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Carrageenan is a seaweed thickener used in many wet cat foods. It has no nutrition value, and can irritate digestion.
Some carrageenan degrades with digestion and is inflammatory. This ingredient is linked with irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and other inflammatory conditions like arthritis.
Whilst the jury is out on how much carrageenan is harmful in cat food, it’s worth avoiding for peace of mind.
In this guide I’ve delved into the popular cat food range to tease out the best cat foods without carrageenan.
If you want what’s best, my top pick is below…
My Top Pick: Tiki Cat After Dark
With no carrageenan or gums, Tiki Cat After Dark is a top choice for easy digestion.
It’s also high in animal-protein and comes in a pleasing shredded texture. One of our favourites.
In the rest of this article I’ll run through my top picks and a buying guide on choosing high protein cat food.
Then I’ll go through frequently asked questions on this topic.
If you want to find what is absolutely the best for your cat, then read on…
Why trust this article?
As a dietitian, I am experienced in health and nutrition research. I’ve got the tools and know-how to tease apart the science. The foods I’ve recommended are heavily scrutinised down to the ingredient list and where possible, tested.
This article is based on reviewing the scientific literature to provide recommendations for food.
>> Learn More on our About Page
3 Best Cat Foods Without Carrageenan
The following choices are from my own product database, where I’ve entered nutrition, ingredient and pricing data.
The database also includes results from personal testing with my own cats and kittens. Where possible, I prefer recommending products I’ve personally tested to know what the quality is like.
However, if I notice something that is favourable I’ll suggest that in place (but will let you know that I haven’t tested it).
Best Canned Cat Food Without Carrageenan and Guar Gum
Tiki Cat After Dark
Tiki Cat After Dark is free of gums, gluten, carrageenan and peas. That makes it a great choice for easy digestion.
It’s also suited to all life stages, making it a versatile options for any cat. What’s more is it zero carb, which is great for diabetes.
The hefty price tag is the main downside here. This range contains chicken, which might not suit some.
Tiki Cat After Dark Ingredients
Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, chicken gizzard, chicken heart, tricalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, choline chloride, magnesium sulfate, salt, taurine, ferrous sulfate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), vitamin E supplement, tuna oil, niacin (vitamin B3), zinc oxide, vitamin A supplement, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement, copper amino acid chelate, manganous oxide, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), folic acid, potassium iodide, vitamin D3 supplement
|Cost per ounce* (market ave)||$0.62 ($0.48)|
Best Budget Cat Food Without Carrageenan
Fancy Feast Classic
It’s hard to find budget cat food without carrageenan, but Fancy Feast is an exception.
Thankfully, I haven’t seen any carrageenan in their wide range.
It’s low carb, low in fillers, and cats love it. Most options suit adults, but there’s some for kittens and/or all life stages.
The quality of this product might put off some, with added gums and by-products in the tin.
>> Our review of Fancy Feast
Fancy Feast Classic Ingredients
Chicken Broth, Liver, Meat By-Products, Chicken, Fish, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Minerals [Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Guar Gum, Salt, Taurine, Vitamins [Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement]
|Cost per ounce* (market ave)||$0.28 ($0.48)|
Best Cat Food Without Carrageenan for Picky Eaters
Wellness Core Tiny Tasters
Wellness Core Tiny Tasters can help if your cat is a picky eater. It comes in a delectable pate pouch that our cats couldn’t resist.
It’s a complete meal for adults and packed with juicy protein. There’s not much not to like here.
The cost is a little high though.
>> Our review of Wellness Core
Wellness Core Tiny Tasters Ingredients
Duck, Chicken, Chicken Broth, Water Sufficient For Processing, Natural Flavors, Tapioca Starch, Sunflower Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Locust Bean Gum, Potassium Chloride, Guar Gum, Salt, Sodium Carbonate, Taurine, Xanthan Gum, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Magnesium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide
|Cost per ounce* (market ave)||$1.00 ($0.48)|
What is Carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a thickener.
It’s mainly used in wet cat foods (usually gravy based). You won’t usually find carrageenan in dry cat food, because it’s a thickener.
Carrageenan is made from red seaweed products (also called Irish Moss). Whilst it’s technically ‘natural’, it’s still linked with harm.
