As a loving cat owner, one of the best things you can do for your feline friend is to provide them with nutritionally complete food. A good diet is key to lifelong good health, which in turn grants more time with your furry friend as it can extend their lifespan. Grain-free cat food is well-suited for daily consumption as it is the closest match to the ancestral diet of cats, who are obligate carnivores,
With the many kinds of tasty cat food available on the market, it can be overwhelming to try and pick the type of grain-free cat food that best suits your kitty’s needs. Don’t worry! We’re here to help.
- What Kind of Grain-Free Food Should You Buy?
- Top 10 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods 2021
- 1. Best Overall Grain-Free Cat Food: Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food
- 2. Best Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
- 3. Best Grain-Free Wet Cat Food: Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food Variety Pack
- 4. Best Budget Grain-Free Cat Food: Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
- 5. Best Hypoallergenic Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Hill's Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin
- 6. Best High-Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
- 7. Best Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 8. Best Natural Grain-Free Cat Food: “I and love and you" Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food
- 9. Best Grain-Free Cat Food with Probiotics: Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Rocky Mountain Recipe Dry Cat Food
- 10. Best Vet-Recommended Grain-Free Cat Food: Purina ONE True Instinct Grain-Free High Protein, Natural Formula Adult Dry Cat Food
- Guide to Buying the Best Grain-Free Cat Food
- Final Thoughts
What Kind of Grain-Free Food Should You Buy?
As carnivores, cats need nutrients found only in animal products to sustain their daily activities. Their best diet contains plenty of protein, some fat and minimal carbohydrates as they eat mostly meat. By understanding what your feline friend needs in terms of nutrition, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when choosing a product that meets the needs of both you and your cat.
Grain-free cat food is divided into two main types – dry food and wet food. Depending on preference, cats can be fed with exclusively dry food or wet food, or they can be fed a combination of both dry and wet food. As long as the amount of food meets your kitty’s daily calorie intake requirements and both cat and owner are happy, any proportion of cat food will do.
Besides the usual dry and wet food, grain-free cat food is also available in high protein and limited ingredient varieties, like Blue Buffalo’s high protein and grain-free Wilderness range and Natural Balance’s Limited Ingredient Diets grain-free range. High protein and limited ingredient grain-free cat food is great for cats with special dietary needs as there is more protein and less added ingredients for your kitty to digest.
Choosing the Best Grain-Free Food for Your Cat
You can find the grain-free cat food that best suits you and your cat by evaluating the different kinds of food on the market according to specific criteria. We considered the following features when reviewing our picks for the best grain-free food out there.
Cat food contains meat, but the quality and type of meat is important to keep them healthy and happy. Look for high quality protein sources, high quantities of essential vitamins and minerals, and as few preservatives and artificial ingredients as possible to be sure it is good for your kitty.
As cats are finicky eaters, food that is appetizing helps to woo their taste buds. The healthiest food won’t make a difference if your resident feline overlord refuses to eat it, so we made it a point to select for flavor to ensure that they get the maximum benefit from a nutritious diet. Taste of the Wild’s Rocky Mountain Recipe has meaty flavors that are sure to bring excitement to your kitty’s palate.
For any kind of food sold, freshness is of utmost importance as old food does not just taste bad, it can hurt your cat’s health. We picked options that would last for as long as needed without compromising quality and taste. What you want to look for here are resealable containers or single-serve packaging.
Scent and Litter Odor
What goes in, must come out. Good food will be good for the stomach, too. We look for grain-free cat food that gives a boost to kitty’s overall wellbeing, whether that is in terms of body odor or excrement scent. We also look for food that smells appealing to both humans and felines. An example of grain-free wet cat food that helps with litter box scent is the Naked Essentials Grain-Free range from “I and love and you”.
Top 10 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods 2021
1. Best Overall Grain-Free Cat Food: Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food
Why we like it: With three types of real meat, and essential vitamins and minerals packed in individual portions, Sheba Perfect Portions Wet Cat Food gives your cat fresh, grain-free wet food with no leftovers every time.
