Weight Management Cat Food: 10 Vet-Recommended Options

Weight Management Cat Food: 10 Vet-Recommended Options

We hear a lot about the obesity epidemic these days. But humans aren’t the only species at risk. Cat obesity cases are also on the rise. According to the latest Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) report, 61 percent of cats in the United States are overweight or obese [1], up from 57 percent a decade ago. [2] What’s more, overweight pets have become so prevalent, it can be difficult to tell whether your cat is at a healthy weight, or if they could benefit from a switch to weight management cat food.

Scheduling regular veterinary exams for your cat can help you track your pet’s weight fluctuations. But if your cat faces certain risk factors for obesity, a proactive approach to weight management could help you avoid larger health implications in the future. 

Some cat breeds, such as American and British shorthairs, may have an increased likelihood of obesity compared to other breeds. Your cat’s sex may also be a factor, as male cats are more likely to gain weight than females. While the benefits of spaying or neutering your cat far outweigh any potential negatives, the procedure can alter feline metabolism rates, which may lead to weight gain. And though experts agree that keeping your cat indoors is safer, indoor cats do face a greater risk of weight gain than outdoor cats.

Even if your cat does not have any of these risk factors, the potential health issues associated with obesity in cats can be daunting. Feline obesity can increase the risk of osteoarthritis, feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD), diabetes mellitus, and various cancers. Obesity can also complicate the management of chronic kidney disease (CKD), liver disease, heart disease, as well as asthma, and other respiratory disorders.

Research shows that cat obesity can reduce lifespan by nearly two years. [3] So, if your cat is overweight, switching to a weight management cat food diet could help increase both the quality and longevity of your cat’s life.

Our Top Picks

All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the Great Pet Care editorial team and do not reflect a direct endorsement by the author.

Best Prescription Weight Management Cat Foods

  • Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Cat Food
  • Royal Canin Satiety Support Weight Management Cat Food
  • Royal Canin Weight Control Cat Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d Weight Reduction Cat Food
  • Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Cat Food
  • Purina Pro Plan OM Overweight Management
  • Blue Natural Veterinary Diet W+U Weight Management + Urinary Care Cat Food

Best Non-Prescription Weight Management Cat Foods

  • Royal Canin Weight Care Cat Food
  • Hills Science Diet Perfect Weight Cat Food
  • Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Cat Food

What Is Weight Management Cat Food?

While portion control and increased exercise are proven tactics in the battle of the bulge (both for felines and their human counterparts), some cats may require a different approach, especially if they have more than a few pounds to lose. So if the scale isn’t budging (or is moving in the wrong direction) for your cat, it’s a good idea to chat with your veterinarian about switching your pet to a special weight management diet.

Weight management cat food comes in both prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) options that are specially formulated to help cats lose weight. Both types typically contain fewer calories than standard cat food formulas, with macronutrient ratios that are lower in fat while maintaining high levels of protein. 

These diets usually work by optimizing fat metabolism and helping to induce a state of ketosis, which is when the body burns fat instead of glucose (sugar from carbohydrates) for energy. Weight management cat diets also tend to contain more water and/or fiber than other cat food. This increased volume or bulk helps cats feel full so they don’t eat as much.

Prescription Weight Management Cat Food vs Non-Prescription

Non-prescription weight management formulas can benefit cats with smaller weight loss goals, but primarily function as a maintenance diet to help cats stay at a healthy weight. In contrast, prescription options (also known as veterinary therapeutic diets) work both as a treatment to help facilitate substantial weight loss, as well as a diet to help maintain a healthy weight once those pounds are shed. Prescription formulas also contain added ingredients to help improve metabolism. 

Although they may whittle as many pounds off your cat’s waist, non-prescription options are also easier on your wallet. Prescription diets tend to promote more dramatic weight loss, but they typically come with a bigger price tag. 

Why Your Vet Might Recommend a Weight Management Cat Food

Some pet parents may be tempted to take a DIY approach to helping their cat lose weight. But it’s best to involve your veterinarian in your plan, no matter how simple it may seem. 

