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10 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods of 2021 – Reviews & Buyers Guide

Cat hungrily eats dry food

All cat owners want the best for their cats, including following research about the newest discoveries for cats’ optimal health and wellness. One of the growing trends of the last few years has been grain-free cat food.

It’s important to note that very few cats need a grain-free diet. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t value in these foods. Many of them have fewer ingredients and fillers than other options. This leaves more room to focus on the nutrients that your cat needs to be healthy.

We put together these reviews to help you select the best grain-free cat food for your needs.

A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Salmon Pate Canned Cat Food Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Salmon Pate Canned Cat Food
  • High in protein
  • Simple ingredients
  • No preservatives or artificial colors
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate
  • High in protein
  • Good value for the price
  • Free from artificial colors and preservatives
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Real Chicken Recipe Wet Canned Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Real Chicken Recipe Wet Canned
  • High moisture content
  • Several flavors to choose from
  • Healthy, high-protein ingredients
  • Best for Kittens
    Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken
  • No artificial ingredients
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Promotes healthy growth and development
  • Best Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
    Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck
  • High in vitamins
  • No artificial colors or ingredients
  • Limited ingredients to help cats with sensitive stomach
  • The 10 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Salmon Pate Canned Cat Food — Best Overall

    Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Salmon Pate Canned Cat Food

    Food Type: Wet
    Container Size: 5-ounce cans
    Main Ingredients: Salmon, chicken

    Our pick for the best overall grain-free cat food is Merrick Purrfect Bistro. These cans contain plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals to keep your cat strong and healthy. This food is free from grains, preservatives, and artificial colors. It is also a good choice for cats that struggle to drink enough water. The high moisture content will help keep your cat hydrated.

    The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are great for your cat’s coat and skin. These will maintain their shiny, silky coat and avoid pesky dry-skin issues.

    Pros
    • Simple ingredients
    • High in protein
    • No preservatives or artificial colors
    • High moisture content
    Cons
    • A little expensive
    • Some cats don’t like the texture of wet food

    2. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Cat Food — Best Value

    Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Chicken Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 3-ounce can
    Main Ingredients: Chicken, turkey

    Wellness Core Natural canned food is the best grain-free cat food for the money. Even though this food is less expensive than some other options on this list, it doesn’t skimp on quality. The formula is full of high-protein ingredients to keep your cat highly energized.

    This food also contains high levels of moisture and cranberries. This helps promote urinary health and keep your cat well hydrated. Wellness Naturals is free from preservatives and artificial colors. Your cat will love this high-quality pâté and so will your wallet.

    Pros
    • Good value for the price
    • Free from artificial colors and preservatives
    • High in protein
    Cons
    • Some cats are sensitive to poultry
    • Cats may not like the texture

    3. Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Real Chicken Recipe Wet Canned Cat Food — Premium Choice

    Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Real Chicken Recipe Wet Canned Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5-ounce cans
    Main Ingredients: Chicken, turkey

    This grain-free canned food option is pricier than some other choices, but for the extra money, you get a can of high-quality food that your cat will love. Instinct Original is free from artificial colors and preservatives.

    The canned formula includes 95% protein-packed meats and 5% vegetables and other ingredients. You can rest assured that your cat is getting the nutrients that they need and none of the extra stuff thatthey don’t. The high moisture content will also help keep your active cat hydrated as they play.

    Pros
    • Healthy, high-protein ingredients
    • High moisture content
    • Several flavors to choose from
    Cons
    • A little expensive
    • Some cats prefer dry food

    4. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens

    Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5-pound bag
    Main Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, fish

    You want to give your kitten the best possible start to life. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-free food will help you do just that. It is loaded with healthy ingredients to help your kitten grow. This formula is specially tailored for kittens, with its high levels of protein, nutritious oils, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    All of these beneficial ingredients help promote healthy growth and set your kitten up for an active, long life. It’s also an easily digestible food, so your kitten can enjoy it without discomfort.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • Promotes healthy growth and development
    • No artificial ingredients
    Cons
    • A little expensive
    • Kittens may have an easier time eating wet food

    5. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food — Best Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5-pound bag
    Main Ingredients: Duck, peas

    Our pick for the best grain-free dry cat food is Natural Balance Limited Ingredient. This highly nutritious formula is a solid choice for cats with sensitive stomachs or allergies. It is free of artificial ingredients and colors. There are plenty of vitamins and minerals to keep your cat healthy, along with the muscle-supporting proteinthat they need. This food is also high in omega-3 fatty acids to promote a shiny, silky coat and itch-free skin.

