Cats are carnivores and need protein in their diet to be healthy and active. Chicken is an abundant ingredient in all types of cat foods. Turkey is also a popular option. While these proteins are healthy for the average cat, sometimes they don’t agree with your furry friend. Poultry is the main ingredient in many cat foods, but it can lead to allergies1. In some cases, your cat may just not like the taste of poultry and will refuse to eat it.
Whatever the reason for eliminating this ingredient from your cat’s diet, our reviews are here to help. Alternate sources of protein can provide the same essential nutrients that cats need every day. We gathered the best poultry-free cat foods, both dry and wet so you can browse the components of each and decide which is the right choice for your feline.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow (Cat Food Subscription)||
||Click & save 33%|
|Best Value||Fancy Feast Pate Cat Food||
|Nature’s Logic Rabbit Wet Cat Food||
|Purina Pro Plan Whitefish Wet Cat Food||
|Purina One Beef Pate Canned Cat Food||
The 11 Best Poultry-Free Cat Foods
1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow (Cat Food Subscription) — Best Overall
|First protein source:||Beef|
Smalls was established in 2017 and promises to deliver human-grade fresh food to cat owners. Besides the human-grade food, Smalls also makes and supplies freeze-dried raw food and a selection of treats. Do be aware that other foods may contain poultry, so you will need to carefully check the ingredients of each to be certain.
Smalls food is available via subscription and is delivered directly to your door. Meal plans and deliveries can be customized, and the company offers a small sampler, allowing you to make sure your cat enjoys it before you make a long-term commitment.
As well as being completely poultry free, Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow Cat Food is made of 85% meat and animal content, including lean beef, beef liver, and beef heart with vegetables. There is also fruit and added vitamins and minerals to ensure a nutritionally balanced diet for your cat.
The food is available in a smooth or ground texture according to your cat’s preferences, and because it is packed with natural, human-grade ingredients, it is palatable and appealing for our feline friends.
The poultry-free food from Smalls is high quality and is made using clean ingredients to give you reassurance of its quality. The cow recipe is completely poultry free, and the sampler is a good option to ensure your cat enjoys the food. However, the quality of the ingredients does mean that Smalls food is on the expensive side.
All in all, we give Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow Cat Food the title of overall best poultry-free cat food.
2. Fancy Feast Fish & Shrimp Pate Canned Cat Food — Best Value
|First protein source:||Cod|
Our choice for the best poultry-free cat food for the money is Fancy Feast Cod, Sole, & Shrimp Pate Canned Cat Food. This will appeal to cats that are seafood lovers — they won’t even miss the poultry. Cod is the first ingredient on the list. You won’t find any grains in this recipe either.
Fish broth is added to increase the moisture content per can, which is helpful if your cat doesn’t always drink as much water as they should. This food is easily digestible and suitable for cats with allergies and sensitivities. However, there are reports of bad batches of these cans at times. The pâté can have a different look and odor than usual.
3. Nature’s Logic Rabbit Feast Canned Cat Food
|First protein source:||Rabbit|
Our third poultry-free choice for cat food is Nature’s Logic Feline Rabbit Feast. The first ingredient is rabbit, which is combined with pork liver and dried egg for a protein-rich meal that closely resembles a cat’s wild diet. Fruits and vegetables make up the rest of this recipe to provide vitamins and minerals. The food is grain-free and low in carbohydrates, so it’s easy on your cat’s sensitive stomach.
There are no potatoes, corn, wheat, peas, or rice in this product, so it’s not rough on a cat’s digestive tract. The taurine in this food, which is essential in a cat’s diet, is naturally occurring. Your cat will consume this amino acid through muscle meat instead of a synthetic additive.
The cans have been reported to not be completely filled. Upon opening, there is less food in some batches of cans than in others.
4. Purina Pro Plan Whitefish & Salmon Kitten Canned Cat Food — Best for Kittens
|First protein source:||Ocean whitefish|
Purina Pro Plan Ocean Whitefish & Salmon Kitten Canned Cat Food makes our list as the best poultry-free food for kittens. Ocean whitefish, salmon, and liver are the first protein ingredients in this food. It’s easy on kittens’ sensitive stomachs while still giving them the energy and health benefits that high-quality protein provides. The grain-free recipe will ensure that your kitten digests this food without issues.
