Best High Protein Cat Food
This page contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post through our independently chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn More
Any cat food can contain meat as the first ingredient and many companies boost protein percentages with peas and corn, but the best high protein cat food is a carnivore’s diet from the first ingredient to the last.
That’s why we recommend Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Turkey formula as the best high protein cat food on the market. It’s rich in highly-digestible protein from animal sources, contains multiple sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and receives sparkling customer reviews.
Before we review this Dr. Elsey’s food and the other top 6 best high-protein foods on the market, let’s discuss how much protein cats really need, how to identify a protein-rich food, and the facts about protein digestibility.
At a Glance: Best High Protein Cat Food To Buy
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
|VIEW LATEST PRICE →|
|Get 25% Off Your First Order →|
|VIEW LATEST PRICE →|
|VIEW LATEST PRICE →|
|VIEW LATEST PRICE →|
|VIEW LATEST PRICE →|
How Much Protein Do Cats Need?
For cats, a high-protein diet isn’t a high-protein diet. It’s a normal diet. As hypercarnivores, cats need a lot more protein than we do—in fact, they need more protein than do other carnivorous species.
The feline body never stops converting protein—amino acids—into the glucose that supports essential organ function. Protein makes your cat’s heart beat and his eyes blink. It is vital to feline life. Without the essential amino acids naturally present in meat, cats wouldn’t be able to see, think, purr, or survive.
Cats need at least 2.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
Fascinatingly, this number appears both in studies of how much protein cats need to maintain lean muscle mass and how much protein cats choose to eat when given the choice. Cats want to eat the amount of protein their bodies require—seldom more, rarely less.
Note that most cat food labels represent nutrients as a percentage of the food’s weight, not in grams. You can use a calculator like this one to make the conversion.
If you don’t have the time to fiddle with a conversion calculator, don’t be afraid to keep it simple. You can usually get a rough, but adequate, picture of a food’s protein content by taking a glance at the ingredient list. If a given food is primarily made from meat, doesn’t contain a lot of plant ingredients, and has one or two sources of fat near the middle of the ingredient list, it’s probably in the protein sweet spot.
Note that, instead of meat, you might look for plant-sourced proteins like pea protein, corn gluten meal, and wheat gluten. These proteins lack the amino acid profile found in fresh meat, but with a combination of complementary proteins and crystalline amino acids, they can deliver the nutrients cats require.
There’s a difference between crude protein and digestible protein, but the label won’t tell you about that.
Protein digestibility is a vital but poorly-understood determinant of a food’s nutritional value. Different proteins have different biological values—some are almost completely useful to the body and others are more waste than nourishment.
We know that for humans, an egg is almost 100% biologically available. A hundred grams of crude protein from eggs might translate to ninety-six grams of digestible protein. Almost all of that protein is utilized with the body. In contrast, corn is just around 54% usable. But for cats? We don’t know. There’s no large-scale database showing us exactly how biologically available each type of protein is for cats.
Without any concrete information on protein availability for cats and only crude protein values printed on cat food labels, the best we can do is piece together what little information we do have and combine it with knowledge of cats’ dietary needs.
Best High Protein Cat Food: Our Top 6 Picks
Our top-ranking food is a canned paté from Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein. The food is primarily made from a mix of turkey muscle meat, turkey liver, and dried egg product, all of which are highly-digestible sources of the protein your cat requires.
The carnivore-appropriate theme continues later in the ingredient list, with both salmon oil and green-lipped mussels serving as sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Overall, this food is rich in species-appropriate protein, appears to be a touch more digestible than your average by-product-laden cat food, and doesn’t have a lot of fruits, vegetables, or other plant ingredients.
Your cat is a meat-eater and he deserves a cat food designed with that in mind. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Smalls was thinking when they started making their fresh cat food. Made with human-grade ingredients like real animal proteins, this food is just what your cat needs.
Smalls Fresh Ground Bird is a protein-packed recipe made with real chicken. The first two ingredients are chicken thighs and chicken breasts, though you’ll also find chicken organs thrown in for supplemental protein and natural sources of nutrition. The only other main ingredients are fresh veggies like green beans, peas, and kale.
When choosing a cat food, it’s important to look for what the food contains, but it’s also important to look for what’s missing. In Smalls fresh food you won’t find any low-quality fillers or additives – just real ingredients for real nutrition.
Most dry cat food is more like meaty cereal than anything resembling a cat’s natural prey. It’s typically high in carbohydrates. Legumes or grains usually represent a hefty portion of the recipe and plant-sourced protein is common.
For those pursuing a more prey-inspired diet plan, this food from Ziwi Peak presents an interesting alternative to traditional kibble. The food doesn’t contain any of the peas, potatoes, or plant protein common among other dry foods and is instead one of the meatiest foods on the market.
Because it’s air-dried rather than extruded, the food retains much of its inherent nutritional value. Mackerel, lamb, lamb heart, lamb tripe, lamb liver, lamb lung, and lamb kidney add to the food’s rich nutritional profile. New Zealand green lipped mussel brings an anti-inflammatory component.
Though dry food can’t hydrate your cat, this food is evidence that it can give him plenty of protein without a lot of carbohydrates.
Despite often having higher protein requirements than younger cats, seniors are given low-protein foods in the name of sparing the kidneys. Instead of depriving your senior cat of the protein he needs to support lean muscle mass, consider feeding him a high-protein food with relatively low levels of phosphorus.
With 1.0 mg phosphorus per 1000 calories, this Weruva food is one of the lowest-phosphorus non-prescription foods you can buy. It provides a rare combination of high protein content and low phosphorus content. It’s safe for healthy cats and, though it’s not necessarily a replacement for a special diet, can help cats with kidney disease feel better.
The food is made primarily from beef with a mix of vegetables, thickeners, and sunflower oil. It’s rich in protein with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content.
Adult cats need a lot of protein. Kittens need even more. With turkey, chicken liver, chicken, chicken meal, and herring its primary components, this food satisfies your growing kitten’s need for highly-digestible protein.
In addition to species-appropriate protein, the food contains menhaden fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids central to brain and eye development.
Though the food is generally a high-protein, species-appropriate recipe, it contains more thickening gums than most. If your kitten is sensitive to gums, you might not like the inclusion of guar gum, xanthan gum, and cassia gum.
Overweight cats are often given lower-protein, higher-fiber foods that, theoretically, satisfy without filling your cat up with a lot of calories. The problem with this approach? Your cat will lose weight, provided that you can achieve a calorie deficit, but he’ll also lose lean muscle mass.
To keep your cat fit and strong, consider keeping the protein and using moisture to your advantage.
This Tiki Cat food is rich in protein from chicken muscle meat and organs. Additionally, each can contains half of a quail egg for extra nutrition and unexpected variety. The food contains tuna oil, a species-appropriate fat source and is fortified with all the critical amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that the main ingredients don’t deliver on their own.
High protein cat food is the only kind of food that can keep your cat’s muscles strong, his mind alert, and his body thriving.
All of the foods on this list are good high-protein options, but they’re not the end of the road. Regardless of your budget or your cat’s needs, there’s a high protein cat food that will work for you. Use the above recommendations as a guide and discover the foods that cater to your and your cat’s unique needs.