What’s the Best Grain-Free Cat Food?

Grain-free cat food is becoming increasingly popular based on the philosophy that our pets should be eating the closest thing to what they would be eating in the wild – and wild cats don’t eat all that much breakfast cereal. Nor are they super keen on rice or barley.

Cats have a strong primal ancestry, they are carnivorous animals that love to eat meat – nay, they HAVE to eat meat. Everything about them screams ‘meat lover’; their teeth, their predatory walk, the way they play, so why aren’t we feeding them meat?

Mostly because grain-based foods are cheaper – but if you’re reading this guide you’re unlikely to be the sort of person to shy away from spending a few cents extra on your beloved Mr. Shuffles.


Grain-Free Cat Food - A Buying Guide

  • Dry food has its place – it is convenient, for sure. However, it won’t clean your cat’s teeth (an oft-repeated myth) and too much carbohydrate can lead to a build up of plaque and tartar. Bear that in mind when choosing a grain-free brand – some such product lines have MORE carbohydrate than the dry food equivalent!
  • Try to buy grain-free cat food that lists MEAT first on the list of ingredients.
  • As with radio, the less ‘filler’ the better. More meat, less soy, less corn.
  • In a perfect world, you’d avoid carrageenan. In cat food it’s used as a thickener, and it’s best avoided. That might not be practical but you can try.
  • Cats love fish, but avoid fish-based cat food as it’s likely to be laced with toxins.
  • Depending on your ethics, you might want to source food that contains no genetically-modified ingredients.

We’ve examined countless cat foods and believe these 5 to be the best on the market in terms of quality, healthfulness, and value-for-money.


Grain-Free Cat Food Comparison

5Wellness CORE Grain Free Dry12 lb$$$
4Blue Wilderness Dry12 lb$$
3Nature's Variety 'Instinct'12 lb$$
2Wellness Canned CORE5.5 oz (can)$$$
1Merrick Before Grain11.1 lb$

 Our Top 5 Grain Free Cat Food Picks!


#5. Wellness CORE Dry for Adult Cats, Original Fish and Fowl Recipe

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CORE is a very popular product in this market and it’s easy to see exactly why everyone loves it so much. You can really tell that this company cares about good quality meat and healthy cats.

They detail all of the extra effort they go through to produce the best grain free dry cat food they can, such as; keeping the protein high without including excess amounts of phosphorus and calcium (which can interfere with growth), and also lower ash levels because of the high quality meat they use.

Pros and Cons

  • Choose your bag size: 2-pound, 5.9 pound, or 12-pound
  • Contains no meat by-products like wheat or soy
  • No flavors or preservatives
  • Many cats get more energy and are less prone to illness
  • Some kitties develop fuller and shinier coats
  • Tastes so good some cats put on too much weight
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#4. Blue Wilderness Dry

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Again this is a very high rated product, from a company with an excellent reputation. Blue Wilderness pride themselves as a sensible alternative to a raw meat diet for cats. This is because the food contains dried versions of pure meat with no additives, preservatives or grain product. Further there are no meat by-products, and the formulation is intended as a precise blend of vitamins and minerals for your cat.

Note that this product it doesn’t only contain meat as the makers believe cats also benefit from a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, so it does also contain potatoes, oatmeal, and sweet potatoes. Not the best option for diabetic cats

Pros and Cons

  • Recommended by vets
  • Good for weight control
  • Shiny, silky coats
  • Very filling. Cats who eat this food don’t feel hungry only a few ours later because of the high amount of nutrition they are getting!
  • Cats have more energy
  • The chicken flavor is the most popular
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#3. Nature’s Variety ‘Instinct’ Turkey Meal Formula

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Instinct prides itself on providing nutritionally rich cat food with no filler or soy; they have an holistic approach to pet nutrition. This US-based company does not have the large customer base that the first two in this list do, but for those in the know this is one of the biggest names in town.

Top notch quality and attention to detail make this one of the best grain-free cat foods. Your cat will reach and maintain its ideal weight, its breath will improve, and there have even been reports of healthier skin and an end to stomach problems for cats who switched to Instinct. What more could you want as a cat-lover?

Pros and Cons

  • May provide relief from most food allergies, this is largely because it doesn’t contain the unhealthy substances in shop-bought cat food that aren’t meant for cat’s diets.
  • Very high in protein and low in carbohydrates
  • Healthier, livelier cats after only a short amount of time
  • Smooth and silky coat
  • Cats are left feeling full and satisfied
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#2. Wellness Canned, CORE Chicken/Turkey/Chicken Liver Recipe

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Not every cat owner (or every cat for that matter) prefers to go down the dried food route. Perhaps you are one of many who mix your cat’s diet between dried food and wet food? Either way, here is an excellent grain-free canned meat option for your cat. It contains 50% protein, which is among the highest you can find in cat foods on the market.

Pros and Cons

  • Grain-free nutrition for your cat, without excess calories and minerals
  • Balances mineral levels to aid in urinary tract health
  • Salmon Oil and Flaxseed helps maintain a healthy coat
  • Naturally-occurring micro-organisms promote a healthy digestive tract
  • Contains no meat by-products, wheat, corn, soy, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
  • Healthier, silkier coats
  • Cats are less prone to allergies and illness
  • Excellent for cats with diabetes
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#1. Merrick Before Grain #1 Chicken/Salmon Dry

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You could say we’ve saved the best till last here. It’s so popular that it’s often out of stock, even in the world’s largest online retailer…

It’s typically sold cheaper than the others on this list, which is partly why we’ve ranked it number 1. But if you think there must be a drop in quality, think again. This is a premium product through and through.

Pros and Cons

  • Meat is their number 1 ingredient
  • Made in the US
  • All meat is certified for human grade consumption so you know it’s high quality
  • Healthier and shinier coats
  • Cats are full of energy (maybe too full!)
  • So popular it sometimes runs out of stock (if the chicken is out, try the salmon, and vice versa)
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Concluding Thoughts

While grain free cat food is without a doubt more expensive than their shop-bought grainy alternatives, they are much better for you cat for a vast number of reasons.

Cats are carnivores; they are wired to want to eat meat. It’s what’s healthy for them and it’s what they enjoy, so it’s not a surprise that all of the cat food containing grain we have been feeding them for years is starting to cause problems in some cats, such as allergies, poor coats, or even diabetes.

It was recently found out that cats don’t actually possess the gene to taste sugar, so not only is it bad for them to have a sugary diet as a carnivore, but they aren’t even getting any enjoyment from it! So don’t waste any more time and get out and buy your grain-free cat food today.