Cats can suffer from allergies just like humans can. Some of these allergies can include grains such as wheat, rice and corn. Perhaps your cat has been diagnosed with a grain allergy or you are looking to cut grains out of their diet to naturally replicate more of what they would eat in the wild — but what do you do if that’s the case? You will want to invest in a grain-free food for your cat, but with so many on the market, it can be difficult to know which one is the healthiest, will still give your cat the nutrition they need, and will be tasty enough for them to want to eat it.
You’ll want to look for evidence in your cat food that the ingredients are “complete and balanced”, meaning that it complies with the nutritional guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Cats are carnivores and require primarily animal-based proteins to survive. The cat food that you feed your cat should have at least 30% of protein so they are getting the amount they need. Depending on their life stage, cats will have different needs; kittens will have greater nutritional needs and need more protein to promote healthy growth and development more than adult or senior cats.
You’ll need to make sure that when you introduce a new food to your cat you introduce it gradually, firstly to ensure your cat gets used to the food but also to make sure your cat has no bad allergic reactions to the new food. You can do this by starting with 1/4 bowl of new food and 3/4 old food, then half and half, then 3/4 new and 1/4 old until your cat is just eating the new food.
Does my cat need a grain-free diet?
A grain-free diet is where the food contains no wheat, rice or corn. Although grain allergies in cats are very rare, they are still possible. Some of the symptoms include itchy or inflamed skin, excessive grooming, hair loss or bald patches, and sores and scabs. If your cat experiences any of these things, you can take them to your vet and they will be able to establish which ingredient it is, if any, that is causing these allergic reactions by a process of elimination. Of course, some cats don’t necessarily have an allergy, but an intolerance to grains. Owners who suspect a grain intolerance in their cats have reported a lesser amount of vomiting after switching to a grain-free diet.
While grains are something that can be cut out of your cat’s diet, there are certain things that your cat must eat to survive. Mentioned above, cats are carnivorous and require primarily animal-based proteins to survive. This protein can come from a range of animals, such as chicken, beef, eggs, venison, lamb, salmon, sardines, mussels and duck. Organ meat, such as chicken or beef liver, is also a bonus. Unlike dogs, cats do not thrive well with carbohydrates in their diet and so the first five ingredients of the cat food should be meat.
There are also many nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in vegetables and therefore manufacturers include them in cat food. Some manufacturers will include vegetables in the fist five ingredients which is fine, but at least three out of the five ingredients should be animal products.
What are the pros and cons of this type of diet?
The first advantage of switching to a grain-free recipe is, if your cat suffers from a grain allergy, a no-brainer! By taking out the ingredient that is causing an allergy within your cat, your kitty will be both happier and healthier and enjoy life more! Switching to a grain-free diet also replicates a cat’s diet in the wild more closely. In the wild, cats choose not to eat grains out of choice and are wired to eat meat and protein.
Often in cat food, manufacturers use grains as a filler. These filler ingredients such as wheat, corn and rice bulk up the food and boost the carbohydrate count in the food, but they are not always of great quality and are often taking the place of better, more nutritious ingredients. By staying away from grains, you are more likely to find healthier and better quality ingredients on the packet.
However, there are disadvantages to grain-free cat food too. By removing the grains from cat food, something has to be put in their place. This can often be fats and is something to watch out for to make sure your cat is still getting a balanced diet. Otherwise, they are more likely to become overweight. Another disadvantage to grain-free cat food is that they are often more expensive than regular cat food. However, cat’s are often able to meet their nutritional needs with smaller portions when consuming grain-free food, so the price can sometimes work out to be the same.
What makes a good grain-free cat food?
A good grain-free pet food should, of course, contain no grains but still contain all the other ingredients that your cat needs for a nutritional diet. The Association of American Feed Control Officials has set out guidelines that cat food companies must follow. As mentioned above, your cat needs three main ingredients that you should look for in their food — high protein, high moisture and low carbohydrates. Good fats are also a great ingredient for cat food. These can be found in the meat proteins, but can also be supplemented in the food. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, also known as EPA, DHA and ALA.
You should stay away from ingredients that are sourced from a cheap location or are vague or nondescript, because they may be unhealthy and could worsen health problems within your cat, including diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and obesity.
You can give your cat dry or wet grain-free food — it will depend on their preference. Sometimes, wet food is best if your cat does not drink as much water as they should, as it gives them the moisture they need but while they are eating. The type of pet food you give your cat will also depends on your cat’s preference and taste buds. There are so many different types of grain-free cat food on the market these days that you will be able to find one your cat loves and if you can’t, ask your vet for their help.
Can cats digest grains?