No artificial colors or preservatives are included, so kittens get the nutrition that they need in a well-balanced meal. The soft formula is made for their small mouths and teeth.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is loaded into this food for vision, brain, and immune health. Omega-6 and vitamin A support healthy skin and coats. Calcium will keep your kitten’s bones and teeth strong.
5. Purina One Beef Recipe Pate Canned Cat Food
|First protein source:||Beef|
Real beef is the first ingredient in Purina One Beef Recipe Pate Canned Cat Food. This food provides balanced nutrition without any poultry products, making it a great choice for poultry-free cat food. Fish is added to the beef in the recipe to pack the protein content per can. This food is suitable for cats of all life stages.
The pâté recipe is also grain-free and loaded with antioxidants for a healthy immune system. It’s a healthy option for cats that are allergic to both poultry and grains. Omega-6 fatty acids are included for skin and coat health.
This food is reported to have a fishy odor, so cats that have an aversion to seafood may not be enticed to eat it.
6. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Dry Cat Food
|First protein source:||Rabbit meal|
The simple ingredient list for Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Dry Cat Food means you can trust that you’re giving your cat healthy, poultry-free nutrition. This recipe includes only one animal protein, which is gentle on sensitive stomachs. Farm-raised rabbit, without any hormones or antibiotics, offers your kitty all the amino acids that they need. This formula is free of grain, eggs, potato, corn, and artificial colors.
The pure ingredients include omegas and antioxidants for coat and immune health. This food is manufactured in the U.S.A. using ingredients found worldwide. Cats with allergies aside from poultry will benefit from the limited ingredients of this diet.
7. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe Cat Food
|First protein source:||Venison|
The Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe Cat Food is full of 96% organs, meat, and bone, along with New Zealand green mussels. This food is ready to serve right out of the bag. Free from any added fillers or carbohydrates, it can be fed as a meal on its own or as a meal topper to entice eating.
The preserving process is all-natural using twin-stage air drying, so there is no need for any artificial preservatives or sugars. It offers the benefits of a raw diet without the hassle or mess. Air-dried food is also more convenient and lasts longer.
This protein-packed food includes green tripe and organic kelp, making it a superfood for cats. Poultry-sensitive cats can enjoy this as a snack, special treat, or addition to their meals.
8. Wellness CORE Tuna & Wild Salon Entrée Canned Cat Food
|First protein source:||Tuna|
Packed in broth for added hydration, each can of Wellness CORE Signature Flaked Skipjack Tuna & Wild Salmon Entrée Cat Food includes tuna, mackerel, and salmon for protein and omega fatty acids. These acids, along with sunflower oil, promote healthy skin and a shiny coat. The moisture in the food supports urinary health. Real flakes of tuna are hand-packed in every can for a poultry-free, well-balanced meal.
Cats who are notoriously picky eaters have been reported to eat this food with enthusiasm. But some cats didn’t like the texture of this food, especially if they were used to eating shredded food.
9. Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
|First protein source:||Trout|
The first ingredients in Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food are trout, ocean fish meal, and sweet potatoes. Combined with pea protein, this gives your cat a balance of healthy protein and carbs for the energy that they need. Grain-free and highly digestible, this recipe is an option for cats with digestive sensitivities. Real fruits and vegetables offer antioxidants and vitamins. The chelated minerals are easily absorbed and their full health benefits are reached. No grains are in this food. Instead, you’ll find probiotics and prebiotics for healthy digestion. No artificial colors or flavors are included in this formula. Cats with poultry allergies have been reported to recover well while eating this food.
Some cats enjoy the taste while others just walk away from it. Your cat’s personal preference will determine whether it’s a hit.
