There seems to be a lot of debate around whether cats should eat grains or not. Some people are in full support of cats eating grains. There exists another set of cat lovers who detest the idea of giving grains to cats. Many people have said that feeding grains to cats will harm them in the long run. But what is the correct stance? Can cats eat grain?
Can Cats Eat Grain?- What do the Veterinarians Recommend?
To answer the question ‘can cats eat grain’, we have to turn to experts for answers. So what do the veterinarians recommend as to the question of whether cats can eat grains?
The summary is that there is no single consensus amongst veterinarians as to whether grains are harmful to cats or not. Some veterinarians fully support feeding cats with grains without having to take any necessary precautions. For instance, the Clinical Nutrition Center located at Tufts University clearly states that there is no verifiable evidence pointing to the fact that grains pose any harm to cats or dogs.
3 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods- Quick Review (full review later)
Rich in nutrients Plant & animal nutrients Dry meal Inexpensive
What Do Veterinarians Recommend Continued…
Other veterinarians support grain food use, although they recommend you use it sparingly and in measured quantities.
However, several veterinarians strongly advise against the use of grains in planning cat meals. Many believe that grains in food bring about cats developing various allergies, including gastrointestinal issues and skin irritations.
So, why are there differing opinions and views even amongst practitioners and experts? Can cats eat grain?
Just as humans, animals need a decent supply of different food classes to maintain good health. Pets are not left out. To supply these nutrients, pet food companies have come up with processed supplemental meals. These supplements contain excesses of nutrients, and in the end, cats get an oversupply of carbohydrates in their food which they don’t need.
When these excess carbohydrates store up over time, they lead to the buildup of fat, and therefore an increase in the cat’s weight.
The Effects of Grains on Cats
We must understand both the benefits that grains offer as well as the downsides. This will further help us in providing answers to the question, “can cats eat grain?”
Benefits of Grains for Cats
Consuming grains poses a lot of benefits to cats. These include:
Supply of Carbohydrates
Grains are known to be a good supplier of carbohydrates, which are essential for cats
Supply of Fiber
Grains are one of the best food items rich in the supply of Fiber. Fiber is essential for the proper functioning of the cat’s digestive system. It helps clean the cat’s gastrointestinal tract of harmful toxins, leading to better and more seamless bowel movement.
Cat Shape and Body Structure
While carbohydrates help the functioning of the internal organs of cats, they are also very instrumental in helping form the external structure of your cat.
Thus, it would be best to feed your cat with supplements that help them achieve a reasonably robust and firm shape. Grains can provide exactly that.
Downsides of Feeding Grains to Cats
On the other hand, grains can cause several issues to cats. These include:
As discussed earlier, stored carbohydrates coming from grains can lead to a lot of weight gain.
Sensitive Skins and Irritations
When this happens, your cat can get quite restless and highly irritable.
While many attribute the allergies that cats develop to an excess of grains and carbohydrates, the truth is that grains only contribute a lesser amount of these allergies. Also, there are a few identifiable grain sources responsible. These allergies are caused more by protein-based food rather than by grains.
Different Types of Grains
When discussing grains, we should not blindly categorize them as being the same. For instance, some grains such as barley and rye contain gluten, while some other grains are gluten-free, including oats, corn, and rice.
One of the most popular sources of grains for cats and other pets is however wheat.
Wheat in Cat Food
Wheat is one of the “high-quality” carbohydrates. It is high in fiber content and helps to encourage digestive and other internal processes.
There is the misconception that wheat, being one of the grain items that contain gluten, causes allergies in cats. This is far from being the case. As we have made clear, these allergies are rare and are more commonly caused by proteins, not wheat.
Dry and Wet Food Grains
While choosing food grains for your cat, it is easy to get torn between dry or wet food items. Just as the name suggests, wet foods are those with some form of water content, while dry foods completely lack moisture.
There are different benefits to both. For instance, wet foods usually come in a little more variety than dry ones. Moist foods typically come in malleable textures and contain ingredients that your cat will get to love. Finally, it is quite easier to chew them.