Cats do not have the same enzyme in their saliva that humans have — called salivary amylase — which assists in the breakdown of grains before they reach the stomach. However, they do have amylase secreted by the pancreas, allowing them to break down grains in the intestines as digestion occurs. This makes it possible for them to absorb carbohydrates from grains, but in the wild this would only be in very small amounts.
If you’re ready to switch your cat to a grain-free diet, take a look at the best cat food we recommend below, all available to you on Amazon.
The Best Grain-Free Cat Food
In the Purina Beyond Simply Natural cat food, chicken is the number one ingredient. Wheat-free, this high protein food helps support your cat’s strong, lean muscles. The food contains natural fruit and vegetable accents harvested from nutrient rich soil as well as egg, pea protein and yeast as excellent sources of amino acids. Included in this food are barley and rice, providing high-quality carbohydrates for energy, as well as oat meal and pea fiber that supports healthy digestion.
However, this food is free of the grain wheat, as well as corn and soy and there are no artificial colors of flavors in this food. All the ingredients are sustainably sourced and the recipe is free from poultry by-product meal. This cat food also comes in the flavor of salmon and brown rice.
Specially formulated for indoor cats, this CRAVE grain-free cat food has 40% high protein from chicken and salmon to give them the meat they need. This protein gives them the nutrients they need for developing muscle, aiding digestion and supporting a healthy immune system, just like they would eat in the wild. This food gives them energy and helps them maintain a lean body, so you do not need to worry about weight issues within your cat.
All the ingredients in this dry food are well balanced for the right nutrients and also of high-quality, and there are no chicken byproduct meals, no wheat, corn or soy protein, no artificial colors or flavors and no artificial preservatives. This food also comes in chicken flavor, salmon and ocean fish flavor and turkey, chicken and duck flavor — so your cat can choose!
The Purina Beyond grain-free cat food consists of premium natural ingredients, with the first ingredient being sustainably sourced ocean whitefish from the Pacific Ocean. With eggs as well as a source of protein, this food helps your cat to maintain lean muscles, as well as having a balanced ratio of fat, carbohydrates and essential nutrients to help support a long, healthy life and provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition for adult cats.
The recipe for this cat food is 100% grain-free are there are no poultry by-product meal, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, so your cat is only getting the best ingredients from trusted sources. This food also comes in different flavors — Icelandic Arctic Char, High Protein Pacific Tuna, and Salmon, Egg and Sweet Potato.
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness is high protein cat food, packed with more of the chicken cats crave to help build and maintain lean muscle mass. It is a grain free adult cat food and made with healthy carbohydrates including sweet potatoes and peas to help fuel your cat’s active lifestyle. Plus, it contains omega-3 & 6 fatty acids to support skin and coat health. There are antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables including carrots, blueberries and cranberries.
Also included are BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits — a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support immune system health, life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance. This food helps support healthy digestion as well as healthy weight, and amino acids support your cat’s heart and eye health. Formulated for the health and well-being of your cat, only natural ingredients make up this food, enhanced with vitamins and minerals. There are no byproduct meals, corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors or preservatives.
With 42% protein, the grain-free Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain cat food is packed with highly digestible energy for cats of all ages. Made with a unique combination of roasted venison and smoked salmon as well as chicken meal and ocean fish protein, your cat is getting optimal protein that is vital to a lean and healthy body with strong muscles, without the appearance of any grains. This protein is easily digestible energy that also has an optimal blend of amino acids.
Superfoods such as fruits and vegetables — peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries — provide antioxidants that support your cat’s overall well-being, while guaranteed levels of zinc, selenium and vitamin E support the immune system. In this food there are also omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy skin and a shiny coat, and added probiotics to help support healthy digestion and the immune system too. Made from trusted sources from around the world, there is no corn, wheat, grain or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in this food, so your cat is getting the right nutrients they need.
In the Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium dry cat food, real US farm-raised chicken is the number one ingredient and a great source of protein for your cat to maintain healthy organs and lean muscles. This food contains brown rice that provides an excellent source of nutrients for your cat and wholesome fiber, but there are no traces of ground corn, wheat or soy ingredients. Also included in the ingredients are chicken meal which is a naturally-rich source of essential amino acids and omega-6 fatty acids, which help to support your cat’s natural healthy skin and shiny coat.
With beat pulp, this food is a wholesome fiber source that naturally provides prebiotics which help support healthy digestion and there is also taurine present that is another essential amino acid for kitten and cat health, supporting kitten growth and your cat’s heart and vision throughout their life. Furthermore, the kibble is manufactured for the right size for not only your cat’s stomach, but also for their mouth and teeth. There are no artificial colors or flavors in this food and it also comes in salmon and brown rice flavor.
