Wild Inside: Top 10 Grain-Free Dry Cat Foods

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Disclaimer: I may be compensated, as an affiliate, for any purchases made via the links below.

If you’re a cat parent like me, you want to provide little Fluffy with the best cat food you can. It can be difficult to tell the labels apart enough to decide which one is actually superior. What if the $30 bag is only as good as the $10?

What if the cat doesn’t even like this stuff and you’ve tossed wads of cash down the drain? Isn’t there something about the specific words used that legally indicate just how good this food really is?

Best Grain Free Cat Food

It can get overwhelming. I’ve spent far more hours researching cat food than I care to disclose, and I’ve started to separate the different brands into different categories.

There are several trends and varieties in the dry cat food market (I know, right?), and one of the biggest is going grain-free. The logic here is that cats are not accustomed to grain-based diets like humans. Instead, they require key amino acids and essential nutrients in much higher quantities.

Cats need meat and vegetables to have enough energy to dart around the house at any given moment.

Some of these brands are advertised widely on television and the internet, so you may recognize them! The following reviews were developed through hours of my own research and consumer testing. As I sample more of these brands, I will add more personalized reviews! Click on the bag of food to see it on Amazon!

Disclaimer! I am not an expert in this field by any means. I’m just another cat parent sharing her research with other cat parents. By no means I am liable for the health of your cat and by no means should you take my reviews as medical advice. If you have any concerns, check with your vet.

My Picks for the 10 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods

  1. Natural Balance

    This cat food is so highly adored by fans that it is hard to discuss without just saying, “Well, it’s Natural Balance! Of course it’s good!” Consider this: most of their dry cat foods have a 4.5 star average rating from 25 people or more. That’s a lot of really happy people!

    They call it a “Limited Ingredient Diet,” that is both allergen and grain-free. This food is formulated to be great for cats of all ages and many health conditions.

    Fun fact: Natural Balance Inc. also produces dog and zoological formulas. That’s right; they make food for zoo animals!

    Personally, I tried several different varieties of this grain-free dry cat food, including the Duck & Pea. I thought my cat might have been turned off because the packaging was nowhere near as appealing as the packaging for some of the others, but he really enjoyed the food and seemed to fare well from the special formula. It is very clearly a great product and I’d happily serve it up time and time again!

    2. Wellness Core 

    Wellness Core focuses on incorporating high quality ingredients, specifically proteins, with other essential nutrients and good stuff to support your cat’s “essence.” Seriously. This includes 5 varieties of protein in every bag, potato for fiber without the grains, and cranberries and tomatoes for antioxidants and phytonutrients. (Click the picture to see the Amazon page.)

    There are some really stellar reviews of this product on Amazon and elsewhere, but there are others who mention the small kibble size is inconvenient for cats to pick up and others show concern at the healthiness of the grain-free diet. That’s pretty typical stuff, and I’m sure that a diet of natural, healthy ingredients is better than the 10 for $2 clearance cans.

    My roommates have used Wellness brand products for their dogs for over a year now and never want to go back. They are not using the Core line, but they use two different varieties to suit the needs of both our small yappers and our big howler. They swear by the stuff and I love the bright purple bags! The dogs go crazy for it, too.

    3. Halo Spot’s Stew

    Halo is another one of those brands that just seems to be everywhere right now. I’ve seen some pretty intense advertisements for them and have even tried a few of their products. They are not an entirely grain free-brand, but instead, they have a grain-free segment in their Spot’s Stew line. Like the others, the ingredients list is easy to read with mostly familiar words until you get to the necessary amino acids, etc. They also include a handful of healthy vegetables and essential nutrients for total well-being.

    My only experience with Halo has been with their canned food. I saw a $1 off any can coupon so my roommate and I each purchased one. Henry didn’t really love the texture of the food and was kind of a brat about it until I opened the second can. Then, everything was wonderful and delicious! It turns out that I purchased the wrong type. Instead of cat food, I bought dog food! Henry absolutely adored it, but I think we’ll stick to feline-formulated foods in the future.

