It’s easy for some cats to gain too much weight—especially indoor-only cats. Even an extra pound or two can increase a cat's risk for a number of health issues including arthritis, skin infections, and diabetes. If your cat needs some help losing weight, there are a number of things you can try, like playing games together, investing in an automatic feeder for portion control, and putting weight-loss formulated food for cats in their bowl. "While all foods will require an overall caloric deficit, cat weight loss foods can make this process easier for both cats and cat parents," shared veterinarian, Georgina Ushi-Phillips, DVM with The Spruce Pets.
We always recommend checking with your veterinary first to rule out any underlying issues. If your cat needs to cut back on calories, switching to wet or dry food that is formulated for weight loss is a simple place to start.
Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Cat Food Roasted Vegetable & Chicken Medley
Developed with the help of certified veterinarians
The manufacturer's guarantee provides a refund if not fully satisfied
First ingredient is chicken broth
Pork, a common cat allergy, is the second ingredient
The Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Cat Food provides balanced nutrition in the form of a wet stew made with chicken broth as the first ingredient. This liquid-rich formula will help your cat feel full in between meal times so they can get to and maintain a healthy weight for their size.
Each serving provides fiber to keep your cat's digestive system functioning and lean protein from pork liver and chicken. The roasted vegetable & chicken medley flavor has pork as the second ingredient, which is a common protein-source allergy among cats. Be sure to read the full label on any cat food you select to make sure the recipe is free of any potential irritants.
Hill's Science Diet is formulated in the United States with the guidance of certified veterinarians. In their clinical trials, over 70% of adult cats lost weight within 10 weeks by eating Perfect Weight Cat Food. Plus, they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of their products. If you are unsatisfied, it's possible to get a refund from a participating retailer or directly from Hill's Science Diet.
Hill's Science Diet Perfect Weight Cat Food is also available as a dry food that can be mixed with wet food or served on its own, but keep in mind, your cat's overall daily caloric intake needs to go down.
Price at time of publish: $53 for case of 24, 2.9 ounce cans
Calories: 62 kcal/can | Flavors: Roasted vegetable & chicken medley, | Prescription Required: No
Best Overall Dry
Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken for Healthy Weight
Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient
Includes safe raw foods
Contains probiotic for healthy gut
Contains meal by-products
The market has a number of dry cat food recipes designed for weight loss, but they’re not created equally. Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost for Healthy Weight Dry Cat Food stands out because it combines a high-protein food with freeze-dried raw bits for balanced nutrition and flavor your cats will love.
Made in the United States, this food has 25 percent less fat, and 15 percent fewer calories than the non-weight control food. We like that cage-free chicken is the first ingredient as minimally processed bites of real chicken, so it’s high in protein and appealing to cats. The raw bits are high in vitamins and minerals because they haven’t been processed.
This food is also made without grains, potato, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors, and preservatives. Cat owners report that their cats ate less volume of food compared to typical store brands, so a bag lasts longer.
Price at time of publish: $50 for 10-pound bag
Calories: 709 kcal/kg dry food | Flavors: Chicken | Prescription Required: No
Solid Gold Fit as a Fiddle Weight Control
Company in holistic food since 1974
Includes probiotics for a healthy gut
Turkey, ocean fish, and chicken meal are by products
Weight control cat food doesn’t have to break the bank. Solid Gold Fit as a Fiddle Weight Control Adult Dry Cat Food strikes the right balance between quality and a reasonable price. This grain-free food is made with fresh-caught, omega fatty acid-rich Alaskan pollock.
Designed specifically for weight control, this food is high in protein, low in carbohydrate, and offers a moderate-calorie recipe that mirrors a cat’s natural diet. This balance sustains your cat’s energy level while helping satisfy its appetite.
You’ll find no fillers, artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives on this ingredient list. Pollock is the first ingredient followed by a long list of recognizable foods including peas and chickpeas for vegetable protein and fiber, chicken fat and eggs that satisfy and nourish, turkey, ocean fish, and chicken meal for adequate protein plus pumpkin for healthy digestion, and antioxidant blueberries, cranberries, and salmon oil.
