Raw diets have recently become all the rage. However, they are also a bit of a controversial subject.
On the one hand, many people claim that raw diets are healthier for cats. After all, they are how they originally evolved to eat. Cats don’t craft fires to cook their own food!
On the other hand, raw diets can contain parasites and food-borne viruses. While cats may have digestive systems designed to handle this, we don’t. Feeding our pets a raw diet may put us at risk of food-borne illnesses since we’d be handling and leaving raw meat out.
Commercial raw diets are a safe middle point. They have often been treated to eliminate food-borne illnesses, though that doesn’t make them entirely safe. These diets have also been formulated to be complete and balanced, which can’t be said for plain, raw meat.
Raw, commercial diets are very new, so there are only a few available out there. We reviewed some of the best and most popular below so that you can choose the best option for your feline.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
The 10 Best Raw Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021
1. ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food – Best Overall
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, turkey, whole mackerel, turkey giblets (liver, heart, gizzard), flounder|
Off the bat, we must admit that ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food isn’t completely raw, but it still makes the top of our list. Their kibble is coated in freeze-dried liver, which makes it taste better and adds some extra nutrition. Out of all the raw-inclusive diets on the market, this is easily the best overall raw cat food.
The ingredient list is full of different meat proteins. Chicken and turkey are the first two ingredients, but they are followed by mackerel, organ meats, flounder, and more. If you’re looking for protein-rich food, you can’t really get better than this one.
This formula is also gluten- and grain-free. No corn, wheat, or soy is added either. Some veggies are included, like whole pinto beans, but they are added much further down on the ingredient list.
This company utilizes refrigeration as their sole method of preservation, and all raw ingredients are frozen. They don’t use extra preservatives or anything like that in their food.
2. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe – Best Value
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, chicken heart, dried pumpkin|
Purchasing completely raw food can be expensive. Raw foods are often much more expensive than your average commercial product, largely because they usually contain more meat ingredients. Meat is more expensive than veggies, grains, or fruits – raising the overall price considerably.
The Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe is not designed to be used as a complete meal. Instead, these little bits are designed to be added to your cat’s current food. If you’re looking to add raw food into your cat’s diet, this is a suitable way to do it without breaking the bank.
After reviewing tons of raw cat foods, this recipe was the best raw cat food for the money.
These pieces of raw food are made primarily with freeze-dried chicken. However, chicken liver and chicken heart are also included.
This particular formula is designed for digestive health. Therefore, it includes a lot of different stomach-supporting ingredients, like pumpkin seeds and dried pumpkin. However, your cat doesn’t need to have digestive problems to benefit from this food.
3. Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Raw Cat Food – Premium Option
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken (ground with bone), chicken liver, chicken gizzard, pumpkin seed|
It is very difficult to find quality cat food that is completely raw – which is why this is the first one on our list. As a raw cat food, Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Raw Cat Food is quite expensive. However, if you’re looking to feed your cat completely raw food, it may be your only option.
It is made with mostly meat and very few veggies or fruits. Pumpkin seed is the only added veggie, likely due to its positive effects on the digestive system. The rest of the food is chicken and added nutrients.
The chicken is completely raw and freeze-dried. It includes whole chicken as well as various chicken organ meats, like liver and gizzard.
This food is extremely convenient. It’s in a bag and ready to go – you just have to put it in your pet’s bowl. You don’t have to mix it with another food or anything of that sort. It’s simply a completely raw, natural diet for your feline – ready to go in a zippered bag.
4. Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas|
Instinct is probably one of the biggest names in the raw cat food industry. The Instinct Raw Boost Chicken Recipe is probably one of the most popular raw cat foods on the market, in fact.
This formula is quite high in protein at 41%. Most of this protein comes from chicken, though turkey and menhaden fish meal also appear on the ingredient list. This food is a mixture of kibble and raw bites of chicken. Therefore, it isn’t actually completely raw. It only includes pieces of raw food in it.
You can purchase the raw bites separately, but these are not designed to be a complete meal. They have to be added to the kibble.
This recipe is complete and provides everything your feline needs to thrive. Omega fatty acids are included for a soft and healthy coat, while antioxidants protect against oxidative damage.
We did like this recipe. However, it is expensive and not completely raw. If you’re looking for raw food, it likely won’t be exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, you’ll be spending about the same amount as you would on completely raw food.
5. Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, chicken heart|
The Instinct Raw Meals Chicken Recipe is a completely freeze-dried meal designed by Instinct – one of the larger companies that makes freeze-dried foods. This particular recipe is mostly freeze-dried chicken with added vitamins and minerals.
If you’re looking for a completely freeze-dried diet, this one absolutely fits the bill. However, it is incredibly expensive, which is why it is so low on our list. Most people cannot afford this cat food – at least not as your cat’s regular diet!
This formula is completely free from colors, preservatives, grain, corn, wheat, and soy. It uses only high-quality ingredients, which in this case means chicken and chicken organs. There is very little in this formula that isn’t meat.
Instinct does make this brand in the USA, so you can rest assured that it follows strict safety standards.
6. Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Raw Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken (with ground bone), chicken livers, salmon, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds|
Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Raw Cat Food is completely raw food that contains a lot of protein. In fact, at 49% protein, this formula includes more protein than practically any other formula on the market.
