Best Grain Free Cat Food

Okay, so this article is about all the best brands on the market, as far as the best grain free cat food is concerned. That’s all fine and dandy. However, before we go there, let’s talk a little about grain free cat food in general.

This particular type of cat food has become all the rage recently and everyone and their mother wants to get their cat or dog some grain free pet food. For a long time now, the companies that make, package, and sell pet food have been incorporating grain into their pet foods and selling these dry pet foods to us.

Your cat will do just fine without carbs in its diet, so it’s understandable to want to give it grain free cat food. The list below contains some very good grain free cat foods at a variety of price points to accommodate different budgets.

Canidae is a popular pet food company that has been family owned since its inception in 1996. In all its years in the industry, it has survived and maintained a reputation for high quality in its products.

There PURE line of products is entirely grain free and the Grain-Free PURE Ocean Indoor Cat Formula belongs to this line.  It maintains the PURE tradition of eschewing all grains in the ingredients and staying gluten-free.

 It contains tuna, salmon and menhaden fish meal. It also has lentils, chickpeas, and sweet potatoes, all of which are carbohydrate sources. They also provide some fibre to help your cat with her digestion.

Pros

  • Well balanced ingredients
  • High protein sources included
  • Contains fibre to help with your cat’s digestion

Cons

  • Contains high carb sources, such as sweet potatoes

The Wellness Company is quite well known for producing premium pet foods with a minimum of useless preservatives and filler material. Their CORE Grain-Free Original Recipe contains absolutely no grains and is densely packed with plenty of protein.

The ingredients include deboned turkey, deboned chicken, herring meal, and whitefish meal. These are the primary source of protein in the product and cater to all of your cat’s needs as far as protein is concerned, delivering all the necessary amino acids.

For carbohydrates, it contains peas and potatoes. For fibre, it contains flaxseed and tomato juice. It also contains plenty of antioxidants that enhance your cat’s immunity.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • Low carb content
  • Contains antioxidants to boost immunity

Cons

  • If you cat doesn't like tomatoes, then this is not for them

EVO has always focused on making pet food that mostly closely resembles the nutritional profile of the food enjoyed by the ancestors of the pet in question. Their cat foods place a high emphasis on high protein content.

EVO also has a focus on low carbohydrate content and they never use grains, gluten, or potatoes in their ingredients. This principle is maintained in their EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food.

Their EVO 95 Duck Recipe in Gravy Canned Cat Food contains duck, turkey, chicken, and turkey liver for the protein. It contains fish oil, chicken liver, and fresh meats for the fat content and thickeners such xanthan gum. EVO do not believe in adding fibre sources to their products.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • No carbs
  • All nutrients are from animal sources

Cons

Nature’s Recipe belongs to the Big Heart group of pet food brands and emulates the Big Heart principle of only using ingredients that add value to your cat’s body. This principle has kept Big Heart and its products at the top of the market over the decades.

For over 30 years, the Big Heart Company has been providing high quality pet foods and their Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe is another in a long line of premium grain free cat foods.

The Nature’s Recipe Grain-Free Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe contains chicken and chicken liver as sources of both proteins and fats, with sunflower oil providing supplementary fats. It relies on carrots for carbohydrates and guar gum as a thickener.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • No preservatives, food color or other additives included
  • Has good nutritional balance

Cons

  • Does not contain any chelated minerals

The Honest Kitchen Company is known for being just that: honest. They are a small pet food company that has kept its place in the market since their inception. They’ve done this through unique product offerings and strict quality control.

Their products typically have high protein content and low carbs. This particular product contains turkey and eggs. These are the protein sources, catering to all the amino acid needs of your cat.

The Hones Kitchen’s Grace Turkey Recipe contains pumpkins for the fibre, and cranberries for carbohydrates and also to supplement the fibre content.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • Low carb content

Cons

  • No chelated minerals

Canidae’s products are so affordable and high quality that we had to name another of their grain free cat foods on this list. In this case it’s a unique blend of some pretty great protein sources.

The Grain Free PURE Element cat food contains chicken, turkey, and lamb for both the protein content and the fat content. Having an animal source of fat is a much better option than plant sources. It’s certainly healthier for your cat.

