What to Feed a Cat to Make It Gain Weight

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In the wild, a cat wouldn't have a bowl overflowing with dry kibble awaiting her whenever the fancy to nibble might strike her. Your cat maintains a healthy weight by eating the proper quantity and quality of nutritious food, but there are times when a cat's weight might need a boost. Understanding your cat's nutritional needs from birth to adulthood can help you identify what she might need to put on a few extra pounds.

Close-up of cat eating from bowl of food.
Close-up of cat eating from bowl of food. (Image: OPHfoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Feeding Kittens

At birth, there is no better replacement than a mother's milk for your young kitten. If kittens are orphaned, it will be necessary to obtain a commercial kitten milk replacement, known as KMR. If you find yourself caring for an orphaned kitten, contact your veterinarian for information on proper nutrition and an appropriate feeding schedule. Once weaned, your kitten will require a high quality food specially designed for kittens. Kittens require a diet high in protein to maintain their energy level. Adult food should not be fed until a kitten is a year old. Your kitten should gain weight gradually as it grows. If she doesn't, or becomes emaciated, she should see a veterinarian.

In Adulthood

Cats aren't small dogs, and they shouldn't be eating anything but products intended for their consumption. According to Dr. Louise Murray, DVM, vice president of the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York, your cat's food should be approved by American Association of Feed Control Officials. Foods high in carbohydrates may cause your cat to bulk up and gain weight, but cats cannot process carbohydrates, and rely upon nutritional food high in meats, for protein. A good quality, high-protein cat food should allow your cat to gain weight gradually. If your cat is in need of a weight booster, your veterinarian may recommend a high calorie paste as a supplement.

Coping With Emaciation

More than a few skinny strays have wandered upon the porches of cat lovers. Emaciation can be caused by the consistent lack of a food source. While your first reaction might be to feed an extremely thin cat, an emaciated cat needs veterinary care. The lack of food is not the only cause of declining weight. An emaciated stray may have a parasite infection, such as a tapeworm; increased food may not solve the problem.

Medical Concerns

Certain health issues may cause your cat to lose weight. Declining weight may be a sign of a behavioral condition such as depression, stress or anxiety, or a health condition such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, cancer or a gastrointestinal issue. Sudden weight loss is cause for a trip to the veterinarian. Certain medical conditions such as kidney disease require your cat to have a special diet. Your veterinarian can diagnose medical issues and provide information on the proper diet to help your cat live the healthiest life she can.

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