The Healthiest Cat Food – 6 Natural and Organic Choices For Your Kitty

What are the healthiest natural and organic cat foods available?

Although it may seem that all natural and organic foods must be healthy, that’s not always the case! Today, we’ll be going over the characteristics of awesome cat food and listing six of the healthiest natural and organic choices for your kitty.

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What, exactly, is natural and organic cat food?

According to FDA guidelines, the “natural” label indicates that the food ingredients of the product haven’t undergone any chemical alterations. It’s a broader label than organic and implies a lower level of regulation.

Because it’s so easy to place a cat food under the “holistic” or “natural” label, it’s important to understand the differences between high and low quality foods in this category. We’ll go over some of the characteristics of a high-quality natural food later.

According to the National Organic Program’s definition, organic products are “produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used.”

Not all natural and organic brands are equal, however, so it’s important to do your research and identify what’s superior and what’s a gimmick.

Quick Look : Top 6 Healthy Cat Foods

Dry FoodPriceQualityRating
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat FoodZiwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$20.35/lbA+5 stars
Orijen Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat FoodOrijen Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.91/lbA+5 stars
ACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten FoodACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.08/lbA5 stars
Wet FoodPriceQualityRating
ZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Cuisine Venison Canned Cat FoodZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Cuisine Venison Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.31/6.5 oz canA+5 stars
Hound & Gatos Beef Formula Canned Cat FoodHound & Gatos Beef Formula Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$1.41/5.5 oz canA5 stars
Lotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat FoodLotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$1.89/2.5 oz canA5 stars

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Why feed natural foods?

In general, natural foods tend to have clearer labeling, use whole ingredients, and offer more information about how those ingredients are sourced. This means that with a high-quality food, you’ll know exactly what you’re putting into your cat’s body. If you choose the right natural cat food, you won’t have to worry about your cat ingesting GMOs or artificial dyes, flavors, and preservatives.

How are the above ingredients harmful? Let’s take a look:

GMOs

Genetically modified ingredients can be difficult to avoid: the FDA doesn’t require that food products disclose the presence of these ingredients. To date, there’s little conclusive evidence that genetically modified ingredients are harmful for cats, but studies have shown that consumption of genetically modified corn resulted in organ disease in rats.

Artificial colors

While the FDA has failed to come to a conclusion about the effects of infamous red dye #40 and yellow #5 on the behavior of children, there’s plenty of anecdotal and scientific evidence suggesting a correlation. These dyes, along with numerous others that are found in conventional cat food, have been linked to countless health issues in both humans and pets and many have been banned in multiple European countries.

Artificial flavors

Usually made from enzymatically liquefied or hydrolyzed animal tissue, artificial flavors are typically sprayed on the food to make it more appealing. This spray is made from by-products, so you don’t know exactly what your cat is eating. As a rule, we’ve disqualified any food containing meat by-products from our list of the top 6 best natural and organic foods for cats.

ALSO READ:  Evo Cat Food Review

Artificial preservatives

Many conventional cat foods are treated with preservatives like Ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT, chemicals that have been linked to organ disease, cancer, and skin problems.

7 criteria for choosing the healthiest natural and organic cat foods

Let’s establish a criteria for the healthiest foods in the natural and organic space. Here’s what we’re looking for:

1. No by-products or vague labeling.

Some cat food labels refer to vague, non-specific protein sources such as the following:

  • Meat
  • Meat by-products
  • Meat meal
  • Poultry
  • Poultry by-products
  • Poultry meal

A note on by-products

Let’s take a look at the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) definitions of by-products for pet food:

Meat by-products

“Meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Poultry by-products

“Poultry By-Products must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”

Some of these carcass parts fall into the category of low quality protein – protein that’s difficult for your cat to digest. Of course, it’s not all bad – the organs included in meat by-products are beneficial for your cat, if provided in balanced quantities. But that’s not enough to justify everything else that may come in those by-products.

If your cat suffers from food allergies, this type of labeling doesn’t help you with avoiding those allergens. You don’t know what percentage of the food’s protein content is digestible and how much is from a sub-optimal protein source.

It’s far better to look for whole protein sources rather than simply “by-products” – these are reliably high-quality and you’ll know exactly what’s going into your cat’s body.

