5 Best Cat Food Without By Products for Peace of Mind

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By-products are the leftover parts of food not used for human consumption. They include a variety of animal sources and can increase the risk of allergies.

Whilst needed in a cats diet, it’s preferable to know the exact source of ingredients and amount.

Here’s our top 5 cat foods without by-products for peace of mind:

  1. Feline Natural Feast | Best Overall
  2. Tiki Baby Cat | Best for Kittens
  3. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried | Best Dry
  4. Wellness Core Tiny Tasters | Best for Picky Cats
  5. Sheba Perfect Portions | Best Affordable Choice

Cats can suffer allergies to different protein sources. Research find some cat foods have meats not listed on the ingredients.

Whilst cats need a range of organs and bones for a range of nutrients, it’s best to know what you’re getting.

In this article I’ll help you find the best cat food without by products. I’ll include a buying guide and answer some frequently asked questions on the topic.

So, are meat by-products really that bad?

Let’s find out…

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Buying Guide

Check the ingredients.

This is usually on the back label. Look for the following terms:

  • Meat by products
  • Poultry by products
  • Chicken by products
  • Animal plasma
  • Poultry by product meal
  • Poultry liver

You’ll tend to find more by-products in cheaper cat food.

Be careful if you’re after budget cat food, to double check.

Another thing you want to be mindful of is how high the ingredient is listed. The higher the ingredient on the list, the higher in weight that ingredient.

If meat by-products are a first ingredient, that means this is the highest weight ingredient in the food.

As the source of food is vague in by products, an ingredient higher on the list is less desirable.

Cat food ingredients list.
Check the ingredient list for meat by-products (in this case, Wellness Core tell us it contains no meat by-products at the top).

5 Best Cat Food Without By-Products

1. Best Overall

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Cat Food: Feline Natural Feast

Who it’s for: Everyone! This wet cat food all the nutrients cats of any age need. Only named meat ingredients for peace of mind.

Who it’s not for: Pricey. Mixed taste results with our cats.

Learn More: Feline Natural Cat Food Review

2. Best for Kittens

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Cat Food: Tiki Baby Cat

Who it’s for: Our big kitty enjoyed this food. Has an authentic fresh shredded texture some cats love.

Who it’s not for: Another expensive choice. Limited flavors to pick from.

Learn More: Tiki Baby Cat Food Review

3. Best Dry Cat Food

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Cat Food: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried

Who it’s for: A top quality dry food using only dried New Zealand produce. No added carb based ingredients.

Who it’s not for: Another pricey option. Great for occasional feeding only.

Learn More: Ziwi Peak Cat Food Review

4. Best for Picky Cats

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Cat Food: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters

Who it’s for: We gave this one to 5 cats and all of them loved it. Thankfully, there’s no by-products in this one, meeting our criteria.

Who it’s not for: Does contain gums. Only comes in pouches (some might prefer that though).

Learn More: Wellness Core Cat Food Review

5. Best Affordable Choice

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Cat Food: Sheba Perfect Portions

Who it’s for: It’s hard to find too many budget options without meat by-products. Thankfully, Sheba meets our needs and there’s a ton of variety.

Who it’s not for: Owned by Mars Petcare. Inconsistent product quality.

Learn More: Sheba Cat Food Review

How Did I Choose These Products?

I have a database of over 50 popular cat foods (US based). For this article I filtered out cat food with any by-product ingredient.

I filtered out cat foods that are over 12% carbs on a dry matter basis. When given a choice, cats prefer food around this amount. Low carb diets are the best choice for cats, as carnivores.

I tend to suggest products I’ve had ‘hands on’ experience with in my recommendations, so you might see some other great cat foods worth a look.

Here’s a full list of the best cat foods without by products:

Best cat food without by productsTypeTextureLifestageCostProtein*CarbCalcium: PhosphateCal/kgRating#
Hound & Gatos Duck & LiverWetPateAll$$45.5%0.0%2.31,22288
Tiki Baby Cat Chicken & EggWetShredsAll$$$62.5%0.0%1.2117593
Fussie Cat Tuna With Salmon FormulaWetAspicAdult$$$64.7%0.0%N/A61284
Tiki Cat After Dark ChickenWetShredsAll$$$77.7%0.1%0.975189
Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein ChickenDryDryAll$$67.0%0.3%1.94,03082
Meat Mates Lamb DinnerWetPateAll$$$41.7%1.7%2.41,08488
Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb FeastWetPateAll$$$51.5%2.1%1.389588
Tiki Baby Cat Chicken & SalmonWetShredsAll$$$62.5%2.1%1.2117592
Wellness Smooth Loaf ChickenWetPateAdult$$47.7%2.6%0.91,11678
Instinct Original Grain-free Real RabbitWetPateAll$$59.1%3.2%N/A94487
Wellness Core Tiny Tasters DuckWetPateAdult$$$46.7%3.7%1.71,29181
Dave’s Naturally Healthy Turkey & GibletsWetPateAdult$48.4%3.7%1.1124589
Ziwi Peak Otago ValleyWetPateAll$$$44.9%4.1%1.61,25088
Ziwi Peak Air-Dried LambDryDryAll$$$$40.7%4.7%1.35,60078
Applaws Chicken Breast in BrothWetBrothSupplement$$75.0%5.0%N/AN/A82
Nulo Freestyle Duck & TunaWetPateAll$51.4%5.8%1.51,22585
Sheba Perfect Portions Roasted TurkeyWetPateAll$45.0%7.5%N/A1,11287
Earthborn Holistic Monterey Medleys Tuna & MackerelWetShredsAdult$$60.0%7.5%N/AN/A78
Weruva Mideast Feast With Grilled TilapiaWetGravyAdult$$64.9%7.6%1.374680
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Duck & PeaWetPateAdult$40.9%7.7%N/A1,22071
Halo Chicken StewWetStewAdult$43.9%7.8%N/A1,02576
Avo Derm Tuna & CrabWetGravyAll$55.6%11.1%1.282976
Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Cat ChickenWetPateAdult$40.9%11.8%N/A1,17975
A comparison of the best cat food without by products *dry matter basis #rating out of 100 for overall quality

