Nowadays, you can find many different kinds of cat food at your local pet store—and it can be overwhelming with all the choices. It seems like a new type of diet is always popping up, and it’s easy to get caught up in following the latest specialty diets and wanting the best for your precious cat.
Our guide is here to help you navigate the world of cat food and understand the basics without getting swept up in flashy trends. We have reviews of some of the best cat foods and recipes recommended by our veterinarians.
A Glance at Our Top Picks (2023 Update)
|Smalls Ground Bird Cat Food||
||Click to Save 40%|
|Purina Beyond Simply White Meat Chicken||
|The Honest Kitchen Caté Grain-Free Turkey||
|Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Grains Real Salmon||
|Made by Nacho Cage-Free Minced Chicken Recipe With Bone Broth||
The 9 Best Vet-Recommended Cat Foods
1. Smalls Ground Bird Fresh Cat Food Subscription Service– Best Overall
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken liver, green beans, peas|
|Protein content:||55% (dry matter basis)|
|Fat content:||30% (dry matter basis)|
Smalls produces high-quality, human-grade cat food, so it is no surprise that one of its most popular recipes, the Ground Bird Cat Food, is our best overall choice for vet-recommended cat food. This recipe is made with deboned chicken and other natural whole foods, including green beans, peas, and kale.
The recipe is prepared with USDA-certified, humanely harvested, and sustainably-sourced ingredients, and it’s slow-cooked to preserve nutrients and flavors. It’s suitable for all life stages and also comes in a smoother texture, so senior cats that have difficulty chewing can still enjoy it.
The quality of the ingredients and cooking process makes Smalls the best overall vet-recommended cat food. The only thing to be mindful of is being on top of your deliveries, as Smalls cat food isn’t sold in stores. It must be ordered online and can take several days to be shipped to your home.
2. Purina Beyond Simply White Meat Chicken & Whole Oatmeal Recipe – Budget Buy
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, whole barley, rice|
Buying high-quality cat food doesn’t always have to cost a fortune. This Purina Beyond cat food is the best vet-recommended cat food for the money and a good value. It lists real white meat chicken as the first ingredient and omits any corn, wheat, soy, and poultry by-product meal. You’ll also find other nutritious whole foods, like apples, carrots, and barley.
This cat food also has a limited-ingredient formula, so it’s a considerable choice for cats with sensitive stomachs. However, some cats may have difficulty eating it because the kibble size is slightly larger than average. So, it may be difficult for smaller cats and senior cats to chew.
3. The Honest Kitchen Caté Grain-Free Turkey Pate Wet Cat Food
|Main ingredients:||Turkey, turkey broth, turkey liver, pumpkin|
|Protein content:||50% (dry matter basis)|
|Fat content:||22% (dry matter basis)|
The Honest Kitchen is a reputable premium pet food brand that makes human-grade pet food. All batches of this food are prepared in a human food facility and made with 100% natural, ethically sourced ingredients. The recipe uses cage-free turkey and other nutritious whole foods, like pumpkin, carrots, and blueberries. Turkey is the first ingredient and the only animal protein, so it’s a suitable option for any cats with beef or chicken allergies.
With The Honest Kitchen’s rigorous quality assurance and pursuit of using high-quality ingredients, it’s no surprise that this brand produces relatively expensive cat food. However, the costs are pretty justifiable, and it’s worth considering, especially if you have a cat with a sensitive stomach.
4. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Grains Real Salmon + Brown Rice Recipe
|Main ingredients:||Deboned salmon, chicken meal, turkey meal, brown rice|
Merrick cat food is highly nutritious, and your cat may experience many health benefits from eating it. The first ingredient is real salmon, which is a great source of omega fatty acids that promote healthy skin and coat. This recipe is also fortified with antioxidants to support the immune system and contains ancient grains and probiotics for healthy digestion.
The recipe is also free of any artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Every batch is also made in Merrick’s own company kitchen in Texas.
Just keep in mind that while this recipe only lists salmon in its name, it contains chicken and egg products. So, it’s not an alternative option for cats with chicken allergies.
5. Made by Nacho Cage-Free Minced Chicken Recipe With Bone Broth
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken bone broth, turkey bone broth, chicken liver|
This Made by Nacho recipe is an excellent choice for poultry lovers. Chicken is the first ingredient, and it also contains turkey and duck. You’ll find other nutritious natural ingredients that are easily digestible, like pumpkin and oatmeal.
This meal is also enriched with taurine, DHA, prebiotics, and omega fatty acids. The flavorful broth is tasty for cats and helps them stay hydrated.
The texture of this meal is chunky, and the pieces of meat are large cuts. So, while it’s wet food, it may be difficult for older cats with dental concerns to eat.
6. Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Spoonless Singles White Fish & Tuna Entrée Pate Adult Cat Food
|Main ingredients:||Whitefish, chicken, fish broth, chicken liver|
|Protein content:||43% (dry matter basis)|
|Fat content:||11% (dry matter basis)|
This Blue Buffalo cat food comes in convenient packaging that makes feeding your cat simple and mess-free. It has a pate texture, and you can use the attached utensil to chop and mix the pate to get to your cat’s preferred consistency.
