Best Grain Free Cat Food for Healthy Kitties – Reviews of the Top Wet and Dry Brands

You know your cat shouldn’t eat grain, and you’re absolutely right.

Never has there been a cat in the wild who gave up meat in order to eat wheat, rice, corn, or oats.

Yet for some reason, it seems like every major cat food brand packs their food with these ingredients.

Why?

It’s not for the sake of your cat’s health, I can tell you that much.

It’s because grains are cheaper than meat.

And by using more of them in foods, big companies can reduce their costs, increase their profits, and sadly, make your cat sick.

If you’re looking for the best grain free cat food, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got tons of data to back up our claims and can’t wait to share what we’ve learned!

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Why Feed Your Cat A Grain-Free Diet?

When we judge and rate cat foods, our first priority is getting as close as possible to what we consider the “ideal feline diet”.

We’ll talk about that more below in the How We Chose section, but basically what that means is that we are looking for foods that are high protein, moderate fat, and very low carb.

Unfortunately, grains are very high in carbohydrates, which obviously clashes with the way cats are supposed to eat.

Usually the only carbs cats get in a wild setting are the small amount found in their prey’s stomach.

That might sound a bit gross to you and me, but it’s actually one of the most important parts of the meal for cats. They crave the vitamin- and mineral-rich organ meats, and will often eat them first after making a kill.

The benefits of feeding a low carb, grain free diet are huge:

  • It’s a more natural diet
  • Better digestion
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • Higher protein consumption
  • Less chance of gastrointestinal, kidney, and urinary tract illnesses

FYI there are a few organic options out there, but we typically find that they’re not among the very best. They’re usually quite good, but often contain grains to keep costs down, since organic ingredients typically cost a lot more.

How We Chose The Best Grain-Free Cat Foods

All of our top rated cat foods are grain free, so you could pretty well just pick any one of them.

However, we know that it’s important to cover this subject by itself, in order to help educate pet parents, but also make sure you know that we’re looking at this specifically from a no grain perspective.

The following information applies to all cats, but it gives you an idea of how we make our selections.

(Hint: they’re not just randomly taken from searching for “grain free cat foods” on Amazon!)

What Cats Actually Want To Eat

Studies on both indoor, commercially-fed cats, and feral and stray cats show that cats will self-select food sources that result in a macronutrient profile in this range (dry-matter basis used):

  • Protein: 52-63%
  • Fat: 22-36%
  • Carbohydrate: 2.8-12% (with “wild” cats on the very low end of this range)

What we believe this shows is that cats have evolved to thrive on a high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet.

How We Rate Foods

Our database of cat foods contains over 2000 individual foods.

We collected all the relevant information on each product, including:

  • AAFCO Rating
  • Ingredient list
  • Macronutrient profiles (Guaranteed Analysis, Dry-Matter Basis, and Caloric Basis)
  • Price and price per pound
  • Calories per 100 grams
  • Whether meat is the first ingredient
  • How each food compares to the average of all foods on a macronutrient basis
  • Whether the recipe uses more than 4 controversial ingredients

Each of these data points works together to form a star rating on a 1-5 star scale (including half points).

  1. If the food’s first ingredient is meat, it gets 1 point.
  2. If the food does not use unnamed meat ingredients (“meat by-products”), it gets 1 point.
  3. If the food has an above average protein level on a dry-matter basis, compared to all other foods in the database, it gets 1 point. If it has an average amount, it gets .5 points.
  4. If the recipe contains fewer than 4 controversial ingredients (not necessarily bad ingredients), it gets 1 point. If it contains exactly 4 it gets .5 points.
  5. The final available point is a discretionary point that we award based on things like carbohydrate content, inclusion of probiotics and vitamins, and other points, and is our judgement call on a food’s quality and biological appropriateness for your cat.

We think that this system provides a fair, transparent system by which we can compare all foods on an equal footing, and give you the easiest possible time when choosing the best of the best.

Reviews Of The Best Grain Free Cat Foods

Reviewing The Best Healthy Grain Free Wet Cat Food

#1. NomNomNow Fresh Wet Cat Food (EDITOR’S CHOICE)

nomnomnow chicken

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 119

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 66.7%
Fat: 14.81%
Carbs: 8.15%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken thigh, chicken breast, chicken liver, carrot

When it comes to a natural, grain-free recipe that your cats will love to eat, NomNomNow is absolutely the top choice.

It’s very different from any cat food you’ve seen before, but I strongly consider you to check it out and give it a try.

Basically, it’s a cat food delivery service, but it’s not just convenience that places it at the top of our list.

This is our #1 rated food overall (across our 2000+ cat food database), and contains absolutely zero grains.

It contains all natural ingredients, and is handmade in a kitchen owned by NomNomNow in the USA.

You’re basically getting all the benefits of a homemade diet, with literally none of the hassle.

They buy fresh ingredients, make them by hand in their kitchen, following a recipe put together by their respected veterinary nutritionist, package them into individual-meal pouches (that are compostable, by the way), put a bunch into a freezer box, and ship them to your door.

