18 Different Types of Cat Food: What’s Best for Your Cat?

Last Updated on: November 23, 2020

We all want the best for our fuzzy little friends. When you bring a cat into your world, you not only get a purring companion you can snuggle and play with, but you also take on an important responsibility of keeping them safe and healthy.

That being said, one of the most important things we do for our cats is to feed them. You want to provide your tabby with a well-balanced diet that is nutritious and packed with all the essential nutrients they need.

On the other hand, that can be easier said than done. If you have been to a pet store recently, you know there is a staggering amount of cat food available. There are so many brands, formulas, and flavors it will make your head spin. Not only that, but there are numerous different kinds of food. It is no longer just wet or dry. Nowadays, you have several different options to choose from.

So, which is the right one? Below, we are going to take a look at the different types of cat foods available. We will go over all the information you need, so you can decide what type is the healthiest for your cat.

First, however, let’s take a look at what your kitty requires for a healthy diet.

cat paw divider

Healthy Ingredients

Your adorable little purring pal is in actuality one of the most carnivorous pets you can have. They are meat-eaters through and through. Yes, even more than dogs. Unlike canines, felines do not have the enzymes necessary to process plant-based foods.

Cats need meat to not only survive but to thrive. The technical term is called obligate carnivores. They require a very protein-rich diet to maintain a healthy weight, be active, and have healthy fur and teeth. What they do not need is grains, GMO’s, and other harmful ingredients. In particular, though, cats have no use for carbohydrates.

cat licking lips while eating
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

As your tabby cannot process carbs, feeding them food high in carbohydrates is the equivalent to feeding a three-year-old a diet of candy and sugar. It will cause your feline many health issues including obesity and kidney disease. It can also cause diabetes.

Lastly, you want to avoid fish diets. Although that seems to go against the grain, most pet foods are made from fish that are high in heavy metals, pollutants from the water, and other toxins that can be harmful to your pet.

With all that being said, let’s look closer at some different types of food that are available for your pet.

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Canned Food

Canned food that is high in protein and contains human grade meat as the first ingredient is a good place to start. There are, however, many different types of canned food:

1. Canned Pate

The most common canned cat food is pate. This is a pureed meat that is compressed into a can. Pate means “a spread of finely chopped or pureed seasoned meat”. This meal tends to be more solid than other options, and some fussy felines prefer it mashed up to make it easier to eat

Blue Buffalo Healthy Gourmet Natural Adult Pate...
  • REAL CHICKEN FIRST: BLUE adult wet cat food starts with high-quality protein...
  • FLAVORFUL PATÉ: Feed your adult cat BLUE’s delicious and healthy wet cat food...

2. Canned Meat in Gravy

When it comes to canned cat food, this is probably the most popular in the cat community. It is made of thick chunks of meat in a thick gravy that is delicious for your kitty. Be advised, though, it is usually higher in calories.

Purina Fancy Feast Gravy Wet Cat Food, Medleys...
  • Twenty-Four (24) 3 oz. Cans - Purina Fancy Feast Gravy Wet Cat Food, Medleys...
  • Tender white meat chicken and turkey for delectable flavor

3. Canned Meat in Broth

Coming in second to meat in gravy, we have meat in broth. It is generally the same thing, but it is packed in a lighter liquid and some versions can also have vegetables.

Purina Fancy Feast Natural Grain Free Wet Cat...
  • Ten (10) 2 oz. Trays - Purina Fancy Feast Natural Grain Free Wet Cat Food,...
  • Tender flakes of real white meat chicken and tuna

4. Canned Flaked

Flaked canned cat food typically has smaller pieces of meat than in the two options above. It is packed in either broth or gravy, plus this is where you are going to find the extra bits such as cheese or bacon.

Purina Friskies Wet Cat Food, Flaked With Tuna &...
  • Twenty-Four (24) 5.5 Oz. Can - Purina Friskies Flaked With Tuna & Egg Wet Cat...
  • Made With Real Tuna And Egg For A Taste Cats Love

5. Canned Shredded

Shredded cat food is the second most common canned meal, and it is similar to the flaked verity. In this case, though, the pieces of meat are long, thin and spaghetti-like in diameter-although much shorter. It is packed in broth or water.

