Best Grain Free Cat Foods

Does my cat have to have a eat a grain-free diet

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When walking through the cat food aisle at your local grocery store, it may seem like one cat food is the same as any other. There are differences in packaging from one brand to another, but if you were to open up any two bags the product inside would look pretty similar.

If you take a closer look at the product names, however, you’ll start to notice keywords like “natural,” “holistic,” and “grain-free.”

Claims like these are common on pet food labels but they can be a little misleading for pet owners.

When you see a product labeled “natural,” for example, you might wonder whether other brands are somehow not natural. When you see “grain-free” on the label, you may wonder whether a product that contains grains is somehow worse.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not a simple “yes” or “no.”

The popularity of grain-free diets for pets has skyrocketed in recent years but there’s a great deal of misinformation out there about what “grain-free” really means and whether grain-free diets are any better or worse for your cat. You may also be aware of FDA reports linking grain-free diets to an increased risk of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a form of heart disease, in dogs.

In this article, we’ll explore the subject of grain-free diets to learn what they are and whether they’re good for your cat. You’ll also see our recommendations for the top 10 grain-free cat foods, wet and dry.

At A Glance: Best Grain-Free Wet Cat Foods To Buy

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Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Best for Picky Eaters
9.0
Picked by 25 people today!

Smalls Fresh Cat Food

  • Fresh food made with human-grade ingredients
  • Real, high-quality animal protein
  • High in protein and moisture, very low in carbs
Best Ethically-Sourced
9.9
Picked by 31 people today!

Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Blend Wet Food

  • Single source of high-quality animal protein
  • No fillers, animal by-products, or vaguely named ingredients
  • Contains the moisture your cat needs for hydration
Best Budget
9.5
Picked by 31 people today!

Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Wet Canned Cat Food

  • Made with real animal protein as main ingredients
  • Nutritionally balanced for adult cats
  • Packed with moisture and low in carbohydrates
Best for Sensitive Stomach
8.5
Picked by 21 people today!

Instinct Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Canned Cat Food

  • Rich in animal-based protein and moisture
  • Made with all-natural ingredients
  • Packed with healthy omega fatty acids
Best for Weight Loss
8.0
Picked by 18 people today!

Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken Grain-Free Wet Cat Food

  • High protein content, low in fat and carbohydrates
  • Real chicken flavor picky cats find appealing
  • Recommended for cats with kidney disease

#1 Best For Picky Eaters: Smalls Fresh Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Smalls
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Fresh
  • Guaranteed Protein: 21.20% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $1.60

Smalls is a fresh cat food delivery services that uses human-grade ingredients including premium proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish. Choose from minced-style recipes or classic pate to provide your cat with protein-rich, low-carb cat food formulated for cats in all life stages.

Though Smalls doesn’t portion out your cat’s meals for you, they do provide detailed feeding recommendations according to your cat’s calorie requirements. Each package of food contains about 16 ounces of food with markings on the package at 50-calorie increments.

Smalls cat food is delivered frozen, so you’ll need to thaw the first package overnight in the fridge before feeding. Your subscription will be based on your cat’s calorie needs, and you can adjust it as needed by contacting the customer care team.

In addition to their fresh food, Smalls also offers a selection of freeze-dried cat foods, treats, and meal toppers. They also recently started selling millet and silica cat litter.

Though Smalls uses high-quality proteins and other natural ingredients in their formulas, there are a fair number of customer complaints regarding the digestibility. A not insignificant number of customers report that their cats vomit shortly after eating Smalls fresh cat food.

Smalls has also had some issues with fulfillment including delayed shipments and some customers have trouble changing or canceling their subscription through their online account.

Featuring chicken thigh, breast, and liver as the top three ingredients, this fresh food is packed with premium animal protein. Green beans, peas, and kale are the only carbohydrate ingredients and they are naturally grain-free and rich in nutrients.

