Last Updated on: February 21, 2023 by Crystal Uys

siamese cat eating food from bowl at home

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that we’re 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 a grain-free canned diet.

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 we have actually fed to our cats. We have broken the foods into three sections to help you further decide which type is best for you and your precious kitty.

We’ve broken down our reviews into three sections: fresh raw cat foods, wet and canned cat foods, and freeze-dried and dehydrated cat foods. Click on the links below to jump directly to the section, or just take your time and peruse our whole review.:

A Glance At Our Top Picks of 2023

Image Product Details
Best Raw Cat Food Smalls Fresh Human-Grade Cat Food Smalls Fresh Human-Grade Cat Food
  • Fresh raw or fresh freeze-dried options
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • Best Canned Cat Food Dr. Elsey's Clean Protein Canned Cat Food Dr. Elsey's Clean Protein Canned Cat Food
  • Chicken is first ingredient
  • High levels of protein
  • 100% grain free
  • Best Dehydrated Cat Food The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Raw Cat Food The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Raw Cat Food
  • Free-range chicken
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • No artificial preservatives, fillers, or GMO ingredients
  • The 2 Best Fresh Raw Cat Foods:

    1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cat Food


    Click to Save 40% on Smalls & Use Code ConsciousCat2023

    We love Smalls raw cat food for our cats for many reasons, but mostly because of their fresh, human-grade ingredients. Cats of all shapes and sizes flock to these pre-packaged meals, and since they are a subscription service, you never have to think about running out of food – it arrives at your door just when you need it. It’s not cheap, but it’s still affordable and the best bang for your buck we think you will find for your precious kitty.

    2. Darwin’s Natural Fresh Cat Food

    darwin's natural cat food

    Click to Get 10 Pounds of Darwin’s For Just $14.95!

    Darwin’s uses high-quality, ethically-sourced ingredients in all of their raw food recipes, which are species-appropriate formulations, and our cats absolutely love all of them! They also have a veterinary recipe that is formulated specifically for cats with kidney disease.

    The 7 Best Wet Cat Foods:

    1. Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein

    dr elsey clean protein chicken

    Check Latest Price

    Dr. Elsey’s cat food includes high protein content with quality ingredients and will help keep your cat’s muscles lean and strong. It is quite expensive per unit, but because of the high-quality ingredients, your cat will stay fuller for longer, meaning you don’t need as much!

    2. Weruva Canned Cat Food

    Weruva canned cat food variety pack

    Check Latest Price

    If you have a gravy-loving kitty, Weruva will be the best choice. With real pieces of meat and little carbohydrates, Weruva recipes are as healthy as they are tasty, and your cat will be snuggling you more, thanking you for this tasty canned meal.

    3. Hound and Gatos Canned Cat Food

    hound and gatos canned chicken cat food

    Check Latest Price

    This canned cat food brand is good for cats of all shapes, sizes, and even ones with health problems like IBS. They have multiple high-quality options, have never been recalled, and by feeding your cat Hound & Gatos, you will keep them healthy and strong.

    4. Tiki Cat Canned Cat Food

    Tiki cat shredded meat grain free

    Check Latest Price

    Tiki Cat canned cat food comes in many different flavors, but every recipe is full of real meaty goodness. Their recipes aid in digestion, have the appropriate moisture contents to keep your kitty regular, and are very high in protein – exactly what a feline needs!

    6. Ziwi Peak Canned Cat Food


    Check Latest Price

    Ziwi Peak provides multiple recipes, all fortified with New Zealand green-lipped mussels for a natural source of chondroitin and glucosamine. Though it is expensive, cats love the taste, and the health benefits are huge too. High-quality ingredients help to keep the vet away and your feline feeling fine.

    7. Nature’s Logic Canned Cat Food

    nature's logic canned cat food

    Check Latest Price

    Nature’s Logic provides canned cat food in a variety of flavors, but they are all made with whole foods, with real meat as the first ingredient. The recipes contain over 90% animal protein and seeks to provide nutrition for cats that closely resembles a cat’s ancestral diet.

    The 4 Best Dehydrated & Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Foods

    1. The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Cat Food Chicken Recipe

    the honest kitchen dehydrated cat food chicken recipe

    Check Latest Price

    Honest Kitchen uses free-range, human-grade meat ingredients in its completely balanced recipes. Your kitty will not be disappointed if you bring home this incredible meal. You have the option of subscribing, or you may just want to buy the packs one at a time, but the subscription means never having to worry about running out of cat food again!

    2. Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

    Vital cat freeze dried raw cat food

    Check Latest Price

    Vital Cat provides a freeze-dried raw patty food for cats in many different flavors, and are a great affordable option if fresh-raw is too expensive. If you find your cat just staring at it or sniffing it, we recommend cutting it in half or in quarters, because they will love the limited-ingredient recipes.

    3. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

    stella & chewy's freeze dried rabbit cat food

    Check Latest Price

    Stella & Chewy’s is another favorite for our cats – their recipes come with different proteins, packed full of high-quality ingredients, and are made up of 98% raw meat and bones—based off of your cat’s ancestral diet.

    4. Primal Pet Foods Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food Nuggets

    Primal freeze dried raw cat food nuggets

    Check Latest Price

    There are many recipe options with Primal, all with high-quality, high-protein ingredients, so your cat will stay interested in their meals. Most cats love the taste, but it is important to note that the nuggets do need rehydrating, and the consistency may not be loved by all cats.

    Buying Guide: Choosing the Best Cat Food

    Never feed dry food to your cat

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

    Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats.  It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically. They need few or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Dry food is the leading cause of most urinary tract problems, and it is responsible for the obesity problem among cats. Dry food has also been implicated as one of the contributing factors to diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions. 1 in 50 cats may be affected, with overweight cats being at increased risk.

    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

    You can find many of the articles I’ve written about this topic in the Feline Nutrition section right here on this site.

    What we 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 when possible

    A word about fish: most cats love fish-based foods. I recommend using them sparingly or avoiding them altogether. The primary fish used in cat food are salmon, tilefish (usually identifed as ocean whitefish on the label) and tuna. Each of them presents health issues, because fish can contain toxic doses of common water pollutants, heavy metals, and other contaminants.

    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). Mercury is considered one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern by the World Health Organization.

    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.

    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

    Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

    About the author