9 Best Diet Cat Foods: Your Buyer’s Guide

diet cat food

Unfortunately, the obesity epidemic that affects people also affects our pets. If your vet has recently declared your cat overweight and instructed you to change your cat’s food, diet cat food is now on your shopping list. In compiling this list of the best diet cat food options, we prioritized two components: First, foods that have a canned wet version of the weight control formula, since the first advice people get is to switch cats from dry cat food to wet cat food to cut both calories and carbohydrates. Since wet food is fussier to feed, we’ve still highlighted dry food options first on this list, but we’ve also let you know when the wet food variant is available.

Second, while we looked for formulas specifically meant for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance, we did not list prescription options. If they’re available, we’ve mentioned them, but prescription cat food tends to be very expensive and of course requires approval from your vet. Basically, we looked for foods designed to help your cat drop pounds in a short amount of time or diet versions of otherwise good cat food. Read on at the end of this post for more context, if you’re interested. Otherwise, below you’ll find our picks for the best diet cat food to help enable weight loss in your cat.

What is the best diet cat food?

hills science diet perfect weigth diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Proven weight loss within 10 weeks
  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • Wet food version available
Price: $41.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
purina pro plan weight management diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • Low fat formula
  • Wet food version available
Price: $36.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Natural Balance original ultra reduced calorie best diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Chicken, salmon, & lamb protein sources
  • No artificial flavors or colors
  • Meat is the first ingredient
Price: $39.78 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
royal canin weight diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Lower calories per cup than rival brands
  • Significantly reduced fat
  • High fiber content helps your cat feel full longer
Price: $56.69 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Nutro weight management diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very low in calories
  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • Relatively limited fillers
Price: $44.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Solid Gold fit as a fiddle best diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Grain Free
  • No fillers or artificial flavoring
  • Well liked by many cats
Price: $33.29 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Nature's Variety instinct healthy weight best diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Grain free
  • Freeze-dried raw bits provide interest
  • Real food ingredients
Price: $39.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care best diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Very inexpensive
  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • Helps with both weight and hairball control
Price: $29.97 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Nulo adult trim best diet cat food Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Grain free
  • Low carbohydrate, low glycemic
  • Included probiotics
Price: $42.09 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Proven weight loss within 10 weeks
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    • Wet food version available
    Cons:
    • Some fillers present
    • Not prescription strength
    • Not grain free

    Hill’s Science Diet is well known as line of food meant to address specific issues. These are lab-formulated foods that can help support your cat’s various needs, and that of course includes weight loss. This is their Perfect Weight formula, which they say helped 70 percent of cats lose weight within ten weeks. It’s a palatable chicken recipe with meat as the first ingredient. This food has about 300 kcal per cup.

    Hill’s has a whole line of food dedicated to weight loss, including some prescription options meant to serve as treatment for an acute condition and deliver results in a matter of weeks. These include r/d Weight Reduction, Metabolic Weight Management and m/d Glucose/Weight Management. Consult your veterinarian to help finalize a plan for which of Hill’s various formulas are the best choice in your cat’s case.

    Also available is Hill’s Science Diet Light, which goes a slight step further than the Perfect Weight at 297 kcal per cup.

    Wet food option available? Yes, Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Wet Cat Food.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken
    • Brewers Rice
    • Corn Gluten Meal
    • Wheat Gluten
    • Powdered Cellulose
    • Chicken Meal
  2. 2. Purina Pro Plan Focus Weight Management Adult Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    • Low fat formula
    • Wet food version available
    Cons:
    • Calorie content could be lower for a diet cat food
    • Lots of soy ingredients, which could be a problem for cats with sensitivities
    • Some think the formula has changed recently

    Non-prescription diet cat food often starts by lowering the fat content, which is exactly what Purina does with this formulation. While the calorie content is still on the high side (427 kcal/cup), especially compared to other options, sometimes the reduction in fat is enough to help your cat maintain a healthy weight. This would particularly be a good maintenance diet, perhaps after being on a prescription option to get the initial weight off.

    Like Hill’s, Purina offers a prescription-based food called OM (Overweight Management), which focuses on very high fiber content to help reduce your cat’s caloric intake and improve digestion.

