How to Choose the Best Food for Your Cat



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I am a writer with a great interest in German Shepherds, cats, and animals in general. I hope you enjoy my articles.

Cats Can Be Picky Eaters

Our current cat is a difficult eater. She rarely eats wet food, and if she does, she never finishes. For dry food, we had to try enough types to make sure she was well-fed. Due to the varying needs and conditions of each cat, there is no singular preeminent cat food. Many people seem to agree that wet cat food is better than dry food, especially regarding urinary problems. Each individual cat is special, and a broad selection of available brands provides a much better chance of finding the exact food that your beloved pet needs.

Cat Food and Catchy Advertisements

You remember the commercials. A fancy, white cat, groomed to perfection, lying about like royalty in a well-kept home. The owner fills a glass dish with food, the cat enjoys the meal, and the narrator ends with, “Good taste is easy to recognize.”

The manufacturer was so adamant about portraying an image of elegance that they employed Lauren Bacall herself to narrate the commercials. The result was an overwhelming success that produced a massive uptick in sales and conversions. The brilliant ad convinced legions of pet owners that Fancy Feast was the best brand for their pet too.

It’s easy to fall victim to catchy advertisements. They are designed to make sure you do. Yet, when it comes to the best brand for your friend, should you leave it up to convincing ads to tell you what’s best?

How can we educate ourselves on the best cat foods for our pets? You will find that many of the advertisements are misleading, and that the majority of department and grocery outlets are filled with junk that can harm your cat and unnecessarily shorten its life. So, what do you do?

Top-Rated Healthy Cat Food Brands

Top-Rated Dry Food:

  • Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Formula
  • ZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Air-Dried Lamb Cuisine
  • Evanger’s Grain-Free Meat Lover’s Medley with Rabbit
  • Holistic Select Adult Health Duck Meal Recipe

Top-Rated Wet Food:

  • Tiki Cat Ahi Tuna and Chicken
  • Stella and Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Freeze-Dried Dinner

The Bad in Cat Food

First, it’s easier to remember what you don’t want in your cat food. Certain ingredients are either high-glycemic (spikes your cat’s sugar levels), filled with gluten or chemicals that induce countless consequences. The statistics on cat diabetes alone should be enough to scare owners into buying proper food for their cats. The fillers below undoubtedly contribute to the decline in health and the eventual early demise of your cat. Once you consign them to memory, shopping for the right brand of food will already be much easier.

Cat Food Ingredients to Avoid

Corn

Rice

Tapioca

Potatoes

Soy

Artificial Sweeteners

Rye

Wheat

Artificial Chemicals

The Good in Cat Food

Just like their canine counterparts, cats thrive on meat and proteins. You’ll find that many excellent alternatives exist that contain meat as the primary ingredient. The word "meal,” in the ingredients list, connotes dry meat that has been weighed after the water has been removed. Meat meal is terrific because it stimulates satiation and provides a superb source of protein.

Some meat meal ingredients include:

  • Pollock meal
  • Herring meal
  • Chicken meal
  • Turkey meal
  • Whitefish meal
  • Duck meal

Meat meal, although very beneficial, is still second best to crude meats that are easily digested and provide the highest benefit to your cat. They are very appetizing and grant the energy and primary nutrients your cat deserves.

You’ll find crude meats under terms such as:

  • Deboned turkey
  • Venison
  • Deboned haddock
  • Deboned chicken
  • Lamb
  • Boneless herring
  • Salmon
  • Chicken fat

These ingredients are always at the top of the list in reviews. If your brand has any of these meats as the first ingredient along with a proper balance of secondary items, you have chosen well.

Finding the Best Combination of Ingredients

Your cat’s body demands an array of important elements for optimal survival. The best food will always carry ingredients that accommodate those needs. Proteins, water, minerals, vitamins, and fats all toil together to make a complete meal for your cat.

What becomes difficult is discerning which brand contains all of these ingredients. Should you rely on ratings? Can you trust the words of pet store clerks? Even online reviews can be skewed in favor of one item over the other. You’ll find that in the end, it all distills down to which of the top tier brands is right for your pet.

Before discussing the best brands, it should be noted that the average cat thrives on a mixture of dry food AND wet food. The moderation of both will not only provide diversity, but give your cat more water and increase hydration. Wet food comes in an array of flavors and is often more palatable to finicky cats. Of all the choices, canned food has the longest shelf life.