All you need to do is open the box, put the food into your fridge, and then tear open a meal for your cat.

The meals are weighed out to be the perfect portion for your cat, based on his weight and target weight (if he’s obese or too skinny).

It includes amazing real cuts of chicken, including the all-important chicken liver.

As mentioned above, organ meat is vital for cats and includes much higher levels of vitamins and minerals than muscle meat. Of course it’s also high in protein, which is part of the reason you see such a huge protein amount in this food. It’s just perfect for your furry friend!

You’ll notice that there are a couple of vegetable and fruit ingredients, but these were specifically added to mimic the stomach contents of a wild cat’s prey animal.

They’ve covered all the bases here and made an absolutely excellent cat food that we can’t recommend highly enough.

As an added bonus, you can get 20% off your first order if you choose to buy today through the link below.

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#2. Bravo! Feline Cafe Chicken Fricassee Canned Cat Food

bravo feline cafe

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 97

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 52.8%
Fat: 30.6%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver

Not one, but TWO organ meats within the first 4 ingredients.

Oh, and another one within the top 7 ingredients.

Bravo! absolutely PACKS this food with protein and nutrients that are perfect for your kitty.

And of course there’s no grain in sight.

In fact, there’s pretty much nothing but animal protein in here.

Other than the meat and some egg, you get green lipped mussels, which are included to support joint health. This is a very premium ingredient, and is only found in the very best cat foods.

There are a few greens and some cranberry for a few extra micronutrients (similar to what would be found in the stomach of your cat’s prey diet if she were a wild cat). Otherwise, there is literally nothing.

No fillers. No grains.

And instead of using the typical gums or carrageenan thickener, Bravo! uses agar agar. It’s a red seaweed similar to carrageenan, but has none of the potentially carcinogenic properties.

While all the foods on this list are excellent, this would be our pick for the best canned food, if you choose not to try out NomNomNow.

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#3. Crave Grain-Free Food Tray Chicken Cuts in Gravy Wet Cat Food

crave grain free

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 76

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 50%
Fat: 19.4%
Carbs: 5.56%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Pork Plasma

While we don’t really care about the innovative packaging design (individual meal portions), since every cat has different calorie requirements, the contents of the package are what we love.

Starting with using chicken broth instead of water, you can tell Crave has an eye for detail and is not skimping on quality. The broth might not add much to the food, but it certainly adds more nutritional value than plain water by itself.

You’ll find both chicken liver and chicken heart, two incredibly important organs that will give huge shots of both vitamins and minerals.

Interestingly, this includes pork blood.

It may not seem appetizing to you or me, but to your cat, it’s heavenly.

Blood is also rich in minerals and would of course be a major part of their wild diet, which is what they’re built to eat.

Naturally it’s grain-free.

The only non-meat products in here are a bit of tapioca starch to stabilize the meal, a small amount of dried tomato, and xanthan gum, which is used as a thickening agent and is known to be safe.

You get huge protein, good fat, and almost no carbs.

It was easy to include this as one of our top picks. Highly recommended.

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#4. Feline Natural Grain-Free New Zealand Chicken & Venison Canned Cat Food

feline natural grain free

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 65

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 51.4%
Fat: 28.6%
Carbs: 7.4%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Heart, Venison Kidney, Venison Liver

I feel like I should go on with the ingredient list. Ready?

Venison Blood, Flaxseed Flakes, New Zealand Green Mussel, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Water added for processing.

That’s it.

That’s like, 17 ingredients, excluding water.

Even other wet foods that are seriously limited ingredient have 20+.

And normal cat foods? They can have 30+ ingredients.

Part of what this means, is that the meat and animal protein sources are so high quality that they don’t need to add as many synthetic vitamins and minerals.

It still meets the AAFCO guidelines for a complete and balanced diet, but uses almost exclusively whole food animal protein ingredients.

That is simply amazing.

There are multiple organ meats (very important).

There’s blood (again, your cat loves this even if you think it’s unappetizing).

Green lipped mussels for joint health.

And then…well, basically just a few extra vitamins and minerals for good measure.

This is one of the cleanest, most natural foods on the market.

There is no room for grains in here, considering they don’t even use a gum or anything else as a thickening agent.

It’s just pure goodness for kitty.

If her health is your number one concern, it’s hard to get a better food than this that comes in a can.

The only reason it’s slightly lower on this list is because it is a bit more expensive than most of the other foods out there.

I mean, this list is literally just the best cat foods out of over 2000, so any food appearing here will be amazing, but this one is truly special.

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#5. Nutro Chunky Loaf Adult Chicken

nutro chunky loaf adult

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 115

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 54.6%
Fat: 27.3%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Pork Broth

No carbs, no fillers, no grains.

The only thing in here other than meat is guar gum as a thickening ingredient, plus micronutrients to keep your cat healthy.

Nutro is perhaps the most common food you’ll find across our site, as they have one of the best kitten foods, one of the best foods for older cats, and of course are featured in our top 5 wet foods overall.

