Is your cat obese? Are there health issues to consider? Are they indoor only? Are you on a budget?
As a cat owner, you want the best for your cat…
- The best health care
- The best toys
- Best environment
- And the best cat food
Overall, for my cats, I went with the service provided by NomNomNow Fresh Cooked Chicken Food.
Today, cat owners have dozens of brands of cat foods to choose from, as well as many textures offered by each manufacturer.
The increase in cancer rates, kidney disease, diabetes, heart problems, and psychological problems in our feline companions is making everyone wonder what the best feeding options are.
As with humans:
A cat’s needs can also change over his/her lifespan while brass tacks nutritional needs may change far less.
[Check out this fun post on how to keep your cat happy and healthy their whole life!]
This, in turn, means that you would be best served by staying aware of all feeding options for cats, and have both the flexibility and open-mindedness to make changes as needed.
When combined with advice from vets, holistic vets or your average cat owner, it’s always a mix and everyone has their opinions on what’s best.
My oldest lived to be 23 and was in good health from the day she was born in a box under my sewing table!
I’m not going to tell you what to buy for your cats.
From my own experience, the foods below are what I started with. Due to the budget.
I started my cats with dry, I didn’t know any better. Then I went to wet.
Below are the iterations I went through, in no particular order.
I’m not saying to give these to your cats, that’s for you to do your research and get the advice from a quality vet (or holistic vet)
For me, now, I’m feeding my cats freshly cooked chicken with a nutritional blend from NomNomNow.
#1. INSTINCT Original by Nature’s Variety Grain Free Recipe – Chicken
* Cost Effective Canned Cat Food With A Decent Mix Of Protein, Fat, and Carbs. (not the best for your cat if they have cholesterol issues.)
Caloric Distribution: (roughly 205 calories per 5.5 oz. can)
- Protein 36% – As a reader warned me, they put whole peas in their mix and sometimes they aren’t blended. Pea skin has lectins that even humans can’t digest. Be careful here.
- Fat 57%
- Carb 7%
- Water 70-75% max
- Protein 10% min
- Fat 6.5% min
- Contains cage-free chicken
- Also contains peas and ground flaxseed.
- Made without grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives
- PATE texture
- Raw sourced
This cat food is high animal protein, real meat, fruit, and vegetables, enriched with natural sources of omega fatty acids.
If you’re interested, here is where you can find more nutritional information on The “Raw Brand” INSTINCT Original cat food.
#2. WELLNESS Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food
This is a brand that I gave to my Bubs, to help with weight loss. This is probably a decent food for your cats if you’re on a budget.
- Crude Protein 3.0% min
- Crude Fat 3.0% min
- Crude Fiber 1.0% max
- Moisture 82% min
- Contains only premium, natural ingredients.
- No meat by-products, artificial flavor or preservatives
- No grains
The ingredient list begins with REAL food.
This chunky wet cat food is great for adult cats of all stages and is grain-free with no preservatives or animal by-products – look at all these natural, wholesome ingredients…
“Chicken, Chicken Broth, Turkey Broth, Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Whites, Dried Ground Peas, Carrots…”
#3. TIKI CAT Puka Puka Luau – Succulent Chicken Consomme
This is my youngest and pickiest girl, Coo Coos, eating her Tiki Cat Chicken!
I usually give this to any of my cats as an in-between snack too. Its just cooked chicken and nothing else.
If you can afford this, its a good option as a snack.
If you want to see the full ingredient list, as well as other information on the Tiki Cat Canned Food.
Contents of Tiki:
- Crude Protein 16% min
- Crude Fat 2.6% min
- Crude Fiber 0% max
- Moisture 80% max
- Ash 1.6% max
- Taurine 0.2% max
Things I like about it:
- Hormone and antibiotic free
- Sunflower oil to nourish skin and coat
- A balanced diet for cats of all ages
- No grains, gluten, starches or flours
With shredded chicken breast as the first ingredient listed on the can, you know your cat will be happy as soon as they know it’s meal time!
