Sometimes our kitties need a little help in the weight gain department, whether that comes from being a kitten and needing some extra calories, or a senior kitty who has slowed down a little and may not be the biggest fan of their food anymore. Whatever the reason may be, we break down the benefits of a high-calorie diet for cats, how to calculate the right amount of calories for your kitty, and our extensively researched list of the best high-calorie cat foods. Before deciding on a new diet for your kitty to help boost their weight, it is important to look at the reasons they might need that calorie booster. If your cat has an underlying health condition it is best to speak with your vet so that you can make the best nutritional decision for your kitty.
Why Is My Cat Underweight?
There are a few reasons why your cat could be underweight:Age: Senior cats begin losing muscle mass and energy which can be the result of picky eating and the wrong amount of exercise. Usually, though this is most often due to the natural ways of life. Illness: Thyroid and kidney issues are common health issues seen in senior cats that affect their weight. Other issues such as dental disease, allergies, or even having worms will also affect your kitties’ weight.
- Tapeworms or roundworms make your kitty very hungry all the time and feast on the nutrients your cat is supposed to get when they eat. Thankfully, it’s very easy to get rid of them. With a quick trip to the vet and a little pill, they will begin to feel relief very soon after.
- Dental disease is often due to plaque buildup. This can cause inflammation and pain in their gums causing your cat to turn their nose up at their food and ultimately resulting in them becoming underweight.
- Allergies are not as commonly talked about in cats as they are in dogs, however, our little friends can get them. There are three main allergy types cats can get: Flea allergy, environmental allergy, and food allergies. A food allergy is the only type out of the three that will have a significant effect on your cat’s appetite as your cat will not feel well when eating. This will result in them stopping eating to avoid discomfort.
Diet: Diet can play a huge part in your kitty’s weight maintenance. You want to make sure you are feeding a high-quality food that has high-quality protein, healthy fats, and vitamins & minerals so their body can properly utilize their food. If you feed a low-quality food like a generic kibble brand or a meal that is not completely balanced your kitty will not be able to maintain their weight as they will be lacking important nutrients.
How Many Calories Does A Cat Need?
Let’s first take a step back and look at what calories are. Calories are just energy derived from food. Energy in the form of calories is required for carrying out essential processes in the body like respiration, digestion and proper functioning of the nervous system. When calories are kept track of, it can help your pet with weight loss or weight gain or even maintenance of a healthy weight, ensuring overall vitality. Generally speaking, the average cat needs about 20 calories per lb of its weight. Remember to note this is just an average and every cat is different in their specific nutritional needs as their calorie intake will vary with age and how active they are.
Calculating calories can take some math skills, thankfully we have an entire blog about How To Calculate Calories in Cat Food. You can also use this calorie calculator by Pet Nutrition Alliance as a great starting point to figure out how many calories your kitty should be getting. To increase your cat’s weight you can start by increasing their daily calorie intake by 20%, and as they begin to fill back out you can slowly begin decreasing their food intake.According to the Animal Medical Center of Chicago, kittens need between 275-545 calories each day depending on their weight. Healthy senior cats need about 310-370 calories, however, if they need to gain weight this should be increased by 20%.
What is High-Calorie Cat Food?
High-calorie cat food is usually formulated with higher protein and fat content while meeting the nutrition that cats need for development. Specialty kibbles are often formulated with a blend of protein, carbohydrates and fats while more premium offerings like fresh cat food use higher amounts of protein and healthy fat to meet the calorie requirement. High-calorie diets are usually prescribed for kittens, senior cats, sick kitties, and underweight cats who need help gaining weight. If your cat is picky or feeling unwell it may be difficult to get them to eat. A high-calorie meal allows your old or sick kitty to eat only a small amount of food while still getting a healthy amount of calories, on the other side it enables growth and development in kittens. When comparing different pet foods, the guaranteed analysis should be compared according to the dry matter analysis. Keep in mind that this is the most accurate way to compare different types of food like kibble, canned, fresh and raw diets. For a handy way to calculate DM (dry matter) basis, you can use this calculator.
What Are the Benefits of High-Calorie Cat Food?
There are many benefits to feeding a high-calorie diet to your cat when it is appropriate.– High calorie/high protein is very beneficial to senior cats. At about 11-13 years old their bodies start having a difficult time digesting fat and their bodies begin to process protein even quicker making them lose weight. When these two elements come together your kitty is at a higher risk for illness. Giving them an extra calorie boost in their diet ensures they can stay in peak health!– Developmental support – Kittens are at a great advantage when it comes to a high-calorie diet as the best kitten food is specifically formulated with higher protein, fats, and calories. Targeted toward overall health and rapid development since kittens are little growing machines.– Dental pain relief – Cats with dental issues benefit from a moist high calorie meal as their mouth may be in pain and it could be hard for them to eat properly. This can cause them to lose weight. – Boosts weight – Feeding moisture-rich food is also important for a cat underweight. High-quality wet cat food often has cleaner & higher quality ingredients, such as protein, who is optimized in the body, compared to their kibble counterparts.
