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.

When we were approached by Dave’s Pet Food to review some of their foods, I didn’t hesitate to accept. I had already occasionally been feeding some of these diets to Allegra and Ruby. I also met Dave Ratner himself at Global Pet Expo, and was impressed with his passion for pet nutrition.

All of the ingredients in these grain-free diets, with the exception of tuna, are sourced in the USA. The tuna flavors are from Thailand. The food is made at plants in South Dakota, New Jersey, Canada or Thailand.

Dave’s Pet Food has managed to offer these premium diets for less than many other products on the market. How does Dave do it? On his website, he writes “I don’t have sales folks on the road, I don’t do lots of promotions, and I run a very low overhead operation.” That’s how he can keep retail prices reasonable.

But the true test with any food is: will your cats eat it?


Allegra and Ruby didn’t just eat the varieties we were sent, they practically inhaled them. I asked for poultry based flavors only, since I don’t feed any other proteins, and the girls tested the Poultry Dinner Platter, the Gobblecious Gourmet Dinner, and the Chicken and Turkey formulas. They also tested the Dave’s 95%™ Chicken and Turkey varieties.

I can’t really tell you whether the girls had a favorite because they cleaned their plates for all of the varieties. My favorites are the 95% meat formulas, because they are higher in protein than the other formulas.

My only issue with the line is that it does contain carrageenan. Carrageenan is a controversial ingredient in pet food. It’s a common food additive in pet food and human food. It is extracted from seaweed, and used as thickener and binder in canned pet food, as well as in many human foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and soy milk. There have been some concerns about carrageenan possibly being linked to gastro-intestinal inflammation and even cancers in animals. Carrageenan is considered safe by the FDA and by AAFCO, but just because something is approved by a government agency does not necessarily mean it’s safe for you or your cats.

For that reason, much to Allegra and Ruby’s disappointment, I only feed these diets occasionally, but they are a good choice for budget conscious cat guardians who are looking for a quality brand at a low price.

FTC Disclosure: I received this product for review at no charge. I also received a fee for writing this review. Receiving the free product and the fee did not influence my review. All reviews on The Conscious Cat will always reflect my honest and unbiased opinion. Or, as the case may be, Allegra and Ruby’s honest and unbiased opinion.

30 Comments on Review: Dave’s Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

  1. Just bought a case of their chicken formula for kitties and noticed that it says “grain and carrageenan free formula” on the can. I think word finally got out to Dave’s corporate and they had the food reformulated. If I could, I’d post a photo of the can here, but I hope that photos on sites that sell this food, like Chewy, show the current can labels. So, yay, NO MORE CARRAGEENAN in Dave’s canned chicken formula for cats.

    • I actually just picked up a can of Dave’s Turkey Formula for my finicky felines today after reading the label and seeing ‘agar agar’ instead of carracancercrap! I hope my furballs inhale this food as quickly as your girls did.

  2. I have a cat with a very sensitive digestive system. I’ve been trying different cat foods for several years. She was on smdry food initially and finally treated orijens six fish, that too, started the vomitting again. Dave’s cat food has been a godsend. Not only does she have very few hairballs, the vomitting has been reduced to an occasional event. She will only eat the late and turns her nose up on any other kind.i am concerned about the carigeenan, but she likes this food. As an aside we had a cat who lived to be 22 and was only fed Ian’s dry food.

    • Sorry about the misspelling the Android phone always changes my words. It’s supposed to say pate not late and she was on a dry food not smdry.

  3. I only wish (as an internet shopper-homebound) that many sites & brands sold a ‘starter pack’ or smaller cans so that a customer could try the food on their pets before buying 24 cans and having 23 left over. I did buy Dave’s cat food (beef) and the cats were mildly interested but I gave 50% away to a shelter and only give the food to my 3 cats on a rare occasion for variety. Still, I would buy 6 cans or even 12 at least once or twice a year. The ingredient carrageenan, is the 2nd reason I just can’t feed it more often to my 3 young male cats…..not comfortable having it in the food

    • I so totally agree with you, Sue – not just so we can try the foods, but also because I like to feed a variety of flavors. Like you, I’m not comfortable with carrageenan, either.

  4. I’ve tried some of the Dave’s pate line with my two oldest cats, one of whom has had some GI problems. The palatability is unquestionable — and, as far as I can tell, no GI upsets. While it’s more expensive than FF or some of their other favorites, the nutritional content is excellent, and coincidentally, I just bought 6 cans at our local ‘healthy’ pet food center. I’ll be continuing to see how much it can be substituted for other favorite choices.

  5. Ingrid – I’m wondering why you prefer single protein foods. I rotate between the various flavors of Instinct Raw Bites (chicken, duck, beef, lamb, venison), but I always top dress them with either Wysong or Stella & Chewies freeze dried raw meet such as quail, rabbit, turkey, etc. Just wondering if I’m doing something not in my kitties’ best interest. Thanks.

