The 10 Best Cat Foods For Picky Cats

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Each cat has their own preferences, just as you do. Sometimes cats refuse to eat a certain food because they don’t like the aroma, the flavor, or the texture. But the reason behind your feline’s finicky eating habits could also be medical or even inherited.

If you find yourself shopping for a new food it helps to understand what factors play into your cat’s preferences. After researching the subject of fussy cats, reading customer comments, and reviewing third-party lab tests, I chose ten cat foods as the best options for picky cats.

I’ve selected Hound & Gatos 98% Chicken & Chicken Liver canned cat food as the overall best you can buy. Made with 98% chicken and chicken liver, this wet cat food formula is packed with hydrating moisture as well as species-appropriate animal protein and healthy fats.

At A Glance: Best Picky Cat Foods To Buy

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Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

Overall Best
10.0
Picked by 31 people today!

Hound & Gatos 98% Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Food

  • Short list of high-quality ingredients
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Rich in moisture and omega-3 fatty acids
Runner Up
9.8
Picked by 31 people today!

Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken Recipe in Chicken Consomme

  • Packed with animal protein
  • Rich in moisture with finely shredded chicken
  • Negligible carbohydrate content
Budget Pick
9.5
Picked by 25 people today!

Kirkland Signature Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

  • Extremely affordable at $0.10 per ounce
  • Top two ingredients are animal proteins
  • Made with a single protein source
Best Dry Food
9.4
Picked by 21 people today!

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

  • Packed with animal proteins and fats
  • Much lower in carbs than most dry food
  • Consistently well-liked by cats and cat owners
Best Wet Food
9.3
Picked by 18 people today!

Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Food

  • Relies primarily on animal protein and fat
  • Nutritionally appropriate for adults and kittens
  • High in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
Best Shredded
9.2
Picked by 31 people today!

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Frick ‘A Zee Chicken Recipe Au Jus

  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Many cats find the moist, shredded texture appealing
  • High in protein and very low in carbohydrate
Best Chicken-Free
9.1
Picked by 31 people today!

Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Recipe Dry Cat Food

  • Made with three concentrated animal proteins
  • Strong but not unpleasant fish aroma
  • Ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced
Best Novel Protein
9.0
Picked by 25 people today!

Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels

  • Made with a single source of novel protein
  • Supplemented with probiotics
  • Free from animal by-products and artificial additives
Best For Kittens
8.9
Picked by 21 people today!

Wellness CORE Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Kitten Food

  • Rich in animal protein from five sources
  • High moisture content to support hydration
  • DHA for brain and eye development
Best For Seniors
8.9
Picked by 18 people today!

Instinct By Nature’s Variety Real Chicken Recipe Canned Food

  • Made with fresh chicken and chicken liver
  • Rich in moisture with a soft texture
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from tuna fish oil

Why Should You Trust Us?

Our experts at Cats.com have reviewed over 200 of the world’s most popular cat food brands and hundreds of different formulas. We’ve also spent hours researching feline nutrition, contacting pet food companies, and analyzing product labels. With the help of our cats, we also got hands-on experience.

The foods on this list have been tested by over half a dozen of our very own cats. Keep in mind, however, that each cat has their own unique preferences. Our experts’ experience with these foods may not match your experience, so you’ll have to do some trial-and-error testing of your own to find out what your cat likes.

Based on in-depth research and hands-on experience, I’ve chosen the ten products described below as the best cat foods you can buy for picky cats.

How We Tested

After thoroughly researching the factors that contribute to a cat’s selection of food, I scoured the Cats.com database of brands we’ve already tested and reviewed. I narrowed down the options to brands rated a B- or higher and selected recipes that we sent to a third-party laboratory for analysis.

As I was wading through the options, I specifically chose both dry and wet cat foods as well as canned and freeze-dried cat foods with different textures.

Roughly half the foods I chose feature chicken as the primary protein – I used these foods to gauge my cats’ responses to different types and textures of food, taking the flavor factor out of the equation. The rest of the foods feature other common proteins like beef, turkey, and salmon. I also included one novel protein recipe for cats with food allergies or sensitivities.

