The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

cat with food bowl

Editor’s Note: Even tough this article was first written in 2012, I periodically update the information to keep it current. Most recent update: July 2017. I try to answer as many general questions in the comments as I can. I cannot always verify the veracity or accuracy of information or recommendations provided by readers in comments.  If you would like me to evaluate a brand or product not mentioned on the list in this post, or if you would like individualized advice for your cat, please schedule a consultation. This post contains some affiliate links*.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m passionate about species-appropriate nutrition for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, and they need meat not only to survive, but to thrive. The optimal diet for a cat is a properly formulated raw, home-cooked or grain-free canned diet.

Never feed dry food

Cats shouldn’t eat dry food; even the grain-free dry varieties are too high in carbohydrates.

And contrary to the myth that just won’t die, dry food does not clean your cat’s teeth. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

Articles about feline nutrition, and one-on-one consultations

You can find many of the articles I’ve written about this topic in the Feline Nutrition section right here on this site. I also provide one-on-one consultations if you need help with transitioning your cat to a healthier diet.

What I look for in a food

  • Protein is listed as the first ingredient on the label, and the meat/poultry used is fit for human consumption. If the meat is organic, that’s even better.
  • The food is grain-free (no rice, barley, or any other grains. Even though these are considered healthy in human nutrition, cats’ digestive tracts are not designed to digest the unnecessary carbs).
  • The food does not contain by-products, corn, soy, or any other fillers.
  • Ideally, I’d like to see no carrageenan in the food. Some of the brands on the list below have carrageenan in some of their flavors, so check labels carefully.
  • Ideally, I’d like a food to be GMO-free. Some of the brands on the list below may contain GMO’s.

Avoid fish-based foods

A word about fish: most cats love fish-based foods. I recommend using them sparingly or avoiding them altogether. Sadly, much of the fish that goes into pet food is contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. (On a side note, that is also true for fish sold for human consumption.) Fish used in pet food manufacturing often contains whole fish, guts and bones, which can increase phosphorus levels of the food. This can be a problem for cats with kidney disease. Some cats are sensitive to fish-based diets and develop urinary tract problems that resolve when fish is removed from their diet. Additionally, fish based foods may contain menadione, a synthetic form of vitamin K, which has been banned by the FDA for use in human supplements.

My recommendations

I am often asked what brands I recommend. Unfortunately, there are many diets on the market that sound good based on what the pretty packaging says, but when you take a closer look at the label, you realize that there’s not much substance behind the marketing claims. The brands listed below are foods that I either currently feed to Allegra and Ruby, or have fed to them in the past. This list is not meant to be exclusive, and it does not mean that there aren’t other really good diets out there. It just means that these brands are the ones I’m comfortable with after doing thorough research.

I recommend the following foods (listed in no particular order). If you would like me to evaluate a brand not on this list, I would be happy to do so – please contact me for fees for this service.)

Grain-free canned diets

Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein™

Weruva Read my full review of this brand here. Wervua is available from Amazon at very competitive prices with free shipping for Prime members.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned Some Nature’s Variety Instinct formulas are available from Amazon at very competitive prices with free shipping for Prime members.

Bravo Canned

Nature’s Logic Canned

Hound and Gatos Some varieties of Hound and Gatos are available from Amazon at very competitive prices

Tiki Cat. I only recommend the poultry-based flavors. Tiki Cat is available from Amazon at very competitive prices with free shipping for Prime members.

Soulistic. This brand is exclusively sold by Petco (and also available from Amazon), but is produced under the same processing standards as Weruva.

Addiction I only recommend the carrageenan free formulas. They are a bit higher in carbs than I like to see, but I still consider it a good brand.

Wild Calling

Ziwi

Merrick

Raw diets

Darwin’s Natural Pet Food

Balanced Blends Raw Pet Food

Rad Cat

My Pet’s Pride

Stella and Chewy’s

Nature’s Variety

Raw Paws Pet Food

Primal Pet Foods

Dehydrated raw diets

The Honest Kitchen

Stella and Chewy’s

Primal Pet Foods Primal Pet Foods dehydrated formulas are available from Amazon at very competitive prices with free shipping for Prime members.