    • The main reason why I prefer single protein foods is that this way, if there’s ever a problem with an allergic reaction to one of the proteins, you know which one is causing the problem.

      • OK. Thanks. I didn’t realize that meat could cause an allergy. Guess I just thought that would be from grains. Or milk or eggs.

        • One of ny cats has a chicken allergy and a sensitive difestive system. It’s been very difficult finding a healthy food for him. Luckily he does drink a lot of water so I have been feeding him Fromm beef dry food but believe that he needs wet food also. I just bought Daves beef pate but now that I’ve been reading these reviews I feel I may not buy it again.

          • I have a cat that is wildly allergic to all poultry, including egg and fat, so it was tough to find him food, and he and his sibling are social eaters, and the sibling is prone to urinary stones, so I had to find a non-poultry wet food that they would both eat and that I knew would be good for both of them. Dave’s has been a miracle. My other alternative was going to be feeding them only tuna, and that is not optimal.

  6. I’ve given my kitty Dave’s before and he loved it and I thought it was very reasonably priced! I haven’t fed him any lately because it is not easy to find in my area. 🙁

  7. Ingrid, did you give a list of all the brands you recommend in the past, and if so where could I find it?
    Also, what do you think of Avoderm, and Friskies?

    • Dave’s answer was “Carrageenan is used by all manufacturers to form certain consistencies of food. To be honest, there is just no substitute for it…yet. The good news is there are many “gravy and chunk” formulations that don’t have it. I have read lots of articles about it and since I am not a researcher or scientist, cannot answer one way or another. I like to think the FDA and AAFCO have our best interests in mind. From a business standpoint, I would love to brag none of our formulas have it, but it just isn’t possible.”

      • I had to slow down read that twice, since I initially misread it as: “I like to think the FDA and AAFCO have our best interests in mind from a business standpoint” and thought he was being remarkably open!

        I talked to Dave at Global Pet Expo, too, and was really impressed by his enthusiasm. I had corresponded with his staff previously because I had wanted to try a few cans of it but didn’t want to blindly order a full case, and they weren’t willing to sell smaller portions. At the time we corresponded, there wasn’t distribution to my area, but apparently that is now changing. I am hoping that this growth means that they’ll have the resources to look into other options than carrageenan. I have been reading reviews for a couple years about their food being better-than-average quality and highly palatable, and palatability a huge plus with some of my fussy eaters. (I’m looking at you, Pierre.)

      • It’s too bad about the carrageenan. I noticed this brand recently in my neighborhood pet food store, read the ingredients, and put it back on the shelf like a hot potato – I’ll never go back to feeding the cats any food with carrageenan.

  8. Ingrid are you able to get the Carb value of the poultry based foods? I like to feed my diabetic male a variety of low carb canned foods, preferably fish free too.

    • I don’t have that information, but it’s pretty easy to calculate approximate carbohydrate contents. Just add all of the listed nutrients and subtract the total from 100% – this will give you a fairly accurate number.

  9. Thanks for the review! I’ll have to check and see if Dave’s is available where I buy and what the price difference is. It would definitely be nice to get a break from the price of NV now and again!

  10. Glad to hear that your kitties Ruby & Allegra really enjoyed their “healthy” food. I’ve tried most of the recommended foods only to have them make my cats very ill, or they just hated them — and at the EXTRA cost of these brands/formulas, it is unacceptable to have them just lick off the gravy & let the remainder [almost the whole can or dry serving portion] go bad & have to be thrown out entirely! What really scared me was the couple of brands that made my cats so sick they had to be taken to my vet for emergency care. If I’d lost any of them from these so-called “better diets”, I’d never forgive myself from using my dear ones as experimental lab rats – er cats. So, because I have so many, & they are all disabled cats with special-needs [every one of them different, of course], when I find what works & keeps them healthy, stable, & comfy, I tend to stick with that until it doesn’t work for one or more of them. The higher-protein assay, for example, would kill my cat that has cysteine crystal disorder because she lacks the enzyme to break down protein into the usable amino acids & components needed, and the proteins build up, causing cysteine crystals in the urine, which in turn leads to bloody urine. In theory, I agree that quality food sources that are appropriate to each species should be a prime consideration. But there are exceptions to every rule, medically, as well as financially. We all do the best we can under the finite resources we have to work with, and the megabucks profit corporations do not seem to want to help or even minimally subsidize those of us on fixed incomes, doing foster/rescue work, and especially those of us who are disabled ourselves. Some day maybe there will be developed a formulation that even our special-needs kitties can tolerate, and is actually affordable to the general public.

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