There are few, if any, cat foods on the market that are marketed as “high calorie”. We see kitten food, senior food, 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 a 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 calories 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 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 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 realised 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 the 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. This is when you need a high-calorie food to help them bounce back.
Your Cat Is Aging And May Have Age-Related Health Problems
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 ageing cat with a slowing metabolism.
However, ageing 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 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 realise 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 your cat. 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 Cat||10Lb Cat||15Lb Cat||20Lb Cat|
|Kitten(after weaning)||200 cal/day||–||–||–|
|Lean Domestic Cat||170 cal/day||280 cal/day||360 cal/day||440 cal/day|
|Overweight Domestic Cat||180 cal/day||240 cal/day||280 cal/day||310 cal/day|
|Pregnant/Nursing Cat||336 cal/day||603 cal/day||851 cal/day||1091 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 a high-calorie food which will give them more calories for the same weight/volume of food.
Next, we check out what high-calorie 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 your cat to put on 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 high-calorie options on the market :
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet GI High Energy Cat Food
Wet food made of chunks in gel designed for 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 flavour 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 oesophagus.
180kcal/5.8 0z can
Purina One Vibrant Maturity 7+
A 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 to ensure kitty keeps their water intake healthy. 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 cats really like this food.
95kcal/3 oz can
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 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 on board and re build 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 food gets calories in quick and easy. Unfortunately, requires a prescription.
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
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