Additional Reading

How much should I feed my cat?

How to wean your cat off dry food

How to get finicky cats to eat

How to read a pet food label

Homemade food for your cat: healthy, simple and economical

The right diet for cats with kidney disease

Feeding your cat: know the basics of feline nutrition by Dr. Lisa Pierson

Feline Nutrition

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

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1,031 Comments on The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

  1. Andrea
    August 6, 2017 at 12:30 am (2 weeks ago)

    Really struggling to find out how much to feed our cats. I know there is supposed to be some formula, but we feed our cats a variety, so that makes it a lot harder. Just really at a loss on how to figure it out. Any help would be appreciated. Our cats weigh 7 pounds, 10 pounds, and 12 pounds. The 7 pound cat is an older female who is most indoors, and not very active. She does go outside some, but usually just for about 5 min at a time to sit and look at stuff. The 10 pound cat is a young, very active female who is outdoors for most of the day. The 12 pound male is also young and very active, spending most of the day outside as well.

    Reply
    • Andrea
      August 6, 2017 at 12:35 am (2 weeks ago)

      Forgot to mention the foods that we feed. They are Weruva (Paw Licking Chicken, Nine Liver, and Funky Chunky), Instinct Limited Ingredient (Duck and Turkey), Wellness Core Pate (the one with chicken, turkey, and liver) and recently trying some Darwins Raw, although they don’t seem to like it too much so far.

      Reply
      • Marilyn
        August 6, 2017 at 9:24 am (2 weeks ago)

        I think you should try Big Bear raw food. My cats lick their plates clean

        Reply
          • Marilyn
            August 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm (2 weeks ago)

            Big Bear also has raw beef and has recently added raw lamb to their Hoo Raw meals. My cats love all the flavors. They are both 8 1/2 years old and I weigh them once a week. If they gain a little I simply give them a little less food. If they lose a little I give them a little more. So far that has worked perfectly to keep them at the right weight.

        • Andrea
          August 6, 2017 at 10:18 am (2 weeks ago)

          Thanks, but I’m happy with the brands we are feeding. I only want to know how much to feed.

          Reply
      • Andrea
        August 6, 2017 at 10:19 am (2 weeks ago)

        I looked at that, but it didn’t help me. That’s why I would like a little more detailed help.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          August 6, 2017 at 10:48 am (2 weeks ago)

          Unfortunately, you’ll have to calculate amounts for each food, since calorie counts vary widely from one brand to another. I’d be happy to schedule a consultation if you need more help.

          Reply
  2. Mililani Phillips
    August 4, 2017 at 12:20 pm (2 weeks ago)

    My 19 year old girl was just diagnosed with beginning stages of kidney failure. We do not want to go the prescription route due to finances and the vet recommended that we move her to wet food plus subcutaneous injections to help flush her kidneys. The wet list provided above is what you would recommend?

    Reply
  3. Laurel Williams
    August 3, 2017 at 7:56 pm (2 weeks ago)

    I am switching my 4 cats to your recommended wet foods due to my 13 yr oldest developing the vomiting issues. I purchased Soulistic first which they all love. While at Petco I saw Merrick which is on your list. I read the label and it contains carceenagen, which you cautivo against. Could you address this as it relates to the Merrick brand?
    I found your site while researching recommended foods for cat vomiting. I have found the information very enlightening as it never crossed my radar in all my years of having cats that their standard foods were filled with carbohydrates or that dry food was bad. In just 3 weeks of diet change, I notice a difference. No vomiting and my 13 yr old has regained weight and spark.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 1, 2017 at 5:11 am (2 weeks ago)

      I’d be happy to evaluate this for you, Amanda, but there’s a small fee for this service. Please contact me via email if you’d like me to proceed.

