Dogs can eat just about anything you offer them. But cats are much pickier eaters and they have much more specific dietary needs. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they get their nutrition entirely from meat sources. So, while grain-free has become a popular fad with dog food, it’s much more important for cats.
To offer your feline the best nutrition possible, you’re looking for the top grain-free foods for cats and you’re likely overwhelmed with all the choices. How do you know which food is packed with the proper nutrition to keep your cat healthy and happy?
Don’t worry. We’ve done all the leg work for you by testing out the most popular grain-free cat foods with our felines to compare them. To share what we’ve learned, we detailed our experience with each product in the following ten reviews. Though they’re all top-selling products, only three have earned our recommendations, which we will share with you at the end.
A Quick Comparison of Our Top Picks in 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Ground Bird Fresh Cat Food||
||Click to Save 40%|
|Best Value||Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
|Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
|Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
|American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
The 11 Best Grain Free Cat Foods
1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Bird Cat Food – Best Overall
Our pick for the best overall grain-free cat food is Smalls Human Grade Fresh Bird formula. This food is made with the highest of high-quality pet food ingredients: human grade. Basically, that means your cat is eating food held to the same standards that yours is when it comes to safety and quality. Chicken and vegetables are the main ingredients in this food, which are nutritionally balanced and gently cooked. Not only is this food grain-free, but it’s also free of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors.
As you might suspect, this isn’t the lowest-priced diet on our list. You can’t buy it off the shelf at your local store either, as it’s only available online through the company’s website. Most owners find that their cats really enjoy the taste and texture of this product. Others have found it useful in helping their cats lose weight and improve their coat quality.
2. Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain Free Dry Cat Food – Best Value
Feeding your cat high-quality food seems to cost considerably more than using cheap commercial foods. But with the Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, that no longer has to be the case. This food is affordably priced, much cheaper than most competing grain-free recipes. Yet it’s still full of nutrition for your cat.
This formula contains 25 essential vitamins and minerals to help keep your cat in excellent health. What it’s lacking is anything artificial such as colors, flavors, or preservatives. What you’ll find instead is a minimum of 32% crude protein. Most of that is from chicken sources. Specifically, chicken by-product meal, which is listed as the most prevalent ingredient in this food. We’d prefer to see something higher quality used as the first ingredient. But compared to the competition, we think this one is the best grain free cat food for the money.
3. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dry Cat Food
The ingredients list of any food offers a lot of insight as to its quality. The Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Grain-Free Dry Cat Food lists deboned chicken as the first ingredient, so you can be sure that it’s full of high-quality protein that’s great for keeping your cat in peak physical condition. But chicken isn’t the only protein in this formula. You’ll also be giving your cat healthy fish that’s packed with omega fatty acids and helps this food reach a minimum of 32% crude protein.
Of course, protein isn’t all this food contains. It’s also got 7% fiber to help support healthy digestion. But you’ll be paying a premium for these quality ingredients and nutrients, causing this food to be more expensive than most of its competitors. But if you want to provide your cat with the best nutrition possible and you’re willing to pay extra for it, then the Blue Buffalo Grain-Free cat food is worth considering.
4. Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry Cat Food
For cats, protein is one of the most vital nutrients of all, which is why the Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is packed with a minimum of 42% crude protein. That’s more protein than almost any other food we tested, even ones that cost considerably more.
Even better, this food didn’t skimp out and use just one type of protein. Instead, it contains multiple protein sources to provide your cat with diverse nutrition, including chicken, salmon, and even roasted venison. But, chicken meal is the most prevalent ingredient. Not our top choice, but at least it’s protein.
On a similar note, this formula contains less than 40% total carbohydrates, making it one of the lower-carb solutions available in a dry cat food. It’s also formulated with a special probiotic blend that supports your cat’s digestive health. Overall, we think it’s one of the best grain-free dry cat foods you can offer your feline, loaded with the vital nutrients your cat needs.
5. American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Loaded with high-quality protein from multiple sources, the American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is formulated with the nutrition that your healthy cat needs. It’s got a minimum of 40% crude protein from turkey, chicken, and even fish to ensure your cat is getting a diverse array of nutrients. And these aren’t from just any protein sources, they used quality protein sources including deboned turkey, which is listed as the first ingredient.
