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 of 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cat Food Subscription||
||Click to Save 40% Use code: PetKeen2023|
|Best Value||Purina Beyond Grain-Free Variety Canned Food||
|Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
|Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Chicken Dry Cat Food||
|American Journey Grain-Free LID Duck & Pea Dry Cat Food||
The 9 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods
1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cat Food Subscription — Best Overall
Smalls is a meal delivery service that sends shipments of high-quality cat food right to your door. They pride themselves on using sustainably sourced and USDA-certified ingredients in the formulation of each of their recipes. It’s a great option for cat owners who want to give their kitties a fresh and grain-free diet but don’t have the time to make the food in their own kitchen.
Smalls has two main types of food offerings – fresh and freeze-dried raw. Their fresh food comes in three different protein options – bird, cow, and “other bird” – and three textures – ground, smooth, or pulled. This is a nice option for picky kitties who only like their food to be of a specific texture. Their freeze-dried raw food comes in three flavors – bird, other bird, and waterbird.
Aside from high-quality animal protein, every recipe is chock full of vitamins and minerals to help your kitty thrive. Vitamin E, for example, is in every one of Smalls’ fresh food recipes. It is essential for cats as it plays an important part in protecting their cells from oxidative stress. Their fresh meals also contain a host of B vitamins like B1 to encourage normal carbohydrate metabolism.
Smalls is great regardless of your cat’s weight or activity level as each of their recipes is high in protein and void of any empty calories or fillers that other pet food manufacturers stuff into their food. This is why we feel Smalls is the overall best grain-free cat food.
2. Purina Beyond Grain-Free Pate Variety Pack Canned Food — Best Value
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.
3. Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Another great 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.
4. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens
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.
5. American Journey Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Duck and Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food
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.
6. Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Variety Pack Grain-Free Cat Food Trays
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.
7. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
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.
8. Purina One True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
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.
9. Purina Pro Plan Chicken & Egg Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
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.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Grain-Free Cat Food
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Our top pick for the best overall grain-free cat food is Smalls Fresh Cat Food. They pride themselves on using sustainable methods to deliver high-quality cat food right to your door. 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