These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s why

113426416911 300x225 These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres why

“WHAT? This can’t be right! My food’s perfect!”

UPDATED July 2013
You can help me keep this list current by leaving info or questions in the Comments. (To be notified of big updates, get on the news list here.)

There I was cursing at a coffee house and nearly giving up on getting those “best cat food” tables to format.

The cat food cost calculations also made me cranky, but writing buddy and fellow cat fan, Teresa, gave me the moral support to see through publishing Today’s best cat foods and Today’s best dry cat foods.

Why isn’t _____  on this list?

The project was worth the trouble because of all the people, like you, who continue to respond with great interest in finding cat food that’s truly healthy.

A common question is: “Why isn’t ________ on the list?” Sometimes the answer is: “You’re right, I need to add it.”

One of the challenges is that some good brands, like Wellness and Blue Buffalo, have some stellar products as well as some I cannot recommend.

And it depends on whether we’re talking canned or dry here too. It would be so much easier if we could just say “This brand is always great.” But it’s not that simple. So, most of the time the answer is one of the following…

Almost fabulous Runners Up: One iffy ingredient

These are still decent choices if your family is attached to them.

Here are the reasons these Runners Up for Today’s best cat foods didn’t make top billing:

  • Newman’s organic Grain Free canned - carrageenan was recently added
  • Wellness Grain Free Canned – carrageenan
  • Halo Canned – some have carrageenan, some have garlic powder  (UPDATE April 2013: cans do not have BPA in lining)
  • Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Canned and Blue Buffalo Basics Canned – carrageenan
  • BeforeGrain Canned – carrageenan
  • Evo Canned by Innova – carrageenan
  • Natural Balance LID Canned (Limited Ingredient Diet) – carrageenan
  • ZiwiPeak Canned (lamb or venison) – carrageenan

To understand the carrageenan concern, scroll down to the section titled “Shock #2″ on this post here or see this article by Susan Thixton. Garlic? A little probably doesn’t matter, but since a lot will cause a blood cell disorder (hemolytic anemia), many vets recommend not using it on regular basis.

Special exceptions! Where a good product has variations

The following products are mostly great, but have variations in the ingredients.

Just check the labels to get the ones that don’t have the iffy stuff, as follows:

  • Weruva Canned – I feel pretty confident in the quality of Weruva, and I love that they are BPA-free, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan. 
  • Tikicat Canned – These guys have a reputation for strict quality and eco-fishing sources. They are also BPA-free, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan. 
  • Addiction Grain Free Canned – Good stuff, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan (currently: salmon, venison, unagi, and brushtail have it). The salmon also contains citrus, which is supposed to be toxic to cats. (What were they thinking?)
cat scale These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres why

High carbs increases obesity and diabetes risk

Cat foods with too many carbs: Fattening

I believe high carb percentages are to blame for the obesity and diabetes epidemics in indoor cats today.

  • Halo Grain Free Dry – 25% carbs (could be worse – this one is on the border)
  • BeforeGrain Dry - 30% carbs
  • Fromm Dry Grain Free – 29% carbs
  • Blue Buffalo Dry – 28 – 40% carbs (also some have grains)
  • Natural Balance Grain Free/LID Dry - 40% carbs
  • Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry- 27% carbs
  • Addiction Grain Free Dry – 31% carbs

For more on this fattening carb business, see Overweight Cat? The Hidden Cause and Solution.

Cat foods made with grains: can lead to digestive problems (and hairballs)

  • Wellness Canned (all the ones NOT labeled grain free) – grains
  • PetGuard canned – grains

For more on the grains and digestion topic, see WARNING: Your Cat’s Tummy Troubles Could Lead to Cancer, by Karen Becker, DVM and Some Startling New Thoughts on Cats and Hairballs by Fern Crist, DVM.

Cat foods with more than one issue: High carb, grains, and/or iffy ingredients

All good brands, but these specific products from them are too flawed to recommend – here’s why:

  • Blue (Buffalo) Spa and Blue (Buffalo) Healthy Gourmet Canned – carrageenan; grains
  • Lotus Dry – grains; 25% carb
  • Wellness Indoor Dry – grains; 30 -35% carbs
  • Life’s Abundance Dry - grains; 35% carbs
  • Organix Castor and Pollux Dry – grains; 32% carbs
  • AvoDerm canned cat food – carrageenan, avocado (may be risky over time – see comments discussion), synthetic vitamin K

w thanks 150x150 These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres whyAgain, thank you for continuing to help me keep this and the Best cat foods “living lists” correct and up-to-date!

154 Responses to These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s why

  1. tammy October 17, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Anyone try wild calling seems to not have anything on the list that maybe bad cat loved it?

