WHAT’S THE BEST CAT FOOD?
The best cat food is not necessarily the winner of the year award or the most expensive brand. Usually, these brands known as “healthy” belong to big companies, and “pet food” is just a business line between so many others they have. They usually use by-products from other production processes to use in pet foods.
The best cat food is the one made by companies which business is just pet food and they have specialized only in that, working to get the best formula for cat’s needs. These formulas won’t normally contain by-products.
It’s important to mention that all companies producing pet food have to establish formulas to meet the requirements of Food and Drug Administration, (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
WHAT ABOUT “PREMIUM” CAT FOODS MENTIONED IN OTHER REVIEWS?
“Premium” labeled food is mostly based on corn or wheat within the first 5 ingredients which are not the best for your cat. This food will label “meat meal” or “meat” as the 1st ingredient and the rest will be based on grains, such as soy, wheat, corn.
“Meat meal” is a high source of proteins, but it could be any meat so you don’t know what your cat is eating. It’s better to see defined meat (it must say for example chicken” “venison”, “duck”, etc.) and a defined meat meal, (example, “chicken meal”, “venison meal”, “duck meal”) and without grains such as white rice, corn, wheat, etc. in the first 5 ingredients. Consequently, the formula has to have defined meat, a defined meal, and free of grains, such as soy, wheat, corn, white rice, rye, potatoes (except sweet), tapioca.
WHAT IS THE BEST TYPE OF CAT FOOD THEN?
It is recommendable to feed your pet Super Premium types of foods. This means they are meat-based (defined meat and defined meal), more nutritious and good balanced, including all the essential amino acids cats need and vitamins and minerals that have been designed to be more thoroughly absorbed by your pet’s body.
WHAT TO ABSOLUTELY AVOID IN THE MAIN 5 INGREDIENTS:
- Proteins from corn (“corn gluten meal” “corn meal”)
- Proteins from soy (“soybean meal”, “soy flour”, “soy meal”)
- Grains such as wheat, white rice. They are high in carbs and wheat has gluten.
- Rye. It is very harsh to digest, it has gluten, and pets don’t like it.
- When 3 of the first 5 ingredients are grains
- Potatoes (except sweet potatoes). They are high-glycemic, causing peaks in sugar blood.
- Tapioca is high-glycemic.
- Artificial preservatives and colorants
- Menadione Sodium Bisulfate or “Menadione”. It’s a synthetic source of vitamin K that is toxic for pets (this ingredient shouldn’t be present in the formula)
What you can do to make your cat healthy and happy
In this article, we explain the importance of choosing healthy cat food, but only changing your cat food is not enough to keep your feline friend healthy. You must ensure the wellness of your cat in all aspects of its life as follows:
- Get the best dry and wet food possible, according to your cat needs
- Give him/her the right food intake. You can get an automatic cat feeder to accomplish this.
- Keep him/her hydrated as much as you can. If your cat doesn’t drink much water you can find excellent cat water fountains on the market. Moving water entices cats to drink more.
- Keep its litter box clean and fresh. You can accomplish this by choosing a top automated litter box, such as the Litter Robot III.
- Play with your pet on a daily basis
- Keep a nice environment with hiding areas, bedding, and toys
- A stress-free home (see Ohio State study)
LET’S START WITH CHOOSING A CAT FOOD
The first step is giving your cat the best dry and wet food possible. To help you in choosing a good dry cat food as follows you will find a list of the best cat foods which are all meat-based. These cat foods are also classified according to the main 5 ingredients because they represent the most nutritional value in the formula.
Here you will find free-grain cat foods and cat foods with grains because some cat owners don’t want any grain, while others don’t mind it as long as the cat food is: 1) meat-based, 2) with a high percentage of crude proteins 3) with low or medium glycemic grains/carbs. Besides, some people cannot afford very expensive formulas.