Price at time of publish: $46 for 12-pound bag
Calories: 3,300 kcal/kg dry food | Flavors: Alaskan pollock | Prescription Required: No
Best for Senior Cats
Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management + Urinary Care Wet Food
Manages weight and urinary tract health in one food
Only one flavor
Many senior kitties struggle to maintain a healthy weight because of inactivity as they age, especially for indoor cats and those with health problems that sap their energy or reduce their mobility. Senior, overweight, and/or obese cats often also struggle with urinary problems, so it makes sense to consider a food that addresses both issues.
Blue Buffalo W + U Weight Management and Urinary Care canned wet food provides ideal levels of fat, calories, and fiber to help your cat manage its weight as well as controlled mineral levels to keep urine pH lower to prevent crystal and stone formation. Chicken is the first ingredient, and this food also has added plant fiber in the form of powdered cellulose so your cat will feel fuller despite eating a lower calorie food. Levels of magnesium and sodium are controlled to promote balanced urinary pH.
Blue Buffalo also offers True Solutions Fit & Healthy wet and dry cat foods that have slightly higher caloric contents than W + U, but they don’t focus on the urinary aspects. Blue Buffalo also reports that its science-based formulas are developed by a team of Ph.D. animal nutritionists, food scientists, and veterinarians so you can feel confident about your choice.
Price at time of publish: $62 for case of 24, 5.5-ounce cans
Calories: 869 kcal/kg wet food | Flavor: Chicken and whitefish | Prescription Required: Yes
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Chicken Recipe All Life Stages Canned Cat Food
Omega-6 and 3 fatty acids for healthy skin and fur
Added fiber to reduce hairballs
Not available in all stores
Some picky cats won’t eat it
Although we couldn’t find an organic cat food specifically designed for weight loss, many cat parents have found that their cats lost weight and maintained a healthy weight naturally when they switched to organic cat food. Although there are fewer organic cat food brands on the market, the ones that are available are pretty wonderful.
The first ingredient is organic free-range chicken or turkey. The high protein content from prey meats and low filler content will satisfy your cat’s appetite without wasted calories. The organic ingredients are also produced without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, artificial preservatives, added growth hormones, or antibiotics.
Castor & Pollux have been making organic pet food since 2003. Since 2017, the entire Organix line of cat and dog foods, both wet and dry, are U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic. Ten of its recipes are Non-GMO Project Verified. They are even cooked in an organically-certified kitchen in the United States. Its line is also certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages.
Many recipes include nutrient-dense “superfoods” like organic flaxseed, organic coconut flour, organic dried egg, and organic cranberries. Each of Castor and Pollux’s foods is nutritionally balanced for all life stages, but they also offer a line specifically for kittens.
Price at time of publish: $77 for case of 24, 5.5-ounce cans
Calories: 1,121 kcal/kg wet food | Flavors: Chicken, turkey, chicken and chicken liver, shredded chicken, shredded chicken and chicken liver, turkey, brown rice and chicken | Prescription Required: No
Best for Sensitive Stomachs
Halo Holistic Grain-Free Healthy Weight Indoor Cat Dry Cat Food
Fiber helps them feel full
Reduced calories and fat to support weight reduction
Not available in a wet food
Kitties with sensitive tummies can be miserable if they aren’t eating the right food. In addition to cat probiotics, recipes designed for healthy digestion can give your cat relief and help them maintain a consistent weight.
Halo Indoor Holistic Grain-Free Healthy Weight Wild Salmon and Whitefish Dry Cat Food was developed with your cat’s and the environment’s optimal health in mind. Made in the United States, Halo chooses sustainably-sourced Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish including salmon and whitefish, non-GMO vegetables, and is free from antibiotics, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The company ensures that its food contains whole meats that were not factory farmed and no meat meals (or by-products). Whole meats are more easily digested than processed meats, so there is less of a chance that your cat’s tummy will be upset.
