Should cats eat grains? Well, no. We answered this question right off the bat because everyone should know that cats are carnivores. They should have a diet composed of as much protein as possible, and the other nutrient that they should receive is fat. Grains don’t really have a place in a cat’s diet, but many manufacturing companies choose to add them to their diets because they’re cheaper.
If you’re in the market for the best grain-free cat food, it might be a little difficult for you to pick the right one for your feline friend. Based on the research that we performed, it looks like the first Nutro Perfect Portions Grain Free Natural Wet Cat Food is the best choice you have available. The carb content in this diet is under 8.5%. It contains over 65% protein and more than 14% fat. It’s made of chicken thigh, chicken breast, and chicken liver, and the only weird addition is carrot, which doesn’t generally cause digestive issues in cats. If you’d prefer to get some dry cat food instead, check out the Purina Beyond Wild Grain Free Natural Adult Cat Food.
|Nutro Perfect Portions Grain Free Natural Wet Cat Food||Wet||Low carb, low calorie|
|Wellness Core Signature Selects Natural Canned Grain Free Wet Cat Food||Wet||Low-calorie, grain-free / contains tapioca starch|
|CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food||Dry||Higher carb, no artificial ingredients / contains tapioca starch|
Best Grain Free Cat Food (Reviews)
Picking the right type of grain-free dry cat food or grain-free wet cat food can be quite a challenge these days. On the one hand, you need to go through as many options as possible and look at all the ingredients of each. You also have to read as many consumer reports as you can, and all of this is time-consuming.
If you’d like to save some time and get a safe alternative, check out our selection below. Before anything, we’d like to urge you to add the new food into your cat’s diet gradually so that she does not experience any digestive distress. This is very important.
Grain-free canned cat food
1. Nutro Perfect Portions Grain Free Natural Wet Cat Food
The Nutro grain free cat food is a pretty good choice if you are in the market for some healthy, good grain free cat food. If I’m not mistaken, I believe I might have showcased it in some of my other articles, one of them being the one I put together about good wet cat food for older cats.
It’s pretty decent, meaning that the only potentially fishy ingredient that it contains is tapioca starch. Other than that, it has good-quality ingredients such as chicken and chicken liver, but the protein source depends on the recipe that you will select, of course.
The nice thing about it is that it’s lower carb than others, which means that it can be given to cats who might have a little trouble with their weight, too. It has a bit under 20 calories per ounce, which means that it’s lower calorie compared to other grain-free choices.
However, it does have more fat than average and it also contains a medium amount of fiber. The cans are a bit challenging to open, though, as reported by some of the customers.
2. Purina Beyond Wild Grain Free, Natural, High Protein Adult Cat Food
This Purina grain free cat food is made of pretty decent materials and it is grain-free. This means that it doesn’t contain any wheat, corn, or soy, and it doesn’t even have any poultry meat-by products, which can’t be said about others out there.
The recipe is made from real turkey and vegetables and it contains spinach and sweet potatoes as fillers. Therefore, you aren’t going to have to worry about your cat ingesting any unnecessary grains or carbs. Sweet potato is actually pretty healthy, for cats, too, even though they shouldn’t necessarily eat it as a primary source of food.
Another aspect worth noting about this product is that it is made with natural ingredients. Apparently, it doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or any unnecessary additives.
As for the reviews acquired by this choice, it definitely seems like it’s quite appreciated by the cats themselves. As commercial and mainstream as Purina is, I’ll have to admit that this one is pretty good and healthy for most cats.
3. Wellness Core Signature Selects Natural Canned Grain Free Wet Cat Food
This Wellness Core grain free cat food is another option that should be on your list, and for several good reasons, too. If you pick the tuna and wild salmon entree, tuna will be the main and most important protein source in the canned cat food.
Fish is, however, prone to toxin and heavy metal contamination, so this one should be fed only once in a while.
What’s pretty good about this choice is that it is low-calorie. Every ounce makes up for about 25 calories and a whole can is around 70 calories. This can give you some guidance with regard to how much you should feed your cat if you’re trying to prevent or combat feline obesity.
As for the ingredients, they aren’t as clean as those in other recipes showcased here. In fact, the food contains tapioca starch, as well as sunflower seed oil, both of which have nothing to do in a cat’s diet. As grain-free as it might be, this one also has a bit too many carbs for our liking.
4. Weruva B.F.F. Play Grain-Free Natural Wet Cat Food
This wet cat food has two main ingredients and they are duck and tuna. It’s basically chunky stew that has been thickened with potato starch and stabilized with guar gum, so it’s less healthy compared to the other options that we have showcased here.