Most of the other ingredients are the same as those of the PURE Ocean cat food variety.

Pros

  • Well balanced ingredients
  • High protein sources included
  • Contains fibre to help with your cat’s digestion

Cons

  • Contains high carb sources, such as sweet potatoes

Why All the Fuss over Grain-Free Cat Food?

So why is there a sudden flight to grain free pet foods? In the particular case of cats, why is there a sudden demand for grain free cat food?

Are grain free cat foods really the best option for our feline friends? If you ask the pet food companies out there they’ll give you a pretty standard answer. They’ll say that it doesn’t really matter whether the cat food contains any grains or not. What really matters is the nutritional content of the cat food. Does it have any deficiencies or excesses of important nutrients? If it is nutritionally balanced, then things like grains and fibre are no more than filler material.

This isn’t a very satisfying answer. There is definitely more to cat food than the nutritional content, no matter what a pet food company will claim. Certain ingredients are simply superior to others. Your cats will digest them in different ways and its gastrointestinal tract will react to them in different ways.

The Case for and Against Grain Free Cat Food

Why Grain Free Cat Food Might Not be a Good Idea

Grain-free Does Not Mean Carb-free

Many pet parents, like the many dog parents mentioned later in this article, prefer to give their cat a diet high in protein and low in carbs. This is a good idea if your cat is suffering from diabetes or other ailments related to taking too many carbs in the diet. There’s a caveat, however. Grain free does not mean carb free.

Many grain free cat foods have just about the same amount of carbohydrates as cat foods with grains in them. Some of them even have more. This is because there are many possible sources of carbohydrates in cat food, grains being only one of these. The food might contain tapioca and potatoes, among others. Each of these is a rich source of carbs and will certainly do as much in terms of contributing carbs to your cat’s diet as any amount of grains. So when you’re looking into grain free cat food, be sure that you aren’t avoiding one evil and running to another.

Grain-free Cat Food May Still Have Fat

Another issue with grain free foods is that they will be low in protein but have considerable amounts of fat in them. Fats, particularly saturated ones, are just as bad as carbohydrates. They will make your cat gain a few extra pounds and become obese.

This causes a cascade of other problems since cats that are overweight are also prone to diabetes and heart complications. Running to the wrong type of grain free cat food in order to avoid these problems might bring the very same problems to you and your beloved cat.

Always be sure to read the nutritional content of the grain free cat food that you are buying for your cat to make sure it doesn’t have high fat content.

Grain-free Cat Food May Just Have Better Quality Ingredients

Pet parents also tend to have expectations that are too high when they switch to grain free cat foods. These foods are typically made by pet food companies that like to use superior ingredients in their products.

Grain free cat food is essentially premium cat food and contains higher quality ingredients than similar cat food with grains incorporated.

When you give your cat grain free food and notice that it seems to be getting healthier, don’t jump to conclusions too quickly. It could be that they are getting healthier because you gave them food with superior ingredients overall, not because you gave them food with no grains in it. Your cat might show the same symptoms of improved health if you gave it dry cat food with grains from the same pet food company.

Grains Aren’t Necessarily Bad for Cats

Wet cat food isn’t new. Grain free food that contains high protein content and low carb content certainly isn’t new. It’s a known fact that cats are obligate carnivores. What this meant is that they need plenty of meat in their diets.

There are certain essential amino acids that cats require that can only come from meat sources. Put in other words, cats absolutely need meat to survive. They certainly do not need either grains or carbohydrates to survive.

However, neither do dogs or humans. And yet grains and carbs are a regular part of the diets of the latter two.

Grain-free Cat Food is Expensive

Another setback for grain free cat food is price. If you find high quality grain free cat food, then you’ll have found cat food with plenty of meat incorporated since that’s the only other source of proteins available.

A pet food company will spend more to make cat food with meat in it that cat food with only grains, and that cost needs to be passed on to the consumer. As a consequence, grain free cat foods are much more expensive than cat foods with grains in them.

There is, of course, a variety of price points for different budgets with grain free cat foods just like with cat foods that contain grains. You don’t have to buy the most expensive label in the supermarket just because it’s grain free cat food.

Why Grain Free Cat Food Might Be a Good Idea

Grains Give your Cat Unnecessary Carbs

Grain in cat food certainly has some merits. As you may know, grains can be a great source of plant-based protein. This is good for dogs, though not for cats. Additionally, grains can add fibre to the food, which helps with digestion and prevents the cat from having constipation.

This, of course, depends on the type of grain used since not all grains actually have high fibre content. Grains also offer some minerals and vitamins to the diet. They are also a great source of Omega 6 unsaturated fatty acids.

The pet food company will be sure to add plenty of vitamins and minerals to the food later, though, to make up for whatever was lost in the cooking process.

The major reason why grain is used by pet food companies in cat food is that it is a great alternative source of protein to meat, which is a lot more expensive. The by-product of this route is that they come along with carbohydrates as well.

On the other hand, giving too many carbs to your cat is a surefire way to make her grow fat. She’ll put on some extra pounds and might even experience some health complications.

Pet foods also aren’t the most ethical lot and some of them will do some unscrupulous things, like using cheap and low quality grains in their food which don’t add anything to your cat in a nutritional sense.

We Know Grains Aren’t Part of a Balanced Diet for Cats

There’s definitely a case for grain free cat food. One of the arguments used in support of cat food with grain incorporated into it is that it has always been used and cats haven’t shown any particularly negative reactions to it.

Just because most pet foods in the past included grain doesn’t mean that they contained the optimal mix of ingredients to provide the right nutrition for our cats. Say you had a cat in the early 1990s and you fed an exclusively dry diet with plenty of grains incorporated and she ended up living for a long 20 years.

In cat years, that’s about the equivalent of living for a hundred years. However, can we rightly say that she lived that long because of the kind of diet we fed her? She might have been a healthy cat overall with good genes that was destined to live long regardless of whether we fed her a dry diet or a wet one. Not every cat would have shown the same results on the same kind of diet.

Whatever was considered a balanced diet in the ‘90s isn’t necessarily what is considered balanced now. Times have changed and our understanding of the nutritional requirements of cats has greatly improved.

Not only that but these requirements are updated quite regularly. This does not necessarily mean that grains are out of bounds for our cats. It just means that we understand better which amino acids are most crucial to a cat.

Not all of these can be found in plant-based proteins. We also understand the enzymes available to our cats for digesting their food. Grains are okay in certain diets, but not all cats will be thrilled to have them in their food.

Your Cat Might be Allergic to Grains

There is also the case of allergies. Some cats might have allergies to certain grains, making grain free food the better option for them. This, however, does not mean that grain allergies are a common thing in cats at all.

Interestingly, and perhaps a little ironically, the most common causes of allergic reactions in cats are dairy products, fish, and even beef. Some cats can still be allergic to some grains, though. Either that or their digestive tracts might not tolerate these grains in their diets at all.

What should happen in such a case is that the cat shouldn’t eat food with the particular grain in it. Preventing your cat from eating all types of grain just because it’s allergic to one type of grain is ludicrous at best.

Grains Are Not Good for Cats Suffering From Diabetes

There might also be specific health issues your cat might be suffering from that might make it beneficial for it to consume a grain free diet. Diabetes, which has become very common among our female companions, is one of these health issues.

If your cat has diabetes, it will be a good idea to keep it on a diet with as few carbs as possible. In this case, the diet should have high protein content and low carbohydrate content in order to help keep the cat’s diabetes at bay. That already rules out dry cat foods with plenty of grains in them.

Cats Aren’t Very Good at Digesting Grains

There are similar arguments given by many pet parents about why dogs should also be given a grain free diet. The argument is usually that fewer grains in the diet feel a lot more natural for canines as the meal bears a much closer semblance to what the wolf, the ancestor of the dog, used to eat.

This is a little erroneous, however. Dogs have plenty of enzymes that wolves don’t, and they can very easily digest carbs in their diet. They have spent thousands of years with their human friends and, in that time, have eaten most of our leftovers. As a result, they’ve evolved to be able to digest many of the same foods as us.

The Round Up

Cats don’t really need carbohydrates in their diet and can do well without them. The carbs, however, make your cat feel fuller and less likely to eat too much. The most important thing to do is read the label and the list of ingredients to make sure you are avoiding the very things you set out to avoid in the first place.

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