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8 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods in 2021 — (Top Picks & Reviews)

Nicole Cosgrove

cat-eating_Viktor-Lugovskoy_shutterstock

If you’ve decided to feed your cat grain-free food, it could be for a few reasons. Cats can have allergies to grains. Some grains may be hard for your cat to digest. Many people decide on a grain-free diet for their cats because they want to feed them the optimal nutritious diet. With so many options out there for grain-free food, it can be hard to know which one is the best for your cat. You want to keep them healthy and happy, and each food promises to do that. But which one is the right choice? We rounded up our top picks with reviews for you to choose the right one for your feline companion.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry
  • Duck is the first ingredient
  • Includes antioxidants
  • Suitable for cats with chicken allergies
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food
  • Three different flavors
  • Nothing artificial included
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Protein-packed
  • WholePrey ingredients
  • Freeze-dried liver coating for flavor
  • Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat F Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat F
  • Antioxidants
  • Probiotics
  • Real animal protein
  • Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food T Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food T
  • Convenient serving sizes
  • Affordable
  • Real fish ingredients
  • The 8 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods — Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food — Best Overall

    American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 30%
    Fat: 12%
    Fiber:  5%

    The first ingredient in American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food is deboned duck, making this food perfect for cats with chicken allergies. It also includes omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. Peas, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin offer vitamins and fiber, so cats with sensitive stomachs can benefit from this food’s ability to be easily digested. There are no artificial ingredients or colors that bulk up the food without offering any nutritional value. Antioxidants for a healthy immune system, along with other healthy ingredients, make this food our best overall pick for grain-free cat food.

    Pros
    • Duck is the first ingredient
    • Includes antioxidants
    • Suitable for cats with chicken allergies
    Cons
    • The bag is only available in one size

    2. Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food — Best Value

    Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food (1)

    Protein: 10%
    Fat: 5%
    Fiber:  1.5%
     

    Our best pick of grain-free cat food for the money is Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate, and this variety pack comes with three different flavors: chicken and sweet potato, Alaskan cod and spinach, and wild salmon. If you want to give your cat a flavor assortment, this pack will offer that, along with grain-free nutrition. Chicken is an ingredient in all flavors, so avoid this food if your cat has poultry allergies. No by-products are used in this formula. Added vitamins and minerals and those from ingredients like spinach and carrots give your cat balanced nutrition without any grains. Fussy cats have been reported to enjoy this food and eat it with enthusiasm. It seems to be on the drier side for a pâté, however. If your cat is a gravy-lover, they may not prefer this food.

    Pros
    • Three different flavors
    • Nothing artificial included
    Cons
    • Dry for a pâté
    • Not for cats with poultry allergies

    3. Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food — Premium Choice

    Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 40%
    Fat: 20%
    Fiber:  3%

    Our premium pick is Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. While it’s the most expensive option on this list, it’s also full of pure nutrition. The high protein content in this food is made up of chicken, turkey, mackerel, flounder, and eggs. This formula contains 90% WholePrey ingredients, including nutrient-rich bone and organs. The first five ingredients of this food are poultry and fish, and nothing artificial is added. The food is coated with freeze-dried liver for a kibble that has a raw food taste. Some cats have been reluctant to eat it. Other reports say that the kibble size is too large for certain cats.

    Pros
    • Protein-packed
    • WholePrey ingredients
    • Freeze-dried liver coating for flavor
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Large kibble size

    4. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens

    Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 42.5%
    Fat: 22.5%
    Fiber:  3%

    The Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food has everything that growing kittens need for healthy nutrition. The first ingredients are natural protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs. It’s also filled with apples, cranberries, and tomatoes for antioxidants and probiotics. Healthy digestion is important for kittens and this food considers their needs. Real animal ingredients make up 81% of this formula. Omega fatty acids promote coat health. This food has been reported to have a bad smell that keeps pet parents from buying it even though it’s a healthy option. Some finicky cats refused to eat it.

    Pros
    • Antioxidants
    • Probiotics
    • Real animal protein
    Cons
    • Bad smell

    5. Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food Trays

    Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food Trays (1)

    Protein: 7%
    Fat: 2.5%
    Fiber:  1.5%

    This variety pack of Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Grain-Free Cat Food Trays includes “signature seafood,” “delicate salmon,” and “tender whitefish and tuna” flavors. In addition to being grain-free, this food is also no hassle. The single-serving trays are easy to use, and you don’t have to mess with half-eaten cans in the fridge. If your cat doesn’t typically eat a whole can of cat food at a time and you wind up throwing most of it away later, this could be a solution. The different flavors keep your cat from getting bored, and the trays are easy to stack and store. Each pack contains 80% moisture to add to your kitty’s hydration. This food is convenient and reasonably priced and contains no by-products or unnecessary fillers.