This list has been updated: Brands have been re-classified, not only considering if the main first 5 ingredients are high in proteins but also if the formula informs all the essential amino acids cats need in the food’s analysis. Consequently, on this update, the listing of 11 essential amino acids is a very important criteria in these reviews.
A cat food brand is very good when high in proteins, but it’s excellent if it informs all the essential amino acids cats need. These amino acids are 11 and cats need to get them from food because they can’t produce them themselves. These amino acids are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, and taurine.
If a particular cat food does not inform all the 11 essential amino acids in its technical analysis, it does not always mean this food does not contain them. The following list gives priority to the cat foods that are informing all the 11 essential amino acids in their technical food analysis.
New chicken-free category added: I added rotational diet cat food, special for cats that need to stay away from chicken for a while or for felines that have developed an allergy to chicken.
GOOD NEWS! You can get any of these cat foods with 30% OFF at Chewy if you are a new customer, you just need to click the qualified link and follow the instructions.
CAT FOOD LISTING ALL ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
The following list contains the dry cat foods which the first 5 ingredients are either meats or meats & fish or meats & fish & eggs. The first 5 ingredients represent the biggest proportion of the formula so this is a good indicator of the cat food’s quality. Also, these formulas inform the 11 essential amino-acids cats need.
I must mention that Orijen and Acana (USA and Canada foods) have changed their formulas in comparison to the original ones. In my opinion, the quality of these foods is a little lower now. (Note: At the end of this list you will find the original old formulas that are currently discontinued).
Petcurean Go! Fit + Free Grain-Free contains 46% meat proteins and it’s grain-free. The recipe contains a good amount of meats and fish, such as chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, and trout. Also, it adds chicken fat as a natural source of energy for cats, but not too much to prevent obesity. Listed as the first ingredient, “chicken meal” provides a concentrated source of proteins, and “de-boned chicken” and “de-boned turkey” balance the formula with a crude source of proteins.
Petcurean Go! Fit + Free Grain-Free formula includes essential fatty acids such as Omega-6 and Omega-3, fresh farm-grown fruits and garden vegetables.
ORIJEN CAT & & KITTEN KENTUCKY FORMULA (Available for USA market. New Update)
The new Orijen Cat & Kitten formula made in Kentucky, USA, adds 40% protein, 20% fat content, and a low proportion of 20% low-glycemic carbohydrates coming from veggies and fruits. The formula keeps the cat’s good health because it prevents obesity and diabetes caused by high glycemic ingredients such as grains, rice, tapioca, or potatoes.
The meats are locally grown and are kept refrigerated or flash-frozen. Orijen Cat & Kitten limits the synthetic supplements and provides DHA and EPA fatty acids naturally from fresh fish.
First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, Yellowtail Flounder, whole eggs, whole Atlantic mackerel. FULL REVIEW
ORIJEN CAT & KITTEN CANADIAN FORMULA (Available For Canadian market)
The new Orijen Cat & Kitten Canadian formula adds 40% protein, 20% fat content, and a low proportion of 19% low-glycemic carbohydrates coming from vegetables and fruits. The formula avoids peaks in sugar blood because it doesn’t contain grains nor high glycemic carbs, such as potatoes, rice, or tapioca. It’s also a gluten-free formula.
The source of proteins are locally grown meats and fresh fish that have been kept refrigerated or flash-frozen. The formula doesn’t contain a large list of synthetic supplements and it provides a natural source of glucosamine and Chondroitin, supporting joints.
First 5 ingredients: Fresh chicken meat (18%), fresh turkey meat (7%), fresh whole eggs (5%), fresh chicken liver (5%), fresh whole flounder (4%) FULL REVIEW
ACANA GRASSLANDS KENTUCKY FORMULA (Available for US market. New Update)
Acana Grasslands Regional Grain-free formula made in Kentucky provides 75% crude proteins and fats to the total formula. The source of proteins is lamb, duck, eggs, and fish. Acana Grasslands is has a limited amount of carbohydrates to 25% of the formula. The carbs are/ low glycemic, avoiding peaks in sugar blood which is the main reason for diabetes and obesity in cats.
