Best cat food for weight gain

What’s the best cat food for weight gain? Veterinary Approved

Obesity may be a big problem for our feline friends, but there are a lot of underweight cats too. There are a number of reasons why your cat may be underweight, including some health problems. If your cat has lost weight, always get them checked by a vet.

If you need your cat to gain weight, feeding the right food can obviously help.

Every cat gains weight rapidly when they are young. Hence why the best cat foods for weight gain are usually kitten foods!

Best overall – Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula

  • Nutrition rating: 4.5/5
  • Ingredient rating 4/5
  • Green rating 3/5
  • Price $$$


  • Very high protein
  • High levels of omega 3, vitamins and minerals
  • High meat content
  • Low carbs


  • Some questionable ingredients – cats don’t eat carrots!

This food is made in the USA with ingredients from around the world. It is high in species-appropriate ingredients with high nutrient density. It is high in quality protein, and low in carbohydrates. There are no artificial ingredients.

The majority of cats really enjoy this food, so it’s a great choice to tempt picky eaters.

The only complaint we have is the inclusion of carrots and cranberries. These ingredients are very unlikely to cause any problem to your cat, but they won’t add much either.

Best raw food – Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe

  • Nutrition rating: 4.5/5
  • Ingredient rating 4.5/5
  • Green rating 4.5/5
  • Price $$


  • Very high protein level
  • Animal fat source
  • Nutrient dense ingredients
  • Lower environmental impact than most


  • It is raw food. This may not be suitable for all kittens or people.
  • Fish high on ingredient list

This food is made in the USA using premium ingredients. It is 81% animal sourced ingredients, and the main ingredient is cage-free chicken. The ingredients are nutrient dense and environmentally friendly.

This is the most energy dense food on this list. Each mouthful has more calories than just about any food available. This makes it ideal to support healthy weight gain.

This is in many ways the best food for weight gain on offer. In terms of nutrition and ingredient quality it is second-to-none. It is also a surprisingly affordable choice.

The only reservation we have about it is the fact that it is raw. You can read more about that here.

Feeding raw food is controversial. There can be significant downsides to it, including the potential for catching bacterial infections from it. This food is freeze-dried which reduces the risk of bacterial infection, but it may not be suitable for everyone.

Best budget option – Purina Pro Plan Savor Adult Chicken & Rice

  • Nutrition rating: 4.5/5
  • Ingredient rating 3.5/5
  • Green rating 4/5
  • Price $


  • Great value
  • High protein
  • Energy dense
  • Fat from animal sources
  • Environmentally friendly ingredients
Purina savor


  • Fat level could be higher
  • Some calories come from carbs
  • Plant ingredients high on ingredient list

Purina is one of the biggest names in pet foods. The company is well over 100 years old, though they’ve been making cat food since 1963. Purina’s foods are manufactured in the USA and Canada. Ingredients are usually sourced locally, but some are imported.

This is a high protein food with a high energy density. But we would prefer that more calories came from fat and less from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not readily digested by cats, so some of the energy in this food may be wasted.

Overall, while not as high a quality as other foods on this list, this is a high quality food. This is certainly the most cost effective way to support your cat gain weight.

Best pate – Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate


  • 95% meat
  • High protein
  • High fat content
  • Low carbs
  • Pate consistency is good for cats who need soft food.
  • Grain free


  • Flaxseed is a poor source of omega 3
  • Some questionable ingredients – cats don’t eat artichokes!
Instinct original

Like the Instinct food above, this is a high quality food. Unlike the other food on this list, it is not raw. This means that there is much less risk of illness from feeding it.

This is the highest meat content food of any food on this list, and is also free from any grains. This makes it ideal for any cat with a sensitive stomach.

There is a high level of protein and fat in this food, the two most important nutrients for cats who need to gain weight. The low carb level means that there are no wasted calories and less chance for digestive upset.

The pate texture is very easy to eat, even for cats with sore mouths or no teeth.

This is a great quality food and well worth trying if your cat is a bit more sensitive. This food would particularly suit older cats who are underweight.

Honorable mention – Simply Nourish Source Chicken & Turkey

  • Nutrition rating: 3.5/5
  • Ingredient rating 4.5/5
  • Green rating 4/5
  • Price $$


  • High protein
  • Nutrient dense ingredients
  • Lower environmental impact
  • Animal fat source


  • Some questionable ingredients. Cats don’t normally eat peas!
  • Lower calorie density than competitors

This food is manufactured in the USA, US-sourced ingredients. This brand has never been recalled, so you can trust the quality. 