Halo offers both dry and wet food recipes specifically designed for sensitive stomachs. Although these foods aren’t designed for weight loss, their caloric content is only slightly higher than the Healthy Weight foods so you may be able to find the right balance for your kitty among Halo foods.
Price at time of publish: $57 for 10-pound bag
Calories: 3,630 kcal/kg dry food | Flavors: Wild salmon and whitefish, chicken and chicken liver | Prescription Required: No
We like AvoDerm Natural Indoor Weight Control Formula Canned Cat Food (view on Amazon) because it contains no meat by-products and is packed with healthy fats. If your cat also struggles with urinary issues, as many overweight cats do, you may want to ask your vet about a prescription for the two-in-one Blue Buffalo W+U Weight Management and Urinary Care Canned Food (view at Chewy) that lowers urine pH and prevents crystal and stone formation.
What to Look for in Cat Food for Weight Loss
“The first thing to realize is that cats can lose weight on any food. Weight loss is a result of cats expending more calories than they consume,” explains veterinarian Georgina Ushi-Phillips. When looking at calories, be sure to compare wet food to wet food, and dry food to dry food. That’s because the moisture content affects the weight and calories are calculated on a per weight basis.
Carefully read labels and look for important certifications when deciding which brand is right for your cat. “A good starting point is to look for higher fiber diets," adds Dr. Ushi-Phillips. "Increased fiber will help cats feel more full and because of the way fiber is digested, pet parents can typically give more food as well. That means everyone will be happier.”
It's always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian for the key attributes to look for to support your individual cat’s weight issues. Be prepared to try more than one to find just the right fit for your overweight feline.
Texture & Wet Versus Dry
In the wild, a cat would eat a range of textures and get much of their necessary water through eating fresh meat. Some of their preference may be instinctually biased toward wet and raw foods. But domesticated cats, like humans, also have their own opinions. Some may prefer a soft minced food or chunky bites. Watch your cat eat. Do they lick their food? Do they eat the gravy first? Their habits may give you clues to their texture preferences. Most veterinarians recommend a mixture of wet and dry food throughout the week.
A recent trend in pet foods, raw cat food is said to be an optimal choice because heat has not degraded proteins and other essential nutrients, although there is not yet much research to back these claims. And research has shown that raw pet foods carry an increased risk of salmonella and listeria bacterial infections, which can be dangerous for both cats and human caretakers.
Made in the USA
If you live in the United States, make sure your cat food is labeled with “Made in the USA.” Standards for pet food production vary widely by country. Many foods produced in other countries have been tested and impurities like heavy metals and even plastic fillers were found that are unsafe for consumption.
Protein and Carb Content
It’s also important to look at the nutrition, moisture, and fat content of your cat’s food. Cats evolved as hunters so their natural diet would be primarily carnivorous. They would consume prey that contains high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a nominal amount of carbohydrates.
“Pet parents should also look for high protein,” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “Not only is protein almost always a good option for our carnivorous cats, but high protein can help cats preserve muscle mass as they lose weight.”
Note that protein and fat content numbers will be higher in dry foods than in wet foods, because wet food percentages are reported on a wet basis and contain a high percentage of water while dry food percentages are reported on a dry basis. You should look for about 8-10 percent minimum for protein in wet foods or at least 25 percent in dry food. Fat content should be a minimum of 5 percent in wet food or 20 to 30 percent in dry food. Some cats will turn their nose up at foods with less protein or fat than is recommended.
“Lastly, pet parents will want to avoid too many carbohydrates within the first several ingredients,” says Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “Ingredients are listed in order with the greatest amount first. While higher fiber food will have some carbohydrate sources, they shouldn’t be the main ingredients.” Healthy carbs should come from ingredients like organic pumpkin, sweet potato, or brown rice.
As in human food ingredient labels, ingredients in cat food are listed in order from most to least based on weight and include the percentages of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Look for foods that list a high protein content of a specific meat first and if any grains are included, whole grains are best because of the nutrients they contain.