While reducing the amount of regular cat food you serve up at mealtime could help your “fluffy” feline slim down, veterinarians caution against substantial portion reduction, especially in very obese cats. That’s because drastically reducing portion sizes not only cuts calories, it can also inadvertently cause malnutrition by limiting vital nutrients that your cat needs to thrive. 

Additionally, if you suddenly switch a morbidly obese cat to a calorie-restricted diet, they can face an increased risk of developing a fatal liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. 

Your veterinarian can help you make changes to your cat’s existing diet and lifestyle to promote healthy, gradual weight loss. But, if smaller portions, fewer treats, and more exercise don’t move the scale, or if your cat has a substantial amount of weight to lose, your veterinarian will likely advise a weight management cat food.

In addition to promoting healthy weight loss, specialty weight management cat food can also make the process of losing weight easier…for both you and your cat. Because the formulas contain fewer calories, you can still feed your cat a “normal” portion size, so they don’t feel deprived. And, thanks to extra fiber, weight loss cat food tends to expand in the tummy, giving cats a sense of fullness. The formulas are also designed to be quite tasty and palatable.

As a result, cats often feel more satisfied and less “hangry” when they eat weight management formulas. That can also help reduce the risk of unwanted side effects that often accompany restriction diets, such as begging for food or destructive behavior.

What Weight Management Diet is Best for Your Cat?

There is a wide variety of weight management cat food options designed to work for a wide range of cats — from very obese and overweight cats, to those on the cusp of being overweight, and those who have lost weight and need help maintaining their new healthy physique.

Your veterinarian will determine what type of weight management diet is most appropriate for your cat’s specific needs. First, they’ll calculate your pet’s ideal weight, daily calorie needs, and weight reduction pacing using a variety of factors specific to your pet. These include breed, age, metabolic rate, activity level, nutritional requirements, and any physical or internal ailments that may require careful monitoring throughout the weight loss process.

Top 10 Vet-Recommended Weight Management Cat Foods

There’s no shortage of cat food diets on the market promising to help your cat achieve or maintain a healthy weight. To help pet parents navigate the sea of choices, here are the options veterinarians most commonly recommend. Most are available in both dry (kibble) and canned (wet) food options. And many also offer low-calorie treats your cat can enjoy without jeopardizing their weight loss journey. Ask your vet if one of the following diets is optimal for your cat’s specific health and weight management needs.

Best Prescription Weight Management Cat Foods

Hills Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Cat Food

Hill’s Prescription Diets are well known as trusted mainstays when it comes to disease management through veterinary therapeutic diets. The Hill’s Metabolic Weight Management formula promotes healthy, effective weight loss in cats who are overweight or obese using a proven blend of high-quality ingredients. And the results speak for themselves: According to Hill’s, 88 percent of pets fed this diet at home lost weight in two months. It is available in a variety of textures to keep cats interested and also helps support urinary tract health by minimizing urinary crystal formation.

Pros

  • Clinically proven formula developed by Hill’s veterinarians and nutritionists
  • According to the brand, 88 percent of pets lost weight in two months when fed this diet at home
  • Supports both healthy weight loss and weight maintenance
  • Comes in a variety of flavors and canned food textures, including a tasty stew
  • Made with a unique blend of fibers to help cats feel full and L-carnitine to help metabolize fat and support lean muscle mass
  • Available exclusively through veterinarians
  • Contains S+OXSHIELD to promote urinary health 
  • Also available as Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare + Metabolic for cats with clinical urinary issues 

Cons

  • Among the most expensive weight loss diets
  • Formulated to support adult and senior cats only

Royal Canin Satiety Support Weight Management Cat Food

As a brand built on a solid foundation of scientific research, Royal Canin is known for its precision approach to nutrition, offering formulas tailored to a pet’s age, size, and even breed. The brand’s Satiety Support Weight Management diets are similarly tailored to meet the weight loss needs of cats with body condition scores of 7-9. This prescription diet is specially formulated to support substantial weight loss in cats that face an increased risk of health issues due to being overweight or obese. Made with quality, veterinarian-recommended ingredients and high fiber, to help keep cats satisfied between meals. It also optimizes bone and joint health, which is key in heavier cats, as extra weight increases stress on the musculoskeletal system which can worsen osteoarthritis. 

