The best raw cat food emulates the pure, elegant simplicity of a cat’s natural whole-prey diet. Great products combine nutritional integrity with excellent ingredient quality and a reputation for consistency and safety.
That’s why we recommend Open Farm Harvest Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food as the best raw cat food you can buy. Freeze-drying ensures that this food is safer for both you and your cat while delivering the rich nutrition of fresh meat. It’s made by a company renowned for its ethical and sustainable sourcing and business practices.
Before we dive into the details of our top recommendations, let’s talk about the potential benefits of a raw food diet for your cat.
At a Glance: Best Raw Cat Food To Buy
- Contains muscle meat, organs, and ground bone
- Made with a single source of animal protein
- Relies primarily on animal-based fat from salmon oil
- Freeze dried food is safer to handle and store
- Made primarily from species-appropriate rabbit
- Rich in probiotics with 10 million colony forming units per ounce
- Easily-digested protein helps to support senior muscle mass
- Controlled phosphorus is easy on aging kidneys
- Calorie-dense to keep senior cats strong
- Made with 97% humanely raised turkey
- Highly digestible for cats
- Rich in hydrating moisture
- Carnivore-appropriate blend of muscle meat, organs, and bone
- Ideal for use in homemade raw diets
- Finely ground texture is easy to rehydrate
Is Raw Cat Food Safe?
As with any raw food, there are some risks involved in feeding your cat a raw diet. Raw cat food is inherently prone to containing bacteria due to its uncooked nature. As obligate carnivores, however, cats have a short digestive tract designed to quickly and efficiently process raw meat. Their stomachs also have much higher levels of acidity than the human stomach.
Cats can still get sick from pathogens in food, but their physiology as carnivores may offer some protection in the case of raw diets. Foodborne pathogens simply may not spend enough time in the cat’s digestive system to make them sick.
But what about the risk to yourself or your family? It’s important to follow safe food handling practices, but research seems to suggest that the risk of pathogen transmission to humans from raw pet food diets is low.
A worldwide survey involving more than 5,600 responses from 62 countries revealed no confirmed cases of pathogen transmission or infection. The study authors concluded that potential or probable cases of transmission were likely dependent on hygiene and food safety measures. That said, it’s still important to choose high-quality products from companies that have clear sourcing guidelines and a strong reputation for safety and consistency.
Why Trust Cats.com
We’ve personally purchased and tested hundreds of the world’s most popular cat foods, including the products in this review. The entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct influence from the brands mentioned here. In testing the products with our cats, we make observations about the food’s appearance, texture, consistency, and smell in addition to getting our cats’ opinions on the food.
In order to choose the products for this list, we took time to evaluate the company behind the food. We looked for manufacturers with a history of safety and consistency. We also considered customer experience, reading hundreds of customer reviews, checking for complaints on Consumer Affairs, and sometimes calling the company to get a feel for its culture and trustworthiness.
In addition to scrutinizing each brand’s reputation, we looked for foods that are manufactured and handled according to stringent safety and quality standards. We also sent samples of several products to an ISO 17025-certified food testing lab for analysis.
Thorough testing in a food chemistry lab provides detailed information about the product’s makeup including the exact nutrient content, not just what’s on the label. These tests also reveal contaminants like heavy metals, mold, yeast, and other microbes.
Top Picks Explained
Raw cat food is sold in many forms but freeze-dried products offer shelf-stable convenience. While we’ve since updated the raw cat food products we recommend in this article, we still love the freeze-dried products Mallory talks about in this video.
The Top 7 Best Raw Cat Food Products in 2023
For its meat-focused formula and ethically sourced ingredients, Open Farm freeze-dried raw cat food is our top choice. As a freeze-dried formula, it’s also a convenient option for many cat owners. But it’s not the perfect pick for every cat. Whether you prefer a raw frozen formula or raw supplements you can add to your cat’s current diet, we’ve got you covered.
We consider a variety of factors when making our recommendations including ingredient quality, species appropriateness, price, brand reputation, and more. To help you find the right raw cat food product for your cat, we’ve broken down our recommendations into different categories.
What to Look for in Raw Food for Cats
The best raw cat food is rich in animal protein with moderate levels of fat and low carbohydrate content. Raw food usually does this well when the diet is nutritionally balanced and complete, delivering plenty of animal-derived protein, species-appropriate sources of fatty acids, and not too much starch.
There are many different kinds of raw cat food on the market, so it can be tricky to find the perfect fit for your cat. Here’s what to look for when shopping for raw cat food.
Whole-Prey Inspired Distribution of Muscle Meat, Organs, and Bones
As obligate carnivores, cats thrive on a prey-inspired balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. It appears that the healthiest raw cat foods are composed of roughly 84% muscle meat, 6% bone, 5% liver, and 5% other organs. This mimics the composition of your cat’s prey and helps the food to deliver the right macronutrients and micronutrients with minimal supplementation.
Balanced Mineral Content
Excessive bone content is surprisingly common among raw food products. With too much bone comes too much phosphorus and other minerals. It’s well documented that high levels of phosphorus can be harmful to cats with kidney disease, so excessive bone content could spell problems for your cat’s kidneys.
Complete and Balanced Feline Nutrition
Whether you’re looking at the ratio of muscle meat to organs to bone or scrutinizing the food’s nutrient percentages, it’s critical to make sure that the food has the right balance of nutrients. Compared to other types of cat food, raw cat food is notorious for missing the mark in this area.
When shopping for raw cat food, read product descriptions carefully before buying. Many raw pet food manufacturers don’t formulate their products according to AAFCO nutrient profiles, so know whether you’re buying a complete and balanced product or whether you’ll need to add supplements.
Quality Ingredients and Solid Brand Reputation
Labels are important, but the label only tells you a sliver of the story. You should also know where the food and its ingredients came from. Research the brand to find out where they source their ingredients, how they formulate their foods, and what safety protocols they have in place throughout the manufacturing process.
The most trustworthy manufacturers subject their raw cat food to stringent quality control measures, making sure that every stage of production is tightly controlled to ensure consistent quality. The food may also undergo processes to reduce the risk of pathogenic contamination, including freeze-drying or high-pressure processing (HPP).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is raw food safe for cats?
Raw food always carries a risk of contamination with foodborne pathogens. Following safe food handling practices can help reduce the risk of pathogen transmission to your cat and to your family. When properly processed, handled, and stored, raw food is generally safe for cats.
Do cats live longer on raw diets?
There’s no definitive answer to this question because diet is just one factor that influences a cat’s longevity. That said, a high-quality, species-appropriate diet goes a long way in protecting your cat’s long-term health.
Why don’t vets recommend a raw diet for cats?
In many cases, it’s due to the risk that raw food might contain bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens. There are also some nutritional challenges that come with feeding your cat a diet that isn’t commercially formulated.
Do cats prefer raw or cooked meat?
Every cat is different. Whether you feed your cat cooked or raw food really comes down to a matter of personal preference — both yours and your cat’s.