Best High Protein Cat Food

Before we get into the topic of the best high protein cat food, let’s talk a little about protein. Protein is one of the most important nutrients for all animals, cats and humans alike. It isn’t called body building food for nothing. It is extremely important for the growth and gradual development of an animal’s immune system, for starters. This is an animal’s main line of defence when it is facing pathogens from the world outside.

Proteins also happen to be a crucial part of the structure of ever cell. We rarely use a protein molecule as it is when we ingest it. What our bodies, and those of our kitty friends, are after are the constituent parts of the protein molecule: the amino acid. These help in just about every major body process from growing our hair, skin and nails to providing calories when there’s no other calorie source in the body. Protein can even be stored as fat when the animal’s body already has too much of it.

High Protein Cat Food Comparison Table

NameMain IngredientsProteinFatFiberPricing
Orijen Dry Cat and Kitten FoodDeboned chicken, deboned turkey, yellowtail flounder, whole eggs, whole atlantic mackerel, chicken liver, turkey liver40%20%3%Click Here
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Duck Recipe Cat FoodDeboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols)40%18%4%Click Here
Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline FormulaTrout, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pea protein, potato protein, canola oil32%16%3%Click Here
Merrick Backcountry Recipe Cuts Wet FoodDeboned Rabbit, Lamb Broth, Beef Broth, Beef Liver, Deboned Lamb, Dried Egg Whites, Potato Starch9%3%1.2%Click Here
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Cat FoodChicken, Water, Powdered Cellulose, Shrimp, Vegetable Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt9%5%3.5%Click Here

Few companies out there are as dedicated to providing diets that are close to the ancestral diets of cats and dogs as the Orijen Pet Food Company. Orijen is quite small and has a small product offering as a result. They currently offer 3 products, all of which are dry.

The Orijen Dry Cat and Kitten Food contains plenty of poultry in the form of deboned turkey, chicken and yellowtail flounder. These aren’t the only protein sources, however. There are also eggs, various organs, Atlantic mackerel, and other ingredients that give a protein content of roughly 40%.

Chicken fat provides the fat content of 20% while whole navy beans, whole green peas, and red lentils provide the carbohydrates. The Food contains fruits and vegetables for other beneficial supplements and chelated minerals for better digestion and so makes our list of the best high protein cat food.

Pros

  • 40% protein content
  • Animal sources of fat
  • Chelated minerals

Cons

  • Contains peas, which may not be good for all cats

When it comes to the best quality pet foods, there aren’t many companies that can hold a candle to the Blue Buffalo Company, they are truly one of the best high protein cat foods available. They have 4 main products: The Basic Line of products, that featured limited ingredient pet foods, the Freedom line, that features both grain-free pet foods and natural pet foods, and the Wilderness line, that features high protein cat foods.

The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Duck Recipe Cat Food is an excellent example of the quality products that Blue Buffalo is known for. It is borrowed from the diet that the lynx, a distant cousin of our domestic cats, enjoys in the wild.

The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Duck Recipe Cat Food Contains deboned duck, which is supplemented by turkey and chicken meal to offer a grand total of 40% protein. The fat comes from a combination of chicken fat and flaxseed and is about 18% in weight. Potatoes, tapioca starch, and peas provide the carbohydrates as well as the fibre.

Pros

  • Contains a novel protein source which is good for cats that have allergies
  • Contains no grains
  • Is based on the diet of the lynx

Cons

  • Contains tapioca starch

The Taste of the Wild Company is all about premium products. All of their pet foods are based on the diets of wild cats and dogs and so you can be sure that you’re giving your cat something which is very similar to its ancestral diet. Their products are also grain free.

The Taste of the Wild Company offers only the best quality meats, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits to offer a balanced nutritional profile. One of their better products is the Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Formula.

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Formula contains salmon and trout as the main source of protein while remaining grain free and gluten free. It also has only healthy fats and minimal but digestible carbohydrate content. The protein content is 44.4% when converted to the dry food equivalent while the fat content is 16.7% when converted to the dry food equivalent.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • Gluten free and Grain free

Cons

  • Contains potatoes

With a line like “whole health made right”, it’s not very hard to see why the Merrick Pet Care Company is known for its focus on high quality. They offer 3 lines of products when it comes to pet foods: The Purrfect Bistro line of products, which focuses on grain-free pet foods, the Limited Ingredient Diet product line, and the Backcountry line of products, which focuses on grain free, high protein foods.

The Merrick Backcountry Real Rabbit Recipe Cuts Wet Food comes from the backcountry line and features some great and healthy ingredients for you cat. All of these are grown or reared locally, cooked in company-owned kitchens, and offer balanced nutrition.

The major protein source in Merrick Backcountry Real Rabbit Recipe Cuts Wet Food is deboned rabbit. It’s a complete source of proteins as well as a novel food source, meaning your cat is less likely to have allergic reactions to it. Supplementary protein sources include dried egg whites deboned lamb, and beef liver. This translates into protein content of approximately 50%. Beef liver and salmon provide the fat while the food contains chelated minerals.