This Blue Buffalo cat food is made with no grains that contain gluten, and is formulated with delicious, real chicken as the first ingredient to help build and maintain strong muscles. Designed for indoor cats, this food contains natural fiber sources to promote healthy digestion and carefully balanced calories to help maintain a healthy body weight. There is an optimal blend of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat.
This formula contains BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help to support immune system health, life stage requirements, and a healthy oxidative balance. This food is enhanced with vitamins and minerals to help support your cat’s immune system and it never contains chicken or poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives. Also present is taurine, as essential amino acid for cats that helps maintain their heart and eye health.
This Natural Balance L.I.D. cat food stands for “limited ingredients”, meaning the food is made with only one source of protein without containing any grains or fillers. This food allows you to choose the precise ingredients you feed your cat and allow you to specify your cat’s sources of protein and carbohydrates, ensuring they are getting the healthiest and most balanced nutrition possible. The singular source of protein in this cat food is duck, also providing essential amino acids that helps maintain strong muscles and a healthy skin and coat.
lso present are peas that provide fiber to support healthy digestion and complete and balanced essential vitamins and minerals to help meet all your cat’s nutritional needs. There are no potatoes, corn, wheat or soy and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This food also comes in three other flavors — green pea and chicken, green pea and salmon, and green pea and venison.
Chicken is the number one ingredient in this protein-rich Iams Proactive Health cat food to help support strong muscles and provide healthy energy for play. Salmon also makes up the 84% of protein in this food, helping to feed your cat’s carnivorous nature. There are no fillers in this food, just essential nutrients to nourish a healthy heart, with no soy, no artificial dyes and no artificial preservatives — so your cat can get the flavors and ingredients they need.
A tailored fiber blend with prebiotics and beet pulp support your cat’s ability to absorb nutrients and an optimal omega 6:3 ratio help with healthy skin and a shiny coat. Essential minerals, including calcium, nourish strong teeth and bones, too. This food is for both indoor and outdoor cats and is best for adult cats over 1 years old.
Especially designed for cat’s with a sensitive stomach and skin and to support the digestive health with prebiotic fiber, the Hill’s Science Diet dry cat food is made from natural ingredients without any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. In this easily digestible food there are no grains and only natural fibers for improved stool pick up, making it much easier on your cat’s stomach. It also helps to fuel a grown cat’s beneficial gut bacteria and also supports a balanced microbiome.
Salmon is the number one ingredient in this food and this high-quality protein helps your cat maintain lean muscles in their older years. With clinically proven antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, you can be sure that this food is supporting your kitty’s immune system, plus DHA from fish oil supports brain health and eye development. Balanced minerals also promote strong teeth and bones. There is no byproduct meal in this food and the food is made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust.
This grain free food from Wellness Core gives your cat complete and balanced nutrition. With 55% high-quality protein ingredients, such as chicken, turkey and chicken meal, there is less fat in this food to meet the needs of an indoor cat, while still supporting a leaner body mass. L-carnitine is also included to help the body utilize fat and there are omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseed to help maintain a healthy coat. Cranberries are an ingredient in this food because of their naturally unique dietary contributions and an ensured mineral level accuracy ensures your cat gets only what they need so they do not gain weight.
Essential nutrients promote healthy eyes, teeth and gums too and fruit and veggie antioxidants improve your cat’s overall nutrition. After these kibbles are cooked, they are also coated with probiotics to help support a healthy digestive tract. With added glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate, your cat’s joints are supported and there are no meat by-products, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives as well as no grains.
With no grains, this Wellness Complete dry cat food gives your cat only complete and balanced everyday nutrition. The main source of protein in this food is high-quality salmon and herring, helping your cat to maintain strong and healthy muscles. Blended with fats, this protein will give your cat the energy they need. Prebiotics, probiotics, chicory root extract and healthy fiber combine in this food to help support healthy digestion, while guaranteed levels of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin A support healthy teeth and gums. Also included are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, found in flaxseed, to help with any shedding problems and maintain your cat’s shiny coat.
Your cat’s immune system is enhanced by vitamin E and vitamin A and there are no by-products, wheat, corn or soy that could upset their stomach. The cranberries in this dry cat food are vitamin C rich and a natural source of tannins, helping to prevent harmful bacteria from thriving in the urinary tract and rosemary is a highly effective natural preservative high in antioxidants. This food has no artificial colors or flavors and also comes in a chicken flavor.