Made with actual broth, this cat food provides plenty of moisture to keep your feline friend hydrated.
It’s also packed full of essential vitamins, omegas, and taurine – it’s the complete balanced diet you’re looking for!
Click the link if you would like to try the Tiki Puka cat food (it’s the one I use for one of my pickier cats)
#4. CRAVE High Protein Trays
*Click HERE to see specific nutritional ingredients and images. (You can save a bit by subscribing also.)
* High Protein Content Cat Food
The content of Crave:
- Water 70-75% max
- Protein 12% min
- Fat 6.5% min
Some key benefits from these trays:
- Uses NO grains
- Protein is at the upper limit of being healthy
- PATE texture
Real, farm-raised chicken is the very first ingredient you will find on CRAVE High Protein trays.
This product is free of by-products, soy, corn, artificial flavors, and all preservatives. The PATE also contains added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to meet all of your cat’s nutrition needs.
NOTE: This product raised the cholesterol numbers in my senior cats. So I stopped with this one, even as a treat.
#5. BLUE Freedom, Grain Free Canned Food for Indoor Cats
* Ok High-End Canned Cat and Kitten Food – little high on fat %
*Click HERE to see specific nutritional ingredients and images. (You can save a bit by subscribing also.)
Contents of Blue:
- Water 78% max
- Protein 9.0% min
- Fat 6.5% min
- Crude Fiber 2.0% max
Freedom indoor food benefits:
- Made with real cranberries with can help clear/protect your cat’s urinary tract
- No corn, wheat or soy
- No animal by-products
It should really come as no surprise that BLUE Freedom, Grain Free canned food for indoor kittens is our choice for high-end kitten nutrition.
In addition to their protein and fat content is in the ‘sweet spot’, BLUE also goes overboard providing the most extensive list of ingredients we’ve seen yet.
Just take a look at the first 15 ingredients to see what we mean:
Here, you can find the full list of ingredients, as well as more nutritional information on BLUE Freedom Canned Cat Food.
I hope this information has helped you in your choice between wet, canned food and dry cat food.
We are always learning and it’s never too late to make a switch in your cat’s diet that could potentially have life-altering effects for them.
Having a healthy, vibrant and energetic pet is every cat-owners dream, and there are just so many canned, wet cat foods that can benefit your cat in all of these different ways.
Who knows, with the right kind of nutrition, your cat could potentially live to be 26 years old!
I also asked the opinion of Erin Libby, DVM about her thoughts on this polarizing topic.
She indicated that wet foods can certainly be better for cats because of the higher moisture and lower carbs.
Dr. Libby also notes, however, that there are also cats that do perfectly well on dry food. While she sees no benefit to raw meat diets for cats, she indicates that cooked meat is suitable and useful in some circumstances.
Insofar as canned cat foods, here are her recommendations:
I think Hill’s ideal balance or Purina Pro Plan True Nature Wet foods might be something that appeals to you (and your readers). They are high quality wet diets that contain natural ingredients, no grain, and few by-products. The Pro Plan variety is truly grain free. The Hill’s Ideal balance uses starches like rice or potato but no corn, wheat, or soy.
Note to her recommendations that the Hill’s Ideal Balance Grain Free
- Protein: 25-28 %
- Fat: 38-46 %
- Carb: 19-25 %
They are expensive.
NOTE: I don’t agree with her here but I wanted to show you that it’s always recommended to seek advice from multiple sources and do your own research to figure out what’s best for YOUR cat. All our cats are different, have different needs, and have different reactions.
Evaluating Your Cat’s Current Condition
The best time to change your cat’s diet is right after you’ve taken him or her to the vet for a routine checkup.
This may be during a yearly exam, or expressly for the purpose of making dietary changes.
Ideally, you would be better off making dietary changes before your cat gets sick and requires changes that may or may not extend both the quality and quantity of life.
During this type of visit, be sure to ask for comprehensive blood work that includes:
- Blood counts
- Thyroid function testing.
