When top experts list the canned foods they'd feed their own cats, one brand pops up most: Halo. "One of the original 'homemade' cat foods, and still a favorite of many cats" -- including her own, says Franny Syufy, About.com's guide to cats.
Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken (*Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can) packs chunks of chicken, chicken liver and turkey into a broth rich with vegetables -- carrots, zucchini, green peas, yellow squash, green beans and celery -- and no grains. That's key, experts say, because cats haven't evolved to digest grain. "Looks like homemade, smells like homemade ... I wanted to taste it," writes one cat owner at OnlyNaturalPet.com.
Plenty of cat owners say their cats are crazy about Halo Spot's Stew, but -- cats being cats -- some turn up their finicky noses at the veggies. Some experts say cats don't need vegetables anyway; in the wild, cats basically eat nothing but other animals. But others like veggies as a natural source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants -- including the veterinarians and nutritionists at 1800PetMeds.com, who give Halo Spot's Stew their rare "Superior" rating.
Experts find plenty of grain-free runners up that they like almost as well, but offer some caveats. Weruva Paw Lickin' Chicken (*Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can) is little more than top-quality shredded chicken in gravy with added nutrients. It draws lots of raves. But one expert, veterinarian Lisa Pierson at CatInfo.org, reports that the carbohydrate content is too high for her to recommend it at this time. The culprit, most likely, is the thickeners in the gravy. In addition, Pierson notes that the high moisture content means that the food is even more expensive than it first appears on a dollars per calorie basis. The fish varieties that Weruva offers fare better nutritionally, but experts warn against making fish a diet staple.
Wysong Au Jus Chicken (*Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can) is basically just meat and organs, but without the added nutrients to make it a complete food. Merrick Cowboy Cookout (*Est. $1.40 for a 5.5-oz. can) crafts beef and liver into a nutritional profile that mimics a mouse, and Wellness Chicken Formula (*Est. $1.50 for a 5.5-oz. can) and Evo Cat and Kitten Food (*Est. $1.40 for a 5.5-oz. can) pack more fat and calories per can than Halo. But Merrick, Wellness and Evo all contain carrageenan, a thickener that some animal studies link to intestinal problems.