This recipe lists the 11 essential amino-acids cats need to maintain their body functions.
Acana Grasslands Kentucky formula doesn’t add a long list of synthetic supplements because most of the nutritional vitamins and minerals are added in the ingredients.
First 5 ingredients: Deboned lamb, deboned duck, whole eggs, lamb meal, catfish meal. FULL REVIEW.
ACANA MEOWLAND CAT FOOD (Formula made in Kentucky, USA. New Update)
Acana Meowland is the new formula that replaces Acana Wild Praire, keeping the same amount of proteins and fat as the old formula. As usual with this brand, the meats and fish are local, with a standard for people consumption and using only Vitamin E as a preservative. This 2016 formula made in Kentucky provides most of the vitamins and minerals in the meats so it doesn’t use many synthetic supplements, only Choline, Zinc, and Copper.
First 5 ingredients: Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, chicken giblets (liver, heart, kidney), chicken meal, catfish meal. FULL REVIEW.
ACANA APPALACHIAN RANCH CAT FOOD (Formula made in Kentucky, USA. New update)
Acana Appalachian Ranch provides your cat the nutrition it needs to grow healthy. The recipe is loaded with 35% guaranteed meat proteins and 20% fat which, ratios that imitates the natural diet of cats.
The formula is free of grains and it doesn’t contain carbohydrates that raise the blood sugar in felines, such as potatoes or tapioca, which prevents obesity and diabetes. Acana Appalachian doesn’t contain a long list of synthetic supplements nor synthetic preservatives.
First 5 Ingredients: Deboned beef, deboned pork, deboned lamb, beef meal, lamb meal. FULL REVIEW
Old Original Formulas Currently Discontinued:
ACANA GRASSLANDS REGIONAL FORMULA GRAIN-FREE (Discontinued Formula)
Acana Grasslands Regional Grain-Free formula is meat-based cat food with lamb as the first and second ingredient, which gives cats a good and easy to digest source of proteins. Lamb is less likely to cause allergies as well. Other animal proteins in the recipe include duck, fresh eggs, and wild-caught fish.
Acana Grasslands Regional formula provides 70% of meat proteins and fats, such as lamb, duck, fish, and eggs, and 30% fruits and vegetables, helping the cat’s digestive system. The formula is low in carbohydrates, low in the liver, low in magnesium, and with all 11 essential amino acids cats need to be healthy.
First 5 ingredients: boneless lamb, lamb meal, boneless duck, pollock meal, duck fat. FULL REVIEW
ORIJEN CAT & KITTEN (Discontinued Formula)
The Orijen formula is made with local ingredients, free-run chicken, turkey, whole eggs, and locally caught fish. All meats used in Orijen formula are fresh, free of preservatives, and never frozen. Orijen recipe is full of proteins (80%) and gives cats a very natural food as they would get in nature. The formula is also grain-free and contains very few amounts of carbohydrates that are low glycemic. Orijen provides all 11 amino acids cats need from food to keep their body functions working properly, preventing future diseases.
First 5 ingredients: Boneless chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, whole herring, boneless turkey. FULL REVIEW
CAT FOODS NOT LISTING ALL ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS
The following list represents the cat foods that contain meats & fish or just fish in the first 5 ingredients. These particular cat foods are highly concentrated in proteins just like the foods of the above list. The difference is that they don’t list the 11 essential amino-acids cats need, only some of them. As I stated previously, the fact that these foods don’t inform the 11 amino-acids doesn’t mean necessarily they don’t contain them, but I decided to classify them apart just for this fact.
If you have a cat with urinary sensitivities or if your cat doesn’t drink very much water, I don’t recommend formulas with only fish as the first 5 first ingredients:
Wellness CORE grain-free formula provides your cat a good source of high quality and low-in-ash meats in its first 5 ingredients to satisfy the carnivore diet of your cat.
