Last updated: August 2015
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 IBS/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. See this article by Fern Crist, DVM and Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins’ book, Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life and this article by Dr. Becker. (Do NOT be hard on yourself if this is the first you’ve heard of this – cat food industry standards, limited feline medical research and awareness, and limited feline nutrition education in veterinary schools are the cause. We are all just doing the best we can with the information and options we’ve been given.)
- Free of potentially risky ingredients like avocado, garlic and others, and more described in this truthaboutpetfood.com article. In addition, I consider the following ingredients too risky for cats: vitamin D2 (as opposed to D3), wheat gluten, soy, carrageenan
- 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. (Update: more in this post and this FAQ.)
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.
We’re all in this together. I welcome your experiences, ideas, opinions, and contributions in the comments below. Let’s talk!