Once I arrived at my top ten picks, I ordered all the foods and tested them with my own three cats. All ten of these foods are from brands (and, in many cases, are the same recipes) that have also been tested by our Head of Content, Mallory Crusta, with her two cats.

In each of the product reviews below you’ll find comments from our personal experiences with the food as well as an analysis of the recipe based on the ingredients and nutritional composition.

Our Top Picks For The Best Cat Food For Picky Cats

After spending hours poring over lab tests, product information, and customer reviews, I selected the following 10 cat foods for hands-on testing.

#1 Overall Best: Hound & Gatos 98% Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Hound & Gatos
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.01

With just three main ingredients aside from chicken broth, this limited-ingredient cat food is an excellent choice for cats who are allergic to common proteins like beef or fish. Fresh chicken and chicken liver account for the food’s high protein content and salmon oil provides an animal source of omega-3s.

My cats loved this food. It has a smooth, very soft texture that makes it easy to mix with water or to use as a food topper. I appreciated the limited ingredient list and the low carb content which makes the food a species-appropriate choice for carnivores.

There are no major red flag ingredients like corn, wheat, soy, or artificial additives in the food. The food doesn’t contain troubling thickeners like carrageenan or binding gums, either. The food is thickened with agar-agar which is generally considered one of the safest natural binders used in pet food.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Calcium Carbonate, Agar-Agar, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Salmon Oil, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 9%
Crude Fiber: 1%
Moisture: 78%
Ash: 2.5%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 45.45%
Fat: 40.91%
Fiber: 4.55%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 31.39%
Fat: 68.61%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Salmon Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Short list of high-quality ingredients
  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Rich in moisture and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Doesn’t contain artificial additives or harmful binders

What We Didn’t Like

  • Fairly expensive

#2 Runner Up: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken Recipe in Chicken Consomme

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Overview:

  • Brand: Tiki Cat
  • Made In: Thailand
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 16%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $4.45

This Tiki Cat wet food is made with a short list of quality ingredients, namely chicken. The fresh chicken in this recipe provides most of the formula’s dry matter protein content of 80%. Unfortunately, the only source of added fat is plant-based.

As a high-protein wet food, this formula is very species-appropriate. It’s also an excellent source of moisture which can help support your cat’s hydration. Because the food is little more than shredded chicken in broth, many cats who don’t like kibble or paté-style food enjoy it.

One thing worth noting about this food is that while the protein content is sky-high and there are virtually no carbs, the fat and calorie content is pretty low. This could be a good thing for cats who need to lose weight, but it might not be calorie-dense enough for cats prone to weight loss. The food also doesn’t contain any fiber which could contribute to digestive issues in cats prone to constipation.

My cats absolutely loved this food. They always prefer foods with a lot of moisture, but they particularly enjoyed the shreds of fresh chicken. The shreds were so fine that I was able to mix this food with my cats’ kibble to add a boost of protein and moisture.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Seed Oil, Calcium Lactate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Salt, Magnesium Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Zinc Oxide, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 16%
Crude Fat: 2.6%
Moisture: 80%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 80%
Fat: 13%
Carbs: 7%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 67.47%
Fat: 26.63%
Carbs: 5.9%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Sunflower Seed Oil

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Packed with animal protein
  • Rich in moisture with finely shredded chicken
  • Negligible carbohydrate content
  • Short list of simple ingredients, easily digestible

What We Didn’t Like

  • Very expensive
  • May be too low in fat and calories for cats who need to gain weight
  • Doesn’t contain any fiber

#3 Budget Pick: Kirkland Signature Chicken & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Kirkland Signature
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 30%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.17

Dry kibble is typically more economical than wet food but this Kirkland Signature recipe is one of the cheapest we’ve come across, priced around $0.10 per ounce. It features animal-based protein sources as the top two ingredients and relies primarily on animal-based fat.

This recipe contains several grains including whole grain brown rice and ground white rice. White rice isn’t particularly rich in nutrition but whole grain brown rice provides dietary fiber, magnesium, iron, vitamin D6, and small amounts of calcium. While your cat has no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates, felines are able to digest and derive nutrition from plant foods, to some degree.

