Best Grain Free Cat Food
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Grain free pet food is very popular right now, for both dogs and cats, but does your cat really need it? Pet food companies have been making dry cat foods containing grains (including corn) for decades. Why the sudden push to feed cats a grain free diet?
Are grain free foods actually healthier for your cat? Pet food companies will tell you that what really matters with a pet food is whether or not the food is nutritionally complete and balanced. It doesn’t matter if the food contains grains or not. What matters is if the food has excesses or deficiencies of the nutrients that the pet needs. However, pet foods are not just made up of nutrients, no matter what pet food companies may say. They are made up of ingredients that come from specific food sources. Some ingredients are better than others; are easier to digest; or can cause particular problems for some pets.
What is the Best Grain Free Cat Food?
Pros and Cons of a Grain-Free Diet
There are some positives for including grains in cat food. Grains can provide some plant sources of protein – which is helpful in dog food but not for cats. And grains can be a good source of fiber, depending on the kind and form of the grain used. They also typically provide some vitamins and minerals, along with omega-6 fatty acid, though vitamins and minerals are usually added to the food later to make up for what is lost during cooking.
It’s true that pet food companies usually use grains as plant sources of protein because they cost less than meat protein. They also provide carbohydrates, which cats don’t really need in their diet. But carbs can be filling and keep your cat from getting hungry between meals. However, too many carbs and they can put on pounds and potentially cause some health issues for some cats. At their worst, pet food companies will use cheap, inferior forms of grains as fillers in the food and they won’t provide any nutritional value at all.
There are some good reasons why a cat might benefit from eating a grain free cat food. First, just because pet foods in the past, including cat food, have included lots of grains doesn’t necessarily mean that those foods have provided the best nutrition. If your cat in 1990 ate a dry cat food diet with lots of grains and lived 20 years, he might have been a very healthy animal and you might have been lucky. Not every cat thrives on that kind of diet. The food may have been “complete and balanced” for its time but times change and so does our understanding of the nutritional needs of cats. Nutritional requirements are regularly updated. This doesn’t mean that grains have been declared off-limits for cats, but it does mean that we understand their need for certain amino acids better, along with their enzymes and how they digest their food. Grains can have a place in some cat foods, but some cats will do better without them.
Some cats also have allergies that may make a grain free cat food a good choice. It would be inaccurate to think that grains are one of the most common causes of allergies in cats. They aren’t. The most common causes of allergies in cats are beef, dairy, and fish. But some cats can be allergic to certain grains or have a food intolerance to them. In these cases, a cat should certainly eat a food that doesn’t contain that particular grain. However, there’s no reason to assume that your cat would be allergic or intolerant to all grains.
Cats can also have some health issues that benefit from eating a grain free diet. Diabetes is one of the first such issues that comes to mind for many cat lovers and it has become a common disease among cats. A diet low in carbs can help you manage your cat’s diabetes. A high protein, low carb, wet diet is usually recommended for cats with diabetes.
Many dog owners prefer a grain free diet for some of these same reasons, or because they feel that a grain free diet is more “natural” for a dog and closer to the ancestral diet of the wolf. Actually, the dog’s digestion has diverged quite a bit from the wolf’s. Dogs have several digestive enzymes that wolves don’t have and they can easily digest carbs such as grains. This is probably due to evolving with humans for thousands of years and sharing our leftovers. Cats, on the other hand, do not have the salivary enzyme amylase to help them break down grains before they get to the stomach (though they do have amylase secreted by the pancreas when carbs are being digested in the intestines). They are not able to digest carbs and starches as easily as dogs can. But it is not impossible for cats to digest grains/carbs/starches.
High protein/low carb diet
Many cat lovers prefer to feed a high protein, low carb diet. This kind of diet can be especially helpful for a diabetic cat. However, it’s important to remember that grains are not the only possible source of carbohydrates in a pet food. Grain free does not necessarily mean that a food is low in carbs. Many grain free cat foods have carbohydrate levels that are equal to or even higher than foods that contain grains. Many grain free cat foods use potatoes, tapioca, or other carb sources to replace the grains. These foods can have even more carbs than foods with grains. When you are looking at grain free cat foods, be sure to look at the ingredient list for other sources of carbs and remember that grain free doesn’t always mean low carb.
Another potential problem with grain free foods high in protein is that they often tend to be high in fat as well. Foods that are high in fat can lead to your cat becoming overweight or obese. One of the most common health risks for overweight cats is diabetes, so you could be bringing on one of the health problems you are trying to avoid if you aren’t careful. Read the label and make sure that the food is not too high in fat.