    From what I can tell, Halo is a good company with good food. Their customers are very loyal and they really do use high quality ingredients. Many people swear that this food is why their cats are so healthy and although I can’t attest to that being true, it definitely seems very reasonable.

    4. Felidae

    Although I had never seen Felidae in my local stores, it has rave reviews on Amazon and other review sites! Not all of their products are grain-free, but the ones that are always have meat in the first few ingredients and have all the key nutrients, as well. It also have Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids to help your cat digest it better, which might even by why you are looking for grain-free foods in the first place!

    The grain-free formulas are suited for both adult cats and kittens, which means you can start them on it as a baby and never have to change. Many customers rave about their experiences and say they would never switch to a different brand.

    5. Instinct

    Instinct has one of the shortest ingredient lists I’ve ever seen on a bag of cat food with words I can actually understand.  Plus, there are “no fillers or soy!” It does, however, start with chicken meal and chicken fat before it moves on to tapioca and “Natural Chicken Flavor.” I don’t mind the tapioca, but I’d prefer that my cat had more substantial meat sources than chicken fat and “natural” flavors. I’ve read around and know that natural flavors are still as processed as artificial flavors; they just started as something real in the beginning.

    It is formulated for all breeds and ages, which is definitely a trait to look for in a healthy food. Most reviews are 5 stars with great drama about just how well it has worked for picky or sickly kitties.

    6. Blue Buffalo

    This is probably the one grain-free pet food brand you have heard of even if you’ve only heard of one before. Their concerned dog parent commercials are all over the air waves and have helped push many people to make the switch.  (Click the picture to see the Amazon page.)

    Not all of Blue Buffalo’s cat food is grain-free, but every single one of their dry and wet cat foods has over 4 stars on Amazon. To me, that says a lot. They have a few different flavors to choose from, which I enjoy because it makes me feel like I’m going out to hunt for my cat.

    One of the things that separates Blue Buffalo from the other brands is that they have these special  “LifeSource® Bits,” which are developed specifically to give cats the best nutrition they can. The first ingredient for their duck flavor is deboned duck. The first ingredient for salmon? Deboned salmon. All of this goodness adds up to pure and simple food that’s great for your cat.

    My only experience with any Blue Buffalo product was when my previous roommate was switching her 93-lb golden retriever-mix onto the line and he made a huge mess in the kitchen into which I later placed my foot. Don’t let that terrifying experience frighten you away! Just be sure to switch your cat over gradually. This is pure and simple food and your cat’s stomach needs a moment to adjust. Your stomach would do the same thing if you changed your diet drastically overnight! All cat food brands provide instructions on the back of the bag on how to make the transition at the right pace for your animal.

    7. Orijen

    Unlike many of the other companies, Orijen only makes grain-free food. They don’t fuss with fillers, grains, or unnecessary products. This company is located in Canada and only uses fresh, regionally sourced ingredients for their formulas. They call their meals “biologically appropriate” to indicate that this is the way your cats and dogs should be eating. Instead of grains, Orijen added fruits and grasses, which all cats need. The only other line I saw that added a grass to their mixture was Blue Buffalo and think about it. Have you ever seen a cat in a patch of grass? They go wild! I actually grow oat grass for spoiled Henry because of how much he enjoys chewing those blades down like a lawnmower. Grasses are great for feline digestive systems.

    This food is pricey, but these products have Amazon product ratings of 4.5 stars or higher and the customers almost scream their praise with their vibrant, enthusiastic reviews of this brand.

    8. Petcurean Go! Dry Cat Food

    One of the boutique pet shops in the busy shopping part of my city carries only a handful of their all-time favorite products. I found this out one day when I decided to look past the yogurt studio I frequent to see what kinds of adorable things I could want to throw money at for my animals. Unfortunately, this store only caters to dogs so Henry was out, but the store owner gave me a huge bag of Go! dog food for our critters to sample.

    The larger dogs didn’t really show too much interest, but the extremely picky 4-lb Chihuahua-mix fell in love. She actually gained weight while we had the food around because finally, there was a bite small enough for her mouth and tasty enough for her finicky palate!