    • Sabrina November 2, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      Wild Calling is liked by both my house kitty and my feral kitty. The ingredients are great, no junk.

  2. Lauren October 7, 2014 at 1:51 am #

    No merrick?

  3. Leeanne September 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    Any information on Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Canned cat food? Grain free. Sourced and made in the USA.

  4. UniqueWabbit June 9, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Why isn’t By Nature 95% meat on the list?

    • L July 15, 2014 at 10:32 am #

      Wondering same thing only about by natures organic chicken and chicken liver – seems to be no grain, low carb/fat, no carrageenan or other unhealthy ingredients? I only feed from what’s on this list so I’d love to know if you recommend this food Liz. Another new brand that seems good is Party Animal, do you recommend that one too? Thank you so much for all your time and info, MUCH appreciated.

      • A July 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

        I am wondering the same thing too about the By Nature Organic Chicken canned food

      • Jacob Almaraz July 26, 2014 at 2:48 am #

        Although Natures organic chicken and chicken liver seems not to have any unhealthy ingredients, it does have one unhealthy ingredient that is controversial. Menadione Dimethylpyrimidinol Bisulfite is one name among others that synthetic vitamin k goes by. It commonly goes by the name of Menadione Sodium Bisulfate.

  5. Kara May 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Do you have any suggestions on what I should transition my cat from she’s currently eating dry meow mix and I want to get her off the crap yes it’s cheap but when she’s going through a large bag a month needless to say I have 3 other cats I am feeding as well. But she’s a baby and I think it’s best to get her on a good road along with the rest of the cats. I like the dry food because it’s better for their teeth and I also want something with several flavors within the line. I like to get them the salmon and chicken and turkey flavors that they crave.

    • Possum's Person July 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      There’s simply no such thing as a “good” dry cat food. I suggest you do some research and you’ll quickly learn all the reasons why. Start here: http://www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/why-dry-food-is-bad-for-cats-and-dogs/

      And then choose some of the great foods on Liz’s revised list of the best cat foods. You can find the link on the homepage of this blog. You won’t find much fish; it’s too polluted to be healthy for cats.

      Please stop believing that myth about dry food being good for cats’ teeth. Only raw hunks of meat and bone really give cats’ teeth a workout, which is why conscientious owners feed their cats “whole prey” or whole raw pieces of chicken, etc. (I’m not that conscientious myself). But thinking that kibble is good for cats’ teeth is like thinking that Lucky Charms or CrackerJack is good for cleaning children’s teeth. It’s all junk, all of it. Good luck in your quest.

  6. Larry May 30, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    Any thoughts on Pure Vita Dry Cat Food along with canned food?

  7. Claudia May 20, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Hi. My question has to do with Wellness grain free dry food. My vet change over to this food cause one I’d Mr other cats had a liver issue. Weekday do you Rini is their talk.

    • Maria August 7, 2014 at 6:52 am #

      I fed my two kittens the Wellness brand Kitten Health Dry Cat food and one started up old behavioral problems as well as “scooting” after using the litter box, and the other one seemed to be in pain. They could not stop eating the food, either, so I assume the product contains MSG in some form (“exitotoxins”). I took the same food away for awhile and their behavior/symptoms, improved. Since I was not sure it was the food, I reintroduced the food and the same symptoms returned. I threw away the food and I went back to the Organix brand. The kittens are more mild-tempered and energetic again.

      • Denise November 2, 2014 at 8:16 am #

        Maria, Hi. I just had a whole lot of trouble with Organix Organic dry food. My cat was obsessed with it, gorging himself if I let him. He was actually sitting by the drawer where I had to keep it because I found him tearing apart the bag. I feared MSG and checked and it had “natural flavors”. A red flag for MSG hidden. I phoned the company and was told that the “natural flavors” consists of enzymes and amino acids for “palatability. I googled those words and found a site about MSG and where it is hidden and it said enzymes and amino acids mixed with protein create MSG in the food and in your kitty. Also, the second ingredient is Poultry Meal, and they didn’t really give me a satisfactory answer about what that is. They did say it’s not organic because according to them you can’t get organic Poultry Meal. So why put it in there then? Now I’m back searching what to do and have decided to keep him on wet food. He is FIV positive and I need to be careful. I’m going to try growing organic cat grass for him, maybe that will help his teeth a little too.

        • Denise November 2, 2014 at 8:19 am #

          I forgot to say he also developed a really bad skin hives or welts on that food. I thin because he is FIV he has strong reactions to adverse stuff. He was also vomiting and is so so much better now, his normal self off of that Organix.

