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Cats are carnivores.
Big cats. Small cats.
High protein and low carb is the aim of the game for cats.
Here’s our 5 best wet cat foods based on testing:
- Fancy Feast | Best Overall
- Tiki Cat After Dark | Best for Indoor Cats
- Friskies Pate | Best Affordable
- Feline Natural | Best Quality
- Wellness Core Tiny Tasters | Best for Picky Cats
There’s a huge range of wet cat foods.
You want healthy cat food your cat will love that doesn’t get binned.
I’ve tested many wet cat foods with my cat team and weighed the nutrition benefits.
In this article I’ll help you with a buying guide to know what to look for. Then, I’ll run through my top choices and why I picked them.
Finally, I’ll go through frequently asked questions on the topic.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.
Let’s get into the article.
5 Very Best Wet Cat Foods for Health
1. Fancy Feast Creamy Delights
Best Wet Cat Food
Pros and Cons
Fancy Feast just does most things right for me. I recommend it for most cat owners.
It’s affordable. Cats enjoy it. There’s a lot of variety.
This choice is suitable for all life stages (there’s options for kittens too). Fancy Feast is low in carbs which is easy on digestion.
Whilst this one uses meat by-products, there’s little else to critique.
Unless you’re after a premium cat food, Fancy Feast is my pick.
Read More: Fancy Feast Cat Food Review
2. Tiki Cat After Dark
Best for Indoor Cats
Pros and Cons
Tiki Cat After Dark is your best choice for indoor cats and weight loss.
It’s lower in fat and high in protein. The calorie density of this one is low compared to most other wet cat foods.
Plus you get real authentic shreds and variety of flavors.
Pricey. Also, every recipe in the After Dark range use chicken.
Underweight cats will need a higher fat to help maintain weight.
Read More: Tiki Cat Food Review
4. Friskies Pate
Best Affordable Wet Cat Food
Pros and Cons
Friskies are a very popular choice online and with good reason. Picky cats love it.
It’s high in meat based ingredients, albeit from by-products. And there’s a lot of variety.
There’s a few things we don’t like.
The carb content is a tad high (16% dry matter). Better than most dry cat food, but still.
Finally, it’s not the most versatile. There’s no kitten or older cat friendly choices (although you can serve it to any cat in a pinch).
Read More: Friskies Cat Food Review
Best Quality Wet Cat Food
Pros and Cons
I believe Feline Natural is the best quality cat food.
It’s the swiss army knife of cat food. Suitable for any cat, young and old.
No grains. No gums. No carrageenan. No legumes.
It has joint friendly nutrients including chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega 3 fatty acids. A great choice for older cats.
The main problem is the price, but justifiable if you really want the best for your little guy.
Also mind the exotic tastes, that will put off finnicky eaters.
Read More: Feline Natural Cat Food Review
5. Wellness Core Tiny Tasters
Best Wet Cat Food for Picky Eaters
Pros and Cons
Wellness Core is the healthiest and best testing cat food we’ve found. Picky cats rejoice!
It’s meat rich and free of grains.
With a great range of flavors, there’s something to tickle any cats fancy.
The only downsides are the price and added gums. Gums may test a sensitive stomach.
Learn More: Wellness Core Cat Food Review
How Did I Choose These Cat Foods?
I’ve analyzed over 50 popular cat foods. Many tested with my cat team.
I sorted cat foods based on:
We use a qualitative and quantitative scoring system.
I picked out options that best meet the categories in the round up.
I omitted cat foods that scored well, but had some issues (e.g. availability problems, lack of customer reviews, untested).
Here’s a comparison of the 10 best wet cat foods using our scoring.