2. Clear labeling

Ideally, you’re looking for clear, specific labeling that indicates exactly what the food contains. Higher-quality foods have labeling that describes the contents clearly. For example, you might see that a certain food contains chicken, ground chicken bones, and chicken kidneys.

3. Grain-free with minimal plant protein

As obligate carnivores, cats have great difficulty processing plant protein.

High quality protein sources, like those from whole meats, are ideal for our cats – they’re what they’re made to consume. Low protein sources such as those from plants, including grains, have limited digestibility. This means that while your cat’s food may appear to be high in protein, that protein is only partially metabolized by your cat’s body. These low quality proteins can be stressful to your cat’s organs, particularly the kidneys.

4. Low in carbohydrates

Many natural cat foods eliminate grains and replace them with other high-carbohydrate plant matter that isn’t really a natural part of your carnivorous cat’s diet. This is usually in an effort to keep costs low while boosting volume and protein content, but also has other uses. The use of fruits and vegetables is particularly common in the case of dry food, which requires a certain amount of plant matter to bind the kibble. Some other fruits and vegetables may be added in as a source of extra nutrients and fiber.

While cats can digest carbohydrates in small quantities, they really aren’t that great at it, so it’s important to maintain a balance. Especially if your cat suffers from diabetes, it’s critical to keep carbs to a minimum.

5. No carrageenan

Carrageenan is a natural thickening agent from red algae or seaweed, so some natural pet food manufacturers may include it despite its bad reputation. Thanks to decades of research on its potentially harmful effects, carrageenan has been shown to accelerate cancer formation when consumed alongside a carcinogen, and there’s evidence that it can create inflammation in the body. Especially in the case of wet food, which may use the ingredient as a gravy thickener, it’s important to check the labels to ensure that the food doesn’t contain carrageenan.

ALSO READ:  Merrick Cat Food Review

6. From a company that hasn’t had a recall in the last 5 years

It’s important to make sure that our cats’ food comes from a reliable, safe source. While recalls do happen, sometimes to the best brands, we’ve selected only foods from companies that haven’t had recalls in the last 5 years. This gives us a good idea of the quality of products they produce.

7. Cats and people alike love it

By looking at reviews from consumers, we’ve identified foods that people and cats alike seem to love based on flavor, odor, and health effects.

Using this criteria, I’ve selected six of the absolute best natural and organic foods for your cat. All of the following foods are by-product free, feature primarily real meat protein, and come from great brands that haven’t been recalled in the last five years, making them solid choices for your cat.

Our Recommendation for the 6 Healthiest Cat Foods

Best Natural and Organic Dry Foods for Cats

FoodPriceQualityRating
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat FoodZiwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$20.35/lbA+5 stars
Orijen Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat FoodOrijen Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.91/lbA+5 stars
ACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten FoodACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.08/lbA5 stars

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Beef Cat Food

Ziwi Peak cat food is made from only the highest-quality meats, ethically sourced from New Zealand ranches. All of their foods are absolutely free of GMOs, artificial dyes, colors, and preservatives. Ziwi Peak air-dried cat food starts with fresh meat and seafood that undergoes a gentle twin-stage air drying process to lock nutrients in and bacteria out. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Beef – Meat (includes up to 3% finely ground bone), Beef – Liver, Lung, Tripe, New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel

Pros

  • Single-sourced beef is free-range and grass fed on local New Zealand ranches
  • 98% fresh meat, organs, bones and mussels, which are a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
  • Grain-free with no corn, soy, or wheat
  • Air-preserved meat is nutritionally complete and safe for you and your cat

Cons

  • Dry food alone doesn’t provide adequate hydration

Orijen Cat & Kitten Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Orijen cat food offers 85-90% meat. ⅔ of these meats are fresh, meaning that they’re fresh with no preservatives, or raw – flash frozen with no preservatives. ⅓ of these meats are dehydrated chicken and turkey. This concentration of nutritionally intact meat makes Orijen an easy way to offer your cat something close to their ancestral whole prey diet. All ingredients are GMO-free and ethically and sustainably produced by farms, fishermen, and ranches in the United States. None of the ingredients have been treated with chemical preservatives. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Deboned Chicken, Deboned Turkey, Yellowtail Flounder, Whole Eggs, Whole Atlantic Mackerel