    From what I can see, most customers have the similar experiences with all of the products from Petcurean’s Go!  line. Only two of the foods from this line are actually grain-free, but the one that isn’t uses whole-grains instead. The formulas are meant to help animals achieve optimal health. Just like all of the other top brands, they use high quality meat-cuts in the first few ingredients and follow those up with great vegetables, fruits, and healthy minerals. There are quite a few meals and  hard to pronounce ingredients, but they are well-balanced and useful.

    9. Life’s Abundance

    The premise behind Life’s Abundance cat food formulas is their “fast-cook” method that heats the ingredients incredibly quickly, but at such a low temperature that the purity and integrity nature intended remain. The key proteins in this formula are chicken and catfish, which are not the ideal ingredients to my favorite breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but that cats seem to love. It is safe and recommended for cats of all ages.

    This product is not currently available on Amazon. Please order directly from the company!

    Want to try before you buy? A Cat Sample Pack is only $1!

    10. Freeze Dried Raw: Stella and Chewy’s

    If you really want to talk grain-free, let’s go there. One of the most extreme dietary trends in the cat food business is raw meat. There are chilled fresh foods in giant plastic tubes, frozen meats, and also freeze-dried raw bits served as kibble! Stella & Chewy’s is one of the few companies to offer this service (I’ll tell you about more in an up-coming article).

    Marie Moody created Stella & Chewy’s when she saw just how quickly her sick adopted pet Chewy healed after he was placed on a raw diet. She saw the gap in the market for a stable, transportable, and convenient alternative and jumped in. The supporters of this movement and brand are adamant and vocal about their great experiences and are eager to share with anyone. Normally, if people are getting that excited about pet food, it has to be something great.

    Apparently, this process of freeze-drying meat is actually patented by the company. All you do is serve it like regular kibble or add some water to rehydrate, especially if your cat rarely drinks water. This approach supports the cat’s total well-being. For more information, be sure to visit Stella & Chewy’s website.

    Have you tried any of these cat foods? Tell us below!

  • Marlys Marcinski

    Why don’t they sell small pkgs. of dry cat food for us to try w/ our so finiky cats. I don’t want to buy a large, expensive bag that my cat won’t eat.

    • Great question! They sell small bags of dog food, but you usually only find sample sizes of cat food at specialty pet stores.

      • Bethany

        Smaller pet supply stores and ones with a strong focus on organic, raw, and that type of things can usually get sample sizes. Talk to them, we found one not terribly close but worth it for their knowledge and supply and they get samples in on different things at different times. If you are looking for particular ones they will email you. Amazon also is starting to list more small bags and sample sizes.

  • Karen C

    That is a helpful, thorough review. My cat was just diagnosed with diabetes, and we must switch him to a grain-free diet. Of course, that should have been done a long time ago to avoid his current condition, but we did not know. Anyway, we started him off with Acana (Pacific) brand of dry cat food (supplementing wet/canned), but both my cats are not crazy about it.

    Your review should help us make our next choice in trying to find something they like. Thanks for that!

    • You’re so welcome! I’m glad this post was helpful, and I’m so glad to know your cat has such loving humans. Hope you find the food that works for everyone!

  • Nicole

    I thank you for looking into this topic. I have searched from your top ten and asked for samples to be sent to me. I was looking for the foods without canola and/or flax oils and there was a few off your list 🙂

    • rmcleve

      That’s awesome! I’ll keep an eye out for those in the future, and maybe I can get enough to work them into a post! Enjoy, Nicole. 🙂

  • Linda West

    My 4 year old cat and 6 month old kitten both eat Instinct. They love it and it seems to provide all they both need. Their coats shine, they have bright eyes and are very energetic. (its nice to get a kibble that fits both ages as they tend to share dishes a lot)