|Best wet cat food||Type||Lifestage||Protein*||Carb||Kcal/kg||Cost||Taste||Nutrition||Score||Notes|
|Fancy Feast Creamy Delights||Pate||All||45.5%||0.7%||1,340||$||9.5||9.5||84||Great all round affordable choice|
|Tiki Cat After Dark||Shreds||All||77.7%||0.1%||751||$$$||8.5||8.5||83||Low calorie choice, but pricey|
|Meat Mates||Pate||All||41.7%||1.7%||1,084||$$$||9||10||83||Great choice, but limited availability|
|Instinct Original||Pate||All||59.1%||3.2%||944||$$||9||8.5||82||Solid choice on paper, but yet to test|
|Nulo Freestyle||Pate||All||51.4%||5.8%||1,225||$||8.5||9.5||81||As above|
|Friskies Pate||Pate||Adult||50.0%||15.9%||1,117||$||9.5||7.5||80||Value for money choice with lots of variety|
|Wellness Core Tiny Tasters||Pate||Adult||46.7%||3.7%||1,291||$$$||9.5||9||80||Good quality and taste for picky cats|
|Feline Natural||Pate||All||51.5%||2.1%||895||$$$||7.5||10||79||High quality cat food, but mixed taste results|
|Avo Derm||Gravy||All||55.6%||11.1%||829||$$||9||7.5||78||Good choice, but limit the tuna intake|
|Ziwi Peak||Pate||All||54.2%||10.4%||1,200||$$$||9||9||78||Healthy grass-fed meats, but adds chickpea|
Cats are part of the carnivora order of the animal kingdom.
Doesn’t get more carnivore than that.
As the cat food market continues to grow more attention will go to affordability. This can come at the expense of nutrition quality.
Keep that in mind when looking for wet cat food.
Ok, so what to look for?
Bump up the Protein
AAFCO recommends at 26% protein (dry matter basis) for maintenance and 30% for growth.
Most wet cat foods easily meet this.
But check with a calculator. Take the guaranteed analysis (usually on the back) and crunch the numbers.
Food sources affect protein quality.
Meat by-products and grain based protein sources lower quality, especially the latter.
In general, the lower the quality the more protein needed to make up for it.
If you find the cat food barely scrapes in with protein, and uses low quality sources, maybe reconsider.
Consider that cats prefer a high protein diet. The ‘sweet spot’ is 50% (dry matter).
Bump up the protein to get picky cats on board.
Also, a meaty rich diet also seems to help reduce hunting behavior. Cool.
Cut Down on Carbs
Cats have zero need for carbs.
High carb foods include:
- Brewers rice
- Corn gluten meal
- Wheat gluten meal
- Tapioca starch
- Sweet potato
Cats digest cooked starch efficiently (85-95%), however it’s the quantity of most concern.
A cat can tolerate ~16g of carbs per day (~12% carbs dry matter).
Feeding cats more than this results in digestive upset and high blood sugar.
Despite claims a rats gut is ‘carb loaded’ and is evidence cats need carbs, all cats (even big cats) tend to avoid the gut when eating prey.
Whilst I don’t think you need to avoid carbs entirely, I feel that keeping the carb content low is best for health.
Diabetic cats should have no more than 15% carbs (dry matter).
1-11% of cats have food intolerance.
This can cause:
- Itchy skin
Some grains like wheat and barely also cause intolerance in some cats. Well, aren’t we cutting back on that (see above)?
Carrageenan can inflame the gut.
Be weary of ‘fancy ingredients’ like vegetables.
Functional foods do not benefit cats based on current evidence.
Consider a simple novel protein wet food if your cat continues to have food intolerance.
Choosing Cat Food for Old Cats
The cat world has a hard time categorizing older cats.
Here’s how research looks at it:
- Adult 1-7 years
- Mature 7-12 years
- Senior 12-14 years
- Geriatric 14+ years
The metabolic rate of cats plateaus at the mature range. These guys are at highest risk of weight gain.
However, its at the ‘senior’ range where muscle loss from sarcopenia begins. Seniors struggle to digest protein.
A lot of ‘mature’ cat food is low calorie and high fiber. Not great for seniors!
Any benefit of fiber to health may already be in meat anyway. The tough collagen rich fibers of meats contain animal derived fermentable substrates (ADFS).
What Wet Cat Food is Best For Kittens?
Kittens need a high calorie and protein diet.
This is due to their fast growth in the first few weeks and months of life.
You’ll also notice food labelled for kittens. What’s more important that you look for the label that says it’s balanced for ‘growth’.
The main benefit of kitten foods is added calcium.
This is needed for strong bones and to prevent nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism.
What Wet Cat Food is Best for a Sensitive Stomach?
High carb diets can cause diarrhea.