Despite the high concentration of protein from diverse sources, this food is priced quite affordably. But it didn’t sit well with all of our cats, causing upset stomachs in a few. It also made many of our cats’ waste smell worse, which led to some unpleasant odors radiating into the house! For these reasons, the American Journey cat food didn’t make our top-three, but it’s still a good grain-free cat food overall.
6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo is recognized as a premium brand with quality products and matching high prices. Their Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is their premium offering, making this a very expensive, albeit high-quality cat food. It all comes down to the protein, of which this food contains a minimum of 40%. But it’s not just about the amount of protein; it’s also about the quality. This food uses deboned chicken as the main protein source with protein from fish and eggs also contributing.
More than just protein, this food is also 18% fat including healthy omega fatty acids. Being so packed with protein and fat didn’t leave much room for carbohydrates, so this food contains less than 40% carbs, making it a protein-rich healthy blend for your feline.
But we did notice some drawbacks with this Blue Buffalo food, aside from the expensive pricing. To start, it’s got a pretty strong foul odor that’s very unpleasant. Some of our cats wouldn’t eat this food! It may be loaded with diverse protein sources, but if our cats won’t eat it, they can’t benefit from any of that nutrition!
7. Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Canned cat food can be a great way to feed your cat a grain-free diet that’s full of healthy proteins. Problem is, it’s not exactly a cost-effective way to feed your cat. Still, the Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Grain-Free Canned Cat Food contains tons of protein and practically no carbohydrates, making it a great option for any cat. In fact, even our picky eaters seemed to like this cat food and ate it without objection.
Though this food does have plenty of quality protein, it all comes from the same source. We prefer foods that have several protein sources to provide our cats with a diverse ray of nutrients. But our biggest complaint was the grey chicken. It wasn’t in every can, but in some of the cans we opened, we found some grey chicken that didn’t smell appetizing in the least. We worried about feeding it to our cats, so we threw it out instead, an expensive waste of food that none of us were too happy about.
8. Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food
Like other wet cat foods, the Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food is rather expensive compared to dry foods. But on the flip side, it’s also comprised of fats, protein, and moisture, with little to no room for carbohydrates, which is how your cat would eat in the wild. Unfortunately, this food is mostly moisture, 84% to be exact.
Cats can be picky eaters and they don’t always like to eat the same thing on repeat. For these reasons, the Sheba Perfect Portions food includes three flavors that your at is sure to love. However, they’re pretty small portions. Though they’re called Perfect Portions, we found them to be a bit small for most of our cats and had to double up for most meals. This makes them even more expensive than they were initially; one major reason this food didn’t earn a higher position on our list.
9. Wellness Complete Health Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
The Health Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food from Wellness Complete is high in protein and equally high in cost. Even compared to other canned cat foods, this one is expensive. Despite the expensive price, it’s mostly made up of water, consisting of 78% moisture.
Still, the Wellness Complete food is very low in carbohydrates and contains mostly protein and fat; exactly how your cat should be eating. As far as protein is concerned, quality sources were used, including chicken and turkey.
We ordered a case of 12 cans and were disappointed when most of them arrived dented. And not just slightly dented, but dented to where we couldn’t open them. We assumed it was a shipping problem until it happened with subsequent shipments, but only with the canned cat food from Wellness Complete. After searching online, we found that this is a common occurrence with this food; an unfortunate quality control error on an expensive product.
10. Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Canned Cat Food
When cage-free chicken is listed as the first ingredient of a cat food, you can usually bet that food is going to be good. Well, the Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Canned Cat Food does list cage-free chicken as its first ingredient and it’s made from 95% chicken, turkey, and chicken liver with no artificial colors and preservatives. But despite all this, our cats didn’t like this food and neither did we.
Many of our cats wouldn’t touch this food. They were turned off by it and had zero interest whatsoever. Considering the high price of this food, we were disappointed at how much money this wasted! But it seems the cats have cast their vote and this food has been voted out.
11. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
The Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food seems to be a great choice for cat owners feeding their cats a limited ingredients diet. Problem is, it lists far more ingredients than you might expect. Worst, a protein source isn’t even listed as the first ingredient! Instead, green peas were used as the most prevalent ingredient in this formula. For such an expensive cat food, this is highly disappointing.
