Like humans, some cats suffer allergic reactions to certain foods, among which are grains, such as wheat, rice and corn. Maybe your pet has been diagnosed as having such a condition, or perhaps you are interested in controlling your cat’s diet so that it more naturally resembles what he or she would eat in the wild. For many devoted pet owners, the ability to identify good quality alternatives to the traditional ranges of cat foods can be made more difficult by the huge choice offered by manufacturers. Here to help, then, is our top selection of grain free cat foods on the market.
Best Grain Free Cat Food Buying Guide & FAQ
If you want to switch your cat to a grain-free diet, where do you start with all this information? The obvious source of advice is your vet, who will be pleased to make recommendations based on their knowledge of feline nutrition in general and the health of your cat specifically.
Look for evidence that the food you are considering is ‘complete and balanced’, which means it complies with the nutritional guidelines laid down for pets by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Also check that the food is appropriate for the particular life stage your cat is at: kittens have greater nutritional needs to support healthy growth and development than adult cats, for instance.
Another important factor is your own cat’s preference – for wet over dry food, for instance; for flavors and so on. And finally, when changing any pet’s diet, make the switch gradually, increasing quantities of the new food while decreasing the old, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This ensures your pet’s body will adapt gradually to the new diet without any adverse side effects.
The answers to the following questions may also help inform your choice.
Does My Cat Need a Grain Free Diet?
Firstly, what is a grain-free diet? Well, as the name suggests, it’s one where the cat food contains no wheat, rice or corn. While allergic reactions to grains in cats is rare, it still can happen. Possible symptoms of a grain allergy include:
- Itchy or inflamed skin;
- Excessive grooming, hair loss or bald patches;
- Sores and scabs.
If you suspect your cat has allergies, your veterinary can carry out elimination tests to establish what (if anything) in her diet is causing the distress.
Some owners also believe their cats have an intolerance (rather than an allergy) to grains, and experience fewer episodes of vomiting when on a grain-free diet.
Pros and Cons of a Grain-Free Diet
The advantages of a grain-free diet are that:
- Cat foods often use grains as ‘filler’, additional ingredients to bulk up the carbohydrate count. Wheat, corn and rice are all relatively cheap, so often, in grain-free varieties, this is replaced with higher quality ingredients.
- Your cat would certainly not be eating grains in the wild out of choice! Grain-free foods therefore more closely resembles a ‘natural’ diet for your pet.
- There’s no doubt that some cats suffer from food allergies and intolerances, just as humans do. If your cat has been diagnosed by a vet as suffering from an allergy or intolerance to grains, then a grain free diet is a no-brainer as it eliminates the ingredients that can cause a bad reaction.
- Remove the grain from cat food and that has to be replaced it with something. Grain-free foods often end up being higher in fat, so it’s important to watch the fat content and ensure your cat has a balanced diet. Otherwise, she is liable to become overweight, which is never healthy.
- Grain-free cat foods tend to be more expensive. However, because your cat will be able to meet all her nutritional requirements from a smaller portion, you may well find you are feeding her less and the cost balances out.
What Makes a Good Grain Free Cat Food?
Your cat needs a high quality food that meets all its nutritional needs in order to remain healthy. One of the best tests is to ensure the grain-free food you will be feeding your cat meets the nutritional standards laid down in guidelines by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Pet food companies must adhere to these before advertising their products as ‘complete and balanced’.
Remember, though, that every cat is an individual and will have their own specific requirements. There’s also the ‘taste test’: even if you buy the finest, most highly recommended cat food on the market and she won’t eat it, then you’ve wasted your money! Luckily, there is a good selection of flavors and types on the market these days, so take your vet’s advice on what your pet’s nutritional needs are and then try different recommended, high quality types that meets AAFCO guidelines till you find one she likes.
Can Cats Digest Grains?
Although cats do not have the same enzyme in their saliva that we have – called salivary amylase – which assists in the breakdown of grains before they reach the stomach, they do have amylase secreted by the pancreas. This allows them to break down grains in the intestines as digestion occurs. So it is entirely possible for them to absorb carbohydrates from grains, although their diet in the wild would typically only contain small amounts.