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What Are The Best Cat Food Brands And Why?

Updated on December 1, 2014

Healthy Happy Cats Eat Healthy Nutritious Foods

George and Billy, healthy cats at play.
George and Billy, healthy cats at play. | Source

What Cats Should Eat

What Cats Should Eat: How to Feed Your Cat for Optimal Health
What Cats Should Eat: How to Feed Your Cat for Optimal Health

Dr. Jean Hofve's thoughtful explanations about how she rates cat foods as approved or not are as easy to understand as are her recommendations to follow.


None Are Really Bad, But Some Are Really Better for Healthy Cats

Have you ever tried figuring out the best cat food brands?

It isn't easy.

Is there one - or more - that helps them maintain a good weight that they also like to eat? What are the best and how are we supposed to know?

These are questions we've ask ourselves. And the answer is...It's complicated.

But with some determined research, both formal and informal, the insight of smart cat-centric people like Jackson Galaxy (See Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean) and Dr. Jean Hofve (What Cats Should Eat: How to Keep Your Cat Healthy with Good Food), and experience with your own animals, you can start to get a handle on why some brands are better than others.

It's complicated, first, because each cat is different, just as people are, maybe more so. Each has his or her own preferences. And it's complicated because, for a long time, the market has been dominated by cat food brands that may be better for profits than for cats. These brands can still commandeer a lot of shelf space.

Lesson #1: Cats Are Carnivores

Cats are carnivores, period.

Evolution never prepared them to digest the grains used in many popular brands. Cats must be tricked into eating them.

(Makers spray them to make them smell like something desirable to a cat.)

The results are too often obesity and less than optimal health.

Domestic cats have too many digestive problems, from severe constipation to blocked urinary tracts. Obesity, with all its complications, has been linked to diets made up of grain-based dry foods, just like with people.

(Another potential cause for eating and digestive problems for cats is stress, as it is with you and me. For that, we've found Spirit Essences, formulated by Jackson Galaxy and Dr. Jean Hofve, very effective.)

Let's look at three strategies for giving your cat the best cat food along with information about what we've learned about healthy cats.

Merrick 5 Star Entrees Gourmet Entre Cat & Kitten Food - Variety Pack - 3.2 oz - 8 ct
Merrick 5 Star Entrees Gourmet Entre Cat & Kitten Food - Variety Pack - 3.2 oz - 8 ct

Here's an easy way to try out a few things to find out what your cats like best. They will, of course, let you know.Once you're aware of what's most likely to be acceptable for them, feeding times become the pleasure both of you deserve.


The Best Wet Food - Recommended choices for healthy cat diets.

For any number of reasons, the most common being that your cats just won't eat raw food, you need a healthy alternative.

It's extremely important to remember that feeding time should be a pleasurable one for both you and your cats. Stressing out over getting cats to eat the the healthiest diet is simply unhealthy all by itself. So, go easy.

You have choices, and below are a few very good and healthy ones.

Because cats naturally fill most of their needs for water from foods, not from the a bowl, wet foods balanced to approximate natural diets and using quality ingredients make a good alternative choice.

They also are likely to contain fewer toxic elements like those easy to hide that have been found in dry food.

Note: you are not going to see heavily advertised or grocery store cat food brands recommended. Too many of them rely on questionable, cheap ingredients that can't readily be identified, and many, many of those originate in foreign countries, like China and Indonesia, where inspections are rare.

Even the manufacturers aren't always sure what's in them.

Nature'S Variety Prairie Homestyle Chicken & Tuna Stew Canned Cat Food, 5.5 Oz. Cans (Case Of 12)
Nature'S Variety Prairie Homestyle Chicken & Tuna Stew Canned Cat Food, 5.5 Oz. Cans (Case Of 12)

Praire, based in Lincoln, Nebraska, sells grain-free cat foods that are balanced to imitate cats' natural diets and preferences.It's a small company with a real passion for pets, committed to optimum health with far less focus on profits that the big name store brands.


New Discoveries in Cat Food Brands

We are always looking for the newest and better in cat foods for our guys. They can't go to Petco and pick their favorites, so we have to do it for them.

Here are brands that come highly recommended and our cats loved.

Pure Vita Grain Free Salmon & Peas Cat Food 6.6 Lb
Pure Vita Grain Free Salmon & Peas Cat Food 6.6 Lb

Cheerfully endorsed by our in-house experts, Billy and Sam.