Cat’s have a limited ability to digest carbs and they even impair protein digestion.
Some cats are sensitive to fillers such as carrageenan and xanthan gum.
Also avoid leftovers, as cats are intolerant to many.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Should I Introduce New Wet Cat Food?
- Add 1/4 new food to 3/4 old
- Increase over 2 weeks
The key is to go slow.
Cats are neophobic, meaning they are averse to new foods. Give them time to warm up.
Speaking of warming up:
Cat’s prefer their meats served warm (~15-50 degrees Celsius) as this improves smell. Don’t serve cold!
Is Wet or Dry Food Better for Cats?
Wet is best.
Cats are carnivores. Wet cat food offers a ratio of dietary nutrients and water that reflect a cats needs.
Dry cat food is linked to obesity. It’s easy to overserve and is calorie dense.
What Is the Best Inexpensive Wet Cat Food?
Friskies are our favorite.
They offer a range of flavors, and our cats approved of the taste.
Why Do Cats Need a High Protein Diet?
A cat can’t conserve body protein with low protein diets.
A cat’s diet must be 16% protein by energy or they lose muscle.
As carnivores, cats prefer animal based foods as a main source of nutrition. They can’t get most nutrients from plants.
Why Do Cats Need Fat in Their Diet?
Fat provides energy and essential fatty acids for health.
Without fat, cats will find it hard to meet their calorie needs.
Cats need essential fats, from animal sources.
- Arachidonic acid (AA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Cats can’t convert plant based linoleic acid into AA.
Inflammation requires AA. Inflammation sounds bad but is necessary for healing.
Cats need EPA and DHA (omega 3 fatty acids). Omega 3 helps with immune system health.
Again, it’s got to be meat (e.g. salmon). Cats can’t convert plant-based omega 3 fatty acids (α-linolenic acid) into EPA and DHA.
Do Cats Need Carbohydrate in Their Cat Food?
Cats are carnivores, and evolved on a diet with almost no carbs.
They have low levels of enzymes that don’t increase in response to dietary carb intake. More carbs don’t help cats adapt.
Are Meat By-Products a Good Source of Animal Protein?
There are three types of meat found in cat food:
- Meat by-products
- Meat meal
Named body parts are ideal. It tells you what’s in the tin.
Whilst sounding bad, by-products aren’t bad. They are the unused meats not used for human consumption.
Think brain, kidney, lungs, and heart. We don’t eat that much.
But they offer protein.
By-products don’t contain hair, horns, teeth, hooves, or manure.
Meat meal is a different beast. It contains rendered and heat treated food. This food source can include dead, diseased and dying meat.
Generally, meat meal is high in dry cat food.
What Is Best Quality Cat Wet Food?
It’s got named meat ingredients. It’s a complete meal for all life stages.
No gums, carrageenan, grains, or legumes.
Feline Natural are the best ‘off the shelf’ option.
What Is the Healthiest Cat Food for Indoor Cats?
Tiki Cat After Dark.
It’s low in calorie, and high protein. This cat food will help cats with low energy needs, including indoor cats.
Is Grain Free Better or Worse for Cats?
Grains are high in carbs. Cats don’t need carbs.
So yes, grain-free is better….
The trick is cat foods substitute for other high carb foods.
- Sweet potato
So you’ll end up still getting a high-carb food a lot of the time.
Ignore the front label and instead go right to the ingredients.
If you see potato high on the list, reconsider. It’s probably high carb.
Use a dry matter basis calculator. Steer clear of high carb foods (anything over 25%).
Is Fancy Feast a Healthy Cat Food?
It’s low carb and high protein.
High in animal ingredients. Low in plant ingredients and grains.
Not much else to say wrong. It’s meat in a tin, which is what cats need.
Nothing fancy, ironically.
Cats are carnivores. The best wet cat food reflects a normal diet of cats, being high in protein and animal foods.
Choose wet cat food that are high in animal ingredients and low in fillers like grains. Also look for the sign of nutritional adequacy, from AAFCO.
Speak with a vet for more help on specific situations.
>> Our very best wet cat food is Fancy Feast.
If you’d like to get in touch with us, here’s a contact form. We’re happy to hear about personal experience with cat products and friendly suggestions.