- Flavor: Chicken, salmon, turkey
- Type: Individual serve, wet food, all life stages
- Size: 24 x 2.6-ounce twin-pack trays
Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food features soft and tasty wet cat food in gravy served in individual trays. This wet cat food is suitable for all stages of development, from kitten to senior cat.
Consisting of 12 roasted chicken entrees, 6 gourmet salmon entrees and 6 tender turkey entrees, pet parents just need to snap, peel and serve when it’s time to eat. Sheba Perfect Portions Wet Cat Food comes in sealed, individually portioned servings that are made to be opened and served right before your kitty’s mealtime.
Because Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food comes with real chicken, salmon, turkey, poultry liver and animal plasma, it will definitely appeal to your furry friend’s taste buds with maximum flavor.
As Sheba Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food is packaged in single meal servings, there are no leftovers after meals to be stored in your fridge. Your fridge doesn’t have to smell like cat food, and every serving of food smells, looks and tastes great to your cat.
Sheba’s Perfect Portions Wet Cat Food is made without grains, artificial flavoring or preservatives. The ingredients used are high quality and fortified with vitamins and minerals. As the wet cat food is made with real meat as the first few ingredients, your cat receives good nutrition with great taste.
Without artificial flavoring or preservatives, you get the freshest quality ingredients with better taste and texture.
- Added freshness
- Packaged for individual servings
- No leftovers, food wastage or bad scent
- Single use packaging increases environmental waste
- Packaging design makes opening the container messy
2. Best Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: Made with real meat and high-quality natural ingredients, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Cat Food is an ideal choice for pet parents looking for a grain-free, high protein dry cat food that hits all the right spots.
- Flavor: Duck
- Type: High protein, natural, dry food, adult life stage
- Size: 11-pound bag
With 40% protein and minimal carbohydrates included, Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Dry Cat Food is great for cats with diabetes and skin allergies that stem from grains. As the kibble size is small, it’s also good for cats that have trouble chewing.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Cat Food contributes to your cat’s overall health, resulting in a shinier and more lustrous coat, healthy, firm stools, and a better smelling litter box. The food itself is not pungent or oily, but its aroma is very fragrant and appealing to cats.
Wilderness Dry Cat Food from Blue Buffalo contains healthy carbohydrates to substitute for the grain normally used in dry cat food. Their ingredients are fortified with Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants selected by veterinarians and animal nutritionists. This cat food does not contain poultry by-product meals, grains, artificial flavors, or preservatives – this means you are paying for healthy ingredients with no fillers included.
No fillers, artificial flavors or preservatives means that the Wilderness Dry Cat Food is made from fresh, pure ingredients. At 443 calories per cup with natural ingredients and no fillers, your cat needs less food to feel full. With Wilderness Dry Cat Food, kitty is satisfied on a smaller portion as they receive all the important nutrients without the fluff.
Featuring deboned duck, turkey meal, chicken meal, fish meal and real vegetables and fruit, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Cat Food is packed with delicious flavor. This makes it an ideal option for health conscious yet yummy food for your feline friend.
- High quality natural ingredients
- Good flavor and scent
- No unnecessary added ingredients
- Very high protein content can cause urinary issues
3. Best Grain-Free Wet Cat Food: Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food Variety Pack
Why we like it: Featuring convenient, individual serves and high-quality ingredients, Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food delivers a delicious, gourmet recipe in pate form to satisfy your kitty’s discerning palate.
At a Glance:
- Flavor: Chicken
- Type: Individual serve, wet food, all life stages
- Size: 24 x 3-ounce pull-top cans
Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food from Purina is served in smooth, soft pate form that delivers equal portions of meat and moisture in each great tasting bite. As its main ingredients are meat, your kitty gets both flavor and nutrition in every meal.
Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate products are manufactured in US facilities according to quality and safety standards. Combined with their single serve packaging, each can of food provides your beloved pet with fresh, tasty and nutritious food every time.
The Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food from Purina’s Fancy Feast range has a stronger scent, but nothing too out of the ordinary for wet cat food. It might also give your cat some funky breath after eating it. These issues with smell are its main drawback, so if you’ve got a sensitive nose but are still looking to serve your kitty wet food, try the “I and love and you” Naked Essentials instead—but be warned that you’ll pay a premium price for your peace.
For its price, Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food is an inexpensive option for decent grain-free wet cat food.
Made with real chicken, poultry broth, liver and fish as its main ingredients, Purina Fancy Feast Classic Pate Canned Wet Cat Food is made using a grain-free, protein-rich formula that is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. This provides your cat with a complete and balanced diet.
- Affordable price point
- Pate form is easy to eat
- Manufactured in the US
- Strong food scent
- Possible strong cat breath scent after eating
4. Best Budget Grain-Free Cat Food: Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food has a short, wholesome ingredient list consisting of real meat, fish or poultry. We like it because on top of being grain-free and high protein, it also includes probiotics for feline digestive health.
- Flavor: Ocean whitefish & egg
- Type: Limited ingredient, high protein, natural, dry food, adult life stage
- Size: 11-pound bag
Filled with real meat, Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food combines wholesome ingredients with delicious taste. The intense flavor that comes with fish being the primary ingredient ensures that this dry food is popular among the kitties.
Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food features natural, wholesome ingredients with added supplements for digestive health. This helps with bowel movements and general digestion, resulting in a better smelling litter box and overall health.
At about $0.10 per ounce, Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food is a budget friendly option that still gives your fur baby the quality nutrition they need.
The large kibble size of this food makes it easier to pick up in small cat mouths but may be difficult to chew for kitties with less teeth.
Purina Beyond grain-free cat food is gluten and grain-free, with no poultry by-product meal, artificial coloring, flavoring, or preservatives added. Their limited ingredient list means that more of the important elements like meat are present. They also add probiotics, vitamins, minerals and nutrients to boost your furry friend’s health.
With a limited ingredients list, Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Adult Dry Cat Food contains very little if any artificial preservatives and additives. Their high-quality protein is traceable back to their source, ensuring the freshest unadulterated real meat for your feline friend’s dining pleasure.
- Natural, gluten free and grain-free ingredients
- High quality, traceable protein sources
- Added probiotics to boost digestion
- Larger kibble size may be difficult to chew
5. Best Hypoallergenic Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Hill's Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin
Why we like it: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin strikes the balance between cost and benefit, delivering specialized hypoallergenic cat food at a moderate price point.
- Flavor: Salmon & Yellow Pea
- Type: Sensitive, dry food, adult stage
- Size: 13-pound bag
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin is a specialized food made with veterinarian approval – with prebiotics, vitamin E and omega 6 fatty acid supplements, and a hypoallergenic formulation, this dry cat food meets the medical needs of cats that suffer from sensitivities. For its benefits, it is well worth its moderate price point.
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin comes in a flexible plastic packaging that keeps food fresh until it’s ready to be opened and transferred into an airtight container. This preserves the scent, taste and texture of the food without the need for excessive artificial preservatives and flavoring.
The Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin from Hill’s Science Diet range helps with cats that have sensitivities to certain allergens that aggravate their digestive tract and cause skin issues.
Featuring a veterinarian recommended formula, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin comes with prebiotic fiber and natural fibers to support your cat’s digestive health and boost beneficial gut bacteria. It is made in the USA with natural, grain-free ingredients that are easily digestible, improving your kitty’s skin health and stools. It is also fortified with Vitamin E and Omega 6 fatty acids to further care for your cat’s sensitive skin. This food contains chicken, so it may not be suitable for cats that are sensitive to it.
The very first ingredient in Hill’s Science Diet Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach & Skin is salmon – with chicken included in the list, your furry friend gets to enjoy great tasting food with all the benefits and nutrition that come together.