On the bright side, this food is fortified with vitamins and minerals that make it great for your cats’ coats. After a few weeks on this food, we did notice that their coats were much shinier and more luscious. But we couldn’t test it with all of our cats because many of them wouldn’t eat this food! In the end, we think it’s the worst of all the foods we tested and we don’t recommend you try it with your cat.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Grain Free Cat Food
You’ve read our opinions and you know how some of the best grain-free cat foods compare to each other. But you’re a discerning cat owner and you want to make sure you’re fully informed before making a decision. So, how do you decide which grain free cat food brand is best for your kitty?
If you’re asking this question, then this buyer’s guide is for you. We’ve written it to briefly cover the most important aspects to consider when choosing a food for your feline. These apply to all cat foods, not just the ones on our list. You can use this information to help you pick from any choice on the market and be certain that you’ve made a good choice.
One of the first things to look at on any cat food is its nutritional content. This means checking out what nutrients the food will provide your cat, including its breakdown of protein and fats.
Cats are what’s known as obligate carnivores. This means that they naturally get all of their nutrition needs filled by animal sources, not carbohydrates and plants. So cats need loads of proteins and fats and very few carbohydrates.
Start by looking at the overall protein content of the food. It will be expressed as a minimum percentage. For instance, if a food says 32% minimum crude protein, then at least 32% of that food is protein.
You’ll want food that provides a minimum of 30% protein, but more is definitely better in this instance.
You might also be interested in: Soulistic Cat Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons
Next, you’ll want to take a look at the fat content of the food. Cats can consume quite a bit of fat, but you don’t want to make too many of their calories come from fats because then they won’t get enough protein. This is a problem you sometimes see in canned foods where the fat content is nearly as high as the protein content.
If you add the fat, protein, and moisture content of a food together, what’s left is the highest possible amount of carbs that could be present in the food. So if the food was 15% fat, 35% protein, and 10% moisture, it could be a maximum of 40% carbohydrates.
By doing this, you can ensure that you’re feeding your feline a diet that’s mostly comprised of protein and fat with carbohydrates making up less than half of their intake.
Just as important as the nutritional content of any given cat food is its ingredients list. The ingredients list can tell you a lot about the food such as how many protein sources were used and the quality of the foods used to formulate the cat food.
Ingredients are listed in order of how concentrated they are in the total recipe. For example, the first ingredient is the most prevalent ingredient in the formula and the last ingredient is the least prevalent.
By looking at the ingredients list, you can immediately get a good idea of the food’s quality by the first ingredient. You want to see a whole-food protein source such as deboned chicken or turkey listed as the first ingredient. This shows that the food is made with quality ingredients and protein is the main focus.
You definitely don’t want to see a carbohydrate listed as the first ingredient. It’s also not preferable to see a low-quality protein source listed first, such as chicken by-product meal.
In a perfect world, you’d just be able to purchase the food with the highest quality nutrition for your cat. But that could be very cost-prohibitive in today’s world. So, you’ll want to find the best food that’s within your price range.
In general, dry cat foods will be much more cost-effective than canned cat foods. But they also have more carbohydrates while canned foods are made up mostly of water. It’s always a tradeoff.
Try not to choose food with low-quality ingredients just to save on price. You can usually still find foods with high-quality ingredients at affordable prices if you do some searching.
Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!
You want to sort through all the various brands of cat food to find your feline the best grain free dry cat food possible. That’s why you read our reviews. And since you trust us enough to listen to our opinions, we thought we’d take the liberty of recommending our top picks to you.
Our first choice for best grain free cat food is the Smalls Human Grade Fresh Bird cat food formula. This exceptional food is comprised of a minimum of the vital proteins your cat needs for optimum health and digestion, and includes no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
For the best value grain free dry cat food, we recommend the Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. It’s more affordable than most other grain-free dry cat foods but it’s still packed with a minimum of 32% crude protein and 25 vitamins and minerals.
Featured Image Credit: meineresterampe, Pixabay
- A Quick Comparison of Our Top Picks in 2023
- The 11 Best Grain Free Cat Foods
- 1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Bird Cat Food – Best Overall
- 2. Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain Free Dry Cat Food – Best Value
- 3. Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Dry Cat Food
- 4. Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry Cat Food
- 5. American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 7. Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- 8. Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Cat Food
- 9. Wellness Complete Health Pate Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- 10. Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Canned Cat Food
- 11. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Grain Free Cat Food