What is the best cat food? How I narrowed it down to a short list

eating wet food 300x241 What is the best cat food? How I narrowed it down to a short list

Things I’ve pondered in the cat food aisle:

  • How to weed out the best choices from all those impressive claims?
  • Which have the best quality-to-cost value?
  • Who has the time to sort it all out?

Perhaps I have the time! It took me days to narrow down which qualities were most important, what ingredients to avoid, and what the best foods cost.

I previously published a list and promised a huge update–this is it!

How I selected today’s best cat foods

First, I synthesized the best advice I could find from Jean Hofve, DVM’s work, Dr. Karen Becker’s writings, TruthAboutPetFood.com, PetsumerReport.com, Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins’ leading-edge book, Your Cat, the Feline Nutrition Education Society, and others.

Based on that research, I went through just about every natural cat food I know of (so far) and checked it against the following criteria.

  • Free of artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, ingredients
  • Truly low-carb/starch - This was the hardest one because starches are sneaky.  Even most holistic and so-called grain-free options have too many carbs, which lead to weight gain and diabetes. (For example, Royal Canin Green Peas & Duck dry food has no grains but is 35% carb–too much!)
  • Grain-free – Grains are not natural for cats to digest and tend to weaken their immune system over time; some cats develop grain sensitivities that appear as digestion or skin problems. Just as many humans with IBD do better off grains, many people say their cats with IBD do better off grains too. In fact, I believe grains can lead to IBD in cats, and IBD may lead to intestinal cancer.
  • Free of potentially risky ingredients like carrageenan (common in canned foods), avocado, garlic and others–more described in this truthaboutpetfood.com article.
  • Meat quality. Ideally the meat is sourced from US or other country with reasonably trusted standards. No “meat meal” or “meat and bone meal.” (Not to be confused with chicken meal, or other specific types of meals, which are considered OK. See Dr. Hofve’s article for further explanation.)

Plus “Bonus points” given for:

  • Organic or pasture-raised ingredients
  • Smaller companies focused on pet health; not owned by large conglomerate
  • My cats liking it
  • Simple ingredients (easier for cat digestion)

P.S. To assure you my cat food reviews are unbiased, I never use an affiliate (referral) link for a cat food.

So here are the winners!

About those that didn’t make the list…

Some of our favorite natural cat foods did not make the cut. There were so many foods, I had to be brutal in choosing the best. Many foods almost made this list, and I hope to explain more about why later.

I also may have missed some, so do let me know if you would like to me to take a look at one you like.

Your experience?

We’re all in this together. I welcome your experiences, ideas, opinions, and contributions in the comments below. Let’s talk!

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17 Responses to “What is the best cat food? How I narrowed it down to a short list”

  1. charlene September 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I have been doing research on high quality cat foods for 6 months now. I decided raw was the healthiest. I also choose Natures Variety. But recently I discovered an ingredient in it that I was concerned about, montmorillonite clay. I emailed the company and they told me it was safe. I wanted an unbiased opinion so I emailed Susan from petsumers.com. She told me “I think its safe” and went on to explain to me that there is just so much info they allow her to know. I was trusting her website when they said there were no “red flags” for Natures Variety. I myself have done alittle research on this clay and still don’t think it should be in the pet foods. It seems to be from volcanic ash that was deposited in waterways. I really like Rad cat food the best, but way too expensive. Any thoughts on the clay?

  2. Al Smith November 12, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    Hi Liz, have you ever reviewed the new Freshpet Vital raw for cats? I am feeding my cat that now and am not sure where it ranks compared to others. Thanks, Al

    • Chris December 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

      Hi Liz, I’m also wondering how you would review Freshpet Vital complete Meals, Chicken, Ocean Whitefish and Egg Recipe with carrots and Spinach. Thank you!

  3. Diane January 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm #

    Question….what is the carb level used as a cutoff to be considered ok?? I’m feeding raw with good results so far. Two of my three cats were having continual loose (pudding) stools. Vet couldn’t find anything wrong, and they were eating only the grain free foods listed on this site. I grabbed some Nature’s Variety as a starter to see if they would eat it. Two jumped right in, one resisted for 3 days, but gave it up eventually. After three days…..no more runny poop!! They are now eating Bravo Balance and like it even better. It is a more meat-like consistency than the NV, and has very low carb content (3-4%) I tried a sample of Honest Kitchen Prowl today, just to see if they would eat it. My thinking was it would be a good backup if I forgot to thaw, or ran out of the the regular raw stuff. To my surprise, they liked it, and ate it all. When I went to their website to do some reading…..they said the carb content was around 23%.. Isn’t that awfully high?

