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4 Best Cat Foods for Your Cat in 2021

Your cat requires high-quality food for optimal health. Their food should be high in animal-based food sources that provide a complete range of nutrients for good health.

Choosing the best food for your cat is a difficult task. In this article, I’m going to outline my best choices for your cat based on research. I also provide a cat food buying guide to help you decide what to buy for your cat.

Based on a review of all the products, the best overall cat food for sensitive stomachs was ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food.  Key criteria guided the selection of this product based on research. 

My name is Derrick and I am a writer for Simply Cat Care.  This website provides easy-to-read helpful guides for your cat.  Extensive analysis of essential key criteria guided the selection process in this article.   I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet before adjusting your cat’s diet.

I chose the ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food as the best overall due to meeting the following criteria. 

  • Avoids allergenic proteins:  Turkey, lamb, and duck products are less likely to cause an allergenic reaction. Chicken, beef, and fish may lead to allergic reactions. Speak with your vet for help.
  • Grain-free:  Avoid wheat and other grain-based products in dry cat food. Easier to digest carbohydrate sources such as rice and potato are minimal.
  • Soy-free: Cat’s are not able to digest legumes.
  • No/minimal fillers: Fillers such as gums (e.g. carrageenan, xanthan gum) and artificial flavors may lead to sensitive stomachs
  • No/minimal vegetables:  Cats are carnivores and don’t require vegetables in the diet. Some vegetables (e.g. onions, garlic) may lead to food intolerance.  
  • Preference for canned/freeze-dried animal products: Canned/freeze-dried cat food products are generally better for health, hydration, digestion, and may vomit less. They are higher in fat and protein than dry cat food products. They also provide moisture which is important for kidney health.
  • Ideal for any life stage: The food should meet the needs of a senior cat, kitten food, and adult cats

The products reviewed met the majority of criteria for the best cat food choice.

Premium cat food usually contains limited ingredients and more quality (e.g. animal food sources).  In many ways, you get what you pay for.

Keep reading below for our roundup of the best cat food choices for your feline friend.

Best Cat Food for Your Cat in 2021: Our Top Selections

Best Overall Cat Food

ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food

Pros
  • Grain-free for top digestion
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Organic animal protein
  • No added vegetables for sensitive stomachs
  • No added gums or fillers
  • Omega 3 fatty acids from New Zealand mussels
Cons
  • Quality control issues with packaging
  • No sample pack options
  • Expensive price tag

VERDICT

ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food is a high-quality wet canned cat food.

Straight on of the tin, it’s grain and low carb. The can is full of wild-caught meat (97% of the product weight), seafood, and bone broth. This is the perfect canned cat food since it gives your cat the nutrition it needs to thrive from a variety of protein sources.

In addition, there are no binders and gums added, which are common in many cat food brands. Whilst the jury is still out on whether these pose a health risk to cats, it’s better to be on the safe side especially if you have a sensitive stomach cat.

There are three formulas to choose from: East Cape, Hauraki Plains, and Otago Valley. The best cat food choice for your cat might vary. This means you might need some trial and error to find what works best for your cat. It would be great if there was a sample pack option to trial the different flavors before committing to a 12 or 24 for your fussy furball. Cat owners are well versed in the wet food fussiness they will experience, and there’s no guarantee a natural organic wet food will hit the spot your cat desires.

The food is suitable as kitten food, and adult cat food which is also a great bonus to give cats of all ages the proper nutrition to keep them healthy and bubbly.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Size

6 oz case of 12

Flavors:

East Cape (mainly mutton), Hauraki Plains (mainly chicken), or Otago Valley (mainly beef)

NUTRITION PANEL

Energy:  1,500kcal/kg

Crude Protein: 10.5%

Crude Fat: 8.5%

Crude Fiber: 1.5%

Moisture: 78%

Best Affordable Wet Cat Food

Purina ONE High Protein, Natural Wet Cat Food (Turkey)

Pros
  • High in animal-based protein
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Grain-free
  • No added vegetables for sensitive stomachs
Cons
  • Quality control issues with packaging
  • An inconsistent formula that may change
  • A combination of different meats in the products may upset a cat used to single protein sources
  • The nutritional panel is not listed on Amazon

VERDICT

As for budget options, the Purina ONE High Protein, Natural Wet Cat Food range ticks a lot of boxes.

