Best Weight Loss Cat Food: What to Feed Your Fatty Kitty

best cat food for weight loss

 

Just like for humans, carrying a bit of extra weight can be detrimental to cats. Not only does it make doing things like squeezing through cat flaps and chasing lizards around the garden more challenging, but it can also contribute to the development of more serious health issues.

But what causes cats to become overweight and what are the dangers associated with cat obesity? How can you tell if your cat is overweight? And if your cat is overweight, what should you do about it?

In this article, I will answer all these questions, but the main cause of cat obesity is diet. Also, a weight management diet is the best way to help your cat lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight. I will also share my top ten dry cat foods for cat weight loss and weight management.

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In A Rush? Best Cat Food for Weight Loss at a Glance

For wet food, any type that contains more than 90% meat (excluding water) is a good choice if given in the right amounts. Prioritizing the best possible meat sources will benefit your cat.

My first choice for dry food is Instinct by Nature’s Ultimate Protein recipe. This is not a specially designed weight loss recipe and has 490 calories per cup which means it needs to be eaten in moderation. However, it is very high in protein (47%), which means that your cat should feel satisfied with a smaller meal. It is also made from cage-free chicken, which is both good quality and an ethical meat source.

My second choice is Royal Canin Weight Care, which matches high protein (37%) with less than 300 calories per cup. This is ideal for weight loss but is made with lower quality meal meat than my first choice.

Unfortunately, both of these choices are expensive, so I have also provided eight further options below, which have their drawbacks but are affordable.

 

Reviews: Best Dry Cat Food For Weight Loss And Weight Management

 

Instinct by Nature’s Ultimate Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Instinct by Nature’s Ultimate Protein dry cat food provides a very high level of animal-based protein from cage-free chickens (important to any animal lover) and uses only meat and organs, no meal or by-products. It combines this with being grain-free, sourcing its carbohydrates from digestible tapioca.

The high protein level does mean that it is relatively high in calories at around 500 calories per cup, so it will need to be fed to your cat in moderation. However, you will probably want to feed your cat in moderation as the price point of this food is high. But you get what you pay for. It is also relatively low in fiber, so if your cat develops a taste for it, they will gobble this up.

 

Pros

  • High in protein (47%)
  • Quality meat source (no meal or by-products)
  • Cage-free chicken
  • Grain-free
  • Uses tapioca
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Low in fiber
  • High in calories (490 calories per cup)

 

Overall: Perfect but Pricey Protein

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Royal Canin Weight Care Dry Cat Food

The most expensive food on this list, this recipe from Royal Canin manages high protein, at 37%, while being very low in calories at 276 calories per cup. This, coupled with its high fiber levels to keep them feeling satisfied for longer, is the perfect combination for rapid weight loss.

This brand is known for having a wide variety of food formulated for felines with a wide variety of conditions, from seniority to various sensitivities.

Aside from the fact that it is lower in protein than Instinct by Nature and more expensive, I also prefer Instinct’s meat source, with most of the meat protein in the Royal Canin recipe coming from meal.

Pros

  • Low-calorie (276 calories per cup)
  • High in protein (37%)
  • High in fiber
  • Relatively low-fat
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Contains grains
  • Uses meal

 

Overall: High Protein and Low Calorie Cat Food

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Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Weight Management Dry Cat Food

If you are worried about the high fat levels in the Instinct by Nature’s Variety recipe, then this option from Purina offers a similarly high level of protein (46%) but with much less fat. This also means that it is lower in calories at 427 calories per cup, so it will still need to be fed to them in moderation. It also has more fiber than the alternative, which should help them feel fuller for longer.

Cheaper than the Instinct by Nature’s Variety food, it manages this by using a lower quality meat source, including meals, and containing grains as its main carbohydrate.

 

Pros

  • High in protein (46%)
  • Low-fat
  • Moderate-to-high fiber
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • Contains grains
  • Uses by-product
  • High in calories (427 calories per cup)

 

Overall: High Protein and Low Fat

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Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

While this is not Blue Buffalo’s weight management recipe, I like this moderate calorie (443 calories per cup) cat food because it is high in protein at 40%. This protein is primarily obtained from deboned chicken, though it is topped up with chicken meal. It includes Blue Buffalo’s patented kibble that is enriched with a range of essential vitamins and minerals.

While the recipe is grain-free and uses tapioca as one of its main carbohydrates, it also contains a lot of pea protein as its carbohydrate. This is difficult for cats to digest, and while it is listed as pea protein, suggesting that it is beneficial, as discussed, cats cannot produce the essential amino acids that they need from plant-based proteins.

