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6 High-Calorie Cat Foods for Putting on the Pounds

Sweet cat eating from bowl eating high-calorie cat foods
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Unless your cat is carrying extra pounds, their weight may not be something you worry about too often. However, keeping tabs on your tabby’s weight fluctuations is crucial for parents of all cats, not just the “extra fluffy” ones. 

Just as overweight cats are at greater risk for certain diseases, so, too, are underweight cats. A lower-than-normal weight could also be a sign of unrelated pain or other health issues, ranging from a sore tooth or upset stomach to diseases like feline diabetes.

Whatever is causing your cat’s low weight, once your veterinarian diagnoses the issue, adding high-calorie cat food to the menu could be part of the treatment plan.

But there are some important things to consider before making the switch, according to Dr. Susie Garity, staff veterinarian at the San Diego Humane Society.

“It’s important to consult with your veterinarian regarding your cat’s caloric and dietary needs prior to making any changes to their diet,” Garity says. “Your veterinarian can take into account their underlying health condition and help you select the best nutrition plan for your cat.”

What is High-Calorie Cat Food?

Cat eating from the bowl filled with high-calorie cat foods

Though high-calorie cat food may sound like an unhealthy indulgence, as long as the recipe meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards for “complete and balanced” nutrition, you can feel good about feeding it to your cat. 

High-calorie cat foods, as their name suggests, are higher in calories than conventional cat food. But they’re far from junk food. These foods are manufactured with additional protein and fat to boost the number of calories per serving while still providing the nutrition cats need for development.

Veterinarians often recommend high-calorie cat food for sick cats, senior cats, and underweight cats who need to gain extra pounds.

“Cats can sometimes be selective or picky about what they eat,” explains Garity. “This is even more pronounced when they develop illnesses or as they age into their senior years. High-calorie foods allow the cat to eat smaller amounts of food while still taking in enough calories.” 

Why Would a Cat Need High-Calorie Cat Food?

Cat looking up confused but in front of him is high-calorie cat foods

High-calorie cat foods aren’t necessarily appropriate for all cats. Veterinarians might recommend a caloric boost for cats who are underweight due to health issues ranging from chronic pain, dental disease, and intestinal parasites to lung disease, cancer, and stomach issues

Garity notes that senior cats and cats on convalescent care might also need high-calorie foods. A high-calorie diet may also benefit kittens who are underweight due to illness or deemed “unthrifty”—failing to grow or develop normally.

These calorie-dense foods are also a go-to for malnourished cats who have just been rescued and critical patients that have experienced trauma or surgery, including those who need feeding tubes.

“As veterinarians, we typically reach for high-calorie foods when cats are dealing with illnesses,” Garity adds. Because calorie-dense cat foods are more efficient, a sick kitty who may already be suffering a reduced appetite doesn’t have to eat as much to meet their daily caloric requirements.

Best High-Calorie Cat Food Formulas 

To help you narrow down your choices, here are our top picks for high-calorie cat foods in a variety of categories. 

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Great Pet Care may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Best Overall High-Calorie Cat Food

Our pick: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe

Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Raw Infused Game Bird Recipe Dry Cat Food

If you want your cat to gain weight — especially if they haven’t had much of an appetite — great-tasting cat food is key! That’s one of the many reasons we ranked Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused cat food top on our list of high-calorie formulas. Not only is the recipe packed with the premium, calorie-dense ingredients your cat needs for complete and balanced nutrition, but it’s also specifically crafted for ultimate palatability. This distinctive cat food is based on an “ancestral diet,” mixing protein-rich, grain-free kibble with freeze-dried raw pieces of real poultry to deliver tastes and textures cats crave. The Game Bird recipe features chicken, turkey, quail, and duck meat and contains 3,588 kcal per kilogram (or 395 kcal/cup). Plus, the brand has a helpful feeding calculator on each product page, which makes measuring out the perfect portion for your cat’s caloric needs super easy.

Highlights

  • The protein-rich, high-calorie food lists real deboned chicken as the primary ingredient
  • Crunchy kibble mixed with freeze-dried raw protein pieces for an extra nutritional boost
  • No grain, wheat, corn, or gluten.
  • Also comes in Pacific Catch flavor, as well recipes for kittens and senior cats
  • Cooked and processed in the USA

Things to Consider

  • It’s a premium pet food with a premium price 

Best High-Calorie Wet Cat Food

Our pick: Open Farm Grass-Fed Beef Rustic Blend

Grass-Fed Beef Rustic Blend

If your cat prefers the texture of wet food, here’s a high-calorie wet food recipe sure to please their palate. Open Farm is made with human-grade ingredients, including ethically-sourced, grass-fed beef that’s pasture-raised without antibiotics, paired with local produce and nutrient-dense superfoods like pumpkin and cranberries. Open Farm Grass-Fed Beef Custom Blend contains 1,000 kcal per kilogram (or 169 kcal/carton). 