Though carbohydrates aren’t necessarily harmful to your cat, they’re less species-appropriate than animal-sourced ingredients. The dry matter carb content of this formula is pretty high – around 41% – but it’s an expected trade-off for the price.

The kibbles are shaped like the typical dry food – round and flat. My cats were a little less interested in this recipe than other dry foods on the list but cat parents who reviewed the food report that their cats enjoy the flavor.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Sodium Bisulfate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 30%
Crude Fat: 20%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 33.33%
Fat: 22.22%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 41.11%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 25.96%
Fat: 42.03%
Carbs: 32.01%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Chicken Fat

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Ground White Rice

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Extremely affordable at $0.10 per ounce
  • Top two ingredients are animal-based proteins
  • Made with a single protein source, could be good for cats with allergies
  • Free from artificial additives, corn, wheat, and soy

What We Didn’t Like

  • Carbohydrate content is very high
  • No dry food provides the moisture your cat needs

#4 Best Dry Food: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Dr. Elsey’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 59%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.61

Dry food tends to be higher in carbs and lower in moisture than canned cat food, but this recipe is an exception to the rule. Not only does it have a dry matter protein content around 67%, but the carbohydrate content is under 10%.

If you’re looking for a healthy way to boost the protein content of your cat’s diet but wet food isn’t in your budget, this recipe from Dr. Elsey’s is a good option. The food comes in small nugget-like kibbles in 2-pound and 6.6-pound bags. My cats thoroughly enjoyed this food and about 70% of customers on Chewy give it a 5-star rating. Owners of diabetic cats particularly appreciate the food’s low carb content.

While chicken is the main source of protein in this food, it contains several other animal sources of protein including dried egg product, pork protein isolate, and gelatin. Chicken fat is the main source of added fat, though the food also contains salmon oil as an animal source of omega-3s.

Ingredients

Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Taurine, Salt, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 59%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 4%
Moisture: 12%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 67.05%
Fat: 20.45%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 7.95%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 53.78%
Fat: 39.84%
Carbs: 6.38%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Chicken Fat, Salmon Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Packed with high-quality animal proteins and fats
  • Much lower in carbs than the average dry food
  • Consistently well-liked by cats and cat owners

What We Didn’t Like

  • Very high in calories, follow feeding recommendations closely

#5 Best Wet Food: Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Nulo
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Turkey
  • Guaranteed Protein: 11%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.25

Wet food is generally a more species-appropriate choice for carnivores like your cat because it tends to be higher in protein and moisture than the average dry kibble. This Nulo Freestyle recipe contains 50% protein as dry matter and under 20% carbs.

In addition to plenty of animal protein, this recipe relies primarily on animal-based fat from menhaden fish oil. The dry matter fat content is almost 30% which is important if you plan to use this recipe for kittens. Fish oil is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA which is particularly important for healthy eye and brain development in kittens.

I found this cat food to have the typical paté texture – soft but a little drier and less mousse-like than the Hound & Gatos recipe reviewed above. My cats seemed to like it and several customers report that their cats like it better than other wet foods that contain fish.

If you suspect that your cat has become fussy due to food allergies, be aware that while this recipe is largely poultry-based it does contain tuna and might trigger fish allergies. It’s also thickened with guar gum, a source of fiber that has been known to trigger digestive upset and soft stools in some cats.

Ingredients

Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Liver, Turkey Broth, Tuna, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Agar Agar, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Menhaden Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Tomato, Dried Kelp, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Salt, Iron Proteinate, Sodium Carbonate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Magnesium Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 11%
Crude Fat: 6.5%
Crude Fiber: 0.75%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 50%
Fat: 29.55%
Fiber: 3.41%
Carbs: 17.05%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 36.02%
Fat: 51.7%
Carbs: 12.28%

Ingredients We Liked: Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Liver, Tuna, Menhaden Fish Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Agar Agar

Common Allergens: Chicken, Fish

What We Liked

  • First five ingredients are all animal-based
  • Relies primarily on animal-sourced protein and fat
  • Nutritionally appropriate for adult cats and kittens
  • High in moisture to support your cat’s hydration

What We Didn’t Like

  • May trigger fish allergies
  • Guar gum may cause digestive upset or soft stools in some cats

#6 Best Shredded: Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Frick ‘A Zee Chicken Recipe Au Jus

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Overview:

  • Brand: Weruva
  • Made In: Thailand
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $3.24

Made with fresh chicken as the first ingredient, this high-protein wet cat food features a shredded texture that some picky cats prefer over drier paté-style foods.