Pros

  • Formulated to facilitate weight loss in overweight to obese cats
  • According to the brand, in a clinical trial, 97 percent of cats lost weight in three months, and the diet effectively controlled begging in 82 percent of cats
  • Reduces calories while ensuring adequate nutrient availability
  • Low fat, high protein, high fiber
  • Helps prevent regain of weight lost
  • Helps cats stay full (satiated) to reduce unwanted overeating and begging behavior
  • Contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil to help support joint health  
  • Helps improve urinary tract health by preventing struvite and calcium oxalate crystal formation
  • Available in wet and dry formulas

Cons

  • Pricier than most other prescription weight formulas

Royal Canin Weight Control Cat Food

Not all cats require a heavy-duty diet designed to help drop pounds. Specifically designed to support weight management, Royal Canin Weight Control cat food offers a balanced blend of nutrients, as well as high levels of protein and fiber, to aid in gradual, healthy weight loss. This prescription diet helps maintain a leaner weight in spayed and neutered adult cats, who often have a tendency to gain weight due to hormonal changes. It also supports urinary health by reducing urinary crystal development.

Pros

  • In an internal study conducted by Royal Canin, over 90% of cats lost weight within two months
  • Helps spayed and neutered adult cats with an increased risk for weight gain maintain a healthy weight
  • Made with high protein (plus extra L-carnitine), high fiber, and balanced fats
  • Promotes a feeling of fullness to help reduce overeating
  • Available exclusively with a veterinarian’s prescription
  • Helps improve urinary tract health by preventing struvite and calcium oxalate crystal formation

Cons

  • Premium price
  • May not be appropriate for very overweight or obese cats

Hill’s Prescription Diet r/d Weight Reduction Cat Food

While this veterinarian-recommended prescription diet from Hill’s is not intended for long-term use past 6 months, it is designed to help cats substantially whittle their waistlines within 4 to 8 weeks. The clinically tested formula contains therapeutic levels of L-carnitine, plus an optimized blend of fibers to help your cat metabolize fat, maintain lean muscles, and feel full longer.  

Pros

  • Clinically proven to help cats lose weight within 4-8 weeks
  • Requires veterinarian approval to purchase
  • Formulated for safe and effective weight loss
  • Helps induce ketosis to burn fat while maintaining muscle mass
  • Contains L-carnitine to aid fat metabolism in the liver
  • Made with optimized levels of soluble and insoluble fiber
  • Contains antioxidants, such as Vitamins E and C, to help support immune system health

Cons

  • Less expensive than other prescription diets, but still pricey
  • Does not also function as a long-term maintenance diet
  • For intermittent feeding only; not intended for long-term use over 6 months duration

Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Cat Food

For cats who struggle with excess weight in addition to other health conditions, Hill’s offers a multi-tasking prescription cat food designed to tackle more than just extra pounds. In addition to helping cats lose weight, Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit cat food also helps promote healthy digestion, urinary health, and blood sugar management. Since obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus in cats, that’s great news for cats with blood glucose readings on the high end of normal. Cats prone to gastrointestinal issues that respond to fiber and urinary tract diseases can also benefit from this extra-helpful formula.

Pros

  • Unique formula benefits cats on multiple fronts
  • Clinically tested nutrition for weight management, digestive health, urinary health, and blood sugar management
  • Reduced-calorie, low-fat formula helps metabolize fat
  • Packed with fiber to help manage blood sugar and promote healthy digestion
  • Lower magnesium and sodium to promote urinary tract health
  • Contains antioxidants, such as Vitamins E and C, to help support immune system health
  • Also helps fiber-responsive GI issues, including aiding in maintaining formed stools

Con

  • Some pet parents find the cost prohibitive

Purina Pro Plan OM Overweight Management

Purina Pro Plan OM Overweight Management is a prescription weight loss diet for more impactful weight loss and long-term management of a trim feline physique. It’s formulated with a high protein-to-calorie ratio to ensure cats get the proper balance of nutrients, even when losing or maintaining weight. Plus, its yummy variety of flavors will help entice your cat’s tastebuds while reducing their body fat and maintaining muscle mass. 