Purina Fancy Feast Broth Wet Cat Food, Medleys...
  • Twenty-Four (24) 3 Oz. Can - Purina Fancy Feast Medleys Shredded White Meat...
  • Tender White Meat Chicken For A Savory Flavor Cats Crave

6. Canned Semi-Moist

This is the least common type of canned cat food. It is not easily found as the preservatives and sugar content in this food is high. More often, you will find this type of food in treat form.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets...
  • Contains (24) 5.5 Ounce Cans Of Wet Cat Food
  • Grain-free cat food

Overall, canned food has many benefits depending on the brand. It is usually meat-based, and it contains many of the proteins and nutrients your furball needs. What’s more, it is affordable.

That being said, it can also contain more questionable ingredients such as meat bi-products, high calories, and artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. If you want to go with this option, go with a product that lists a named meat like “chicken” as the first ingredient. Organic is also a good sign to look for.

Pros
  • Popular with cats
  • Contains a lot of protein
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Can have meat bi-products
  • Artificial ingredients

Pouched Food

Pouched food is another option that you can choose. This is a fairly new type of food on the market that comes in several different varieties.

7. Pouch Stews

Pouch stews can vary in their consistency. They can be anywhere from a meat and gravy-like canned food to a flaked food that is lighter. Both options are typically made with meat bits and gravy, but they will often have added ingredients such as vegetables.

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  • Combines Succulent Tuna And Whitefish Shreds Delectably Blended Into A Smooth...
  • Includes 12, 1.4 Ounce Single Serve Pouches

8. Pouch Broths

Broths can be very similar to stews, or it can be just plain broth. When it is a chicken or beef broth, it can be beneficial for kitties with digestive issues. Keep in mind though, they are usually higher in sodium and preservatives.

Purina Fancy Feast Wet Cat Food Complement Variety...
  • Twelve (12) 1.4 oz; Pouches Purina Fancy Feast Wet Cat Food Complement Variety...
  • Seafood flavors cats love

9. Pouch Supplements

This is a good option if you have a feline friend with certain deficiencies. Some brands make pouches that are meant to be supplements, and you would typically mix it in with your pet’s normal food. It is recommended that you speak with your vet before feeding your cat these pouches, however.

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10. Pouch Toppers

Okay, this little pouch is pretty popular with furballs, but not so much with the human half of things. Pouch toppers are essentially food toppers. They are typically pieces of freeze-dried fish, though they can come in oil, as well. As mentioned, fish is not the best food for your cat, plus it usually has a lot of preservatives and sodium.

Purina Fancy Feast Wet Cat Food Complement,...
  • Ten (10) 1.1 Oz. Tray - Purina Fancy Feast Appetizers Oceanfish With A Shrimp...
  • Made With Real, Recognizable Ingredients

11. Pouch Morsels

Morsels are more or less the same as semi-moist canned food. In the pouch, however, it is somewhat healthier but still should be constrained as treats.

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Tummy Ticklin'...
  • Only the good stuff! Cats naturally crave meat, much like they ate in the wild....
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Pouch food has the same issues as canned food. In the best-case scenario, it can have a lot of good protein and nutrients for your pal. What’s more, the supplements can be important for some “under the whiskers” cats. It is also affordable.

On the other hand, not only can pouched food be made of bi-product meals, but the pouches are typically higher in sodium and some of the toppers are more like treats and should not be given as a dietary staple.

Pros
  • Healthy proteins
  • Enjoyable for you cats
  • Available as supplements
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Bi product meals
  • Artificial ingredients
  • High in sodium

Raw Cat Food

Raw cat food is one of the healthier options for your tabby, although it can depend on the type of raw food you are purchasing. It goes without saying that the fresher it is, the better it is going to be for your cat.

12. Dehydrated Raw Food

Dehydrated food is a popular choice if your pet likes a raw meal. Not only does it contain real meat and plenty of protein and nutrients, but freeze-dried food is also better for your pet’s digestive process. Naturally, raw food can be hard for some animals to process especially if they are not used to the diet.

