These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s 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. UPDATE 2015: Halo Impulse does not have carrageenan or garlic)
  • 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 on scale

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

Again, thank you for continuing to help me keep this and the Best cat foods “living lists” correct and up-to-date!

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

  1. Kathleen January 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    I feed lotus grain free do you still recommend that brand?

  2. Jaclyn Battle February 11, 2016 at 8:33 am #

    How do you feel about Fussie Cat brand canned food?

  3. Victoria February 20, 2016 at 10:10 am #

    Whats your rating on Daves cat food

  4. Natasha Botyanovskyy February 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    Does wellness wet food and blue buffalo wet food have carragenan. I am trying to find excellent wet food gor my cats to avoid health problems. Unfortunately petsmart does, not have a big selection on healthy foods that does not contain bad I gredients. If I feed my cats blue buffalo and wellness wet food in small portions will try risk of cancer.

    • Marie August 18, 2016 at 9:43 am #

      You turn the can around and look at the ingredients…it will say if it has that ingredient or not.

  5. marlene March 15, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    did you ever have ‘mauri’ brand on the list?

  6. Melina April 12, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

    An animal communicator just r commended feline instincts and I don’t see this on any of your lists, yes or no?

  7. Alexis Seely-Carroll April 13, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Any news on merrick limited ingredient?

  8. Ale April 21, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    Hi just wanted to update you on Nature’s instinct dry food, rabbit single source food. I spoke with a representative from the company today. She said the rabbit for the past couple years is sourced from France and Italy. She said the are humanely raised in hutches. I just wanted to let you know. David

  9. marlene May 28, 2016 at 6:08 am #

    still waiting to learn if ‘mauri’ brand was ever on list… thoughts?

  10. Dusti May 31, 2016 at 6:04 am #

    Applaws? The pouches only have 1-2 ingredients and they’re now at my local Petco. Have you heard anything about them?

    • Sabrina May 31, 2016 at 6:20 am #

      From what i read on the ingredients, this is not a complete cat food and should only be used as a topper of other food maybe. It does not contain necessary nutrients, including Taurine, which is of utmost importance.

    • Sharon February 21, 2017 at 6:02 pm #

      My cat is very fussy and loves Applaws, especially the tuna pouches and the sardine tub. The fact that it has few ingredients appealed to me, and I feed them to her with Royal Canin wet and dry food, which is the only other brand she’ll eat. She’s energetic and healthy, and very sweet. I’d say that’s the combo is working well.

  11. Jean Tobias June 6, 2016 at 9:08 am #

    How do you rate Nutrisca dry cat food (chicken recipe) by Catswell?

    • Rosalie Smith June 7, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

      Have you heard of the brand “Nulo”, both dry and canned food for cats that are no grain? Any research?

  12. Cadie Bandy June 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi, I was wondering your opinion on Solid Gold cat food? I can’t seem to find the carb % online so I wrote them but haven’t heard back yet.

  13. Cadie Bandy June 18, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi, I was also wondering what your opinion on Soulistic was?

  14. Rhonda October 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Any opinion on Fromm Family Canned Cat food? It appears a good candidate and I was wondering if it was rejected because of a reason unknown to me. The ingredient list doesn’t seem to contain any of the ‘prohibited’ ingredients. They advise nothing is sourced from China and everything is made in their own facilities in the U.S. The Company is Family owned and operated and has had only one voluntary recall (Vitamin D levels) in their history. They do use Xanthan gum and locust bean gum – but i can’t find a single cat food that avoids these that doesn’t have instead a worse ingredient.

  15. Rhonda October 20, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    Three more questions, please…
    Ziwipeak has tetrasodium pyrophosphate which is condemned by many proponents of healthy cat food. Any thoughts or comments on this?
    Also, Hound & Gatos has dicalcium phosphate which some condemn. Thoughts?
    Lastly, I understand that Nature’s Variety was sold to Agrolimen. Does this affect your recommendation of the LID canned varieties?
    Thanks in advance for your response and all that you do.

  16. Leslie November 1, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    I’ve been feeding our cats Purina Veterinary Diet wet food and since I don’t see it listed here, I’m thinking it’s probably a terrible choice! Very worrying.

  17. Lily November 19, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    Hello! I’ve been researching cat foods lately, since I feed my senior cat with Royal Canin Sterilused 12+… I know now it’s not really a healthy option… I got really excited about Orijen Cat & Kitten, but then I compared the list of plants it contains…some of them are toxic to cats, like Angelica, Apple… So I kind of quit the idea of switching to Orijen… I was wondering… Am I the only one concerned about this?

  18. AVA December 19, 2016 at 8:34 am #

    How about Cat Treats?
    I feed my kitty Merrick & they have treats just not local
    So im currently considering Wellness kittles treats because I can find them local???