- It is also important to ask for urine (to detect urine crystals, an abnormal protein, and sugar) and fecal screening to look for worms and parasites.
Once you know how your cat is doing health-wise, it becomes much easier to determine how best to make dietary changes.
- If your cat’s blood sugar levels are elevated, it may be better to switch to moist cat food that has fewer carbohydrates.
- In a similar fashion, if your cat is obese, it may be time to switch to a lower calorie food option.
- If your cat has urinary crystals, you must find ways to increase water intake and switch to a food type that does not lead to further crystal (and eventually stone) development.
Feeding Your Cat Plant-Based Food
In a natural setting, there are only two places that cat’s get plant-based food from.
Cats may deliberately consume grass or other plants that irritate their stomach enough to cause them to vomit. When cats have hairballs, or they consume prey with feathers, fur, and bones, the grass helps bring up the material that cannot be digested.
Grass also acts a laxative for cats, which can be useful to your pet if a hairball or something else that can’t be digested gets into the intestines.
If you decide to feed your cat commercial cat food or properly prepared human food (as in all the non-digestible parts have been removed), there may still be a need for your cat to consume grass.
You can provide a tray of cat-safe grass or simply pick some from your lawn.
Just make sure you don’t give your cat grass with pesticide and herbicide on it. Avoid leaving house plants around for your cat to snack on, as many of them are poisonous.
When cats consume their prey’s stomach (which they do mainly for mice and smaller prey) any plant-based materials plus the digestive enzymes and bacteria will also be included.
Many cat food experts believe this a prime source of healthy bacteria (sort of like probiotics for humans) that helps keep a cat’s digestive system in good condition.
While there is considerable controversy about adding feline specific probiotics to cat food in the United States, it is actually quite common to add tripe to cat food in some other parts of the world.
If you are going to feed your cat human food, you will need to include at least some plant-based material to provide sufficient carbohydrates and some nutrients.
Cats cannot synthesize all of the amino acids they need from plant-based resources, nor can their bodies digest all of the necessary nutrients present in a plant-based form.
If you want to feed your cat a vegan or vegetarian diet, it must have certain supplements or it will die.
You will also have to find a way to increase water intake because the proteins in plant-based foods tend to increase the risk of stones in felines.
Increased kidney flushing, however, must also be balanced so that you don’t put too much pressure on your cat’s urinary system.
This just one of many reasons why many people that do consume a vegan or vegetarian diet still give their cats meat.
Meat-Based Diets for Cats
More than a few people that decide to feed their cats human food immediately turn to beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.
While your cat can safely consume all of these meats, they must be cooked first. Feeding your cat raw meat is dangerous for you and your cat.
Most veterinarians feel that the risk of either infecting the pet or people in the household with potentially pathogenic bacteria is just too great.
Even though proteins denature (break up into amino acids, which is a good thing) in the presence of heat, veterinarians claim the nutrients in raw meat are the same as nutrients in cooked meat.
It is very important to realize that cooking meat will not remove:
- Residue from GMO foods that were fed to commercial meat animals and fish prior to slaughter.
Consuming raw meat will not make it any easier or better for your cat to deal with the toxic load created by how meat and other foods are processed in the United States.
If you want to address these problems in the best possible, way, feed your cat certified organic meat, ideally from a local farm where you can see that the animals are free ranging.
Even in this circumstance, you will still need to cook the meat enough to get rid of various pathogens.
Myths and Facts
Myth Buster Special #1: “People food” is bad for cats.
I have heard this one over and over again (mostly because I love feeding my cats some of the things we eat).
Well-balanced diets that include meats and fresh ingredients that you find yourself are often your cat’s best option.
If you already eat organic foods or are choosy about the ingredients you use for your own meals, your cat will benefit from consuming quality foods.
Did you know that most people throw away 30% of the food they buy?
When you are already spending more on organic foods, it makes perfect sense to prepare some of that food for your cat instead of throwing it in the trash. It’s a win for you, a win for the environment, and a huge win for your cat.