They just can’t seem to do any wrong when it comes to their canned offerings.

Honestly there’s so little to talk about here because the ingredient list is so sparse, but when it comes to cat food, that is a GOOD thing!

The protein / fat / carbohydrate ratios are amazing, it’s fairly high calorie so your cat won’t need to eat a ton of it (saving you some money), and it’s just got all the good animal sourced proteins and amino acids you’d need.

It’s priced fairly and is clearly one of the top 5 moist foods out there.

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Reviewing The Top High-Protein, Grain Free Dry Cat Food

#1. Wysong Epigen 90 Starch Free

wysong epigen 90

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 489

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 70%
Fat: 17.8%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Organic Chicken, Meat Protein Isolate, Chicken Fat

OK, so we don’t recommend dry food in most cases, and will always suggest you feed a wet food, but this just defies all things we know about dry food.

I still don’t quite know how they did it, but they were able to pack an astonishing amount of protein in here, AND have come up with a way to keep the kibble together without using grains or thickening agents.

It seems that the gelatin (good quality animal product) probably combines with the chia seeds and coconut oil to keep the kibble whole.

Again, yes, this is a dry cat food WITH NO GRAINS.

Amazing, right?

You might be wondering about the meat protein isolate ingredient. We were concerned, too, because usually if an ingredient doesn’t specifically name an animal, it could be literally anything.

However, according to Wysong, the “meat protein isolate” is simply the name they have to use for this product, and it’s made up entirely of pork.

Basically it’s just a fancy way that they’ve come up with to concentrate pork to an incredible degree, which means they need to use very little of it to pack a major protein punch.

It also includes a variety of probiotic strains for gut health and digestibility.

While we still recommend adding some water to your cat’s food if you feed kibble, this is without a doubt the best dry food on the market.

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#2. Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken

dr elseys cleanprotein

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 403

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 67.1%
Fat: 20.5%
Carbs: 0%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin

Imagine my surprise to find the Wysong brand above.

Now imagine my surprise when I looked at our database and realized there was ANOTHER dry food with no grains that got our full 5 out of 5 star review.

I’m stunned!

While it lacks the probiotics of the Wysong food above, it is nearly as good in every other way.

It also uses gelatin as an innovative way to bind the kibble. The more animal products, the better!

There’s hardly anything in here except for the good stuff that matters most.

When you see foods like this, you realize just what is possible, and it makes you question why most other cat food brands still have massively high carbohydrate levels and put huge amounts of grain into their food.

There IS another way, people!

And Dr. Elsey’s is leading the charge.

Highly recommended.

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Reviewing The Best Grain Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

#1. Vital Essentials Mini Patties Rabbit

vital essentials mini patties

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 379

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 56.5%
Fat: 16.3%
Carbs: 14.1%

First 4 Ingredients: Finely Ground Whole Rabbit, Rabbit Heart, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Lungs

The best diet for your cat is as close to what she’d eat in the wild as possible.

And many people would say that that diet should be raw.

But feeding raw food can be tricky, and many people don’t have the confidence or knowledge to safely feed their cat a raw food diet.

That’s where freeze-dried food comes in.

We LOVE freeze-dried food, and it might well be the next best thing to a handmade offering like NomNomNow.

Raw food contains as much nutrition as you can possibly get out of food, and the freeze-drying process locks that in and makes it shelf-stable.

All you need to do is add water to this and your cat will go crazy for it, since it feeds her body precisely what it was meant to eat.

We prefer the rabbit option listed here. Did you know that studies show that rabbits are the main food source for most wild/feral cats (depending on where they live)?

This is almost entirely rabbit, including whole ground rabbit, which is excellent, because cats also thrive with bone added to their diet.

It’s full of healthy organ meats as well.

They don’t even need to add any vitamins or minerals, because the raw, freeze-dried rabbit ingredients are so full of them. It’s a complete and balanced diet JUST from whole food sources.

Other than the fact that it can get quite expensive, this is an incredible choice for all cats.

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#2. Primal Nuggets Turkey

primal nuggets

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 521

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 58.8%
Fat: 23.7%
Carbs: 6.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Necks, Turkey Hearts, Turkey Livers

Our second favorite freeze-dried food, Primal is a fantastic option.

As you can see from the first few ingredients, it is packed with protein rich turkey, including a variety of organs.

This does contain added vegetables, unlike the Vital Essentials brand above, but again, they’re added to perform the function of the little bit of forage greens you’d find in a prey animal’s digestive tract.

The freeze drying process locks minerals and vitamins in so well that Primal doesn’t need to add any synthetic minerals.

It’s just an all natural, meat-heavy recipe with incredible protein and fat contents.

Again, it can get expensive, so is likely better for smaller cats, but knowing that you get what you pay for, this is one of the top foods for any cat, especially those looking for a grain-free diet.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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Nancy - March 23, 2019

My cat was having monthly seizures until I read your article and switched him to zero carb cat food. Now he’s been seizure free for 24 weeks. Thank you!

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