    • Liz January 5, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      Diane, yes that’s a bit high, but percentage drops dramatically to about 9% when you add the water per instructions. This is the case with dehydrated options.

    • Liz January 5, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      PS congrats on the healthy successes!

  4. Nicole Brant April 15, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    Thank you so much for doing this! It is so confusing trying to muddle through all the different foods and then figuring what is in them, protein content, percentages, etc etc. Thank you, thank you for taking the time to do this.

  5. Julie May 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    I’m wondeing if you have ever looked at Rad Cat frozen raw foods. This is what I have been feeding ours for a couple years and and I am wondering how it stacks up next to the foods you have reviewed. It’s expensive so I’m wondering what else would be comparable.
    http://www.radfood.com

  6. Val August 26, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Thank you for all your research!
    I’ve just recently looked into feeding our cats healthier food and stopped feeding them the cheap, grain-laden dry food as well as cheap wet food (Friskies) but have to say we’re on a tight budget and many of the recommendations are too expensive! :(
    Do you have any recommendations for people like me with more than 1 cat (we have 4 in total, 2 older cats, 5 and 3 years, and 2 kittens, 12 weeks)?

    Before the addition of our kittens we started to feed the big cats Fancy Feast ‘classic’ [from what I've read it's a good alternative to the bad wet food..] but we go through the cans too quickly now with 4 cats, it’s just too expensive! :( We’ve tried EVO once before (prior to getting the kittens) but our boys hated the chicken flavor and we’re stuck with only feeding them the beef version! (Every other flavor is -again- also too expensive!..)

    For snacks inbetween meals we have EVO kitten grain free dry food as well as Blue Wilderness dry food for the big boys. (Now after reading your post I know the latter is also not a desirable choice… :/ )

    I’d greatly appreciate your help on this! I want our cats to be healthy but it also needs to be budget friendly for us!
    Thanks in advance! =^-^=

  7. Therese Melancon September 22, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I’ve been feeding my cat Wellness canned because I thought it was high quality food. Lately I’ve noticed the quality is not always consistent and my cat doesn’t always finish his food, which is very unusual. I’m looking for a new high quality canned food. Thank for your research.

  8. Lin November 9, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Should you give me your honest opinion about the Fromm brand. I am currently feeding the Wild Game dry cat food. I feed Wellness grain-free wet; chicken or turkey.

  9. genie January 27, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    we just rescued two cats and this list is so helpful! I was ready to try Natures Variety and noticed that they recently came out with a “Raw Boost” line which includes freeze-dried raw food. any thoughts on this? Is this a better compromise–I’m thinking I’ll give them this 1x/day and the frozen 1x/day…THANK YOU!

  10. Pete Soderling February 22, 2014 at 7:49 am #

    Liz,

    Have you done any research on Wellness’s new recipe line called Signature Selects? I’m looking at giving my 15 year old with renal problems the Healthy Indulgence, but also interested in the Signature Selects. Any information you could give me would be helpful.
    thank you,
    Pete

  11. N March 5, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    Hi Liz – I love this list and this is what I go by, thank you SO much!!!! My cat was doing well on radcat chicken but transitioning to turkey didn’t go well at all – she was fine eating a little and then the first meal that I only gave her radcat turkey, she vomited severely and got diarrhea and stopped eating. Now she won’t touch either of the radcats, even the chicken that she loved so much, and literally gags when I hold it in from of her. I’ve taken her off raw and am feeding her wet tiki puka puka and natures variety canned chicken and weruva, I figured we’ll wait at least a month or even a few months before we even try transitioning very slowly back to raw though I don’t even know if she’ll ever do raw again after that traumatizing experience that took her a whole week to recover. Do you have any recommendations as to how I can transition back to raw? She vomits so easily. Also, for a cat that is so sensitive, should I still do rotation in her food and if do how often? Daily, weekly, monthly? Lastly, want to do you think of lotus’ new line – just juicy, and nutro wet canned food? Thanks again and God bless you!!!

  12. Marie Fenniche April 10, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

    Your site is so helpful! Merci bcp!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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