Myth Buster Special #2: Diverse Food Options or Changing Food Types is Bad
When you have complete control over primary ingredients in your cat’s food and treats, you also have increased options that lead to better nutrition through diversity.
Think about the last nutritionally complete and balanced meal you ate.
How do you think your health would fare if you ate only those exact same thing day in and day out for years on end?
Aside from being incredibly boring, you are already thinking you may have missed out on something important like a vitamin supplement, or a nutrient that hasn’t been studied yet.
Even though commercial cat foods are nutritionally balanced, diversity is still important for wellness.
Your cat evolved to live its entire life in a wild habitat in which there are all kinds of mice, rabbits, bugs, birds, reptiles, and other small animals.
Since their prey can vary greatly, it makes sense that your cat’s body is designed to adapt and thrive.
It’s okay to change their food, however, the way you do it determines how your cat reacts. Slow introductions of a few new foods can result in better digestion and a stronger immune system. 
This video is an excellent source of information on some of the myths and facts about the food you feed your cat;
FACT: Mixing or switching your cat to a different, healthier food isn’t dangerous or bad – it can actually be a great change.
What About Dry Cat Food?
A cat’s natural prey (mice, lizards, rabbits, and birds) looks nothing like the kibble you will see in even the best quality dry cat food.
Let’s have a look at what a natural diet for cats is actually made up of:
- Water (70-80%)
- Protein (7-12%)
- Fat (6-8%)
- Other such as carbs and filler (8-12%)
While these are estimates, it is best to stay close to them in order to provide indoor cats with the best nutrition and feeding experience.
Unfortunately, most dry foods only have about 10% water, while prey has about 70%.
Let’s also consider carbs.
Dry food contains quite a lot of filler ingredients, which raises the carbohydrate levels (although some wet food can also contain filler ingredients, it’s usually not nearly as much.)
This video is an excellent source of information on some of the myths and facts about the food you feed your cat:
Unlike humans, cats can only use a small amount of them, and the rest goes straight into body fat.
As with humans, diabetes in cats can also lead to eye problems, slow healing rates, increased risk of infection, kidney damage, neurological pain, coma, and death.
I would say that dry cat food can work for some cats, but not all cats.
It’s something I personally don’t recommend.
Some do perfectly well on dry food and live well into their 20’s on it with no health problems.
Even though dry food may seem to have a higher protein content, it usually comes from plant-based sources.
If the food is of lower quality, it may not have the necessary supplements and additives to make the proteins digestible for your cat.
Other cats may have allergies, or worse yet, become dehydrated because they also refuse to drink enough water.
Since domesticated cats are all descended from desert cats, they are accustomed to getting sufficient moisture from their prey.
Even if plenty of water is available, they may not instinctively recognize it as something that will meet their fluid intake needs.
While some cats have adapted to drink more water because they feel thirsty, you still need to watch their consumption carefully to make sure this doesn’t change.
Lack of proper hydration can lead to bladder and liver issues.
Dehydration can also be a common, yet unrecognized problem.
Some common signs of dehydration in cats can include:
- Sunken/weak eyes
- Loss of appetite
- High heart rate
- Decreased skin elasticity
My cat, for example, had shown some of these behaviors in the past and it was confirmed by a vet more than once that he was nearing dehydration.
The vet ended up inserting syringes into his body making these water sacs… it was really interesting.
He was shivering but after a while, he “came to”.
I’ve also had a few cats that were super choosy about the water they drank.
Most hated tap water and preferred to drink rainwater from outside dishes. One of my cats that almost died from a kidney stone related blockage even though I gave him canned wet food.
Post-op, he would only consume water if it was first made into a soup.
Since I also wound up home cooking for him, I simply boiled meat in plenty of water (no spices), let it cool, and then made sure he had plenty of “broth” in his bowl.
As long as there were shreds of meat in the bowl along with the soup, he would consume the liquid with no problems.
I also noted he would not consume fruits, vegetables, meat, or broth if they were all lumped together in the same bowl. He would only eat fruits and vegetables if they were separate, and not sitting in broth.