In addition to being high in protein and low in carbohydrates, this formula is rich in moisture which helps support digestion as well as healthy skin and coat. Overall, this minced chicken recipe is a high-quality source of balanced nutrition for cats in all life stages.

Ingredients:

Chicken Thigh, Chicken Breast, Chicken Liver, Green Beans, Peas, Water sufficient for processing, Chicken Heart, Kale, Vegetable Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Choline Bitartrate, Salt, Taurine, Magnesium Gluconate, Potassium Chloride, Zinc Gluconate, Ascorbic Acid, Copper Gluconate, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Gluconate, Ferrous Gluconate, Niacin, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Selenium, Dried Kelp, Biotin, Vitamin B12.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 21.2%
Crude Fat: 8.05%
Crude Fiber: 0.4%
Moisture: 66.1%
Ash: 2.25%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 62.54%
Fat: 23.75%
Fiber: 1.18%
Carbs: 5.9%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 49.59%
Fat: 45.73%
Carbs: 4.68%

What We Liked:

  • Fresh food made with human-grade ingredients
  • Real, high-quality animal protein
  • High in protein and moisture, very low in carbs
  • Boosts energy and supports skin and coat health

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not individually portioned for your cat
  • Some issues with fulfillment

#2 Best Ethically-Sourced: Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Blend Wet Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Open Farm
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Wet Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 8.0% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: Unknown

When it comes to reducing litter box odor, the quality of your cat’s diet matters. This Open Farm formula is our premium pick because it features wholesome, high-quality ingredients that are 100% human-grade and ethically sourced.

This wet food formula features humanely raised turkey as the primary ingredient and the sole source of protein. Because turkey is a novel protein for many cats, it may help relieve digestive issues related to food allergies or intolerance. You’ll also find turkey bone broth as a main ingredient which provides moisture and may help support healthy digestion.

In addition to being rich in animal protein, this formula is completely free from fillers, animal by-products, and vaguely named ingredients as well as the artificial additives that often contribute to litter box odor. It contains more plant ingredients than we’d like, but the dry matter carbohydrate content of the formula as a whole is still fairly low.

Ingredients:

Humanely Raised Turkey, Turkey Bone Broth, Pumpkin, Carrots, Spinach, Red Lentils, Agar Agar, Non-GMO Cranberries, Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), Chicory Root, Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Salt, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Dried Kelp, Potassium Chloride, Dandelion Greens, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Turmeric.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 8%
Crude Fat: 6%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 82%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 44.44%
Fat: 33.33%
Fiber: 11.11%
Carbs: 11.11%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 32.56%
Fat: 59.3%
Carbs: 8.14%

What We Liked:

  • Single source of high-quality animal protein
  • No fillers, animal by-products, or vaguely named ingredients
  • Contains the moisture your cat needs for hydration
  • Made from 100% human-grade, ethically sourced ingredients

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Fairly expensive compared to the average cat food
  • Contains several plant-based ingredients

#3 Best Budget: Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food

Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Wellness
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Canned Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 12% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $3.60

Formulated for adult cats, this canned food is completely free from grains including low-quality fillers. In fact, five of the first six ingredients are all animal-based including two whole sources of fresh poultry (chicken and turkey), two organ meats, and chicken meal.

The primary source of carbohydrate in this formula is dried ground potatoes which, though a little high in starch, are a digestible source of carbs for cats. You’ll also find cranberries for their urinary tract benefits as well as flaxseed as a natural source of omega fatty acids and dietary fiber.

Overall, this Wellness grain-free formula is a nutritious choice for adult cats. The only downside is that it is a little bit pricey and the size of the 3-ounce can may be a little deceiving based on the weight it holds.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chicken Meal, Turkey Liver, Dried Ground Potatoes, Natural Flavor, Cranberries, Guar Gum, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salmon Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Taurine, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Magnesium Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 12%
Crude Fat: 7%
Crude Fiber: 0.5%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 54.55%
Fat: 31.82%
Fiber: 2.27%
Carbs: 11.36%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 38.1%
Fat: 53.97%
Carbs: 7.94%

What We Liked:

  • Made with real animal protein as main ingredients
  • Nutritionally balanced for adult cats
  • Packed with moisture and low in carbohydrates

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Above average in cost
  • Size of can may be confusing

#4 Best For Sensitive Stomach: Instinct Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Canned Cat Food

Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Instinct
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Canned Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.30

The Instinct brand is formulated to mimic your cat’s natural ancestral diet which is built on high-quality animal proteins. True to their promise, Instinct’s Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe packs a punch with protein, listing three animal-based proteins as the top three ingredients.