      Reply
  4. Amy
    July 28, 2017 at 7:30 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Soo… about honest kitchen. I really and not comfortable with their percentages. At least in the powder. Am I missing something here?

    “A box of Prowl lists a moisture content of 5.2% maximum and minimum crude protein of 35%.

    Protein, 35% min
    Fat, 29.5% min
    Fiber, 2.38% max
    Moisture, 5.2% max
    100-5.2% = 94.8% dry matter”

    Also, I don’t know how much starch is in there, but they do add potatoes.
    http://www.thehonestkitchen.com/prowl

    Reply
    • Amy
      July 28, 2017 at 7:31 pm (3 weeks ago)

      Look at how much fat is in there! Almost as much as the protein!

      Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 29, 2017 at 5:17 am (3 weeks ago)

      Look at the Dry Matter analysis, Amy – it’s a better comparison to other foods.

      Reply
      • Amy
        August 8, 2017 at 6:09 pm (1 week ago)

        Is that not already a dry analysis at 5% moisture? I’m confused.

        Reply
      • Amy
        August 8, 2017 at 6:17 pm (1 week ago)

        I think I see what you’re talking about, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s REALLY high in fat compared to pretty much all canned food I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard that many low carb formulations just substitute fat, and it doesn’t help really.

        Reply
        • Quinn
          August 9, 2017 at 8:17 pm (1 week ago)

          If you’re doing low carb – then with the high protein, you want high fat. This is correct.

          Reply
  5. Bonnie
    July 27, 2017 at 11:27 am (3 weeks ago)

    Sorry for the type is on my comment. I am using a new Smart phone and moves very fast.

    Reply
  6. Lisa
    July 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Auto fill typo- my bad:

    * And I’m vegetarian, buying the affordable frozen veg’s & local, in season produce… (not “vet’s”!). Apologies for any other missed typos

    Reply
  7. Lisa
    July 26, 2017 at 6:10 pm (3 weeks ago)

    Thx for the kitty luvin’ – And especially for doing all the research for us!

    Re: “Wervua is available from Amazon at very competitive prices with free shipping for Prime members” – I am a Prime member (dig it!), I checked, the cost to feed my 2 cats this s “competitively priced” food, costs more than my own grocery bill- And I’m vegetarian, buying the affordable frozen vet’s & local, in season produce, with beans lentils tofu etc (typical veg diet on the cheap).

    There is simply no way I could afford these canned food prices. I spend a lot already on grain free, most highly rated cat foods. I feel ya’, but I simply cannot financially swing it, other than 1 can (4 oz) of ultra low sodium tuna treat (once a month), $1.50 @ Wal-Mart- which they love love love! And, btw- Yes, I’ve known for decades about avoiding fish diet- I feed them a ratio of 5 bags of non-fish flavor, to 1 salmon flavor (their favorite!). They are older now, so like I said, I definitely feel ya’- May I simply add water to their dry food, to create a mush? I understand you seem this sub-optimal. My alternative is to continue feeding dry, life-long.

    PS: Btw- I’m Masters educated professional, homeowner, taxed to the poorhouse. We poor ppl love our cats too!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 27, 2017 at 9:58 am (3 weeks ago)

      I completely understand about budget constraints, Lisa. Adding water to dry food is not a good idea – dry food is not designed to get wet, and you’re risking the formation of mold. If you absolutely must feed dry, look for a premium food high in protein and as low in carbs as a dry food can possibly be. Encourage your cats to drink by providing a fountain. Ideally, buy the best canned food you can afford, or perhaps, consider making your own food, which can be very economical.