On their part, dry cat meals are pretty convenient. Because they have much less moisture, they tend to come in larger quantities, which means that they are preferable from a cost perspective. Furthermore, they also last longer as no moisture will encourage bacterial growth.
However, when you are to choose, you should never be absolute. Never settle for just one; go for both. They have different strengths, and your cat needs to enjoy the best of both worlds.
You should note that cats are known to be neophiliacs, which means they prefer to try new things. They appear to get bored quickly when fed with the same diet ceaselessly. Thus, it would help if you mixed both types of meals in appreciable quantities and intervals.
Best Grain-free Cat Meals
Here, we profile some of the most popular cat food lines that are sure to provide nutrients to your cat.
Sheba is a pet food line from pet food conglomerate Mars Inc. While there are other products in the Sheba line, including Signature Broths and Treats, by far the most popular is Perfect Portions.
Perfect Portions is a primarily meat-based wet cat food. It does not contain any grains or starch, or plant proteins. This means that it is low in carbohydrates but contains a lot of protein.
Its chief protein product is whitefish, which essentially is a mixture of various species of fish. There are other meat ingredients which include tuna, chicken liver, and different chicken- byproducts.
It is cost-friendly.
Sheba perfect portions don’t contain a lot of carbohydrates.
It is low in plant-based produce.
Offers 6 different flavors.
Chicken and whitefish are the main meat ingredients.
Easy to use food trays- just snap, peel and serve.
Formulation suitable for all ages.
Crude protein 12%
The product could have come in even more variety.
The ingredients contained could have been more diverse.
Some compromised packaging of the cat food reported (damaged/bugs)
Another wet cat food, Purina Fancy Feast, is made by Nestlé-Purina, a food manufacturing giant. The Fancy Feast has chicken as its primary source of protein. There are, however, other sources of protein which include poultry liver and broth. The type of liver is not, however, specifically named.
Other ingredients also come from fish, although it is also unclear which type of fish. Then there are meat by-products. Others include natural flavors made from animal tissues.
The key nutrient in Purina Fancy Feast is protein, although we can say that the protein component is comparatively lower than the Sheba Perfect Portions. Then, it contains quite a decent amount of carbs and fats. Others include minerals and vitamins, although they are in sparing quantities.
Has a higher amount of carbs.
Much more balanced than close competitors.
Crude protein 12%.
#1 ingredients are cod and shrimp.
Offers 3 different seafood recipes in the pack.
It contains several artificial components that cannot be said to be entirely healthy for your cat.
The specific items used as ingredients are not clear.
Purina Beyond Grain Free seems to combine some of the features of both the Sheba Perfect Portions and the Purina Fancy Feast but in a dry meal.
It is mainly a protein product, and the primary source of protein is ocean whitefish mixed with eggs. Also, chicken is another ingredient in this dry meal. What makes this product different is that the fat in the chicken is removed.
The product goes further to add plant-based protein in the form of peas. Other plant ingredients in there include pea fiber, dried yeast, and dried potatoes. This means that there are more carbohydrates and a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals.
Rich in a variety of nutrients.
Features both plant and animal-based nutrients.
Dry meal, so there are advantages around cost management.
Free from artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.
In conclusion, there is no absolute answer to the question of whether can cats eat grain. Selecting the best meal for your cats can be tasking, but grain-Free meals are healthy for your cats and can be a great choice.
In this article we discuss the problem with having grain in cat food and we review the best grain free cat foods of 2021.
Cats are Obligate Carnivores, meaning they have evolved to eat meat to survive. A cats digestive system is not set up to digest plants, just as a cow’s digestive system is not configured to eat meat! We delve into what is best for cats in this article.
Cat Food Advisor looked at the features and flaws of a selection of grain free cat foods. Our aim is to assist our viewers with making the best choices for their pets, saving them time and ensuring their cats health is looked after.
Table: Quick Review of the Best Grain-Free Cat Food of 2021
This table provides a quick overview of the best grain free cat foods of 2021. Below this table we discuss grain free cat food and provide full reviews of each product.
Whitefish, peas & chicken meal Protein 32% No by-product meat
The Natural Diet of Cats
Cats are one of the most successful carnivores of the world. The wild version of your friendly feline pets, are true survivors, adapted as stealth hunters of small prey- hunting and consuming rodents, lizards, birds, insects, and frogs.
