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10 Best Cat Foods in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Kristin Hitchcock

July 16, 2021

two cats eating

As the old saying goes, we are what we eat. Our cats are no different. However, choosing cat food isn’t always a simple process. First, you have to check the ingredient lists, compare prices, and take your cat’s specific needs into account. Trying to do this while standing in the cat food aisle of a store can be stressful. Even online, all the different brands and flavors can make it challenging to choose a cat food worthy of your feline.

In this article, we’ll review some of the best cat foods on the market. Many of these are suitable for just about any feline, though some are designed specifically with specific problems and needs in mind.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food
  • Mainly made of meat
  • Chicken as the first ingredient
  • Variety for a diverse diet
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Taste of the Wild Gran-Free Dry Cat Food Taste of the Wild Gran-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Lots of fish ingredients
  • High in protein
  • No chicken included
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Orijen Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Orijen Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Plenty of different fish
  • High in protein
  • Free from grains and chicken
  • Crave with Protein from Chicken and Salmon Crave with Protein from Chicken and Salmon
  • Chicken as the first ingredient
  • Omega fatty acids included
  • Grain-free
  • Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Blue Buffalo Tastefuls
  • Varied recipes
  • High-quality ingredients
  • High in protein
  • The 10 Best Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food – Best Overall

    Sheba Pate in Natural Juices Portions

    We highly recommend the Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food as your best overall option for most felines. This pack of food includes multiple flavors to spice things up and keep your cat’s diet varied. All the flavors include chicken as the first ingredient, which is a high-quality option. Beyond that, the ingredient begins to differ a little bit. For instance, the seafood flavor includes white fish, poultry liver, and chicken broth. All of the ingredients are high quality and only meat. You’re giving your cat a mix of different meats that has been watered down slightly.

    The trays are pre-portioned, so you don’t have to worry about storing the leftovers for another time. Each tray is tiny, so your cat’s diet can be adjusted based on their weight and overall size. The trays are pretty easy to open and serve. You can even take them on the go easily.

    If you’re looking for something high-quality and nutritious to give your feline, this is a solid option. Each food is high in protein and fat, which are the two macronutrients your cat mainly needs to thrive. The amino acids and other vitamins in the food also come from meat, allowing your pet to digest them more easily.

    Pros
    • Mainly made of meat
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • Variety for a diverse diet
    • Easy to open
    • Pre-portioned
    Cons
    • A bit on the expensive side

    2. Taste of the Wild Canyon River Gran-Free Dry Cat Food – Best Value

    Taste of the Wild Canyon River Gran-Free Dry Cat Food

    If you’re looking for a budget option that is still high-quality, we recommend the Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. The first ingredient is trout, followed by ocean fish meal. Because the first two ingredients are meat, your cat gets many of the amino acids they need from this food. In addition, it is a more natural diet for your felines, since they would be eating almost exclusively meat in the wild.

    On top of the meat, this food also includes sweet potatoes, potatoes, and pea protein. These are a bit further down on the list, so they aren’t in nearly as high of quantities. They provide your feline with some vitamins, but cats are notoriously bad at digesting and using vitamins from vegetable products. The protein content is at 32%, but some of this comes from peas and potatoes.

    This food is excellent for cats with sensitivities since it doesn’t come with any chicken. If your cat has a hard time with chicken or other ingredients, this food may be a suitable option for them. The fish also contains quite a few omega fatty acids, which are essential for your cat’s skin and coat. Probiotics and prebiotics are included as well for a healthy digestive system.

    Pros
    • Lots of fish ingredients
    • High in protein
    • No chicken included
    • High in omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • High in pea and potato protein

    3. Orijen Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food – Premium Choice

    Orijen Six Fish Dry Cat Food

    For those who only want to feed their cats the best of the best (and can afford it), the Orijen Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is one of the best options you can choose. This formula includes a lot of different fish. The first ingredient is whole Atlantic herring, but about 12 different fish products spread throughout the ingredient list – most of them are in the first few ingredients. This leads to high-quality cat food with high amounts of protein. In addition, most of the protein comes from meat, making it much higher quality than most other options.

    It does not contain any corn, soy, wheat, or tapioca. It is also completely free from chicken and grain, which is helpful for cats with sensitivities. These ingredients are very commonly found in cat food, so some cats are more prone to developing a sensitivity to them.

