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While obesity in cats gets a lot of attention, there are quite a few cats who are underweight. Since medical problems can contribute to unhealthy weight loss (particularly in senior cats), it’s important to talk with your veterinarian if your cat starts losing weight. You can help by providing your underweight cat with specially formulated cat food for weight gain.
We’ve compiled a list of the best cat foods for weight gain. But before we get into them, let’s talk about the potential causes for unhealthy weight loss in your cat and how to address them.
What Causes Unhealthy Weight Loss in Cats
In cats, unhealthy weight loss may be due to decreased metabolic activity with age, or it could be linked to an underlying medical problem.
Here are some of the most common causes of unhealthy weight loss in cats:
- Insufficient calorie intake (is another cat taking your cat’s food?)
- Anxiety, stress, or depression (causing them to avoid eating)
- Feline diabetes
- Intestinal parasites or other gastrointestinal infections
- Viruses such as FIP, FeLV, and FIV
- Kidney disease
- Dental problems, including tooth decay or inflammation of the gums or mouth
- Neurologic or central nervous system disorders
Because the average body weight for a healthy cat is only about 10 pounds, a loss of even a single pound could be significant. If your cat loses more than 10 percent of their body weight, this is cause for concern and should be immediately checked out by a veterinarian. Your vet will be able to determine the underlying cause for your cat’s weight loss and suggest a course of treatment for it. Seek treatment quickly, as sudden, rapid weight loss in a cat can lead to fatty liver disease, which can be fatal.
Tips for Helping an Underweight Cat Gain Weight
Treating the underlying cause of your cat’s weight loss is essential, but you may also need to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to help them get back to a healthy body weight.
Here are some ideas to help an underweight cat gain weight:
- Offer your cat a different type of cat food and see how they respond—many cats change their tastes as they age.
- Increase the quality of your cat’s diet to improve digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
- If you buy dry food, try switching to wet food, or using a meal topper to make your cat’s current food more appealing.
- Make sure any dry food you serve is fresh (food in large bags can turn rancid if left open in a warm room).
- If you serve wet food, don’t let it dry out in the bowl—give your kitty small, fresh servings.
- Try warming up your cat’s food by adding warm water or low-sodium broth (without onions).
- Feed your picky cat three to four smaller meals throughout the day instead of two larger meals.
Just increasing the amount of food you feed your cat may not be enough to help them gain weight, especially if they have low interest in food. Talk to your veterinarian first and then consider switching to a nutritionally balanced cat food high in protein, fat, and calories to help your cat gain weight.
Check Out the Best Cat Foods for Weight Gain
To help your cat gain weight, you may want to switch to a nutritionally balanced cat food made with at least 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. A recipe made primarily with meat, poultry, or fish is likely to be appealing and digestible.
Here are our top picks for the best cat food for weight gain:
This high-calorie wet food formula is made with 95 percent animal protein from chicken, turkey, and chicken liver, with zero grains and no artificial additives.
Loaded with 40 percent protein and 20 percent fat, this grain-free dry food packs a whopping 486 calories per cup but is still grain-free for digestibility and full of natural meat flavor.
Made with real chicken, turkey, and chicken liver, this nutrient-dense canned food is rich in moisture and calories but gentle on your cat’s digestion.
Made with wholesome, natural ingredients like wild Alaskan pollock, this recipe provides 42 percent protein, 20 percent fat—and over 450 calories per cup.
Available in several protein options, this canned food is high in calories, protein, and fat but completely free from artificial additives as well as corn, wheat, and soy.
Choosing a recipe for cats with food allergies can be tough, but this limited-ingredient diet features rabbit as the main ingredient and provides 35 percent protein and 19 percent fat.
If your cat prefers dry food, this Complete Health recipe from Wellness is packed with animal-based protein, wholesome grains, and plenty of calories to help your cat gain weight.
Featuring real New Zealand lamb as the primary ingredient, this nutrient-rich canned food recipe provides 45 percent protein and 18 percent fat with over 100 calories per 3-ounce can.
Uniquely formulated to provide highly digestible protein from numerous animal sources, this recipe is also designed to increase metabolization and boost your cat’s appetite.
Designed specifically for senior cats, this grain-free recipe is packed with protein and calories to help your aging cat maintain a healthy body weight.
If you want to improve the quality of your cat’s diet without increasing your budget, there are plenty of options out there. Check out our guide to the healthiest cat foods that won’t break the bank.