Does your cat turn its nose up at what used to be its favorite food? Chances are you need to try some different foods to stoke your fastidious feline’s appetite again.
But who has the money to try can after can of wet food until you hit on the right one? Not to mention the time and patience!
Don’t let a critical cat get you down. With these reviews of the best cat foods for picky eaters and our thoroughly researched buyer’s guide included at the end, your cat will be snarfing down their new favorite food in no time.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites for 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Fresh Bird (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)||
||Click to Save 40% Use code: Excitedcats2023|
|Best Value||Tiki Cat Grain-Free Wet Cat Food||
|Smalls Raw Water Bird (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)||
||Click to Save 33% Use code: Excitedcats2022|
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Canned Cat Food||
|Fussie Cat Premium Grain-Free Canned Cat Food||
The 6 Best Tasting Cat Foods for Picky Eaters
1. Smalls Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) – Best Overall
If you have a picky feline that dislikes most commercial cat food brands, you can try Smalls Fresh Bird recipe for a protein-rich meal designed only for cats. Fresh Bird uses chicken breasts, thighs, hearts, and liver as its primary protein sources. Chicken hearts and livers also boost the food’s taurine level. Taurine is a vital amino acid that maintains your feline’s immune system.
Fresh Bird contains 21.2% crude protein, 8% crude fat, and 66.1% moisture, and it’s our pick for the best overall meal for picky cats. Smalls is much higher in animal proteins and lower in carbohydrates than other brands, and its high moisture content is ideal for cats that have problems drinking enough water.
All in all, we think this is the best tasting cat food for picky cats and it’s also the best wet cat food for picky eaters.
- Uses human-grade chicken
- Higher protein than competitors
- Livers and hearts provide taurine
- High moisture content
- Fat from plant sources
2. Tiki Cat Grain-Free Wet Cat Food – Best Value
One of the best grain-free cat foods also happens to be one of the most reasonably priced—you don’t see that every day!
Tiki Cat’s canned food comes in a variety of flavors and has a flaky texture that many cats love. There are no nasty by-products or filler grains in Tiki either. And it even caters to the specialty picky cat with chicken allergies by containing only fish and squid.
However, when feeding your cat food formulated with a vegetable, it’s important to make sure their digestive system can handle it. Pumpkin can be great for some cats that need a little extra bulk to their stool and may even help pass hairballs. But for other kitties, it just doesn’t agree with them.
Though it is the best cat food for picky cats for the money, it’s all up to the individual cat to make the final call.
- Flaky, chunky texture simulates a cat’s natural food
- 4 flavor variety pack will keep cats interested
- No grains, by-products, or artificial ingredients
- Pumpkin can help keep sensitive stomachs regular
- Least expensive on our list, but still good quality
- Pumpkin does not agree with some kitty stomachs
3. Smalls Raw Water Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)
In addition to its human-grade real meat recipes, Smalls makes premium freeze-dried raw meals. Our third pick for the best-tasting cat food for picky cats is the Raw Water Bird. Its primary protein source comes from raw ground duck, liver, gizzard, heart, and duck egg. It contains 45% crude protein, 20% crude fat, and 8% moisture.
Unlike other dry cat foods, Smalls Raw Water Bird does not use heat to dry the ingredients. The raw components are freeze-dried to maintain the food’s nutritional value. Raw Water Bird does not have to be refrigerated, and you can store it at room temperature in the resealable bag.
- Higher protein than other dry brands
- Freeze-drying process retains nutrients
- Low-carb formula
- Crunchy morsels keep teeth healthy
- Low moisture content
4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
When it comes to the quality of ingredients, Blue Buffalo takes no shortcuts. They always make it into our “best of” lists for both canine and feline foods, and it is our top choice for overall best-tasting cat food for picky eaters.
And with their Wilderness brand, Blue Buffalo has hit on a great texture for enticing even the most snobbish of cats. Their quality meat wet food is chunky, chewy, and has plenty of that “gravy” that so many cats go nuts for.
However, we were displeased to see that this food contains both egg and potato—two common food allergens for cats that are also tougher on sensitive stomachs.
Blue Buffalo is only moderately expensive, but that can easily become an issue if your cat’s stomach does not deal well with the likely allergen ingredients. After all, the most expensive cat food is the food that goes to waste.
All in all, we think this is the best-tasting cat food for picky cats and it’s also the best wet cat food for picky eaters.