Best Dry Cat Food - For when cats won't cooperate with your plans.

Like I wrote earlier, the worst situation you can have with your cats is a struggle over foods.

Meal times should be exciting, happy times. Cats love to eat great food. But they don't always love the great food you pick out.

So, come on. Compromise, but do it smartly, doing the best you can to provide a rich diet that is rich in the nutrients healthy cats need.

Here's a confession. We have been unable to convert our cats totally to wet food. Our senior cat grew up on the dry food our vet recommended, and his younger companion loves wet food but has a heartbroken look when he doesn't get to share the dry food. We manage, and some of the following foods are what we manage with.

Some cautions about dry food diets. First, they are by their nature a cause for chronic dehydration in cats. Cats normally get their water from the foods they eat. So, you will have to make good efforts to make sure they drink as well as eat.

Cats dependent on dry food have more constipation, kidney problems and obesity, among others.

Dry foods are also much more likely to have toxic elements hidden in the kibble.

So, be cautious. If they must have dry, make sure it's food recommended by experts (as are those below, approved by Dr. Jean), and by all means, avoid the big name store brands. Profit, we learned from many recalls, can obscure good judgment.

Healthiest Cat Food - Vet Recommended Raw Cat Food Diet

Animal Planet's Jackson Galaxy makes it simple: cats should eat meat.

Awarding winning blogger Ingrid King (Conscious Cat) takes it a step further. Cats, she says, should be fed only raw food diets.

The best healthy cat food is what comes closest to their natural diets.

We agree with Jackson Galaxy (about just about everything else relating to cats, too), but putting your cats on raw food diets is not so simple. The first problem you run into is learning how to do it right - we're talking raw food here - and then setting aside the time to prepare it fresh on a daily basis.

As experts point out, the best cat food diet instantly becomes the worst when it isn't prepared properly.

Raw Food Done Right

If you can do it right and you've got the time, raw cat food has been shown to yield great results for cats, including the disappearance of health issues from hairballs to obesity.

Check out our recommended book. Be sure you know exactly what you're getting into before you start.

There are reasonable alternatives in both wet and dry food, but here, we'll take a look at some available raw foods you can buy already prepared.

Two important cautions to keep in mind.

First, your cats may resist a raw diet, especially older cats, and second, any transition must be managed slowly. Cats digestive systems are delicate and easily upset by dietary changes. And as for changes, a lot of cats hate them all, period.

Cats love predictable routines. You have to make the adjustments because there's a good chance they never will.

Following is a variety of raw foods approved by Dr. Jean Hofve. Hofve has worked closely with Jackson Galaxy and is the author of What Cats Should Eat: How to Keep Your Cat Healthy with Good Food, an outstanding book on this subject.

The healthy raw cat foods I've included are suggestions to get you started. Many options are available, but you can feel safe with these as you consider the best food cats will thrive on.

Recommended Reading - When you finish this article, if you'd like to learn even more.

Some easy choices for cat lovers who want the best for their feline friends.

What Cats Should Eat: How to Feed Your Cat for Optimal Health
What Cats Should Eat: How to Feed Your Cat for Optimal Health

Dr. Hofve partners with Jackson Galaxy in educating us on what's best for cats. Her explanations are clear and are always accompanied by advice you can use.

Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean
Cat Daddy: What the World's Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean

Jackson Galaxy's powers as a many who understands what it's like to live under the fur of a cat is nothing short of astonishing. He's able to hone in on behaviors in a way that unravels mysteries. Complimenting that is his ability to explain and skill at describing solutions.


© 2013 David Stone

What do you think?

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    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      3 years ago from New York City

      Don't forget Fancy Feast. There are a huge variety of flavors and styles. Some people avoid them because they're cheap, but the fact is that they've never had a recall and many cats love them.