Fresh chicken, fresh turkey, and chicken liver make up the first three ingredients in this formula, contributing to a crude protein content of 10% which converts to over 45% dry matter basis. This recipe contains minimal added carbohydrates which are limited to fresh veggies for a total of under 7% carbs.

In addition to being loaded with animal-based protein and moisture, this formula contains chelated minerals and added vitamins to ensure nutritional balance for adult cats. You’ll also find additional fruits and veggies at the end of the list which provide natural sources for key nutrients as well.

The primary downside to this recipe is the cost. Though it may be above average in price, however, it is free from grains and low-quality fillers and doesn’t contain any artificial additives.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Ground Flaxseed, Montmorillonite Clay, Egg Product, Peas, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Minerals (Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Menhaden Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 7.5%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 45.45%
Fat: 34.09%
Fiber: 13.64%
Carbs: 6.82%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 33.65%
Fat: 61.3%
Carbs: 5.05%

What We Liked

  • Rich in animal-based protein and moisture
  • Made with all-natural ingredients
  • Packed with healthy omega fatty acids

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Above average in cost

#5 Best For Weight Loss: Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken Grain-Free Wet Cat Food


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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Weruva
  • Made In: Thailand
  • Food Form: Canned Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $3.40

Packed with real animal protein including flavorful chunks of chicken, this Weruva recipe is our top choice for picky eaters. In addition to being loaded with real animal protein, it is high in moisture and very low in carbohydrates, though not as low as some of the recipes we’ve chosen (about 12%).

What we love about this recipe, aside from its rich protein content, is that it is completely free from grains, fillers, and carrageenan. It doesn’t contain antibiotics, growth hormones, GMOs, or MSG and it is produced in a human food facility. We should note, however, that this facility isn’t located in the United States. Weruva canned foods are produced in Thailand.

In addition to being a great source of real animal protein and moisture for your cat, this Weruva recipe is also available in larger cans than many we’ve reviewed. It comes in 3-ounce, 5.5-ounce, and 10-ounce cans with a recommended feeding of 1 ounce per pound of bodyweight. For a 10-pound cat, you’d only need to feed one 10-ounce can per day, ideally divided into two or more feedings.

Ingredients:

Chicken (Boneless, Skinless Breast), Chicken Broth, Potato Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil, Calcium Lactate, Xanthan Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 1.4%
Crude Fiber: 0.5%
Moisture: 85%
Ash: 1.2%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 66.67%
Fat: 9.33%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 12.67%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 65.36%
Fat: 22.22%
Carbs: 12.42%

What We Liked:

  • High in protein, low in fat and carbohydrates
  • Real chicken flavor picky cats find appealing
  • Recommended for cats with kidney disease

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Fish recipe contains large chunks some cats may not like
  • Contains over 10% carbohydrate

At A Glance: Best Grain-Free Dry Cat Foods To Buy

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Looking for grain-free cat food but prefer dry food over wet food? Here are our top five picks. In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Overall Best
9.9
Picked by 31 people today!

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

  • Meat-based recipe very high in protein
  • Low in carbohydrates, estimated under 8%
  • No grains, fillers, or artificial additives
Best Budget
9.5
Picked by 31 people today!

Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato Recipe

  • Relatively high in protein for a dry food
  • One of the most economical cat food brands
  • Guaranteed levels of probiotics for digestive support
Best for Sensitive Stomach
8.5
Picked by 25 people today!

