Cats

The 5 Best Raw Cat Foods

November 21, 2019

The 5 Best Raw Cat Foods

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The best raw cat food combines outstanding ingredients with safety, consistency, and a record of customer satisfaction. After sampling raw foods, researching feline nutrition, and speaking with industry insiders, I’ve selected five products that meet those criteria.

At the top of the list is Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels. This freeze-dried favorite packs plenty of prey-inspired nutrition into an accessible package.

But it’s not perfect. No single food—raw or not—is right for every cat. Keep reading to find our top recommendations for kibble lovers, cats with sensitive stomachs, and more.

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Rich in highly-digestible animal protein
  • Appears to feature a species-appropriate distribution of muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Low carbohydrate content
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  • Ninety-eight percent animal matter
  • Doesn’t contain too much bone or too little fiber
  • Low in carbohydrate matter
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  • Rich in nutrient-dense animal ingredients
  • Rich in protein with moderate fat and minimal carbohydrates
  • Convenient mini nibs are great for cats who are used to dry food
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  • Features a single novel protein source
  • Contains anti-inflammatory fish oil and raw goat’s milk
  • Low carbohydrate content
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  • Easily-digested protein helps to support senior muscle mass
  • Controlled phosphorus is easy on aging kidneys
  • Calorie-dense to keep senior cats strong
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How Did We Choose The Best Raw Cat Food?

I started by looking at the worst raw cat food.

Let’s talk about how the best raw cat food avoids those problems.

The Best Raw Cat Food Has The Right Ratios Of Muscle Meat To Organs To Bone.

When choosing a raw food, it’s important to look at macronutrient distribution—the percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrate matter in the food.

It’s also important to think about micronutrients, ensuring that you’re giving your cat the right amounts of minerals and amino acids. In raw food, particularly prey-model raw, that micronutrient balance is largely determined by the ratios of muscle meat, organs, and bone.

The best raw cat foods are close to 84% muscle meat, 6% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organs. That’s roughly the composition of your cat’s natural prey.

Some companies include these percentages in their product descriptions and others don’t.

Those who don’t aren’t necessarily worse, but you’ll want to pay closer attention to make sure that their food is hitting all the right nutritional points. While most companies stay within a healthy range of muscle meat and organ content, it’s common to find raw cat food with too much bone. These foods may increase your cat’s chances of becoming constipated or, if your cat is getting up in years, increase kidney disease symptoms.

Look for companies that publish detailed nutritional analysis of all their foods. This gives you some degree of assurance that the food is nutritionally complete and that nothing is out of whack.

The Best Raw Cat Food Is Handled And Processed According To Stringent Safety Standards.

With so many raw cat food companies being slammed with recall after recall, it’s hard to judge which companies are being unfairly punished for producing an inherently bacteria-friendly food and which of them aren’t keeping a clean camp.

Uncooked meat may be contaminated with bacteria, molds, and parasites. The best raw food may still harbor some bacteria—bacteria is normal and won’t hurt a healthy cat—but parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and mold are not acceptable parts of a raw diet.

All raw cat food manufacturers have some form of quality control process, but not all of them produce consistent results. You’ll hear reports of spoiled, moldy, or otherwise low-quality food—all indicators of a flawed quality control system.

The best raw cat food is made in a tightly-controlled facility and comes with a reputation for safety and quality control. It may undergo high-pressure processing, freeze-drying, or other processes that control pathogenic organisms without altering the structure of the raw meat.

In Fact, The Foods On Our List Of The Best Raw Cat Food Are All Freeze-dried Products.

Compared to frozen or refrigerated raw cat food, freeze-dried food is more consistent, safer, and often cheaper. Without using high temperatures, this process removes the moisture from the food, rendering it pathogen-free and shelf-stable.

Unlike cooked meat, freeze-dried food is nutritionally almost identical to its raw equivalent. Their combination of shelf stability and nutritional integrity makes freeze-dried foods the ration of choice in fields where quality and safety matter most.

Best Raw Cat Food: Our Top 5 Picks

All five of the following raw cat foods come from well-established companies, stay true to a whole-prey nutritional philosophy, and have a reputation for safety and consistency.

Overall Best: Stella & Chewy's Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food Review

Product Info:

  • Protein: 44% Min
  • Fat: 30% Min
  • Fiber: 5.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Rich in highly-digestible animal protein
  • Appears to feature a species-appropriate distribution of muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Supplemented with probiotics

Cons:

  • A relatively bone-dense food
  • Stella & Chewy’s doesn’t publish full nutritional information

When you start researching raw food, Stella & Chewy’s is one of the first brands you’ll hear about. It’s a leader in the industry and one of the most well-regarded makers of raw cat food. They offer a large variety of both freeze-dried and frozen raw morsels and medallions. Whether you want a limited-ingredient food or like to mix up your cat’s proteins, Stella & Chewy’s has an option for you.

In addition to a history of customer satisfaction, Stella & Chewy’s appears to be one of the most reliable companies in the raw cat food business.

Thanks to the company’s steady reputation, a Stella and Chewy’s recipe earns the top spot on our product roundup. It’s a freeze-dried food featuring rabbit as its sole protein source. Rabbit is easy to digest and one of the few animals used in cat food that your cat might catch and eat on his own.