Everything cats require for a balance nutritious diet comes from the meat, bone, skin, and organs of these creatures.
The Necessity for Protein in a Cat’s Diet
One of the main health benefits of grain free cat food is a cat’s reliance on protein. They require plenty of it, and the best digestible form of protein cats can get is from meat. In the wild, cats do not consume large amounts of carbohydrates. They have evolved to only require small amounts, which they can also get from meat.
An Overload of Carbohydrates is Unhealthy for Cats
The trouble with grain and other starchy plant ingredients in many of the commercial cat foods, is that they are overloaded with an excess of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are difficult for a true carnivore to digest. This is because cats do not produce the salivary amylase enzyme needed to break down food containing high levels of starch.
A high consumption of carbohydrates is harmful to a cat’s health and should be avoided where possible.
Commercial cat foods commonly include grained fillers such as wheat, barley, rice, corn, and/or soy. This is particularly more evident with dry cat foods than wet.
3 Benefits of Grain Free Cat Food
Shiny Lustrous Looking Coat
Cats with sensitive skin and intolerances will greatly benefit from a grain free cat food, because foods with grains have been linked with allergies that cause skin problems. Itchy flaky skin will result in anxiety and scratching. A cat with allergies will readily have a fur coat that loses its luster.
Settled and Easier Digestion
A digestive system evolved to digest meat, will have challenges when processing excessive grains. Unsettled digestion can lead to diarrhea and inefficient uptake of nutrients. An unsatiated cat will want to eat more, as its body will be craving nutrients.
Trim Healthy Weight
Cats eating too much carbohydrate are prone to putting on weight, especially if they are inactive cats. Obese cats can often become diabetic cats. A grain free food will be a step in the right direction for healthy weight management of cats.
What Cat Owners Should Know About the Best Grain-Free Cat Foods
Buying a nutritious grain free cat food that is healthy, balanced and providing the full spectrum of nutrients has challenges. Not all grain-free cat food meets the needs of cats.
Some manufacturers remove the natural carbohydrate elements from their food as well as replicate nutrients usually gained from meat, such as the essential amino acid- Taurine (* refer to note at the bottom of this article). They do this by adding supplements. However, replacing nutrients with supplements does not always benefit cats and can lead to similar problems with digestion and allergies.
A decent grain free diet needs to provide cats with all the nutrition crucial for healthy bodily function and growth.
The food needs a broad range of vitamins and minerals; fats; some carbohydrates; and most importantly high levels of meat proteins. There should be no carb replacements added.
What to Look for in a Quality Grain Free Cat Food
The best grain free cat food will have a high level of protein from a quality meat. Look for food with real meat as its number one ingredient, as opposed to meat by-products.
Cats require at least two grams of protein per pound of healthy body weight in the number of calories they consume each day. Seek cat foods with at least 25% protein.
Seek products with natural ingredients, rather than synthetic- preferably organic, chemical free, no artificial flavor/color/preservatives and non GMO.
If starchy plant-based foods are included, ensure that they are listed lower down on the ingredients list, and preferably in the form of vegetables, rather than grains.
Best Grain Free Cat Foods of 2021 Reviews
Cat Food Advisor has researched each of the following products to provide viewers with an unbiased review on each.
Taste of the wild is a very high protein, premium quality dry cat food. A grain-free product, made up of real meat.
The main ingredients in this dry food are chicken meal, peas and sweet potato. Smoked salmon and roasted venison are also included in lesser amounts. A quality food rich in proteins and amino acids beneficial for muscle development.
Highly digestible nutrients and broad spectrum of probiotics with millions of living beneficial gut bacteria for a healthy gastrointestinal tract and to support a healthy immune system.
Taurine, an amino acid essential for healthy heart and vision is plentiful, as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that ensure a healthy coat and skin.
The recipe includes vitamins and minerals for balanced nutrition. No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
Taste of the Wild is a family run business their product being made in USA. The food prepared by the company is scientifically advanced food and ensures safety protocols.
