raw cat food

Best Raw Cat Food – 5 Healthy Picks for Your Carnivore

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The best raw cat food emulates the pure, elegant simplicity of a cat’s natural whole prey diet. Great products combine that nutritional integrity with excellent ingredient quality and a reputation for consistency and safety.

That’s why we recommend Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels as the best raw cat food you can buy. Freeze-drying ensures that this food is safe for both you and your cat while delivering the rich nutrition of fresh meat. It’s produced by one of the best-established companies in the raw pet food space and has a reputation for safety and consistency.

Before we learn more about this Stella & Chewy’s food and our other top recommendations, let’s talk about what we looked for when selecting the best raw cat food on the market.

Quick Look At Our Picks for Best Raw Cat Food

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Overall Best

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food
  • Freeze dried food is safer to handle and store
  • Made primarily from species-appropriate rabbit
  • Rich in probiotics with 10 million colony forming units per ounce
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Runner Up

Northwest Naturals Freeze Dried Raw Diet for Cats
  • A meat-centric raw food
  • A meat-centric raw food
  • Freeze-dried for safety and shelf-stability
  • Extremely low in carbohydrates
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Best Budget

Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review
  • A crowd-pleasing recipe that cats seem to love
  • Rich in animal-derived nutrition
  • Contains a range of probiotics to support digestive and immune health
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Here Are The Qualities We Looked For When Choosing The Best Raw Cat Food

The best raw cat food is rich in protein with moderate levels of fat and low carbohydrate content.

As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on a prey-inspired balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Raw food usually does this well, delivering plenty of animal-derived protein, species-appropriate sources of fatty acids, and not too much starch.

The best raw cat food offers a whole-prey-inspired distribution of muscle meat, organs, and bones.

It appears that the healthiest raw cat foods are composed of roughly 84% muscle meat, 6% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organs. This mimics the composition of your cat’s prey and helps the food to deliver the right macronutrients and micronutrients with minimal supplementation.

Why Is This So Important When Choosing A Raw Cat Food?

Excessive bone content is surprisingly common among raw food. With too much bone comes too much phosphorus and other minerals. And with no official word on how much phosphorus is excessive, this could spell problems for your cat’s kidneys.

Whether you’re looking at the ratio of muscle meat to organs to bone or scrutinizing the food’s nutrient percentages, it’s critical to make sure that the food has the right balance of nutrients. Compared to other types of cat food, raw cat food is notorious for missing the mark in this area.

We considered the company’s reputation and customer reviews before recommending any raw cat food product.

Labels are important, but the label only tells you a sliver of the story. You should also know where the food came from.

In order to choose the products for this list, we took time to evaluate the company behind the food. We looked for manufacturers with a history of safety and consistency. A company history peppered with recalls and complaints is a sign that this particular food may not be the safest choice for your cat.

With that in mind, we looked for foods coming from companies with strong, stable reputations. We also considered customer experience, reading hundreds of customer reviews, checking for complaints on Consumer Affairs, and sometimes calling the company to get a feel for its culture and trustworthiness.

In addition to scrutinizing each brand’s reputation, we looked for foods that are manufactured and handled according to stringent safety and quality standards.

Especially when you’re evaluating a raw cat food, it’s important to remember that recalls don’t tell the full story. Raw cat food is inherently prone to containing bacteria—it’s a normal part of being raw food and rarely harmful to healthy cats—and that means that it’s recalled more often than other types of food.

While even the best raw cat food may be recalled for its bacteria-friendly nature, a history of repeated recalls may also indicate serious quality control issues. If a company is selling food contaminated with parasites, mold, or excessive bacteria, that’s a sign there’s something wrong.

The most trustworthy manufacturers subject their raw cat food to stringent quality control measures, making sure that every stage of production is tightly-controlled to ensure consistent quality. The food may undergo processes to reduce the risk of pathogenic contamination, including freeze-drying or high-pressure processing (HPP).