The food derives most of its nutrients from a mix of muscle meat, bones, and organs. Like most Stella & Chewy’s foods, it’s on the bony side and may contribute to constipation. Some older cats and those with kidney disease may want to avoid this food’s relatively high phosphorus content.

Probiotics and prebiotics round out the recipe, theoretically supporting digestive health and overall wellbeing.

Runner-Up: Northwest Naturals Freeze-Dried Nibbles Chicken Recipe Review

Product Info:

  • Protein: 45% Min
  • Fat: 15% Min
  • Fiber: 5.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Ninety-eight percent animal matter
  • Doesn’t contain too much bone or too little fiber
  • Low in carbohydrate matter
  • One of the most economical raw cat food options on the market
  • Northwest Naturals has a strong safety reputation

Cons:

  • The Northwest Naturals cat food selection is relatively slim

Northwest Naturals freeze-dried foods are meat-rich products featuring animal ingredients above all else.

This food is 98% turkey muscle meat, organs, and bones, getting most of its nutritional value from animal ingredients. The remaining two percent of the recipe consists of vitamins, minerals, and additives like kelp, dulse powder, psyllium husk powder, and fish oil.

By including fiber sources and keeping bone content moderate, Northwest Naturals is less prone to causing constipation than other raw cat foods.

Best Raw Kibble: Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Product Info:

  • Protein: 45% Min
  • Fat: 15% Min
  • Fiber: 3.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Rich in nutrient-dense animal ingredients
  • Rich in protein with moderate fat and minimal carbohydrates
  • Convenient mini nibs are great for cats who are used to dry food

Cons:

  • One of the most expensive options on this list
  • At just 8% water, this food doesn’t have enough moisture to keep your cat healthy

Raw food is one of the most time-demanding types of cat food you can buy. Frozen raw foods might take a day to defrost and it takes a splash of warm water to bring freeze-dried food back to life. What if you want something more convenient or have a cat who’s addicted to kibble?

These mini nibs from Vital Essentials might be your solution. They’re chunks of freeze-dried raw food made for eating straight out of the bag. Though they don’t provide the moisture cats need and aren’t an ideal choice, these mini nibs are a good transition point between dry cat food and a raw diet.

This food features chicken muscle meat, bone, and organs, along with fresh egg and raw goat’s milk. Herring oil adds nourishing omega-3 fatty acids.

Like all Vital Essentials foods, these mini nibs are some of the most expensive foods you can feed your cat. But with an outstanding recipe packed with nourishing animal ingredients and a reputation for deliciousness, that price tag may be worth it.

Best for Sensitive Stomach: Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Patties Grain Free Limited Ingredient Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 52% Min
  • Fat: 15% Min
  • Fiber: 3.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Features a single novel protein source
  • Contains anti-inflammatory fish oil and raw goat’s milk
  • Derives almost all nutrient content from fresh, minimally-processed animal ingredients
  • Low carbohydrate content

Cons:

  • One of the most expensive raw cat foods you can buy
  • Some cats don’t like the taste of rabbit

Raw cat food is a popular choice among cats with food sensitivities, allergies, and digestive issues like IBS or IBD. This recipe from Vital Essentials stands out as a particularly good option for cats who fall under that “sensitive stomach” umbrella.

With rabbit as its only protein source and multiple anti-inflammatory additives, this food offers a combination of features that can help cats with digestive issues. Unlike the last Vital Essentials recipe, this freeze-dried cat food is formed into patties. You’ll have to rehydrate the patties with warm water and break them down to achieve a soft, easy-to-eat consistency.

Again, Vital Essentials foods are some of the most expensive raw meals you can buy and this rabbit-based food is particularly pricey.

Best for Seniors: Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 48% Min
  • Fat: 31% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried
  • Made In: New Zealand

Pros:

  • Easily-digested protein helps to support senior muscle mass
  • Controlled phosphorus is easy on aging kidneys
  • Calorie-dense to keep senior cats strong
  • Can be rehydrated to any consistency you like—ideal for cats with dental issues

Cons:

  • Very expensive

Raw cat food can be one of the most nourishing options for senior cats, but its nutritional excellence is sometimes overshadowed by raw cat food’s tendency to have high bone and phosphorus content, both of which may deter senior cat guardians.

This food from Feline Natural doesn’t contain any natural bone. While not ideal for prey-model purists, this makes the food a good option for constipation-prone cats and helps to keep its mineral content in check. In addition to a nourishing array of muscle meat and organs, the food contains green-lipped mussels, which are a nourishing source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to support skin and coat health while easing any senior joint pain.

Again, No Single Raw Cat Food Is The Perfect Match For Every Cat.

Use this guide as a launchpad for exploration. Don’t hesitate to consider other varieties from our recommended brands or others.

Though we focused on freeze-dried raw in this article, you may find that frozen or fresh raw food is a better match for your cat. You’ll find a variety of options from brands like Stella & Chewy’s, Tucker’s, and Darwin’s Natural.

Finally, if nothing on the market seems to fit your needs, consider making your own raw food from a trustworthy recipe.

Click here for a comprehensive guide to homemade raw cat food.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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