 

Pros

  • High in protein (40%)
  • Quality meat
  • Grain-free
  • Tapioca as one of its main carbohydrates
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • Contains pea protein
  • Uses meal
  • High in calories (443 calories per cup)

 

Overall: Quality Mainstream Food

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Blue Buffalo Adult Healthy Living Weight Control Dry Cat Food

While this is Blue Buffalo’s weight control formula, I actually like it less for weight management than the Wilderness line because, while it is low in calories (363 calories per cup), it is also low in protein at only around 30%. The protein is from a good source, primarily deboned chicken, but it is also topped up with chicken meal.

While it uses digestible brown rice as its main protein source coupled with high fiber, it also contains pea protein, which is hard to digest and adds nothing to a cat’s diet.

 

Pros

  • Low in calories (363 calories per cup)
  • Quality meat source
  • High in fiber
  • Main protein is brown rice
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • Low in protein (30%)
  • Contains pea protein

 

Overall: Preferred Carbohydrate Diet

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Nutro Wholesome Essentials Weight Management Dry Cat Food

This weight management cat food from Nutro Wholesome Essentials is one of the lowest calorie foods on the market, at only 283 calories per cup. This does mean that they sacrifice on the protein, which is relatively low at 33%. But this can be a good choice for cats that like their dry cat food and enjoy grazing throughout the day.

While it is mostly made with real, farm-raised chicken, it is topped up with chicken meal. Also, while it uses Brewer’s rice as one of its main carbohydrate sources, it also contains a lot of empty pea and potato protein.

 

Pros

  • Low in calories (283 calories per cup)
  • Farm-raised chicken
  • High in fiber
  • Low in fat
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • Relatively low protein (33%)
  • Contains pea and potato protein
  • Uses meal

 

Overall: Very Low-Calorie

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Natural Balance Fat Cats Dry Cat Food

This is another very low-calorie option, at only 320 calories per cup, that manages to have more protein than many of the options on the list at 35%. However, that protein is sourced from chicken meal and salmon meal, which is not as high-quality as muscle and organ meat.

The recipe is high in fiber which should help your cat feel full and satisfied throughout the day and reduce their likelihood of begging for food. However, this new food may take some getting used to as it has a bit of a crumbly texture compared to other dry foods. The recipe also relies on pea protein and oat groats for its carbohydrates, which are not the number one choices for cats.

 

Pros

  • Low in calories (320 calories per cup)
  • Moderate protein (35%)
  • High in fiber
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals

 

Cons

  • High in chicken meal
  • Uses pea protein and oat groats
  • Texture

 

Overall: Low-Calorie Chicken Meal

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Hill’s Science Diet Light Dry Cat Food

While this recipe is very low in calories, at only 315 calories per cup, it is also very high in fat, at 26% crude fat. This is striking considering the recipe only contains 31% crude fiber. Nevertheless, the recipe has been proven to support weight loss in a variety of cat breeds, as this fact can be converted into metabolism-boosting energy.

The recipe is high in fiber, which will help them digest the grains and gluten contained in the recipe. This combination of fiber and grains will make your cat feel fuller for longer, which should help reduce the amount of food that they choose to eat. This can be a good choice for cats that lack grazing control.

 

Pros

  • Low in calories (315 calories per cup)
  • High in fiber
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals0

 

Cons

  • Relatively low in protein (31%)
  • High in fat
  • Contains grains and gluten

 

Overall: Anti-Grazing Recipe

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Wellness Complete Healthy Weight Dry Cat Food

With its moderate protein level of 35%, this cat food is understandably higher in calories than some of the other choices on this list at 469 calories per cup. It is primarily made with deboned chicken, but topped up with chicken and turkey meal. It is grain-free but does include peas and potatoes among its main carbohydrates.

The recipe does contain a unique blend of glucosamine and chondroitin that help slow joint destruction and relieve arthritis pain. This can be a great choice for cats already suffering from mobility problems as a result of their weight.

 

Pros

  • Moderate in protein (35%)
  • Quality meat source
  • Grain-free
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals
  • Joint support

 

Cons

  • High in calories (469 calories per cup)
  • Uses meal
  • Contains pea and potato protein

 

Overall: Joint Care

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IAMS ProActive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care Dry Cat Food

This product from reliable brand IAMS makes it onto the list not only because it is low in calories, at only 332 calories per cup, but because it contains metabolism-boosting L-Carnitine. Not only will this help your cat burn calories faster, but it will give them more energy, and I know all I really want is for my cat to feel good.

