Even though some experts point out that cats haven't evolved to digest grains well, some premium cat foods do include better-quality grains. Such foods cost less than grain-free foods but are still top quality, making them a good choice when cost is a consideration.
Like the top premium cat foods, Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (Est. $1.20 for a 6-oz. can) uses only high-grade meats, poultry and fish, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Natural Balance also runs its own in-house safety testing program, sampling each lot of food for nine different contaminants (E. coli, salmonella and more) before releasing it to stores.
Grains (oat bran and brown rice flour) come in fifth and sixth on the Indoor Cat Formula's ingredient label, after three kinds of meat and chicken broth. That's too much carbohydrate content for some experts. "Cats are strict carnivores" that can't use plant protein efficiently, points out veterinarian Lisa Pierson, a severe critic of commercial pet foods. "Less than 10 percent of a carnivore's calories should be derived from a carbohydrate source." According to Pierson's calculations, Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula gets 16 percent of its calories from carbs.
Still, other experts don't mind the grains in Natural Balance. One top reviewer -- usually just as critical as Pierson -- gives Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula her highest possible score. About.com's guide to cats, Franny Syufy, ranks Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula No. 1 on her list of the best canned cat foods. "It has a pleasant aroma, a nice paté consistency, and my test cats dive into it every time it is served," Syufy writes. Natural Balance became part of Del Monte Foods in May 2013. Though some pet owners expressed concern over this, as of the time of this report, food ingredients and the company's well-regarded product safety testing have not changed.
Felidae Cat and Kitten Formula has been rebranded as Canidae All Life Stages Formula (Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can) but retains the same ingredient lineup and is another good choice in this category. It's just as natural and high-quality as Natural Balance, but with more meat and less grain. It costs more than Natural Balance, though.