Top 6 Best Raw Cat Food Products on the Market in 2020

Overall Best: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food Review

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food Review

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Stella and Chewy’s is one of the leading companies in the raw pet food space. It has a strong reputation for consistency and a robust lineup with plenty of options to keep your cat happy.

Stella & Chewy’s offers a wide variety of freeze-dried and frozen cat foods, all of which provide an impressive macronutrient distribution and healthy micronutrient levels. By offering an impressive variety of protein sources, Stella & Chewy’s gives you a lot of options. Whether your cat is on a restrictive diet or craves variety, you should be able to find a Stella & Chewy’s recipe that fits his needs.

Stella & Chewy’s offers both frozen and freeze-dried options, both of which can be a great option. We’ve recommended this freeze-dried recipe because it’s convenient, As a freeze-dried food, this product is safe to handle and store but retains the nutritional balance of raw meat.

This particular recipe centers around rabbit meat, organs, and bones. In addition to rabbit, the recipe contains prebiotics and probiotics to keep your cat’s digestive system healthy and his immune system strong.

Ingredients

Rabbit With Ground Bone, Rabbit Liver, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Dried Ediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein44% Min
Crude Fat30% Min
Fiber5% Max
Moisture5% Max

What We Liked:

  • Freeze dried food is safer to handle and store
  • Made primarily from species-appropriate rabbit
  • Rich in probiotics with 10 million colony forming units per ounce
  • Grain-free without fillers or by-products
  • Low carbohydrate content

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Freeze-dried food demands a few minutes of rehydration time
  • Stella & Chewy’s doesn’t publish complete nutrient charts, making it difficult to evaluate its
  • nutritional strengths and weaknesses

Runner Up: Northwest Naturals Freeze Dried Raw Diet for Cats Review

Northwest Naturals Freeze Dried Raw Diet for Cats Review

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Northwest Naturals has made and sold raw food for dogs and cats since 1990. Though not one of the best-known raw cat food manufacturers, this company has established a strong reputation for quality and consistency.

Their foods undergo high-pressure-processing to break down the cell walls of foodborne pathogens without damaging the nutritional components of the food. Their recipes rely heavily on the nutritional value of fresh muscle meat, organs, and bones without a lot of plant matter.

This recipe from Northwest Naturals is 98% turkey muscle meat, organs, and bones, with the remaining 2% of the recipe consisting of vitamins and minerals, along with other nutrient-rich natural additives like kelp, dulse powder, psyllium husk powder, and fish oil.

The use of several fiber sources helps to mitigate the constipation that so many raw-fed cats encounter. If you’re concerned that your cat may develop constipation on a raw diet, this food from Northwest Naturals may be a good choice.

Ingredients

Turkey, Turkey Neck, Turkey Hearts, Turkey Liver, Egg, Gelatin, Water, Dulse Powder, Dried Kelp, Ground Flaxseed, Organic Psyllium Husk Powder, Salmon Oil, Inulin, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Taurine, Vitamin B Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols (as preservative). Vitamin D3 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein50% Min
Crude Fat34% Min
Fiber4% Max
Moisture5% Max

What We Liked:

  • A meat-centric raw food
  • Freeze-dried for safety and shelf-stability
  • Extremely low in carbohydrates
  • Produced by a company with a strong safety reputation

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Flaxseed oil is more prominent than fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • You’ll need to rehydrate the food before serving

Best Budget: Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Stella & Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

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Because it offers some of the most economical raw cat food on the market, Stella & Chewy’s earns a second mention on this list. In contrast to the rabbit recipe, their Chick Chick Chicken formula is relatively affordable. At around $2 per ounce, this food would cost roughly $2.84 per day if you’re feeding a typical 10-lb cat. It’s not cheap compared to canned or dry food, but it’s relatively affordable in the world of raw.

This crowd-pleasing recipe contains chicken muscle meat, boen, liver, and gizzard as its primary ingredients. This prey-inspired array of animal parts delivers most of the nutrition your cat requires.

That strong meat base is supplemented with digestion-strengthening probiotics and all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids your cat needs to thrive.