    Wet food option available?: Yes, Purina Pro Plan Focus Weight Management Adult Canned Wet Cat Food.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken
    • Brewers Rice
    • Corn Gluten Meal
    • Poultry By-Product Meal
    • Soy Protein Concentrate
    • Fish Meal
  3. 3. Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie Formula Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Chicken, salmon, & lamb protein sources for enhanced flavor
    • No artificial flavors or colors
    • Meat is the first ingredient
    Cons:
    • Not prescription strength
    • May be better as a maintenance diet
    • Not grain free

    If you don’t need a brand with an alternate prescription option available, you might consider this offering. There are two variants available. This one, which offers a 12 percent calorie reduction from their normal food at 337 kcal/cup, or a Fat Cats formula, which has 320 kcal/cup. We’ve opted for the standard low calorie option because a matching wet food is available.

    Real food starting with chicken, brown rice, and potatoes are the bulk of what’s in this recipe, and filler content is relatively low.

    Wet food option available?: Yes, Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Reduced Calorie Chicken, Salmon & Duck Formula Canned Cat Food.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken Meal
    • Chicken
    • Brown Rice
    • Potatoes
    • Pea Protein
    • Oat Groats
  4. 4. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Calorie Control Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Lower calories per cup than rival brands
    • Significantly reduced fat
    • High fiber content helps your cat feel full longer
    Cons:
    • Expensive compared to non-prescription rivals
    • Plentiful fillers that might not agree with your cat
    • Not at all gluten or grain free

    Like the Purina above, Royal Canin’s weight control cat formula is primarily based on limiting fat intake. This formula has 33 percent less fat than a standard Royal Canin cat cuisine. Unlike the Purina, however, the calories are also reduced significantly, down to 276 kcal per cup, which is well within the realm of the more serious prescription options. This is achieved through a higher proportion of fillers, but if your cat is tolerant of them and likes the flavor, you could see real results without having to pay for expensive prescription foods.

    As with other brands, Royal Canin also offers presecription-strength formulas, including: Satiety Support and Calorie Control. Consult your veterinarian for a prescription for either of these.

    Wet food option available?: Not quite, but they do offer Royal Canin Ultra Light Thin Slices in Gravy Canned Cat Food.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken meal
    • Corn
    • Rice hulls
    • Wheat gluten
    • Corn gluten meal
    • Natural flavors
  5. 5. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Weight Management Adult Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Very low in calories
    • Real chicken is the first ingredient
    • Relatively limited fillers compared to other diet cat food
    Cons:
    • Not much of a reduction in calories over their standard offering
    • No alternative prescription food available
    • No wet food version available

    We put a Nutro option on our cheap dog food post becuase they make very good, no-frills food, often with no grains and for less than competitors. Their diet cat food is no exception, offering one of the least expensive options out there. This food contains 28 percent less fat and 13 percent fewer calories than their standard cat food, while still limiting the heavy grain fillers you see in other foods.

    While that reduction of 13 percent on a calorie basis doesn’t seem like much, it still results in a figure of 283 kcal/cup, which is well into prescription cat food territory and among the lowest on this list. With real chicken and high-protein chicken meal as the first two ingredients, this is just an all-around good food that happens to be able to help your cat shed some weight.

    Unlike the brands above Nutro does not offer a prescription-strength formula. 

    Wet food option available?: No, but they do offer Nutro Perfect Portions Grain Free Pate Wet Cat Food for easier service and portion control.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken
    • Chicken Meal
    • Pea Protein
    • Whole Brown Rice
    • Brewers Rice
    • Split Peas
  6. 6. Solid Gold Fit as a Fiddle Grain-Free Adult Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Grain Free
    • No fillers, by-products, artificial coloring, flavoring or preservatives
    • Well liked by many cats
    Cons:
    • Not prescription strength
    • May be better as a maintenance diet
    • Some think the kibble size is a touch too large

    Solid Gold makes excellent pet food. As I discussed on our best grain free dog food post, it’s what I feed my husky with a sensitive digestive tract. We also included it on our best wet cat food post because they’ve been creating holistic pet food longer than just about any other brand. This is their weight control formula, which is described as a “high protein, low carbohydrate and moderate calorie recipe”.

    For you, that means that it’s not quite as aggressive as other options at 330 kcal/cup, but still features a significant calorie discount to normal cat food. This is a grain free food with real, recognizable ingredients and no fillers. This would be a good first choice to try if your cat is just slightly overweight.