- Hypoallergenic formula
- Good for sensitive stomach and skin
- Boosts digestive health
- Contains chicken while advertised as salmon
6. Best High-Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food has much higher protein content than many other grain-free, high protein dry cat food options on the market. It is an ideal option for cats with diabetes, and it also helps with shedding and dander problems.
- Flavor: Salmon & ocean fish
- Type: High protein, dry food, adult stage
- Size: 10-pound bag
CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food is a moderately priced option that is great for pet parents looking to feed their feline friends a high protein, grain-free diet. Prescription food for cats with diabetes can be expensive, and this is a good alternative that has the high protein they need without hurting your pocket too much.
As CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food is a high protein food, the amount of meat in it promises plenty of flavor for your kitty’s discerning palate. You can rest easy knowing you are providing food that your cat will eat, with both nutritional value and great taste.
CRAVE’s Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food comes in a resealable package, with a zip lock seal you can use to keep the food fresh. As it does not contain artificial preservatives, the kibble inside maintains its taste and texture through natural means.
Cats on a diet of CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food have better-smelling litter boxes, less dander, and less fur shedding. The food itself also smells good to humans and cats.
With salmon as its first ingredient, CRAVE Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food has up to 40% protein content and essential nutrients that support your cat’s nutrition. Their recipes do not contain chicken by-product meal, corn, wheat or soy protein – their food is also made without artificial preservatives, flavoring and coloring.
- Affordable cost
- Cats have less shedding and litter box smell
- Comes with resealable packaging
- High protein content can cause urinary issues
7. Best Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Cat Food: Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: With a limited ingredient list, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food uses salmon as a single animal protein source to nourish your beloved feline’s dietary needs. This dry food is great for cats with diabetes or grain allergies.
- Flavor: Green pea & salmon
- Type: Limited ingredient, high protein, dry food, adult stage
- Size: 10-pound bag
Natural Balance has been making premium cat and dog food since 1989. Backed by nutritional science, nine different safety tests by qualified microbiologists and chemists are conducted on each batch of food. These tests are certified by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board to ensure that your beloved pet gets the best quality and nutrition.
With a limited ingredient list, no artificial flavoring and a single, high quality source of animal protein, your cat gets a mouthful of flavor with no fillers and all the great salmon taste when dining on Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food.
Grain-free dry cat food from the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets line has no artificial preservatives to draw out its shelf life. It comes in a quadruple sealed bag, which means that its freshness, taste, scent and texture remain as packaged until the bag is opened.
Scent: A grain-free diet with high quality ingredients and high protein content helps with digestive issues that may pop up due to grain allergies – the better quality of ingredients means that your cat digests more of the food. This results in a less odorous litter box and regular bowel movements for your kitty.
Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food falls in the moderate price range, but it is well worth the cost considering the single protein source and the highly qualified, accredited safety testing done on each batch of food.
Containing only salmon as a single animal protein source, Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food keeps their ingredient list short and free of potatoes, corn, wheat or soy. Peas are included in their formula to provide fiber that supports digestion and healthy bowel movements. With no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, this dry cat food helps keep your furry friend’s skin and coat healthy while providing complete and balanced nutrition with a minimum of 30% protein content.
- Short and simple ingredients list
- Single source of high-quality protein
- Tested and backed by science
- High protein level may cause urinary crystals
8. Best Natural Grain-Free Cat Food: “I and love and you" Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food
Why we like it: “I and love and you" Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food delivers real meat to your kitty’s food bowl. With no unnecessary, harmful ingredients, your cat gets all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals and you get to rest easy knowing it’s all taken care of.
- Flavor: Beef, salmon, turkey
- Type: Wet food, all life stages
- Size: 12 x 3-ounce cans
“I and love and you” Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food has tasty beef, salmon, chicken and turkey products as their first ingredients. Your feline friend will be purring at the intense, authentic flavor that comes with food that has high quality ingredients as their priority.
Each can of “I and love and you” Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food is packaged as an individual serving, meant to be opened and served immediately at mealtimes. As their food contains no artificial preservatives, your cat gets fresh, unadulterated food for its dining pleasure.