There are no ubiquitous ingredients such as wheat, onions, or garlic to hamper a sensitive stomach.  High in protein and fat, these cans provide a reasonable deal of quality for the price.  They are complete with essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.  Fortification of nutrients provides some of the nutrition.  

There have been a few reports of quality control issues, and the wrong products sent out.  Also, the formula may change from time to time.  This lack of consistency can lead to mixed results and tolerability.

The options for a limited ingredient diet in the budget cat food range are low, so it is difficult to find a suitable comparison.    However, at this price point, the Purina range performs well and one of the best options on a budget.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Size

24 x 3 oz cans

Flavors

NUTRITION PANEL

Energy:  85 kcal/100g

Crude Protein: 11%

Crude Fat: 5%

Crude Fiber: 1.5%

Moisture: 78%

Best Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Vital Essentials Vital Cat Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Rabbit Mini Nibs

Pros
  • Freeze-dried whole rabbit for complete nutrition
  • No grains
  • Low carbohydrate
  • Appropriate for all life stages
  • One meat source to reduce the chance of allergens
  • Great as a topper or snack to boost diet quality
Cons
  • Unfamiliar texture (i.e. crunchier with crushed bones) for cat owners
  • Expensive as a main source of nutrition
  • Low in fat, some cats may need more calories

VERDICT

Vital Essentials Vital Cat Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Rabbit Mini Nibs are freeze-dried complete rabbit meat including bones and organs into a complete food source for cats. This creates a nutritional complete product to keep your cat strong and healthy, without the added nasties.

Freeze-dried cat food is a great option as a topper or bite-sized treat to boost your cat’s daily nutrition.

This product has a limited range of ingredients. This is helpful for cats with sensitivities to different foods, with a good variety of flavors to choose from based on different animal food sources.  

The product contains bones and organ meats. Bones are an important natural source of calcium for cats but may put off some cats and their owners due to the unfamiliar texture. A food processor can grind the product further to meet the consistency you want to provide without losing the nutrition.

Another downside of this freeze-dried product is it cannot be left out for long periods without spoiling (e.g. leaving in a bowl over the day).  In other words, it has less convenience compared to dry food. This product is also more expensive and might your wallet. It is best for a small nutritious treat.

If cost is no barrier to your cat’s health then the Vital Essentials range is worth a look to give your cat a natural source of nutrition with a limited ingredient profile.

PRODUCT DETAILS

Size

12 oz.

NUTRITION PANEL

Energy:  3,790 kcal/kg (107 kcal/oz)

Crude Protein: 52%

Crude Fat: 15%

Crude Fiber: 3%

Moisture: 8%

Best Dry Cat Food

Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula Dry Cat Food

PRODUCT DETAILS

The age range for use: All ages of cats

Product weight: 2.0 pounds (0.9kg)

Nutrition Panel

Energy:  4,030 kcal/kg (544 kcal/C)

Crude Protein: 59.0%

Crude Fat: 18.0%

Crude Fiber: 4.0%

Moisture: 12.0%

PROS
  • Very low in carbohydrate to support your cat’s health
  • High in protein from animal-based foods (e.g. chicken, egg)
  • 100% grain-free
  • Gluten-free
CONS
  • Expensive product
  • Only available in chicken and salmon flavor
  • May give some cat’s an upset stomach (especially if transitioning too quickly)
VERDICT

Most dry cat foods are very high in carbohydrates from grains and potatoes. Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off a higher protein and fat diet based on animal-based foods. Dr. Elsey’s dry cat food bucks the trend of dry foods by creating food that has the appropriate amount of macronutrients to maximize your cat’s health and vitality.

The protein isn’t from pea protein, but high-quality protein such as chicken and egg. These sources of protein are much easier to digest for a cat. Gelatin (comes from connective tissue) is used to bind the food together, as opposed to grain.

Unfortunately, the choices of flavor are limited to chicken and salmon. Some cats have a chicken allergy and do better with turkey. There have been a few reviews of upset stomachs whilst using this food. That could come from feeding the new food too quickly or the source of protein.

