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Buying guide for Best freeze-dried cat food

If you've ever considered feeding your cat a raw food diet but find the idea somewhat intimidating, freeze-dried cat food can be a fantastic alternative. It offers all the benefits of a raw diet without any of the mess, storage concerns, and nutritional guesswork that go hand-in-hand with raw feeding. Freeze-dried cat food is made with high-quality raw ingredients, so you can rest assured that your feline is getting the most out of every meal.

Moisture is removed from the food through a process known as sublimation, in which frozen ingredients are placed in a high-pressure vacuum chamber that converts moisture to vapor, leaving you with a product that's both nutrient-dense and shelf-stable. Freeze-dried cat food is available as complete meals, toppers, and treats.

Before you take the plunge and purchase freeze-dried food for your feline, it's important to consider your cat's personal nutritional needs. The ingredients, quantity, and preparation method also require some thought.

freeze-dried cat food
Most varieties of freeze-dried cat food have a higher-than-average protein content and may not be suitable for cats with kidney disease on protein-restricted diets. You might want to add a freeze-dried topper for the nutritional benefits, but consult your veterinarian first.

Key considerations

What are the types of freeze-dried cat food?

This cat food is available in three basic types: complete meals, toppers and mixers, and treats.

Complete meals are specially formulated to provide your cat with complete and balanced nutrition. This type of freeze-dried cat food requires no additives or supplements and is ideal for pet parents seeking a fuss-free, all-in-one mealtime option. Complete meals can be used either for your cat's primary meals or as a delicious, nutrient-dense topper.

Toppers and mixers are just what they sound like: freeze-dried food that's sprinkled on top of or mixed into your regular cat food. Toppers and mixers can be a good fit if you want to boost the flavor and nutrition of your cat's meals without changing its diet entirely.

Treats are bite-size morsels of freeze-dried food. You can use these to reward good behavior or, as is most common with cats, simply feed them as a tasty snack.

Know your cat's nutritional needs

While most freeze-dried cat foods are labeled as suitable for cats of all ages, sizes, and breeds, some felines have special dietary needs. If your kitty is carrying a few extra pounds, opting for a "healthy weight" recipe is a good idea. In the same vein, if your feline is prone to food allergies, choosing freeze-dried cat food with limited ingredients can help reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

Check the ingredients

The vast majority of freeze-dried cat foods are made using simple, high-quality ingredients and don't generally include artificial colors, flavors, or fillers. However, it's still wise to check that your chosen cat food is GMO- and antibiotic-free.

Also, keep in mind that cats are obligate carnivores and require a diet that's primarily meat. While small quantities of vegetables in freeze-dried cat food are okay, aim for a recipe that contains no more than 10% of its carbohydrates from plant-based ingredients.

How do I prepare freeze-dried cat food?

Some of these cat foods require the addition of water or broth before serving to your pet, while others can simply be served straight out of the packet like regular kibble. Adding water to your cat's meals certainly isn't difficult and can help boost your pet’s moisture intake at the same time. What's more, rehydrated freeze-dried cat food more closely resembles wet food and can be ideal for kittens or older cats. However, if you want the simplest feeding experience, freeze-dried cat food that's made to be served straight out of the package is probably your best bet.

Not all freeze-dried cat food needs to be rehydrated. Some of it comes in the form of coated pellets that can be served just like regular kibble.

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Freeze-dried cat food features

Vitamins, minerals, and probiotics

Some freeze-dried cat food is enriched with added vitamins, minerals, and in some cases probiotics. While high-quality, balanced formulas generally don't require anything extra, additions such as these can help deliver more well-rounded nutrition. Furthermore, freeze-dried foods that contain probiotics can help boost gut health and aid proper digestion.

Flavors

Just like any other cat food, freeze-dried varieties are available in a host of flavors ranging from rabbit to chicken. No one knows your cat's taste better than you do, so you probably already have a good idea of what your feline will and won’t enjoy.