Dry vs. Wet Cat Food

Top-Rated Dry Cat Food

The best offerings with the highest ratings are often called “Super Premium Cat Foods.” These products excel in their ability to supply the utmost quality ingredients for your pet, and are often no more expensive than many retail premium brands. For some, accessibility may be an issue, but if you maintain reserves, online ordering is a cinch, and there are many reputable outlets to consider.

Of the plethora of dry food reviews and ratings, the following have been found to represent the peak grade available. Our research has gone beyond just review boards and delved into professional opinion, veterinarian observations, and firsthand accounts. The brands listed here are in no specific order.

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Formula

With ingredients like fresh trout, ocean fish meal, and sweet potatoes, Taste of the Wild’s formula is a healthy grain-free, dry food high in valuable proteins and fats.

You’ll find that it also contains fruits and vegetables that are said to support your cat’s immune system and boost their overall health. This is a perfect choice for all cat ages.

The only caveat we could find with Taste of the Wild was their lack of product diversity. Given that many cats are picky eaters, their deficiency of choices could force some prospective purchasers to consider another brand.

ZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Air-Dried Lamb Cuisine

This grain-free brand provides over 56% lamb meat and 34% organs. Such ingredients make a powerful formula for growing cats, those with allergies, and even ones with renal issues and digestion difficulties.

ZiwiPeak’s product is an outstanding selection for the discerning pet owner. They even offer portion guides because of their claim that one portion of ZiwiPeak air-dried cat food is equivalent to three whole portions of raw meat.

ZiwiPeak also has three different options for the finicky cats out there. Other than their relative obscurity in the United States, they are an excellent food to consider. If you don’t live in a major metropolitan area though, you might be forced to order it online.

Evanger’s Grain-Free Meat Lover’s Medley

A unique product, Evanger’s supplies a vivid example of healthy eating and is made in the United States. They are the only premium brand to use rabbit, beef, and pork together. Their claim is that the product, also infused with fruits and vegetables, instills optimal pet health for all life stages. This removes the need to change the food as the cat ages, keeping things simple as long as the cat prefers it. The probiotics in Evanger’s are a welcome addition and contribute to a healthy digestive tract while supporting your cat’s immune system.

While we are impressed with the research and reviews, our limited concerns with this brand are still to be noted. The meats, while impressive, are relegated to a position behind peas and beef meal. Even though the product is still outstanding, this is still something to be considered. Also, like Taste of the Wild, a finicky cat won’t find many options here.

Holistic Select Adult Health Duck Meal Recipe

We really liked Holistic Select’s focus on digestive health. Their natural preservation methods and careful approach to manufacturing are also nice to see. They claim that their food assists in the proper absorption of the necessary nutrients your cat needs.

Holistic Select supplies a healthy dose of fiber and enzymes as well, promoting a healthy intestinal tract. We also like the distinction of choice in their foods. Your cat can try chicken, duck, herring, or even sardines.

Our only real concern with this brand was the addition of brown rice in a couple of their selections. Some reviewers also felt the same even though there is no real substantiated problem with the addition; it’s still debatable.

Overall, any of the above choices would furnish your cat with optimum nutrition. It seems that the only prevalent concern with our top picks was accessibility. Yet, given the options available in retail locations, it’s well worth getting online and doing the right thing.

Top-Rated Wet Cat Food

As part of your cat’s balanced diet and need for proper hydration, wet food is highly suggested. It’s best to blend it with dry in order to keep your cat’s teeth healthy, and the two together create an optimal balance of sustenance. Here are the best brands we could find:

Tiki Cat Ahi Tuna and Chicken

These guys are obviously madly in love with cats. Their canned food formula is even certified by the USDA for human consumption! They claim that their food possesses the best wet food safety standards in the world. One look at the ingredients only adds to the thought that they might just be right. The list is short and sweet (only five primary ingredients), containing all that is necessary for the best overall health of most cats.

The only negative we could find with this canned food was that one of its choices contained the controversial ingredient brown rice. Otherwise, just stick to the choices without brown rice, and you will have the perfect wet food for your best pal’s bowl.