Dry food has the benefit of convenience and suits busy people on the go. It can be used for cats of all life stages, which gives the product a lot of versatility. There are also added vitamins and minerals to ensure your cat is properly nourished. The price might steer some people off using it though, which is something to keep in mind.

Overall, it’s a great attempt at a dry cat food that gets the natural balance of protein and carbohydrate right for a cat’s best health.

Guide to Choosing the Best Cat Food

In this guide, I’m going to walk you through how to choose the best cat food.

There are a wide variety of choices and options in the cat food aisles. This can make purchasing decisions extremely difficult.

However, let’s take it back one step and figure out some clues from evolution.

Cat’s are Obligate Carnivores

Cat’s have evolved to consume a diet high in animal-based foods. This includes muscles, bones, organs, and skin.

This dietary preference is referred to as an obligate carnivore. Carnivore is an organism that relies on animal-based food. A herbivore is an animal that relies on plant-based foods. An omnivore consumes both.

Most people would agree that a human is an omnivore. We consume a diet of vegetables, fruit, grains, and animal produce.

Dogs are also omnivores. Their diets contain vegetables and meats.

Cat’s, on the other hand, being carnivores prefer and thrive off a meat-only diet. They don’t require grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruits to function their best. In fact, these foods may introduce health problems due to digestive problems associated with their intake.

A cat’s digestive system physiology is suited to meat. They have a short digestive tract and sharp teeth designed for tearing. They have limited enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion.

Many cat foods contain a variety of ubiquitous ingredients and foods that don’t benefit cats.

Dry cat food usually contains a high amount of grains and vegetables. This isn’t necessary for a cat’s diet. Moreover, cat’s consuming a dry cat food diet tend to consume less water. Animal foods are a high source of moisture for cats and they rely on this for hydration more than drinking from a bowl.

A dry cat food diet can lead to urinary tract infections.

Even wet canned foods contain a variety of foods and ingredients not necessary for a cat’s health. A limited ingredient cat food product that is human grade is usually best.

Let’s briefly touch on a few tips for feeding your cat.

Feed your cat a low carbohydrate diet

Carbohydrates include starches (polysaccharides) and sugars (disaccharides and monosaccharides). Common carbohydrate foods include grains, potatoes, legumes, fruit, and vegetables (e.g. corn).

Starting at the mouth, the enzyme salivary amylase begins the process of carbohydrate digestion. 

Cats have a very limited amount of salivary amylase. Moving into the intestinal area, cats also have low amounts of disaccharidases (needed to digest sugar molecules) and these levels don’t increase in response to dietary carbohydrate intake [3]. 

In other words, giving a cat more carbohydrates won’t help them produce more enzymes needed to break down carbohydrates in the diet.

On top of this, cats don’t have taste receptors for sweetness [3]. When provided water with or without sugar, cats had no preference for sweet water.

Feed Your Cat a High Protein Diet

Called the ‘building block’ of life, protein is essential to your cat’s health. 

The constituent of protein is amino acids. Amino acids form bone, hair, skin, teeth, muscles, and other organs.

If your cat does not get enough protein, these bodily structures would waste away. Used for energy in times of food shortage, the protein in a cat’s body becomes emergency fuel. 

As mentioned earlier, cats have a high rate of gluconeogenesis.

Gluconeogenesis is used to break down consumed protein for glucose. The brain needs glucose, among other bodily tissues that are dependant on glucose [4].

When given a low protein diet, cats do not have the ability to downregulate the loss of protein to conserve bodily protein stores [5]. 

A cat’s diet needs to be at least 16% protein by energy [5]. 

A cat will see a decrease in body weight (most likely due to a loss in muscle tissue) [5]. Muscles waste away for energy use.

Taurine is an essential amino acid that is required in a cat’s diet. Taurine is found in meat-based products.

Feed Your Cat Foods Rich in Vitamin A and D

Vitamin D is important for bone, and teeth health.

Cat’s don’t have the ability to convert sunlight exposure on the skin into vitamin D [10]. They must obtain vitamin D from the diet.

Food sources include liver, fish, and egg yolks [11]. 

