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Best Canned Cat Food

By: Carl Laron on June 15, 2018

Grain-free foods mimic a cat's diet

When experts list the top wet cat foods for cats, Ziwi Peak cat foods usually earn a recommendation. High quality ingredients and a spotless safety record are why. Though it's not been reviewed by every expert, it has been reviewed by some of the toughest ones. It makes the list of the best cat foods at Reviews.com, named one of the four best canned cat foods at FelineLiving.Net and is among the "first place" foods at the Natural Cat Care Blog. It is sourced from New Zealand, and varieties such as Ziwi Peak New Zealand Lamb Recipe (Est. $45 for 12 6.5 oz. cans) are made with high quality ingredients such as free-range, sustainably raised lamb. This wet cat food is exceptionally high in meat content (93 percent for the lamb variety), low in carbs (and absolutely no grains), and free of anything that's controversial.

It also enjoys good acceptance from cats and cat owners. More than 100 reviews of Ziwi Peak New Zealand Lamb Recipe can be found at Chewy, and it earns a rating of 4.3 stars. A number say that the limited ingredient list has been a boon to their cats with food allergies and other ailments. However, as is typical, a small handful say that their picky pussycats wouldn't touch the food. Several other varieties are also available, and all score equally as well.

If there's a drawback to Ziwi Peak, it's the price. The Lamb variety, along with Ziwi Peak Beef Recipe (Est. $45 for a case of 12 6.5 oz. cans) are the least expensive formulas. Others, with more exotic proteins such as venison and rabbit, are pricier still. If that's a concern, we found a number of foods that rate nearly as highly, but are a little easier on the pocketbook.

Nature's Logic is another top choice in canned cat foods. Like Ziwi Peak, it's one of the four top wet foods named by FelineLiving.net, and the rabbit variety is named the fifth best cat formula overall by CatFoodDB. In addition, Nature's Logic is one of a handful of manufacturers to sign a pledge sponsored by Truth About Pet Food to fully disclose the quality and origins of all ingredients.

While Nature's Logic is still somewhat pricey, it can be purchased for a little more than half the cost (per ounce) as Ziwi Peak. The least costly variety is Nature's Logic Feline Chicken Feast (Est. $45 for 24 5.5 oz. cans). On the plus side, Nature's Logic is made from all-natural, high-grade ingredients -- no synthetic anything. All nutrients come from real foods like blueberries and eggshells (just as cats would encounter in the wild). However, one expert who otherwise likes the food fusses a bit that a top ingredient is dried egg product, which is too nondescript, she says, to assure that its quality matches that of the other ingredients. In addition, while most cats seem to enjoy the food, we spotted more owner comments than with other top wet cat foods that say that their felines rejected it.

We also found some reviewer respect for Tiki Cat canned cat foods. It's named by Reviews.com as one of only a handful of cat food brands to have all its formulas pass its stringent benchmarks (Ziwi Peak, profiled above is another). "You want to try Tiki Cat's Luau Chicken With Egg instead of their Velvet Mousse Chicken & Wild Salmon? Go ahead: all of their 34 cat foods are great," the editors say. At CatFoodDB, the editors reach the same conclusion, naming Tiki Cat as the second best cat food brand overall (behind a non-traditional cat food maker that sells shelf-stable raw diets). While the editors single out the company's After Dark line for particular praise, they also say that "Overall, all Tiki Cat products scored well in our evaluations. This includes the Grill, Luau, Born Carnivore, Velvet Mousse and Aloha Friends branded products."

Among cat owners, we found the most feedback for Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consommé (Est. $19 for 12 2.8 oz. cans). It rates 4.5 stars at Chewy, based on more than 375 reviews. As is the case with cats and virtually all cat foods, some say that their furry friend won't touch the stuff, but the majority say that their cats either love it, or, in some cases, it's the only cat food that their pets eat eagerly.

Best-value wet cat food

Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula (Est. $35 for 24 6 oz. cans) isn't grain free, but the company uses only high-grade meats, poultry and fish, with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives to make this wet cat food. It's quite a bit less expensive than the cat foods listed above, and its safety record isn't quite as sterling. However, after being caught up in the 2007 pet food recalls, Natural Balance instituted a well-regarded in-house safety testing program that samples each lot of food for nine different contaminants (E. coli, salmonella and more) before releasing it to stores. Although no Natural Balance varieties tested positive, it was also among the many cat food brands caught up in a 2012 recall over salmonella contamination at a Diamond Pet Food plant where some of the food is made.

As noted above, Natural Balance includes some grain, but it uses grains that are generally considered to be higher quality. For example, the Original Ultra Formula lists brewer's yeast and brown rice well down in the ingredient list after four named meats -- chicken, chicken liver, salmon and duck. However, Natural Balance does contain carrageenan. Still, many cat owners and some experts give it good grades. For example, CatFoodDB rates it 7 out of 10 paws, and calls it an "above average cat food." At Chewy, it earns a rating of 4.3 stars based on nearly 140 reviews. Natural Balance became part of Del Monte Foods in May 2013, and the brand was sold again, this time to J. M. Smucker Co., in February 2015. Though these changes have raised some concerns among pet owners, as of the time of this report the company's product-safety testing has not changed.

It's tough to find a quality wet cat food at a lower price than Natural Balance, since cat food experts don't recommend cheaper supermarket or pet-food -chain cat food as a rule. They say many of the cheaper brands are full of poor-quality fillers, not to mention "byproducts" -- a vague term that could mean nutritious organ meats such as kidney and liver, or offal like feathers and feet that have little nutritional value. 

There are exceptions, however. Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner (Est. 79 cents for a 5.5-oz. can) contains grain, but there are no byproducts and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. We can no longer include it among the Best Reviewed choices as there's no longer any expert feedback on it, and most user reviews are rather dated or express frustrations with availability (it's sold exclusively at Trader Joe's stores and offers from others sellers are unauthorized and, usually, significantly overpriced).

That said, the ingredient list has not changed, and those users that do comment on the food say that Trader Joe's surprisingly high-quality contents -- like chicken, turkey, fish and liver -- are pretty similar to what you'll find in some premium cat foods that cost twice as much. Cat owners say they trust Trader Joe's, too: The company has never had a pet food recall, but it pulled its food off of store shelves during the deadly 2007 melamine recall anyway, just to test it to make sure it was safe.

If you are looking for an inexpensive grain-free cat food to try, Reviews.com puts a couple of varieties of the Petco-exclusive Wholehearted line on its list of top cat foods. For example, WholeHearted All Life Stages Canned Cat Food (Est. $12 for a case of 12 2.8 oz. cans) has chicken and chicken broth as its top two ingredients, followed by water sufficient for processing, tapioca starch, sunflower oil and an assortment of minerals and supplements to provide a balanced diet. There are no by-products or grains of any kind.

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What every best Cat Food has:

  • More meat, less grain in the top five ingredients.
  • No corn, wheat or soy as carbohydrate sources.
  • No artificial preservatives.

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