Rad Cat Free-Range Raw Turkey Cat Food

Rad Cat is different than most suppliers because their food is not just wet, it’s raw. This is a refrigerated wet food containing only the best ingredients they could find. Actually, we couldn’t find one thing wrong with their ingredients no matter how much we scrutinized. Their claim is that vegetables or grains are not a natural part of a cat’s diet; hence, nothing but valid and proven ingredients. Rad Cat’s wet food is a perfect blend that is sure to meet anyone’s expectations.

Even though there is not one noticeable flaw in Rad Cat’s product itself, you still have to consider its use if you travel a lot with your cat. The need for refrigeration limits its use to places where it can be stored appropriately.

Stella and Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Dinner

Although this dinner isn’t wet initially, per the guidelines, add a bit of water and it will fully reconstitute. The amazing thing about this product is that not only are the ingredients fantastic, but even the fowl are 98% cage-free. Mix that with healthy probiotics and a disdain of all hormones, and you’ve got a perfect wet food. With six different flavors, you are sure to find one to satisfy even the pickiest of bad kitties. Stella and Chewy’s is an all-around splendid product. Other than a possible lack of retail locations, we could find nothing negative of note.

© 2015 Sam Shepards

Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on August 10, 2019:

I will add some more information about wet food and dehydration problems from kibble.

On your remarks, I follow to suggestions from our vet and clinic. In my country, I give my cat Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Urinary kibble and in the evening she gets some wet food (something I thought she would find tasty, not suggested by the vets) from the same brand. In general, she doesn't touch that much wet cat food, I tried different options in the past. I guess I can force her, by just stopping giving her dry cat food, but I will not. We have a running water fountain for her with a filter and she drinks often. This is one thing I can recommend to all people, especially those giving kibble. Cats drink a lot more if you have a good running water source.

This cat is now 12 years old hasn't been sick a day (my moms previous cat same thing (18.5 years), but different food brands) and is very playful. I can understand some of your remarks. The one thing I notice when I compare is that family members or friends who have certain special purebred cats have more problems no matter what food they give them. Most people will keep giving kibble no matter what I or anyone else on the internet will tell them and most vets don't seem to argue against it as long as you watch your cats health, possible allergies, drinking,...

If people want to dive deeper into wet cat food I'm ok with recommending www.catinfo.org for extensive information on the topic and I'll adjust my own article with some of this information for people who want to go that route. The other information from the article comes from friends in the US, because we don't have most of those brands in my country.

Rubi on August 27, 2018:

I second the comment left by mmctaq. Dr Lisa Pierson's website catinfo.org is superlative. Feeding fresh raw with fresh organs, egg yolks, ground eggshell calcium, and wild-caught fish oil is the way to go.

No cat should ever be given dry food/kibble. There is no "good" brand, and Blue Buffalo is especially bad, using gimmicky marketing to push its lousy food, wet or dry. The latter is full of carbs from the dangerous addition of fruits that the company claims will keep a cat's urinary system healthy. It is a con, and sadly many people have fallen for this company's lies. Remember, no kibble ever, for cats. Kibble has no nutritional value, leaves the cat in a permanent state of dehydration that knocks out the kidneys especially, and causes cancers, allergies, urinary blockage and diabetes, etc.

Kat on August 11, 2018:

You need to double check the Taste of the Wild. I dont believe its gluten free which is why I dont feed it to my cats. I feed them Blue Buffalo.

mmctaq on March 28, 2018:

Please visit www.catinfo.org for understanding on why a dry food - every dry food, the best dry food - is an unhealthful choice for any and all cats. Most of the degenerative ailments (kidney disease, urinary tract issues, diabetes) are directly the result of long-term, sub-clinical dehydration caused by the feeding of dry cat food. Even mediocre wet food is more healthful to feed than the highest regarded kibbles or dried foods (not that I am suggesting crappy wet food!). Please read... study... comprehend... research further, if you feel the need to do so. Your cat will thank you!


25 thoughts on “ The 10 Best Cat Foods In 2021 ”

Wonderful review article. Very important and helpful article. I found a lot of information from this share.
Thanks, for sharing such an informative article.
Hopefully, waiting for your more article in the future.

Hello. Interesting article.
I have a cat who is very picky about food. He will not eat any food. And that’s a problem for me.
I already tried to buy him 9 different feeds. My cat only eats new food at the beginning, and then does not want to eat it. My cat only eats wet food and no more.
Thanks to your article, I now have a large selection of good cat food. I liked the food from these manufacturers Feline Natural and Authority Cat Food. I will try to buy them for my cat.