Wellness CORE formula is free of grains or fillers to ensure proper nutrition for your cat, free of the unwanted carbohydrates that contribute to obesity and diabetes in pets. Also, this formula is gluten-free. This formula offers good fats, such as salmon oil and flax-seed which help to maintain healthy skin in your cat and to improve its coat. This recipe does not contain meat by-products, wheat, soy, corn, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
First 5 ingredients: Deboned turkey, deboned chicken, chicken meal, whitefish meal, herring meal. FULL REVIEW
GRAIN -FREE (WITH CARBS IN FIRST 5 INGREDIENTS)
This list belongs to the cat foods containing one carbohydrate within the first 5 ingredients (the 5 first ingredients represent most part of the formula). None of the following formulas inform the 11 amino-acids on the guaranteed analysis, only some of them. I must mention that the following cat foods are very good formulas, they just aren’t Super Premium foods (the carbohydrate ingredient of each formula has been highlighted in red):
Note: On the end of this list you’ll find the formulas that are not currently available.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Chicken is a grain-free formula that is highly concentrated in protein (43%) to provide your cat with good nutrition. Also, the recipe includes animal fats (19.5%) and a good source of low-glycemic carbohydrates supporting the cat’s digestive system. This is a unique formula with raw freeze-dried chicken coating the dry food kibble by a tumbling process, giving the food a very tasty and natural consistent that cats love.
This formula also provides a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 which is very important in the cat’s immune system, heart, brain, eyes, and other important cat body functions.
First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas. FULL REVIEW
Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod recipe is a grain-free formula that provides 83% animal proteins and a low glycemic formula with a good source of carbs such as lentils and peas.
The recipe does not have an excess of carbohydrates and calories, controlling your cat’s weight and keeping your pet with lean muscle mass. The chickens are grain-free fed and cod provides a good flavor that most cats love.
First 5 ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Cod, Whole Peas. FULL REVIEW
Fromm Grain Free Game Bird recipe gives your cat a tasty entree of duck, chicken, turkey, quail, and pheasant, adding real Wisconsin cheese to the formula. Fresh fruits and vegetables give your cat a good source of vitamins and help your cat’s digestion.
This formula helps to reduce most food-related allergies. The chicory root extract enhances digestion functions and avoids worms. Taurine supports the health of your cat’s eyes and heart. Fromm cat food is made in small batches, which helps to produce cat food with consistency and quality. The Game Bird formula is balanced and recommended for cats of all ages.
First 5 ingredients: Duck, Duck Meal, Pea Protein, Turkey, Dried Whole Egg. FULL REVIEW
Old Original Formulas Currently Discontinued:
HALO SPOT’S STEW CHICKEN RECIPE (NOT AVAILABLE)
UPDATE: Halo has a new Halo Holistic Chicken formula and the Spot’s Stew recipe is not available anymore. Due to my conclusions of the new formula, I decided not to post the new Halo cat food on my list of best cat foods.
Halo Spot’s Stew Chicken has a formula with natural ingredients free of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. They use fresh meat in the recipe and a complete package of vitamins and minerals designed to be easily absorbed into your cat’s body. They don’t use by-products and either corn, wheat, or wheat gluten. The formula “Spot’s Stew Cat Grain-Free Chicken” contains good sources of proteins and sources of energy, plus good natural flavor with vegetable broth.
First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Eggs, Pea Protein, Vegetable Broth, Chicken Fat. FULL REVIEW
ROTATIONAL DIETS (CHICKEN PROTEIN-FREE FORMULAS)
The following chicken free formulas are special to feed your cat for a month or two to avoid allergy to chicken. Also, this type of cat food is good for cats with food allergies to poultry. For now, I have started reviewing one formula but I will continue to try more varieties to add to this category:
Wild Calling Turkey & Sweet potato will help you to detox your cat’s body from chicken. This is very important to avoid allergies since almost all dry cat foods contain chicken. This recipe contains low glycemic carbs and it offers limited ingredients which is good when cleaning the cat’s body from chicken.