It is relatively low in protein at only 30%, and also contains grains, but overall the recipe works.

 

Pros

  • Low in calories (332 calories per cup)
  • Contains metabolism-boosting L-Carnitine
  • Enriched with essential vitamins and minerals
  • High in fiber

 

Cons

  • Relatively low in protein (30%)
  • Contains grain and gluten
  • Uses meal

 

Overall: Metabolism and Energy Boosting

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Best Cat Foods For Weight Loss And Management

First and foremost, whatever cat food you feed your cat, it is important to make sure you give them the right amount, and not feed them to excess. The average house cat needs about 200 calories per day, but the exact number will depend on their size, age, breed, and activity level. Try this Cat Calorie Calculator from the Pet Nutrition Alliance to calculate the number of calories your cat requires.

Of course, 200 calories is a guideline for maintaining a healthy weight. If your cat needs to lose weight, they will need to eat between 20% to 40% less food than they need. So around 160 to 180 calories per day for the average house cat.

However, you should never cut your cat’s calories suddenly. It will leave them feeling underfed, and much more likely to beg for food or kill something to eat. Gradually reduce their caloric intake to a maintenance or weight-loss level over the course of a few weeks.

 

Characteristics Of Weight Loss Cat Food

Cat foods for weight loss should not only be low in calories, but also high in protein, and this protein should come from meat rather than plant sources. Like humans, cats need protein to maintain muscle, but unlike humans, that mainly burn carbohydrates for energy, cats mainly burn protein.

Further, cats use protein to produce the essential amino acids that their bodies need. But, unlike humans and dogs, cats can only produce these amino acids from animal-based protein, not from plant-based protein. Your cat’s natural diet in the wild would be almost completely meat based. They have evolved to eat a diet high in meat-based protein.

High protein cat foods are generally also quite high in fat, as the two go hand-in-hand. But do not be tempted to buy low-fat cat food, as the only way to achieve this is by reducing the level of protein, which is generally replaced with carbohydrates.

Cats do not need carbohydrates in their diet. It won’t really do them that much harm, though some cats find that carbohydrates irritate their digestive systems, especially grains. However, a diet that is high in carbohydrates is basically full of calories that lack the nutrients that cats need. This is much like a person who gets most of their calories from processed fast foods.

A cat diet should include a mixture of dry and wet food. Wet food satisfies your cat’s natural instinct for fresh meat, and gives them the moisture that they need and often fail to get from drinking water. Dry food, on the other hand, can be left out for several hours for them to graze (if they don’t have a problem with this), and the hard kibble is good for their dental health.

Wet Food

With wet food, it is relatively easy to find appropriate food for weight management. Any wet cat food that contains at least 90% meat (excluding water) is an appropriate choice. It will have minimal carbohydrate filler to add excess calories without vital nutrients.

You should always look for wet cat foods with the best quality meat from muscles and organs rather than by-products and meal, especially if you are intending to put your cat on a calorie-deficit diet. They will be eating less, but if they are eating high-quality meat, you will know that they are getting the best nutrients from what they are eating.

 

Dry Food

Dry food is more complicated, as it needs carbohydrates for its texture, consistency, and preservation. This means that you can easily end up with cat food that is designed to be delicious and appealing for cats but is high in calories and full of carbohydrates, which means less protein and less of the nutrients that they need. This is a big problem with cheaper cat foods as carbohydrates are generally cheaper than protein.

A good dry cat food for weight management should be high in protein, at least 40%, and low in calories, less than about 400 calories per cup. It is also good if it can be high in fiber, as fiber will make your cat feel fuller, faster as they eat. Most quality dry cat foods are also enriched with a range of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to make sure that they are getting everything that they need.

All dry cat foods will contain a carbohydrate of some sort. There is some debate on which carbohydrate is best for cats. In general, grains are not considered great as they can be hard for cats to digest. Potato and pea starch is also a common cat carbohydrate considered hard for them to digest. Better choices are tapioca, brown rice, and sweet potato.

Finally, you may also want to consider adding a raw element to weight loss cat food, as raw food are usually high in meat protein, low-carb, and have fewer calories. You may do a 50-50 ratio or just use the raw food as a topping.

The Truth About Cats And Weight

What Causes Cat Obesity?

Increasing obesity is a problematic trend that humans and cats share. A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 59% of cats in the US are overweight.