Pros

  • For weight loss or maintenance
  • Low calorie, high protein, low fat, high fiber
  • Promotes loss of body fat while maintaining muscle mass during weight loss
  • Helps improve urinary tract health by preventing struvite and calcium oxalate crystal formation
  • High in antioxidants
  • Highly palatable
  • Comes in a variety of flavors

Cons

  • Less expensive than most prescription diets, but still steep

Blue Natural Veterinary Diet W+U Weight Management + Urinary Care Cat Food

One of the more budget-friendly prescription diets, BLUE Natural Veterinary Diet W+U formula delivers the dual benefit of weight management and urinary care in one delicious diet. The grain-free formula features natural ingredients, including deboned chicken and wholesome, fiber-rich fruits and veggies to help cats feel fuller longer. Plus, the diet contains carefully controlled mineral levels designed to prevent bladder stones and promote urinary health. 

Pros

  • Ideal levels of fat, calories, and fiber to promote weight loss and help cats feel full
  • High in L-carnitine to help support the maintenance of a healthy weight
  • High in omega-3 fatty acids to promote immune health
  • Helps improve urinary tract health by preventing struvite and calcium oxalate crystal formation due to lower magnesium and sodium content
  • Made with LifeSource Bits, BLUE Natural’s blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help support immune health

Cons

  • May not be effective enough to facilitate weight loss in very overweight or obese cats
  • Not all brand products meet World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines

Best Non-Prescription Weight Management Cat Food Picks

Royal Canin Weight Care Cat Food

Good news: No prescription is required to provide your kitty with the weight management benefits of this over-the-counter diet. And because it’s formulated by Royal Canin, a company known for extensive feeding trials, nutrition research, and quality control, you can trust that it will help keep your kitty in shape. While not intended for significant weight loss, this basic weight support diet can help the average kitty (with a body condition score between 4-6) lose a bit of weight or maintain a healthy weight.   

Pros

  • Benefits cats that are either slightly overweight or standard-sized with a tendency to gain weight maintain a healthy size 
  • High in protein and fiber to help cats feel full
  • L-carnitine aids in fat metabolism
  • More budget-friendly than prescription options

Cons

  • May not be effective enough to facilitate weight loss in very overweight or obese cats
  • No mention of added urinary tract support unlike the other Royal Canin feline weight-loss products

Hills Science Diet Perfect Weight Cat Food

Hill’s is another pet food company with boarded veterinary nutritionists on staff who formulate balanced and nutritious diets, perform feeding trials, and ensure quality control. This non-prescription option has added antioxidants and vitamins to support a cat’s immune system while simultaneously helping slightly heavier cats maintain a healthier weight.  

Pros

  • Lower in calories to aid cats in gentle weight loss or to support a healthy weight in cats who tend to pack on pounds
  • Antioxidants and vitamins help support immune system health
  • Free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
  • More budget-friendly than prescription options

Cons

  • May not be effective enough to facilitate weight loss in very overweight or obese cats
  • No mention of added urinary tract support unlike some other Hills feline weight loss products

Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Cat Food

Designed for slightly overweight or less active cats, this Weight Management formula is a non-prescription option in Purina’s Pro Plan line of products designed to help cats achieve or maintain a healthy weight. It has 10 percent fewer calories than most other regular adult formulas, plus it’s 20 percent lower in fat. Best of all, it’s highly tasty to keep cats happy while assisting in mild weight loss and maintaining muscle mass. This product also contains live probiotics to optimize a happy gut.  