Highlights

  • Formulated to help pets thrive
  • Ingredients can be traced back to the source using lot number on packaging
  • Can be fed as a complete meal (wet food) or a topper on dry food
  • Available in chicken, salmon, herring, and mackerel flavors
  • Includes nutritious superfoods like coconut oil, which is rich in omega 9 fatty acids and an excellent source of energy
  • Free of grain, fillers, and by-products
  • Contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Easy-to-serve, resealable, BPA-free packaging

Things to Consider

  • Must be refrigerated after opening
  • Pay close attention to “best buy” dates before feeding

Best High-Calorie Cat Food for Senior Cats

Our pick: Royal Canin Aging

Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf In Sauce Canned Cat Food

Mature and aging cats often struggle with loss of appetite in their golden years, so Golden Canin has developed a formula that’s precisely balanced to deliver everything your senior feline needs for healthy aging. Designed for cats ages 12 years and older, this delicious high-calorie loaf in sauce is the perfect texture for sensitive teeth and gums. Plus, it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids to support aging joints and contains reduced phosphorus levels for kidney health. Royal Canin Aging diet for cats contains 844 kcal per kilogram (122 kcal per can).

Highlights

  • Calorie-dense so senior cats get essential calories even with decreased appetites
  • Satisfies even the pickiest eaters with an instinctively preferred ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
  • Higher levels of essential fatty acids are good for aging joints.
  • Non-prescription food

Things to Consider

  • It’s designed for older cats so care needs to be taken in multi-cat households with younger cats
  • It’s not a grain-free or non-GMO formula 

Best High-Calorie Cat Food for Sick Cats

Our Pick: Hills Prescription Diet/Urgent Care

Hill's Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care Canned Dog and Cat Food, a a high-calorie cat foods

In addition to extra TLC, pets recovering from surgery, illness, or injury need extra nourishment and nutrition, too. This high-calorie prescription diet was designed to give stressed and ailing pets the boost they need to maintain strong natural defenses and improve recovery. The recipe includes turkey liver, pork liver, chicken, and other delicious, protein-rich ingredients to help combat lost appetites and encourage a quicker return to full health. This prescription diet contains 1180 kcal per kilogram (183 kcal per 5.5 oz can).

Highlights

  • Protein-rich, calorie-dense recipe promotes wound and tissue healing and boosts the immune system
  • Super soft consistency can be fed in a bowl or via syringe or feeding tube
  • Added potassium helps combat potential nutrient deficiencies
  • Formulated for dogs and cats

Things to Consider

  • A prescription is required
  • Intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only; not recommended for long-term feeding (more than 6 months)
  • The price of $69 per case could be cost-prohibitive 

Best High-Calorie, Grain-Free Cat Food

Our pick: Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Formula

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Formula Dry Cat Food, a a high-calorie cat foods

When it comes to optimal nutrition, the quality of ingredients in your cat’s food matters as much as the calorie count. Wellness CORE grain-free, protein-rich recipe features deboned turkey and chicken as the first ingredients and contains 65% high-quality protein and added probiotics. Formulated with flaxseed, salmon oil, and antioxidants like cranberries to support skin health and overall immunity, this recipe contains 3,977 kcal per kilogram (or 497 kcal/cup).

Highlights

  • Grain-free formula contains no wheat, gluten, corn, soy, or eggs
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • Also available as a wet food
  • Multiple sizes available; purchase a small bag to see if your finicky feline likes the flavor
  • Made in the USA.

Things to Consider

  • It’s priced as a premium pet food
  • Although it’s a grain-free formula, if your cat has a grain allergy or sensitivity, be aware that it’s made in a facility that processes grains 

Best High-Calorie Kitten Food

Our pick: Royal Canin Mother and Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse

Royal Canin Mother & Babycat Ultra-Soft Mousse in Sauce Wet Cat Food, a high-calorie cat foods

Pregnant and nursing mother cats and newborn kittens have specialized nutritional needs that most cat foods can’t fulfill. That’s why Royal Canin designed this delicious mousse to deliver everything feline mothers and kittens need to support healthy development and growth. This specialized formula is packed with the additional calories momma cats need while gestating and nursing, plus crucial DHA — an omega-3 fatty acid that boosts brain development in the womb. It’s also precisely calibrated to provide the nutrition young kittens need for growing bones, emerging teeth, and developing immune and digestive systems as they transition from nursing to solids. This diet contains 919 kcal per kilogram (78 kcal per can) and is appropriate for pregnant and nursing mother cats, as well as kittens from 1 to 4 months. 

Highlights

  • Nutrient-dense formula supports the needs of nursing cats and growing kittens
  • Soft texture helps kittens transition from nursing to solid foods
  • Contains immune system-strengthening antioxidants and vitamins
  • Features highly digestible proteins and prebiotics 
  • Also comes in a dry food formula
  • No prescription required

Things to Consider

  • It’s not designed for regular/ongoing feeding
  • Only one flavor is available 

Precautions When Feeding a High-Calorie Cat Food

Cat looking to camera

The key to ensuring your cat gets the greatest benefit out of a high-calorie diet is to consult your veterinarian about the best choice for your pet’s needs before switching their food. 

“High-calorie foods are often high in protein and fats,” Garity warns. “The increase in these nutrients is often contraindicated for cats with conditions such as kidney disease or gastrointestinal disease.”

It’s also important to practice portion control and monitor your cat’s weight while feeding a high-calorie diet because too much weight gain can also cause health issues. It’s often used as a short-term solution to address a health issue.

Offering your cat the right high-calorie cat food for their specific health needs can provide appropriate amounts of calorie-dense nutrition to promote healthy growth and development.