Cats also require more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. The amounts of nutrients needed vary in each stage of life—from kitten to adolescent, during pregnancy and nursing, and as a senior cat. If your pet food is well-balanced and complete for your cat’s current stage of life, they won’t require any additional supplements.
To prevent spoiling and increase shelf life, manufacturers use natural preservatives in store brands. Non-synthetic preservatives include vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate or tocopherol acetate).
Organic and Natural
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of the term “organic” in human and cat food. By law, the USDA must apply the same standard to cat food that they apply to human food. “Organic" refers to the way a crop or animal is grown or raised and handled. Organic crops must be grown on land free from pesticides for at least three years. The food itself must not contain toxic and persistent pesticides, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), or have undergone irradiation.
Organic livestock whose meat is used in pet foods must be fed organic feed, not be given antibiotics or hormones, and have access to the outdoors. To become USDA Certified, all of these requirements must be documented and have been confirmed via USDA inspection. Unless you see “USDA Certified Organic” on the label, it’s difficult to be sure the food is truly organic.
When only a portion of the ingredients are from certified organic sources, you’ll also see a percentage on the label, such as “95% USDA Certified Organic.”
Similarly, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines and regulates the term "natural" for pet food and animal feed. "Natural" means a feed or ingredient is derived solely from plant, animal, or mined sources that have not been produced by a chemically synthetic process. However, some ingredients can be labeled “natural” without actually being good or healthy for your pet. Look out for ingredients known as “fillers” that are low-cost and have little nutritional value. They’re added to make your pet feel full with fewer high-quality ingredients by weight. Common ones are corn and wheat gluten and grain products, soy, animal by-products, and fruit or vegetable pulps.
Many brands are also adding pre-, post-, and probiotics that promote a healthy gut and intestinal flora. Domesticated cats that aren’t eating a natural diet of rodents and other critters aren’t exposed to bacteria they would encounter in the wild. So opt for pre-, post-, and probiotics when you have the option, especially if your cat has a sensitive tummy or has recently taken antibiotics or other medications.
Is dry or wet cat food better for weight loss?
“Because wet food contains significantly more moisture, it’s not only less calorically dense but can also leave cats feeling more full. That makes the weight loss process easier for both cats and people,” explains Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “However, it’s much easier to measure a precise amount of dry kibble to make sure you’re hitting the correct calorie targets which is a big benefit. A middle-ground option is to add a little water to dry kibble. That can give you the accuracy of dry food with the benefits of extra moisture. Both options can work, so it’s okay to let individual preferences decide this one.”
Are high-protein cat foods better for weight loss?
“Because cats are true carnivores, in that they’d only eat meat in the wild, they usually do very well with high-protein diets regardless of the goal. When it comes to weight loss, higher protein can help preserve muscle mass as cats drop weight,” notes Dr. Ushi-Phillips. “Not only is muscle important for a healthy cat, but muscle is also more metabolically active and requires more calories to maintain. That means more muscle can increase a cat’s base calorie requirements and make it easier to achieve a weight-reducing caloric deficit.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This piece was written by Lorraine Wilde who has had at least two cat companions in her home for the past 35 years, including some special needs kitties. Her current older feline companions have been challenged by digestive and urinary tract health issues. When researching these brands, Wilde evaluated the type and quality of the ingredients, the companies' research and development of the food, and their business ethics.
Because she has only the highest standards for what she feeds her pets, Wilde recently switched to Evanger’s EVx Restricted Diet Urinary Tract and Evanger Organics Turkey and Butternut Squash canned food to help improve her older cats' health issues.
Dr. Georgina Ushi-Phillips is a practicing veterinarian and veterinary writer for BetterWithCats.net. She grew up in Wisconsin and earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Florida. Her professional interests include nutrition, soft tissue surgery, and emergency care. In her free time, Dr. Ushi-Phillips enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and her hound mix, Pearle.