Pros

  • Contains fewer calories and lower fat than regular adult cat food formulas
  • High protein to help maintain muscle mass while promoting weight loss
  • Highly palatable formula keeps your kitty’s taste buds happy
  • Contains live probiotics to support gut health
  • More affordable than a prescription weight loss diet

Cons

  • May not be effective enough to facilitate weight loss in very overweight or obese cats
  • No mention of added urinary tract support unlike some other Purina feline weight loss products

Switching to a Weight Management Food for Cats

Ready to make a switch to ensure your fluffy feline gets or stays fit? Here are some additional factors to consider when switching to a weight management diet for cats:

  • Transition gradually. To help minimize GI upset, such as vomiting or diarrhea, don’t switch your cat’s diet abruptly. Allow their gut to get used to the new food by gradually mixing in increasing amounts of the new diet during a 7- to 10-day transition period.
  • Speaking of GI changes, be prepared for increased flatulence (gas). Due to the high amounts of natural soluble and insoluble fiber in most weight management foods, your cat may be extra stinky for a while. Some cats may also have a change in their stool consistency. Fortunately, GI changes tend to stabilize after a few weeks on the new diet. If you have any concerns, discuss them with your vet. 
  • Don’t cut calories too quickly. As discussed, nothing too fast or drastic! To ensure your cat’s weight loss is safe and healthy, don’t eyeball their portions. Be sure to use an accurate, consistent measuring device (either cup or scale) as instructed by your vet to dispense your cat’s food. 
  • Limit treats. Calories from treats add up and can completely skew your cat’s weight loss results. Either cut out treats completely or reduce them significantly, and be sure to include their caloric content in your daily plan. If you do choose to treat your kitty now and then, look for low-cal options offered by many weight management cat food manufacturers.  
  • Get physical! Pair food changes with exercise and playtime for the biggest positive impact.
  • Explore the best feeding options for your feline. Some cats may fare better with free choice feeding or multiple mini meals (while maintaining the same daily caloric intake) versus one or two large meals per day.
  • Pro Tip: The same psychological tricks that can help humans in their weight loss efforts may work for your cat. Many cats prefer their food in a smaller bowl instead of a large bowl because the smaller bowl looks fuller when filled with the same amount of food. This tactic can help improve your cat’s mental satisfaction at meal times.

Questions to Ask Your Vet About Weight Management Cat Foods

Structure, accuracy, consistency, and regular tracking are important for any weight loss plan. Before and during your cat’s weight loss journey, here are some question prompts that pet parents can ask their veterinarian. The answers may vary based on your cat’s specific weight loss needs, health status, and lifestyle.

  • What is my cat’s current weight, and what does a healthy weight look like for him? The ideal cat should have a body condition score (BCS) of 5/9. This means a cat’s frame should be well-proportioned, a tucked waist can be observed behind the ribs, his ribs can be felt with only a slight fat covering, and he should have only a minimal abdominal fat pad.
  • What diet plan is best for my cat? Every cat is different, so be sure to ask your vet for guidance on what brand of weight loss or weight management cat food would be best for your kitty. They can advise whether your cat needs a prescription or non-prescription diet and how much they should eat to lose weight. Remember, the number of cups or cans of food may vary, depending on the brand you choose and how many calories your cat needs per day. 
  • What are the anticipated costs of my cat’s new diet?
  • What if other cats in the house eat diet cat food? A few bites are unlikely to cause harm to other cats in the household, but avoid consistent or sole use in kittens, pregnant and nursing cats, as well as those with certain health issues (such as cancer, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and liver disease).
  • How quickly should my cat lose weight? Cats should lose 0.5-1.5% of his or her body weight weekly until the goal is met. Your vet may wish to weigh and reassess your pet every 2-4 weeks to ensure the current plan works as intended.
  • Once my cat has met their goal weight, how can I help them maintain it?  through diet and activity? Is this a temporary or long-term consideration?

Best of luck on your cat’s weight loss journey. As a pet parent, you’re now empowered to speak with your vet about how to aid your kitty in safely achieving their weight loss goals. With some time and effort, you could help add life to her years and years to her life!

References

  1. “2022 U.S. Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, Retrieved from www.petobesityprevention.org
  2. “2013  Summary of the Veterinary Clinic: Pet Obesity Prevalence Survey.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.petobesityprevention.org/2007-2013
  3. Teng, Kendy T et al. “Strong associations of nine-point body condition scoring with survival and lifespan in cats.” Journal of feline medicine and surgery vol. 20,12 (2018): 1110-1118. doi:10.1177/1098612X17752198 

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