Despite all the cat food advertisements you may see talking about how your cat needs to eat meat and avoid carbs, the truth of whether low-carb foods are best for all cats is much more complicated. Veterinarians know for sure that cats with diabetes do best on a low-carb, high-protein diet.1 Cats who are overweight may also benefit from lower-carb food. When it comes to the average, healthy feline, however, there’s much less evidence regarding the benefits or harm of carbohydrates.
If you think your cat would be healthier on low-carb food, be sure to check with your veterinarian first. Once you’re ready, come back to this article and check out our reviews of the best low-carb cat foods we could find in stores today. Hopefully, this information will give you an idea of what’s available as you shop for the perfect low-carb diet for your precious kitty.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Fresh Cow Cat Food||
||Click to Save 40%|
|Budget Buy||Fancy Feast Savory||
|Instinct Ultimate Protein||
|Purina Pro Plan Grain-Free Kitten Food||
|Tiki Cat Hawaiian Grill||
The 11 Best Low-Carb Cat Foods
1. Smalls Fresh Cow Cat Food – Best Overall
|Top Ingredients:||Beef, Beef Liver, Green Beans, Water, Spinach|
Your feline best friend deserves the very best cat food available, and if you want to upgrade to high-quality cat food, check out Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow Cat Food. Smalls offers fresh, protein-packed food made with premium beef and a variety of nutritious vitamins. When you sign up for a Smalls subscription, you’ll receive regular shipments of this low-carb cat food right to your door!
We love the care that Smalls takes in preparing nutritious meals for your furry friends. Lean ground beef makes up 73% of this food, and there are also nutrients like phosphorus, calcium, and taurine to help your cat stay healthy. Best of all, the metabolizable energy in this food is only 1% from carbs, which is impressive.
You do have to sign up for a subscription, and food this nutritious doesn’t come cheap. Still, Smalls Cow Cat Food is our top pick for the best overall low-carb cat food available this year. Give it a try and see what your cat thinks!
2. Fancy Feast Savory Salmon Feast Cat Food – Budget Buy
|Top Ingredients:||Salmon, liver, meat by-products|
Our favorite budget low-carb cat food is the Fancy Feast Salmon canned food. Most canned cat food is low in carbs, meaning you don’t necessarily need to pay a fortune to keep your cat’s carb intake at a minimum. Fancy Feast is widely available at most grocery and retail stores, making it a convenient choice as well as a cost-effective one.
Many of the fish-based canned foods tend to be lower in carbs which is why we picked this salmon diet among the countless Fancy Feast varieties. However, not all cats enjoy or can tolerate fish diets so monitor your cat closely for any upset stomach if you pick this food. Cat owners who prefer feeding all-natural or higher quality foods may dislike that this one contains meat by-products.
3. Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain-Free Pate Real Venison Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Venison, pork liver, pork broth|
If top-quality, all-natural ingredients are important to you and have a bigger budget, try the Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain-free Venison diet. Not only is this food low carb, it’s made with a novel protein source—venison—making it a good choice for cats who are also dealing with food allergies or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Instinct is one of the more expensive cat foods on the market because it’s made of whole meat sources with no grains or filler ingredients. Besides the cost, owners also find that some cats don’t care for the taste of this food. The cans also contain quite a bit of liquid, often leading to a mess when they’re opened.
4. Purina Pro Plan Grain-Free Classic Chicken Kitten Food
|Top Ingredients:||Chicken, liver, water sufficient for processing|
Suitable for kittens or adult cats in need of a high protein, low-carb diet, Purina Pro Plan Grain-free Chicken is a tasty, well-tolerated canned food for most cats. Because it is kitten food, it comes only in small, 3-ounce cans which can be inconvenient and expensive if you’re trying to feed a full-size cat. This food is well-reviewed and recommended by the majority of owners who’ve tried it. Pro Plan is usually only available in pet stores or online, making it a little harder to find than the lower-level Purina diets.
This food contains no artificial colors or flavors but does contain by-products, which are considered safe and nutritious for cats, but some owners still prefer not to feed them.
5. Tiki Cat Hawaiian Grill Ahi Tuna Grain-Free Low Carb Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Tuna, tuna broth, sunflower seed oil|
This gourmet cat food brand uses real, wild-caught Ahi tuna as its main protein source. Tiki Cat is one of the highest protein, lowest fat diets we reviewed, making it a good choice for cats who are trying to limit carbs as a weight-loss strategy. Mercury can be a concern with tuna-based foods and this company makes an effort to ensure they use fish with the lowest mercury content possible.
Cats who don’t like fish diets won’t care for this one as it has a particularly strong smell and taste. This food is also fairly expensive and contains quite a bit of liquid versus actual chunks of tuna.
6. Avoderm Grain-Free Salmon Consomme Canned Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Salmon, salmon broth, tricalcium phosphate|
Another good low-carb cat food is the Avoderm Grain-free Salmon Consomme, made with wild-caught salmon and packed in a flavorful broth, giving your cat added hydration as they eat. This food also contains avocados and avocado oil as a source of fatty acids, unusual among the other diets on our list. Avoderm is not as common or well-known as some other cat food brands and is a bit expensive. Cat owners appreciate the human-grade quality of this food and its ingredients. Cats who dislike flaky textured foods are generally not a fan of this one, even if they usually enjoy salmon foods.
7. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-free Chicken Pate Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Deboned chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver|
Packed with real chicken and sumptuous gravy, this low-carb diet is full of antioxidants, fatty acids, and other healthy nutrients. Merrick Purrfect Bistro also contains elements to help your kitty more easily digest their low-carb meal. This food is ideal for picky eaters, with its pate texture and extra moisture. Merrick is a higher-priced option compared to some of the others on the list, probably because they use higher quality, USDA-certified chicken.
Long-time buyers of this food report they may have undergone a recent formula change that their cats no longer like and seems to have changed the color of the food.
8. Purina ProPlan DM Veterinary Diet Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Meat by-products, water, chicken|
This prescription veterinary diet is from Purina. Purina DM is specially formulated for diabetic cats who are most in need of a low-carb, high-protein diet. Because diabetic cats often suffer from urinary problems as well, this diet helps decrease the risk of your cat developing bladder stones.
This product is only available with a prescription and is somewhat expensive. Most owners report that their cats enjoy this food. Because it is a pate diet, cats who don’t enjoy that texture may reject the Purina DM.
9. Purina One Turkey Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Turkey, liver, turkey broth|
Another solid, low-carb offering from Purina, the Purina One Grain-free Turkey Pate is a reasonably priced diet that’s usually fairly easy to find in most stores. Made with real turkey, this poultry-based food is usually well-tolerated by most cats. Owners report that while picky cats may initially reject this food, they appreciate the simple, healthy ingredients that make up this diet.
This food is a little higher in fat and lower in protein than some of the others we reviewed for this list. Owners who want their cats to lose weight may need to look for a lower fat option.
10. Wellness Core Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Canned Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken liver, chicken broth|
Made with premium ingredients, Wellness Core is also free of artificial colors, preservatives, and carrageenan. The food also contains additional real food ingredients like flaxseed, cranberries, and dried kelp. These help ensure Wellness Core is not only low carb but high in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids. All that quality comes at a price, as this is definitely not a low-cost canned diet. Wellness Core is generally only available from pet stores or online retailers, making availability more of an issue for this food. Plus, given the price, this could be an expensive bust if you find your cat prefers a different low-carb diet.
11. Purina ProPlan Veterinary Diet DM Dry Cat Food
|Top Ingredients:||Poultry by-product meal, soy protein isolate, corn gluten meal|
When it comes to feeding lower-carb diets, canned foods are always going to be a better option than dry food. It’s simply impossible to manufacture dry food without a fair amount of carbohydrates. However, some cats absolutely won’t eat canned food no matter how much their owners wish they would. For those cats, especially diabetic ones, the dry food version of Purina DM is a good choice. This food contains very high protein for dry food and one of the lowest carbohydrate counts out there.
Like the wet version, this diet is formulated by researchers specifically to help control insulin levels in diabetic cats. It’s also expensive and requires a prescription. Despite this, this diet is highly recommended by users, suggesting it’s worth the extra cost for peace of mind.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Low-Carb Cat Food
Now that we’ve filled your head with useful information about the best low-carb cat foods, here are some other important tips to keep in mind before you make your final decision.
Does Your Cat Have a Medical Condition?
If your cat needs to eat low carb because they have diabetes or another medical concern, you’ll want to take extra care comparing and contrasting the diets available. You’ll also want to lean heavily on your veterinarian for advice before making your choice.
Another complication here is that diabetic cats in particular need to maintain a very consistent diet, no matter what they end up eating. If you already know your cat prefers a particular flavor of food, for example, try to pick a low-carb diet in the same flavor. The last thing you need is to be cycling through multiple diets trying to find one your cat will eat.
How Old Is Your Cat?
In general, cats should eat food designed for their particular life stage. We only reviewed one kitten food for this article but there are plenty of other options out there as well. As you decide which low-carb food is best for your cat, try to pick one that’s appropriate for how old they are.
Does Your Cat Like Wet or Dry Food?
As we mentioned previously, canned food is nearly always going to be much lower in carbs than even the best dry food. If your cat refuses canned food, that’s obviously going to impact your search for a low-carb diet. Learn how to calculate and compare the number of carbs in dry food to find the best option possible.
In many cases, grain-free dry foods will have the lowest carbs. However, keep in mind that grain-free doesn’t automatically equal low carb. Some grain-free diets contain potatoes or peas, which can up the carbohydrate count of the food. Check labels carefully before you buy.
As the overall best low-carb cat food, Smalls Fresh Cow Cat Food is made with premium beef, includes plenty of healthy vitamins and minerals, and offers a very low-carb recipe, making it a perfect choice for all life stages. Our best budget pick, Fancy Feast Salmon, offers great taste and minimal carbs for a reasonable price. As you consider our reviews of the best low-carb cat foods, remember that choosing a cat food is about more than just dietary fads and fancy advertising. The most expensive food isn’t always the healthiest or best. Do your research and talk to your veterinarian to help you make the best choice.
Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock