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The best freeze-dried cat food is made from top-quality ingredients, loaded with meat, light on plants, and comes from a company with a reputation for safety and deliciousness. That’s why we picked Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit freeze-dried cat food as the best freeze-dried cat food on the market.
Read on to learn more about this Stella & Chewy’s recipe and our picks for the top 13 best freeze-dried cat foods you can buy. Before we jump into the reviews, let’s learn more about what freeze-dried cat food is and what makes it different.
At a Glance: Best Freeze Dried Cat Food To Buy
- Made with rabbit, a species-appropriate protein source
- Very low carbohydrate content
- Doesn’t contain any fruits or vegetables
- Carnivore-appropriate nutritional composition
- Made with a single source of animal protein
- Omega-3 fatty acids sourced from salmon oil
- Emphasizes muscle meat and organs as primary ingredients
- Relatively low phosphorus content compared to other freeze-dried foods
- Contains prebiotics for healthy digestion
- 98% animal ingredients
- Highest protein content of the recipes on this list
- Features a variety of muscle meat, organs, and bones
- Rich in animal protein
- Uses a range of muscle meat, organs, and blood
- Supplemented with green-lipped mussel
- Contains probiotics to support digestive and immune health
- Rich in animal-sourced protein
- Contains a mix of muscle meat, organs, and bones
- First 7 ingredients are animal-based
- Species-appropriate inclusions of meat, organs, and bone
- Very low carbohydrate content
- Made with a single source of high-quality animal protein
- Fairly low carbohydrate content
- Primary source of added fat is animal-based
- Top three ingredients are animal-based proteins
- Contains fresh meat, organs, and ground bone
- Made with high-quality and organic ingredients
- Limited list of digestible animal ingredients
- Made with a single source of protein
- Patties are easy to break into smaller portions
- Made with a single source of novel animal protein
- Limited list of high-quality ingredients
- Herring oil provides animal-based omega-3 fatty acids
What Is Freeze-Dried Cat Food?
Freeze-dried cat food undergoes the same process that’s used to make shelf-stable freeze-dried meals for camping or emergencies. The raw ingredients are cooled to an extremely low temperature—well below the freezing point of water—and then placed into a vacuum chamber. This process extracts moisture and destroys pathogenic bacteria, making the food extraordinarily safe and shelf-stable.
Freeze-dried food is bone-dry when you pour it out of the bag. To restore the food’s natural texture and make it a hydrating meal, pour warm water over the food and let it soak for a couple of minutes.
Though freeze-dried food is often a nutritious choice for cats, it is only as good as the fresh ingredients used in it—because, with the exception of water content, that’s all freeze-dried food is. The preservation process has very little bearing on the food’s nutritional value.
Diane Barrett, a food science and technology professor at the University of California, Davis, told Mother Jones magazine that after rehydrating, freeze-dried food is nutritionally similar to fresh food, calling the process “one of the best ways to preserve food”.
Freeze-drying leaves most nutrients intact, including vitamins, antioxidants, and, in the case of fruits and vegetables, phytochemicals (plant-produced chemicals). Freeze drying can result in the loss of Vitamins C, A, and E, so manufacturers may need to replace these vitamins through synthetic supplementation.
Why Trust Cats.com
We’ve spent the last several years researching feline nutrition and analyzing cat foods to determine what makes one product better than another. Throughout our research, we’ve personally purchased and tested hundreds of different recipes from dozens of brands.
In addition to performing our own in-depth analysis of the products recommended here, we submitted samples of several recipes for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab. Analytical testing reveals the exact micronutrient and macronutrient content of the food as well as the presence of any potentially harmful substances like heavy metals, mold, and pathogens.
We chose freeze-dried cat foods made with carnivore-appropriate inclusions of muscle meat, organs, and bone with minimal carbohydrate content.
When making our selections, we paid particular attention to the brands’ recall history and reputation for safe manufacturing practices. We also paid attention to what customers were saying about the brand overall, considering things like customer service and cat satisfaction.
The 11 Best Freeze-Dried Cat Foods
We make our recommendations after considering a wide variety of factors such as ingredient quality, nutrient composition, popularity, and price. At the top of our list is Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Cat Food. Made with a novel source of animal protein with low carbohydrate content, this recipe is species-appropriate and popular with cats.
Every cat is unique, so while Stella & Chewy’s is our top pick, it might not be right for your particular cat. To help you make the best choice, we’ve categorized our recommendations according to price category and other key factors such as nutritional focus and food type.
What to Consider When Shopping for Freeze-Dried Cat Food
Freeze-dried food is a convenient, relatively safe choice for those who would like to feed their cat fresh or raw food but don’t want to deal with the potential for contamination and disease transmission associated with handling raw meat. Of course, always consult with your veterinarian if you are considering feeding your cat raw food, even if it is freeze-dried.
Nutritional benefits aside, freeze-dried food does have a few shortcomings. The rehydration process takes a couple of minutes, which may be more than you want to commit to feline food preparation. Because freeze-drying is energy-intensive, slow, and costly, freeze-dried cat food is one of the most expensive varieties you can buy.
When shopping for freeze-dried cat food, it’s important to keep your cat’s nutritional needs in mind. Avoid products that contain unnecessary or hard-to-digest ingredients and focus on meat. Here’s what to look for when buying freeze-dried cat food.
Safe, High-Quality Ingredients
Like any other food, freeze-dried cat food should be made from only the finest ingredients available. Ideally, this means fresh, human-grade ingredients that are handled and processed according to human food processing standards.
Avoid foods with ingredients that could cause harm over time. These include additives like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Fortunately, freeze-dried foods appeal to a health-conscious consumer group and seldom contain these ingredients.
Minimal Carbohydrate Content
Many freeze-dried foods contain a lot of veggies and fruit, typically because they’re relying on these ingredients instead of synthetic additives to provide key nutrients. Cats can metabolize carbohydrates to some degree, but fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will be more nutritionally valuable than legumes and fillers or by-products derived from corn, wheat, and soy.
It may not be necessary to avoid plant ingredients entirely, but the best freeze-dried cat food features a carnivore-appropriate blend of muscle meat, organs, and bone. Carbohydrates shouldn’t make up more than 10% of the food on a dry matter basis.
Brand History of Safety and Quality
Because freeze-dried cat food is technically raw, pathogen contamination is a serious concern. Recalls of freeze-dried pet food frequently involve positive test results for Salmonella. Always check a brand’s recall history before feeding its products to your cat and follow safe food handling practices.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best freeze-dried cat food?
The best freeze-dried cat food is made primarily from raw animal ingredients including muscle meat, organs, and bone. It contains at least 40% crude protein and 20% crude fat with less than 10% carbohydrates, all measured as dry matter.
Is freeze-dried food healthy for cats?
Yes. When made from high-quality, animal-sourced ingredients in a species-appropriate nutrient ratio, freeze-dried food is very healthy for cats. Freeze-dried food offers pet owners a convenient alternative to fresh or frozen raw cat food.
Is air-dried or freeze-dried better for cats?
Freeze-dried cat food has moisture removed while the product is still frozen while the air-drying process removes moisture through evaporation. The two are nutritionally similar but air-dried food will be more akin to kibble in texture and consistency. It’s generally designed to be fed as-is while freeze-dried food can be rehydrated before feeding.