      Reply
      • Bonnie
        July 27, 2017 at 11:18 am (3 weeks ago)

        For the lady that has to watch finances for cat food. I have bought Evangers canned dog & cat food. They have no chemicals or anything else that can harm your pet. The cans contain only meat & water for processing. All 4 of my cats like the food. I used to feed my cats the brand “Kitty Queen.” It contained nothing but meat period (kidney). My cat loved it. I feel this is much healthier for my cats. I had one beautiful Russian Blue cat die from Lymphoma and from what I have read cat food does cause cancer in cats from some of the ingredients put into the food. If the blade that is watching finances, instead of Chewy, she can try ordering from “Jet” where you can just buy what you want and don’t have to buy a whole case. I know Evangers has had some trouble in the past, but I am sure lthey have resolved their problem and I like the food I ordered and sol do my cats. Jetk sells 5 oz and 13oz c0at food. The 13 oz is $5 but lasts awhile and just keep in a container in the fridge. I heat the portions for 6 to 8 seconds in the microwave before serving

        Reply
    • Quinn
      August 9, 2017 at 8:22 pm (1 week ago)

      May I suggest Orijens brand cat foods? I get it from a delivery service called chewy.com. Its high protein w/out all the junk fillers. Please check out the nutritional info on chewy (amazon also sells it). I will say that Acana is also a good brand. What you will find is w/ the high protein/fat, they eat less. So the bag of Orijens or Acana will last far longer than you’re used to. It ends up costing less.

      After reading this site, I’m actually going to transition my cat off dry food altogether but that is what they were getting before.

      Reply
      • Ingrid
        August 10, 2017 at 5:41 am (1 week ago)

        I’m glad you’re transitioning your cat off dry food, Quinn. I do not recommend Orijen or Acana, both are too low in protein for an obligate carnivore. They contain 35-40% protein. For comparison, Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein contains 59% of protein (it’s the highest protein dry food on the market right now.)

        Reply
  8. Andrea
    July 26, 2017 at 2:15 pm (3 weeks ago)

    I’ve been nervous to switch my cats over to raw foods, just because of the learning curve involved, but I’ve finally decided to give it a go. One thing that concerns me a little bit is that one of my cats has a sensitive stomach. She pukes very easily. Will the raw food be ok for her? Also, out of the raw brands that you list, is there any one in particular that you prefer? And is the fish oil in any of them a concern if I am feeding them the food daily, the same way it is with canned foods? Would it be better to find one without fish? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 27, 2017 at 10:00 am (3 weeks ago)

      You may find that your kitty with the sensitive stomach will no longer vomit, Andrea. All the raw brands listed are good brands. I currently feed Darwin’s and Balanced Blends. I don’t think fish oil is a concern unless you’re dealing with an allergy.

      Reply
      • Andrea
        July 27, 2017 at 7:00 pm (3 weeks ago)

        Good, that is the one I wanted to go with. Thank you!

        Reply
  9. Linda
    July 26, 2017 at 1:11 am (3 weeks ago)

    Hi Ingrid, I don’t see the brand I feed my kitties on your list which makes me a bit nervous…I thought I had done my homework. What are your thoughts on Wellness canned food such as Core? Thanks, Linda

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 26, 2017 at 5:17 am (3 weeks ago)

      I’ll be happy to evaluate Wellness for you, Linda – please send me an email.

      Reply
      • Debbie
        August 11, 2017 at 7:10 pm (6 days ago)

        I’m interest in the evaluation of Wellness also. All research I did resulted in Wellness being one of the best.

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          August 12, 2017 at 5:06 am (6 days ago)

          I’d be happy to evaluate for a small fee. Please contact me via email if you’d like me to do this for you.

          Reply
    • Angie
      July 27, 2017 at 9:31 pm (3 weeks ago)

      I feed my cat Wellness complete health chicken pate- Chicken, Chicken Liver, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Cranberries, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Taurine, Salt, Choline Chloride, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid.

      Reply
  10. Norm
    July 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm (4 weeks ago)

    I just had a question about Instinct Raw Freeze Dried Nuggets. Had anyone used them before or does anyone know if this is a good food /brand? Thanks

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 22, 2017 at 5:29 am (4 weeks ago)

      Nature’s Variety Instinct is on this list of recommended brands, Norm.

      Reply

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