Best Cat Foods – All Natural Is The Only Way To Go (See Our Top 3 Picks Below)
You can now share a meal with your cat, for real!
“All natural” label covers a lot of ground when it comes to cat food. It indirectly hints to other popular terms like “Grain free” and “Organic” which, intuitively, makes complete sense. All natural foods are supposed to be just that – formulas that are carefully developed to mimic the dietary needs of wild felines, free of fillers, artificial additives and ingredients that would not naturally be found in a cat’s meal. This is how it should be, but abuse always closely follows the profit.
Cats are obligate omnivores, which means that they absolutely have to eat meat to remain healthy and, well, alive. The first catch is in the amino acids. They build the proteins and count 23 different chemicals in total. Some of them can be made within the organism from smaller “building blocks” while others need to be taken in because the metabolism can’t make them on its own. The first group is called non-essential, the latter essential amino acids. Cats can make only 12, and the rest need to be taken in through food. If any of them are not present in the diet, many serious health conditions can and will develop. The second issue is the intake of vitamins.
This is where the problem lies – essential amino acids, as well as vitamins, have different stability in relation to pressure, light exposure and thermal processing. It doesn’t really matter if the manufacturer started with top quality chunk of meat if it has been aggressively processed, overheated, exposed to elements or just left frozen for too long. The nutrients might have been there to begin with, but their presence is certainly diminished at the end.
The promise of the “All natural” label is much more than just an honest word from the manufacturer. Formulas that really are what they claim they are have the “complete and balanced” certification from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) by the FDA, meaning that there is at least a bare minimum of nutrients needed for the animal to have a quality diet. Every “all natural” and organic brand should have this, but not all brands are the same.
How to Shop for All Natural Cat Food
All natural foods are a no-brainer, and this is why we chose this label as our best bet. Foods that falls into this category must follow certain standards: labeling must be clear and detailed, the info about how the ingredients are sourced is readily available and the quality of the meat is generally considered better. Lastly, the formulas are carefully made to follow the natural feline diet, meaning that the manufacturers use whole ingredients (in regard to meat) as opposed to highly processed protein of suspicious origin.
To summarize our criteria, we looked for:
- Minimal plant protein and grain-free formulas – Cats are obligate carnivores. Their digestive tract is simply not designed to process plant material. Plant protein is regularly added to increase the total protein rate in the formula, but this filler is not something that felines can digest easily. High amount of plant protein can cause diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and even kidney problems. Grain free part is pretty self-explanatory. Cats don’t need grain in their diet, period.
- Fairly low amount of carbohydrates – Again, carbohydrates come from plant sources that should not be largely present in cat diet. This additive is frequently used as a filler, to increase the volume and reduce cost. While there is a justified need for small amounts of fruits and vegetables in dry formulas (it helps bind the kibble) and as a way to add fiber and nutrients, the percentage should be very low. Additionally, it is extremely important to keep carbohydrates at the absolute minimum in the diet of diabetic cats.
- Clear labeling – Every formula that contained vague terms such as “Meat/Poultry”, “Meat/Poultry by-products”, “Meat/Poultry meal” was immediately disqualified. Why? Because all of those terms reveal next to nothing. According to AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) meat and poultry by-products can be everything from internal organs to bone and beaks. There is nothing bad in including some by-products, but if it is not clearly labeled (“Contains liver and kidneys”, etc) you can’t know for sure. The situation with meat meal is similar. When it comes to just putting the word “meat” on the list of ingredients, there is too much speculation involved that it’s better to not even consider it.
- GMO-free formulas – There is a lot of misinformation about GMO in general, so speculation is ill-advised. On the other hand, it was scientifically proven that genetically modified corn caused organ disease in rats.
- No artificial additives – This includes colors, preservatives and flavours. There is absolutely no need for any of these if the food contains what felines actually need – real meat. There has been a lot of panic lately about the infamous red dye #40 and yellow #5 in human food. While FDA research gave inconclusive results, we decided to stay on the safe side and keep away from any artificial coloring agents. Artificial flavors are usually just hydrolyzed animal tissue which is sprayed on the kibble to make it smell and taste better. This is not a bad thing per se, but since there is no strict regulation about what goes into the formula it’s better to avoid it altogether.
- No carrageenan – This is a substance extracted from red algae or seaweed, used as a thickening agent, especially popular in foods containing gravy and sauce. It has been proven that carrageenan promotes cancer formation when consumed alongside a carcinogen, and also causes inflammatory conditions and digestion problems
12 lb bag
Grass-fed lamb, freshwater trout or game bird
Acana introduced a formula that is completely free of plant protein concentrate. Meat constitutes 75% of the food. What really makes this food attractive is that the half of that amount includes fresh or raw meat that has been flash-frozen to preserve all the nutrients. Now, when they say “fresh or raw”, they really mean it – it’s whole meat, not meat slurry. The only synthetic supplements are choline, zinc and copper.
- Made in the USA
- All Natural
- No plant protein concentrates
- No chicken (this is great for cats who are allergic to chicken)
- Meat is not factory farmed. Grass-fed lamb, free-run birds and nest-laid eggs
- Recommended for cats with sensitive digestion
- No recalls
- Free shipping from Amazon
- This is dry food so there might be problems with breeds which don’t drink a lot of water. Always serve water alongside the kibble.
14 oz. bag
All the meat a cat can ever wish for
New Zealand’s Ziwi Peak really stands out. All meat is single-sourced. All animals are free-range and grass-fed. All farming is ethical. Even Blue Mackerel is sustainably-caught. Aside from high ethical standards of the company, the formula is quite impressive – 98% of it is fresh meat, organs, bones and green mussels, mixed in a way that mimics natural dietary needs of cats. The meat is air dried so processing is reduced to minimum while keeping all the tastes and nutrients sealed. The high price is justified by the fact that this kibble is highly concentrated in energy and protein, meaning that you need to feed less than with traditional formulas.
- Single-sourced meat and fish
- 98% of meat and specifically listed meat by-products
- Air-drying is the best possible way to preserve nutrients in meat
- Natural source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids
- Sourced from animals farmed ethically
- New Zealand green mussel added as a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints
- Available through Amazon and retail stores
- No recalls
- Free shipping from Amazon
- The transition period from “traditional” food to the Ziwi Peak line might take a long time since the formula is so high in protein
- Salt is added, so cats which are prone to bladder crystal formation should only be fed small amounts of this food
Hound & Gatos
5.5 oz. x 24 cans
Paleolithic diet for the wild at heart
This manufacturer guarantees all natural paleolithic diet for cats and dogs. Paleo makes a lot of sense when it comes to feline food because it closely resembles the natural dietary conditions. The formula contains more than 90% of meat with not much else added – just vitamins and minerals. The only concern some cat owners have with this food is that it contains agar-agar, a thickening agent from red algae or seaweed. This agent is not carrageenan but because it comes from a similar source, it’s sometimes seen as risky. On the other side, latest research has not shown any negative health effects associated agar-agar.
- All ingredients are USA sourced with the exception of the New Zealand lamb formula
- Made in the USA
- No plant protein
- No meat by-products
- No fillers
- Single-sourced meat protein
- No recalls
- Full refund within 30 days of purchase
- This food seems to polarize the cat population. Some can’t get enough of it and some won’t even sniff it. Buy a smaller batch of you decide to test it out.