- First ingredient is chicken
- Chunky textured bites swimming in gravy
- Has extra chicken broth and water to keep cats hydrated
- Moderately expensive
- Contains egg and potato, foods that are common cat allergens
5. Fussie Cat Premium Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Fussie Cat has a reputation for catering to picky eaters. Their ingredients are high quality, the texture is soft but chewy enough to entice, and there are no cheap by-products or leftover ingredients to throw off your feline’s tummy.
Those with picky cats that need to lose a little weight will be particularly pleased to hear that Fussie Cat has the full array of nutrients but nearly half the calories of other wet foods.
However, it does also contain unnecessary natural sweetener. Diabetic felines and cats with sensitivity to sugars may want to avoid this brand.
- First ingredients are tuna, water, and chicken
- Grain and by-product free
- Chunky, soft texture with plenty of moisture
- Nutritionally balanced, but also lower calorie than competitors
- Most expensive brand on our list
- Contains added sugar
6. Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food
For an incredibly reasonable price, Sheba provides good quality wet food that is free of any commonly cheap and unhealthy ingredients like grains and animals “meals.” It has the full complement of vitamins and nutrients, and plenty of gravy for those gravy-crazy felines.
You may want to consider another flavor or brand if your cat is overweight, however. Beef is very fatty for a little critter like a cat, and some have trouble digesting it in addition to gaining weight.
But recently ill or underweight cats may be able to put on a few extra pounds with this flavor, but you should talk to your vet about how much weight gain is appropriate.
The most glaring downside of Sheba is that their foods contain artificial colorings. Many artificial dyes can cause upset stomachs or skin reactions in cats, so proceed with caution.
- First ingredients are beef, chicken, water
- No gluten, corn, soy, or by-products
- Reasonably priced, less than a dollar per pack
- Contains artificial caramel color
- Beef may be too fatty for heavier cats
- Related Read: Best Automatic Cat Feeders: Our Top Picks!
Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Best Cat Food for a Picky Cat
Tummy troubles are surprisingly common for cats, especially indoor felines. And the large amount of poor-quality commercial cat foods on the market can make it even harder for your cat’s digestive system.
We’ve wasted our fair share of money on food that our cats won’t touch, or that made them sick to their stomachs. But you don’t have to let the same thing happen to you!
With some trial and error, as well as abundant and thorough research, we’ve come up with some tips and advice for choosing a quality cat food for picky eaters.
Here are a few tips on basics for trying to pique the interest of a persnickety cat:
- Texture and shape can be a big turn-off for some cats – try softer, but chunkier foods that will more closely approximate their wild diet
- Try to choose brands that are free of common allergens – nothing takes the fun out of mealtime like knowing it’s going to give you a stomach ache
- Variety can help bring reinvigorate your cat’s enthusiasm for mealtime – look for brands that sell variety packs rather than getting all one flavor
Quality Cat Food Ingredients
The best way to try and cater to your cat’s tastes and give them a healthy meal is to go for foods that contain high-quality ingredients.
Here are some examples of excellent foods to seek out on your cat food labels:
- Real meat, organs, and fish for clean and healthy protein
- Specified fish oils and fowl fats that support a healthy coat, joints, and brain
- Water and animal-based broths to keep your cat hydrated
- Natural pre and probiotics to aid in digestion
Small amounts of higher-quality carbohydrates, like brown rice or pumpkin, can also provide a little extra fiber for cats that need digestive support. Too much grain and carbs can be harmful to your cat’s long-term health, however, so talk to your veterinarian to make sure the amount is appropriate.
One quick and easy way to spot a good ingredient is to go for named foods vs unnamed ones. For example, “chicken liver” tells you exactly what your cat will be getting. “Meat meal,” on the other hand, is general enough to mean just about anything.
Cat Food Ingredients to Avoid
Many picky cats are simply sensitive enough to be able to tell when a food has bad ingredients in it. After all, if you noticed that every time you ate a hotdog you broke out in hives you probably wouldn’t be stoked if someone kept trying to feed you ballpark franks.
Here are a bunch of ingredients commonly found in cheap cat foods that you should avoid:
- Dairy: most cats do not digest cow’s milk easily, and it can irritate their stomachs.
- By-products: meat by-products are mostly composed of the leftover bits of an animal and may even contain hard-to-digest things like horns, intestines, and hair.
