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10 Best Raw Cat Foods in 2021 – Reviews and Top Picks

Kristin Hitchcock

best raw cat food

Raw diets have recently become all the rage. However, they are also a bit of a controversial subject.

On the one hand, many people claim that raw diets are healthier for cats. After all, they are how they originally evolved to eat. Cats don’t craft fires to cook their own food!

On the other hand, raw diets can contain parasites and food-borne viruses. While cats may have digestive systems designed to handle this, we don’t. Feeding our pets a raw diet may put us at risk of food-borne illnesses since we’d be handling and leaving raw meat out.

Commercial raw diets are a safe middle point. They have often been treated to eliminate food-borne illnesses, though that doesn’t make them entirely safe. These diets have also been formulated to be complete and balanced, which can’t be said for plain, raw meat.

Raw, commercial diets are very new, so there are only a few available out there. We reviewed some of the best and most popular below so that you can choose the best option for your feline.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Winner
ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • High in meat protein
  • Grain-free
  • Complete and balanced
  • Second place
    Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives
  • Easy to add to your cat’s current food
  • Inexpensive
  • Third place
    Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Stella & Chewy’s Chicken
  • Completely raw
  • High in protein
  • Convenient, no-prep
  • Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe
  • High in protein
  • Freeze-dried chicken bites included
  • Omega fatty acids and antioxidants added
  • Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe
  • Contains mostly meat
  • Completely freeze-dried
  • Free from artificial colors and preservatives
  • The 10 Best Raw Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food – Best Overall

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, whole mackerel, turkey giblets (liver, heart, gizzard), flounder
    Crude Protein: 40%
    Crude Fat: 20%

    Off the bat, we must admit that ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food isn’t completely raw, but it still makes the top of our list. Their kibble is coated in freeze-dried liver, which makes it taste better and adds some extra nutrition. Out of all the raw-inclusive diets on the market, this is easily the best overall raw cat food.

    The ingredient list is full of different meat proteins. Chicken and turkey are the first two ingredients, but they are followed by mackerel, organ meats, flounder, and more. If you’re looking for protein-rich food, you can’t really get better than this one.

    This formula is also gluten- and grain-free. No corn, wheat, or soy is added either. Some veggies are included, like whole pinto beans, but they are added much further down on the ingredient list.

    This company utilizes refrigeration as their sole method of preservation, and all raw ingredients are frozen. They don’t use extra preservatives or anything like that in their food.

    Pros
    • High in meat protein
    • Grain-free
    • Covered in freeze-dried liver
    • Complete and balanced
    Cons
    • Not completely raw

    2. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe – Best Value

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, chicken heart, dried pumpkin
    Crude Protein: 36%
    Crude Fat: 30%

    Purchasing completely raw food can be expensive. Raw foods are often much more expensive than your average commercial product, largely because they usually contain more meat ingredients. Meat is more expensive than veggies, grains, or fruits – raising the overall price considerably.

    The Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe is not designed to be used as a complete meal. Instead, these little bits are designed to be added to your cat’s current food. If you’re looking to add raw food into your cat’s diet, this is a suitable way to do it without breaking the bank.

    After reviewing tons of raw cat foods, this recipe was the best raw cat food for the money.

    These pieces of raw food are made primarily with freeze-dried chicken. However, chicken liver and chicken heart are also included.

    This particular formula is designed for digestive health. Therefore, it includes a lot of different stomach-supporting ingredients, like pumpkin seeds and dried pumpkin. However, your cat doesn’t need to have digestive problems to benefit from this food.

    Pros
    • Designed for digestion problems
    • Inexpensive
    • Easy to add to your cat’s current food
    • No artificial flavors or preservatives
    Cons
    • Not a complete diet

    3. Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Raw Cat Food – Premium Option

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken (ground with bone), chicken liver, chicken gizzard, pumpkin seed
    Crude Protein: 45%
    Crude Fat: 25%

    It is very difficult to find quality cat food that is completely raw – which is why this is the first one on our list. As a raw cat food, Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Raw Cat Food is quite expensive. However, if you’re looking to feed your cat completely raw food, it may be your only option.

    It is made with mostly meat and very few veggies or fruits. Pumpkin seed is the only added veggie, likely due to its positive effects on the digestive system. The rest of the food is chicken and added nutrients.

    The chicken is completely raw and freeze-dried. It includes whole chicken as well as various chicken organ meats, like liver and gizzard.

    This food is extremely convenient. It’s in a bag and ready to go – you just have to put it in your pet’s bowl. You don’t have to mix it with another food or anything of that sort. It’s simply a completely raw, natural diet for your feline – ready to go in a zippered bag.

    Pros
    • Completely raw
    • Includes mostly chicken
    • High in protein
    • Convenient, no-prep
    Cons
    • Expensive

    4. Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas
    Crude Protein: 41%
    Crude Fat: 22%

    Instinct is probably one of the biggest names in the raw cat food industry. The Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe is probably one of the most popular raw cat foods on the market, in fact.

