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10 Best Premium Cat Foods in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

smalls premium human grade fresh cat food with kittens

Proper nutrition is arguably the most important aspect of keeping your cat healthy and happy. Meeting all your cat’s nutritional requirements is the first step in giving them a full and energetic life. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different varieties of cat food on the market today, many of which have questionable ingredients that cats simply do not need in their diet.

Cats are obligate carnivores, and as such, they need a diet that is rich in animal protein. Many cat food manufacturers include a high amount of protein from plant-based sources, which are not suitable for your feline. Luckily, there are many cat food manufacturers taking cat nutrition seriously and creating premium foods that cover all your cat’s nutritional needs, are made with quality ingredients, and are generally free from filler ingredients. If you are looking for the best diet possible for your feline friend, choosing one of these premium foods is ideal.

With all the varieties of cat foods available nowadays, it can be difficult to find the best one for your cat. We analyzed the ingredients of dozens of cat foods and found our 10 favorite, premium options and gave them in-depth reviews to help you choose the right one for your feline. Let’s dive in!

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2021 Update)

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
 Smalls Fresh Premium Cat Food Smalls Fresh Premium Cat Food
  • High protein content
  • No artificial flavors or colors
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • Best Value
    Second place
    ACANA Homestead Harvest High-Protein Adult Dry Cat Food ACANA Homestead Harvest High-Protein Adult Dry Cat Food
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • 65%–70% animal ingredients
  • Natural sources of omega fatty acids
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Dry Cat Food Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Dry Cat Food
  • Grain-free recipe
  • 81% real animal ingredients
  • Added live probiotics and antioxidants
  • Best for Kittens
    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food
  • Great for kittens
  • Quality protein source
  • Packed with antioxidants
  • Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Grain-free recipe
  • Added probiotics and antioxidants
  • Included vitamins E and A
  • The 10 Best Premium Cat Foods

    1. Smalls Human Grade Fresh Premium Cat Food — Best Overall

    Smalls human grade fresh food bowl with kitten with logo

    First-listed ingredients Chicken thigh, chicken breast, chicken liver
    Crude Protein 49.6%
    Caloric Content Not Listed

    Smalls human-grade fresh cat food subscription service offers a premium selection of meals for your kitty freshly delivered to your door. They use 100% human-grade meat and no preservatives to ensure your cat is getting the best nutrition possible. For these reasons and more, it’s a no brainer that they provide the overall best premium cat food available.

    The variety of meats they have will ensure that even picky eaters will have something they will enjoy. Each of the flavors (chicken, cow, and other bird) contain over 80% of the respective protein source. When ordering on their website, you first have to go through a few questions which find out exactly what your cat needs. When it arrives in its own cool box, you’re sure to find a quality product that your cat will love, as our cats sure did when they tried it out. The bottom of the bowl was never seen faster!

    To conclude, we believe this is the best premium cat food on the market right now.

    Pros
    • High protein content
    • No preservatives
    • Low carbohydrate content
    Cons
    • More expensive than dry food

    2. ACANA Homestead Harvest High-Protein Adult Dry Cat Food — Best Value

    ACANA Homestead Harvest Dry Cat Food

    First-listed ingredients Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal
    Crude Protein 33%
    Caloric Content 429 kcal/cup

    The ACANA Homestead Harvest dry cat food is the best premium cat food for the money. The food contains high-quality protein (65%–70% animal ingredients) sourced from ranchers, farmers, and fishermen, giving your cat a natural source of omega fatty acids to keep their skin and coat healthy and vibrant, along with natural taurine, DHA, and EPA to help support heart health and eyesight. It is also packed with vitamins like vitamins E, D3, and B12, and antioxidants for aiding in immune health. It is free from filler ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    This food has a slightly lower protein content than many other foods, and several customers reported a strong odor that their cats did not enjoy.