Pros

  • High protein content
  • Novel protein source
  • Animal fat sources

Cons

  • Uses guar gum as a thickener

To round the list of the best high protein cat food, we have Rachael Ray foods. Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Cat Food Food comes in lots of different flavours, including chicken & salmon, ocean fish & chicken, tuna, chicken & shrimp and, of course, just plain, classic chicken. This natural wet cat food is made with 100% real meat or fish, which is the primary ingredient. It also contains added vitamins and minerals to bolster overall health.

There are no artificial colors, flavours or preservatives and it is grain free with no meat by-products or fillers.

Pros

  • A gourmet experience: Rachael Ray is one of today’s best chefs.
  • No fillers or nasty unnatural additives.
  • Fresh, natural meat and fish is the main ingredient.

Cons

  • Some of the more complex flavours may be off-putting.

Why Does A Kitty Need This Diet?

According to most sources, an adult cat should have a bare minimum of 26% protein in its diet. That number changes when you’re dealing with pregnant or lactating mothers and kittens. Those ones should have a minimum of 30% protein in their diets.

It’s important to notice that no one has spoken about a maximum here. Only minimums are mentioned, and for good reason. When your cat is elderly, or has some health issues, it will require a unique diet with a specific protein percentage. The maximum amount required will vary, but the minimum should never go below the recommended amount.

There are plenty of reasons why a high protein diet is good for your cat:

  • Cats need more protein in their diets than dogs. Remember, they are obligate carnivores, which means meat is a primary part of their diet.
  • Cats don’t have salivary amylase, which is important in the digestion of starch in the mouth.
  • The digestive tract of a cat isn’t well-tuned to digesting carbohydrates, either.
  • A High protein diet ensures a cat’s body gets the essential amino acids it requires. 

How many Amino Acids Does your Cat Need?

Your cat’s body absolutely needs a grand total of 22 amino acids to function normally. Remember, the body rarely ever uses whole proteins from external food sources. What it does is it gets proteins, breaks them down into amino acids, and uses these as building blocks, a little like Lego blocks, to build all the proteins it needs.

The body needs 22 amino acids to make all the protein it requires to survive. Of these 22, it just happens that the body can make 11 on its own. That’s about half of the necessary requirements. This isn’t unheard of or unusual. Most animals you’ll come across, including humans, are fully capable of making some of their own amino acids.

The amino acids that the cat can manufacture on its own are known as ‘inessential’ amino acids. After all, it doesn’t really need them in its diet. The other 11 amino acids are absolutely necessary in the cat’s diet for it to meet its quota of 22 amino acids. We’ll call these the ‘essential’ amino acids.

It’s absolutely important that your cat get the other 11 amino acids or it won’t be much of a healthy cat. One of the most important of these, an amino acid we have talked about umpteen times on this website, is taurine. If your cat lacks these amino acids, especially taurine, it will have some serious health issues to deal with.

What Health Issues will your Cat face if it doesn’t get its Amino Acid Supply?

Your cat’s body won’t make any compromises when it comes to surviving. These amino acids are absolutely crucial to keeping your cat alive. So do you know what happens when your cat has an amino acid deficiency? Its body starts to break itself down, synthesizing amino acids from the muscles themselves. In a way, we can say the cat’s body starts to digest itself. You don’t want that to happen, so it’s important that you give your cat enough protein in its diet.

It’s All about Bioavailability

You don’t get a standard package when it comes to different sources of protein. All sources of protein have a different set of amino acids that they offer. Your cat’s body will also find it much easier to digest some protein sources as opposed to others.

Scientists have a name for how easy it is to break down a protein from a particular protein source into its constituent amino acids: bioavailability. Some foods are just easier to break down that others and therefore that can be an advantage for them.

At the top of the bioavailability list, we have eggs, with a bioavailability value of 100. Yep, you read that right! Eggs are capable of being broken down completely into all their constituent amino acids. Hold your horse, though. This doesn’t mean that you should start feeding your cat a diet made up exclusively of eggs.

The next common foods on the bioavailability scale are fish and milk. In this case, cow milk. These 2 have a bioavailability value of 92. Beef, perhaps a little counterintuitively, has a bioavailability of 78.

The fact that a food has most of its protein available for breaking down does not necessarily imply that that food is the optimal choice for your cat’s diet. For example, the fact that eggs have a bioavailability value of 100 does not mean most people will feed their cats eggs. It’s still an ingredient in some cat foods, but that does not mean it’s a common part of cat foods.

There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing a diet for your cat. Perhaps the most obvious of these is any allergy that your cat might have to the food in question. It doesn’t matter how much protein is packed in a food source. It won’t be very helpful for your cat’s body if it keeps rejecting it violently. A handsome man is okay, but that doesn’t mean every woman is going to accept him.

There’s no such Thing as too much Protein

You might be wondering what happens if you give your cat a diet that is too protein-heavy. What if you give your cat too much protein? Well, if you own a normal, healthy cat, you really don’t have to worry about this.

Cats’ bodies have a wonderful way of dealing with excess protein. Once the body gets everything that needs, it ejects the rest from its system in the form of urine. Also, remember when we said that extra protein can be converted into fat and stored for later use? Well, the cat’s body does this too and stores the protein for tough times when the cat will lack the necessary amount of protein in its diet.