    This formula is quite high in protein at 41%. Most of this protein comes from chicken, though turkey and menhaden fish meal also appear on the ingredient list. This food is a mixture of kibble and raw bites of chicken. Therefore, it isn’t actually completely raw. It only includes pieces of raw food in it.

    You can purchase the raw bites separately, but these are not designed to be a complete meal. They have to be added to the kibble.

    This recipe is complete and provides everything your feline needs to thrive. Omega fatty acids are included for a soft and healthy coat, while antioxidants protect against oxidative damage.

    We did like this recipe. However, it is expensive and not completely raw. If you’re looking for raw food, it likely won’t be exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, you’ll be spending about the same amount as you would on completely raw food.

    Pros
    • High in protein
    • Freeze-dried chicken bites included
    • Omega fatty acids and antioxidants added
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Not completely raw

    5. Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, chicken heart
    Crude Protein: 38%
    Crude Fat: 34%

    The Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe is a completely freeze-dried meal designed by Instinct – one of the larger companies that makes freeze-dried foods. This particular recipe is mostly freeze-dried chicken with added vitamins and minerals.

    If you’re looking for a completely freeze-dried diet, this one absolutely fits the bill. However, it is incredibly expensive, which is why it is so low on our list. Most people cannot afford this cat food – at least not as your cat’s regular diet!

    This formula is completely free from colors, preservatives, grain, corn, wheat, and soy. It uses only high-quality ingredients, which in this case means chicken and chicken organs. There is very little in this formula that isn’t meat.

    Instinct does make this brand in the USA, so you can rest assured that it follows strict safety standards.

    Pros
    • Free from artificial colors and preservatives
    • Contains mostly meat
    • Completely freeze-dried
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • A bit crumbly and dusty

    6. Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Raw Cat Food

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken (with ground bone), chicken livers, salmon, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds
    Crude Protein: 49%
    Crude Fat: 26%

    Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Raw Cat Food is completely raw food that contains a lot of protein. In fact, at 49% protein, this formula includes more protein than practically any other formula on the market.

    The fat content is decently high at 26% as well – with much of this fat coming from chicken.

    Many of the ingredients included are organic. For instance, both the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds used are organic. The formula includes organic minerals and unrefined vitamins for complete nutrition at all life stages. You can feed this formula to kittens and adults alike.

    Essential fatty acids and enzymes. These both improve the overall health of your feline and encourage appropriate digestive health.

    This formula is crafted in the United States using sustainable ingredients. However, it is also extremely expensive. When you combine organic with raw, you end up with extremely expensive ingredients.

    Pros
    • Organic ingredients
    • Completely raw
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Extremely expensive
    • Only available in small bags

    7. Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties

    First Five Ingredients: Rabbit, rabbit liver, rabbit heart, rabbit kidney, goat’s milk
    Crude Protein: 52%
    Crude Fat: 15%

    The Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties is a unique formula. Instead of small, freeze-dried pieces, this recipe comes in “bricks” – for lack of a better term. You feed each cat about a brick per seven pounds. Specific feeding instructions are on the back of the bag.

    The ingredient list is extremely high-quality, including rabbit and rabbit organs—other quality ingredients like goat’s milk and herring oil. With so many meat ingredients, this formula is extremely high in protein. It has one of the highest protein levels on the market.

    The fat content is quite low, though – largely because rabbit is a lean protein. It includes only 15% crude fat, which is lower than much of the competition.

    This food is completely grain-free and contains no added flavors, fillers, or artificial ingredients.

    For the most part, this is a solid way to introduce raw food into your cat’s diet. However, some cats do not like the patties, as they are quite hard and somewhat difficult to eat.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • High in protein
    • Grain-free
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Not all cats like the patties

    8. Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken, Lamb Heart, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver, Lamb Blood
    Crude Protein: 48%
    Crude Fat: 31%

    As the name suggests, Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food includes mostly chicken and lamb ingredients. Whole chicken is included as the first ingredient, while various lamb organs follow.

    For the most part, this formula is only meat. Some added veggies and other high-quality ingredients are included lower on the list, such as dried kelp. These add some nutritional content to the food.

    Of course, it is also fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals to make it a complete diet.

    With plenty of protein and fat, this formula is extremely nutritious. It is also fairly expensive, though. It isn’t clear whether this formula is completely raw or not. While it is freeze-dried, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is completely raw.

    Some cats don’t like the texture or flavor of this food. There are several customers complaining about the new formula.

    Pros
    • Includes mostly meat ingredients
    • High in protein and fat
    Cons
    • Not necessarily completely raw
    • Expensive

    9. Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food

    First Five Ingredients: Chicken, salmon, chicken necks, chicken liver, chicken hearts
    Crude Protein: 46%
    Crude Fat: 23%

    Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food includes mostly meat ingredients, such as chicken and salmon. Various parts of the chicken are also included, such as chicken necks and chicken liver. The whole formula is freeze-dried and raw, making it a great way to completely switch your cat’s diet.

    The protein content is quite high at 46%. This is much higher than your average wet or dry cat food. The fat content is moderately high at 23%.

    This formula does include some high-quality veggies and fruits, like cranberries and spinach. These add a significant amount of nutrition to this cat food without relying on synthetic ingredients.