    Pros
    • Limited ingredients to help cats with sensitive stomachs
    • No artificial colors or ingredients
    • High in vitamins
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Some cats prefer wet food

    6. ORIJEN Dry Cat Food, Grain Free, Premium Fresh and Raw Animal Ingredients

    ORIJEN Dry Cat Food, Grain Free, Premium Fresh and Raw Animal Ingredients

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 4- and 12-pound bags
    Main Ingredients: Chicken, turkey, eggs

    A great choice for dry kibble, ORIJIN Cat & Kitten Food uses all-natural ingredients in its pet food. This kibble is loaded with protein goodness to keep your cat healthy and strong. Around 90% of the content comes from animal ingredients, which will appeal to your cat’s natural carnivorous dietary needs. Cats love the mixture of poultry, fish, and eggs. This product is also climate pledge friendly, so you can feel confident that your purchase comes from a company that cares about the planet.

    Pros
    • High in protein
    • Quality ingredients
    • No artificial colors
    Cons
    • Fairly expensive
    • Some cats have a sensitivity to poultry

    7. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5- and 11-pound bags
    Main Ingredients: Salmon, chicken, peas

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe is a good commercial grain-free option for your cat. It contains both salmon and chicken, which is something to be aware of if you have a kitty with a stomach that is sensitive to chicken products. However, this food will provide your cat with plenty of protein, vitamins, and minerals to keep them healthy. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy skin and a healthy coat.

    Pros
    • Savory salmon flavor
    • High in protein and omega-3s
    • Contains antioxidants
    Cons
    • Rather expensive for a small bag
    • More ingredients than some other foods

    8. American Journey Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    American Journey Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5- and 12-pound bags
    Main Ingredients: Turkey, chicken

    This poultry-based high-protein food is a great choice for an active cat. It contains essential proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to protect your cat’s good health and energetic nature. It also contains fruits and vegetables to give your cat a vitamin boost. This helps build a hearty immune system. This food does contain mainly poultry, so it might not be the best choice for a cat that is picky and prefers salmon or other flavors for their kibble.

    Pros
    • High in protein
    • Plenty of vitamins and minerals
    • Reasonably priced
    Cons
    • More ingredients than some other choices
    • Some cats don’t seem to like the taste

    9. Purina Beyond Simply Grain-Free Wild Caught Whitefish & Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Purina Beyond Simply Grain-Free Wild Caught Whitefish & Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 3-, 5-, and 11-pound bags
    Main Ingredients: Hake, chicken

    This dry, grain-free option combines fish and chicken into a high-protein kibble. It is marketed as a whitefish and egg formula but lists chicken meal as the second ingredient. This isn’t a bad thing if your cat doesn’t have a problem digesting poultry. However, it’s something to be aware of if you have a picky or sensitive eater. These crunchy bits are free from artificial colors and preservatives and use all-natural ingredients.

    Pros
    • Affordable option
    • High in protein
    • No artificial colors or preservatives
    Cons
    • More non-meat-based ingredients than some other options
    • The kibble pieces are quite large

    10. Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Food Type: Dry
    Container Size: 5-, 5-, 10-, and 15-pound bags
    Main Ingredients: Chicken, turkey

    This food is formulated to be appropriate for cats in all life stages. This means it can also be eaten by kittens. The one drawback to this is that it’s a little higher in calories and fats than some other options. This might not be ideal if you have lazy older cats. However, for higher energy cats, it’s a good food that’s rich in nutrients and protein.

    Pros
    • Offers multiple bag sizes, so your cat can try it out first
    • High in protein
    • No artificial colors or preservatives
    Cons
    • Some cats don’t like the flavor
    • Higher in calories and fats than some other options

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Now that you’ve read our reviews of the best grain-free cat foods, here are other important things to consider to make sure you are getting the best cat food for your needs.

    persian cat eating dry food
    Image Credit: Patrick Foto, Shutterstock

    What Makes a Good Grain-free Cat Food?

    Very few cats truly need a grain-free diet. It has become a popular trend, but it’s not a necessity for most cats. The problem with many grain-free cat foods is that manufacturers will remove grain fillers, which is a good thing. However, they often replace them with other unnecessary or unhealthy ingredients.

    If you decide to try grain-free food for your cat, you should first check with your veterinarian to see if it’s a good choice. Then, make sure the food you select has chicken, turkey, salmon, or another type of meat as the primary ingredient. The food should be high in protein and contain as few ingredients as possible. You also want to make sure the food is free from artificial colors because these can be bad for your cat’s health.

    What Kinds of Grain-Free Food Are Available?

    There are many types of grain-free food out there. If you have a picky cat that will only eat wet or dry food, don’t worry, there is plenty of options for both. Freeze-dried foods tend to have the fewest ingredients but are more expensive. If your cat isn’t choosy, you can feed them a mixture of wet and dry food. Wet food helps sneak more moisture into your cat’s diet and can help if they have urinary tract issues.

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    Conclusion

    Our top overall pick, Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-free Canned Cat Food, gives your cat the nutrition that they need without the extra ingredients that they don’t. There’s also a grain-free food choice for every price range, with Wellness CORE Natural for the shopper on a budget and Instinct Original Grain-free for those looking to spend a little more.

    Hopefully, now that you have read our reviews, you have a better understanding of the best choices for grain-free cat food out there and can pick the one that best suits your needs.


    Featured Image Credit: yykkaa, Shutterstock

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