    Wet food option available? No, not of this particular recipe, but they do offer Solid Gold Flavorful Feast Indoor Recipe Canned Cat Food, which is low in calories, especially compared to any dry food.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Pollock
    • Peas
    • Tapioca
    • Chickpeas
    • Turkey Meal
    • Pea Fiber
  7. 7. Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Healthy Weight Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Grain free
    • Freeze-dried raw bits provide interest
    • Real food ingredients
    Cons:
    • Pricey
    • No wet option available
    • Slightly higher calories than other options

    Until recently, I fed my eldest pup the dog version of Nature’s Variety Instinct and he loved it. The company makes excellent food with real ingredients and limited fillers and the addition of Raw Boost helps with palatability. Compared to other foods, this Healthy Weight formula doesn’t offer quite as steep a caloric discount at 385 kcal/cup, but it’s still something of a reduction.

    This would be a good choice as a first step or in a maintenance diet, particularly if you’re having trouble getting your cat to eat other options. The freeze-dried raw bits put this a cut above other brands when it comes to enticing your cat to eat.

    Wet food option available?: No, not in this recipe. However, Nature’s Variety does offer a limited ingredient wet food in rabbit, turkey, and duck recipes.

    • First Six Ingredients:
    • Chicken
    • Chicken Meal
    • Chickpeas
    • Salmon Meal
    • Menhaden Fish Meal
    • Tapioca
  8. 8. Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Very inexpensive
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    • Helps with both weight and hairball control
    Cons:
    • Fat and calorie cuts could be higher
    • Relatively abundant fillers
    • Some cats might not like it

    Many of the diet cat food options aimed at weight loss are expensive, in some cases, prohibitively so. Fortunately, if you cat needs to drop a few pounds but you didn’t exactly budget for prescription food that costs nearly $80 a bag, Iams has an alternative for you to try. This cuts fat by 10 percent compared to the normal formula, with a competitive calorie count of 332 kcal/cup.

    Even though the price is very low – $1.50 per pound compared with over $4 per pound for almost everything else on this list – chicken is still the first ingredient. There are some fillers present, but they’re the same insoluable fiber sources that the prescription foods use to drive effective weight loss results. This isn’t quite on the level of those, but for the price, it’s certainly worth considering.

    Wet food option available?: No, nothing specifically aimed at weight control. However, Iams does offer the Perfect Portions wet food packs, which not only save you from having to store cat food in your fridge, but help you serve the right amount each time.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Chicken
    • Chicken By-Product Meal
    • Corn Grits
    • Corn Gluten Meal
    • Ground Whole Grain Sorghum
    • Ground Whole Grain Corn
  9. 9. Nulo Freestyle Salmon & Lentils Recipe Grain-Free Adult Trim Dry Cat Food

    Pros:
    • Grain free
    • Low carbohydrate, low glycemic
    • Included probiotics
    Cons:
    • Not prescription strength
    • High calorie content for a food like this
    • No matching wet food

    Even relative newcomer Nulo offers a healthy weight version of their Freestyle line. Admittedly, on a calorie basis, it’s still on the high side at 421 kcal/cup. However, they have reduced the fat and increased the fiber as with many of the other options on this list.

    Additionally, their base formula is meant to be low glycemic and low carbohydrate. On a dry matter basis, this food has 23.89% carbs, which is considerably lower than most food, even the other options on this list. Low glycemic foods tend not to spike blood sugar, and instead provide a longer-burning energy source, which may in turn keep your cat full for longer.

    If your cat is significantly overweight, this isn’t the option for you, but as a maintenance diet, it’s pretty compelling. It’s also only a little over $3 per pound, which is a decent price for a smaller grain free offering.

    Wet food option available?: No. Nulo does offer wet food and in particular, their options in gravy are very low calorie. Try the Nulo Freestyle Minced Turkey & Duck in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat & Kitten Food or Nulo Freestyle Minced Beef & Mackerel in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food if you’re considering those options.

    First Six Ingredients:

    • Deboned Salmon
    • Turkey Meal
    • Chicken Meal
    • Deboned Cod
    • Whole Peas
    • Lentils

According to WebMD, the first thing you should do if your vet determines your cat to be overweight is to switch them to wet food. Our post on the best wet cat food can help you choose a normal wet cat food, if you want to start there. That said, if your cat's case is serious or you've already tried that, you'll want to move on to the options we've outlined in this list.

Additionally, WebMD also says that making your cat work for their food can also be effective in combating obesity. That's more easily achievable with dry food, given to them in something like the PetSafe SlimCat Food Dispenser, which we included on our interactive cat toys post. Most likely, a combination of dry diet cat food and wet food is likely to produce the best results.

Data from Nationwide suggests that pet obesity is on the rise for the eighth year in a row, so any steps you can take to ensure your cat's health will help curb this trend and extend their lives.

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