5 Best Cat Foods Without Pea Protein for Easy Digestion

5 Best Cat Foods Without Pea Protein


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Pea protein in sneaky ingredient loaded into many cat foods. Whilst it helps cats meet protein needs, it can also cause digestive upset. Wet cat food is the best choice to avoid peas, but always double check the ingredient list.

Here are our 5 best cat food options without pea protein your cat will love:

What are the best cat foods without pea protein?

It’s a little annoying, but many cat food brands toss in ingredients like pea protein. You might want to get it out of your cats diet if they have a sensitive stomach.

In this article I’ll give you a range of pea free options to look at. You’re sure to find something that will tickle your cats fancy. Where possible, I’ve tested these cat foods to get the meow of approval.

Shall we just get to it?

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

Buying Guide

Cat Food Ingredient Label
Check the back of a cat food label for pea ingredients. This one is pea free…nice!

Finding a cat food without pea protein is easy enough. Check the back of the label for pea protein.

Also look for other plant protein sources. This includes:

  • Wheat gluten meal
  • Corn gluten meal
  • Soy protein
  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans
  • Black beans

The higher the ingredient is on the list, the more of the ingredient. That means if the pea protein is near the top, most of the protein is plant based.

You want to consider this in your buying decision, since it’s not just the total protein in the product, but the quality.

How Much Protein Should I Look For?

Look for a cat food that contains at least 30% protein on a dry matter basis. AAFCO suggests at least 30% protein for growth and reproduction.

The main source of protein should be animal based protein. This is a higher quality protein source than pea protein.

Animal protein is higher quality due to easier digestion and higher essential amino acid count.

To check the protein content, use a dry matter basis calculator.

Learn More:

Should I Get a Dry Cat Food or Wet Food?

Most dry cat food contains peas among other plant protein sources. This means it’s harder to find a product that’s suitable for your cats needs.

Wet canned foods are less likely to use pea protein as a food source. In general, wet foods are a better food source for cats due to the high moisture content.

Wet cat food helps keep cats hydrated and maintain healthy kidney function.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There a Difference Between Animal and Plant Protein?

Animal protein is a higher quality source of protein than plant proteins. This is due to having a higher amount of essential amino acids.

Protein quality refers to two things:

  • How well the protein is absorbed?
  • How well does the protein relate to the needs of the animal?

Researchers use the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) to compare protein quality. A score of 100% means the protein meets needs through absorption and digestion. The lower the score, the lower the quality of protein.

Here are a few protein sources compared:

Protein SourcePDCAAS
Red Meat92%
Casein (dairy protein)100%
Whey (dairy protein)100%
Black bean75%
Soy flour93%
Green lentil63%
Yellow split pea64%
Pea protein (concentrate)89%
Wheat gluten25%
Table 1: Comparison of protein digestibility of various protein sources

Plant protein sources are less bioavailable for a few reasons.

The protein structure of plant protein is less able to break down with protein digesting enzymes. Other inhibiting factors include phytic acid.

Cat food also contains by products and rendered meat in some cases. These food sources are less bioavailable than whole meat sources.

Blending pea protein with animal protein improves absorption. Also note that pea protein is better than say chickpea (74%) and a grain based protein like wheat gluten (25% digestion).

Cat’s need 10 essential amino acids for health, including taurine which is not essential in humans. Taurine is high in animal foods, but low in plant based protein sources.

Bottom Line: Animal protein is a higher quality protein compared to plant protein in cat food.

Animal protein food sources.

Do Cats Need Pea Protein?

No, cat’s don’t need any pea protein in their diet. Cats are obligate carnivores in the wild, and get all their nutrition from eating small prey such as mice and birds.

Plant protein sources are lower cost food sources which save money for manufacturers. Cheaper dry cat food tends to use more pea protein than higher quality wet canned cat foods.

That said, not all cats need to avoid plant protein entirely. In small amounts, cats can tolerate plant based foods.

Bottom Line: Cat’s don’t need pea protein in their diet.

Is Pea Protein Bad for Cats?

There is no evidence that pea protein is bad for cats in small amounts. The quality of protein is lower than whole animal food sources like chicken and beef. A cats diet should contain animal protein as a main ingredient.

The AAFCO recommends 30% protein for growth and reproduction and a little less for adult maintenance. If protein intake far exceeds these values, then quality is less of a concern.