      As for preferences, it's hard because cats tastes vary even more then people's do. We were lucky to finally get to a few that our cats consistently like: Vigor, Blue Buffalo Salmon and New Balance Chicken and Livers. One consistent thing is that almost all cats like dry food because the manufacturers spray them to give off odors that entice them. It's hard to get around that, but if your cats are hungry, they will eat good stuff, even all wet food, if you are patient. They're smart negotiators and will hold out for what they want. With out guys, we let them have a small amount of dry with their meals because meal time is not time for stress and a little bit, like cookies to a child helps, but it's extremely important to their health that they get mostly wet food and all wet, if you can. Adding treats in - like the water from canned tuna in water helps too. One of ours also loves the water in canned salmon. Both are full of nutrients and are lapped up like goodies. What happens with many cats is they will go hungry rather than give in. Be confident. If you give them great foods you trust - like Wellness - they will eventually stop manipulating and eat.

      But be gradual and patient. Abrupt changes in diet are difficult for them in the first place. It took us two years of gradually increasing the % of wet food to get there, with many setbacks along the way. The result now is softer fir and rare instances of constipation that's chromic in many dry food only cats.

      BTW, a dry food we think is great and the cats crave is Pure Vita chicken flavor. It's hard to find in stores but easy to get online.

      Don't give up, and good luck!

    • profile image

      Doug C. 

      3 years ago

      Well my cats wouldn't eat the Wellness wet food and I have tried a bunch of other higher end brands as well (Nutro Pride, Soulistic, Evo, etc.). My cats won't eat any of them. I'm kind of at a loss here. I've read too many articles now on "Iams cat deaths/illnesses" and so I don't want to go back to Iams again.

      They have been eating the Wellness dry cat food and I have noticed a change in their behavior, for the good. However, I do still want to get them off the dry food if possible. I just don't know which wet food to try next, since I've exhausted all the "higher end" brands.

      You might want to check out this report on Pure Vita:

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      3 years ago from New York City

      Good choices, I think, Doug. Our cats like Wellness. For dry, their favorite (and mine) is Pure Vita, hard to find in stores but on Amazon. Good luck with your cats' health.

    • profile image

      Doug C. 

      3 years ago

      I appreciate all the information in this hub. I had no idea what was in the Iams cat food until I actually read the ingredients and all these articles, which informed me of all the nasty ingredients.

      After doing some more research I decided to try Wellness Grain-free Indoor Formula (for dry) and a few cans of Wellness grain-free wet food. With all the information and all the different brands out there I was getting a headache trying to decide so I'm going to try these for now.

      Thanks again.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      3 years ago from New York City

      Not from me, Doug.

    • profile image

      Doug C. 

      3 years ago

      "...Blue Buffalo is terrific and highly rated."

      There's brown rice on this brand of cat food. I thought I read somewhere else on this site that brown rice is a bad ingredient.

    • profile image

      Doug C. 

      3 years ago

      "The healthy raw cat foods I've included are suggestions to get you started."

      Uh, am I missing something? I didn't see any raw cat foods suggested in the article above or any suggestions.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      3 years ago from New York City

      I'm not familiar with Rachel Ray's dry cat food, but Blue Buffalo is terrific and highly rated. Our cats like it, especially their salmon.

      As for tastes, cats can be as picky as some humans as well as just as willing to try anything. Dry food makers ofter add smell enhancers to their products to induce cats to eat what they normally would not. But there are better choices that balance what's known to be a naturally healthy diet in food for cats that resist transitioning to wet food. Our favorite is Pure Vita, hard to find in stores but available online. Our cats love it, and it was helpful as an in-between food as we got them over to all wet food.

      Another wet food choice you might try is Natural Balance, which you can get at Petco, and the whole Weruva line gets good ratings from vets not beholden to the industry. Between these two and Pure Vita, I bet you can find several things you cat will love. It took us a while, but we did.

      Just a quick note. We cat sit for a lot of great cats and hear about others through my wife's work as a cat artist. It's startling to discover how individual each is in their choices of likes and don't likes. I think they like to play with our heads and keep us guessing. They are trying to take over the world.

      Seriously, though, good luck with your cat. You'll find something she likes, if you experiment a little.

    • maryjenga11 profile image

      Mary Reed 

      3 years ago

      Im all for feeding my cat healthier cat food. What do you think about Rachel Ray's dry cat food & Blue Buffalo brand? I've tried both. The problem is, my cat doesn't seem to enjoy the taste of it, but she will eat a little of it because that's the only dry food I give her, along with the unhealthy Friskies can food i give her on a daily basis, but she likes it and I don't want her to go hungry, but I feel guilty feeding it to her. Why does't healthy food taste good to my cat?


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