Now let’s have a look at some common myths surrounding dry cat food:
MYTH Buster Special # 3: Dry cat food helps your cat’s teeth.
The thought process here is that the chewing involved in eating dry food would be able to clean off debris or any kind of build up on your cat’s teeth.
While this is a really logical way of thinking, it’s now being questioned by vets and cat owners alike.
Dry food may provide a little cleaning for the very tip of the cat’s teeth, but it won’t actually be helping at the gum-line where the root of most dental issues stems from.
This is more of a superficial benefit than an actual dental health benefit.
FACT: Your cat’s dental issues boil down to genetics and chemistry. If your cat has dental problems, brushing their teeth and proper veterinary care are the only things that will help.
Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic feline veterinarian explains this best:
In my experience as a feline veterinarian, I’ve probably examined at least 13,000 cats’ mouths. There was no real pattern to the dental and periodontal disease I saw. If anything, tartar and gum disease seemed to be more attributable to genetics or concurrent disease (such as Feline Leukemia or feline AIDS) than to any particular diet. I saw beautiful and horrible mouths in cats eating wet food, dry food, raw food, and every possible combination.
Check out my post on caring for your cat’s teeth!
Is it True Canned Cat Food is Essential “Junk Food”?
Many cat owners stay away from wet, or canned cat food because they think they are paying a lot of money for a can that has too much water.
It is very important to realize that most cats simply don’t drink much water on their own.
- Wet, canned cat food is actually a great source of hydration because of the 75% water content; which easily mimics the water content your cat would find in their usual prey.
- Canned cat food is helpful for a cat who isn’t great at drinking adequate amounts of water each day or for the pet owner who isn’t convinced their cat is getting enough water.  
Aside from that, commercially canned cat foods must meet the same standards as a dry food in order to be considered nutritionally complete.
They are similar to dry foods in the sense that you have only to make sure your cat eats enough food for his or her weight in order to ensure the cat’s nutritional needs are being met.
From that perspective:
It’s safe to say that canned cat food isn’t “junk food” unless you choose a brand that contains all kinds of fillers or is low quality because of substandard meat “byproduct” ingredients.
Good quality canned cat foods are ideal for cats with the following conditions:
- Older animals who may have lost or have a decreased sense of smell may be more inclined to eat cat food that has a rich scent and flavor like most wet, canned cat foods have. (Although the smell may be a downside for you – it’s a positive thing for your cat!)
- Kittens and older cats that don’t have the dental structure required to break down hard kibble.
- Wet foods are also the best option for cats with missing teeth, smaller mouths, poorly aligned jaws, and other issues such as throat, neck, and mouth cancers that make it hard or painful for them to chew and swallow.
- Cats that are diabetic and require a low carb diet
I’ve had more than one cat wind up with skin irritation and associated allergies when they consume dry food.
They had no further problems, however, when I fed them canned food that underwent a lot less processing.
It’s also a great alternative to a cat who is feeling ill or lacking appetite; with different flavor combinations and smells, you are sure to find a wet food product your cat will eat, ensuring they get the right proteins, vitamins and minerals that they need to maintain their health.
MYTH Buster Special # 4: Canned or wet food will make my cat obese (or gain weight).
A water-rich, meat-based, low carbohydrate diet is what will give your cat:
- the agility
- the weight they are meant to have
This kind of diet is usually (most commonly) found in canned, raw or home-cooked cat food.
How to Read a Cat Food Can Label
Finding a portion of food that makes your cat happy and energetic instead of looking at you with that classic unimpressed cat look is very important.
A good place to start is making sure you know what to look for in a cat food label or in the grocery aisle when shopping for home cooked ingredients.
3 things to avoid excessive amounts of regardless if it’s dry, canned, or home cooked:
Ash In Cat Food
Ash is exactly what it sounds like; the material left behind after fats, protein, and water is removed as a result of burning foods.
While cats do need a certain amount of minerals in their diet, some veterinarians say too much magnesium can increase the risk of developing struvite kidney stones.