  19. Toni February 12, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    I see the brand I just started my kitty on this this. The only reason I chose the Natural Balance LID is because it was the the only one that I noticed in my store that didn’t have Any Chicken anything in it. I get the Venison & Green Pea wet and dry. My cat has had IBS for 5 years now. My vet who did diagnose her with it wanted to put her on a Prescription diet food. I like to know what ingredients I’m giving my cat after ready so many horrible things about so many cat foods. I did lots of research checked out lots of bugs and found I just needed to remove grain from her diet. Once I did she has been fine all these years. Until now my vet says she has a food allergy which is common so they say. Again she wanted to put her on a prescription diet. I was beside myself not wanting to do that. Back to researching that I have to eliminate all the sources of protein she has been eating and start her on one new source of protein. Which leads me to the current food I have her on. I also read that Chicken is a number one allergen to cats. It seems the brand I have her on now still might not be a good healthy choice because it contains Carrageean. Is there a gran free cat food that does not have any chicken products in it? I which I had a holistic vet but I do not. I do have her set up with an appointment with a Vet skin specialist since her allergy is cause her to bite, scratch and lick all over and scoot after going to the bathroom. My poor baby is is 15 and also has Feline Herpes. Any food suggestions from anyone would be great appreciated.

    • Rosalie Smith February 14, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      The two cat food company’s that I deal with for canned food are “Nulo” and “Holistic Select”. Both are grain free and no carragenan. They make a variety of flavors, not just chicken.

  20. Sloane February 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    Dear Fellow cat lovers, I wrote to Wellness about their use of carrageenan and received the following reply, which I thought the rest of you may wish to read. There is also useful information on carrageenan at: https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/stonyfield-farm-organic-valley-respond-consumer-concerns-about-carrageenan

    Response:

    At WellPet, we are committed to the highest standards of pet food safety. Our highest priority is providing you and your animal companions with consistently safe, premium-quality natural food and treats for pets.

    We’d like to share with you some important information about this ingredient.

    • Carrageenan is a natural carbohydrate that has been extracted from a variety of red seaweed

    • There are two types of Carrageenan: Degraded and Un-Degraded

    • Un-Degraded (food-grade) Carrageenan is all that is used in WellPet products

    • Carrageenan is used to help prevent separation of liquids, improve loaf structure and add texture that pets love

    • Un-Degraded (food-grade) Carrageenan is quite expensive and is used in very small amounts

    • Un-Degraded (food-grade) Carrageenan has been used on a large scale in worldwide food production since the early 1930’s

    • Un-degraded (food-grade) Carrageenan’s safety has been assured by the FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status

    • Both the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization consider this sea vegetable non-toxic, non-teratogenic and non-carcinogenic

    • Some recent research actually shows that Un-Degraded (food-grade) Carrageenan resists degradation in the digestive tract and is therefore unlikely to even be absorbed

    • Degraded carrageenan has been chemically treated (hydrolyzed with acid) and is a known carcinogen and is not used in any WellPet products

  21. Cathy Thornburn March 8, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    I have been feeding frozen brand Small Batch sliders, my cats seem to like the beef version, and the ingredients look good to me. I also feel better about Fussy Cat since they removed the carrageenan from some flavors. Any thoughts about either of these?

  22. Greg Lemnah April 4, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

    I would like to leave a couple of comments;

    First – I had a beautiful, very sweet little black cat (Anabel) who I lost at 12 years old. She experienced urinary tract problems (blood in the urine resulting in urination in several parts of the house). Then she developed lymphoma and died from this disease.

    I cannot prove anything, but from what I have read I believe that the dry food diet that I fed her throughout her life was the primary cause of her illnesses. Please DO NOT feed your cat dry food!

    Second – I now have a feisty little tiger striped cat (Angelina) who I also started feeding dry food. When I read about the illnesses that dry cat food could cause, I switched her to canned food. Within three to four weeks she started to eat less and less of this food, her stools turned black and were only a fraction of their normal volume and I had to discontinue feeding this brand of canned food.

    I don’t want to point a finger at the manufacturer, but the two ingredients that I can single out are chicken and carrageenan. I thought that she possibly had an allergic reaction to one of these ingredients (an allergic reaction which I found documented online – for both of these ingredients).

    I have now changed her food back to her original dry formula and she seems to be recovering perfectly. Since this dry food is chicken-based I wonder if her negative reaction to the canned food was due to the carrageenan. Reading up on this additive I find that it can result in IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and possibly even cancer.

    Please do not take my comments as scientific evidence but be careful which foods you feed to your little cat. She is totally dependent on you for her health and welfare.

    -greg

    • Sabrina Santoro April 4, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

      Please find a carrageenan free canned cat food for your kitty, and get her away from the dry….it’s terrible TERRIBLE for cats… I feed mine carrageenan free canned food ONLY.

  23. Bethany April 6, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    Hi, I was going to feed my two cats Trader Joes canned food because I heard it was good and buget friendly..I can’t afford even afford $1 a can right now. Is their wet food safe?? And was going to do nulo dry with it, however with their chicken flavor is cod! Despite them loving seafood, cats are not supposed to have any fish at all. Kidney problems UTIs just to name a couple of problems they can get. I just don’t know why they would put cod in their food when it is so bad for cats 🙁 so now I don’t know what else to get them. They get both the wet and dry food..because my male cat really doesn’t like wet food lol

  24. JoanneG April 18, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    Could you please tell me your opinion of canned Go! by petcurean?

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