The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

cat with food bowl

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 (listed in no particular order):

Grain-free canned diets:

Weruva. Read my full review of this brand here.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned. Please be aware that the rabbit in Nature’s Variety’s canned and raw forumulas is sourced from China and Italy. Nature’s Variety employs a US trained food scientist to oversee rabbit sourcing. May 2014 update: I believe Nature’s Variety now sources their rabbit from France, but I have not been able to get confirmation when products on the shelves will only contain rabbit sourced from there, rather than from China.

Nature’s Logic Canned

Hound and Gatos

Tiki Cat. I only recommend the poultry-based flavors.

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

Addiction

Wild Calling

Raw diets:

Primal Pet Foods I like these diets, but I have found that the formulas seem to vary a bit from batch to batch. If you have a finicky eater, this may become a problem.

Rad Cat

Feline’s Pride

Stella and Chewy’s

Dehydrated Raw Diets

The Honest Kitchen. The Honest Kitchen offers free samples (shipping not included.)

Stella and Chewy’s

Gently Cooked Diets

Freshpet

Resources:

How to wean your cat off dry food

How to get finicky cats to eat

How to read a pet food label

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

Feline Nutrition (solid and well-researched information on raw feeding)

Cooking for your cat: how to make a balanced homemade diet

Kidney failure and diet in cats

SE-banner-formulas-for-cats-Allegra 25 off free shipping

Photo: istockphoto

258 Comments on The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

  1. Allie
    March 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm (7 days ago)

    Hi Ingrid,

    I was wondering what novel food diets you would recommend for a cat? My cat has had a yeast infection in both ears that hasn’t gone away yet even with 2 rounds of treatment. The dermatologist specialist we saw this morning prescribed her a different medication so we will see how that goes. Fingers crossed. However, I know when we go back though for the re-checkup- if everything is not cleared up… they are going to want to put her on a novel prescription food diet to look for food allergies. I really do NOT want to put her on any of that prescription stuff because it is garbage! It is already giving me anxiety just thinking about the possibility of having to do that in the near future if her ears don’t get better. I want to keep her on high quality grain free food.

    What novel diets would you recommend? I know there is the brand Mauri – which has rabbit and kangaroo, that the local pet store of mine just started carrying. I am sure this brand is much more healthy than the prescription diets!

    Thanks! Any feedback would be appreciated. If I can avoid feeding her prescription diets I will!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm (7 days ago)

      Good for you for wanting to avoid “prescription” diets, Allie. Some of the brands I recommend have single protein diets. A line I really like is Nature’s Variety’s Limited Ingredient line. I believe it comes in venison, duck and turkey. I’ve heard good things about Mauri but have not taken a closer look at it. Merrick is coming out with a limited ingredient line that also looks promising.

      Reply
      • Allie
        March 21, 2015 at 9:55 am (6 days ago)

        Thank you! That is very reassuring. Hopefully Merricks limited ingredient line won’t have carrageenan in it.
        I appreciate all of your help! Thanks again.

        Reply

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