Packaging

Freeze-dried cat food usually comes in resealable bags to help keep moisture out and maintain freshness. If your chosen product doesn't, consider emptying the cat food into an airtight container before storing it in a cool, dark place.

freeze-dried cat food
DID YOU KNOW?
An abrupt change to your cat's regular diet can cause digestive problems. As a general rule, start by adding about 25% of the new food to 75% of your cat’s regular fare. Add another 25% of the new food every two to three days until your cat has completely transitioned to the new diet.
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Accessories

Pet feeding mat: Gorilla Grip Pet Feeding Mat
To help keep your kitchen floor clean, consider placing a feeding mat under your cat's food and water bowls. While cats generally aren't messy eaters, many do like to lift food out of their bowls and eat it off the floor instead. This silicone version is slip resistant and comes in 18 colors and six sizes.

Cat probioticsProbiotics are an easy way to improve your cat's overall digestive health and can be particularly beneficial when switching to a raw freeze-dried diet.

Interactive Cat Feeder: Add mental stimulation to mealtimes with an interactive cat feeder. Cats that have to work for their food tend to be healthier and happier.

Pricing

Inexpensive

Freeze-dried cat food mixers and toppers generally cost the least. This is because they often contain extra fruits or vegetables and aren't meant to cover your cat's daily protein requirements, just improve flavor and nutrition. Prices start at around $12 for a 6-ounce package.

Mid-range

You can find a variety of quality, high-protein complete freeze-dried meals in quantities ranging from 5 to 8 ounces for between $20 and $25.

Expensive

Premium freeze-dried cat food made from human-grade organic ingredients and specialty formulations for weight management or food allergies tend to cost a bit more, with prices generally starting at approximately $24 for a 4.5-ounce package. Freeze-dried treats also tend to be somewhat pricey, ranging from $4 for a 1-ounce pack up to $5 for just 0.5 ounce.

For pet parents making the transition to a completely raw diet, freeze-dried cat treats are also available. More often than not, they’re packed with nutrition and offer authentic flavors that most cats absolutely adore.

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Tips

  • Introduce new food slowly. Cats can be frustratingly finicky when it comes to their diet, and some may not take kindly to an abrupt change in food. Changes to your cat's diet can also cause some temporary tummy issues, so it's a good idea to introduce new foods slowly. Start by mixing small amounts of freeze-dried cat food in with your feline's regular meals and gradually increasing the amount over the course of a few days.
  • Choose familiar foods. Sticking to familiar flavors and textures can drastically increase the odds of your cat accepting its new diet. If your cat insists on eating nothing but wet food, seek an option that's meant to be rehydrated before serving. On the other hand, if your kitty just loves kibble, opt for a freeze-dried food that can be served as is.
  • Experiment with different flavors and textures. If your cat doesn't take to a particular type of freeze-dried food, don't be afraid to shop around. With so many options available, there's something out there to satisfy just about any feline fancy.
  • Always follow the preparation and storage instructions. Manufacturer preparation instructions are there for good reason and should be followed to the letter. For instance, not adding enough water to freeze-dried cat food might not provide your cat with adequate moisture, whereas incorrect storage can cause the food to spoil.
freeze-dried cat food
After rehydration, any uneaten freeze-dried cat food should be discarded after no more than two hours to prevent bacterial growth.

FAQ

Q. Does freeze-dried cat food need to be refrigerated?

A. No. Freeze-dried cat food doesn't contain any moisture, so there's no need for refrigeration. Store the cat food in an airtight container in a cool, dark place to help keep it fresh and dry.

Q. Should I be concerned about pathogens with raw freeze-dried cat food?

A. The freeze-drying process does eliminate some pathogens, though it doesn't do away with them completely. While freeze-dried cat food contains less bacteria than traditional fresh raw diets, some pathogens may remain, and veterinarians offer some recommendations to pet owners.

If your cat has an immunodeficiency or you're simply a concerned pet parent, dehydrated cat food might be a better option. Unlike freeze-dried varieties, dehydrated cat food is exposed to low heat over long periods of time, delivering a cooked food option that still retains most of its nutrients. Finding cooked freeze-dried cat food is also possible, though it might take a bit of searching.

Q. Are all freeze-dried cat foods made from raw ingredients?

A. Most freeze-dried cat foods are made with raw ingredients, though it is possible to find a handful of cooked varieties as well.

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