A raw food diet is considered the most natural way for cats to eat. But it can be time-consuming and complicated to make raw cat food from scratch. Luckily, many cat food brands offer raw cat food options that are freeze-dried and healthier than traditional kibble.
We reviewed the best raw cat food brands to find out which is the best option for your furry friend. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about feeding your cat raw, teach you about basic feline nutritional guidelines, and run you through the top raw cat food brands.
The best raw foods for cats
To make the transition to raw food easier for your cat, here are the freshest and best raw cat food options.
1. Best overall — Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
These dried dinner morsels from Stella Chewy are the flavor favorite of many purrers. This food is grain and gluten-free and doesn’t include hormones or antibiotics.
Stella Chewy morsels contain 98% raw, cage-free chicken with bone and organs. The only additives added are vitamins, additional micronutrients, pumpkin seeds fatty acids, prebiotics, and probiotics.
To feed your cat, rehydrate the raw cat food with half a cup of water or broth for every cup of morsels. The morsels are big, but you can crush them before hydrating if your cat is older or has dental problems.
The raw meat is not finely ground, so you might find that there can be little pieces of bone that some cats can’t tolerate, especially when they’re new to this diet. Always introduce raw cat food to your cat little by little and gradually increase it.
- High in raw meat
- Taste favorite for many felines
- Minimal additional ingredients
- Variety of vitamins and minerals your cat needs
- Fatty acids for silky fur
- Probiotics for optimal gut health
- Made in the U.S.
- Strong smell
- May contain tiny pieces of bone
2. Best budget — Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food
The Nulo Freestyle raw cat food is entirely grain-free and freeze-dried. It contains 98 % turkey, duck meat, and organs. In the wild, cats will gladly eat the parts of the animal that many of us humans don’t love, plus organs can provide higher levels of taurine.
This product is fortified with kelp, cranberries, and micronutrients. It also includes vitamins and minerals (A, D3, E, iron, zinc, and manganese).
Nulo Freestyle raw cat food is a good option if your cat has allergies to chicken. This product is also less expensive than other quality brands, which is a bonus since a raw food diet for cats is not always cheap.
This brand’s food pieces tend to crumble, which can be good for an older cat that has a hard time chewing. If you’re left with extra small pieces of food, sprinkle them on top of kibble to make your cat’s regular food more interesting and slowly wean them off of dry food.
- Sourced and made in the U.S.
- High raw meat content
- Easy to break and suitable for older cats
- Includes probiotics for digestive health
- Crumbles in shipping and may have a lot of powder
3. Best chicken — Primal Freeze-Dried Cat Food
These cat food nibbles are 90% meat, making them one of the top products for those looking for natural cat food. They’re made of high-quality meats and varied produce, with added vitamin E and taurine to ensure a balanced raw cat food diet.
This option contains chicken, chicken necks, gizzards, liver, and salmon, combined with kale, apples, carrots, and yams. This brand does include some starchy vegetables, but the protein content is still high, at 52 %, making this one of the best high-protein raw cat food options.
These nibbles have no added hormones or antibiotics and they’re grain, gluten, corn, and soy-free.
The mix of salmon with chicken makes them irresistible for many cats. If you’re ready to try a raw diet for your cats and willing to pay a bit extra, they may be an exciting alternative.
- No antibiotics or added hormones
- High meat content
- No gluten, corn, or wheat
- Salmon with chicken makes for an interesting combination
- Includes starchy vegetables
4. Best mini kibble — Vital Cat Freeze-Dried Rabbit Mini Nibs
For a kibble replacement, these Vital Cat grain and gluten-free rabbit meat nibs are a tasty possibility. They’re small in size, which means they can be served without hydrating and are even suitable for kittens. Most felines like them best when they’re served as kibble, without water.
The protein content is high, at 52%. This is because the product contains no fruits, vegetables, or fillers. It does have some goat milk, so lactose-intolerant cats won’t find this suitable.