    Pros
    • Relatively inexpensive
    • 65%–70% animal ingredients
    • Natural sources of omega fatty acids
    • Packed with vitamins E, D3, and B12
    • Added antioxidants
    • Free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
    Cons
    • Comparatively low protein content
    • Kibble has a pungent odor

    3. Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Dry Cat Food — Premium Choice

    Instinct Original Freeze Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat FoodInstinct Original Freeze Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

    First-listed ingredients Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal
    Crude Protein 41%
    Caloric Content 505 kcal/cup

    This freeze-dried dry cat food from Instinct is made using raw ingredients and is 100% grain-free, and is our premium choice for your cat. The food has cage-free chicken for a great source of protein with 81% real animal ingredients overall, and the other 19% made with real fruits and vegetables. This dry food is free from potato, by-products, artificial colors, and preservatives, but it is packed with healthy live, natural probiotics, natural omegas, and antioxidants for great skin and coat health, immune support, and digestive health.

    This kibble is rather hard, though, so it is not ideal for senior cats, and many customers reported loads of powdered kibble at the bottom of the bag.

    Pros
    • Made using raw ingredients
    • Grain-free recipe
    • 81% real animal ingredients
    • Added live probiotics and antioxidants
    • Free from artificial colors and preservatives
    Cons
    • Not ideal for senior cats
    • Powders easily

    4. Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens

    Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

    First-listed ingredients Chicken, rice, corn gluten meal
    Crude Protein 42%
    Caloric Content 534 kcal/cup

    Purina has long been the go-to brand for many cat and kitten owners, and its new Pro Plan Kitten formula is our top choice for kittens. The food has a high protein content of 42% that is derived largely from high-quality deboned chicken. It includes natural DHA omega fatty acids that help with brain and vision development, and it is packed with antioxidants to help the development of your kitten’s immune system and probiotics for added digestive health. The natural omega fatty acids are also great for your kitten’s developing skin and coat health, and the included essential minerals calcium and phosphorus keep your kitten’s bones and teeth growing strong and healthy.

    Unfortunately, this food contains grains like corn and rice, although the extra carbs are a great energy booster. Also, many customers reported that their kittens did not enjoy the new, recently updated formula.

    Pros
    • Great for kittens
    • Quality protein source
    • Packed with antioxidants
    • Added probiotics
    • Added calcium and phosphorus for growth support
    Cons
    • Contains grains
    • The new formula is not as palatable

    5. Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food

    First-listed ingredients Deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, deboned cod
    Crude Protein 40%
    Caloric Content 486 kcal/cup

    The Chicken & Cod grain-free food from Nulo is formulated with 83% animal ingredients, with a 40% crude protein content, and it is a great option. The added deboned cod will give your feline a natural source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids that help nourish your cat’s skin and promote a healthy, shiny coat. It also contains added probiotics to help support gastrointestinal health, along with chicory root, dried kelp, and antioxidants that support immune health. The food is packed with vitamin E and A to support vision and cardiovascular health.

    While this food is full of nutritious ingredients, a large number of customers reported that their cats would simply not eat it, both kittens and adults, which is disappointing considering the high cost.

    Pros
    • Grain-free recipe
    • 83% animal ingredients
    • Natural source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids
    • Added probiotics and antioxidants
    • Included vitamins E and A
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Some cats do not enjoy the taste

    6. Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate Cat Food — Best Tinned Option

    Sheba Perfect Portions Seafood Pate cat food

    First-listed ingredients Whitefish, poultry liver, chicken broth
    Crude Protein 7%
    Caloric Content 38 kcal/serving

    If you’re looking for premium quality tinned food for your feline, we love the Perfect Portions Seafood Pate from Sheba. This variety pack features three different seafood recipes with a light, pâté texture that your cat will love, conveniently packed into a single, perfectly sized portion. The fish recipe will make sure your cat gets all the essential omega fatty acids that they need for healthy skin and coat. It is packed with taurine, essential vitamins E and D3, and beneficial minerals like magnesium and potassium. Also, the food is 100% grain-free!