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel and Lamb Cat Food

  • High in protein and animal-based ingredients
  • Free from grains, fillers, and artificial additives
  • Contains muscle meat, organs, and bone
Best for Weight Loss
8.0
Picked by 21 people today!

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Grain-Free Adult Dry Cat Food

  • Rich in animal-based protein
  • Highly digestible natural ingredients
  • Free from grains, fillers, and artificial additives
Best for Picky Eaters
8.0
Picked by 18 people today!

Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

  • Primarily made from nutritious animal-based ingredients
  • High in protein from quality sources
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates for a dry food
Best Ethically Sourced
8.0
Picked by 31 people today!

Open Farm Catch-of-the-Season Whitefish Dry Food

  • Rich in animal-based protein from whitefish and herring
  • Herring oil provides omega-3 fatty acids
  • No fillers, animal by-products, or vaguely named ingredients

#1 Overall Best: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Dr. Elsey’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 59% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.80

Our top pick overall for the best grain-free dry cat food is this cleanprotein recipe from Dr. Elsey’s. Though Dr. Elsey’s is best known for their cat litter, they also offer two dry cat food recipes and a small assortment of canned foods. This chicken recipe dry food contains 95% protein from animal sources with a guaranteed protein content of 59%.

The first ingredient in this grain-free dry cat food recipe is fresh chicken. It’s followed by dried egg, pork protein isolate, and gelatin, all of which are animal-based sources of protein. Gelatin also acts as one of the food’s sources of structure which is a replacement for grain-based options like grains or legumes.

In addition to being packed with protein, this dry food recipe contains moderate fat and above average fiber content. Dietary fiber offers limited benefit to cats, especially when it comes from plant-based sources but 4% shouldn’t be high enough to bother your cat’s digestive system.
Another potential downside for this recipe is the cost which is well over $6 per pound. That being the case, the recommended feeding amount is only about ½ cup per day for a 10-pound cat which averages to under $1.00 per day in cost.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Taurine, Salt, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 59%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 4%
Moisture: 12%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 67.05%
Fat: 20.45%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 7.95%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 53.78%
Fat: 39.84%
Carbs: 6.38%

What We Liked:

  • Meat-based recipe very high in protein
  • Low in carbohydrates, estimated under 8%
  • No grains, fillers, or artificial additives

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Above average in cost
  • Low in moisture (like all dry foods)

#2 Best Budget: Kirkland Signature Nature’s Domain Salmon Meal & Sweet Potato Recipe

Kirkland Signature Nature

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Kirkland Signature
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 32% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.20

Grain-free cat food is often more expensive than the alternative, but Kirkland cat food is one of the most economical brands on the market. This particular recipe features protein-rich salmon meal as the first ingredient and contains several supplemental proteins including ocean fish meal.

This recipe does contain several sources of added carbohydrate, but they are grain-free and generally fairly digestible for cats. We also like that this formula contains guaranteed levels of probiotics to support your cat’s health and digestion.

Though it was once only sold in Costco stores, you can now buy Kirkland cat food online on Amazon. Other facts you should know about this brand include a product recall from 2012 due to potential salmonella contamination. This recall also affected other brands produced by Diamond Pet Foods including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Taste of the Wild, and 4Health.

Another downside to this recipe is its high carbohydrate content. This formula contains over 45% carbs measured on a dry matter basis and over 38% by caloric weight. It still contains over 30% protein, however, which makes it a biologically appropriate choice for adult cats.