However, it is enriched with vitamins and minerals, which all cats need. The pet food contains low amounts of carbohydrates and is marketed as being grain-free. It’s a bit better than other, cheaper options, and it doesn’t contain any added fats or oils, which could have added to the overall number of calories.
Moreover, it doesn’t contain any potentially dangerous ingredients such as preservatives, flavors, or artificial colors, but it is slightly higher carb than other choices out there. It is made with easily digestible protein sources such as duck and tuna.
Some of the consumer reports that we have come across note that even demanding cats seem to like this option. Those that are trying to keep their cats on a diet, however, might have a hard time splitting up a can (it has 76 calories).
5. Wellness Complete Health Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food Pate
Cats definitely need a lot of good-quality protein in their diet, and fortunately, this product offers just that. It’s available in several different recipes, but the most popular one seems to be the chicken pate and smooth loaf.
The best thing about this choice is that it is low carb and grain-free, so it’s perfectly safe to give to any healthy adult cat.
Based on our research, it’s moisture-rich, so it speaks to the needs of cats who aren’t keen on drinking a lot of water, and it doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients. It has plenty of species-appropriate ingredients, but it does contain cranberry, as well as carrots, which are completely unnecessary to cats.
This Wellness Grain Free Cat Food seems to be quite popular with most of the pet parents that have given it a go. However, as is the case with ordering pet food online, there will be some cats who might not appreciate the smell or the taste of this alternative.
Grain-free dry cat food
6. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
Being marketed for indoor cats, this one has a lower calorie content and a higher fiber content than the average type of cat food out there. Why is that? Well, cats that live indoors only don’t get as much exercise as outdoor cats, so that’s why they need fiber for a healthy digestion and fewer calories because they are exposed to feline obesity.
The recipe contains chicken and chicken meal, chicken fat, as well as pea protein and split peas. It does contain a binder, however, and it’s tapioca (for the starch). Beet pulp represents the fiber in the food, which is better than others.
The good thing about this choice is that it has several sources of real animal protein and it contains actual chicken fat as its primary fat source. It also doesn’t have any artificial ingredients, but it is higher carb than others, which means that it should be fed to adult cats that don’t have any problems with their weight.
Some of those that have reviewed this option say that it has led to their cats having bigger and less smelly poo. It’s also more affordable than others.
7. Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Dry Cat Food
While it might not be the cheapest grain free cat food out there, this one is definitely an option to consider, especially if you’re looking to supplement your cat’s raw diet with some kibble for when you aren’t at home. It’s available in four different recipes — chicken, duck, rabbit, and salmon, and the rabbit one seems to be quite popular.
The neat thing about this product is that it is made with 80% real animal ingredients and just 20% veggies, fruit, and other types of ingredients — none of them being grains. Like some of the others that we have showcased in our selection, this one contains probiotics for a healthy digestion and great immune system.
It’s not made with any wheat, soy, potato, corn, or by-product meals, nor does it contain any artificial ingredients such as preservatives or fake colors. By the way, artificial colors are almost always carcinogenic, so keep that in mind.
Even though it’s marketed for all life stages, try to feed kittens and geriatric cats a specific diet for their nutritional requirements.
8. Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Dry Cat Food
If you have taken the time to go through some grain free cat food reviews, you might have noticed that many point out to this alternative. It is a pretty good choice, and I have to admit that. It’s grain-free and contains plenty of healthy nutrients and proprietary probiotics that survive in the cat’s digestive tract.
It doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, which is a guarantee that your cat is going to remain healthy for many years to come. On top of everything, it has a fatty acid blend, but also vitamins and minerals, so this recipe is basically a good choice if you’re looking to maintain your cat’s immune system in top shape.
The number one ingredient in the recipe is trout, followed by smoked salmon. While it’s advertised as being a great choice for all life stages, I suggest giving it to adult cats only. Geriatric cats and kittens need specific food for their needs.
Due to its ingredients and safety, this one might make a good option for grain free sensitive stomach cat food.
9. Solid Gold Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food with Superfoods
The neat thing about this option is that it’s a good choice for people looking for a grain-free, yet fiber-rich cat food for their feline buddy. Some cats can have a hard time ‘going to the bathroom’, especially as they begin to age. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestion, and the one in this recipe comes from lentils.
On top of everything, it’s grain-free and gluten free and it doesn’t contain any potatoes or any other sources of unnecessary carbs. The moderate calories allow your cat to maintain a healthy body weight, and the fact that the food is enriched with omega 3s ensures a healthy-looking coat.