  8. lisa May 8, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    I’ve heard Weruva has developed their own substitute for carageenan that evolved from the processing of their foods.. my understanding from the regional rep is that they are no longer manufacturing food with carageenan in it.

  9. Sabrina May 7, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    Best canned cat food I have found is Hound and Gatos. No junk, no grains, no carageneen, made from 100% animal protein. Check it out and tell me what you think. Hound gatos.com. I have a kitten and went crazy trying to find decent food, and thought this one is the best. Sabrina

  10. Chris April 24, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    Hi,
    I noticed that the new batch of ziwipeak have removed carrageenan from their ingredients.
    Looks like the company does listen to its consumers.
    I only feed my cat ziwipeak lamb. I can’t get the tiki cat chicken in singapore

    Chris

  11. Karen April 15, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    What do you think of Merrick’s Cowboy Cookout? I bought a can to try for my suddenly finicky cat(she will eat Fancy Feast and Meow Mix wet foods but no longer loves her Wellness or several other better quality wet foods we tried. I’m hoping the issue is that she now prefer chucks/shredded food to pate) She seemed to like it and our other 3 cats loved it but now I’m discovering they changed their recipe a while ago and now it may be not so good? Any advice on feeding this one?

    • SA April 15, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      You can also try Fussy Cat, Against the Grain, and Red Barn for chunky food.

      • Karen April 16, 2014 at 6:37 am #

        Thank you,I had never heard of these brands. Discovered last night that she loves Tiki chicken food. Because of the price that one will be served only occassionally

  12. April April 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    Has anyone tried or have any info for “Fresh Pet Select”?

    • SA April 4, 2014 at 6:01 am #

      Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Ocean Whitefish, Natural Flavors, Eggs, Carrots, Spinach, Pea Protein, Pea Fiber, Vinegar, Vitamins & Minerals (Zinc Chelate, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Iron Proteinate, Niacin, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Taurine.

      The red flags for me are: “Natural Flavors: — usually means MSG which is very bad for animals. Ocean Whitefish — cats — especially male cats — shouldn’t have fish every day (see below). Spinach — (from the ASPCA — While a leaf or two may not be an issue for a healthy adult cat, chronic and/or large ingestion of spinach could potentially cause crystal formation in the urinary tract. (And P.S., Because of this, spinach should be avoided completely in any cat with a history of urinary problems, including infections, crystaluria and kidney disease.).

      Fish for cats — By Jean Hofve, DVM

      A lot of cats love fish, but it’s really not a good idea to feed it to your cat! Why not? Because it is simply no longer safe to feed to cats (and humans should be very careful about eating it themselves and feeding it to children!).

      * The fish used in canned pet foods usually includes bones, and is high in phosphorus and magnesium, which can be an issue in cats with a history of urinary tract disorders or kidney disease. In practice, I have seen quite many cats develop urinary tract infections and blockages if they eat much fish–even boneless fish like canned tuna.

      * Many cats are sensitive or even allergic to fish; it is one of the top 3 most common feline food allergens.

      * Fish-based foods contain high levels of histamine, a protein involved in allergic reactions.

      * While cats can synthesize their own Vitamin K from most food sources, fish-based foods may not support sufficient Vitamin K synthesis. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting. The most common synthetic Vitamin K supplement, menadione, has toxicity issues. We do not recommend feeding any cat food containing menadione.

      * There is a known link between the feeding of fish-based canned cat foods and the development of hyperthyroidism in older cats.

      * Predatory fish at the top of the food chain, such as tuna and salmon, may contain very elevated levels of heavy metals (including mercury) as well as PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins. Tilefish (listed on pet food labels as “ocean whitefish”) are among the worst contaminated, along with king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. These fish are so toxic that the FDA advises women of child-bearing age and children to avoid them entirely; and they recommend only 1 serving of albacore tuna per week due to its high mercury levels. If these fish are dangerous to children, cats are at even higher risk!

      * A substance called domoic acid, a very stable, heat resistant toxin produced by certain species of algae that are becoming more common in coastal regions due to climate change. Domoic acid particularly accumulates in mussels, clams, scallops, and fish. Because it is so dangerous, the FDA limits the amount of this neurotoxin in seafood. However, new research indicates that domoic acid causes damage to the kidneys at concentrations 100 times less than the amount that causes brain toxicity. This is especially concerning for cat guardians, because not only can the legal level of domoic acid in any seafood harm the kidneys, but fish that are condemned for human consumption due to excessive domoic acid may instead be processed into pet food. Could contaminated fish in cat food be a hidden factor in the high rate of chronic kidney disease in older cats, who may have been eating this toxin every day for years?