The kibble is small, triangle-shaped, with hard consistency which ensures the cat’s teeth healthy. The taste of this food is widely accepted by most felines as I experienced this with my cat and so did other cat owners that have tried this food with their pets.
Go Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Duck dry cat food helps you to feed your feline friend with no chicken protein for a while. Exposing your pet to chicken protein for too long could create an allergic reaction in your cat’s immune system. It’s better to rotate with different foods to reduce this possibility. This formula reduces the inflammation in the cat’s gut and helps control constipation.
First 5 ingredients: De-Boned Duck, Duck Meal, Whole Dried Egg, Peas, Pea Flour. Check more details of this formula in the FULL REVIEW.
GRAIN-FREE (WITH 2 OR MORE CARBS IN FIRST 5 INGREDIENTS)
The following cat foods don’t contain grains but they have two or more carbs in the first 5 ingredients. Low glycemic carbs are much better than grains in a cat diet. Carbs are highlighted in red:
This formula contains turkey and chicken as the main source of protein. It doesn’t include eggs or fish as the main source of protein like other brands, which is a better option to avoid food allergies or excessive cholesterol from yolks. Earthborn Holistic doesn’t contain gluten, corn, soy, rice, or tapioca. The kibble is very small and rounded, suitable for cats with smaller jaws.
Earthborn Holistic Primitive Feline formula contains 40% protein and 18% fats. The first 5 ingredients of this grain-free formula are Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Pea Starch. For more information check the FULL REVIEW.
Nutrisca grain-free chicken cat food offers a good balance of protein, vitamins and minerals, ideal for the cat’s best nutrition. The formula doesn’t contain gluten or artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. It’s a low glycemic formula which means it won’t create sugar peaks in the cat’s blood, preventing the cat from developing insulin resistance.
Nutrisca chicken contains 38% of protein, most of it from real chicken. The food provides antioxidants from vitamins A and E and contains fruits and vegetables, such as cranberries and blueberries.
First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Turkey Meal, Chickpeas. FULL REVIEW
NON GRAIN-FREE (WITH GRAINS OR CARBS IN FIRST 5 INGREDIENTS)
The following list mentions the cat foods that have either grains, 2 carbs, or other ingredients that aren’t meat, fish, or fat within the first 5 ingredients. These particular cat foods are not Super Premium formulas and that’s why they are not on top of the list. However, they are a good option for people that can’t afford Super Premium cat foods.
If you don’t want to feed your cat a recipe containing gluten, don’t choose the formulas with barley. Also, if you have a cat with a thyroid condition, don’t feed foods with canola oil. These cat foods don’t inform the 11 amino-acids (the grains, carbs or seeds have been highlighted in red):
Chicken Soup for the Soul Adult Cat has been formulated to meet your cat’s nutritional needs, providing good sources of crude and concentrated protein, vitamins, and minerals, antioxidants, fatty acids, botanical and more. The recipe is tasty so if you have a picky cat with a very strict taste, this is the cat food for you. Your pet will be eating tasty food and at the same time will be getting high nutrition.
Chicken Soup For The Soul contains good quality ingredients and the grain incorporated into the formula it is a very healthy nutritional grain. This is a very good example of cat food with excellent value for money.
First 5 ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, cracked pearled barley, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), turkey meal. FULL REVIEW
Evanger’s Pheasant and Whitefish is made with high-quality ingredients and offers a mix of proteins coming from pheasant, whitefish, and duck. This cat food is free of by-products and it does not contain cheap fillers such as corn, wheat, or soy.
Evanger’s Pheasant and Whitefish contains high levels of animal and vegetable proteins, good sources of energy, vegetables, and fruits for easy digestion. Also, the recipe includes a good source of omega-3 and taurine to support your cat’s heart and eyes. Evanger’s Pheasant and Whitefish is very tasty, so it will be easy for your cat to adapt to this new cat food in his/her diet.