Chicken is the only animal protein in this recipe and the food is moistened with chicken broth. While plant-based sunflower seed oil is the primarily source of added fat, the food also contains fish oil as an animal source of essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s.

Overall, this is a moisture-rich wet cat food with high protein content, low fat content, and very low carbohydrate content. It’s a fairly species-appropriate choice and the low fat content makes it a low-calorie food as well. This recipe may be a good option for picky cats who need to lose some weight but may not be calorie-dense enough for underweight cats.

My cats really enjoyed this cat food, especially the texture and high moisture content. The food looks exactly like shredded chicken (because it is) and its wet consistency means it would work well as a food topper or mixer.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Seed Oil, Locust Bean Gum, Calcium Lactate, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Copper Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 2.5%
Crude Fiber: 0.5%
Moisture: 85%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 66.67%
Fat: 16.67%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 13.33%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 55.34%
Fat: 33.6%
Carbs: 11.07%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Fish Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Sunflower Seed Oil, Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Made with a single source of animal protein
  • Many cats find the moist, shredded texture appealing
  • High in protein and very low in carbohydrate
  • Free from carrageenan and artificial additives

What We Didn’t Like

  • Gums may trigger digestive upset in some cats
  • Fairly expensive

#7 Best Chicken-Free: Open Farm Wild-Caught Salmon Recipe Dry Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Open Farm
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Salmon
  • Guaranteed Protein: 37%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.82

Chicken is one of the most common proteins used in cat food. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more common food allergies. While food allergies are less common in cats than some pet food manufacturers would have you believe, any food that contains chicken protein could be problematic for cats with confirmed chicken allergies.

This Open Farm recipe is entirely fish-based. Wild Pacific Salmon is the primary protein, though not the only protein source. Ocean Whitefish Meal and Ocean Herring Meal are included as well. The dry matter protein content is around 42% which I’d consider moderate. Due to the inclusion of chickpeas and lentils, unfortunately the carb content of this food is pretty high, likely around 25% dry matter.

Aside from animal-based protein, this recipe supplies plenty of animal-based essential fatty acids including omega-3s. All ingredients are traceable and sustainably sourced, and the fish used in this formula is Ocean Wise approved.

My cats were much more interested in this dry food than the Kirkland Signature recipe reviewed above. The kibbles were much more traditionally shaped, and the food had a noticeable but not unpleasant aroma of fish. It was highly appealing to my cats and they scarfed the food down excitedly.

Ingredients

Wild Pacific Salmon, Ocean Whitefish Meal, Ocean Herring Meal, Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas), Red Lentils, Coconut Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Herring Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pumpkin, Natural Flavor, Green Lentils, Salmon Oil, Non-GMO Cranberries, Chicory Root, Apples, Dandelion Greens, Choline Chloride, Salt, Turmeric, Dried Yucca, Schidigera Extract, Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin A Acetate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Taurine, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 37%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 10%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 41.11%
Fat: 20%
Fiber: 3.33%
Carbs: 35.56%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 32.83%
Fat: 38.78%
Carbs: 28.39%

Ingredients We Liked: Wild Pacific Salmon, Ocean Whitefish Meal, Ocean Herring Meal, Herring Oil, Salmon Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Garbanzo Beans, Red Lentils, Green Lentils

Common Allergens: Fish

What We Liked

  • Made with three concentrated sources of animal protein
  • Strong but not unpleasant fish aroma may be appealing to cats
  • Plenty of omega-3s from herring and salmon oils
  • Made with 100% traceable and sustainably sourced ingredients

What We Didn’t Like

  • Carbohydrate content is fairly high
  • Pretty expensive compared to many dry foods
  • No dry food contains the moisture your cat needs

#8 Best Novel Protein: Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels

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Overview:

  • Brand: Stella & Chewy’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Rabbit
  • Guaranteed Protein: 44%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $4.91

Food allergies often manifest with itchy skin, though some cats experience digestive upset as well. If your cat notices that a specific food makes them feel unwell, they may stop eating it.