The main cause of cat obesity is loving parents that tend to overfeed their beloved pets. Sometimes this is just a lack of knowledge about how much food cats actually need. The average eight- to ten-pound cat only needs around 200 calories per day, which can seem like very little, especially when your feline friend is suggesting that they want more.

For many cats, overfeeding becomes more of a problem when they get older and become less active, and therefore need less energy. Their loving parents often do not adjust their feeding for their new life stage. You do not need to wait for your cat to be ten years old and therefore considered senior, for this to be a problem. Even your cat of six or seven years is much less active than your two- or three-year-old.

Treats are another major problem, especially treats of human food. These can quickly blow through your cat’s daily calorie requirement while providing a lot less of the vital protein and nutrients that are found in cat food.

The sedentary lifestyle of many indoor cats also exacerbates the problem. They not only have no need to expend energy hunting for food but also usually have easy access to very palatable food all day as many households leave dry food out for cats to graze.

While grazing is a natural instinct for cats, and they shouldn’t overindulge when they are not hungry, the delicious food we give them can break that instinct and they may not know when to stop. If your cat struggles with weight, they may well not have grazing control and will benefit from having less food put out for them several times a day. If you are not at home a lot to do this, consider investing in an automatic feeder.

As well as improper feeding, there are a number of serious medical conditions that can cause cats to gain excessive weight, such as parasites, hyperthyroidism, and Cushing’s disease. These serious illnesses will usually be accompanied by other symptoms and should be discussed with a vet.

Dangers Of Cat Obesity

Just as it is for us, carrying excess weight can be uncomfortable for your cat. While it might allow you to make some adorable videos of your fat, fluffy friend struggling to squeeze through the cat flap, this lack of mobility seriously reduces their quality of life. As they become less able to hunt, explore, and play, they will become increasingly sedentary, and probably moody. Both of which will simply exacerbate the problem of weight gain.

Moreover, carrying excess weight, and excess fat, can lead to a number if more serious health problems including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Arthritis

Overweight cats tend to have higher blood pressure and more strain on their organs and joints, which can cause a variety of health issues like those above. Excess weight also presents a danger when it comes to surgery, so if your cat ever does need critical surgery, your vet may be reluctant to operate, and your cat will need longer to recover.

Signs Of Cat Obesity

Knowing if your cat is overweight is more complicated than just putting them on the scales. While the average house cat weighs eight to ten pounds, some breeds, such as the Maine Coon, can weigh as much as 25 pounds and still be healthy. You do need to research what is a healthy weight for your breed of cat.

Most cats are considered obese if they are 20% heavier than the ideal weight for their breed. This can be as little as two pounds. While this may not sound like a lot, for a ten-pound cat, this is the equivalent of a 140-pound person gaining 28 pounds. The small weight margins that we are working with when it comes to cats also means that small variations in their diet can make a big difference.

There are a number of physical signs that suggest that your cat has a weight issue. Your cat should have a clearly visible waist and hip structure, and should not have a stomach that looks like it hangs down when you are looking at them in profile.

Many cat breeds should also have a visible rib cage. In pretty much all cat breeds you should be able to feel their rib cage through their fur and skin. It should not be covered in so much fat that you cannot make it out with your fingers.

Final Thoughts

If money was no object, I would be feeding my cat Royal Canin Weight Care dry cat food in order to help my cat lose weight fast, and then switch to Instinct by Nature’s Ultimate Protein, a higher quality dry food for weight maintenance. I would couple this with dry food that uses 90% meal from quality sources.

However, both of these cat foods are expensive and could break the bank over time. The other dry cat foods on this list offer more affordable, low-calorie, and relative high-protein options, all of which should offer effective weight loss when used properly. Coupled with the animal protein they will get from their wet food, cats should still have everything that they need to thrive with these more affordable weight management food alternatives.

But remember, it is not just what you feed your cat that matters, but how you feed your cat. Start them on the right path by:

  • Determining the ideal weight for their breed and their required daily calories based on that weight.
  • Feed them only their daily required calories to maintain a healthy weight, and feed them a 20% to 40% calorie deficit to help them lose weight.
  • Wean them onto both their new food and lower calorie intake gradually over a number of weeks so as not to cause a shock to their system.
  • Help your cat be more active, and burn more calories, by letting them out more, playing with them, and investing in some active toys.

 

Hopefully, this gives you all the information you need to have a happy and healthy cat in no time!

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Kristen Chapple

Kristen Chapple

Hi I'm Kristen, cat lover and blogger. I was born into a cat-loving family and have been a proud kitty mommy ever since I can remember. I love sharing my cat knowledge and love being an active part of the kitty-loving community.