Ingredients:

Salmon Meal, Ocean Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Canola Oil, Natural Flavor, Choline Chloride, Dl-methionine, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 32%
Crude Fat: 14%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 35.56%
Fat: 15.56%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 45.56%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 29.91%
Fat: 31.78%
Carbs: 38.32%

What We Liked:

  • Relatively high in protein for a dry food
  • One of the most economical cat food brands
  • Guaranteed levels of probiotics for digestive support

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Very high in carbohydrates (over 30%)
  • Contains canola oil instead of animal-based fat

#3 Best for Sensitive Stomach: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel and Lamb Recipe Cat Food

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Ziwi Peak
  • Made In: New Zealand
  • Food Form: Air-Dried
  • Guaranteed Protein: 43% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.70

Ziwi Peak is a premium pet food brand based in New Zealand. This particular recipe features whole, blue mackerel which is 100% sourced from ethical farms as well as grass-fed lamb. It contains 96% meat, fish, organs, and New Zealand green mussels which puts it under 5% carbohydrate.

In addition to being packed with protein and animal-based ingredients, this air-dried formula is nutritionally dense. Because it is air-dried rather than extruded like traditional kibble, the ingredients retain more of their original nutritional content.

The higher nutritional quality accounts for the high price point of this recipe which is about $1.75 per ounce. That being said, the food is very calorie-dense, so you’ll only need to feed your cat about 2 ounces per day. This makes Ziwi Peak’s dry food much more affordable than their canned food.

We love that this formula is made with high-quality, natural ingredients in a pure and simple formula that is ideal for sensitive stomachs. It does contain synthetic essential nutrients, but the majority of the main ingredients come from muscle meat, organs, and bone.

Ingredients:

Mackerel, Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Lung, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Bone, Lecithin, Inulin from Chicory, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Preservative (Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), DL-Methionine, Taurine.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 43%
Crude Fat: 25%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 14%
Ash: 12%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 50%
Fat: 29.07%
Fiber: 2.33%
Carbs: 4.65%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 39.92%
Fat: 56.37%
Carbs: 3.71%

What We Liked:

  • High in protein and animal-based ingredients
  • Free from grains, fillers, and artificial additives
  • Contains muscle meat, organs, and bone

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Above average in cost
  • Low in moisture (like all dried foods)

#4 Best for Weight Loss: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Tiki Cat
  • Made In: Thailand
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 43% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.50

When it comes to supporting your cat’s healthy weight loss, it’s important to find a highly digestible recipe that is rich in real animal protein and this Tiki Cat formula fits the bill.

This dry food recipe is packed with real animal protein including deboned chicken, chicken meal, and dehydrated chicken as the first three ingredients. You’ll also find dried egg as a supplemental protein source and a limited number of digestible grain-free carbohydrates.

Though this recipe contains a relatively limited number of carbohydrate ingredients compared to some formulas, it’s still a little higher in carbs than we’d prefer. We do appreciate, however, that it is grain-free and doesn’t contain any low-quality fillers like corn, wheat, or soy and it is completely free from artificial additives and by-products as well.

Like Weruva, Tiki Cat produces many of their foods in Thailand. They describe their facilities as “award-winning human-grade canning plants” and we’re inclined to believe it. Thailand is quickly becoming one of the primary locations for pet food manufacturing (particularly wet foods) and, for the most part, follows high standards.

Ingredients:

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Dehydrated Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Tapioca, Natural Chicken Flavor, Ground Whole Flaxseed, Chickpeas, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Brewers Dried Yeast, Calcium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Inulin (Prebiotic), Salmon Oil, Pumpkin, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Preservative), Citric Acid, Tannic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 43%
Crude Fat: 19%
Crude Fiber: 3.5%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 47.78%
Fat: 21.11%
Fiber: 3.89%
Carbs: 27.22%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 37.84%
Fat: 40.6%
Carbs: 21.56%

What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal-based protein
  • Digestible high quality ingredients
  • Free from grains, fillers, and artificial additives

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Relatively high carbohydrate content
  • Low in moisture (like all dry foods)

#5 Best for Picky Eaters: Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Solid Gold
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 42% Min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.35

Cats are notorious for being picky when it comes to their diet, but some cats are pickier than others. If you have a picky eater, you’ll need a recipe that is packed with real animal ingredients, so it has an appealing flavor and aroma. Our top grain-free pick is this Indigo Moon recipe from Solid Gold.