    This kibble is also coated with freeze-dried liver, which can be helpful for picky cats. The liver makes the food taste and smell better, which can entice a cat’s appetite. It is crafted in the USA, but the ingredients come from around the world.

    Pros
    • Plenty of different fish
    • High in protein
    • Free from grains and chicken
    • Coated in freeze-dried liver
    Cons
    • Very expensive

    4. Crave with Protein from Chicken and Salmon

    Crave Adult Chicken and Salmon Dry Cat Food

    Crave is a newer brand that is moderately expensive. The Crave with Protein from Chicken and Salmon formula is no different. It includes real chicken as the first ingredient, which is a quality option for most felines. The chicken meal follows up as the second ingredient.  While there is some misunderstanding surrounding this ingredient, it is just concentrated, dehydrated chicken.

    Pea protein is the third ingredient, which is less than optimal. This adds quite a bit of non-meat protein to the food, artificially raising the protein content. Cats have a hard time digesting certain minerals and vitamins from veggies, which is why we prefer meat when it comes to feeding our cats. While the title does say that it includes salmon, it doesn’t appear until much further down on the list.

    The salmon does add in some extra omega fatty acids, which are essential for our cat’s overall health. However, there isn’t much protein from the salmon in this cat food.

    This formula is grain-free, which is helpful for cats with sensitivities. It is also cooked and made in U.S. facilities, though the ingredients come from around the world.

    Pros
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • Omega fatty acids included
    • Grain-free
    Cons
    • Pea protein included as the third ingredient
    • Not much salmon actually included

    5. Blue Buffalo Tastefuls

    Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo is a popular, high-end brand. The Blue Buffalo Tastefuls is their attempt at a wet food variety pack for cats. Typically, wet foods are better for cats than dry foods, as many cats don’t drink enough water. This pack includes three different flavors: chicken, turkey, and whitefish. It is an easy way to keep your cat’s diet diverse and exciting. All the flavors include pretty good ingredients.

    For instance, the chicken flavor includes chicken as the first ingredient, followed by chicken broth and chicken liver. Dried egg products are included, which include many different nutrients that are cats need in an easy-to-digest form. It is pretty high in protein at 9%.

    However, this cat food does include a variety of different veggies. Though they aren’t high on the ingredient list, these veggies aren’t necessarily the best option for our felines. They are included in small amounts, but they are still there.

    This food does not have a high water content, despite being “wet” food. For this reason, some cats simply don’t like it. It may also not be helpful for cats who need a higher amount of water in their diet for health purposes. Many cats don’t like the taste either, but that can be said about many different cat foods.

    Pros
    • Varied recipes
    • High-quality ingredients
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Not high in water content
    • May not be suitable for picky eaters

    6. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate

    Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

    At first glance, the Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate appears to be high-quality. It includes deboned chicken as the first ingredient, followed by a variety of meat products and eggs. Cranberries are included further down on the list, but these can help prevent many different health problems. Dehydrated alfalfa is also included, though it is the eighth ingredient. Unfortunately, this is generally considered a lower-quality ingredient, as it doesn’t offer cats much nutrition.

    It comes in a pate texture that is designed to entice picky eaters. There is plenty of moisture included, so it can help your cat stay hydrated. This may be particularly helpful for some health problems. It is made in the USA, though the source of the ingredients varies. It is crafted with no grain, wheat, soy, or artificial colors.

    Whether or not cats like this is a toss. Some cats seem to like it well enough, while others won’t touch it. This formula may not be suitable for picky cats for this reason.

    Pros
    • High in protein
    • High in moisture
    • Made in the USA
    Cons
    • Not for picky cats
    • Contains alfalfa

    7. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Cat Food

    Wellness Core Grain Free Formula

    With deboned chicken as the first ingredient, the Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Cat Food starts off well. It also includes a variety of other meat products, like turkey meal and chicken meal. The ingredient list includes a variety of lower-quality ingredients, too, though. For instance, peas and potatoes are included relatively high on the ingredient list. These veggies are commonly used in place of grain, but they aren’t very nutritious for our felines. Peas are pretty high in protein, which makes them artificially raise the protein content of the food. Unfortunately, cats are not very good at absorbing nutrients from veggies, so much of this protein goes to waste.

    This formula includes a variety of different vitamins and minerals. In addition, the kibble features a probiotic coating that is designed to help maintain your cat’s digestive and immune system. Glucosamine and chondroitin are included as well.

