Best High Calorie Cat Food to Gain Weight and Muscle

By Debbie Short     Last Updated January 18, 2022

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Ideally, you want your cat to live a healthy and happy life all throughout their lives, but this may be more difficult if your cat is suddenly or chronically underweight. Being underweight puts your cat at higher risk for health problems, and it's usually a sign that there is something else going on inside of your cat.

Feeding your cat a high calorie cat food can help, and we're going to review the five best options available because we know how overwhelming it can be trying to decide this on your own when you're worried about your cat. We'll also cover what could cause your cat to be underweight, and what you want to look for in your high calorie food to get your cat back to their peak health.

Our Top Picks for the Best High Calorie Cat Food

What's a Healthy Weight for Your Cat?

Cat lying on the floor

Generally speaking, most domesticated cats weight around 10 pounds, but this can fluctuate significantly depending on your cat's breed and build. For example, a small Siamese cat can have an ideal weight of around five pounds, but a large Maine Coon cat can weight up to 20 pounds and over and still be healthy because they have larger builds.

Although your vet will be able to tell you relatively quickly if your cat is overweight or underweight, there are a few simple tests that you can perform at home to get a good idea on whether or not you have to feed your cat higher calorie food or if your cat should lose a few pounds.

When you stand over your cat and look down, you should be able to see an hourglass figure that doesn't have a bulging stomach, and you should be able to feel your cat's ribs. To test this, you can place both of your thumbs on your cat's backbone and spread your hands across your cat's rib cage.

When you do this, you should be able to easily feel their ribs, and this is a good thing to try if your cat has fluffy or long fur. You also want to be able to feel the top of your cat's spine when you run your hand along their back, but it shouldn't be overly obvious.

Also, when you're standing over your cat and looking down, you want to be able to see a slight tuck where the rib cage ends. If you can't see this, your cat may be slightly overweight, or your cat may have a longer and thicker coat that makes this tuck difficult to see.

Common Causes of Weight Loss in Cats

If you notice that your cat is on the thin side, or if your cat isn't interested in their food in general, this can cause weight loss. It's usually a sign that there is something deeper going on with your cat, and your vet can rule out common problems.

Disrupted Mealtimes or Sleep

If it's loud and chaotic around your cat when they're trying to eat or sleep, your cat can develop stress-related eating problems or behavioral issues that cause them to lose weight. If there hasn't been a change in your cat's eating habits, but they're still losing weight, this can mean that there is a more serious underlying health issue at work that your vet needs to look at.


Since cats routinely bring home dead rodents, they could have an infection of the parasitic worm known as roundworm. This worm attaches to your cat's intestinal walls and pulls nutrients that should be going to your cat, and this can lead to a sudden drop in weight or problems keeping a healthy weight.


Constipation is a common medical condition that makes it difficult for your cat to go to the bathroom, and they may strain or develop very hard feces. If this happens, your cat may not want to or be able to eat because they can't expel the waste from their food like they normally would.


Overweight or older cats are prone to developing diabetes, and this disease can lead to a sudden weight loss in your cat because they're eating, but their body isn't capable of breaking down their food properly. You might also notice that your cat is drinking more and this condition can be life-threatening if it goes untreated.


If your cat has allergies to something in their food, they may stop eating it because they realize that they get sick or have gastrointestinal problems when they do it. These food allergies can also come with itchy skin, or you may notice that your cat's coat isn't as shiny and healthy as it was a few weeks prior.

Ways to Help Your Cat Gain Weight

There are several things you can do if you notice that your cat is starting to look underweight, and you can do these things in your own home. First, you want to set a healthy target weight for your cat, and your vet can help you do this before you start trying to get this to eat because you don't want to end up with an overweight cat.

High Protein Food

Feeding your cat that has a high animal-based protein content can help them put on weight if they're currently underweight. Protein can help your cat build up their muscles instead of fat, and this can add weight back on, and protein also helps your cat gain weight naturally as they eat it.


For people who have picky cats, you can try giving them a few treats each day, but make sure that your treat ratio doesn't go over 15 percent of your cat's daily food intake. Treats usually have more calories, and they're usually rich in fats along with having a flavor that your cat enjoys eating.

Physical Activity

Did you know that having your cat be physically active throughout the day can work to naturally stimulate their appetites? This is why it's important to have food available for your cat to graze on throughout the day, and it's also important that you encourage your cat to be physically active through play.

Combine Wet and Dry Food

Just like their human counterparts, your cat may get sick of the same dry food day in and day out, and adding wet food can add moisture to your cat's food. This can make them more willing to eat it, but you should know that wet food is typically lower in calories than dry food is.

Feeding Practices

Unlike dogs, cats like to graze on and off throughout the day, so you want to ensure that they can get food when they want it. Also, you may want to try adding a few servings of food to your cat's dish at feeding time instead of just one because this can encourage them to eat more.


Another way to add moisture to your cat's food that is rich in calories is by adding a small amount of kitten milk to your cat's dry food. You may want to okay this with your vet first, but it's an easy way to give your cat more calories each time they eat without worrying as much on whether or not your cat is going to like it.


It may also be a good idea to consider adding supplements to your cat's existing food to increase the amount of calories they get each time that they eat. Common supplements include vitamins A, E, and C along with calcium and zinc to encourage healthy eating habits and better nutrient absorption.

Top Five High Calorie Cat Food Picks

1. Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Dry Cat Food

Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food

You can buy either chicken or salmon flavor when you buy this cat food, and it also comes in four different sizes that start at 3.5 pounds and goes up to 22 pounds. This cat food is formulated to meet 100 percent of your cat's dietary needs, and real chicken is on the bag as the first ingredient.