Like our first recommendation from Stella & Chewy’s, this is a freeze-dried formula that combines the nutritional integrity of raw food and the safety of a processed product.

Ingredients

Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Fenugreek Seed, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein45% Min
Crude Fat25% Min
Fiber5% Max
Moisture5% Max

What We Liked:

  • A crowd-pleasing recipe that cats seem to love
  • Rich in animal-derived nutrition
  • Contains a range of probiotics to support digestive and immune health
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Grain-free and low-carbohydrate
  • One of the most economical raw cat foods you can buy

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Freeze-dried food demands a few minutes of rehydration time

Best for Picky Cats: Wysong Archetype™ Raw Chicken Formula Canine/Feline Diet Review

Wysong Archetype™ Raw Chicken Formula Canine/Feline Diet Review

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If your cat refuses to eat the other recipes on this list, you might consider this recipe from Wysong.

Archetype is Wysong’s interpretation of freeze-dried raw cat food. The food is made primarily from chicken, chicken bones, and chicken organs. Although it’s low in carbohydrates, the recipe also contains a diverse array of what Wysong describes as nutraceuticals. These include trace amounts of blueberry, barley grass, chia seeds, broccoli sprouts, carrots, plums, whey, dried kelp, yeast extract, and probiotics.

Compared to the other foods mentioned here, this food doesn’t receive quite as many customer reviews. That said, most are positive, with many customers saying that their cats liked eating the food or saw health improvements after making the switch.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Organs, Ground Chicken Bone, Natural Flavor, Taurine, Organic Blueberry, Organic Barley Grass, Chia Seeds, Broccoli Sprouts, Carrots, Plums, Whey, Sea Salt, Dried Kelp, Yeast Extract, Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Yeast Culture, Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Calcium Carbonate, Vitamins (Ascorbic Acid [Source of Vitamin C], Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate,etc…

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein44% Min
Crude Fat30% Min
Fiber0.5% Max
Moisture4% Max

What We Liked:

  • Freeze-dried for safety and longevity
  • After it’s rehydrated, this food is an excellent moisture source
  • Contains probiotics to encourage digestive and immune health
  • Free from grains, fillers, and by-products
  • Wysong has an outstanding reputation for food safety

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not an adequate source of moisture unless rehydrated

Best Raw Kibble: Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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Whether you’re putting in hundreds of hours a year to prepare homemade raw cat food, defrosting a frozen medallion, or rehydrating freeze-dried nibbles, feeding raw cat food is notoriously time-consuming. Choosing a raw kibble gives your cat the nutrition of fresh food and the convenience of a dry product.

If you want a raw cat food that you can pour into your cat’s bowl and serve as-is without defrosting or rehydrating, consider Vital Essentials Mini Nibs. These are little chunks of freeze-dried food that you serve like kibble. Made from ground chicken muscle meat, chicken heart, chicken gizzard, and egg as its primary ingredients, this food delivers species-appropriate, meat-derived nutrition your cat needs.

Vital Essentials foods are among the few raw products that rely almost exclusively on the nutritional value of muscle meat, organs, and bones with minimal supplementation. Besides flesh, bones, and eggs, this food contains raw goat’s milk and herring oil. These anti-inflammatory inclusions make it a good choice for cats with digestive issues and food sensitivities.

Of course, this food isn’t perfect—its biggest flaw is the fact that it doesn’t give your cat the moisture he needs—but it can be a good addition to a well-rounded diet.

Ingredients

Finely Ground Chicken With Bone, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Egg, Raw Goat’s Milk, Water, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein45% Min
Crude Fat15% Min
Fiber3% Max
Moisture8% Max

What We Liked:

  • Rich in protein with moderate fat and minimal carbohydrates
  • Primarily made from animal-derived ingredients
  • Convenient mini nibs are great for cats who are used to dry food

What We Didn’t Like:

  • One of the most expensive options on this list
  • Doesn’t have enough moisture to keep your cat healthy

Best for Seniors: Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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High-quality nutrition is never more important than during the senior years. In theory, raw cat food can be exactly what senior cats need—it delivers plenty of protein in its most digestible form, helping to support lean muscle mass without stressing your senior’s body.

