Best Canned Cat Foods

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
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412 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best canned cat foods

Last Updated July 2019

Sometimes kibble just doesn’t cut it — especially for the rulers of the household. If you’re in the market for cat food for a beloved feline pet, you want to give her the very best. But before you buy, it’s important to understand the nutritional needs of your friend.

Protein content is one of the biggest factors to examine before buying canned cat food, but it’s not the only important factor. A cat food with too much filler could actually rob your cat of nutrition and set the stage for obesity and a roller coaster of other health problems. There are different formulas to choose from, too. You’ll want to take into consideration your cat’s age, how active she is, and her unique flavor palette. This information will aid you in selecting the best canned cat food for your furry friend.

We scrutinized ingredients and price points to come up with this guide to buying the best cat food for your best friend. To give your cat a happy tummy and a healthy body, read on.

If you find a brand and flavor your cat loves, order it in bulk. That way you can be prepared for the future, and you don’t have to worry about them discontinuing the flavor.

Considerations

Ingredients

When shopping for canned cat food — or any pet food, for that matter — it’s essential to explore the ingredients list. The ingredients are listed in descending order by amount. The first ingredient on the list is the primary ingredient. Experts will tell you to pay very close attention to the first three ingredients in any cat food list; these will tell you a lot about the overall quality of the food. For example, if the first three ingredients are “duck, chicken, and turkey,” you may be looking at a high-quality can of cat food. If the first three ingredients are “ground yellow corn, soybean meal, and chicken byproducts,” you’re looking at a can that isn’t of the highest nutritional quality.

Some canned cat foods are completely free of grains. You may choose to buy this type of cat food if your kitty has an allergy to grains, if she’s diabetic, or if you simply want to focus more on her protein intake. After all, in the wild, a cat is not likely to be eating corn. She’s more likely to be gnawing on the flesh and bones of her animal prey. Furthermore, some picky eaters prefer the taste of grain-free food, perhaps due to its heightened flavor.

Some cat owners buy grain-free canned cat food in an attempt to minimize their cat’s carbohydrate intake. In cats, just as in people, too many carbs can lead to unwanted weight    

gain. However, even though some labels say “grain-free,” there may actually be carbohydrates in the food. That’s because other ingredients are added to replace the grains, such as potatoes, apples, and peas. These ingredients have the same amount of carbs (or more) than grains do.

Life stage

  • Kitten: As cats age, they require different nutrients in their diets to aid in healthy growth. Kittens need more energy-producing nutrients because they are in a time of rapid growth. The ingredients a kitten needs include proteins and fats along with more vitamins, minerals, and water content than the average adult cat. Because of their smaller tummies, kitten food is packed with calories and protein and often comes in smaller portions. Most brands offer specific canned food for kittens, as dictated on the label.
     

  • Adult: A cat is considered an adult after about one year of age. That’s the best time to transition from kitten food to adult food. Adult cat food contains less protein and fewer calories because the main period of growth is finished. When transitioning to adult food, it’s essential to cater to your individual cat’s needs.

    There are specific options available for adult cats who struggle with hairballs, obesity, and sensitive stomachs. Hairball-control varieties of food have more fiber to prevent hairball formation in the stomach. Weight-control varieties work to satiate cats with a high-protein/low-carbohydrate diet. Sensitive-stomach varieties use ingredients that are easier to digest and aren’t harsh on the cat’s stomach.
     

  • Senior: A cat is considered a senior when she reaches seven to 10 years of age. You might continue serving your senior cat adult food, or you might switch her to a special senior formula. Some older cats struggle with dental issues, diabetes, or loss of appetite. Fortunately, there are senior canned cat food formulas that specifically target those problems with added vitamins, minerals, or different ingredients.

Five-star dinner in a can

This delectable dinner option contains real duck, no chicken or poultry by-product meals, and no corn, wheat, or soy. It’s a healthy option with about 10% crude protein and 128 calories per can. To be trim and fit for mousing (as well as lazing about), purchase a case of these cans for your cat.

Features

Protein source

Protein sources in canned cat foods range from fowl to fish to mammals. Some of the most popular proteins are duck, chicken, and whitefish. Each of these adds a different amount of protein to the canned food. Check the nutritional information on the side of the can or package before purchasing to ensure there’s enough protein for your kitty.

The average can of grain-free cat food contains about 10% crude protein. If the percentage is less than that, consider an additional source of protein.

Here’s a look at common protein sources in canned cat food.

  • Poultry: This includes all manner of fowl, including chicken, duck, and even goose meat. By nature, cats are interested in hunting small birds, so it’s not surprising that lots of kitties enjoy canned poultry cat food.

  • Beef and lamb: These meats are similar in protein content to poultry. They provide the required protein but are a little higher in fat content.

  • Fish: The protein content is high, the flavor is mild, and the fish aren’t expensive to include in the cat food. In many cases, fish-based cat food is a win-win for everybody.

  • Liver: An organ meat, liver can be a good source of protein. However, it must be eaten in small amounts. Too much liver could cause vitamin A toxicity, which affects a cat’s bones.

Flavor

Flavor goes hand in hand with the protein source of your cat food choice. If your cat loves the taste of fish and chicken but turns her nose up at beef, you have your answer: stick with fish and chicken. It’s noteworthy that some brands may incorporate flavors into their canned cat foods beyond the primary protein source to appease a cat’s taste buds. These flavors may include broths and cheese.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials requires makers to include a certain percentage (per can) of each flavor that’s advertised on the label. For example, a product that states “with cheese” must include at least 3% of that ingredient. Notably, for broths such as “beef broth flavor” or “chicken broth flavor”, there only needs to be a detectable amount of that ingredient.