This Purina Beyond Grain Free wet can food comes in packs of twelve cans, in the flavor of chicken, beef and carrot. Made with real chicken and beef and no poultry by-product meal, this cat food is designed to help maintain your cat’s healthy and lean muscles. It comes with added vitamins, minerals and nutrients alongside vegetables and a savoury gravy for a well-rounded recipe. Made with only natural, well-balanced ingredients, there is no corn, wheat or soy and each ingredient can be traced back to a trusted source.
This cat food also comes in a range of flavors, including Arctic char, chicken and sweet potato, duck, cod, tuna, herring, salmon and ocean whitefish.
The Pruina Fancy Feast wet cat food comes in packs of thirty with three different flavors — beef, chicken and turkey. The grain-free, protein-rich formula features real beef, chicken, turkey and giblets, making sure your cat gets the protein they need to help keep their muscles strong so they can stay as active as they can. Also included are essential vitamins and minerals to take care of their whole body health, with every ingredient having a purpose and not just there to fill the ingredients list.
The tender pate form offers a great texture and is easy to eat, making this food perfect if your cat is not big on their food and you’re try got get them to eat more. Without grains, these food cans are made to support your cat’s overall health with each serving delivering 100% complete and balanced nutrition. The food is manufactured in the US to give you confidence that the food is safe and of good quality too.
Coming in three different flavors in packs of twenty-four, the Rachael Ray Nutrish PEAK wet cat food contains 8 Coastal Range recipe, 8 Wetlands recipe and 8 Woodland Catch recipe so your cat can try different flavors such as tuna, beef, chicken, duck and trout in a gravy. Real chicken or tuna is the number one ingredient in this pet food, providing 40% of the food with tender cuts of protein to give your cat the energy they need. With no grains, gluten, poultry by-product meal or other filler ingredients, your feline is getting only the healthiest in this food to keep them active.
There are added vitamins, minerals and taurine, an essential amino acid that helps with your cat’s heart and eye health. All the ingredients are sustainably sourced from US farms, so you don’t need to worry about where the food is coming from. If your cat tries this food and decides they like one flavor better than another, it is possible to buy 24 cups of the same flavor.
With real chicken being the first ingredient in the Blue Freedom Mature Pate Indoor wet cat food, you know your cat is getting the high-quality protein they need to stay healthy. Also included in this food are cranberries, helping to keep the unitary tract functioning properly as well as the right blend of beneficial natural dietary fibers that help to push hairballs through and aid the process of digestion, minimizing any litter box odor. The proteins are carefully balanced with calories of fat, ensuring your cat reaches and maintains a healthy weight.
Of course, there are no grains such as corn, wheat or soy so your kitty will not suffer from an upset stomach, and there are also no chicken or poultry by-product meals and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. This food comes in packs of twenty-four.
The NUTRO Perfect Portions Grain Free Natural wet cat food comes in a variety of flavors — beef tuna and chicken — with high-quality protein being the foundation, helping your cat stay lean, active and healthy, as well as supporting healthy skin, a shiny coat and good digestion. The easy-to-chew food is easy on your cats mouth and stomach and there are no grains as well as no corn, wheat or soy protein, chicken by-product meal or artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
This food is made in US facilities with the finest ingredients from around the world, so you can buy in confidence that your cat is getting only healthy, high-quality ingredients. This food comes in a pack of twenty-four, with two convenient single-serving meals per twin-pack, so you’re also getting more for your money. This cat food comes in other flavors too, including turkey, catfish and salmon.
This Wellness Natural cat food is similar to the other Wellness Natural food we discussed above, although this is wet food rather than dry food and therefore great if your cat doesn’t like drinking out of their bowl or has trouble taking in moisture. Chicken is the first ingredient in this food, offering high-quality protein for your kitty’s muscles as well as a delicious taste. Also combined into the food are essential vitamins and minerals, as well as flaxseed that is rich in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, helping to support healthy digestion as well as a healthy skin and coat.
Cranberries on the ingredients list support urinary health by preventing harmful bacteria from thriving in the urinary tract, as well as carrots that are high in antioxidants that protect the body from damaging free radicals to help keep your cat healthy. Crafted with the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates, there are no grains in this canned food as well as wheat, corn or soy, meat by-products and artificial colors of flavors. This food comes in packs of twenty-four and is also available in salmon, tuna and turkey flavors.
If your cat suffers from a grain allergy from ingredients such as wheat, rice and corn, or you want to replicate the diet your cat would eat in the wild, switching them to a grain-free cat food can be very beneficial. This way, they are eating more protein to help them build healthy and strong muscles, which is especially great for kittens. You’ll also be avoiding grains as a filler ingredient in cat food, hopefully giving your cat better quality, healthier ingredients to help them live a long and happy life. With so many cat foods out there on the market, choosing a brand can seem daunting but we know that with the list above you can find a tasty food your feline will love!