Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe
Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe

Best canned cat food

Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe looks remarkably like a home-cooked stew for people. Experts say its chunks of butcher-quality meat are great for cats. It does contain veggies, but is grain free. Preservatives are all natural, and Spot's Stew is free of any controversial ingredients. The 3 oz. and 5.5 oz. cans are free from BPA.
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$19.54
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Spot's Stew for Cats, Wholesome Chicken, 5-1/2-Ounce, 12-Can
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Newman's Own Organics Chicken and Brown Rice
Newman's Own Organics Chicken and Brown Rice

Best organic cat food

Unlike other premium canned cat foods, Newman's Own Organics Chicken and Brown Rice is not grain free. However, quality is first rate and it is made using certified organic, "human-grade" ingredients. It does contain carrageenan, which worries some experts more than others, but the company's safety record is squeaky clean, the cans are BPA-free and all profits go to charity.
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$28.49
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Newman's Own Premium, Chicken and Brown Rice Formula for Cats, 5.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 24)
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New: $37.94 $28.49   
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Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula
Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula

Best-value canned cat food

Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula is a lot cheaper than other premium cat foods that meet reviewer approval, but that's because it includes more cost-cutting grain. That's offset by lots of high-quality meat and other ingredients, however. The company's safety record isn't as perfect as some, but it's responded by putting a comprehensive product testing program in place.
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$26.13
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Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Chicken, Salmon & Duck Formula Wet Cat Food, 6-Ounce Can (Pack of 24)
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New: $30.99 $26.13   
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Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner
Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner

Best supermarket canned cat food

With no byproducts and nothing artificial, Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner offers near-premium quality. The value is hard to beat as it sells for less than comparable foods. The quality is high enough that even experts who recommend against grains say that it's a good choice where cost is a concern. The food's safety record is excellent, as well.
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Est. 79 cents for a 5.5-oz. can Estimated Price
Orijen Cat and Kitten Formula
Orijen Cat and Kitten Formula

Best dry cat food

Although some experts say cats need wet food to stay hydrated, others have no problem with a high-quality dry food. Made from fresh meats, fish, eggs and produce, Orijen Cat and Kitten Formula's grain-free, natural ingredients make it the best dry cat food you can buy. The company has a good safety record and the food has never been recalled in North America.
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Orijen Grain-Free Dry Cat Food 15 lbs
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New: $107.12
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Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula

Best-value dry cat food

Unlike supermarket cat kibble -- which is usually a stew of corn, soy and byproducts -- Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula is free of all of the above. Meat is the main ingredient, which experts say is far better for cats. While it's pricier than low-quality kibble, Taste of the Wild is one of the least expensive grain-free dry cat foods you can buy.
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Finding great cat foods for every budget

In the wild your cat would get perfectly balanced, ideal nutrition, neatly wrapped into one small package: a mouse. The best commercial cat foods essentially try to replicate that delicate balance of proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Some do a surprisingly accurate job, critics say. However, caring cat owners need to be wary as lots of cat foods fall woefully short. That said, we found good, species appropriate cat foods at nearly every price point -- from 70-cent per can supermarket cat food to $40 bags of frozen gourmet duck for your cat.

Among cat foods, there are three main choices:

Canned cat food is the top choice of many experts. Among other things, it packs plenty of moisture. That's important for a cat's health as their lack of a natural thirst drive can lead some to become dangerously dehydrated. Canned foods -- at least the best ones -- also usually pack more meat and less starch than dry food.

Dry cat food is more convenient then canned, but some experts say dry-fed cats don't get enough moisture. Others say dry food works fine. Meat-rich dry cat foods with little or no grain are the critics' choice for carnivorous cats.

Raw cat food does the best job of impersonating prey. Raw meat and organs are ground up in exact proportions to give cats all the nutrients they need. Raw and near-raw (minimally processed) cat foods are sold frozen or in dehydrated form.

Vegetarian food for cats?

Some cat owners want to feed their cats vegetarian or vegan diets -- and some cat food companies manufacture them -- but this is very controversial. Cats evolved as obligate carnivores that eat other animals, and almost nothing else. Vegetarian cat food advocates agree that cats do need certain nutrients that plants don't have, but they say supplements can be added to vegetarian food to cover that. Some cat owners say they've fed vegetarian or even vegan food for years, and their cats are healthy. However, this evidence is entirely anecdotal and you may not have the same successful result if you try this on your own cat.

And the majority of veterinarians aren't sold on the idea. "For cats, it's really inappropriate. It goes against their physiology and isn't something I would recommend at all," Cailin Heinze, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and assistant professor of nutrition at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, tells WebMD.com. Without proper supplements, vegan and vegetarian cats can't get enough of certain amino and fatty acids, and it can be hard for them to get enough protein, all of which can lead to growth problems, eye problems, reproductive failure and life-threatening heart disorders.

"For me, it boils down to this question: 'Why?'" veterinarian Jennifer Coates -- herself a vegetarian -- writes in her nutrition blog for PetMD.com. "Why have an obligate carnivore as a pet if you are not willing to feed him or her meat?"

We agree. For best health and nutrition, the best guidance we found was to feed a diet that's species-appropriate -- and for a cat, that means meat, and lots of it. That's a characteristics of all the foods we name as the Best Reviewed or that are worth considering.

Finding the best cat food

Finding the best cat foods in every category comes down to evaluating each one based on the quality of its ingredients, safety (history of recalls, etc.) and value. Critics aren't shy about pointing out the foods that fall short. Our expert sources, including PetsumerReport.com, CatInfo.org, About.com and others, scrutinize cat food labels and closely follow cat food recall news. Cat owners posting at sites like Amazon.com, Chewy.com and elsewhere fill in the final pieces of the puzzle -- whether cats seem healthy while eating a certain food they enjoy, for instance, or whether they turn up their finicky noses at it. The result of that research and feedback are our picks as the Best Reviewed canned dry and raw cat foods.

Elsewhere in this report:

Cat Food Ingredients | Best Canned Cat Food | Best Dry Cat Food | Best Raw Cat Food | Buying Guide | Our Sources

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