Pros

  • 40% protein and 20% low-glycemic carbohydrates
  • Made from free-run chicken and turkey and wild-caught fish
  • No rendered poultry meal
  • No corn, soy, or wheat – grain free
  • Infused with freeze-dried liver for added flavor

Cons

  • Dry food alone doesn’t provide adequate hydration

ACANA Grasslands Regional Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food

Acana is a line of cat food containing 50-75% meat, produced by the same company behind Orijen. Sitting at a slightly lower price point than Orijen products, this food is accessible to a larger consumer group. All ingredients are GMO-free and ethically and sustainably produced by farms, fishermen, and ranches in the United States. None of their ingredients have been treated with chemical preservatives. The Grasslands formula is made from regional ingredients and includes 75% premium fresh meat, egg, organs, and cartilage. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Deboned Lamb, Deboned Duck, Whole Eggs, Lamb Meal, Catfish Meal

Pros

  • Made in the USA from carefully sourced regional ingredients
  • No corn, wheat, or soy – grain-free
  • No plant protein concentrates
  • Infused with freeze-dried lamb liver for added flavor
  • While many other foods contain chicken, Acana Grasslands Regional Formula doesn’t, making it a good choice for cats who are allergic to chicken

Cons

  • Dry food alone doesn’t provide adequate hydration
  • Less meat content than the other dry choices on this list

Top 3 Healthiest Natural and Organic Wet Foods

FoodPriceQualityRating
ZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Cuisine Venison Canned Cat FoodZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Cuisine Venison Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$4.31/6.5 oz canA+5 stars
Hound & Gatos Beef Formula Canned Cat FoodHound & Gatos Beef Formula Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$1.41/5.5 oz canA5 stars
Lotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat FoodLotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Read Reviews Next ArticleWhere To Buy Next Article
$1.89/2.5 oz canA5 stars
ALSO READ:  Natural Balance Cat Food Review

ZiwiPeak Daily-Cat Cuisine Venison Canned Cat Food

This hydrating cat food is 93% meat, organs, and bone from non-rendered venison, 3% green-lipped mussel for natural glucosamine and chondroitin, and 7% tripe for added palatability. Like all Ziwi Peak products, it is absolutely free of GMOs, artificial dyes, colors, and preservatives. All ingredients are ethically sourced on New Zealand ranches and waters. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Venison Broth, Venison Meat, Venison Heart, Venison Liver, Venison Lung

Pros

  • Grain free with absolutely no corn, soy, or wheat
  • Made with fresh meat, organs, and finely ground bones for whole-prey style complete meat nutrition
  • Includes New Zealand green-lipped mussels, which are a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health
  • Rich in moisture and real meat protein

Cons

  • A fairly expensive canned food
  • The formula was recently changed, making it unappetizing to some cats

Hound & Gatos Beef Formula Canned Cat Food

Hound & Gatos Pet Food Company is committed to a paleolithic pet diet made from 100% meat protein with absolutely no grains. All of their foods are free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. With a single source of real meat protein and absolutely no plant protein, this is an ideal choice for cats with sensitive stomachs and food allergies. All of Hound & Gatos’ ingredients are USA sourced except for their New Zealand lamb. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Beef, Beef Broth, Agar-agar, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride

Pros

  • Absolutely no plant protein
  • Single-source protein is perfect for cats with food allergies
  • Grain-free with no corn, soy, or wheat
  • 98% beef plus added vitamins and minerals

Cons

  • A divisive food: some cats love it, others are completely disinterested
  • Again, this one isn’t necessarily a con. This product contains agar-agar, which is a thickening agent made from red algae or seaweed. Because of its similarity to carrageenan, it’s sometimes a controversial ingredient. That said, agar-agar hasn’t shown any of the negative health effects associated with carrageenan and is rich in nutrients.

Lotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

For cats who love shredded meat in gravy, this food offers a juicy shredded pork meal. All Lotus cat foods are made with ingredients sourced in North America and Canada, except for their green-lipped mussels, deboned lamb, and lamb meal, which come from New Zealand. None of these ingredients have been treated with chemical preservatives. All of their canned foods are hand-packed in their California facility. – Buy It

First 5 Ingredients:
Pork, Pork Broth, Potato Starch, Calcium Lactate, Carrots

Pros

  • Grain free with no corn, soy, or wheat
  • High in real meat protein
  • Packed in the USA
  • Includes supplemental vitamin E

Cons

  • Lotus Just Juicy contains agar-agar, which is a thickening agent made from red algae or seaweed. Because of its similarity to carrageenan, it’s sometimes a controversial ingredient. Agar-agar hasn’t shown any of the negative health effects associated with carrageenan and is rich in nutrients. This one is halfway between a pro and a con.
  • Canned foods made with gravy may be too high-carbohydrate for some cats, as they require starch for thickening.

Now it’s time for you to find the healthiest natural and organic foods for your cat.

Even natural and organic foods can have their flaws: some use plant protein to cheaply boost the protein percentages, some use clever marketing to make fillers sound like benefits, and others just don’t appeal to cats. Other foods, though, are great choices, made with ethically sourced, wholesome ingredients that taste great and deliver a powerful nutritional punch.

When it comes to choosing the right food for your cat, though, it ultimately comes down to finding what your cat likes.

Every cat is different, varying in taste preferences, medical conditions, and lifestyles. Whether your cat is diabetic, on a limited-ingredient diet, or refuses to eat anything but cheap kibble, it goes without saying that it’s important to take your cat’s needs into consideration when choosing a new food. It will probably take some experimenting and more research to find the right food for your cat’s unique set of needs.

Remember that because many cats have difficulty adapting to new foods, it’s recommended that you slowly incorporate any new food into your cat’s original diet rather than pushing a new food on them suddenly, particularly if your cat’s been living off of one food for a long time.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta offers simple, honest knowledge about natural cat care and products that work so that you can spend less time researching natural cat care and more time having fun with your cat. She blogs about it at WildernessCat.com.

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6 comments

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    • Good question, Ixora.

      I’m not a veterinarian and can’t give you medical advice. Your cat’s situation is unique and your veterinarian knows more about their individual needs. Generally speaking, however, here’s what we know about senior cats and limited protein diets:

      This type of diet is often recommended to cats who have or at risk of developing kidney disease. While not all experts agree on the details, research has shown that a low waste, limited protein diet can help prolong renal function – which is critical when kidney failure is so common in aging cats.

      In healthy cats of all ages, animal protein is efficiently metabolized and is an important part of their diet. Plant protein, on the other hand, can be detrimental to your cat’s organ health over the long term. Your cat can’t properly process this type of protein, making it high-waste and thus hard on the organs.

      Ultimately, cats are obligate carnivores who need plenty of animal protein to stay healthy. Senior cats have even higher protein requirements than younger cats do – increased protein helps to fight against the natural loss of muscle mass that accompanies the aging process.

      Here’s a good article about the importance of protein for senior cats: http://feline-nutrition.org/nutrition/dont-let-your-senior-cat-become-a-skinny-old-kitty

      Hope this helped!

  • I’m surprised you don’t mention Halo pet food as a recommended brand. They are whole meat, no meat meals & use non gmo vegetables. Check them out!

  • The fact that there are no GMOs in some of the cat food that is reviewed on this site is a super plus sign for anyone who is looking for non-GMO cat food; however, when the label says there is no GMO, does that include the food that is used as the source for the cat food?

  • Concerning non-GMO food for cats, the elephant-in-the-room question is: what did the source of the food that is fed to cats eat; i.e., are the pigs, chickens, and turkeys fed NON-GMO?

    Unless this question is answered, we do not really know if the cat food is truly “non-GMO” : i.e., the food that is sourced for cat food was fed non-GMO while it was being raised.

  • I would absolutely LOVE a manufacturer to get on-board with NO FISH/FISH OIL (including salmon oil, kelp, etc.) in dry cat food AND wet cat food. I have one cat (of my four!) who is severely allergic to fish and after doing research, I find out cats were desert animals who didn’t used to eat fish. Now why does EVERYONE (and I mean – everyone – after finding only 2 brands of dry food that does not have some fish in it but yet is grain-free and high quality) put fish or fish oil in their food??? I believe fish allergies may be more common than people even realize, due to the prevalence of oceanic protein in our cat food. And while I adore Stella & Chewys, a $40 bag for 18 oz goes in about 2 days with my four cats.

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