      * Fish and other seafood in the Pacific Ocean have been exposed to leaking radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power facility in Japan for nearly three years. While the authorities continue to assert that there is (so far) no danger from eating Pacific seafood, the plant is still releasing 300 tons of highly toxic radioactive water into the ocean every day, with no end in sight. The first part of the initial radioactive plume has already reached U.S. shores; and low levels of Fukushima-specific radioisotopes have been found in West Coast seafood. While the Pacific Ocean’s vastness can and does greatly dilute the radioactive materials, the continuing leakage–as well as Japan’s recently-revealed dishonesty about its estimates of the amount of radiation involved–is cause for some concern. Arecent meta-analysis found reported significant negative effects on the immune system, and well as increased mutations and disease occurrence even at extremely low levels.

      * Salmon is a popular cat food ingredient, but today nearly all of it comes from factory-farmed fish. These unfortunate animals are kept in overcrowded net pens– feedlots–in polluted coastal waters. They’re fed anti-fungals, antibiotics, and brightly-colored dyes to make their flesh “salmon colored”–it would otherwise be gray. Common water pollutants such as PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals are present in farmed salmon at 10 times the amount found in wild fish. These contaminants will be present in any product made with farmed fish, including cat and dog food.

      * “Organic” salmon is also farm-raised, and does not have to comply with USDA organic standards. In fact, there is currently no regulatory agency in the United States that sets organic standards for fish. The contaminant level of organic farmed salmon may be just as high as that of conventional farmed salmon.

      * Even “wild-caught” Alaskan and Pacific salmon may have been born and raised in a hatchery.

      * Farmed salmon transmit diseases and parasites; those who escape their pens (and they do) outcompete and interbreed with wild salmon.

      * A 2006 study confirms that salmon farms are “massive breeding grounds” for sea lice. Under natural conditions, wild adult fish carrying these parasites are not in migration channels at the same time as the defenseless, inch-long baby salmon, so infestation of the young fish is not a problem. But today, in waters near fish farms (which tend to be located at the end of those same migration channels), up to 95% of baby salmon are fatally infested. It is feared that that farmed salmon from nearly 300 fish factories in North America may ultimately decimate the wild population in the Atlantic.

      * New research (Dec. 2013) from the University of California raises concerns that the plastics floating in our oceans are absorbing chemical pollutants from the water. Toxins can move up the food chain, starting when fish eat small, contaminated pieces of plastic. Those contaminants enter their tissues, and are transferred to those who eat the fish: including bigger fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, and tilefish–the fish most commonly referred to as “ocean whitefish”), as well as people and pets.

      * Fish tends to be “addictive” to cats. They love it, and will often stage a “hunger strike” by refusing their regular food in favor of fish. Tuna or other fish should be reserved as a rare and special treat. Feed fish no more than once a week, and even then in very small amounts only.

      * The meat is unhealthy, and the fishing/aquaculture industry is environmentally destructive–need we say more?

      In general, the small amounts of “fish meal” included as a flavoring and/or source of omega-3 fatty acids in cat foods are not a problem, but fish should not be a mainstay of any cat’s diet. Fish should be limited to an occasional–and small–treat.

      • SA April 4, 2014 at 6:18 am #

        So I wouldn’t feed it every day — but as a twice a week food topper to provide a mix of proteins, tastes and textures to prevent “food fatigue” it’s not so bad. I tried it twice and may cats were pretty luke warm toward it so I switched to other things.

      • JA June 4, 2014 at 11:25 pm #

        And chicken has arsenic in it, thanks to roxarsone and nitarsone.

        • Denise November 2, 2014 at 8:22 am #

          Chicken has arsenic in it? What about turkey? I’ll google it now, thanks for this.

      • Denise November 2, 2014 at 8:38 am #

        “Even “wild-caught” Alaskan and Pacific salmon may have been born and raised in a hatchery.”

        Oh my gosh! What is one to do? For us as well! I have been getting sick when eating canned salmon “wild caught” and I used to be fine with it. Thank you so much for all of this information. I accidentally fed mine fish because a wrong flavor got in with what I usually buy and he seemed a little unwell the next day or two. Maybe this is why.

  13. Larry February 14, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Anyone tried Nutrisca dry cat food by Catswell ?

    • l.r. March 10, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      I believe their cat and dog treats were recalled this year so I will not be giving my cats Catswell food.

      • JA June 4, 2014 at 11:24 pm #

        It was for antibiotic residue, not exactly a critical issue. Plus, at least there was a recall.

        Nutrisca food has a good ingredient list.

        The only thing is that I wonder about arsenic in the chicken. The FDA has played games with this by “banning” roxarsone (after decades of use) and quietly substituting nitrarsone. The only way to avoid the arsenic in chicken, apparently, is to buy organic, but even it may have some.

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