But in reality, raw cat food tends to have too much bone and phosphorus, qualities that make it a poor choice for seniors at risk of reduced kidney function.

That’s why we recommend this food from New Zealand brand Feline Natural as the best raw cat food for seniors. Unlike the other foods on this list, this recipe does not contain any natural bone. This helps to keep its mineral balance in check, making it a kidney-friendly alternative to bonier, more phosphorus-heavy foods. It’s not a therapeutic diet and not recommended for cats with kidney disease, but it is an appealing option for seniors.

And besides its conservative bone content, this food honors senior cats’ needs with a heavy concentration of easy-to-digest chicken muscle meat, lamb organs, heart, and blood. All of these ingredients are highly bioavailable, too, meaning that your cat gets more nutrition with less processing.

Finally, the food contains New Zealand green mussel, a source of omega-3 fatty acids that could help to fight inflammation associated with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Ingredients

Chicken, Lamb Heart, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver, Lamb Blood, Flaxseed Flakes, New Zealand Green Mussel, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein48% Min
Crude Fat31% Min
Fiber1% Max
Moisture8% Max

What We Liked:

  • Easily-digested protein helps to support senior muscle mass
  • Controlled phosphorus is easy on aging kidneys
  • Calorie-dense to keep senior cats strong
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains green lipped mussel, a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Very expensive

Is Raw Cat Food Really A Good Choice?

According to accounts from raw feeders, this type of diet can have radical benefits for your cat’s health and wellbeing. That being said, the potential benefits of raw cat food haven’t been heavily-studied or confirmed.

Based on anecdotal evidence, here are a few ways that raw cat food may be able to help.

  • The concentration of species-appropriate animal fats found in raw food can contribute to a shiny, plush coat—an indicator that your cat’s skin and entire body is healthier.
  • Many people say that their cats became more active after switching to a raw food diet. It’s speculated that this is because the food has a very high biological value and is readily utilized by the body. This means that even “lazy” cats and seniors might haul themselves off of their cushion and start skittering around the house like a kitten.
  • Raw cat food may support dental health. If you feed your cat raw meaty bones, their food can help to strengthen their jaws and scrub off residue, keeping their teeth healthy.
  • As a highly biologically-available food, raw food is almost completely utilized by your cat’s body. This means that raw-fed cats emit smaller, less smelly stool.
  • It also appears that a raw diet may be easier to digest and can be a good option for cats with IBD, food sensitivities, and other digestive issues.

Again, all of these claims are anecdotal and we’ve yet to see any strong evidence that raw cat food is any more nourishing than any well-balanced, nutritionally-complete cooked food.

When You’re Talking About Something As Controversial As Raw Food, It’s Important To Talk About The Risks.

Uncooked meat may be contaminated with bacteria, molds, and parasites.

In an FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine study of 196 samples of commercially-sold raw dog and cat food, 15 samples tested positive for salmonella and 32 tested positive for L. monocytogenes. This is just one example of the fact that raw meat is often rife with bacteria.

Note that this study observed the presence of bacteria in raw pet food, but failed to ask the most important question. It didn’t ask whether or not this bacteria made either pets or humans sick.

Remember that most cats have considerably more robust digestive systems than do humans. In most cases, these bacteria are no match for the hearty feline body and won’t make your cat sick. Cats naturally consume bacteria-laden raw meat and don’t experience any gastrointestinal distress as a result.

Ultimately, human health is at the center of most concerns about the bacteria content in raw cat food. When a person handles and prepares raw meat for their cat and when they interact with their cat following a raw meal, they are potentially exposed to bacteria that could make them sick.

When It Comes To Raw Food, Choosing The Right Product Is Vital

Between being a relatively new cat food category and its natural tendency to harbor bacteria, raw cat food is inherently a little bit more risky than other types of cat food. It’s essential that you choose a food that has the nutritional gusto to keep your cat healthy while coming from a company you can trust.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.