In addition to being made primarily from animal proteins, this Indigo Moon recipe has a significant number of positive customer reviews. Cats and their owners alike seem to be big fans of this recipe and it is surprisingly low in carbohydrates for a dry food, estimated under 20%.

The first ingredient in this grain-free cat food is chicken meal, a concentrated source of animal protein. You’ll also find fresh chicken, dried eggs, and ocean fish meal as supplemental sources of protein. We’d prefer to see fewer starchy carbs like potatoes and peas in this formula but, again, the total carb content is fairly low and it is still a grain-free recipe that doesn’t contain any low-quality fillers.

Ingredients:

Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Peas, Chicken, Dried Eggs, Ocean Fish Meal, Natural Flavor, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Pumpkin, Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid), Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Blueberries, Cranberries, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 42%
Crude Fat: 20%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 46.67%
Fat: 22.22%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 27.78%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 36.34%
Fat: 42.03%
Carbs: 21.63%

What We Liked:

  • Primarily made from nutritious animal-based ingredients
  • High in protein from quality sources
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates for a dry food

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Low in moisture content (like all dry foods)
  • Contains several plant-based ingredients

#5 Best Ethically Sourced: Open Farm Catch-of-the-Season Whitefish Dry Food

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Product Details:

  • Brand Name: Open Farm
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 37.0%
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.75

This high-protein formula features wild-caught seasonal whitefish as the primary ingredient, supplemented with ocean whitefish meal as a concentrated source of animal protein. You’ll also see herring meal in the third slot on the ingredients list which makes this recipe protein-rich in the whole.

In addition to being packed with animal-based protein, this formula contains herring oil as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. That being said, coconut oil is actually the primary source of added fat and a plant-based source at that.

We appreciate that the list of ingredients for this recipe is fairly limited, though there are a few more plant-based ingredients than we’d like to see. The formula is, however, completely free from fillers, animal by-products, and vaguely named ingredients as well as artificial additives.

Ingredients:

Ocean Whitefish, Ocean Whitefish Meal, Herring Meal, Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), Coconut Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Green Lentils, Herring Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pumpkin, Natural Flavor, Red Lentils, Non-GMO Cranberries, Apples, Dried Chicory Root Extract, Choline Chloride, Salt, Dandelion Greens, Taurine, Turmeric, Potassium Chloride, Tricalcium Phosphate, Dried Yucca Schidigera Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin A Acetate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 37%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 41.11%
Fat: 20%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 35.56%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 32.83%
Fat: 38.78%
Carbs: 28.39%

What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal-based protein from whitefish and herring
  • Herring oil provides omega-3 fatty acids
  • No fillers, animal by-products, or vaguely named ingredients
  • Contains 100% human-grade, ethically sourced ingredients

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains a significant number of plant-based ingredients
  • Doesn’t contain the moisture your cat needs

Is Grain-Free Cat Food A Good Choice?

Before getting into the details of whether grain-free cat food is a good choice for cats, let’s take a moment to explore what grain-free diets are.

As the name suggests, a grain-free diet is one that doesn’t include any grains. That means no wheat, barley, rye, rice, corn, or oatmeal. The thing you need to realize about grain-free diets is that they are not necessarily carbohydrate-free.

In fact, some grain-free diets are higher in carbohydrates than similar products.

When a pet food manufacturer removes grains from a product, they often replace it with another carbohydrate like potato, lentils, peas, or tapioca. In many cases, grain-free products are loaded with high-glycemic carbs that can cause your cat’s blood sugar to spike. This can be particularly problematic in cats with feline diabetes.

Regardless of what kind of carbohydrates the recipe contains, keep in mind that cats are obligate carnivores and have no biological requirement for carbohydrates in their diet.

Your cat is an obligate carnivore which means he’s evolved to follow a primarily meat-based diet. The majority of his nutrition needs to come from animal sources, not plants. Whether you’re considering a grain-free or grain-inclusive diet, it’s important to determine the total carbohydrate content.