These kibbles are hard and maintain their crunch even when they’re hydrated, more so than other brands. This means they’re not the best for cats with teeth problems, as they are harder than other options.
They have minimal additional ingredients, and the protein is from a single source. While rabbit is a tasty, quality protein, you’ll want to switch the food up every now and then to make sure your cat gets enough variety.
- Fine grind and crunchy meat
- No antibiotics, fillers or artificial colors
- Sourced and packaged in the U.S.
- High protein content
- No fillers, fruit or vegetables
- May be difficult for cats with dental issues to chew
- Includes goat milk
5. Best grain free — Northwest Naturals Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food Nibbles
Northwest Naturals nibbles have a mix of high-quality chicken muscle meat, chicken necks, and organs. They also include eggs, kelp, flaxseed, and salmon oil for extra nutrition.
The chopped meat used in this brand is quickly frozen to make sure the nutrients are preserved. The mixture is then topped with vegetables, vitamins B, E, and D3, and taurine. The protein content of these nibbles is 45%.
The nibbles are small, so you can serve them as they come without hydrating them previously. Still, always make sure to keep water available to your cat.
- No fillers or grains
- Chopped instead of ground meat pieces
- No antibiotics or added hormones
- Both chicken and turkey are sourced in the U.S.
- The quality can be uneven at times
- Strong smell
6. Best Treats — Orijen High-Protein Freeze-Dried Cat Treats
These treats from Orijen have a balanced nutritional profile and are 100% antibiotic and hormone-free.
Every Orijen raw cat treat flavor contains three to five different animal species. This gives your cat the varied diet they crave.
This “original” flavor option contains free-range turkey, chicken, and wild monkfish that is farmed and fished locally in Kentucky. The ratios mirror those of nature and the ingredients also include organs and cartilage.
These treats only contain animal ingredients, with no added vegetables or micronutrients. However, they do contain tocopherols, an antioxidant preservative. The protein content is 45%. (9)
- Sourced and made in the U.S.
- Versatile protein profile
- No vegetables
- No added vitamins and minerals
- Crumbles a lot in shipping
7. Best topper — Feline Natural Freeze-Dried Cat Food
Feline Natural freeze-dried pieces are 99% New Zealand grass-fed lamb and sustainably caught salmon and green mussels. The mix of proteins makes this a nutritious and low- carb alternative. The combination also includes vitamins B9, D3, and E, as well as zinc and manganese.
The protein content is 44%, and you can use this product on its own as your cat’s primary food. If you prefer to mix it up, it crumbles well to use as a topper to make your cat’s kibble tastier.
The mix of lamb, salmon, and mussels makes this product great for even fussy eaters. It also gives them a strong smell, so it’s not for those with sensitive noses.
- 99% real meat
- No starches
- Vitamin and mineral blend included
- No hormones, preservatives, or other artificial additives
- Three protein sources for a balanced diet
- Small size, great for a topper
- Strong smell
8. Best salmon — Merrick Backcountry Freeze-Dried Meal Mixer
Give some real salmon to your feline with this meal mixer from Texas company Merrick Backcountry. The pieces are a mix of freeze-dried salmon, whitefish, vegetables, and salmon oil.
This product does include potatoes and other starchy ingredients, like peas. The protein content is 40 %, which is lower than other brands.
However, this food doesn’t contain grain, corn, soy or gluten, or artificial colors and flavors. Micronutrients include B, D and E, and zinc, iron, copper, and manganese.
You can use this food both in dry and hydrated form, but the dry texture is tough, and the nuggets are big. If you have an older cat or a kitten, you might want to crush the nuggets into small pieces. Hydrating them will also make them easier to chew.
While the pellets are cooked in the U.S., the origin of the salmon isn’t clear. Wild salmon is hard to find, and farmed salmon is often high in antibiotics. (10)
- Single-source protein for a pet with sensitivities
- High-quality salmon
- Can be used both dried and hydrated
- No grain, corn, soy, or gluten
- Not guaranteed to be antibiotic-free
- Contains starchy ingredients
9. Best quail — Wysong Archetype Raw Diet Dog/Cat Food
Quail is a non-traditional option for commercial cat food, which makes this one an interesting alternative. It mimics what a cat’s natural prey could be in the wild.