The Honest Kitchen Human Grade Dehydrated Organic...
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  • SUPER TASTY & HIGH PROTEIN: This recipe is packed with human grade, free range...

13. Frozen Raw Food

Frozen raw has many of the same benefits as dehydrated. It is typically made with meat and other bits such as vegetables, but the freezing process can cost the meal some of its essential nutrients. Also, as the food will go back to raw after it is thawed, it can still be hard to digest.


14. Store-Bought Raw

Store-bought raw meals are meant to refer to a raw diet that is not made at home by you. You can buy this food from the refrigerated section of the pet store, or you can sign up for a subscription service that will deliver the food to you once a week. As mentioned, raw food is packed with perks but can be hard to digest for your pooch.

cat waiting to eat, licking lips

15. Homemade Raw Food

Homemade cat food is the way to go if you are willing to put in the time and energy to make it, plus do the research on what ingredients you need. Unfortunately, it can be quite time consuming, and you will require some kitchen appliances you may not have on hand such as a meat grinder.

Overall, raw meats are going to give your pet the most protein and nutrients. They will have healthy fur, teeth, and have a lower risk for an illness that can be caused by artificial ingredients. It is also fair to say that your cat will enjoy these feasts once their stomach becomes accustomed.

On the other hand, if you are not making the food at home, you still want to pay attention to the ingredients. Once again, depending on the brand, there can be some questionable meats. Look for USDA approved or organic/human-grade meat. Also as mentioned, this type of food is more costly.

Pros
  • High nutritional value
  • Better for skin and coats
  • Less artificial ingredients
Cons
  • Can be hard to digest
  • More costly

Lightly Cooked Cat Food

Lightly cooked combines the best of canned and raw foods. It is typically made with wholesome protein-packed ingredients, but it is not as hard on the stomach as raw food. There are two kinds of lightly cooked…

16. Lightly Boiled Cat Food

Lightly boiled is a good option that is the cheaper of the two lightly cooked cat foods. It is less common though and can be harder to find. Although it does maintain a lot of essential vitamins and nutrients, the flavor can be reduced by the boiling process along with some reduction in nutrients. Also, this is another food that can be higher in sodium.


17. Lightly Steamed

Lightly steamed is more expensive than boiled, but it does maintain more flavor. It has added benefits such as fewer calories if you have a tubby tabby. You should note, however, steam is not always a feline favorite.

As we mentioned, this kind of cat food is easier to digest than raw, so it works as a good transition meal. It has a lot of protein and other good ingredients, but your cat may not be fond of it especially if they are picky eaters. Also, it is more expensive than canned, and steam can be higher in cost than raw in some cases.

Pros
  • Essential nutrients
  • Easier to digest
  • Good transition food to a raw diet
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Cats don’t always like it

kittens eating
Image Credit: Marian Weyo, Shutterstock

Dry Food

Dry food is our last category and our least favorite option, as it does not have much nutritional value for your kitty cat.

18. Dry Cat Food

Dry food comes in different flavors and styles, but it is all more or less the same thing. It is very rarely made with real meat but instead made with artificial meat flavors or animal by-products that are unhealthy for your cat.

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  • Contains 1 - 22 Pound Bag of Dry Cat Food
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition

It also does not have as much protein as they need, but it does have a lot of carbohydrates, calories, and sugars that are detrimental to your cat’s health. In essence, dry food is the same as junk food for cats. That being said, some crunchy bits will help remove tartar from your feline’s teeth, but only if they chew slowly enough. It is also a cheaper food that is easy to get even at your local gas station.

Pros
  • Cheaper
  • Can help with teeth cleaning
Cons
  • Not as many nutrients
  • More sugars and carbohydrates
  • Artificial ingredients

Conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed this article about the different types of cat food available for your fuzzy ankle biter. With so many options available, it can be hard to discover which one is best for your pet.

Overall, varieties of raw food are usually the best. You have a better chance of feeding your tabby cat wholesome protein-rich and vitamin-packed meals that will keep them healthy and strong. That being said, some great canned and pouch foods are also filled with good ingredients, you just have to be vigilant regarding the labels.

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Featured Image Credit: Hans Reniers, Unsplash