This is all good, but what if you don’t have a normal healthy cat? What could possibly make a cat unable to deal with an excess of protein in its diet? There’s actually only one known case: late stage kidney disease.

If your cat has late stage kidney disease then it will be unable to excrete all the extra protein in the form of urine. In this case, too much protein in your cat’s diet could potentially be a problem.

However, scientists have found out in recent studies that this still depends on the quality of protein that you’re feeding your cat. If you give your cat high quality high protein cat food, then the cat’s body will be able to synthesize most of them and its kidneys will be faced with much less work in terms of waste to be removed from the body.

It’s really all about the Quality of the High Protein Cat Food

It isn’t particularly easy to tell how much of the protein present in a high protein cat food can be digested by your cat’s body. The best way to figure this out is by looking at something called the nutrient profile of the cat food. This is essentially a list of all the nutrients available in that food in their exact weights and proportions.

That may all sound fine and dandy. However, finding the nutrient profile is another matter altogether. This information isn’t available on most boxes and cans of high protein cat food. In fact, it isn’t available on most boxes and cans of cat food at all. You likely won’t even find it on the cat food company’s website.

Of course, these companies are usually kind enough to provide us with information on how much protein is available in the cat food by percentage. However, this doesn’t necessarily tell us much. The percentage of protein available in cat food does not tell us how much of that protein your cat’s body is capable of digesting. Yikes!

There’s a way out, though: The quality of the ingredients. Most cat foods that of high quality will likely have ingredients that your cat’s body finds easy to digest. This isn’t fool proof, of course. Sometimes, the advertised quality may not be the actual quality. Also, a lot of common meat sources, such as beef, chicken, and lamb, are quite easy for your cat to digest.

However, despite the fact that higher quality cat foods aren’t always the best, they are the best on most occasions. That should be good enough on its own. If you get a lower quality cat food, you’re likely to feed your cat some seriously lower quality protein sources. These have been known to include feathers and hair!

This isn’t to mean that you should go buying the most expensive cat food you can find. There is such a thing as an over-hyped and consequently over-priced cat food. These brands don’t even use better ingredients than high protein cat food brands with more medium prices. However, if you stick to the medium range to higher priced cat foods, you’re likely to strike gold, as far as quality is concerned. These have some good quality ingredients that will deliver just the right amount of protein to your cat.

Even in the Wild, Cats will go for High Protein Diets

Even in the wild, cats will almost always go for the high protein diet over other options. A study was conducted by the Huffington Post that found out the following information:

Cats were given three different diets that contained 52 percent protein, 35 percent fats, and 12.5 percent carbohydrates. The amount of calories contributed by the proteins, carbs and fats were the same, the only thing that changed among the 3 foods is the volume of each type of nutrient.

The cats showed a tendency to underfeed when their food had a high volume of carbohydrates as opposed to foods that had a low volume, despite the fact that all the foods delivered the exact same percentage of protein.

In fact, the older cats developed a habit of avoiding the part of the food full of carbohydrates and sticking only to the parts with proteins. They could recognise the carbohydrates and actively avoided them.

Perhaps it would be interesting to note, at this point that mice prefer to eat food with a protein content of 56% and a fat content of 27%. Cats like to eat mice, so there might be a correlation between their preference for mice as a food source and the fact that they went for the 52% protein source above. The numbers are pretty close.

Recommended Amounts

Cats are obligate carnivores. As such, they need a lot more protein in their diet that other kinds of mammals, even dogs and humans. As an aside, dogs seem to have beaten cats in the evolution game because they have evolved a lot of the same digestive enzymes as humans ever since they broke off from their wolf cousins. Over the years, our dogs have adapted to eating much of the same stuff as us.

Cats’ on the other hand, haven’t followed the same trajectory. They’ve pretty much maintained their obligate carnivore status (and aloof attitude) over the many years they’ve been with us.

Cats do not really need carbohydrates in their diet. They are adapted to eating food that is overwhelmingly rich in proteins and overwhelmingly poor in carbohydrates. In the wild, a cat’s diet contains between 50% and 60% worth of protein, between 30% and 50% worth of fat, and between 5% and 10% worth of carbohydrates.

Okay, so now we know that your cat is probably going to be much healthier with a high protein diet. Now that we have that out of the way, what should you be looking for?

will vary, but the minimum should never go below the recommended amount.

The Protein Source Matters

It’s important to note that the source of the protein you’re feeding your cat also matters in this case. Your cat is better suited to digesting protein from meat sources that protein from plant sources. The two really are different. In fact, plants lack some of the essential amino acids that your cat will get from meat sources.

If you feel your cat good quality cat food, you’ll see some marked difference compared to when you feed it lower quality cat food. For one, you’ll pick up much less poop from your cat because it will be digesting its food better. You’ll also end up feeding it less.

The Round Up

The products above are all great protein sources with very high protein content and so make our list of the best high protein cat food. The high protein cat food listed above goes over and beyond the amounts recommended. They also contain great quality ingredients and are bound to keep your cat happy, healthy, and well.

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