Glad you found the article helpful! I hope that Feline Natural and Authority work for your picky eater.

Try mixing some dry with wet. My cats prefer wet but it digests to fast and they want to eat more times a day so I mix it to get them to eat more dry food.

Truly awesome article! Thankyou.

Hi.
From your blog, I knew how to feed a cat perfectly.
Thanks

Glad to hear it! Thank you for stopping by.

I have a cat who is very picky about food. He will not eat any food. And that’s a problem for me.
I already tried to buy him 9 different feeds. My cat only eats new food at the beginning, and then does not want to eat it. My cat only eats wet food and no more.
Thanks to your article, I now have a large selection of good cat food. I liked the food from these manufacturers Feline Natural and Authority Cat Food. I will try to buy them for my cat. Best Pet Foods

Thank you so much Mallory for the comprehensive review for which I have been guided in q myriad of products and advertising!

What about Feline Leukemia positive cats? What’s best to feed them?

Hello Cherry, it’s best to give cats with Feline Leukemia a nutritionally-dense diet that is ultra-easy to digest, similar to the type of food we might recommend for cats in between bouts of pancreatitis, except an FeLV-positive cat should be on a cooked diet (not raw). Here’s a useful article from the Feline Nutrition Foundation: https://feline-nutrition.org/health/nutrition-is-vital-for-felv-cats

My senior cat has been diagnosed with kidney disease. My Vet recommended that I buy prescription food, but after spending about $200., he doesn’t like it at all. With all this info, I’m still confused as to what to try. I have 2 other cats and offer them a variety of dry and canned food, so Oliver also eats some of that, or he’s starve. It’s so frustrating that they charge ridiculous prices when it has no medicine in it!! I’ll go back and read about the kidney food again, do you have any new recommendations since it is now 2020?? Something non-prescription??

Hello Sieg. Thank you for commenting! We did add some more recommendations to our article on the best cat food for kidney disease: https://allaboutcats.com/best-cat-food-for-kidney-disease. You’ll also find some options that Oliver may like in our article on the best food for seniors: https://allaboutcats.com/best-cat-food-for-senior-cats.

I hope you find something that he’s willing to eat soon!

On my way to pick up my new Russian Blue kitten. Thank you for the great information. Do cats do better staying with the same brands? Or, is variety OK?

Fantastic information. Thank you, What do you think of Dr. Marty’s?

Hi Noelle, we haven’t gone in-depth on Dr. Marty’s cat food, but it appears to be comparable to freeze-dried foods from Primal, except with somewhat more starch and less animal-derived omega-3 fatty acids. You can consider it, but I wouldn’t rank it among the best freeze-dried foods on the market. Hope this helps!

In your article a few months ago you said Kirkland is not an acceptable diet for carnivores… so did they change their formula? Or are you going back on what you said?
https://allaboutcats.com/kirkland-cat-food-review

Hi Jackie, while Kirkland’s dry food is not ideal, we included it here as a good budget dry food. Compared to other foods at the same price point, it seems to feature relatively high-quality ingredients and certain supplements not seen in the competition. Our recommendations may vary depending on who we’re talking to.

Have you ever reviewed Genesis cat food?

Hi Heather, we haven’t reviewed Genesis food yet, but we’ll consider it for a future brand review. Thank you!

I am curious about Farmina cat food as well. Have you reviewed that? Local pet store carries these two brands and recommended them but I have never heard of them.

Heather, you can read our Farmina cat food review here: https://allaboutcats.com/farmina-cat-food-review

Thank you for all the good information! I think you have a small typo – under the entry for Ziwi Pets venison, you say “lamb” in the first sentence – “This protein-packed formula features 100% single-sourced New Zealand lamb.”

Related to lamb, do you have any information about whether some protein sources are better for cats than others? I’ve ran across a lot of claims (of course fish and mercury, but I’ve also seen people claim that certain protein sources cause inflammatory problems) but I don’t know if they have any basis. I can’t imagine it’s good for my cat to only eat chicken, but if I’m avoiding seafood, and she doesn’t like Hound & Gatos (unfortunately), other protein sources can become expensive very quickly.