Most quality wet foods far exceed this amount, however some dry foods rely heavily on plant protein.

Remember that sources of protein like wheat gluten (25%) are poor sources of protein. Pea protein concentrate is relatively higher in quality.

When choosing cat food consider the following things:

  • How much total protein is in the product?
  • How much of the total protein is from animal protein sources?
  • What quality of protein is in the product (e.g. rendered animal protein, wheat gluten meal are low quality protein sources)?

If the product is low in total protein and high in plant proteins, it’s worth avoiding.

Kittens and senior cats have a higher need for protein for different reasons.

Senior cats have poorer protein digestion. They need more total protein in their diet (and better quality). Kittens need a high protein diet for growth.

Check out my best foods for senior cats to learn more.

Bottom Line: Pea protein is ok for cats in small amounts, but whole animal protein is preferred.

What Are the Healthiest Cat Foods?

The healthiest cat foods are wet canned foods with animal protein sources. These types of foods best meet the needs of all cats.

5 Best Cat Foods Without Pea Protein

Best Cat Food Without Pea Protein Overall

Feline Natural Grain-Free Canned Wet Cat Food

Cat Food: Feline Natural Feast

Who it’s for: Feline Natural is the best pea free cat food choices on the market…and the best choice for any cat. It’s got everything a cat needs of any life stage. Perfection.

Who it’s not for: Well not quite perfection. It’s a little pricey and some of our cats had mixed feelings about the taste.

Learn More: Feline Natural Cat Food Review

Best Affordable Cat Food Without Pea Protein

Cat Food: Sheba Perfect Portions Roasted Turkey Entree

Who it’s for: Our cats loved Sheba Perfect Portions, and thankfully this budget pick is pea protein free. Low in carbs and high in animal based food sources.

Who it’s not for: This is a great choice for any cat, but some might not trust this Mars Petfood brand. Also has added gums.

Learn More: Sheba Cat Food Review

Best Kitten Food Without Pea Protein

Cat Food: Fancy Feast Kitten

Who it’s for: A popular pea protein free budget wet cat food. Fancy Feast is a no-nonsense option that meets the nutrition needs of kittens. Our cat enjoyed this option when given a taste.

Who it’s not for: Most cats will enjoy Fancy Feast, but the use of meat by-products will put off some (or at lest their owners). Inconsistent product quality.

Learn More: Fancy Feast Cat Food Review

Best Dry Cat Food Without Pea Protein

Cat Food: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb

Who it’s for: Unlike most dry cat foods, Ziwi Peak air-dries premium meat based ingredients. This gives cats of all life stages the best quality nutrition you can get with the convenience of dry food. Our cat team enjoyed it too!

Who it’s not for: In a word, pricey! Use this one sparingly unless you’ve got buckets of cash to spare to give your cat the best food.

Learn More: Ziwi Peak Cat Food Review

Best Affordable Dry Cat Food Without Pea Protein

Cat Food: Dr. Elsey’s Clean protein

Who it’s for: Dr. Elsey’s clean protein uses gelatin (animal-protein product) as a binder instead of carb ingredients. This means no nasty pea ingredients, and top quality nutrition.

Who it’s not for: We haven’t tried this one yet, so I can’t comment on the taste (although reviews are positive). Some recent product changes though…

How We Chose These Products?

At Simply Cat Care we try to test every cat food product with our cats. This gives us information about taste, texture, and a ‘hands on’ look at what you to expect out the tin.

We also perform research to find the best practices for nutrition and ingredients. As cats are carnivores, they need a high protein diet low in carbs.

We rank cat food on their nutrition and ingredient quality. These recommendations are the best foods that meet the article criteria.

In this article, these are the best options that don’t contain pea protein.

We aim to update our list in line with new products and more reviews.


Pea protein is a plant based protein. It’s added to cat foods as a low cost alternative to animal protein.

Like most plant proteins, pea protein is less digestible than animal foods. Pea protein contains phytates, fiber and harder-to-digest protein structure. Combining pea protein with animal protein improves digestion.

Cats need a diet of at least 30% protein on a dry matter basis to support muscle maintenance and body processes. Check the ingredients to check for pea protein (and ingredients like lentils and chickpeas) for best results.

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