“I and love and you” Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food smells like real food, appealing to both human and feline noses. As the food formula is grain-free, your kitty’s litter box also smells less offensive after eating this wet cat food.
Coming in at over $0.40 an ounce, “I and love and you” Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food is seated firmly in the premium wet cat food category. With no carrageenan, filler, artificial preservatives, flavoring or coloring, your cat gets the absolute best food with no compromises.
With no fillers like by-product meals, wheat, corn, soy or rice, “I and love and you” Naked Essentials Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food features meat or poultry sourced products as the first three listed ingredients. Their ingredients list contains no GMO protein or produce, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. They also leave out carrageenan, a thickener often used in wet cat food. Their products are formulated with the help of holistic veterinarians and fortified with Omega 3 & 6 for kitty’s coat and skin health.
- No carrageenan
- No unnecessary ingredients
- High quality
- Loved by cats
- Premium price point
9. Best Grain-Free Cat Food with Probiotics: Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Rocky Mountain Recipe Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: We like that Taste of the Wild products are made in the USA by a family-owned, family-run company. They also have added probiotics and employ food safety protocols in the manufacturing process. We feel that this added assurance gives us confidence in recommending this dry cat food.
- Flavor: Roasted venison & smoked salmon
- Type: High protein, dry food, all life stages
- Size: 14-pound bag
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Rocky Mountain Recipe Dry Cat Food is made with plenty of easily digestible protein, delivering a robust, meaty taste to your kitty’s food dish. It might have slightly less nutritional value compared to other grain-free dry cat food, but that is balanced out by its affordable price and appealing taste.
It does not come in a resealable bag, but it can be transferred to an airtight container to preserve taste and texture. With no artificial preservatives added to the food, you don’t have to worry about the food lasting longer than it should.
Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Rocky Mountain Recipe Dry Cat Food kibble pellets smell less pungent and more appealing, both to cats and to humans. This food also helps create less funky smelling kitty litter as an added bonus.
With a minimum of 42% protein and 18% fat, Taste of the Wild Grain-Free High Protein Rocky Mountain Recipe Dry Cat Food brings together chicken meal, roasted venison, smoked salmon, ocean fish protein and vegetable protein sources to nourish your kitty.
Their ingredients come from trusted, sustainable sources and their food is made according to scientifically proven food safety protocols. No fillers, grain, corn, wheat, artificial flavoring, colors and preservatives are added, while probiotics and essential nutrients are included to boost your beloved pet’s health.
- Kibble pellets smell good
- Cat stool is less pungent
- Added probiotics, safety testing
- Less nutritional value
10. Best Vet-Recommended Grain-Free Cat Food: Purina ONE True Instinct Grain-Free High Protein, Natural Formula Adult Dry Cat Food
Why we like it: Purina ONE True Instinct Dry Cat Food has at least 35% protein and uses real chicken as the first ingredient on its list. We like that it is recommended by veterinarians, making it an affordable long-term choice for cats with sensitivities to grain.
- Flavor: Chicken
- Type: High protein, natural, dry food, adult stage
- Size: 14.4-pound bag
Recommended by veterinarians, ONE True Instinct cat food contains both kibble and tender, meaty pieces that keep the taste and texture interesting. With at least 35% protein consisting of chicken, chicken meal and beef fat in the ingredient list, your kitty gets to enjoy the flavor of real meat with no poultry by-products, artificial preservatives or flavoring.
Dry cat food from Purina’s ONE True Instinct range doesn’t just taste good, it also smells appealing to cats. However, the effect it has on litter box scent is rather potent and some cats and cat owners may experience gas while on this cat food.
Purina ONE True Instinct Dry Cat Food has real chicken as its number one ingredient. It has natural, high quality ingredients that are enriched with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. With no fillers, your cat gets maximum nutrition and taste, while you get peace of mind knowing you’re meeting your furry friend’s needs.