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Meat by Product in Canned Cat Food?

A meat by-product is a secondary product leftover from a primary product. This usually means the leftover body parts from meat used for human food supply.

Some parts of the animal carcass aren’t considered attractive or human friendly for profit. Those parts tend to find their way into cat food.

Whilst this doesn’t sound pleasant, cats are carnivores. They rely on eating the carcass of prey in the wild to meet their nutritional needs.

It’s also better for the economy to not put those parts to waste.

Meat factory workers.
Meat by-products are leftover parts that are surplus to human consumption.

What Are Examples of Animal by Products?

Meat by-products can include the following sources:

  • Lungs
  • Spleen
  • Kidney
  • Brain
  • Liver
  • Blood
  • Bone
  • Fatty tissue
  • Intestines (without contents)
  • Stomachs
  • Heads
  • Chicken feet

Meat by-products don’t include the following:

  • Hair
  • Horns
  • Teeth
  • Hoofs

Pet food regulations don’t include animals that died outside of slaughter. Manufacturers can’t pick up dead animals laying around and toss them in the food unless rendered and heat treated.

Many dry cat foods use rendered meat, so if you’ll want to stick to wet food to avoid rendered meat for the most part.

If the pet food label says ‘meat by-products’, this means any leftover meat sources from cattle, pigs, sheep, and/or goats. If the meat source is something other than this, the source must be named.

A horse.
By-products don’t include things like hooves, hair, horns, and teeth.

What’s Wrong With by Products in Cat Food?

There isn’t anything wrong with meat by-products in cat food. They are safe for your cat to eat and provide a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

In fact, your cat needs organs and bones. They provide essential nutrients not find in the proper amounts in ‘attractive’ meat sources like muscle meat.

A diet of only cooked muscle meat will result in health problems related to calcium deficiency.

What is problematic about by products is the ratio of different meat sources and the fact they aren’t named.

There’s little to say how much of the by-product is intestine, brains and some egg shells for example.

What are meat by products in cat food?
The types of food sources used in meat by-products.

It’s possible that meat by-products may result in more food rejection. Cats tend to avoid eating the intestine part of the animal when eating prey in the wild.

The ratio of amino acids in different parts also influence taste. Cat’s prefer sweet tasting amino acids, and ignore non-essential amino acids. This makes sense since cat’s must get 10 essential amino acids for a variety of body functions.

The collagen rich parts of meat don’t tend to contain as much essential amino acids. This can influence how your cat enjoys the food.

At the end of the day, cats use their senses to figure out what they need to eat to meet their needs. They aren’t relying on Instagram gurus to tell them what to eat.

If they don’t perceive the food to line up with something tasty and nutritious, then they’ll give it a miss.

Finally, there’s no way to know if the product changes over time. It is a common problem that customers report their cat rejecting their usual food.

A cat smelling food.
Cat’s use their senses to work out whether food is good to eat, not Instagram gurus.

Is Chicken Meal Better Than Chicken By-Product?

No. Chicken meal is heat treated and rendered. Compared to raw animal meats, by products are less digestible and contain fewer essential amino acids per gram of weight.

The difference isn’t major, and only amounts to around 10% difference.

This is important in senior cats as they experience a decline in the digestion of protein. They need higher protein diets to maintain their muscle mass.


Meat by-products are the parts of animals not used for human consumption. This includes things like kidneys, brains, hearts, and bones.

The main problem with by-products is you don’t know what or where you getting the meat from. This can affect taste, product reliability, nutrition, and increase the risk of allergies.

Whilst cats can eat by-products, it’s best to know where the ingredient is coming from. This helps you choose a cat food perfect for your needs.

>> Best Cat Food Without By-Products Overall: Feline Natural Feast

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I'm qualified dietitian that's turned their attention to cat nutrition. My goal is to help tease out the science on how best to feed your cat.