Why Wet Food is Better Than Dry for Cats
In general, cats carry similar traits to their desert-dwelling ancestors: the wildcat. Both wildcats and domestic cats have a natural desire to drink only small amounts of water, usually coming from a moving source. For most house cats that source would be a tap left to drip, or a kitty fountain. When cats are fed a strictly dry diet they can become dehydrated. Since they already do not drink enough water it makes it hard for their body to catch up to their required minimal water intake. Regardless of whether cat food is high-calorie or low-calorie, water is vital to
their bodies, it helps hydrate and flush potential toxins out of their systems and giving wet food is the easiest way to get that moisture into them. A few benefits of giving your cat wet food are a shiny & vibrant skin and coat, easier digestibility, a smaller ingredient list (which means a healthier product), and of course, hydration. Offering wet food also alleviates the pain and crunching on hard kibbles if there are dental issues, while also giving them that extra calorie, protein & carbohydrate boost they need. What you want to look for in good wet food is:
- High-quality protein – Protein is high in amino acids, promoting muscle growth, tissue growth, and the production of energy.
- Whole ingredients – easier to digest and naturally extract nutrients from turning food into fuel.
- Minimal ingredient list – as we stated above, the smaller the number of ingredients, the healthier the product can be.
- Preservative & additive free – added to make commercial products shelf-stable results in diminished nutrition and unnecessary fillers.
Nutritionally balanced and complete – there are some foods out there that offer small ingredient lists and high-quality protein but unfortunately lack serious nutrition due to missing ingredients.
Our Pick for the Best High-Calorie Dry Food
There are many, many kibbles on store shelves these days, but they are not always created equal. As mentioned, we do not usually recommend dry food for cats, but sometimes your wallet demands a lower-cost option. In that case, our pick of the day is Wysong Epigen 90 Cat Food. When it comes to the best high
calorie dry food, Wysong seems to be a good kibble option for your kitty. This kibble also includes not just probiotics for extra digestive support but prebiotics, enzymes, phytonutrients, natural forms of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The first starch-free extruded kibble, Epigen 90 uses organic chicken in their diets and ensures their diets are formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO.
Best High-Calorie Wet Food/Fresh Food
As a high-calorie, high-protein, wet cat food we’ve worked hard to ensure Kafka’s Organic is at the top of the list of the best cat food out there. Here’s why: Minimally ProcessedAll of our meals are minimally processed through low-temperature kettle
cooking. Unlike other brands that lean on the addition of preservatives & additives due to their over-processing methods that strip natural nutrition, our gentle process preserves the bioavailable nutrients in whole ingredients. Retaining the natural antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from whole ingredients gives your kitty the ability to properly absorb and utilize them allowing healthy weight gain.Formulated to meet the nutritional standards of AAFCO while being nutritionally dense and rich in protein makes it a great food for cats of all life stages! High-Quality Protein
Since cats are truly obligate carnivores, the gentle process of cooking retains the nutritional value of each recipe’s protein and vegetables. Fresh food like Kafka’s Ocean Fish Feast contains higher quality human-grade protein sources like Wild Pacific Salmon and Haddock which makes it an optimal choice for young and senior cats alike as they require a high digestible protein to maintain their kidney health and healthy muscle mass support.
Experts say that kibble/dry food will more than likely exasperate your cat’s
issues. This is because natural nutrients like antioxidants and vitamins are stripped from kibble during high heat processing, and have to be added back as synthetic supplements. Fresh food contains natural supplements like Omega-3 Fish Oil derived from anchovies to give your kitty a luscious, shiny coat along with those high-quality calories!
Best High-Calorie Freeze-Dried
High-calorie freeze-dried diets come in lots of shapes and sizes. Research suggests Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw high-quality, nutrient-dense cat food. They feature
USDA-certified, sustainably sourced and humanely harvested ingredients formulated into happy bite-size kitty pieces. This minimally processed meal is a great option, but since it has had the
moisture removed from it (freeze-dried) you will need to make sure you are adding moisture back into the meal to avoid dehydration. You can add bone broth, goat’s milk, or even water to rehydrate this diet.
Tailored towards the more primitive and biological makeup of our cats, we found that the best high-calorie raw cat food is Big Country Raw Fair Game Turkey, Sardines, and Beef.
Best High-Calorie Raw Food
Local to Ontario, Big Country Raw follows the nutrient requirements for dogs and cats laid out by the National Research Council (NRC). The Turkey, Sardines, & Beef Fair Game ingredients are all sourced from Canadian farmers, with their protein coming from wild-caught fish, pasture-raised & free-range animals.This is especially good, not just because they use ethically sourced ingredients, but because research shows that pasture-raised products offer higher levels of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The breakdown from guaranteed analysis to Dry Matter analysis shows raw comparatively to kibble
At the end of the day, cats are obligate carnivores. Offering fresh food that is easily digestible and full of beneficial and natural ingredients will help drastically in increasing and maintaining their weight. Fresh food offers your kitty the highest nutritional value that they can then turn into energy, and while it may be tempting to feed kitten-specific food to your underweight cat it is important to remember that every cat has different dietary needs. Ensuring they are eating a moisture-rich diet is essential to their health.You know your kitty best and if you feel there is something more going on then consulting with your veterinarian will remove any possible underlying health factors that may be contributing to your cat’s weight loss.Overall, the best option for your kitty is not only to choose the best cat food for weight gain but also to address the root cause of your cat’s weight loss issue.