As a cat owner, you probably already know this: if your kitty doesn’t like it, she won’t eat it. And you don’t want your cat to go without food for too long, as that could negatively impact her health. As such, you may need to experiment with different flavors and brands to figure out what she likes. Once you figure out her favorites, keep them on hand for those times when she turns up her nose at everything else.

It’s also possible that, somewhere along the way, your kitty will change her mind about what she likes. This could be due to her changing taste buds or a change in the recipe of your go-to cat food. In any case, it’s back to the drawing board (or the shopping cart) you go. But don’t despair; there are plenty of canned cat food options out there. And, as any cat lover will attest, this fickleness is part of the charm of our feline friends.

Variety

Before selecting a brand of canned cat food to feed your cat, consider the flavor and texture options available. Brands should offer at least three different flavor options for your cat to bounce between. Any less, and your cat may grow bored of the repetition. Also, if you stay within a brand that has some great flavor choices, you are less likely to venture to another brand when your cat grows dissatisfied — possibly causing your pet to have an upset stomach.

Texture

The mainstay phrase of every picky eater is, “But I don’t like how it feels in my mouth.” Unfortunately, your kitty can’t tell you that — at least not in so many words. If the wet food you’ve purchased for your cat isn’t quite making the cut, try a different texture.

Canned cat foods come in pate, chunky, minced, and with-gravy styles. Pate is like a spreadable meat; this is the most common texture of canned cat food. Chunky food is just that: rather than being blended or mashed into a pate mixture, the food is left as chunks for the cat to munch on. Minced food is still slightly chunky, but the morsels are smaller than the chunk style. Then there’s the “with gravy” choice. These foods contain gravy inside the can — perfect for pouring over the food after it’s in the dish.

If you find your cat turning her nose up at a certain style of food, pick something different. Maybe chunky with gravy doesn’t go down quite as easily as pate.

DID YOU KNOW?

The average can of cat food contains about 150 calories. It may be labeled as a “kcal.” That stands for a kilocalorie, which is equivalent to a calorie.

DID YOU KNOW?

Canned cat foods have a moisture content of at least 75%, which makes it a great dietary source of water.

DID YOU KNOW?

Beware of any byproducts or meal products in the ingredients list. This means that the most nutritious part of the animal wasn’t used. Meal is made of meat-processing scrap: livers, lungs, feet, and other animal parts.

Canned cat food prices

If you’re purchasing canned cat food, you most likely will be buying in bulk. Cans come in cases of 12 or 24, so the pricing structure describes how much an entire case costs. Be aware that the size of the can may differ per brand, too.

Lower-priced canned cat food ranges from $15 to $20 for a 24-pack of three-ounce cans. The median price range is from $20 to $25. High-end canned cat foods cost about $40 for a 24-pack of three-ounce cans. The more you spend, the more likely you are to get canned cat food with premium ingredients and fewer (if any) fillers.

If you aren’t sure your cat will enjoy a particular wet food, consider buying a single can or a variety pack (some manufacturers offer them). This will help you know what your cat likes before you spend a large chunk of money on it.

Beefy goodness packed with omega-3s

This nicely priced food is chock full of antioxidants and omega-3 acids for healthy skin and luxurious fur. It has the added bonus of containing yucca schidigera, which works to promote gentle digestion. There are no grains, including wheat, corn, and soy, nor are there artificial ingredients.

Tips

  • Canned cat food is often a great choice for aging cats with weak teeth. Be sure to try the pate-style food first, as it is the softest.

  • Purchase a can-saver, which is a plastic lid that fits on almost any can and helps maintain freshness. That way, you don’t have to use the entire can each time you open one.

  • Some brands offer guarantees on their cat food. For example, you may be able to try feeding it to your cat for 14 days. If the cat doesn’t like the food, you can receive a full refund.

  • Don’t be alarmed if the label on your favorite cat food cans changes. Companies are continuously inventing new flavors and reinventing themselves to improve marketing.

Other products we considered

There are various dependable brands that deliver a quality canned cat food. In addition to our favorites, you may want to consider Halo Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Indoor Cat Canned Cat Food. It is a pate made with whole salmon and no meat meal. It also contains taurine, which is beneficial for cats’ eyes and heart. However, it is only for indoor cats.

You could always try American Journey Minced Chicken Recipe in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food, too. Differing slightly in meat consistency, this cat food contains chunks of chicken soaked in gravy. It’s crafted in the U.S., which is a bonus for some. What’s more, the food is packaged in BPA-free cans. Notably, this particular flavor has only 9% crude protein, which is slightly below the recommended minimum of 10%.

There are other benefits of serving canned cat foods besides the rich protein found in most. Look for special ingredients that improve fur quality, eyesight, and clean teeth. These features can usually be found on the label.

FAQ

Q. Can I mix wet food with dry food?

A. Yes. If you are giving wet food as a treat, then you could give a normal amount of dry food with some wet food mixed in. Be aware of how much food you are providing your cat so as not to overfeed. You also don’t want to be changing up your cat’s diet so much that it upsets her stomach or digestion.

Q. How do I know which flavors my cat will like?

A. Before purchasing an entire case of one flavor, check to see if you can mix and match. That way, you can discover which flavors your kitty loves before committing to a larger purchase. Don’t forget that some brands offer guarantees and rebates.

Q. Should I feed the entire can to my cat in one sitting?

A. It depends. The cat food you buy should come with feeding instructions. For instance, you might be instructed to feed two cans per six to eight pounds of body weight per day. Some light math may be required to figure out how much is an appropriate amount. You will need to know how much your cat weighs in order to complete accurate calculations.

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