Unfortunately, this can be a little tricky because pet food manufacturers don’t list the carb content of their foods. You can, however, estimate the carb content of a cat food recipe using the information provided in the Guaranteed Analysis.

To estimate the carb content of a cat food recipe, add up the values for Crude Protein, Crude Fat, Crude Fiber, and Moisture. You’ll also need to add the Ash content, if listed. If it isn’t listed, you can estimate about 7% for dry food and 3% for wet food. Add up these five percentages and subtract from 100% – that will give you the estimated carb content of the recipe.

Ideally, you want the carb content to be close to zero, but we’re generally happy with commercial diets that contain less than 10% estimated carbohydrate.

So, as long as a grain-free cat food is primarily meat-based and provides for your cat’s nutritional needs, there’s no reason not to choose it. You should always be checking the list of ingredients for red flags and do a quick calculation on estimated carbs to determine whether a product is worth considering.

Controversy And Misconceptions Surrounding Grain-Free Cat Food

Though there’s theoretically nothing wrong with grain-free cat food as long as it provides for your cat’s nutritional needs, there’s still a great deal of controversy and misinformation surrounding the issue.

Until recently, grain-free diets were primarily found in veterinary offices and marketed as specialty diets for cats with food allergies and certain health problems. During the early 2000s, low-carb and gluten-free diet fads became popular and, along with them, a rise in the popularity of grain-free diets for pets.

The million-dollar question is this: do cats need grain-free food? No.

It may be true that you won’t find a lion munching on grains in the wild, but grains can be used as a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and energy in a nutritionally balanced commercial cat food recipe. As long as the recipe meets your cat’s needs for protein and doesn’t go overboard on carbohydrates, there’s nothing terribly wrong with it.

What About Cats With Food Allergies?

If your cat is allergic to grains, a grain-free diet is certainly a better choice than the alternative. That being said, food allergies are rarer in pets than the general public seems to believe and grain allergies are less common than allergies to animal proteins like chicken, beef, and fish.

Common symptoms of food allergies in cats include itchy skin, hair loss, and digestive issues. If your cat is exhibiting these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian and consider an elimination diet using a limited ingredient or single source protein recipe.

Do Grain-Free Diets Cause Heart Disease?

In July of 2018, the FDA announced the launch of an investigation into reports of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in pets following grain-free diets. It’s worth noting, however, that the diets in question contained a high proportion of peas, lentils, legumes, and potatoes. As a group, these are referred to as ‘BEG’ i.e. boutique companies, exotic ingredients, or grain-free.

Dilated cardiomyopathy is not uncommon in dogs, particularly in large-breed dogs, but is fairly rare in cats.

The concern is that the FDA received a significant number of reports of DCM for breeds of dog that weren’t previously known to possess a genetic predisposition for the disease. In response to customer complaints, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) collaborated with the Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network to investigate the claims.

The FDA issued several updates over the course of the next two years but failed to provide concrete evidence leaning one way or another. In fact, their methods of data collection left much to be desired.

In September 2020, the FDA issued another update regarding a study involving 150 dogs diagnosed with DCM in an attempt to identify potential causative factors. The results showed that DCM is a complex issue with multiple potential variables including breed, age, weight, and more. Dietary changes were not judged responsible for dogs that experienced full or partial recovery.

In other words, the analysis revealed no definitive relationship between grain-free and legume-rich diets and the incidence of DCM.

What About Taurine Deficiency?

Taurine is an essential amino acid and deficiency in this nutrient is a well-documented potential cause for DCM. In conducting their analysis, the FDA tested for taurine deficiency, but the majority of dogs diagnosed with DCM in relationship with grain-free diets were not found to be deficient.

Furthermore, taurine is derived from animal sources and not grains, so the concern that grain-free diets might contribute to taurine deficiency is unfounded.

