In the wild, cats eat whole animals raw -- and that's pretty much all they eat. Many pet owners, and some veterinarians, say it's best to feed your cat raw food to mimic that wild diet.
Nature's Logic Canine and Feline Frozen Food -- Chicken (Est. $2.50 for a 5.5-oz. can) is as close to wild as you can get, reviews say. It uses USDA-approved meats, organs and eggs (the same stuff humans eat), with tiny amounts of fruits and veggies for natural vitamins and minerals. It's all ground up and shaped into easy-to-serve frozen patties.
It seems expensive -- but without any unnecessary carb fillers, a little Nature's Logic raw food goes a long way. At about $2 per day for the average cat, the frozen chicken food actually costs less per feeding than a premium canned food like Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe (Est. $1.65 for a 5.5-oz. can). Nature's Logic's other frozen varieties are a little pricier, including beef, rabbit and venison.
Unlike some competitors, Nature's Logic doesn't pressure-pasteurize its raw food. The company says that would kill good bacteria along with the bad. The American Veterinary Medical Association discourages feeding pets raw animal protein that's not pasteurized or otherwise treated to kill bacteria, but some vets say this isn't a problem: Veterinarian Lisa Pierson (who makes her own homemade raw food for her cats) recommends Nature's Logic as one of her favorite commercial raw foods.
Feline's Pride Chicken Formula (Est. $35 for 5 lbs. and up) is another top frozen raw cat food. The food balances raw meat (chicken, in this flavor) with finely ground bone, organs (chicken liver, gizzard and heart), along with some organic egg yolk, psyllium powder and added vitamins and minerals to make a complete, balanced, everyday diet for your cat. Feline's Pride says that 40 to 70 percent of its foods consist of "organic meats that are humanely raised in our immediate area" in Florida. Other varieties include turkey, duck, rabbit and Cornish hen.
"It's not easy finding premade raw foods that are up to snuff," writes Anne Jablonski, who runs CatNutrition.org, a site dedicated to those interested in making cat food themselves. However, she adds that Feline's Pride is one of her favorites. It's also rather hard to find Feline's Pride, as there are few local retailers or distributors; the best bet is direct from the company.
Despite a recall, most consider Feline's Pride's safety record to be rather good. In 2010, Feline's Pride recalled some of its raw chicken cat food due to salmonella contamination. Two weeks after the first lots were recalled, neither Feline's Pride nor the Food and Drug Administration had received any reports of salmonella infection related to the food. A search of the FDA's online recall database shows no further recalls for Feline's Pride.
The company's website says that its products are "manufactured under world class clean room conditions" and are "reviewed periodically by respected laboratories for consistency, purity, excellence, and nutritional content." Like Nature's Logic, Feline's Pride does not pressure-pasteurize its raw food to kill harmful germs.
The Honest Kitchen Grace (Est. $30 for a 2-lb. box) isn't frozen. It's sold as dehydrated granules, which you mix with water to make a moist cat food. It costs less per feeding than Nature's Logic raw: about 90 cents to $1.80 per day for the average cat, The Honest Kitchen says.
It's starchier than Nature's Logic, though. Turkey, eggs, pumpkin and potatoes lead the ingredient list, adding up to about 10 percent calories from carbs -- acceptable, Pierson says. However, she doesn't recommend the Prowl flavor as it's even higher in carbs.
It's not quite raw, either. The Honest Kitchen steams its meats and fish to kill pathogens before dehydrating them. It also tests ingredients -- and each batch of finished food -- for germs like salmonella and E. coli. Still, in 2013, The Honest Kitchen recalled some lots of its dehydrated dog food -- but not its cat food -- after its parsley supplier recalled a shipment due to possible salmonella contamination. Although The Honest Kitchen didn't spot any traces of salmonella in its product testing, it recalled the food anyway. It also dropped that parsley supplier and now steams all greens to kill pathogens (it was already steaming its meats and fish).
Like Nature's Logic, The Honest Kitchen uses only high-quality ingredients. Both are made in U.S. human food factories, and both have signed the Pledge to Quality and Origin at Susan Thixton's website, TruthAboutPetFood.com, disclosing every ingredient and its source.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Reviewed Cat Food: From budget friendly supermarket pate to premium varieties that rival what you'd feed your family, we name top choices and explain what you should look for in a quality cat food.
Cat Food Ingredients: While reviews help, reading the label can help an educated cat-food shopper find the best choices. Here's what to look for.
Best Canned Cat Food: Canned cat foods provide nutrition and hydration. These are the ones that experts and cat owners say are tops.
Best Dry Cat Food: Dry cat kibble is more convenient, and often lower in cost, than feeding canned or raw foods. These are the ones that provide the meat that your cats need.
Buying Guide: Not sure where to start to find the best cat food for your pet and your budget? Our editors explain the top considerations.
Our Sources: These are the reviews and other sources we consulted to find the best-rated cat foods of all types. They are ranked in the order of their expertise and helpfulness.