Carrageenan in Cat Food
Carrageenan is found in many wet cat foods.
The reason is to thicken cat food for a desirable texture. Gravy and pate based cat foods tend to use carrageenan more often.
Some brands tend to use carrageenan more often than others. For example, Blue Buffalo use carrageenan a lot, whilst Hill’s Science Diet don’t seem to use it.
Why Is Carrageenan Bad for Cats?
Degraded carrageenan may cause inflammatory conditions including:
- Irritable bowel disease
- Colon cancer
Some carrageenan degrades with digestion. Degraded carrageenan is used to test models of inflammation.
You won’t get information on how much carrageenan is in your cat food. Although it’s likely very small, the grey area is a problem.
How to Identify Carrageenan in Cat Food?
Here’s how to find out if carrageenan is in your cat food.
Check the Ingredients List
By law, cat food has to include an ingredients list. It’s usually on the back or side.
As carrageenan is a minor ingredient, it will usually be down the list so check carefully.
Check Ingredients Online
Some retailers don’t put out ingredients list, but others do.
Hit control + F (command + F for mac users) to see if there’s any carrageenan in your chosen food. Make sure you get the spelling right.
Here’s an example on Chewy:
Check Other Names for Carrageenan in Cat Food
Some countries use numbers for additives, including carrageenan. In Australia, for instance, carrageenan is E407.
Words like ‘gelling agents’ or ‘stabilizer’ can include gums and carrageenan. If you see these terms, it’s best to stay on the safe side.
Here’s a longer list of names for carrageenan to watch for:
- Irish moss
- Seaweed extract
- Red seaweed extract
- Carageenan gum
- Gelling agents
- Vegetable gum
How to Find the Best Cat Food Without Carrageenan?
Make sure you choose cat food that meets your cats dietary needs. Check for a statement of nutritional adequacy on the label.
This shows your cat food meets AAFCO’s nutrition guidelines for:
- Growth: Kittens (up to 1 years)
- Maintenance: Adult cats (1-7 years)
- All life stages: Kittens or adults
- Supplemental: Occasional feeding only (not complete)
AAFCO don’t set nutrition guidelines for senior cats. Find guidelines at American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) website.
Most cat foods suitable for all life stages are better choices for older cats.
Choose High Protein Cat Food
Protein is the most important nutrient for cats and their preferred food source as carnivores.
The nutrient is high in animal foods like chicken, fish, turkey, and beef. You’ll want to make sure you choose foods high in these ingredients.
Grain-based protein (e.g. wheat gluten) is lower quality. This type of protein has fewer essential amino acids, which are what cats need to use to fuel muscle strength.
As a general rule, aim for 40% protein on a dry basis. Use a calculator to check.
Can Carrageenan Be Avoided in Cat Food?
Yes, you can avoid carrageenan in cat food.
Whilst the thickener is widely used there’s enough options to choose from that are carrageenan free.
Remember, that dry cat food doesn’t contain carragennan, so that’s fine to use.
Which Cat Foods Use Carrageenan?
From my research:
- Dave’s Pet Food Naturally Healthy
- Fussie Cat Premium
- Merrick Purrfect Bistro
- 9 Lives Hearty Cuts
- Blue Buffalo Freedom
- Natural Balance
- Royal Canin Kitten
This list isn’t exhaustive and only includes cat foods I’ve research and/or tested.
It may not reflect all products from the brand or future changes.
What Cat Food Does Not Have Carrageenan in It?
Based on my research, the following cat food doesn’t have carrageenan:
- Tiki Cat After Dark
- Ziwi Peak
- Feline Natural
- Fancy Feast Classic
- Wellness Core
- Hill’s Science Diet
- Sheba Perfect Portions
- Purina Pro Plan
- Purina One
- Tiny Tiger
- Hound & Gatos
Frequently Asked Questions
Carrageenan is a thickener used in wet cat food linked to cancer and irritable bowel disease.
Whether the small amount is harmful isn’t clear, but avoiding it is good for peace of mind.
Dry cat food doesn’t contain carrageenan, but it’s common in gravy based wet foods. Check the ingredients carefully.
>> Our best cat food without carrageenan is Tiki Cat After Dark