    Pros
    • Convenient serving sizes
    • Affordable
    • Real fish ingredients
    Cons
    • Some cats don’t like the seafood taste

    6. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 42%
    Fat: 18%
    Fiber:  3%

    This protein-rich Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food includes roasted venison, chicken, and salmon. Sweet potatoes and peas give your cat the energy that they need to stay active. This formula also contains probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants for overall health. Complex carbohydrates and fiber will help your cat stay full longer. Taste of the Wild foods contain chelated minerals that can attach to protein and be fully digested.

    There are reports of the kibble being crushed into dust in the bag, thus making your purchase a waste of money. Some cats have vomited after eating this food and refuse to eat it again.

    Pros
    • Different protein sources
    • Probiotics and prebiotics
    Cons
    • Some cats don’t like it
    • Kibble can be crushed in the bag

    7. Purina One True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Purina One True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Grain-Free Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 35%
    Fat: 14%
    Fiber:  2%

    Purina One True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a quality choice for those looking for grain-free nutrition for cats. The dry kibble is mixed with tender, meaty pieces. Chicken is the first ingredient. It’s also what adds to this food’s high protein content. Omega-6 fatty acids support coat health. No fillers are found in this formula, which is packed with vitamins and minerals. Some cats have been reported to stop itching due to food allergies when eating this food. If your cat suffers from allergies to poultry, however, this isn’t the food for you. We like that it isn’t loaded with corn and grain and is still an affordable option.

    Pros
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    • Soft, meaty pieces are mixed with kibble
    Cons
    • Not suitable for cats with poultry allergies

    8. Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Egg Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Egg Grain-Free Dry Cat Food (1)

    Protein: 40%
    Fat: 16%
    Fiber:  3%

    The Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Egg Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a high-protein option for lean muscles and energy. It supports digestive health with live probiotics and prebiotic fiber. Chicken is the first ingredient. Omega fatty acids and vitamin A support healthy skin and coat. Since this food aids in digestion, cats with sensitive stomachs can benefit from the ingredients. There have been reports of stomach ailments clearing up after this food is eaten. But finicky eaters may refuse to eat it, and some senior cats have had trouble chewing the kibble. The formula has recently changed, and some cats dislike the new one after eating the old one for years.

    Pros
    • Chicken is the first ingredient
    • Good for cats with sensitive stomachs
    Cons
    • Cats may not like the new formula

    Buyer’s Guide

    Selecting a cat food is important to support your cat’s health, while also giving them something that they enjoy. It can be frustrating when finicky cats refuse to eat a food that you chose for them. It might be trial and error to find a food that your feline loves, but there are a few things to look for when making your selection.

    cat eating dry food
    Image Credit: YoonJae Baik, Unsplash

    Protein

    Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need protein from animal sources in their diet in order to survive. While cats can eat and digest fruits and vegetables, they can’t live on these things alone. Without the proper amount of protein, they can become critically ill. The protein content is listed on the package as a percentage. The higher the number, the better the protein content is for your cat. If the protein content is below 30%, it’s best to find a different food with a higher percentage.

    Fat

    The fat content is also listed on the food packaging, and while cats need fat, they shouldn’t have too much of it. If they’re eating a high-fat food, they’re not eating enough protein. The fat content should always be much lower than the protein content.

    Price

    Price will always be a factor when choosing food for your cat. It’s perfectly acceptable to choose a food that is cost-effective for you, especially since this is something that you’ll have to buy repeatedly for many years. There are options available for every price range. Choosing the food with the highest-quality ingredients for the price that you can afford is possible. It just comes down to reading the labels. A grain-free food with high protein content that is in your price range might take a bit of searching, but it’s out there.

    cat eating treat
    Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

    What Exactly Is “Grain-Free?”

    Grain-free means the food was made without the use of barley, corn, oats, rice, rye, or wheat. Grain by-products, such as gluten and flour, won’t be in the ingredients either. Grain-free diets became popular for pets when low-carb diets for humans became increasingly popular. People wanted their pets to consume grain-free foods too, believing that they were healthier. While cats may not eat grain in the wild, they can digest it and usually do so without a problem. Unless the cat has an allergy to a grain, they should be fine consuming it. Even though grain isn’t a natural part of a cat’s diet, it is added to pet food as a cost-effective way to add vitamins to the food. Cat foods with grain are not considered bad in general. Of course, if it makes them sick, they shouldn’t eat it. Cats with allergies, sensitive stomachs, or chronic inflammation may do best on a grain-free diet too.

    Conclusion

    Our top pick for the best overall grain-free cat food is American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food. We like that it’s full of antioxidants, is inexpensive, and uses duck as the protein source, making it good for cats that are allergic to chicken. Our choice for the best value grain-free cat food is Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food. We like the flavor variety and the fact that this pâté has nothing artificial in the ingredients. We hope that our reviews have helped you choose the best grain-free food for your feline friend.


    Featured Image Credit: Viktor Lugovskoy, Shutterstock

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.