    Probiotics are also included to support digestive and immune health.

    These freeze-dried bits are extremely fragile and difficult to ship. Many customers complained that there is always a layer of dust at the bottom of the bag. When you’re paying this much for cat food, you want to be able to use all of it.

    Many cats don’t like switching directly to this freeze-dried food, especially since it looks a lot like sawdust. Some cats may not even recognize it as food.

    Pros
    • High in protein and fat
    • Probiotics included
    Cons
    • Very fragile
    • Expensive
    • Not appealing to most cats

    10. Meat Mates Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food

    First Five Ingredients: Lamb, lamb tripe, lamb heart, lamb kidney, lamb spleen
    Crude Protein: 42%
    Crude Fat: 42%

    The Meat Mates Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food is a completely freeze-dried, raw cat food. However, it lands at the bottom of our list for a few different reasons.

    Firstly, it is extremely high in fat. While cats do need a lot of fat to thrive, they don’t quite need 42% fat. This is double what most other brands include, and it may put your cat at risk for fat-related conditions.

    Secondly, only very small bags are available. While this does prevent some of the food from being completely crushed (as is a problem with other types of raw foods), this also keeps the price quite high. There is no bulk discount.

    Thirdly, many cats don’t like the flavor. While this is sometimes the case with lamb, it appears that there are quite a few felines who simply don’t like this food.

    With that said, it does include high-quality ingredients. It’s mostly just different parts of the lamb.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • High in fat
    • Only very small bags are available
    • Many cats don’t like the taste

    divider-catBuyer’s Guide

    Because commercial raw cat food is quite new, there is a lot we don’t yet know about it. There is plenty of contradictory information out there, which can make it difficult to choose the right food for your feline.

    Many pet owners are chased off due to the higher potential for diseases and other issues. However, the information is a bit more complicated than most assume it to be.

    Below, we’ve included all the information you need to know about choosing your feline a raw cat food.

    Types of Raw Cat Food

    cat eating food_Lumi Studio_Shutterstock
    Image Credit: Lumi Studio, Shutterstock

    There are several different types of raw cat food. Some of these are more widely available than others.

    • Fresh  – This sort of raw food has to be refrigerated. It can come in bits of food, patties, or rolls. This food will usually be found in the refrigerated section of your local pet food store and is usually considered a “premium” option. Sometimes, this food is frozen as well, which helps it stay fresher for longer. However, this sort of food has to be thawed out before you give it to your feline – you can just give them frozen chunks of meat, after all. Remembering to thaw the meat out can be difficult, especially if you’re used to other commercial food options!
    • Freeze-dried – Freeze-dried foods are the most common option out there. They are a lot like kibble, so they are more widely available and accessible. You simply pour the appropriate amount into your cat’s bowl – just like you would kibble. However, there are some arguments that freeze-drying the food removes some of the nutrients. We don’t currently have any research on freeze-dried cat food, so we don’t know whether or not this is true.

    Factors to Look For

    When you’re judging raw cat food, there are several factors you should look for. Not all freeze-dried and fresh foods are made equal, so it’s important to give the bag a very close inspection before making a purchase.

    Just because it is raw doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for your cat. Some companies slap the “raw” label on their food so that they can charge more for it – not necessarily because it is a good option for your feline.

    • Protein – And Lots of It – Cats are obligate carnivores. In the wild, they would pretty much only be eating meat. Unlike dogs, they can’t digest grains or high quantities of plant matter. In fact, cats may have difficulty getting many key nutrients from plant-based sources.
    • Therefore, the majority of their diet should be meat. The type of meat doesn’t matter all that much. There isn’t anything better about salmon over chicken, for instance. Organ meats are a quality option, as long as whole meats are the major source of protein. Organ meats can sometimes include too much nutrition.
    • Low Levels of Everything Else – Besides meat, everything else should be kept to a minimum. Your cat should not be eating high quantities of fruits, veggies, or grains.
    • A small number of high-quality fruits and veggies can be helpful, though. For instance, many fruits are high in antioxidants, which can lower the amount of oxidative stress your cat goes through. Pumpkin and other fiber-rich ingredients can help with digestion.
    • Artificial Ingredients – Raw food should not contain any artificial ingredients, including colors and preservatives. These are unnecessary in our pet’s food, and some of them can even potentially be harmful. For this reason, we don’t recommend that artificial ingredients be included at all – especially for the price you’re usually paying for raw food.

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    Conclusion

    For most felines, we recommend ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. This food isn’t completely raw, but it does provide an easy way to add some raw food into your cat’s diet. Plus, it is far less expensive than a completely raw diet – which many felines don’t like the taste of, anyway.

    If you’re looking for a budget option, you may want to purchase the Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe and add them to your cat’s usual food. If your feline refuses completely raw food, this is another easy way to add some raw food into their diet.

    We hope that our reviews helped you decide on the best raw food for your feline. Remember to look at the ingredient list and protein content – don’t just rely on the “raw” catchphrase.


    Featured Image Credit: DarkBird, Shutterstock

    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!