- Budget friendly
- Variety in texture
- Causes strong litter box smell and gas in some cats
Guide to Buying the Best Grain-Free Cat Food
For something as simple and necessary as feeding your kitty, selecting a good grain-free cat food can be surprisingly complicated. Once most pet parents have found a food that works well, they often stick with it for the rest of their lives. This is why a quality grain-free cat food that meets your cat’s needs can make a real difference in their health and wellbeing. Keep reading for ideas on what to look out for when choosing grain-free cat food.
Cat Dietary Needs
Meat is biologically essential to the survival of cats as they are obligate carnivores. A wild cat’s diet consists of at least 50% protein and 30% to 50% fat, with minimal carbohydrate consumption.
Some of the essential nutrients cats need from their diet are taurine, arginine, and retinol – other animals can get these nutrients from plant matter, but cats cannot. While most cats don’t suffer side effects from plants in their food, they have almost no ability to digest vegetation and they will not be able to gain energy or nutrients from anything but meat.
Cats With Special Needs
Some cats have an allergic reaction to grains, where they have skin problems like itching, hair loss and sores as a result of grains in their diet. Other cats have an intolerance to grains, where consuming grains makes for digestive and kidney issues like vomiting, diarrhea and kidney stones. Your veterinarian can help you identify if anything in your cat’s diet is causing distress.
Cats with special needs can benefit from specially formulated cat food like Hill’s Science Diet for cats with sensitive stomachs or skin, which is recommended by veterinarians.
A grain-free diet also has less sugar and carbohydrates, making it an ideal option for diabetic cats as well as cats who need weight management. CRAVE offers a range of high protein grain-free dry cat food that is an affordable alternative to prescription food for diabetic cats.
Benefits of Grain-Free Cat Food
Grain-free cat food does not contain common cat allergens such as rice, wheat and corn gluten meal. This means that the food is easier to digest for cats, but it can also mean that the cost of this food is higher than conventional food because the usual fillers have been removed and replaced with higher quality ingredients.
A grain-free cat food diet can help cats with weight management and prevention of health problems like liver disease, renal disease, diabetes and loss of muscle mass. Your vet will be able to recommend the type of cat food that best suits your kitty’s health needs, so you can build the foundation of your cat’s diet and select from the variety of grain-free cat food available on the market.
While grain-free cat food is not meant to be a cure-all for a cat’s health problems, many cats do better on it. Its macronutrients can be lower in total carbohydrate content, but occasionally they have more carbohydrates than some non grain-free cat foods. That being said, a high protein grain-free cat food is easier to find than a high-protein cat food with grains. Grain-free cat food is still similar to regular pet food in terms of calories and nutrition, which is good as any diet your cat is on must still meet its nutritional needs.
How to Choose Grain-Free Cat Food
Caloric Needs and Special Needs
As with humans, cats have different caloric needs at different stages of their lives. Kittens will need more food rich in calories as they are growing, active little hellions jumping around and playing to explore the world. Meanwhile, senior cats need less calories as they are more sedentary. Outdoor cats need more food than indoor cats as they are often more active, roaming around their territory. Use a calculator to determine the appropriate amount of food to feed your cat.
Your vet will also be able to advise you on how best to feed your cat if they have special needs or health problems. Health issues like hairballs, urinary issues, dry skin, digestive issues and diabetes can be managed using special cat food formulas, or by watching out for ingredients that can aggravate their condition in the food they’re eating.
Grain-free cat food can wind up higher in fat content as manufacturers sometimes substitute extra fat for carbohydrates, instead of extra protein. This extra fat makes the food smell and taste better, but it can also contribute to feline obesity. Hence, it is important to read the nutrition label and ensure that kitty has a balanced diet. As long as the protein content is at least twice the fat content, and the carbohydrate content is as low as possible, your cat should have no problem with a grain-free cat food diet.
