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: June 2018. 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.

Ziwi

Merrick

Raw diets

Darwin’s Natural Pet Food

Balanced Blends Raw Pet Food

Vital Essentials

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.

Gently cooked diets

NomNomNow

Smalls

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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1,187 Comments on The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

  1. Emily
    August 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm (1 day ago)

    Hi there!

    I’m not sure if you — or anyone else, really — will read this comment, but I’ll try anyway as a desperate first-time cat owner.

    I adopted my cat, Diamond, from a local shelter at the end of June. In pretty much every way she is healthy, and at her checkup in July, the vet was super impressed with her health.

    However, being a girl in her 20’s who’s never owned a cat before, I simply followed the diet they had been giving her at the shelter. They would free-feed the cats kibble but give them two wet food meals a day. So…that’s what I did. Diamond was a bit picky about the wet food but she loves dry food to the point that she will eat no matter WHAT I put down in front of her. This is where the problem lies: last night, before bed, I tried to simply just “put away” her kibble, and she went nuts. Like, whining and climbing on me and purring in my ears kind of nuts.

    A lot of the websites on transitioning cats from a dry to wet diet only account for cats eating dry kibble on a free-feed schedule, but Diamond and I are a bit different. I’ve done a lot of research on how to wean her off of the kibble, but again, none of them are really relevant for us.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I’m just not sure what to do anymore! Any guidance you could provide, or resources you could point me toward, would be incredibly appreciated.

    Thank you so much, and thank you for all you do for the kitties with your site!

    Reply
  2. Helen Burley
    August 9, 2018 at 10:19 am (6 days ago)

    Hi, I’ve just started feeding Weruva. they do like the fish products. Are the fish products also the same human grade food as the chicken? I understand that fish should be limited but they get tired of the Fowl Ball and the Double Dip. Unfortunately one of my cats is food sensitive to the Lamb so I’m limited. Also I was going to try them on the GO cat food but all of their food contains salmon even if the name of the food is chicken.

    Thanks,

    Helen

    Reply
  3. simone
    July 26, 2018 at 3:02 am (3 weeks ago)

    Thank you for the helpful article. My problem is none of the commercial brands listed seem to have KITTEN food. What would you recommend for a kitten? thank you.

    Reply

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