First 5 ingredients: Pheasant, Whitefish, Sweet Potatoes, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Peas. FULL REVIEW
Precise Holistic uses high nutritional standards for your pet. This brand (Wild at Heart River Line Salmon formula) has been recommended by experts to treat itchy skin or ear problems produced by Candida Albicans and “Leaky Gut Syndrome” in cats (Nzymes). They don’t use by-products in the formula and it contains real meat as a primary ingredient, 32% of crude meat and 20% crude fat, which is very important in the natural cat diet. This formula has vitamins and minerals package easily to be absorbed by your cat’s body.
First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Chicken Fat. FULL REVIEW
This is not just “another organic food” for pets. Natural Planet Organics is certified by Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO), an internationally recognized symbol of organic integrity (this certification exceeds the United States Department of Agriculture USDA organic standards). This formula doesn’t have by-products and it has organic crude meat as a primary ingredient. If you want your cat to eat completely organic and healthy food you may want to check this pet food and see its nutritional analysis in the full review.
First 5 ingredients: Organic chicken, chicken meal, organic yellow peas, organic flax-seed, organic barley. FULL REVIEW
Castor & Pollux Organix Chicken & Sweet Potato Formula is USDA-certified dry cat food with 95% of its ingredients being organic. This recipe is cooked in a USA-organic-certified kitchen, free of soy, wheat, gluten, or nuts traces. This dry cat food doesn’t contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. It’s made with free-range organic chicken, free of added hormones or antibiotics.
First 5 ingredients: Organic Chicken, Organic Chicken Meal, Organic Pea Protein, Organic Sweet Potatoes, Organic Peas. FULL REVIEW
IMPORTANT POINTS TO CONSIDER ABOUT GRAIN-FREE CAT FOODS
Feeding your cat grain-free dry food doesn’t always mean your cat will be slim and healthy. Some grain-free cat foods use starch such as tapioca or potatoes in the main 5 ingredients and that means they have as many carbohydrates as the food containing grains. For example, if a cat food contains potatoes or tapioca as the second or third ingredient, that cat food is very high in carbohydrates. These carbs will load the cat’s blood sugar the same way as the foods that contain grains. However, if a grain-free formula contains low-glycemic carbs, such as lentils, sweet potatoes or green peas it’ll be a healthier recipe than formulas containing grains, especially considering that some grains contain gluten.
IS THERE ANY PERFECT CAT FOOD OUT THERE?
There is not a “perfect cat food” because there are so many factors involved when it comes to nutritional needs for cats. The best cat food will depend on whether the cat is indoor or outdoors, age, medical conditions, it will even depend on the breed and genes.
Some cats do very bad with dry foods containing any grain while other cats live until a very old age eating foods with grains. The important point here is to choose a meat-based dry cat food with no by-products or fillers such as corn or soy, wheat, white rice, artificial flavors or colorants, etc.
Also, you need to find: 1) a good balance between dry and wet food, 2) a price that fits your budget, and 3) a cat food that will make your cat healthy and happy. Most likely you will need to go through the trial-and-error method to find the best dry cat food for your cat.
Sometimes, even with excellent cat food, cats still get diseases. Cats, like people, get sick and you need to try to do your best to keep your cat healthy but nothing can be guaranteed.
TIPS HOW TO CHANGE YOUR CAT FOOD:
First Day: First meal: 3/4 old food with 1/4 new food; Second meal: 2/3 old food with 1/3 new food.
Second Day: First meal: 1/2 old food with 1/2 new food; Second meal: 1/3 old food with 2/3 new food.
Third Day: All new food.
NOTE: I have received lots of comments and questions about cat foods. Due to time availability, I won’t be able to answer all of them, but I will try to do my best. Thank you for your understanding!
This article is for educational purposes only. The reaction of cats to cat foods are very different and no cat food can be guaranteed to be the best for all cats.