10. BFF Pate Lovers Tuna & Lamb Wet Cat Food
|First protein source:||Tuna|
The BFF Pate Lovers Tuna & Lamb Wet Cat Food combines a mix of proteins, with none of them being poultry. Tuna, tuna broth, lamb, and sardines are pureed together to form a tasty pâté. No grains, gluten, or artificial flavors are added. This recipe is also full of moisture to help your kitty stay hydrated. Cats have been reported to enjoy the taste and eat this as soon as it’s served. The wholesome ingredients in this formula provide essential vitamins and minerals to support your cat’s health, with a lowered risk of triggering allergic reactions or sensitivities. The flavor combination of the tuna and lamb may be what entices otherwise finicky cats to eat this until it’s gone.
11. American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
|First protein source:||Deboned salmon|
The American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food has deboned salmon as the first ingredient. With over 40% protein in the formula, it’s got everything that it needs to keep cats energetic and healthy. Fruits and vegetables add antioxidants for immune system support. Omega fatty acids keep your cat’s coat shiny. No poultry by-products, corn, wheat, or soy are used in the recipe.
No artificial colors or flavors are added, making this food easy on your cat’s system. There are reports of some of the food being crushed into dust in the bag, though, making buyers feel like money was wasted. Overall, cats seem to enjoy this flavor. It’s been used as a topper for wet food to entice cats to eat more.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Poultry-Free Cat Food
Looking at cat food labels can be exhausting. How do you know which is the best? How do you even know what you’re reading? If your cat has an aversion to poultry, you want to make sure no traces of poultry are in the recipe. It’s frustrating to pick up a salmon-flavored bag of food and see chicken as the third ingredient.
Poultry, usually chicken, is used in many recipes to pack and fill the food. The fronts of the labels can be misleading because they don’t mention chicken. You will only see it in the ingredients, which is why it’s necessary to carefully scan the ingredient list and see what you’re really purchasing.
What Does “Chicken” Mean?
Chicken as a cat food ingredient means the flesh and skin combination that can sometimes include bone. It excludes the feathers, feet, heads, and entrails.
This refers to the flesh, muscle, and skin of a chicken being exposed to high levels of heat. Once the water and fat are rendered out of it, the remaining protein is ground into a meal.
These are other parts of a chicken, such as heads, feet, necks, and intestines. They’re commonly called fillers and are used in pet food because there’s no other place to use them. They’re typically not used for human consumption, and they provide a way to pack the food cheaply while still providing protein.
Chicken By-Product Meal
This is produced when the by-products have their fat and water content rendered out of them.
Chicken broth is sometimes used as moisture in canned cat foods, but it isn’t mentioned on the front label. This is another thing to check for in the ingredients list.
Chicken can sometimes be found in recipes that claim to be chicken-free. Trace amounts can appear because the food was made in the same environment that produces pet food with poultry. Choosing a cat food from a manufacturer that you trust and that is known for quality control is the best way to avoid this. This may take trial and error, however, choosing different foods until you find one that your cat will eat and that doesn’t cause them any harm.
FAQ: Best Poultry-Free Cat Foods
How Will I Know If My Cat Has Poultry Allergies?
There are a few things that you’ll notice if your cat cannot properly digest poultry. Usually, the first and biggest sign will be itching. If a cat is allergic to their food, this typically presents as lesions on the skin that lead to near-constant scratching.
Other symptoms include rashes, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think that your cat has a food allergy, a vet will be able to diagnose this through a food trial and then provide medication to relieve your cat’s symptoms. Starting the cat on a new food without poultry will be the quickest way to tell whether it’s the culprit.
If your cat has eaten chicken and other poultry for years and had no issues, it doesn’t mean this problem can’t arise in the future. The symptoms can appear when your cat develops the allergy, even if they’ve never had it before. Just like people, cats can become allergic to things over time.
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl. This is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl. 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!
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl.
This is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl.
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!
They Just Don’t Like It
Some cats just prefer the taste of foods without poultry. Every cat has their own preferences. Even if your cat isn’t allergic to chicken, they may enjoy poultry-free food instead. If your cat is being picky about their food and refusing to eat, waiting them out is dangerous. They won’t just eat it when they get hungry. If your cat isn’t eating for over 24 hours, it’s time to offer them something else instead. Medical issues can start after that amount of time, such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. Cats also need protein daily because they are obligate carnivores and require animal protein to survive.