The only way to treat a food allergy is to switch to a recipe that doesn’t contain the protein your cat is allergic to. If multiple allergies are at play, the best bet may be to choose a novel protein – an uncommon protein your cat hasn’t had before. Options include things like rabbit, duck, and quail.

This freeze-dried recipe from Stella & Chewy’s features rabbit as a single source of high-quality animal protein. It is a limited ingredient diet, so there are fewer ingredients that might upset your cat’s stomach. With fresh rabbit meat, liver, and bone, it’s a more species-appropriate choice than the average dry food and the dry matter carbohydrate content is under 20%

Freeze-dried food is very low in moisture, so it should be rehydrated before feeding. It also tends to be very expensive, so it may be more affordable as a food topper to your cat’s regular food.

My cats already eat a rabbit-based diet, so they had no issues transitioning onto this food for testing. I found the freeze-dried pieces were a little larger and less compressed than others I’ve tried – this made them easy to break apart for rehydration. Though my cats enjoyed the food, they’re always a little confused by the texture of rehydrated food.

Ingredients

Rabbit With Ground Bone, Rabbit Liver, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Dried Ediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 44%
Crude Fat: 30%
Crude Fiber: 5%
Moisture: 5%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 46.32%
Fat: 31.58%
Fiber: 5.26%
Carbs: 16.84%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 33.12%
Fat: 54.84%
Carbs: 12.04%

Ingredients We Liked: Rabbit With Ground Bone, Rabbit Liver

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Olive Oil

Common Allergens: None

What We Liked

  • Made with a single source of novel protein
  • Supplemented with probiotics for digestive support
  • Free from animal by-products and artificial additives

What We Didn’t Like

  • Very expensive
  • Relies primarily on plant-based fat

#9 Best For Kittens: Wellness CORE Turkey & Chicken Liver Recipe Canned Kitten Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Wellness
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Turkey
  • Guaranteed Protein: 12%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $3.13

Kittens require a high concentration of protein and calories to fuel their rapid growth. Essential fatty acids, particularly DHA, are also important for healthy brain and eye development. This Wellness CORE canned kitten food is a nutritious, meat-based recipe that checks all the boxes necessary to support cat health from kitten to adult.

Fresh turkey and chicken liver top the list of ingredients with supplemental protein from chicken, chicken meal, and herring. Menhaden fish oil is the primary source of added fat and a rich source of omega-3s including DHA and EPA. There are a few plant-derived ingredients, but the dry matter carbohydrate content is low – under 10%.

This wet food has a very soft texture, making it easy to spread or mix with water. My cats really seemed to enjoy the flavor and they were able to eat this food less awkwardly than drier paté-style foods. Nearly 70% of customers on Chewy give this product a 5-star rating and a significant number of cat owners report that their cats like the food.

Ingredients

Turkey, Chicken Liver, Turkey Broth, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Herring, Natural Flavor, Cranberries, Menhaden Fish Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Guar Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Magnesium Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 12%
Crude Fat: 7.5%
Crude Fiber: 1%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 54.55%
Fat: 34.09%
Fiber: 4.55%
Carbs: 6.82%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 37.84%
Fat: 57.43%
Carbs: 4.73%

Ingredients We Liked: Turkey, Chicken Liver, Chicken, Chicken Meal, Herring, Menhaden Fish Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Guar Gum, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Alfalfa Meal

Common Allergens: Chicken, Fish

What We Liked

  • Top six ingredients are all animal-based
  • Rich in animal protein from five different sources
  • High moisture content to support hydration
  • Menhaden fish oil provides DHA for brain and eye development

What We Didn’t Like

  • Gum thickeners may cause digestive upset or soft stools in some cats
  • Fairly expensive

#10 Best For Seniors: Instinct By Nature’s Variety Real Chicken Recipe Canned Food

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Overview:

  • Brand: Nature’s Variety
  • Made In: United States
  • Primary Protein: Chicken
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10%
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.09

With chicken and chicken liver as the main ingredients, this is a largely meat-based recipe that gets supplemental protein from egg product and turkey. Tuna fish oil provides an animal source of omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce inflammation in the bones and joints of senior cats.