Brit, thank you for pointing out that mistake! I’ve corrected it. As for the question of some proteins being better than others, it is true that various protein sources will have different digestibility and biological availability levels, but this is a complex and poorly-understood area and more research is needed before we can say which proteins are best for cats. You might consider turkey and beef as affordable non-fish alternatives to chicken.

Thanks for the information, you can never be too informed.


Cats need animal protein, fat, and other vitamins and minerals -- and they can get these nutrients from many different sources. The protein in commercial cat foods can come from chicken, poultry, beef, lamb, fish, liver, or meat or chicken “byproducts,” also called “meal.”

For a healthy cat without food allergies, any of these ingredients (in either wet or dry form) are fine choices, says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, an associate professor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Instead of worrying about specific ingredients, look for a food’s nutritional guarantee. Its label should say that tests by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have shown that the product “provides complete and balanced nutrition,” or that it “is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles.” Foods (or treats) that don’t have one of these statements shouldn’t be your cat’s main meal.


Understand What Cats Need Before You Shop

Scientists teamed up with the National Research Council and released a complex guide into a feline's nutritional needs. This information is vital in helping you find the right product.

Can you really feed your cat a vegetarian or vegan food? What ingredient must always be first in the ingredient list? We'll cover all of these important questions.

Like a human, your feline has very specific nutritional needs. These include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. Amino acids must come from animal meat sources, so skip any vegetarian diet for cats.

Before you look for foods, you need to understand what nutrients cannot be ignored. Here's the breakdown:

Amino Acids: There are 10 vital amino acids your cat must have his or her diet. Two of the most important amino acids are taurine and arginine. Arginine is vital in helping filter ammonia from the bloodstream. Taurine is necessary for metabolic function. Without taurine, heart failure is a major risk.

Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to your feline's body. Without enough fatty acids, he or she is at risk for vision problems, organ failure, and skin and coat health. Experts recommend a good food choice will have a fat content of no less than nine percent.

Minerals and Vitamins: Many minerals and vitamins are also important in your pet's diet. The vitamins come first, and they're followed by important minerals.

  • Folic Acid (Growth)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Conversion of food to energy)
  • Vitamin A (Cell health, growth, immune system, and vision)
  • Vitamin B1 (Energy and metabolism)
  • Vitamin B6 (Growth of red blood cells, hormonal levels, immune system, nervous system health, and production of glucose.
  • Vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin (Enzyme structure and function)
  • Vitamin D (Bone strength and phosphorus levels)
  • Vitamin E (Protects against free radicals)
  • Vitamin K (Blood clotting)

  • Calcium and manganese (Bone health)
  • Chlorine (Balances acid levels)
  • Copper (Tissue health)
  • Iodine (Thyroid health)
  • Iron (Helps with hemoglobin production)
  • Magnesium (Muscle and nerve health)
  • Phosphorus (Development of DNA and RNA )
  • Potassium and sodium (Transmission of messages to nerves)
  • Selenium (Immune system)
  • Zinc (Cell and skin health, metabolism)

Pay attention to the nutrition facts on the back of the bag. Make sure nothing important's been omitted.


How to shop for the best cat food

You should approach buying cat food the same way you look at breakfast: Start with a nutritionally balanced diet. “You need food that is complete and balanced and appropriate for the life-stage of your cat,” says Bruce Kornreich, DVM, the director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in Ithaca, New York.

Kornreich recommends looking for a nutritional adequacy label from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a nonprofit that assesses what’s in pet food and animal feed. Since cats are carnivores, meat is a key component of achieving the balanced diet that Kornreich emphasizes.

“If meat and meat by-products are among the first ingredients listed, it suggests the food likely has enough animal source ingredients to provide essential amino acids and fatty acids,” says Kornreich. But cats can’t live on meat alone.

“Cats must get nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and Vitamin D from other ingredients,” says Shelly Ferris, DVM, the regional director of Petco Veterinary Services.

She recommends looking for cat food with “natural whole ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and high-quality carbohydrates like rice, oats or potatoes.”

As for what to avoid, Paz Veterinary’s Julien keys in on ingredients that are “more about sentiment and marketing than nutrition.” He points to dyes that make food look more appealing to people (cats perceive color differently) and “exotic” ingredients like kangaroo and lentils, which are “less well studied in cats.”

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