1st ingredient chicken meal
Adequate amino acids including Taurine
High protein at 42% for muscle development and body function.
Rich in antioxidants
Abundance of living healthy gut bacteria.
No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
Made in USA (ingredients from around the world)
Some customers say the food doesn’t agree with their cats
Advertises Venison & Salmon- these are minor ingredients
Blue Buffalo Wilderness is a high protein (40%), grain free dry cat food suitable for adult cats.
The first ingredients are deboned chicken and chicken meal with no by-product meat ingredients. Having a high real meat content ensures adequate amino acids, especially Taurine– essential for heart and eye health (*see note at bottom of article).
Peas and sweet potatoes are used as healthier carbohydrates (as opposed to grains) providing energy for active cats. An inclusion of Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids for healthy fur and skin.
The recipe is based on a formula containing life source bits. A combination of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants selected by veterinarians for overall immune system health.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness is a ‘natural’ cat food. The formula does not contain artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, soy, corn, or wheat.
Very high protein 40%
Number One ingredient is real chicken meat, then turkey
No grain (uses sweet potato and peas for carbohydrates)
No artificial color, flavor or preservatives
Omega -3 and -6 from fish meal
Some customers say it gives their cats urine crystals causing urinary issues
Purina one natural is not strictly grain-free. Its main ingredient is corn, then real chicken meat.
Advertised as a low PH low magnesium recipe, Purina is better suited for urinary health. It offers an antioxidant blend for immune support. The company promotes their Purina ONE natural as veterinarian recommended.
Crude protein at 31% with sufficient Taurine (*amino acid essential for cat’s heart health and vision) and Omega -6 fatty acid for healthy skin and coat. No artificial flavors or colors included; nor meat by-products.
Purina ONE Natural cat food is presented in small crunchy kibble in either a 7lb or 14lb bag. The kibble can assist with plaque control by keeping teeth clean.
Crunchy small kibble
Grain free, but does use corn as first ingredient
Chicken meat with crude protein 31%
Low PH, low magnesium beneficial to urinary health
Corn being first ingredient as opposed to real meat
Wellness Core NaturalGrain-free dry cat food is our number one picks from our selection of best grain free cat foods of 2021. Its main ingredients are real meat- turkey and chicken. The overall meat percentage is 65% of the product- which is high and very suitable for carnivore cats.
Wellness Core has no wheat, corn, soy or rice and all ingredients are free from GMO. Wellness Core offer wet cat food as well as dry.
The nutrient packed recipe has been well formulated to provide 100% nutrition for whole body health. Omegas from salmon oil and flax seed for healthy skin and coat, probiotics, prebiotics and antioxidants for gut and immune health; and a range of minerals and vitamins for strong teeth, healthy eyes and urinary health support.
The company manufactures their product in USA using globally sourced ingredients. Wellness CORE presents themselves as a company who works closely with vets, nutritionists and scientists, to create each diet to deliver everything cat needs to thrive, for a lifetime.
Natural grain free ingredients
65% turkey and chicken meat
High amount of crude protein 45%
Free from artificial preservatives, flavors and colors
Best Feline Friend (B.F.F) is grain-free cat food and a product of the Weruva brand. Being a fish-based meat product, it is rich in Omega fatty acids. The main ingredients are Tuna broth, tuna, and salmon, however, if our viewers are seeking other meats, then the company offers similar products with fish mixes with either chicken, lamb or duck.
At Cat Food Advisor, we do not favor recipes heavily weighted on fish for cats. Cooked fish as opposed to raw fish is better, as excessive raw fish destroys thiamine (an essential B vitamin).
Being presented as meat chunks in gravy will be very tempting for cats. The food comes in a pack of 8, 12 or 18 2.8oz pull-top tins. There is a larger tin option as well.
Grain-free, Gluten-free, & Carrageenan-free. No corn, wheat, or soy. B.F.F is free from any artificial colors & preservative offering 100% complete and balanced diet for adult cats, with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Crude protein is a little low at 9%. Cats are obligate carnivores and for complete health they require at least 25% of their food to be protein. We would suggest mixing this food with a high protein dry food or additional fresh raw meat.