Other veterinarians have arrived at the conclusion urinary stones form mainly because of lack of good hydration, while others focus on urine pH.
When reading a canned cat food label:
Grains In Cat Food (especially wheat).
Cats have a hard time digesting grains, and may also be more prone to having grain allergies.
More than once I found this to be true with my own cats.
Since there is little to no grain in good quality canned cat food, it is a fast, easy solution to these kinds of problems.
- and sweet potatoes are edible
BUT they should not make up a significant amount of your cat’s diet or food intake.
When reading a canned cat food label:
- These items should be less than 3% by weight.
If you want to feed your cat more than this ratio in human foods, it may be best to look into supplements that will make it possible for your cat to digest the plant-based proteins properly and make good use of them.
Here are the golden stars (things you should look for) and the red flags (things to avoid) when looking at your canned cat food labels.
? High water content
? The first 5+ ingredients to be REAL food items (chicken, turkey, broth, etc)
? Flaxseed (a source of Omega 3)
? Liver (but never as the first ingredient as it is very high in vitamin A and D, and too much of those are bad)
? Fish Oil (a source of Omega 3/Fatty Acids)
? If you see the words “natural” or “grain free” – these are great things
? Cat food that suits your cat (there are specific foods for kittens vs older cats, cats with sensitive digestive systems, etc)
YOU DON’T WANT…
? Meat by-products (no idea what animal the “meat” comes from and it is considered a lesser form of the protein that cats could be getting from real animal products)
? Corn Meal, Maize or other filler ingredients
? Over 10% of the calories coming from carbohydrate
? Heavy gravy or sauce (usually have higher carbohydrate levels)
? Soy (it can contain phytoestrogens and negatively influence thyroid gland)
This video below is a great resource with tons of information on how to create a balanced diet for your pet.
Are There Preferred Canned Cat Food Brands?
For me, I will always recommend a freshly cooked diet for cats. And if you can make raw, go that route too!
It depends on your time, budget and condition of your cats.
There is no way to have a complete conversation on this topic without discussing manufacturer related problems.
It is very important to be aware of sudden changes in your cat’s health that may be coming from toxins in the food.
DO THE BEST YOU CAN.
Here are some sites you can use to find out if there are active recalls on different cat foods or other problems that you should know about:
- FDA.gov – animal and veterinary
- Foodsafetynews.com – this is for human foods, however, you can use it to monitor for your cats if you decide to home cook for them. Needless to say, it can also be useful for you and your human family members.
Over the years, I have tried out many different cat foods, including high end canned foods.
What worked for one cat didn’t always work for all of them.
There were even times when I had four or more cats, each consuming different brand foods and textures based on feline preferences or health needs.
For example, if I had cats that were getting a bit on the obese side, I found the perfect set of ratios:
- over 40% of calories – higher in protein
- under 50% of calories – not high fat
- under 10% of calories – not high in carbs
- high in water.
If you’re convinced to make the switch to canned wet cat food or simply want more info about which foods are best for your feline family member, I have put together a little list of some of the top canned cat foods…
- protein content
- quality of ingredients and deliciousness
Just as an aside before I launch into the list, I had just one cat over these many years that absolutely refused to give up her dry food.
I certainly wished I had read the following article back then!
If you have a cat that is similarly addicted, this is the “go to” resource for making that transition easier. “Transitioning Your Cat From Dry to Wet”
It takes time but is achievable.
Even though I’ve only just begun sharing about all the important things to consider when choosing the best food for your cat, I hope you have found the information in this article helpful.
In particular, if you are still feeding your cat dry food, that you will at least be more inclined to consider switching to a good quality canned food.
It’s never too late to make a switch in your cat’s diet that could potentially have life-altering effects for them.
Having a healthy, vibrant and energetic pet is every cat-owners dream.
With so many canned, wet cat foods options available, there is no reason why that dream can’t be a wonderful reality for you and your feline.
Bookmark this page as I will update it as I gain more knowledge into this topic.