While you may balk at the thought of eating raw meat, your cat will gladly chow down on it. Raw cat food may sound like a strange idea, but the truth is that it is the closest thing to your cat’s natural diet, and it provides high-quality nutrition that even the best dry food can’t rival.
Keep reading to learn more about raw food for cats and to see our top 5 picks.
A Quick Look at Our Top Picks:
- Best Overall: Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Food
- Best Affordable: Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets Turkey Formula Cat Food
- Best Diet Raw Cat Food: Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Chicken Recipe Cat Food
- Best Grain-Free: Wysong Archetype Raw Chicken Formula Canine/Feline Diet
- Best for Allergies: Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Chicken Freeze-Dried
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Things to Know About Raw Food for Cats
Raw cat food is exactly what it sounds like – cat food made from fresh ingredients that haven’t been cooked. If you think this sounds strange, consider that raw meat makes up the majority of a wild cat’s diet. To follow this line of thinking, dry cat food is actually more unnatural than raw food.
A raw diet for cats is composed primarily of raw meat and bone. Meat generally includes more than just the muscle tissue – it also includes the skin, cartilage, ligaments, and connective tissue.
Bone provides essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus as well as a host of other nutrients found in the marrow. Raw cat food may also include egg yolks and fresh fruits and vegetables to ensure nutritional balance.
Before you start to worry about feeding your cat bones, remember that it is cooked bones that are dangerous. Cooked bones (especially chicken bones) become brittle and are prone to splitting or splintering, putting your cat at risk for injury or intestinal obstruction. Raw bone is highly nutritious and very digestible for cats.
Understanding the Dietary Requirements of Cats
All cats have the same basic nutritional requirements, regardless what type of diet they follow. Because cats are obligate carnivores, meat should make up the majority of their diet. Your cat requires a minimum of 26% protein in its diet, but more is almost always better, and it is best when it comes from high-quality animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish.
In addition to protein, your cat also needs healthy fats. Fats provide a concentrated source of energy for your cat in addition to omega fatty acids that support its skin and coat.
Cats need a minimum of 9% fat in their diet, but most cats can benefit from more, especially if they are still growing or if they are very active. Just make sure the majority of the fat in your cat’s diet comes from animal sources.
Protein and fat are the most important nutrients for cats, but your cat also requires certain vitamins and minerals. Most commercial cat foods contain synthetic supplements to ensure nutritional balance, but you should also look for natural sources like fresh fruits and vegetables.
You should keep the carbohydrate content of your cat’s diet low, however, because cats have a limited ability to digest plant products. Carbs should only be used for fiber and essential nutrients – protein and fat should be the foundation of your cat’s diet.
Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s nutritional needs, you’re ready to start shopping!
Keep reading to learn what to look for when shopping for raw cat food.
How to Choose the Best Raw Cat Food
When shopping for raw cat food, you’ll come across several options. Freeze-dried raw food is the most shelf-stable option and therefore one of the most convenient choices.
This type of food is frozen quickly, removing moisture to preserve the food instead of subjecting it to high-heat cooking processes.
Raw cat food also comes in frozen form, though you’ll need to thaw it before feeding. You can also find fresh raw food that comes in rolls, pouches, or bags.
Here are some things to look for in the best raw cat food:
- High quality ingredients. Generally speaking, raw cat food is higher in quality than the average kibble, but you should still make sure the brand you choose uses safe, natural ingredients.
- Rich in animal protein. Meat, poultry, or fish should be the foundation of your cat’s diet. Look for a raw cat food that provides a minimum of 26% protein, ideally upwards of 30%.
- Balanced with healthy fats. Look for animal-based sources of healthy fat like chicken fat and salmon oil to provide skin and coat support as well as energy in the form of calories.
- Complete and nutritionally balanced. Balanced nutrition is essential for all cats and can be a challenge with a raw diet unless you buy a commercial product. Most raw cat foods contain synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure nutritional balance.
- Low in carbohydrates. The lower the carbohydrate content of your cat’s food, the better – cats simply aren’t designed to derive nutrition from plant sources as well as from animal sources.
Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s nutritional requirements, you’re ready to start shopping around for a new cat food. If you still aren’t quite sure where to start your search, keep reading to see our top picks for the best raw cat food.
Our Top 5 Best Rated Raw Cat Foods Reviewed
The best raw cat food will be complete and nutritionally balanced, made from high-quality animal-based ingredients. Make sure the product comes from a reputable brand and buy it in a form that is convenient for you.
Here are our top picks for the best raw cat food:
If you’re looking for a high-quality raw cat food, try this Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Food.
Because it is freeze-dried instead of cooked, it retains more of the original nutritional quality of the raw ingredients. This recipe features 98% cage-free poultry, organs, and bone, delivering the nutritional benefits of raw food in a shelf-stable form.
It contains 100% organic-certified fruits and vegetables as well to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. This recipe contains a limited number of high-quality, natural ingredients with a handful of vitamin and chelated mineral supplements to make sure your cat gets the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
This raw cat food is freeze-dried to make it shelf-stable and it comes in naturally preserved nuggets for easy feeding. Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets Turkey Formula Cat Food is made with hormone-, antibiotic-, and steroid-free turkey with chicken organs and ground bone.
It delivers a powerful punch of premium animal protein and healthy fats, supplemented with certified-organic produce to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. This recipe contains the ideal blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus it is rich in fiber to support your cat’s healthy digestion.
To give your cat the true feeling of eating a raw diet, consider this Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Recipe Cat Food. This formula features bite-sized nibbles of wholesome, raw ingredients like cage-free chicken and fresh vegetables.
It is packed with protein and healthy fats, plus it is supplemented with chelated minerals and vitamins to ensure nutritional balance.
This recipe contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients and is absolutely packed with real chicken flavor. Your cat is sure to love this raw food.
Wild cats follow a very meat-based diet that is limited in carbohydrates. This Wysong Archetype Raw Chicken Formula Canine Diet closely approximates your cat’s natural diet, featuring real meat, organs, and bones as the primary ingredients.
This recipe contains plenty of healthy fats to ensure optimal skin and coat condition with fiber to support digestion.
It contains a whopping 44% protein and 36% fat, plus it is supplemented with probiotics as well as chelated minerals. Overall, this recipe provides high-quality, balanced nutrition in a convenient freeze-dried form.
If you’re looking for a raw cat food that is easy to feed, consider this Only Natural Pet RawNibs Grain-Free Chicken Freeze-Dried Cat Food. This formula features bite-sized nibbles of freeze-dried raw food that features cage-free chicken as the primary ingredient.
This food is rich in omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, plus it contains a whopping 45% protein to help your cat maintain lean muscle mass.
It is supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of key nutrients and is complete and nutritionally balanced for adult cats.
If you want to provide your cat with premium-quality nutrition, raw cat food is the way to go. It may be more expensive than traditional kibble and not quite so convenient to store, but the nutritional quality is sky-high and well worth it for your cat.
Shopping for raw cat food can be tricky, but we’ve done the hard work for you to bring you our top 5 picks. If you’re not sure where to start shopping for raw cat food, try one of our top-rated picks for the best raw cat food reviewed above.
*This article is not a substitute for professional advice. Your veterinarian can provide personalized information relevant to your cat’s unique situation.