The fat content is decently high at 26% as well – with much of this fat coming from chicken.
Many of the ingredients included are organic. For instance, both the pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds used are organic. The formula includes organic minerals and unrefined vitamins for complete nutrition at all life stages. You can feed this formula to kittens and adults alike.
Essential fatty acids and enzymes. These both improve the overall health of your feline and encourage appropriate digestive health.
This formula is crafted in the United States using sustainable ingredients. However, it is also extremely expensive. When you combine organic with raw, you end up with extremely expensive ingredients.
7. Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties
|First Five Ingredients:||Rabbit, rabbit liver, rabbit heart, rabbit kidney, goat’s milk|
The Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties is a unique formula. Instead of small, freeze-dried pieces, this recipe comes in “bricks” – for lack of a better term. You feed each cat about a brick per seven pounds. Specific feeding instructions are on the back of the bag.
The ingredient list is extremely high-quality, including rabbit and rabbit organs—other quality ingredients like goat’s milk and herring oil. With so many meat ingredients, this formula is extremely high in protein. It has one of the highest protein levels on the market.
The fat content is quite low, though – largely because rabbit is a lean protein. It includes only 15% crude fat, which is lower than much of the competition.
This food is completely grain-free and contains no added flavors, fillers, or artificial ingredients.
For the most part, this is a solid way to introduce raw food into your cat’s diet. However, some cats do not like the patties, as they are quite hard and somewhat difficult to eat.
8. Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, Lamb Heart, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Liver, Lamb Blood|
As the name suggests, Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food includes mostly chicken and lamb ingredients. Whole chicken is included as the first ingredient, while various lamb organs follow.
For the most part, this formula is only meat. Some added veggies and other high-quality ingredients are included lower on the list, such as dried kelp. These add some nutritional content to the food.
Of course, it is also fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals to make it a complete diet.
With plenty of protein and fat, this formula is extremely nutritious. It is also fairly expensive, though. It isn’t clear whether this formula is completely raw or not. While it is freeze-dried, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is completely raw.
Some cats don’t like the texture or flavor of this food. There are several customers complaining about the new formula.
9. Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, salmon, chicken necks, chicken liver, chicken hearts|
Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Salmon Raw Cat Food includes mostly meat ingredients, such as chicken and salmon. Various parts of the chicken are also included, such as chicken necks and chicken liver. The whole formula is freeze-dried and raw, making it a great way to completely switch your cat’s diet.
The protein content is quite high at 46%. This is much higher than your average wet or dry cat food. The fat content is moderately high at 23%.
This formula does include some high-quality veggies and fruits, like cranberries and spinach. These add a significant amount of nutrition to this cat food without relying on synthetic ingredients.
Probiotics are also included to support digestive and immune health.
These freeze-dried bits are extremely fragile and difficult to ship. Many customers complained that there is always a layer of dust at the bottom of the bag. When you’re paying this much for cat food, you want to be able to use all of it.
Many cats don’t like switching directly to this freeze-dried food, especially since it looks a lot like sawdust. Some cats may not even recognize it as food.
10. Meat Mates Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Lamb, lamb tripe, lamb heart, lamb kidney, lamb spleen|
The Meat Mates Lamb Freeze-Dried Cat Food is a completely freeze-dried, raw cat food. However, it lands at the bottom of our list for a few different reasons.
Firstly, it is extremely high in fat. While cats do need a lot of fat to thrive, they don’t quite need 42% fat. This is double what most other brands include, and it may put your cat at risk for fat-related conditions.
Secondly, only very small bags are available. While this does prevent some of the food from being completely crushed (as is a problem with other types of raw foods), this also keeps the price quite high. There is no bulk discount.
Thirdly, many cats don’t like the flavor. While this is sometimes the case with lamb, it appears that there are quite a few felines who simply don’t like this food.
With that said, it does include high-quality ingredients. It’s mostly just different parts of the lamb.
Because commercial raw cat food is quite new, there is a lot we don’t yet know about it. There is plenty of contradictory information out there, which can make it difficult to choose the right food for your feline.
Many pet owners are chased off due to the higher potential for diseases and other issues. However, the information is a bit more complicated than most assume it to be.
Below, we’ve included all the information you need to know about choosing your feline a raw cat food.
Types of Raw Cat Food
There are several different types of raw cat food. Some of these are more widely available than others.
Factors to Look For
When you’re judging raw cat food, there are several factors you should look for. Not all freeze-dried and fresh foods are made equal, so it’s important to give the bag a very close inspection before making a purchase.
Just because it is raw doesn’t mean that it’s the best option for your cat. Some companies slap the “raw” label on their food so that they can charge more for it – not necessarily because it is a good option for your feline.
For most felines, we recommend ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. This food isn’t completely raw, but it does provide an easy way to add some raw food into your cat’s diet. Plus, it is far less expensive than a completely raw diet – which many felines don’t like the taste of, anyway.
If you’re looking for a budget option, you may want to purchase the Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Recipe and add them to your cat’s usual food. If your feline refuses completely raw food, this is another easy way to add some raw food into their diet.
We hope that our reviews helped you decide on the best raw food for your feline. Remember to look at the ingredient list and protein content – don’t just rely on the “raw” catchphrase.
Featured Image Credit: DarkBird, Shutterstock
Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!