This is a high-protein and grain free food. It is made primarily from animal ingredients to help mimic a cat’s natural dietary mixture. Chicken is the main ingredient. It also contains nutrient dense and environmentally friendly chicken meal. There are no artificial colours or preservatives in this food.

This food is energy dense which makes it ideal to support a cat to gain weight. Customers generally report cats like the flavour, which should encourage them to eat more.

How to help your cat gain weight

Rule out medical problems

The first, and most important thing to do if you notice your cat losing weight is get them checked by a veterinarian.

Weight loss can be a symptom of some serious conditions like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease or cancer. Sometimes it can be the only obvious symptom, so it is always a good idea to rule these things out.

Some cats become too slim even without health problems. For very active cats, and those not very interested in food this can be a problem.

That’s where changing diet can help.

Choose the right food

The right food can make a big difference to underweight cats. Finding a healthy, tasty, nutrient dense food will encourage your cat to eat more and put on weight. The best food will help make sure that the additional weight is muscle as well as fat, maintaining your cat’s health and athleticism.

Kitten foods are often the best foods for cats who need to gain weight. They are high in nutrients and easily digestible. That’s why they’re often recommended to help cats put on weight.


Wet food can be useful to help encourage appetite and maintain hydration. It isn’t as calorie dense as dry food, but the benefits usually outweigh the negatives for weight gain.

Feed the right amount

If you want to get your cat to gain weight, they need to eat more. Seems obvious, right?

You’d be surprised how often people worry about their cat being underweight, but then don’t give them any more to eat.

So, if your cat really does need to gain weight, consider feeding ad-lib. This means always leaving food available for them to graze on. If you have several cats it can be a problem to leave food down all the time. You might need to invest in a microchip cat feeder to ensure that your other cats don’t eat too much!

What to look for in the best cat food for weight gain

Kitten foods are often the best foods for cats who need to gain weight. They are high in nutrients and easily digestible.


The most important thing about any cat food is the nutrients it contains. Ingredients can vary, but the nutrients must be there.

The four most important nutrients to consider when choosing food are calorie density protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Calorie density is a measure of how many calories there are per kilo of food. Foods which are more calorie dense have more energy in each mouthful. When you want a cat to gain weight, it is important to make it as easy as possible to eat as many calories as possible.

Protein is a key part of a cat’s diet and is required for all aspects of health. A protein level of 40% is needed to maintain muscle mass. No cat should eat a food lower than 40% protein.

Protein also helps cats gain weight through encouraging them to eat more of a food. This weight gain is then of a healthy type, which gives protein a double benefit for cats trying to gain weight.

Fats are energy dense, and cats are well adapted to eat and absorb them. High fat foods are often tasty and encourage cats to eat more. This gives fat the double benefit of encouraging weight gain and eating more food.

Carbohydrates in cat food are controversial. Cats are not good at eating large amounts of carbohydrates because they struggle to absorb them. Too many carbs can cause an upset tummy. 

The main problem is that foods high in carbohydrates appear to have high calorie density. However, most of these calories are not absorbed. So, you always need to look at carbohydrate level alongside calorie density.

A cat sits next to corn


We also need to consider the ingredients of food when we want to choose the best one. Unfortunately, this is where things get complicated and even more controversial!

Manufacturers of foods list their ingredients in order of weight. So the things that appear at the start of the list are the things that weigh the most. This can mean that food with lots of water but not much nutrients appear high on the list.

To the untrained eye, ingredient lists can look much better (or worse) than they really are.

For example, “chicken breast” has lots of water in it, whereas “chicken meal” is quite dry. Per ounce, chicken meal has much more protein than chicken breast (even if it doesn’t sound as tasty).

Ingredients like “meat meal” and “meat digest” are by-products. They might not sound like a good thing but by-products are not a bad thing.

By-products are often very nutritious and tasty for cats. Always remember, you are choosing a food for your cat, not for you. Just because you don’t like the sound of “meat by-product meal” doesn’t mean your cat won’t!

PedMD has a useful article on exactly what by-products are.

Final Thoughts

If you have a cat who needs to gain weight, always check there isn’t an underlying health problem.

Feeding the best cat food for weight gain can really help your cat put on weight. We would recommend Wellness Complete Health Kitten Formula for most cats. If you don’t mind feeding your cat raw food, Instinct Original Kitten is a fantastic food that should really benefit your cat.

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