If your cat doesn’t like their food, it’s time to change it, not force them to eat it. It may take time, but you can find a food that they will enjoy and that is also healthy for them.
If your cat isn’t eating anything at all, they will need an examination by a veterinarian to rule out any health problems causing the lack of an appetite.
What Other Proteins Can I Look For?
Chicken is the cheapest and most common protein ingredient for most pet foods, and many cats like the taste of it. There are other options out there, though, for poultry-free foods that are still high in protein.
Best Poultry-Free Cat Foods
This includes chicken parts, like flesh and giblets, that have been broken down and essentially made hypoallergenic. It gives your cat all the amino acids and protein that they need, but without triggering an allergic reaction. It’s easy to digest, but some cats don’t like the taste of it.
Choosing a High-Quality Food
Deciding on food is hard enough, so here are a few tips to keep in mind when comparing labels.
The fewer ingredients, the better it is. A low number of ingredients means there’s less to disrupt your cat’s digestive system or trigger allergies. The protein content should be higher than the fat content. Cats need fat in their diet, but the amount of protein should be the highest content on the label.
Cats can consume grains. But some cats have trouble digesting them, and others may be allergic to them. That said, grains as a whole aren’t bad for your cat to have unless you prefer that they don’t eat them. If you notice your cat having trouble digesting grains properly, grain-free food is your best option. Grains to look for on the label include corn, wheat, oats, rice, and barley.
If you’re unsure of what to feed your cat, asking your vet is the best way to figure out a diet plan that will be healthy, well-balanced, and keep your cat full.
What About a Raw Diet?
Some cats do well on raw diets, and you know exactly what you’re giving your cat when you prepare their food. But raw diets can take a great deal of work. You have to freeze the food and make sure it’s thawed in enough time for your cat to have their meal. If you forget, it can mean varied mealtimes and cranky cats.
Freeze-dried raw diets might be a little easier because there’s no thawing involved and much less mess. The issue would be the food being too dry for your cat to eat, so rehydrating it is recommended. It takes more time than popping open a can of food but not as much as feeding your cat a frozen raw diet. But some cats refuse to eat either option. It can take some getting used to, so if you’d like your cat to try this, make the change slowly. Offer the raw food in small quantities in addition to their regular food. You’ll know if they like it then.
Any food changes should be made slowly, no matter what. If switching from one dry food to another, mix small quantities of the new food in with the old food to avoid gastric upset. Eventually, you can mix more and more new food until it’s all you’re feeding your cat.
Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!
Our choice for the best poultry-free cat food overall is Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow Cat Food for their delivery of human-grade fresh food to cat owners. For the best value, we like Fancy Feast Cod, Sole, & Shrimp Pate Canned Cat Food. It’s grain-free and easy to digest, with three different protein sources for your seafood-loving cat. Our third choice is Nature’s Logic Feline Rabbit Feast. We like that the protein source is rabbit.
We hope that our reviews have helped to give you an idea of what to look for when choosing the best poultry-free food for your cat.
Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
- The 11 Best Poultry-Free Cat Foods
- 1. Smalls Human-Grade Fresh Cow (Cat Food Subscription) — Best Overall
- 2. Fancy Feast Fish & Shrimp Pate Canned Cat Food — Best Value
- 3. Nature’s Logic Rabbit Feast Canned Cat Food
- 4. Purina Pro Plan Whitefish & Salmon Kitten Canned Cat Food — Best for Kittens
- 5. Purina One Beef Recipe Pate Canned Cat Food
- 6. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Dry Cat Food
- 7. Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe Cat Food
- 8. Wellness CORE Tuna & Wild Salon Entrée Canned Cat Food
- 9. Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 10. BFF Pate Lovers Tuna & Lamb Wet Cat Food
- 11. American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Poultry-Free Cat Food
- FAQ: Best Poultry-Free Cat Foods
- Final Verdict