When shopping for the best cat food for weight loss, you’ll want to consider the following criteria:
AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for adult maintenance or all life stages:
The AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that recommends nutritional guidelines for pet food. An AAFCO statement indicates that a food meets the nutritional needs of cats based on their life stage. You can confirm a cat food is nutritionally complete and balanced for “adult maintenance” or “all life stages” if it has an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label.
Keep in mind that cat food will only meet your cat’s nutritional needs when served in the right portions. Giving your cat a smaller portion could lead to a nutritional deficiency, while overfeeding them may lead to weight gain, especially if they don’t get much activity.
Growing kittens need more calories and nutrients than adult cats. Therefore, weight management foods don’t make a good choice for kittens, even if the food is labeled for “all life stages.” If you have any concerns about your kitten’s weight, start by consulting a vet before you change their diet or feed them smaller portions. As your cat nears their first birthday, your vet can evaluate their weight and how many calories they should consume daily.
Guaranteed analysis and nutrient profiles: The guaranteed analysis on a pet food label shows the percentages of important nutrients, including protein, fat, fiber, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Food for adult cats, including seniors, must have a minimum of 26% protein and 9% fat. Our experts say it’s important to carefully examine the guaranteed analysis of protein, fat, and fiber percentages to ensure the recipe meets your cat’s needs. The best cat foods for weight loss generally contain low to moderate fat and high fiber.
Ingredients list: The ingredients on a pet food label appear in order of weight. As obligate carnivores, cats must eat diets made up of animal-based proteins. So, animal proteins in the form of whole meat, meat meal, or animal byproducts should appear first on the ingredients list of any cat food. To add fiber to your cat’s diet and keep them feeling full between meals, opt for recipes with whole complex carbohydrates such as whole corn, whole brown rice, oats, and inulin. Sources of inulin you may notice on cat food labels include chicory root and, less commonly, Jerusalem artichoke.
Expert formulations: Expert formulation is even more important when it comes to weight loss diets, since the best cat foods for weight loss are developed to provide more nutrients per serving, with fewer calories. We only recommend food from brands that employ a full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist or a PhD-level animal nutritionist. This helps ensure your cat’s food meets nutritional recommendations and includes the right ingredients for cats. It also aligns with the WSAVA guidelines and our experts’ guidance.
Manufacturing standards: When it comes to commercial cat foods, we expect pet food brands to be transparent about their quality control measures. This means providing information about the types of tests they conduct, how often they test, and the results of those tests. If this information doesn’t appear on a pet food company’s website, brand representatives should provide the information upon request.
Calorie content: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories (kcals). Weight management foods generally have fewer calories per serving but are nutrient-dense to meet nutritional needs. However, the calorie needs of adult cats can vary depending on their age, ideal weight, and overall health. Our experts emphasize the importance of switching to a weight management diet instead of just giving your cat less food. Your vet can recommend the best cat foods for weight loss and recommend the right portion size for your cat. When a pet is only a little overweight — 10% to 15% — a successful approach to weight loss may involve switching to a lower-calorie food and adjusting treats and snacks, combined with increased exercise, Churchill says. Pets more than 15% heavier than their ideal weight are considered obese and may benefit from a prescription weight loss diet.
Vets can use a scale and the body condition scoring (BCS) system to assess your cat’s weight and body fat. Your vet will consider your cat’s lifestyle, ideal weight, and overall health to recommend the ideal number of daily calories your cat should eat. You can ask your vet to teach you how to use the BCS system to check your cat’s body fat at home between wellness visits. Frequent monitoring of your cat’s weight is important, since it allows veterinarians to fine-tune caloric intake and ensure that weight loss stays safe and healthy, Churchill says. She adds that cats should lose weight gradually, at a rate of 1% to 2% of their body weight per week.