    This food has a pungent fishy odor that will turn many cats off, though. Also, while the portion size is fine for most cats, it is too small if you have a large cat, making the food quite expensive.

    Pros
    • Three different seafood recipes
    • Light pâté texture
    • Single-meal portions
    • Natural source of omega fatty acids
    • 100% grain-free
    Cons
    • Pungent fish odor
    • Expensive

    7. Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Wet Canned Cat Food

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

    First-listed ingredients Chicken, turkey, chicken liver
    Crude Protein 10%
    Caloric Content 193 kcal/can

    With cage-free chicken as the first ingredient and a 10% crude protein content, the Instinct Original canned cat food is packed with the high-quality protein that your feline needs to thrive. The food is not only packed with 95% real meat, but it also contains healthy, real vegetables like peas and carrots. It is 100% free from grains like wheat, corn, and soy, and it is free from by-product meals and artificial colors or preservatives. The food contains a natural source of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and it is a great additional source of hydration for your feline.

    A few customers reported that the food had a somewhat runny consistency that their cats did not enjoy, and there were large chunks of carrots that their cats would not eat.

    Pros
    • Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient
    • Packed with 95% real meat
    • Grain-free recipe
    • Added healthy vegetables
    • Free from by-product meals and artificial colors or preservatives
    Cons
    • Runny consistency
    • Contains chunks of vegetables

    Related Read: 10 Best Wet, Canned & Soft Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks


    8. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken dry cat food

    First-listed ingredients Deboned chicken, chicken meal, pea protein
    Crude Protein 40%
    Caloric Content 443 kcal/cup

    The Wilderness Chicken Recipe dry food from Blue Buffalo is loaded with 40% minimum protein, coming primarily from real, deboned chicken. The food is grain-free and made without poultry by-products or artificial flavors or preservatives, and it is loaded with healthy carbohydrates like peas and potatoes. We love the formula’s added “LifeSource Bits,” a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help support immune function and a healthy oxidative balance. It’s also packed with natural essential omega fatty acids that will help promote healthy skin and coat.

    The fat content is a bit higher than we’d like at 18%, and this food is comparatively expensive. Plus, some customers reported that it caused their cats to have some nausea and vomiting.

    Pros
    • Grain-free recipe
    • Contains real, deboned chicken
    • Free from poultry by-products or artificial flavors or preservatives
    • Added LifeSource bits
    • Loaded with healthy carbohydrates
    Cons
    • Comparatively high-fat content
    • Expensive

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

     

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

    First-listed ingredients Deboned turkey, turkey meal, chicken meal
    Crude Protein 40%
    Caloric Content 395 kcal/cup

    The American Journey Turkey and Chicken blend dry cat food contains real, deboned turkey as the first listed ingredient, with a 40% protein content overall to help fuel your cat’s active lifestyle. It also contains deboned chicken and healthy fruits and vegetables, including peas, spinach, blueberries, and apples. It is 100% grain-free. The included antioxidants will help boost your cat’s immune system, and there’s taurine for healthy eyes and cardiovascular system and natural omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat. On top of all that, the food is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    Many customers reported that their cats would simply not eat this food, and the 15% fat is a little high for our liking. Also, the kibble size is rather inconsistent, which makes it difficult for older felines to eat.

    Pros
    • Contains real turkey as the first listed ingredient
    • Loaded with healthy fruits and vegetables
    • 100% grain-free
    • Added antioxidants, taurine, and omega fatty acids
    • Free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
    Cons
    • Slightly high-fat content
    • Inconsistent kibble size

    10. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain dry cat food

    First-listed ingredients Chicken meal, peas, sweet potatoes
    Crude Protein 42%
    Caloric Content 390 kcal/cup

    Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain dry cat food is packed with novel proteins, including roasted venison and smoked salmon, and chicken meal is the first ingredient for an overall protein content of 42%. The recipe is 100% grain-free, but it contains highly digestible peas and potatoes for the carb-fueled energy that your cat needs. The food contains natural antioxidants from the included blueberries, with dried chicory root for prebiotic support to promote healthy digestion. The essential minerals are chelated to optimize their absorption, and the food contains natural omega fatty acids for great skin and coat health.