Official Regulation for Labelling Terms
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides nutritional standards guidelines that pet food companies must adhere to before they can advertise their products as “complete and balanced”. If the food you are considering has evidence that it is “complete and balanced”, chances are that the food complies with these nutritional guidelines.
The terms “natural” and “organic” are also regulated. According to the AAFCO, pet food or ingredients must be derived exclusively from plant, animal or mined sources to be labeled “natural”. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) states that organic products must be “produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity”, with no use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering allowed.
Type and Texture
Cats need to use their teeth to prevent plaque that becomes tartar build up. If left unchecked, tartar build up can turn into dental health issues like tooth decay and gum disease. Crunchy, dry kibble works like a toothbrush when chewed and eaten, helping your kitty maintain its pearly whites. Purina’s ONE True Instinct dry cat food has a mix of meaty bits and crunchy kibble to add to the feline dining experience.
Dry kibble comes in different shapes and sizes – larger kibble size is more difficult to chew, so your cat eats slower and less because it feels full faster. If your cat has no teeth, weak teeth or any dental health issues, it might be a good idea to feed it with smaller sized kibble, dry kibble with water, or no dry kibble at all.
Wet food is prepared in a few different ways, namely pate, shredded, minced, cubes and flakes. Pate wet food is normally fed to kittens as it is easier to chew and digest, while older cats are usually fed shredded wet food. That being said, it depends on what the individual cat prefers as some older cats may prefer softer food like pate due to dental health issues making it difficult to bite and chew well. A great option for pate form wet food is Purina’s Fancy Feast Classic Pate Collection.
As wet cat food contains about 60% moisture compared to 15% moisture present in dry food, your cat will get most of its water intake through its food. However, while wet cat food has an increased moisture content, the added water sometimes replaces nutritional content. If you are feeding your cat on an exclusively wet food diet, you will need to feed it more than you would if you were feeding it any dry food.
Pate style wet cat food generally contains more protein than chunks in gravy wet cat food, as the gravy functions more as a filler and does not actually contain much in terms of nutritional content.
The ingredients list of your chosen dry cat food should contain at least one good source of protein, taurine, vitamin C, vitamin E and omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. It should also contain fermentable fiber like oatmeal, lentils, psyllium or beet pulp. Ideally, the ingredients list should be short with minimal fillers, additives or preservatives.
There are many kinds of grain-free cat food available to satisfy your feline friend’s taste buds, including duck, chicken, beef, salmon and turkey flavors. A higher meat content will add flavor to the food. You can also feed your cat wet food, dry food or both depending on its preference – some dry food can even be served wet by adding water.
Dry kibble tastes alright, but for some reason, finding a delicious wet cat food is difficult. Manufacturers often add harmful artificial coloring and flavoring agents to wet food to make it more appealing to the palate. When looking at the ingredient list, try to select for natural ingredients and natural preservatives that add to your kitty’s health instead. Try mixing flavors to keep things interesting, like Sheba’s Perfect Portions Cuts in Gravy range.
It’s important to be consistent in the type of food you feed your cat – generally, cats are picky eaters that do not respond well to frequent changes in food type and flavor. Choose the food that suits your budget and your needs, because the best, most expensive grain-free cat food is not always the best for you or your cat.
Budget options like Purina’s Beyond Grain-Free Natural range give you grain-free nutrition without breaking the bank.
Wet cat food is more expensive than dry cat food, especially when you consider that you’ll have to feed your kitty more on an entirely wet cat food diet as compared to the amount you’d need for just dry cat food. Due to the higher cost, wet food is a less popular option than dry food. If you’d like to feed your cat wet food, consider mixing it with dry food or alternating dry and wet food for meals to reduce the cost per serving.
At the heart of it, selecting the right food to feed your cat will set it up for life. As pet parents, we want the best for our cats, and we love to see them thrive. When in doubt, refer to your vet for advice and recommendations on the best feline nutrition for your cat’s health. The products we’ve reviewed have a range of benefits that can work for every need, take joy in picking out the grain-free cat food that will best suit you and your kitty.