Tuna and salmon fish as first ingredients.
No grain fillers.
Free from gluten, carrageenan, soy, and corn.
Balance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega fatty acids included.
Presented as chunks in gravy
Low protein 9%
Fish meat alone is not advisable, best altered with other meats
Blue Buffalo Freedom is a grain-free natural dry food for indoor adult cats. The main ingredient used in its recipe is whitefish, followed by peas and chicken meal. This dry cat food has been prepared with quality ingredients. It is free from gluten, soy, wheat, colors, and preservatives.
Blue freedom formulated the recipe to meet the requirements of indoor cats by including natural fiber and a balance of calories for healthy digestion and maintaining healthy body weight.
Blue freedom cat food is made up of using an exclusive blend of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. It is the best recommended by nutritionists and veterinarians for healthy oxidative balance and maintaining a good immune system.
The formula does not contain by-product meats with a sufficient crude protein level of 32%. The company promotes its product as one formulated by a team of veterinarians and animal nutritionists, combining their expertise on providing a quality cat food.
First ingredient being whitefish, followed by peas and chicken meal.
Formulated specifically for indoor adult cats.
Free from artificial preservatives and color.
High fiber, good for digestive health and hairballs
32% protein largely from meat, great for muscle development
Balance of minerals and vitamins for healthy bones
Merrick Purrfect Bistro is gluten-free dry cat food consisting of deboned chicken as its first ingredient, followed by and sweet potato. We like that it has a good balance of fats, protein and carbohydrates suitable for felines. Crude protein is 32%, which is more than sufficient for cats. Merricks dry cat food is enriched with Omega fatty acids, great for healthy skin and coat.
The company offers other grain-free dry cat food recipes such as high fiber hairball control recipe, and a salmon-based recipe. They also have a grain-free kitten kibble and a selection of wet cat foods.
The recipe is free from gluten, grain, preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors. The natural fiber is added into the recipe for management of hairballs. Minerals, antioxidants, vitamins, and probiotics are also fortified in the food for strong bones, teeth and to support the immune system.
The product is lower in calories when compared to other grain foods. This in conjunction with low carbohydrates and high fiber help with weight management, particularly with indoor adult cats.
Natural ingredients only
Omega -3 and -6 for healthy skin and coat
#1 ingredient being deboned chicken high in protein (32%)
No fillers such as wheat, soy or corn.
High fibre to help with hairballs and weight management
Lower in calories, suitable for indoor cat weight management
Free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
Natural balance is grain-free dry cat food with salmon and chickpeas as its first ingredients. of salmon and green peas.
The formulation of the recipe provides a 100% nutrition for adult indoor cats. Having sufficient Omega fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin, vitamins and minerals for strong bones and teeth, and antioxidants to support immune health.
The salmon meat contributes to the 30% crude protein level and provides essential amino acids for cats.
This grain-free cat food contains prebiotic fiber for healthy digestion and easy litter box clean-up. It helps with hairball control and promotes a functional digestive system.
Natural balance does not include soy, wheat, or corn. It does include peas and potatoes for carbohydrates.
It is a healthy and potent choice and earned its inclusion to the Best Grain Free Cat Foods of 2021 list.
High protein at 30%
Contains real salmon meat as its #1 ingredient
Balanced nutrition with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega fatty acids
Formulated for adult indoor cats
High in fibre for hairball control and better digestion
No meat by-products
Some customers are unhappy with the presentation and quality of the product
Concluding Our Reviews on the Best Grain Free Cat Foods
Of course, there are many other grain free cat foods available on the market. The products we selected for our best grain free cat foods of 2021 ticked most of the boxes when looking to provide complete grain free nutrition for felines.
We have reviewed other cat food products. You may be interested in checking out the following reviews:
Taurine– ‘An Essential Amino Acid that is found in animal-based meat proteins and animal organs. It is essential for vision, digestion, heart health, pregnancy, and fetal development, and for healthy immune system. Taurine is a vital amino acid required by cats. Fortunately, taurine can be synthesized from vegan sources.’
Please contact us with questions re our Best Grain Free Cat Foods of 2021 article.