Your cat will enjoy real meaty bites along with wholesome grains and slight accents of vegetables and fruits that promote healthy weight gain along with muscle mass and a shiny coat. The smaller bits are easy for your cat to eat, and you know that your cat is getting all of the protein they need because this food has a 34 percent protein content.

Cat owners who bought this food for their feline liked that it had a higher protein count to build strong muscles, and they were happy that this food has everything their cat needs to maintain a healthy weight. Cat parents disliked that this food could leave a slightly oily residue, and they also weren't happy that their cat could pick around the kibble and just eat the meat.

Things We Liked
  • Contains everything your cat needs to maintain a healthy weight
  • Has 34 percent protein content
  • Comes in several sizes and two flavors
Things We Didn't Like
  • Cats can pick the meat out and leave the kibble
  • May leave an oily residue
  • Price is starting to go up

2. Blue Buffalo Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

Blue Buffalo Weight Control Natural Dry Cat Food

You can get three different sizes with this cat food, and it also comes in eight different formulas including an indoor cat formula for weight control, one for hairballs, and one for sensitive stomachs along with the traditional formula. De-boned chicken is the first ingredient, and it also contains fruits, vegetables, and wholesome grains.

This food comes with a carefully balanced calorie count that makes it easy for your cat to put on weight and keep their weight at a healthy level. There is also a healthy amount of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids that help to promote a shiny coat and healthy skin, and it also contains LifeSource Bits for added vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.

Cat parents who purchased this cat food liked that it came with de-boned chicken and Blue LifeSource Bits because they added minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and a higher protein content to the formula. Cat parents disliked that this cat food may not be good for cats with sensitive stomachs or allergy issues.

Things We Liked
  • Contains Blue LifeSource crunchy Bits
  • De-boned chicken is the first listed ingredient
  • Has Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids
Things We Didn't Like
  • May not be a good choice for sensitive stomachs
  • Can leave a greasy residue
  • May cause your cats to develop diarrhea

3. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Cat Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Cat Food

This grain-free cat food comes with four different flavor formulas including chicken, herring, salmon, and duck. These great protein sources are combined and blended with a mix of fruits, vegetables, minerals, and vitamins along with a formula that is free of grains that makes this food choice healthier for your cat, especially if your cat has allergies.

There is no corn, soy, wheat, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, or meat by-products, and this food contains only premium and natural ingredients that are healthier for your cat. This food is has a wellness guarantee, and it is made in the USA to very high standards.

Cat parents who chose to buy this food liked that it comes with a very natural formula with no artificial ingredients, and they also liked the fact that it came with a wellness guarantee. The cat parents disliked that this food wasn't all organic or that this food is one of the more expensive options on the list.

Things We Liked
  • Comes in a variety of quality protein sources
  • Made in the USA and held to high standards
  • Comes backed by the Wellness Guarantee
Things We Didn't Like
  • Not a completely organic food formula
  • More expensive than other choices
  • May cause too much weight gain

4. 9Lives Protein Plus Dry Cat Food

9Lives Protein Plus Dry Cat Food

This cat food choice comes in eight different sizes and five different formulas including Daily Essentials, Protein Plus, Lean and Tasty, Plus Care, and Indoor Complete, and this allows you to mix and match until you find the correct food for your cat's needs. This food contains a great balance of protein and nutrients with a 33-gram protein content for healthy muscles, antioxidants for immune support, and vitamins.

This choice comes in tuna and chicken flavor that is designed to attract your cat and keep them eating, and this food supports your cat both inside and out. It also promotes brain health for growing or elderly cats that can help to keep them sharp and learning throughout their lives.

Cat parents liked that this 9Lives cat food is packed with a high protein content to support their cat's healthy weight, and they also liked that this cat food contains antioxidants for a strong immune system. They disliked that this food is formulated with by-products and fillers, and they also disliked that it has a strong smell when they first open the bag.

Things We Liked
  • Contains 33 grams of protein for 100 grams of food
  • Enriched with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals
  • Designed to support brain growth, development, and health
Things We Didn't Like
  • Can have a strong smell when the bag was opened
  • Contains several fillers and by-products
  • May be too hard for some cats to eat

5. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food

Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food

This cat food is available in six different formulas including weight gain and control, and you can pick from three different sizes that start at 2.5 pounds and goes up to a 12 pound bag. Your cat will enjoy de-boned whitefish or chicken with an increased fiber content to help keep your cat full.

This food contains only natural ingredients, and this means that there isn't any soy, corn, wheat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or meat by-products. Your cat will enjoy food that is made only in the United States to strict quality standards, and it also has a Wellness Guarantee.

Cat owners who bought this cat food liked that it contained an all-natural formula with no fillers, and they also liked that it had a quality protein source listed as one of the first ingredients. They disliked that the formula seemed to have recently changed and that they disliked that this food may be too strong for sensitive stomachs.

Things We Liked
  • Has a quality protein source
  • Available in different sizes and formulas
  • Held to strict quality standards
Things We Didn't Like
  • Recent changes to the formula
  • May be too strong for some cats
  • Contains a lot of barley and rice

What's the Best High Calorie Cat Food?

Our pick for the best choice for cat food with a high calorie content is Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Adult Dry Cat Food. This food has real meaty bits from quality protein sources that can help your cat put on weight and maintain it once they reach the desired weight.

It comes in a few flavor and size choices, and it has a formula that is designed to meet 100 percent of your cat's dietary needs. Finally, this food supports your cat both inside and out, and it can help them lead a happy and active life.