It’s also important to note that many people switch to a grain free cat food and they may have the wrong expectations. Grain free cat foods are often made by companies that are popular for using “natural” or better ingredients. These premium grain free foods may contain better quality ingredients than some foods that contain grains. If you change foods and feed your cat a grain free food, and you notice a positive change in him, it could be due to the overall better ingredients in the food and not because the food is grain free. Your cat could experience the same improvement by eating a food from the same company that uses some grains. (Though we are not advocating a high carb diet.)
Canned (wet) food has always contained fewer grains and carbs compared to dry food, so “grain free” is not a totally new concept for feeding cats. We have long known that cats are obligate carnivores – they require meat in their diets and they need some amino acids that can only come from meat. Meat is biologically essential for a cat’s survival. Grains and carbs are not. But they are not essential for humans or dogs or many other animals either, and yet they form part of the diet.
Finally, one of the potential drawbacks of many grain free cat foods is the cost. Good quality grain free cat foods are often higher in protein, especially meat protein. It costs a pet food company more to use meat sources of protein and that cost is passed on to purchaser. This means that premium grain free cat foods are often more expensive than cat foods that contain some grains as part of the protein source. As usual, there is a wide price range for grain free cat food, but most of it tends to be more expensive than foods that include grains. If you are looking for a good grain free cat food you don’t necessarily have to buy the most expensive food on the shelf. There are a number of good grain free cat foods of varying prices. It is always important to read the ingredient label so you know what is in the food and what you would be feeding your cat. Sometimes cat foods, like all pet foods, are more hype than truth.
Your cat doesn’t need a diet that is high in carbs or that includes lots of grains. If you would like to feed your cat a grain free cat food, there are many good ones from which to choose today, both wet and dry. At the same time, there are also some good cat foods that do contain some grains and which provide complete and balanced nutrition. Higher protein and lower carbs are preferred for most cats today, so read the label and investigate a cat food before you buy it.
Top 5 Grain-Free Cat Foods
Smalls for Smalls Fresh Turkey Pate
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NomNomNow Chicken Chow-Meow
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Wellness CORE Grain Free
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Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula (Dry)
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Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe (Wet)
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|$1.29/2.75 oz can|
EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food (Wet)
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|$2.05/5.5 oz can|
Smalls for Smalls Fresh Turkey Pate
Smalls for Smalls makes fresh, human-grade cat food carefully formulated for your cat based on a profile you create when you sign up. Smalls for Smalls recipes are great because they have a high protein content, providing your cat with the nutrition he or she needs to live a healthy lifestyle. They also have high water content, which will help keep your cat hydrated. Smalls for Smalls recipes are all grain-free and preservative free, as well. They have only the nutrients your cat needs, and nothing more.
Get back to nature with Smalls for Smalls– a human-grade, high-protein, high-moisture fresh recipe, formulated to be the healthiest food your cat can eat. Real, fresh chicken meat and a small bit of green veg means more energy, a softer coat, and a less fragrant litter box. Buy It
NomNomNow Chicken Chow-Meow
NomNomNow foods are made fully grain-free, with human grade, restaurant-quality ingredients and in human food processing facilities in California and Tennessee. Everyone who works in the NomNomNow kitchens possesses state-issued food safety certificates and is educated in food safety and quality control for human food consumption.
NomNomNow is not just a human grade cat food brand—it’s a personalized cat food meal delivery service. When you order NomNomNow cat food, you’ll create a profile with your cat’s health, weight, and weight goals.
The NomNomNow staff then prepares small batches of fresh food and portions it out according to your cat’s calorie needs. They ship a week’s or month’s supply in a refrigerated box.
NomNomNow’s Chicken Chow Meow is flaked chicken mixed with a blend of low-glycemic veggies and NomNomNutrient mix for nutritional completeness. The food is rich in animal-sourced protein with low carbohydrate content. It’s a species-appropriate choice for any cat.
The price of NomNomNow varies based on how many cats you have and your delivery schedule of choice, but it’s more expensive than the average cat food.
Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe
The Wellness Company is known for producing high-quality pet food products that follow a holistic approach to pet nutrition. This means that every ingredient Wellness uses serves a purpose- their products include everything your cat needs to nourish his body from the inside out, and nothing he doesn’t. The Wellness CORE line of products is all grain-free, made without any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients and completely free from artificial fillers and preservatives. This line was developed with the understanding that cats are carnivores and therefore have a limited ability to digest plant products. The Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe is an example of a product in this line which features protein-rich poultry and fish ingredients as well as digestible carbohydrates and healthy supplements. Any cat would be lucky to enjoy this dry food.
The Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe is nutrient-dense, and grain-free to help prevent food allergies and digestive issues in cats. The first ingredient is deboned turkey and it is followed by four more proteins – deboned chicken, chicken meal, whitefish meal, and herring meal. Not only do these ingredients provide high-quality protein, but they also work with the chicken fat, flaxseed, and salmon oil to ensure an optimal balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. For digestible carbohydrates this recipe relies on peas and potatoes with tomato pomace and flaxseed as supplementary sources of dietary fiber. This Wellness CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe offers a whopping 45% crude protein and 18% crude fat with just 3% crude fiber. All in all, this recipe is loaded with healthy protein and natural flavor, plus it contains chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption and dried fermentation product to help support your cat’s healthy and regular digestion. It is also enhanced with antioxidants to boost your cat’s immune system to help him fight off disease.
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula
The Canidae company follows the tag line, “pet food made by pet people”. This tagline speaks to the company’s belief that pets are more than just animals – they are members of the family and they should be treated as such. Canidae also believes that quality nutrition is the secret to a long, happy, and healthy life for pets which is something every pet owner should want. Having only been launched in 1996, Canidae remains a family-owned and -operated business that uses local and regional sources for their ingredients, using only the highest quality raw materials available. Canidae offers two main lines of cat food products – the All Life Stages line of products formulated for cats of different life stags and the PURE line of grain-free products. The Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula belongs to the latter of these two product lines.
This Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula is made with a selection of whole foods to ensure gentle digestion for your cat. This recipe is designed for simplicity as well which is important for cats that suffer from food allergies and sensitivities – there are just 8 key ingredients in this grain-free and limited-ingredient recipe. The first ingredient in this recipe is tuna and it is followed by both salmon meal and menhaden fish meal. While fresh tuna is a high-quality ingredient, its volume may be reduced due to moisture loss during cooking. Salmon meal and menhaden fish meal, on the other hand, have already been cooked to remove moisture so they are highly-concentrated sources of protein for your cat. For carbohydrates, this recipe relies on lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes – these ingredients provide your cat with energy as well as dietary fiber to support his digestive system. Overall, this Canidae Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula contains 36% crude protein and 12% crude fat with just 5% crude fiber. It is also supplemented with chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption and probiotics for digestive support. – Buy It
Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe
Nature’s Recipe is a pet food brand that belongs to the Big Heart family of pet brands and they follow the tagline, “every ingredient counts”. This company has been producing high-quality pet food products for more than 30 years and they are committed to doing what is best for pets and their people. Nature’s Recipe believes that quality nutrition is the key to health and wellness, so they are very intentional about choosing and using the best ingredients available. When it comes to their cat food products, Nature’s Recipe offers both traditional and grain-free options. The grain-free line of products includes wet foods and dry foods as well as several indoor-specific recipes. If you think that a grain-free cat food is right for your cat, consider the Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe. Not only is this recipe grain-free, but it features real chicken as the number-1 ingredient in a long list of high-quality and nutritious ingredients.
This Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe is protein-rich and free from artificial additives including colors, flavors, and preservatives. It does list chicken as the first ingredient (as promised) with chicken liver as a supplementary source of protein and a source of key nutrients. The main source of carbohydrate in this recipe is carrots and guar gum is used as a thickener. For fats, this recipe relies primarily on sunflower oil which is a natural source of omega-6 fatty acids. Chicken fat is the second source of fat and it helps to balance out the omega-6 fatty acids with some omega-3 fatty acids – this combination of fats helps to support your cat’s healthy skin and coat. This recipe also includes some vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. It would be a little better to see some chelated minerals here, but overall this Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe is balanced to meet your cat’s nutritional needs.
EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food
The EVO pet food company is known for producing ancestral diets for cats and dogs. All of their recipes are high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and naturally grain-free. EVO understands that cats are carnivores which means that they have a limited ability to digest plan products – they need a meat-rich diet that is low in fiber. The EVO company offers their customers what they call the “EVO advantage”. This promises high levels of quality protein, highly digestible ingredients, concentrated nutrition, and an easy-to-feed alternative to raw cat food. Also, EVO never uses any gluten, grains, or potatoes in their recipes and their formulas promote lean, fit body conditioning for cats. If you are looking for a high-quality, grain-free wet food for your cat, consider the EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food recipe as an option.
This EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food recipe is loaded with high-quality proteins including fresh duck, chicken, turkey, and turkey liver. These ingredients combine to provide a crude protein content of 8.5% which translates to a dry matter value of nearly 45%. All of the proteins used in this formula are animal-based which means that they are also complete proteins – proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids your cat needs to build and maintain strong muscles. For fat, this recipe relies on fish oil as the main source with some supplementary fats from the chicken liver and fresh meats. The crude fat content of this recipe is 5.5% which translates to a dry matter value of about 29%. Other ingredients included in this EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food consist of thickeners (like guar gum and xanthan gum) and supplements. Many of the minerals in this recipe are chelated which means that they have been chemically bound to protein molecules, making them easier for your cat’s body to digest and absorb. Overall, this recipe offers excellent nutritional value for cats.