This product is 95% meat and 50% protein. It’s starch-free but includes a mix of vegetables and kelp for optimal nutrition, as well as vitamins B, D, and E.
The quail is free of antibiotics, but this mix does include prebiotics and probiotics for your kitty’s gut health. It contains whey, a dairy product, so, unfortunately, it’s not ideal for lactose-intolerant felines.
Wysong is a family company and its product consistency is not perfectly uniform, like many larger brands. Products vary between large chunks, smaller strips, and powder.
The large chunks make great treats or can be mixed with kibble. The shreds and powder can be mixed with water and served on their own or mixed with regular food.
- Interesting protein option
- Popular for its taste
- Mimics what a cat eats in the wild
- Multivitamin mix included
- Contains prebiotics and probiotics
- Single protein source, not best as an only food option
- Includes whey—not for lactose-intolerant cats
- Uncertain where the meat is sourced from
10. Best limited ingredient — Life Essentials by Cat-Man-Doo Freeze-Dried Chicken Littles
These chicken littles are great for dogs and cats alike and are the simplest option for freeze-dried food. They contain only white chicken breast meat, with no grains or fillers. The chicken littles also don’t include preservatives, which makes it a naturally low carb cat food.
The chicken littles are made and packaged in the U.S., but the chicken’s origin is not clear. It’s also unclear whether the chicken has been fed antibiotics or hormones, and the product is not fully raw.
This product also comes in two sizes: sprinkles for putting on top of kibble or larger chews, ideal for dogs. The chicken littles are a great, low-calorie treat, but not the best product to use as the sole base for a balanced diet. Cats, just like you, need more variety!
- Just chicken, with no additives
- High-quality white meat
- No carbs and low fat, all healthy protein
- Comes in different sizes
- Not intended as a main meal
Why should you consider feeding your cat a raw food diet?
Natural diets, from paleo to organic and raw food, have been popping up everywhere. Many people believe we feel better when our diets are less processed. Yet many of us never think twice about whether our pets are eating a healthy diet.
So, what is the best food option for your cat?
You’ve probably never seen a lion eating rice or barley. Felines, including your kitty, are natural carnivores that need meat to survive. Even your docile house cat will hunt for mice or little birds on their own when they’re outdoors.
Cats need protein — and lots of it — or they can develop health issues, like diabetes or a heart condition. Commercial cat foods do include protein, but they’re also stuffed with grains, starches, and other carbohydrates. Many commercial cat foods can also cause digestive problems and other issues like itchy, dry skin, or allergies. (1)
Eating raw meat allows them to absorb these essential nutrients in their most optimal form. A raw diet requires that the food is not heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit, to preserve its enzymes. (2)
Raw cat food diets can provide your cat with the nutrition they need, but preparing raw meals from scratch every day can be time-consuming. This is why raw cat food is an ideal option for busy pet parents.
What is the healthiest food for cats?
Not all cats are alike. Some cats have special dietary requirements, which is why it’s always important to talk to your vet before switching your cat’s food. The best food for your cat’s health depends on their particular health conditions, age, and a variety of other factors. However, almost all cats can benefit from a raw food diet.
Here are some things to keep in mind when picking the best raw food for your cat.
Just like you don’t love eating the same meal every day, your cat can grow tired of the same dish over and over again. Vary your kitty’s protein sources (poultry, fish, meat) to make sure you meet their dietary needs. The variety will keep even the fussiest eaters happy!
Some meats, including chicken, beef, or fish can be allergenic. To prevent allergies from developing, switch up your cat’s protein source occasionally. If you notice your cat reacting poorly to a particular form of protein, try eliminating that source to see if your pet responds better to other protein options. (3)
The protein content in raw food for cats should be high. If it’s below 40% it might mean the food includes lots of fillers and added carbohydrates. We recommend sticking with raw food options that have more than 40% protein.