    For one reason or another, owners seem to report a higher level of allergies to this food. We are unsure if it is the ingredients themselves or the way they are manufactured and processed. In addition, quite a few people reported that their cats didn’t like this food (even stray cats). For this reason, you may want to reconsider it if your feline is on the pickier side.

    Pros
    • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • High levels of peas and potatoes
    • Higher occurrence of allergies
    • Not for picky cats

    8. Solid Gold Let’s Stay In Chicken, Lentil & Apple Recipe

    Solid Gold Indoor Cat Chicken Lentil, Apple

    While Solid Gold is a newer brand, they have gotten somewhat popular over the years. The Solid Gold Let’s Stay In Chicken, Lentil & Apple Recipe is a decent option, though it does include a few ingredients that we aren’t fans of. Chicken is the first ingredient, followed by a chicken meal. However, the rest of the food contains lower quality veggies, such as lentils, peas, and pea protein. This artificially raises the protein content of this food. These foods are pretty high in protein, though cats aren’t very good at absorbing this sort of protein.

    For this reason, we had to rate this food relatively low. While it does include 36% protein, much of this is not protein from meat.

    It does include probiotics, which are an excellent addition. This formula is also free from grain, which might be better for sensitive cats. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it includes more protein. They simply replaced the grains with veggies. Some owners report that this food messes with their cat’s digestive system, causing some problems in the litter box. However, some foods are bound to mess with some cats, so this isn’t a huge negative.

    Pros
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • Includes probiotics
    • Grain-Free
    Cons
    • Includes high amounts of veggies
    • Low in meat-based protein
    • Can mess with a cat’s digestive system

    9. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Cat Food

    Hill's Science Sensitive Cat Food

    Hill’s science diet is one of the most expensive cat foods out there. However, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Dry Cat Food doesn’t live up to the high price tag. It includes chicken as the first ingredient, but things go downhill from there. Brewer’s rice is the second ingredient, followed by things like corn gluten meal and whole grain corn. These ingredients are not suitably high-quality, even if this food was much less expensive. It is costly for what it is.

    It includes some prebiotic fiber that can help cats with sensitive stomachs and includes added vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids. However, it is pretty low in protein – an essential macronutrient for cats. It is also somewhat high in calories, which can make your cats gain weight. Obesity can be quite dangerous for cats, so watch their weight while they’re snacking on this food.

    While this food doesn’t have the best ingredients, most users reported that it did work for their felines when it came to stabilizing their cat’s stomach.

    Pros
    • Settles a cat’s stomach
    • High in vitamin E and omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • Low-quality ingredients
    • Expensive
    • High in calories

    10. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken Dry Cat Food

    Hill's Science Adult Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Science diet is often advertised as one of the best cat foods you can purchase. However, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Chicken Dry Cat Food isn’t exceptionally high-quality at all, though it does have the price of a quality fee. The first ingredient is chicken, which is about as high-quality as it gets. However, the second and third ingredients are whole grain wheat and corn gluten meal. Both of these ingredients are quite low-quality and not suitable for cats. They don’t improve our cat’s health very much in the least, nor do they offer many vitamins or minerals.

    This food does include a nutritious blend of omega-6 fatty acids, which can help support your cat’s skin and coat health. It is also made in the USA according to strict health standards.

    However, we simply cannot recommend this food due to its high price and low quality. It just isn’t worth it for most felines.

    Pros
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • Made in the USA
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Low-quality ingredients
    • Low in protein

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    Buyer’s Guide

    There is a lot that goes into choosing quality cat food for your feline. Often, just because a food is expensive and advertised as “premium” doesn’t mean that it is a quality option for your feline. The ingredient list, life stage, protein sources, and nutritional completeness all matter a great deal when you’re choosing food for your feline.

    Life Stage

    When choosing a food, you should first select food that matches your cat’s age. For example, kittens need a different diet than cats, as they are still growing and developing daily. On the other hand, adult cats are not.

    While many cat food formulas are designed for seniors, there aren’t many dietary differences between seniors and adults. Instead, these foods are often formulated for specific illnesses that your feline may have as a senior. For instance, many include extra nutrients for your cat’s joints. There isn’t a specific “senior” diet that your cat needs, however.

