think, as an owner sounds good. Try all sorts of flavors to see if you can get some variety in their eating experience. This might perk up their appetite. 

Some cats that eat the same food day in day out can develop intolerances brought on by a gradual build-up, or exposure, to various ingredients (often cereals used to bulk out foods cheaply). These intolerances can make your cat throw up so they don’t get the same calories in or they might find their appetite dwindles.

Change out food flavors and brands to see if they will eat more and get a healthy appetite going. 

Play With Your Cat

Loads of owners don’t bother really playing with their cats on a daily basis. Here is the thing, if you play with your cat and get them running around like crazy they will get a healthier appetite going and will want to eat more. 

Additionally, play is hunting, and after hunting comes eating and sleeping. Try playing with your cat and then watch what they do next. After play, they often have an urge to go eat. 

If you want your cat to get more calories try playing more frequently throughout the day if you can. See if you can get that eating response going… 

Next, we check out what high-calorie cat food for weight gain options you have for the fussy eater who doesn’t eat big or cats that need the extra weight quickly.

What Are The Best High-Calorie Cat Food Options Out There?

If you need to help your cat gain weight so they reach a healthy weight but they just won’t eat any more food the best route is a high-calorie food. Here we check out some of the best high-calorie cat food for weight gain options on the market :

Best High Calorie Sensitive Stomach Cat Food: Royal Canin Veterinary Diet GI High Energy Cat Food

This is a canned wet food made of chunks in gel designed for underweight cats who need to add weight and have sensitive stomachs. High fat, high calorie means you can feed smaller amounts to sensitive cats who are maybe eating fewer calories than required. Fat content improves palatability and taste. Comes in a chicken flavor and many owners note that fussy eaters find this food easy to eat. Price is higher than normal foods as you need a prescription to buy the food.

Not great for cats that have problems chewing or obstructions in the esophagus.

180kcal/5.8 0z can


Best High Calorie Wet Cat Food For Senior Cats: Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+

A canned wet food designed for senior cats, high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Come in an ocean fish/chicken blend, avoids grains and fillers that many cats are sensitive to. Moisture-rich canned cat food to ensure kitty keeps their water intake healthy. It does not require a prescription and is usually lower cost than prescription diet foods. Ideal if you suspect your senior cat needs a bit of extra from time to time. Owners find their feline friends really like this food.

95kcal/3 oz can


Best High Calorie Cat Food For Sick Cat : Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets CN Critical Nutrition Formula

This is a dog and cat food for critically ill pets that need high energy, palatable, easy to eat food. The food is a smooth consistency allowing it to be used as a high calorie liquid cat food for syringe or tube feeding that makes it ideal for cats with eating problems (teeth/jaw problems, oesophagus blockages). Formulated to be energy-dense so your cat feels the benefits immediately. Optimal nutrient profile to support pet recovery. This is for pets that really need building up quickly or energy-dense foods for pets that are restricted from eating normal volumes by health conditions. Anxious Users report very pleasing results seeing severely ill pets take food onboard and rebuild strength or elderly pets halt losing weight and improved weight management.

Ideal for cats with difficulty eating, recovering from illness or who have severely depleted appetite. This pet food gets calories in quick and easy. Unfortunately, requires a prescription.

208kcal/5.5oz can


Best Non-Prescription High Calorie Cat Food: Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast Canned Food

A high-calorie kitten food that is great for topping up your cat’s diet if you feel they need a bit extra. A wet, canned food with a good balance of vitamins and minerals suitable for a growing cat. 78% moisture to support urinary health and maintain water intake.

Many owners suggest this must taste good because cats really do tuck into it. A really affordable option if you need to get extra calories into a healthy but otherwise underweight cat.

Does not require a prescription.

95kcal/3 oz can


Best Grain Free High Calorie Cat Food: Iams Perfect Portions Grain-Free Healthy Kitten Chicken Pate Recipe

A pate kitten food that reviewers give high marks to. More expensive than other kitten foods but easy to eat and digest pate makes this a useful high-calorie food for cats with mouth problems or sensitive stomachs. Dense in calories to support growing cats, ideal for fussy eaters with missing teeth who need a bit of help maintaining weight.

45Kcal/1.3 oz serving


In this category there is no best option – each option is suitable for certain circumstances. If your pet is losing ground fast, or has walked in in really bad condition, or has trouble eating and swallowing then the recovery formulas are for you.

If you suspect your pet is missing out to other household pets then the kitten formulas might be the best option for you and Fancy Feast represents the best value option. If your cat is senior and just needs a little help maintaining weight then Purina Vibrant Maturity is probably best for you. Like most cat owners