Edited – February 2017 to reflect the constantly changing pet food industry.
As a pet owner heavily invested in cat nutrition and cat health, I’m often asked what cat foods I would recommend, or what foods I feed my own cats. While I feed mostly raw, and I am a huge advocate for raw feeding, I do utilize some canned and freeze dried foods as a snack. Below are the top 10 commercial cat foods that I recommend. This list is based on foods that are biologically appropriate for obligate carnivores, contain high amounts of meat protein, and minimize the use of veggies/and or fillers. Remember that all commercial foods required some level of compromise, so none of these foods are perfect. I’ve used or currently use all of the foods listed below with my own cats. You’ll notice that this list does not contain any kibble, and that’s because kibble is inappropriate for cats.
I’d love to hear your feedback on these foods. Do you feed any of them? Have any questions or concerns? Comment and let me know what you think.
- The good – This is a decent food that doesn’t contain any veggies or by-products. It’s a nice soft juicy pate texture that’s well loved by most cats. I’ve used this one and off with my cats and the like it. I wouldn’t feed it exclusively based on the info mentioned below, but it’s a fine food in rotation.
- The bad – Merrick was bought out by Purina in 2015 and as of early 2016 there has been a clear decline in the quality of Merrick LID as well as the addition of both pea protein and alfalfa meal as fillers.
9. Stella and Chewy (freeze dried) –
- The good – Freeze dried raw food that’s easy to feed with the addition of water to rehydrated. It’s high protein and contains minimal veggies. I mix a small amount of S&C with Instinct’s Raw Market for my oldest cat. I think it’s fine in small quantities, but not fed exclusively.
- The bad – S&C’s food is significantly higher in bone than most other freeze dried foods. It’s questionable whether or not it’s safe to feed this food exclusively, especially to older cats with compromised kidney function. They also recently reformulated their products to contain pea fiber, and use synthetic vitamin K in all their products.
8. TikiCat (canned)–
- The good – High quality high meat protein canned foods with low carbs and no veggies. They use human grade meat, and are free of corn, soy, wheat, and artificial colors and preservatives.
- The bad – Several verities of their foods contain at least some fish. They manufacture in Thailand, however Thailand has fairly strict production standards. As a word of caution – TC was bought by another company and is undergoing formulary changes.
- The good – High quality high meat protein canned foods with no veggies. Free of grains, GMOs, MSG, starches, and carrageenan. I feed a lot of Weruva as a snack and my cats really enjoy it.
- The bad – Several varieties contain some fish, although Weruva is committed to not using “trash fish.” Like Tikicat, Weruva is also manufactured in Thailand, however Weruva has detailed information on their website stating that they have very high standards for production and only use human grade meats in a human grade facility. Most of their foods contain several thickeners such a guar gum, locust bean gum, and xanthan gum. These thickeners can be irritating to some cats.
6. Primal (freeze dried)–
- The good – High protein freeze dried raw foods made with human grade ingredients. They use antibiotic free and steroid free meats, poultry and game, and certified organic produce. They have both frozen and freeze dried raw, and maintain that their bone content is 10%, which is a good number for most cats. I use some freeze dried Primal for my cats. Turkey is the best of their formulas.
- The bad – Primal contains a lot of different veggies, although carbs are still at an acceptable level.
- The good – This product is a fairly new complete freeze dried food from Nature’s Variety and is fairly similar to Primal. It contains less overall veggies than Primal and is lower in carbs. The nuggets are soft, not super boney, and rehydrate well. One of my cats prefers this over Primal or any other freeze dried food.
- The bad – More veggies than I’d prefer. Only one flavor available right now, chicken.
4. Fresh is Best (freeze dried) –
- The good – Small independently owned company that produces high quality raw and freeze dried food and treats. They are very responsive to questions and concerns via email, and their products are fresh and minimally processed. They use human grade bone meal in their freeze dried foods rather than bone, which makes their freeze dried foods lower in phos and more suitable for cats with compromised kidney function. My cats are absolutely nuts for their freeze dried treats. In my opinion their freeze dried treats are far superior to any other company.
- The bad – Fresh is Best is only available at independent retail stores or online via their website, and shipping is a little pricey. Their freeze dried foods do contain some veggies, but the carbs are low.
3. Ziwipeak (canned and air dried)
- The good – Excellent quality high protein canned food that starts with fresh raw meat and doesn’t contain any veggies or fillers. Ingredients are sourced from New Zealand, where the product is manufactured. They also offer an “air dried” dry food that is a great alternative to kibble if you have a kibble lover in your house. Although it is dried, it contains more moisture than any kibble and my crew love it as a snack.
- The bad – Ziwipeak’s canned foods contain Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate, which is a controversial ingredient used as a flavor enhancer. Their air dried foods also sometimes contain “fat bloom,” which can make the food look slightly discolored with a white film. ZP has assured me that it’s a natural and harmless process, and they’re working on a solution to it. ZP is also rather pricey.
2. Feline Natural (canned food)–
- The good – Minimal ingredients, no starchy fillers or binders, meats sourced in New Zealand where the product is manufactured.
- The bad – Expensive, and both the chicken/venison and chicken/lamb are fairly low in calories (110 per 60z can for the chicken/venison), so if you’re feeding this food exclusively you’ll need to feed a lot more of it.
- The good – Rad Cat by far the highest quality commercial cat food you can buy. It’s the only true raw food on my list, and it’s significantly better than anything else on the market. It’s grain and veggie free, containing only antibiotic hormone free certified organic, free-range or pasture-raised meats and the appropriate vitamins and minerals. They use eggshell calcium rather than bone, making it appropriate for cats with kidney disease. Rad Cat is an absolutely favorite in my house. 8 of my 9 raw fed cats love it and I feed it daily in combination with raw I make.
- The bad – The poultry varieties of Rad Cat contain some HPP meats, and in June of 2016 Rad Cat had a voluntary recall on some of its products. However, no pets became ill from these foods and Rad Cat did its own independent testing which did not show any meats were infected. It’s important to note that the FDA does not approve of raw pet foods and frequently targets smaller raw pet food companies. Rad Cat release several statements about the recall that you can read. They continue to be a very responsive and thorough company that maintains strict processing standards.
As a disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian nor do I have any formal animal medical training. This list is my opinion based on my own thorough research and knowledge of the biological nutritional needs of cats. I am active in the cat rescue community as well as in numerous groups where I share and interact with other cat nutritional experts. I am not affiliated with any of the above mentioned companies.