    Illnesses and Chronic Diseases

    If your feline has any chronic diseases, you may need to invest in food specifically made for their problem. Many chronic illnesses can be managed through the use of diet. These diets are often particular, though. Appropriate cat foods are usually made for and marketed towards treating these illnesses. So, most of the time, you’ll have to purchase a specialty food to treat your cat.

    However, this isn’t always true. In some circumstances, you may be able to purchase a typical food that happens to meet your needs. For example, cats with urinary tract problems often need to increase their hydration, which can be done quite simply through any wet food. As long as the wet food is decently high in moisture, it may work for your feline.

    Ingredients

    When you first pick up a bag of food, you should first look at the ingredient list. This will tell you more about the food than the name or brand. Preferably, you want the first few ingredients to be some sort of meat product. This can include whole meat, meat meal, or specific organ meat. Eggs count as a “meat product,” as well, though they aren’t technically meat. However, they do contain lots of proteins, fats, and nutrients that are hard for your cat to get elsewhere.

    In a perfect world, the majority of the cat food would be the meat of some sort. However, this isn’t always the case. Many include corn gluten meal and similar ingredients that aren’t what our cat would eat naturally in the wild. Corn gluten meal and similar products are protein grain concentrates. Whole grains can be helpful in small amounts. However, they shouldn’t take up the majority of your cat’s food.

    cat eating outdoor
    Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

    Vitamins and Minerals

    All cats need a certain level of vitamins and minerals to thrive. Unfortunately, cats cannot make many of their own amino acids, which means they must consume exclusively from their food. This is why high-quality protein (and a lot of it) is essential to avoid deficiencies and the health problems that come with them.

    Taurine is one of these critical amino acids, for instance.

    Of course, some other vitamins and minerals are often helpful to felines as well. For instance, omega fatty acids are very good for coat and skin health in felines. They can also be useful for your cat’s joints, especially if they have arthritis or a similar problem.  However, cats cannot break down and use all fatty acids, so their food must include the correct kind.

    Type of Food

    There are two main types of cat food: wet and dry. Dry cat food contains only about 10% water. This helps it last longer and remain literally “dry.” However, this does mean that your cats will have to consume their water elsewhere. Cats would get much of their moisture from their prey in the wild. Therefore, some do not drink as much water as they should when consuming kibble.

    Other cats may have health problems that may call for an increase in hydration. Urinary problems are the most common need for this, though other diseases can also call for increased water intake. Often, dry food doesn’t provide this, so it is unsuitable for these cats.

    Owners often prefer dry food because of its minimal smell and durable design. In addition, you can leave dry food out for an extended period without having to worry about bugs finding it or it drying out. Those who free-feed their cats often need dry food since you can’t leave wet food out for very long.

    Wet cat food often contains the moisture from the meat included and added water or broth. This increases the moisture content to about 75%, though some contain even more moisture than that. Your cat will still need access to fresh water, but your cat will generally meet much of its water need through its wet food.

    Wet food can help increase a cat’s hydration if they are not drinking enough water. However, you can’t simply explain to your feline that they need to drink more water, so switching to wet food is often the easiest and healthiest option.

    The problem with wet food is that it is often more expensive and can’t be left out. Leftovers will have to be stored in the fridge until your feline is ready for their next meal. Measuring can be a bit difficult and will often require the use of a spoon and guessing. “Half a can” is a bit vague. Plus, you can’t leave wet food out for an extended period, as it’ll dry out and potentially go wrong. Bacteria can grow on it quickly due to the high moisture content.

    Which type of food you choose depends primarily on your cats’ needs, as well as your preference. You may have to feed your cat wet food due to health problems, even if you prefer free-feeding with dry food.

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    Conclusion

    For most cats, Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food is a great option. It includes plenty of meat and is high in protein. Because it is a variety pack, it adds a bit of variety to your cat’s diet. This is often great for picky cats, as it keeps things interesting. It can also prevent food allergies since it limits your cat’s exposure to any one protein.

    For those on a budget, we recommend Taste of the Wild Canyon River Gran-Free Dry Cat Food. It isn’t the cheapest cat food out there, but you do get quite a bit for the price. It includes a lot of protein and meat, on top of being free from common allergens. If your cat is allergic to chicken, this is a great option.

    Our reviews should help you choose while cat food is best for your feline. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the best cat food out there, as it largely depends on what your cat needs.


    Featured Image: Florian Bollman, Pixabay

    Kristin Hitchcock

    Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!