The food contains several plant ingredients, but the dry matter carbohydrate content is still fairly low, under 15%. This is a moderate-protein and high-fat formula that contains about 43 calories per ounce.

This wet cat food was one of my cats’ favorites from the ten they tested. They really liked the soft, almost mousse-like texture and the flavor seemed to be highly appealing. While my cats are seniors, they don’t have dental problems that make eating certain foods a challenge. I can see, however, that the soft texture of this food would be great for a senior cat who has dental issues.

Based on customer comments, it appears that Instinct changed the formula for this and several other canned foods. Some customers report that their cats don’t like the new recipe while others rave about it. The main difference – aside from minor changes to ingredient lists – seems to be the texture. The food is much smoother now and doesn’t have visible chunks of veggies.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Egg Product, Dicalcium Phosphate, Turkey, Peas, Carrots, Pumpkin, Tomato, Kale, Cabbage, Ground Flaxseed, Tuna Fish Oil, Guar Gum, Broccoli, Potassium Chloride, Cranberries, Blueberries, Salt, Parsley, Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Iron Proteinate), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement).

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein: 10%
Crude Fat: 7.5%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 78%

Dry Matter Basis

Protein: 45.45%
Fat: 34.09%
Fiber: 13.64%
Carbs: 6.82%

Caloric Weight Basis

Protein: 33.65%
Fat: 61.3%
Carbs: 5.05%

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Egg Product, Turkey, Tuna Fish Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Peas, Guar Gum

Common Allergens: Chicken

What We Liked

  • Made with fresh chicken and chicken liver
  • Rich in moisture with a soft, mousse-like texture
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from tuna fish oil
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

What We Didn’t Like

  • Some cats dislike the new formulation
  • Fairly expensive

4 Factors Important To Cats When Selecting Food

1. A Cat’s Food Preferences Start To Form When They Are Very Young.

Your cat’s preferences begin to form before they’re even born. What the mother ate during gestation and nursing and the type of food used during weaning can influence your cat’s food preferences. The types, flavors, and textures of food your kitten is exposed do when still young play a role as well.

2. Cats Typically Prefer Foods That Have A Strong, Appealing Aroma.

Aroma is a major factor in a cat’s decision to eat or refuse a food. Even if the food smells terrible to you, it’s likely to be much more appealing to your can than a less odorous food.

Wet food tends to have a stronger smell than dry food. Refrigerating wet food, however, can dull the smell. If your cat is refusing wet food on the second day, try letting it come to room temperature or warm it for a few seconds in the microwave.

3. Some Cats Have Specific Preferences For Texture Or Shape.

As humans, we often eat with our eyes – how food looks influences whether we want to eat it or not. Cats can form preferences for food shapes and textures. In a small 2020 study, researchers determined that cats prefer flat disc, x-shaped, or star-shaped kibbles over triangles and cylinders. Of those options, the flat disc shape seemed to be most palatable to cats.

Wet cat food comes in a wide variety of textures including paté, minced, and shredded. Some patés are completely smooth while others contain pieces of meat or vegetable – the moisture content affects the texture as well. Minced and shredded foods are often made in gravy or broth which changes the texture.

4. Dental Disease And Medical Problems Can Affect Your Cat’s Choice Of Food.

If your cat has bad teeth or other dental issues, it could make it difficult or uncomfortable for them to eat. Your cat might refuse the dry food they’ve always accepted but might be perfectly happy to eat a softer wet food.

Certain health problems are influenced by diet as well. While your cat may not be aware that higher-moisture wet food is better than dry food for kidney disease, they may sense at some level that they don’t feel as well eating dry food. Allergies or food sensitivities may also turn a cat off to a certain food before physical symptoms become obvious.

In addition to these factors, environment plays a role for some fussy eaters.

Because wild cats are solitary hunters, they’re able to take their time and consume their prey in a safe location. Some cats don’t feel secure eating unless you are home – sometimes petting your cat during mealtime can help relieve stress and encourage a finicky cat to eat.

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About Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is the published author of several self-help books and nutrition guides. Also an avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines.

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