You can get this option in two varieties – chicken, lentils, and apples and salmon, lentils, and apples. I’m not particularly enthusiastic about the addition of apples to the recipe as I think that fruit isn’t a natural food source for cats. However, it’s far better than others — at least there’s that.
10. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Adult Dry Cat Food
This is the standard adult option, but there are other choices made by the same brand that speak to the needs of mature cats and kittens, too. It’s grain-free, but it contains pea protein, peas, and tapioca starch, none of which make great ingredients, in our opinion.
The Blue buffalo grain free cat food is enhanced with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so at least it’s going to protect your cat’s immune system. It’s a better choice than others, especially for indoor cats that tend to pack up a lot of weight, and most cats seem to like how it tastes.
However, on the downside, it contains too much protein from plants, and last time we checked, cats aren’t vegan. It also has too many carbs for an animal that’s a pure carnivore.
On the upside, though, it doesn’t contain any potentially dangerous ingredients such as corn, soy, or wheat, or does it have any animal by-product meal. The lack of artificial preservatives and flavors recommends it, too.
Grain Free Cat Food Buying Guide
No matter if you are in the market for some cheap grain free cat food or you want to get the best grain free dry cat food that you can afford, you’ve come to the right place.
In the guide below, we will talk about why your cat needs, not wants, a grain-free diet, and how you can make sure that you select the right product out of the plethora of those available for sale these days.
Cats are carnivores
There’s no way of going around this. Cats have dietary needs that do not even come close to those of dogs, let alone our own, as humans. I have noticed that over the years, people have started to feed their feline friends either food that’s too carb-rich because they (incorrectly) believe that cats can live on a vegan diet or because it’s the most convenient and affordable option.
Let’s set things straight. Manufacturing companies add carbs from grains and other sources to your cat’s food because they want to make it as cheap as possible. Ideally, the food that your cat should consume would be only composed of protein and fat (not too much of the latter, though!).
Unfortunately, this means that you can’t trust any pet food manufacturer, especially the bigger ones. Think of it this way — the larger the operations of a pet food company, the more likely it is for the process to be less controlled. Also, a corporation will always want to get rich fast rather than focus on keeping our pets healthy.
Look for ethical pet food manufacturers, if at all possible, even if their products might be a little more expensive. You can make your own grain-free cat food right in the comfort of your home and I’ll go into more detail on that below (and even share a YouTube video on that), but for times when you have to feed your cat a commercial diet, pick one of those brands, the ones that actually care about your cat’s health.
Needless to say, the amount of protein, fat, and carbs in the cat food that you will pick matters the most. The carbs have to be as low as possible, because those usually come from grains. Grains don’t really have that much protein, and they almost have zero fat, so getting a low-carb cat food diet is the best way of going about things.
But the ingredients also matter in some other ways. For instance, it would be ideal for you to pick a brand that doesn’t use things like artificial colors, preservatives, and additives, whether they have the purpose of conservation or making the food more palatable.
Therefore, my advice to you, as a cat parent and a former veterinarian, would be to spend as much time reading the ingredients on the label as possible.
Try to stay away from brands that mention ‘meat by-products’ as their main ingredient because these are usually very low quality protein sources such as animal beaks, hoofs, bones, and other such things.
Wet or dry
As you might have noticed, I have decided to showcase both wet and dry grain-free cat food in our selection. But the truth is that wet food is the best for cats. Just think of it this way — no cat gets access to dry food in the wild, right?
Plus, cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, which can cause significant problems, such as kidney health issues. If you choose to feed your cat at least some wet food per day, you will make sure that she gets some amount of water from that, too.
You can use some dry grain free low carb cat food for when you are not at home or for cats that tend to pack up weight fast (such as geriatric cats).
Last, but not least, it is always a good idea to check out some consumer reports before deciding to order a new type of cat food online, whether grain-free or not. As I have already mentioned, there can be a lot of hidden fishy ingredients in some commercial cat diets.
Unfortunately, these can trigger digestive upsets in many cats, so be sure to look for some critical reviews, too, not just the favorable ones. Naturally, every cat is different in his or her way, so that doesn’t mean that your own will experience the same symptoms. But if you see 20-30 reviews noting a problem, make a mindful decision and protect your cat.
The brand really doesn’t matter
We couldn’t help noticing that people search for things like Orijen cat & kitten grain free dry cat food, Halo grain-free cat food, or 4health grain free cat food, but the truth is that there isn’t one brand that makes the absolute best grain free cat food out there.
While I was studying for my vet degree, I used to think that IAMS grain free cat food would be something I would recommend to pet parents. But nowadays, I don’t. Take everything with a grain of salt. Look at the ingredients every time — the brand really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I’d actually argue that the bigger the brand, the worse the food.