  • Gwen Murray

    I am a firm believer in Wellness brand cat food. I adopted a rescue cat a little over a year ago. She was the sweetest little cuddle bug, but when I took her home she was malnourished and had diarrhea. I took her to the vet for a health check and we discussed the diarrhea issue and they gave me a Rx for stool hardener and thought it was just cause she was malnourished, but after a couple weeks of using the stool treatment her symptoms had still not improved. She also started getting patches of missing hair with bleeding/oozing scabs. Needless to say, she was miserable and I felt so bad for her. The vet suggested food allergies and I didn’t need to be told twice to try changing her diet. One, I would have done anything to make her feel better, and two, I’ve never trusted the ingredients in ordinary store-bought food, even though I had started feeding her Purina One, which I thought was doing something better at least. Through some testing, searching, and trial and error I found out that she is completely allergic to all grains. I started feeding her Wellness Core dry kibble and canned food intermittently as an alternative to prescription grain free food (which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you is crazy expensive) and within just a few days the diarrhea had cleared and the scabby patches started drying up. The itching started diminishing and she started to become a little more settled and comfortable. She loves the kibbles but doesn’t totally love the canned food always (I think because it’s more bland than what she was being fed prior with all the added flavors) but I found grain free treats that’s basically little jerky bites for kitties that I mix into the wet food and that helps a lot. She is now healthy and sassy and her fur is super soft and thick. We had a rough start but I wouldn’t trade her for anything. And I am so thankful for Wellness.

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  • Pat Riot

    Well, the last line was unfortunate. Place that line about being compensated at the TOP of your page for more credibility.

  • Kym Lloyd

    We have used felidae a few times now and our cats love it. They seem healthier and love the taste, I would recommend it over non grain free dry food. We have not tried the others, yet as they do not seem to be NSW Australia that I have seen. But will investigate!

    Grain free is the way to go!

  • mermoon

    Our cats are on Fromm Game Bird for dry food as well as their other grain freeflavors. My cat’s absolutely adore Fromm. They also eat Orijen, Instincts, Wellness Core, and sometimes Lotus grain free Duck for dry food.

    Wet food they are on Lotus, Wellness, Weruva, and sometimes Fromm’s and Instincts wet foods. Our cats have always been grain free and never had any problems. In fact we get a ton of compliments when we go to the vet. Only thing is the food is so good you have to measure it or kitty will gain a pound or two in no time!

  • Jonathan Kaczor

    Thank you so much for this article!!! You took one for the team; us and our loyal felines appreciate it!!!

    • Jonathan Kaczor

      Update: my cat inhaled the natural balance limited ingredients I just picked up! Thanks for the article, again!

  • I”m glad you included the Canadian brand, Origens. Canada has MUCH stricter laws regarding what can be used in pet food, and I like that Orijens is a small and independent company, not a part of one of the big pet food conglomerates who buy up small brands then force them to cut the quality of their ingredients.

    My 5 yr-old domestic shorthair Siegfried has been eating Orijens since he was a 2 month-old kitten, and he is so wonderfully gorgeous and healthy. People always comment on his incredibly shiny coat, and he barely sheds at all. He is so happy with his food that he never ever begs for “human food” treats–a first for any pet I’ve ever had–and he’s not interested in any of the cat treats I’ve bought for him. The Orijens food completely satisfies him, and he seems to know this, and doesn’t want to eat anything else. He’s also in great shape–VERY active, and muscular and lean, and none of the food-oriented begging behavior that can be so annoying. Orijens is pricey, but worth it when you consider vet bills.

  • Mars007

    These are in the wrong order. Orijen is typically ranked highest. And Natural Balance sold out to a giant corporation since this was written.

  • Brian West

    I feed my two purebred rescues TotW Rocky Mountain Feline Formula dry, and the same brand and flavour wet. They do absolutely great on it, and it’s higher protein, so they don’t need as much. A 5 lb bag lasts me about 3 weeks. It’s not expensive either, $11.99 for a 5 lb bag, and it has ingredients you can feel good about giving your cat, it’s also grain-free! I’d give it a try for anyone who has a cat and wants them on a grain-free, high quality food, without that high quality price.