Like all cat food, many raw food brands include added vitamins and micronutrients, such as D3 and E, that are necessary for cats. A balanced raw food diet also contains other micronutrients, like zinc and manganese.
Cats need the amino acid taurine in their diet. Taurine is essential to your cat’s digestion, heart and immune systems, and vision health. Some freeze-dried raw cat foods include added taurine, but it also occurs naturally in a raw diet. (4)
We recommend looking for raw cat food options that contain taurine that comes from animal sources.
How often should your cat be fed?
How often you should feed your cat depends on their age and particular health conditions. Feeding times usually vary from one to three times a day. (5)
Kittens can be fed up to three times a day because they need more calories, more frequently while they’re growing. Cats who are between six months to two years old usually thrive eating two times a day. Adult cats may only need feeding once a day.
Raw cat food diet FAQs
How do I feed my cat a raw diet?
The first step you’ll want to take when switching your cat to a raw food diet is deciding on the type of raw food you want to use. You can switch your cat to raw food diet cats by preparing their meals at home or buying one of the raw food options included in our review. Store-bought raw food is easy to use—just pour from the bag or hydrate with water or broth before serving!
The most important thing to remember with a raw diet is to start slowly. Raw food may be very different from your cat’s previous diet and takes some adjusting at first. Begin by adding about a quarter of raw foods into their regular food and gradually increasing the proportion over time.
When handling raw food, it’s also important to always wash your hands thoroughly after manipulating raw cat food and to wash your cat’s bowl every day.
What is the best raw cat food?
In our opinion, the best raw food for your cat is Stella Chewy Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels. This brand is nutritious and popular among felines for its taste. It’s also free of antibiotics, hormones, grains, and gluten. Still, you probably know felines can be picky. You’ll never know which brand is the right for your pet until you try.
Can you feed cats dog food?
No, you shouldn’t feed cats dog food. Dogs and cats are entirely different animals with different dietary needs. Dog food doesn’t have the high protein density felines need and may not contain taurine. While dog food isn’t toxic to cats, it’s not good for your cat’s health in the long run. Your pet probably won’t enjoy it much, either! (8)
Are grains bad for cats?
No. Grains are not bad in moderation and they can be an addition to a balanced raw diet for cats. However, they’re not as necessary for a cat as they are for dogs and humans. A feline’s digestive system is better acclimated to cat food with high protein.
What food is bad for cats?
Here are some of the things you shouldn’t feed a cat (6):
- Milk: Most cats are lactose intolerant, so milk can give them discomfort, even if they’re tempted to try it. It’s not dangerous, but it’s also not ideal.
- Chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to both cats and dogs.
- Onions: Onions and garlic, in all their forms may cause anemia or are poisonous to cats.
- Tuna: An occasional can of tuna every is not bad for your cat. But it doesn’t have enough nutrients to use as a balanced pet food option. Tuna also contains a lot of mercury, so it’s best not to make it an everyday treat. (7)
Other foods that can be toxic to cats include:
- Raw eggs
- Raw seafood
- Animal bones
We all know your cat runs your household, so why not give your furry companion the gratitude they deserve with a tasty, well-balanced diet. Feeding cats a raw food diet used to mean spending hours preparing meals each week, but luckily, today you can find lots of nutritious options that are convenient and keep picky eaters happy.
In our opinion, the Stella Chewy Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels is the best raw cat food option. It’s a top-quality, high-protein raw meat product that doesn’t include any unnecessary grains, fillers, hormones, or antibiotics—just a lot of tasty chicken meat, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to keep your pet happy and healthy.
Find out if your furry friend will enjoy a raw diet by giving one of these options a try!
- 5 Best Low Carb Dry Cat Food Options 2021 [Review] - October 28, 2020
- 5 Best Hypoallergenic Cat Litter [Review] 2021 - October 16, 2020
- 5 Best Cat Litter Boxes [Review] 2021 - October 7, 2020
Last update on 2021-03-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API