How is grain-free cat food better than anything else?
Grain-free cat food is the only type of pet food that your cat should have access to. There are many reasons why you should consider switching to this type of diet. Grains can be a good source of fiber, and they also have some amounts of vitamins and minerals, but the truth is that cats can’t digest them.
On top of everything, pet food manufacturers use plant sources of protein because they are so much cheaper compared to real meat. Carbs are also filling, which means that your cat isn’t going to beg you for food time and again.
Grain-free doesn’t necessarily mean carb-free. If your cat has kidney problems, she might have to cut back on the protein. In that case, you can get her a well-balanced pet food that also contains carbs, but they should come from a source such as pumpkin, for instance, not from corn or anything else.
While many cats can be allergic to grains, it’s also true that some cats can be allergic to some types of protein and will go out of their way to avoid them at all cost. Many cats have allergies to dairy, fish, or even beef. But the likelihood of a cat having an allergy to one type of grain or the other is so, so much higher compared to her having an allergy to one type of protein!
FAQs About Grain-Free Cat Food
Why grain-free cat food?
Because it can be the healthiest choice for your feline companion. However, we would like to note that in some cases, it might not be the best option. If your cat is overweight and predisposed to diabetes, it might be a bad idea to choose a grain-free diet, especially if it is rich in fat.
Grain-free cat food can also cost a lot more compared to typical standard cat food. However, if you take the time to look at the video that we will showcase below and if you have enough patience to teach your cat to eat a homemade diet, you will notice that you aren’t going to spend a fortune on the commercial one.
You’ll only need it for emergencies or for when you aren’t at home.
What is the best grain-free cat food?
There isn’t a universal answer to this question, and that’s because cats are very different from one another. Some are young, and have a better and faster metabolism whereas others might be old, and they might have the tendency to become overweight. There’s no such thing as the perfect grain-free cat food for every cat in the world.
However, it is generally acknowledged (by vets, too), that the best grain-free cat food is the one that doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients (if at all possible) and is as natural as possible.
Whether the pet food brand has used organs (such as livers and kidneys) or actual meat in the production process, it doesn’t matter — with the exception of ‘meat by-products’. As for carbs, try to stick to varieties that have carbs from things like pumpkin, lentils, or other types of beans, even peas. Not grains.
How to make grain-free cat food?
You can choose to make raw or cooked cat food right in the comfort of your home. You can use meat and organs, use the processor, and then store them in the freezer and defrost them every day.
If you want to add some fiber to the food, especially since geriatric cats have a bit of trouble passing food, you can use cooked sweet potato or cooked pumpkin (or canned). Cooked food is safer than raw food, but it does lose some of the nutrients. Nevertheless, both of these are safer than commercial food!
Here are some other ingredients that you can add to the food:
- Vitamin E powder
- Salmon oil
- Vitamin B powder
- Lite salt (an extremely small amount)
- Taurine, powdered
- Psyllium (especially if you don’t want to add the pumpkin or sweet potato)
Check out the video above for a good recipe for raw cat food (grain free, of course!).
For homemade cooked cat food, you can use cooked meat, peas, sweet potatoes or pumpkin, small amounts of fish oil, and a commercial blend of vitamins and minerals specifically made for cats.
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we’re doing no chicken, just rabbit , turkey and some fish (hard to find ones without tuna!) limited ingredients (Stella and Chewys and Instinct) but the instinct brand (they prefer pouches to cans and not pate at all, so finicky!) doesn’t have Taurine in it. I know it’s viral for cats. Is it enough to get it from the freeze dried Stella and Chewys Rabbit they eat as well during the day (we don’t give them dry food just the freeze dried morsels) or should we get Taurine supplements? We think our 2 1/2 yr old Bengal Tabby mix has a chicken allergy (she was having smelly loose diarrhea) but also we would give them different brands (all grain fee high end brands) which also could’ve contributed so we paired it down as previously mentioned but the lack of Taurine in the Instinct Lmtd Ingredient food is worrying….
Taurine can be a problem, indeed, but it is available in many supplements, most of which are made with clean and healthy ingredients. Most cats prefer liquid or gel supplements instead of pills or powders. I personally trust this brand (Vetoquinol), so this one seems like a good option.
As for the Stella and Chewy’s Rabbit they eat during the day – just how much do they eat? There’s only about .2% of taurine in every cup, so if they don’t really eat a lot of it, they might not get enough taurine from it.
Thank you for your comment and I hope your cats stay as healthy as possible. Let me know if you have any other questions.