Ultimately, when it comes to the subject of grain-free diets for cats there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

It’s important to remember that grain-free diets are primarily a marketing tool used by pet food manufacturers – the incidence of grain allergies in cats is actually fairly low. Though cats require animal-based sources for the majority of their nutrition, they have some ability to metabolize high-quality carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables.

Remember as well that many grain-free diets are actually higher in carbohydrates than their grain-inclusive counterparts.

To learn more about grain-free diets for cats, check out our in-depth guide here.

9 thoughts on “Best Grain Free Cat Foods

  1. Brittany

    Would you give feedback on specific food? I am getting a kitten and want gluten-free food (I’m celiac). I’ve settled on Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food for now. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hey Brittany, definitely!

      I’ve taken a quick look at that particular recipe. Overall, it’s a decent grain-free dry food but not ideal. On the positive side, it’s primarily made from relatively high-quality animal ingredients, doesn’t contain any by-products or artificial additives, and it contains some added probiotics for digestive health. But at the same time, the food’s heavy on legumes and carbohydrate sources in general, meaning that it could increase your cat’s chances of developing diabetes over time. Additionally, dry foods may put cats of any age at an increased risk of chronic dehydration and urinary tract issues.

      I’d recommend a high-moisture, low-carbohydrate food instead. For example, you might consider Blue Buffalo’s Healthy Gourmet Kitten Chicken Entree paté.

      Reply
  2. Luna Zane

    Why is Blue Buffalo your top pick when it only got a C rating but Purina Beyond scored higher with a B. Also, under the Blue you list a positive as having Sweet Potato but it’s not an ingredient. Under Beyond you list the one Con as having to do with Blue. Beyond does have a sweet potato variety but I don’t think Blue does.

    Reply
      1. Misty

        Hi, under Purina ProPlan Canned you said what you like about it is that it has no gluten corn or by products then list the ingredients, the 1st four are, Chicken, Corn Gluten Meal, liver and meat by products.

        Alot of ingredients listed in dry foods of products you promote as good have By-Products, meat Meal, Soybean Meal, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Whole Grain Corn, Powdered Cellulose, Soybean Hulls, Liver Flavor, Salt, Caramel Color. No cats should be fed with food containing any of those ingredients in dry or wet food and no carrageenan in wet foods.

        The first 3 ingredients should always be meat not water, grains, gluten, flour, By-Products from any animal or animal meals.

        Purina is in the top 10 worst food.

        Reply
        1. Mallory Crusta

          Hi there Misty! That doesn’t sound right at all. I’ve reviewed the article and it looks like it’s in need of an update as soon as possible. Thank you for pointing these issues out to us.
          Best,
          Mallory

          Reply
  3. Kevin Lippincott

    Have 2 cats – male approx. 3 years old, and a 7 1/2 month old kitten female… Each have their own wet and dry foods (he’s on a prescription dry because of his teeth and jaw). I’m looking for the best dry, grain free kitten food for her and best grain free wet for both

    You can email me directly as well

    Thank you

    Reply
    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hello Kevin, here are my recommendations for your two cats:

      Best Grain-Free Kitten Food

    2. Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Kitten Recipe with Real Chicken
    3. Simply Nourish Source Chicken and Turkey Kitten Food
    4. As for good grain-free wet foods, I’d recommend taking a look at our list of the best wet cat food on the market. All of them are grain-free and some are formulated for all life stages, meaning that they’ll be perfect for both of your kitties.

      Reply
  4. Divine

    Purina Pro Plan (all Purina products) should be excluded from any quality pet food reviews, for these ingredients listed…
    WHEAT GLUTEN, MEAT BY-PRODUCTS (slaughterhouse floor scrapings?), CORN STARCH, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, And what cat needs ADDED COLOR? Shame, shame Purina.
    Purina is garbage crammed in a can or dried and bagged and sold 100X its actual cost.
    Not mad at you, and maybe you got some kickback from them, so can’t blame you for making a bit of cash. You can let them know how much negative response you got. I worked with animal feed products. Wouldn’t take Purina products if they gave them to me free.

    Reply

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