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Best Canned Cat Food

By: Carl Laron on July 11, 2017

Grain-free foods mimic a cat's diet

When experts list the top wet cat foods for cats, Halo's Spot's Stew usually earns a recommendation. High quality ingredients and a spotless safety record are why. For example, Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe (Est. $20 for 12 5.5 oz. cans) 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. In addition, Spot's Stew flavors are free of any controversial ingredients, though another variety -- Halo's Spot's Pate -- does contain carrageenan. The cat food comes only in smaller-sized cans (3 and 5.5 ounces), but they are BPA-free.

Plenty of cat owners say their cats are crazy about Halo Spot's Stew, but -- cats being cats -- some don't seem too keen on the vegetable content. Some experts say cats don't need vegetables; in the wild, cats basically eat nothing but other animals. But others like veggies as a natural source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Nature's Logic is another top choice in canned cat foods. Some reviewers rate it a peg behind Halo, others like it better, and it makes the list of recommended foods at Reviews.com. In addition, Nature's Logic is one of a handful of manufacturers to sign a pledge sponsored by TruthAboutPetFood.com to fully disclose the quality and origins of all ingredients.

Though it can be expensive from some retailers, if you shop carefully, Nature's Logic can be purchased for nearly the same price as Halo, especially Nature's Logic Feline Chicken Feast (Est. $45 for 24 5.5 oz. cans), which is the least expensive variety. 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.  

If your budget allows for it, we also found some very strong feedback for Ziwi Peak cat foods. Though it's not been reviewed by every expert, it has been reviewed by some of the toughest ones. It also makes the list of the best cat foods at Reviews.com 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 wet cat foods can be found at Amazon.com, which includes feedback on a number of varieties and can sizes, and it earns a score of 4.1 stars. Feedback is even better at Chewy.com. There the lamb recipe earns a rating of 4.6 stars based on nearly 75 reviews, with recommendations from 92 percent. 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.

Even though some experts point out that cats haven't evolved to digest grains well, some premium cat foods do include better-quality grains. For example, though it's not grain-free, Newman's Own uses only USDA-graded meat and other human-quality ingredients, with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. But Newman's Own takes it a step further: Every flavor contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients, raised without chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. It does contain carrageenan, however, so it's not the best choice for cats with sensitive digestive systems. It's also not much less expensive than some quality grain-free foods, such as Halo Spot's Stew.

Still, many experts give it high marks, and TheSpruce.com's Franny Syufy names Newman's Own Organics Chicken and Brown Rice (Est. $40 for 24 5.5 oz. cans) as one of the best wet cat foods you can buy. "These chickens are fed a 100% natural all-vegetable diet with NO antibiotics," she writes. Other pluses include the fact that the food has a spotless safety record, the cans are BPA free, and all profits go to charity.

Best-value wet cat food

Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula (Est. $30 for 24 6 oz. cans ) isn't organic or 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, but 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, like Newman's Own, Natural Balance does contain carrageenan. Still, many cat owners and some experts, such as Syufy, give it good grades. "It has a pleasant aroma, a nice paté consistency, and test cats dive into it every time it is served," Syufy says. 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 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 pricing at other sellers is both unauthorized and, usually, exorbitant).

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 real 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.

Fancy Feast earns a few lukewarm recommendations, too -- but only certain flavors. Most Fancy Feast varieties contain wheat gluten, which experts call a low-quality, potentially allergenic filler. But the Fancy Feast Classic Feast flavors -- such as Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Feast (Est. $16 for 24 3 oz. cans) are grain- and vegetable-free. It does contain meat byproducts, but as noted in our discussion of cat food ingredients, experts are of a split mind when it comes to byproducts in pet foods. The fifth ingredient is identified vaguely as simply "fish."

Be sure to read the labels when it comes to Fancy Feast, however. Most varieties still contain a lot of fillers and artificial ingredients, which critics don't like. And it's not cheap: The recommended flavors come only in small 3-ounce cans, so they actually cost more per ounce than better-rated foods like Trader Joe's and Natural Balance.

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Cat Food buying guide

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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