    This food contains peas and sweet potatoes as the first and second ingredients, which is disappointing. Many customers report that the food crumbles easily and leaves inedible powder at the bottom of the bag.

    Pros
    • Packed with novel proteins (bison and smoked salmon)
    • 100% grain-free recipe
    • Highly digestible carbohydrates
    • Contains natural antioxidants sources
    • Chelated minerals for optimum absorption
    Cons
    • Vegetables in two of the first three ingredients
    • Kibble crumbles easily

    Related Read: Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food in 2021

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    Buyer’s Guide

    We all want our cats to be as healthy as possible, and good health begins with high-quality food free from unnecessary ingredients. However, choosing the right food for your feline can be more difficult than it sounds, which is why there are so many ingredients to take into consideration. That said, there are a few key factors to look at that can make your decision far easier.

    Ingredients

    Naturally, the first thing to consider is the ingredient list on the food that you’re considering. Since cats are obligate carnivores, you want the food to have a high protein content — around 40% is ideal— and this should come largely from animal sources. The problem is that protein percentages can be somewhat deceptive because many foods manufacturers add protein from vegetable sources, which are not ideal for your feline. The best way to see where most of the protein content is coming from is by looking at the first-listed ingredients.

    Ingredients are typically listed in order of their concentration in the food. This means that the first ingredient will be the most prevalent in the recipe, and the last will have the least concentration. If the first ingredient or preferably, the first three ingredients are animal-based, you can be sure that the majority of the overall protein content comes from animals.

    british short hair cat eating
    Image Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

    Nutrition

    The nutritional label is another important place to assess the quality of the food that you’re buying. Here, you can check the overall balance of essential nutrients, such as protein, fat, and carbs, and assess what’s best for your cat. This label will also tell you the overall content of other important nutrients, like taurine, fiber, and fatty acids.

    Filler ingredients and by-products

    Ideally, you’ll want to give your feline grain-free food. This is because they are obligate carnivores and do not need grains at all in their diet. The inclusion of these can cause problems, obesity being just one. Grain-free foods should still contain carbs, though, and these are usually in the form of healthy, easily digestible vegetables like potatoes, peas, and carrots.

    Meat by-products should also be avoided whenever possible. While these by-products can still contain a high concentration of essential nutrients, quality control is a real issue. Animal by-products can potentially contain any number of parts from many different animals, so you simply cannot know if the by-product contains nutritious parts of the animal, such as the liver or kidneys, or far less nutritious parts, like feet or skin.

    cat eating food at home
    Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

    Dry food vs. wet food

    Another major consideration when choosing premium food for your feline is whether to go for wet food or dry food. Both have pros and cons, so it’s easy to get confused. Dry food is generally less expensive, easier to store, and highly convenient, making it the best option for most people. It can also help maintain dental hygiene in your feline. Wet food, on the other hand, contains a great deal of moisture, so it can give your cat a large percentage of their daily hydration requirements and is more “meaty” looking and tasting. It is expensive, though, and cannot be stored for long once the tin is opened.

    The best option is a mix of wet and dry food, either fed in separate meals or combined.

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    Conclusion

    All these foods are great premium choices for your feline, but the fresh cat food from Smalls is our overall best premium cat food pick. The food is made with real chicken, is free from by-products, artificial colors, and preservatives, and instead, is packed with healthy, raw ingredients that your cat will love.

    The ACANA Homestead Harvest dry cat food is the best premium cat food for the money. The food contains high-quality protein, DHA, and EPA to help support heart health and eyesight, is packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and is free from filler ingredients and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    Since good nutrition is such a vital part of your cat’s overall quality of life, it can be stressful to choose the right food for your feline. We hope that our in-depth reviews have helped somewhat, so you can find the best food possible for your feline friend!


    Featured Image Credit: Smalls.com