- Unspecified oils and fats: can be a mix of fats and are often poor quality or rendered from sick or dead animals—another leftover ingredient.
- Artificial colors and flavors: like humans, cats also commonly have adverse allergic and digestive reactions to artificial ingredients like caramel color or red 40.
- Grains: namely corn, wheat, and soy. Cats are obligate carnivores, and excessive grains are the number one cause of allergic reactions to food, digestive upset, and general disinterest.
- Fruit and sugars: sugar, and especially refined sugars, can lead to a litany of health issues including diabetes, obesity, and upset stomach.
Picky Eaters: How to Transition Your Cat to a New Food
One of the more challenging parts of having a picky eater is trying to get them to give a new food a chance. It may help to transition your cat slowly between foods so that their bellies can adjust.
Another bonus to transitioning their food is that if the food they love most is expensive, you can test out mixing small amounts of something cheaper but just as healthy. Now that’s a savvy cat parent!
Here’s how you can help your cat make a successful transition between foods:
- Start small — only replace 25% or less of the cat’s regular meal with the new food for the first 2 or 3 days.
- If all is going well, move up to 50% or less new food for the next few days. If your cat refuses to eat go back to 25% for several more days before trying the 50-50 mix again.
- Once they’re happily eating, move up to a 75-25 mix for at least 2 days. If they’re still into it then you can finally try 100% new food and see how it goes.
Pay attention to your cat’s bowel movements, energy levels, and possible allergic reactions throughout the transition. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or skin irritation crop up at any point, you should stop feeding the new brand and see if those symptoms disappear or persist.
Made from food-safe stainless steel, you can ensure that your cat is consuming the best nutrition out of the finest bowls on the market. Click here to get yours. At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!
Made from food-safe stainless steel, you can ensure that your cat is consuming the best nutrition out of the finest bowls on the market. Click here to get yours.
At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is better: wet food or dry?
There is no definitive answer to whether dry or wet food is healthier. It is all a matter of brand, quality, and ingredients.
However, healthiness can sometimes have nothing to do with a picky cat’s preferences! Many cats that have been eating dry food for a long time will relish the occasional wet food. Some will look at you like you’re crazy. And others won’t touch it if it isn’t swimming in gravy!
When it comes to such a subjective idea as “better food” you will just have to ask your cat and try out a variety of types, flavors, and brands.
Do note, however, that wet cat food may be a better choice for cats who don’t drink much water throughout the day. Wet food provides significant water intake and can be very helpful for the chronically dehydrated feline.
How can I add moisture to my cat’s dry food?
There are many options for adding some extra water to your cat’s diet, or just making their dry food look more appetizing:
- Simply add some clean, warm water and smush the kibble around
- A teaspoon or less of oil mixed in with food can give that gravy-like texture, and even help pass hairballs. Olive, salmon, and coconut are all safe options.
- Substitute a little of their dry food for wet—many cats that love wet food can be convinced to eat some dry as well when it is mixed.
What are some common human foods that are unhealthy or toxic to cats?
Things like chocolate, cooked meats, fried foods, eggs, potatoes, most vegetables, and any prepared or seasoned foods are strictly people-only – no felines allowed!
Alliums are a common kitchen staple that are mildly to extremely toxic to cats. Do not let your cat eat raw, cooked, or foods containing garlic, onions, scallions, and shallots.
For a full list of toxic plants and foods, check out the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List.
Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!
Here’s the scoop on the winners of our tests for the best-tasting cat food for picky eaters:
Our favorite and best overall choice is the Smalls Fresh Bird Cat Food. This human-grade option offers great texture and quality meats that will entice even the pickiest of cats.
Folks with a tight budget that don’t want to sacrifice the quality of their cat’s food will love Tiki Cat Grain-Free Wet Cat Food. This best value choice provides four flavors to tempt your skeptical cat with—all of which are great quality!
Hopefully, our in-depth buyer’s guide and candid, rigorously researched reviews will help you find the purrfect food for your fussy feline friend.
Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites for 2023
- The 6 Best Tasting Cat Foods for Picky Eaters
- 1. Smalls Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) – Best Overall
- 2. Tiki Cat Grain-Free Wet Cat Food – Best Value
- 3. Smalls Raw Water Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)
- 4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- 5. Fussie Cat Premium Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- 6. Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Best Cat Food for a Picky Cat
- Frequently Asked Questions