Whitefish is the first ingredient, and the ingredient list contains other natural ingredients, like tuna, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. The recipe is enriched with healthy vitamins and minerals to support the immune system and maintain muscle mass.
While the recipe name only lists whitefish and tuna, it actually contains a lot of chicken, as chicken and chicken liver are listed as some of the main ingredients. So, this recipe isn’t suitable for cats with chicken allergies.
7. American Journey Senior Pate Chicken Recipe
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, fish|
A cat’s nutritional needs change as it enters its senior years. This American Journey cat food is made with the specific needs of older cats in mind. It has a high-moisture, smooth pate that’s easy to eat and digest, and it helps older cats stay hydrated.
The formula contains antioxidants to support the immune system and DHA and taurine to support cognitive and heart health. It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin to help maintain joint and mobility health.
The only issue with this meal is that it’s a bit unclear as to what kind of seafood is included in it. The ingredient list contains fish, but it doesn’t specify what kind it is, so it’s not recommended for cats that are sensitive or allergic to seafood.
8. CANIDAE Balanced Bowl Chicken & Pumpkin Recipe in Gravy
|Main ingredients:||Chicken broth, chicken, water, pumpkin|
|Protein content:||50% (dry matter basis)|
|Fat content:||9% (dry matter basis)|
This CANIDAE cat food contains high-quality, natural ingredients. Chicken broth and chicken are the first ingredients, and it also contains pumpkin, tuna, and brown rice. It can be served as a standalone meal or as a meal topper. The gravy helps cats stay hydrated.
While many cats enjoy eating this food, it’s relatively expensive. So, it’s often used in smaller quantities as a meal topper instead of a whole meal. It also contains a good amount of thickeners, like guar gum, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum. So, some cats may not enjoy the flavor.
9. ACANA Indoor Entrée Adult Dry Cat Food
|Main ingredients:||Deboned chicken, chicken meal, herring meal, oatmeal|
This ACANA recipe is packed with protein and includes a blend of chicken, herring, turkey, and rabbit. This flavorful blend may attract picky cats as it’s filled with small prey animals that cats prefer to eat.
The recipe contains a thoughtful balance of protein and fats, along with L-carnitine, to help indoor cats maintain a healthy weight. Along with supporting healthy weight, it can help with hairball control and healthy digestion. It also contains EPA and DHA to support eye health.
While this cat food is suitable for adult cats, it may be difficult for smaller cats or older cats to eat because the kibble can be a little tougher to chew.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Vet-Recommended Cat Foods
Having many different options can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. You’ll have a much easier time finding cat food that meets your cat’s specific needs, but it can feel overwhelming researching each one.
Here are some key factors that will help you stay on track to finding suitable options for your unique cat.
Dry vs Wet Cat Food
There are advantages and disadvantages to both dry and wet cat food. Dry cat food has a longer shelf life and can be left out longer than wet food. However, dehydration is fairly common in cats, so cat owners have to be extra mindful that their cats are drinking enough water if their cats only eat dry food.
Wet cat food is a great option for cats that can be finicky with drinking water from a bowl or fountain. It’s also a good option for senior cats that are having trouble with chewing hard or crunchy textures. However, it can’t be left out in a bowl for too long, so you’ll have to keep a tighter feeding schedule.
Cat food brands will use a variety of meats to add protein to their food. High-quality cat food will contain real cuts of animal meat or meat meal, while low-quality cat food will use animal by-product meals.
Animal by-product meals are ambiguous ingredients, and it’s difficult to determine if low-quality cuts of meat and organs are mixed inside.
Different brands make all kinds of specialty diets for cats. Common specialty diets include sensitive skin and coat, hairball control, and weight control. You can also find limited-ingredient diets that may be more suitable for cats with food allergies and sensitivities.
Grain-free diets are also becoming popular and more common. While cats are carnivores, it isn’t always necessary for them to switch over to grain-free cat food. Grain allergies are rare for cats, and they can digest more than 95% of starches.
Most healthy cats will be just fine with regular diets, as quality cat food will adhere to the AAFCO’s regulations for cat food. However, if you notice your cat experiencing chronic health issues, consult your veterinarian to see if a specialized diet can help.
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Out of our reviews, Smalls Ground Bird Cat Food is the best vet-recommended cat food because it contains high-quality ingredients. A healthy, budget-friendly option to consider is Purina Beyond Simply White Meat Chicken & Whole Oatmeal Recipe. If you’re really looking to spoil your cat, The Honest Kitchen Caté Grain-Free Turkey Pate Wet Cat Food has some of the cleanest ingredient lists. Lastly, Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Grains Real Salmon + Brown Rice Recipe is a considerable choice that’s packed with flavor and nutritious natural ingredients.