Beta carotene is found in plant-based foods and converts into Vitamin A in a humans diet. On the other hand, cats cannot convert beta carotene to Vitamin A [8]. Whilst they can absorb beta-carotene, it gets excreted before conversion into vitamin A.

Cats must consume foods that are high in pre-formed vitamin A (retinol).

Found in animal-based products such as egg yolks and liver, this pre-formed vitamin A is a crucial requirement for cats.

To get more advice for a cat’s diet, read the full article on 9 tips to feed your cat for awesome health.

How much should I feed my cat?

All living things require energy to live and perform metabolic processes. Energy from food is called calories or kilojoules.

Cat’s require enough calories for optimal health.

The calorie requirements of your cat vary depending on a lot of factors [1]. This includes age, weight, activity, desexing, type of food, and pregnancy [1].

To work out how many calories your cat needs you to need to do an assessment. This involves weighing your cat and then adjusting their needs based on the aforementioned factors (e.g. age).

We go in-depth into calculating your cat’s needs in this helpful guide over here.

How often should I feed my cat?

Cat eating schedules vary from cat to cat, as well as different life stages.

Most adult cats will be able to stay in good health with twice-a-day feeding. Kittens may need up to 4 meals a day for health for their age growth needs.

Calculating your pet’s energy needs by weighing your cat can give you a more precise number of calories to provide on the menu for the day. Calculate your cat’s calorie requirements using this guide here.

If you want to get more help with feeding frequency, check out my handy guide over here.

What is the highest quality cat food?

The best quality cat food meets the following criteria, which I covered in my article on the best cat food for a sensitive stomach.

  • Avoids allergenic proteins:  Turkey, lamb, and duck products are less likely to cause an allergenic reaction. Chicken, beef, and fish may lead to allergic reactions. Speak with your vet for help.
  • Grain-free:  Avoid wheat and other grain-based products in dry cat food. Easier to digest carbohydrate sources such as rice and potato are minimal.
  • Soy-free: Cat’s are not able to digest legumes.
  • No/minimal fillers: Fillers such as gums (e.g. carrageenan, xanthan gum) may lead to sensitive stomachs
  • No/minimal vegetables:  Cats are carnivores and don’t require vegetables in the diet. Some vegetables (e.g. onions, garlic) may lead to food intolerance.  
  • Preference for canned/freeze-dried animal products: Canned/freeze-dried cat food products are generally better for health, hydration, digestion, and may vomit less. They are higher in fat and protein than dry cat food products. They also provide moisture which is important for kidney health.

I have gone into more detail about what foods cats should avoid in their diet over here. This will help you in understanding what to steer clear of when choosing food for your cat.

Unfortunately, you can’t have everything in a lot of food choices. Sometimes you will have food that contains a small number of things you don’t want, but as long as the choice is as close as practical to what your cat needs then it is a step in the right direction.

Which cat food brand is the healthiest?

There are a lot of different choices with pros and cons.

Your cat’s preferences for meats and different textures will vary. The healthiest cat food brand is one that is complete and balanced whilst also have a limited ingredient profile. Wet cat food is usually a better option than dry cat food for health.

Do cats need dry cat food?

No.

Cat’s don’t need dry cat food for good health. Cat’s are obligate carnivores and consume animal-based foods.

The reason dry cat food is popular is due to convenience and cost-effectiveness. It is cheap to mass-produce and supply for cat owners. Cat owners like leaving the food out for their cats as they go on with their day. A lot of dry cat food is heavily flavored with meat to make it seem appetizing to cats – and makes owners happy enough to continue using the dry food.

Cat’s need a low carbohydrate diet that matches what they would consume in the wild. Dry food is usually high in carbohydrates which has no relevance to cat nutrition.

Cat’s also need moisture in their food as they cannot adapt to low moisture food with enough drinking. This can lead to kidney issues (e.g. crystals, stones, urinary tract infections).

Some dry cat foods are better than others. Freeze-dried cat food is an adequate replacement, but I don’t recommend dry cat food as a complete and balanced source of nutrition.

What are the best options for dry cat food?

The best option for dry cat food we found was Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula Dry Cat Food. This is a much lower carbohydrate product due to replacing grains with gelatin (animal-based product made from connective tissue) for binding purposes.

What is the best-wet cat food?

The best-wet cat food should contain more animal products, less grain, and fewer vegetable products. Ideally, there should be fewer added ingredients and fillers.

A few great picks include:

ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food

A New Zealand product that is grain-free and low carb. 97% of the product contains meat (including organs), seafood, and bone broth. Sources of meat include mutton, goat, and wild-caught fish. No binders and gums (e.g. xanthan gum, carrageenan).

Feline Natural BPA-Free & Gelatin-Free Canned Cat Food

Another New Zealand offering is free of grains, legumes, potatoes, and binders. Full of quality grass-fed, free-range meat for maximum nourishment.

Should cats be fed grain-free cat food?

Yes.

Grains are not a good source of nutrition for cats. Cat’s need a low carbohydrate and grains are high in carbohydrate.

How do I transition a cat to a new diet?

Changing your cat’s diet should be done slowly.

Start by adding a small amount of the new food into your cat’s diet with the original food. Slowly increase the new food over the course of two weeks until it replaces the old food.

Conclusion

Choosing the best pet food for your cat can be a difficult challenge for owners.

Cat’s are fussy about their food and for good reason. They have a specific need for a high protein and fat diet which is low in carbohydrate. Cat’s have evolved to be carnivores and thrive off the meat-based diet.

An animal-based diet offers a lot of benefits to a cat. Getting the essential protein they need is crucial to growth, maintenance, and immune system function. Cat’s require an essential amino acid (a protein constituent) taurine, which is mainly found in animal-based foods.

Cat’s also require animal-based products for vitamin A and D. They cannot convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A (beta-carotene is found in vegetable food) and must get the pre-formed retinol form of Vitamin A which is only in animal foods. In addition, cats cannot synthesize Vitamin D from sunlight and this micronutrient is found in animal foods such as egg yolks.

Wet food is an advantage to a cat’s health. This is because cats consume animal foods in the wild. Animal foods are high in moisture (70-75% of the weight) which helps hydrate a cat and keep its kidneys healthy. Dry cat food is low in moisture, and cats have a difficult time drinking enough water to meet their hydration needs.

The best cat food brands contain a higher proportion of animal meats such as chicken liver, beef, fish, turkey, egg product, and duck. Preferably the food best suited to cats contains less or no grains, potato, or vegetables. Dry cat food typically contains a high amount of carbohydrate foods (e.g. brown rice, wheat, potato) which is not optimal for a cat’s health.

Wet cat food is generally best for cats as it gives them a higher amount of protein and moisture. By paying extra you can provide your cat a higher-quality organic cat food which contains fewer fillers, carbohydrate, and cheap protein sources (e.g. pea protein). In many ways, you get what you pay for.

A limited ingredient cat food has an advantage as it limits the number of potential allergens. Some cats have food sensitivities and a wide array of added foods in the cat food recipe can hamper the tolerance of food.

Essential amino acids and essential vitamins are added to cat food to help improve the health of your cat. These nutrients are found in high-quality animal foods, so may or may not be added depending on the overall quality of the food.

Dog food is not ideal for cats as dogs require different nutrition. Dogs are omnivores and their food contains more plant-based foods, which aren’t necessary for cats’ food.

Cat’s can be given a wet and dry cat food diet. Dry cat food options provide convenience to owners since they can be left out for the cat over the day whilst owners are at work or busy. However, the dry cat food recipe should contain quality food sources such as animal products and fewer carbohydrates.

The right cat food for your cat will vary. Some cats prefer different meat sources and have their own ‘favorites’. Try a range of different options to find what meats and textures work best for your cat. If you are phasing in new cat food, give your cat time to adjust to the new diet slowly.

Weight control is accomplished by providing a protein-rich diet that has the appropriate amount of calories for your cat. A diet high in food scraps and human junk food (e.g. take away) isn’t best for your cat.

Consult with your vet before changing your cat’s diet.

Our Verdict

The best overall cat food we found is the ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food. This choice is high in complete animal-based food sources.

These tins are grain-free and low carb to give you the best nutrition for your cat.

The price tag of this product is a little high and there is no option to get a trial pack. This could make for an expensive hit-or-miss option. Some cats will love the food, whilst others will turn their nose up (like many foods).

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