High protein dry cat food

Dry cat food is convenient and doesn’t spoil as fast as wet food, it’s nutritionally ‘complete and balanced’ but also this doesn’t mean it’s healthy nutrition for your cat, especially if not chosen with care in mind. 

I know the struggle of finding good dry cat food
I’ve been there myself. I went through dozens of misleading sites that want to sell you any cat food, without looking at what’s inside. So you’re lucky! I’ve done the research for you!

IN THIS ARTICLE you will find species-appropriate high-protein (and grain-free) dry cat food products currently on the market, reviewed based on how safe they are for our cats to eat.

I’ve analyzed for days the nutritional information on the labels (guaranteed analyses of protein, fat, fiber, carbs, and moisture), the ingredient quality, the nutritional additives (vitamins and minerals), and of course the recall history of the brands, and trust me it was quite hard to come up with 10 products!

10 Best high-protein, grain-free dry cat foods

the best high protein dry cat food 2022

As I explained in our cat food article, cats are obligate carnivores and they must have animal protein as their main source of nourishment. Period. Dry cat kibble it’s usually not so packed with animal proteins as wet food, but rather high in vegetable protein and carbohydrates. Dry cat food also loses most of its natural nutrients through the cooking process and lacks the moisture a cat needs in its diet.

But, some high-protein dry cat foods are worth feeding to your cat after all.

So here it is, starting with species appropriateness, the ingredient quality, guaranteed analyses, recall history, and price, I present to you the best high-protein, grain-free dry cat foods of 2022:

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10 BEST HIGH-PROTEIN, GRAIN-FREE DRY CAT FOOD PRODUCTS OF 2022 [click to expand list]

1️⃣ Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe

Inspired by the nutrients found in wild prey, this diet contains 95% animal-based protein. It is grain-free, sugar-free, and free of artificial additives and preservatives, using …

2️⃣ SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Other Bird (the Turkey Recipe)

This recipe is species-appropriate, contains a high amount of animal protein, a fair enough amount of fat, and is low in carbs. No added sugars, artificial colors, or …

3️⃣ ZIWI® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe for Cats

Made out of 96% free-range venison meat, organs and bone, and New Zealand green mussel this recipe is gently air-dried, very low in carbohydrate content, grain-free, GMO-free, …

4️⃣ Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels

This recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein (98% cage-free raw chicken), grain-free, sugar-free, and relatively low in carbs.

5️⃣ Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Ultimate Protein mirrors the benefits of raw cat food with a species-appropriate, high-protein (95% protein from real chicken), grain-free recipe, that is free of artificial …

6️⃣ Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Raw Boost is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe which is coated with freeze-dried raw and also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken.

7️⃣ Orijen Original Cat

Orijen Original Cat is a moderate protein, grain-free, and relatively low-carb dry cat food made with fresh or frozen-raw cage-free chicken and turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish.

8️⃣ Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken & Cod Recipe

This recipe is formulated with 83% animal-based protein, it is grain-free and contains a rather low amount of carbs ( approx. 20%), but, it consists of more vegetable ingredients …

9️⃣ Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Instinct Original is a high-protein, grain-free, raw-coated cat kibble recipe containing 81% animal ingredients(with cage-free chicken as the main ingredient) and 19% fruits, …

🔟 Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild offers affordable, high-quality cat food, with moderate protein (approx. 42%) it is grain-free and has real meat as the first ingredient, but also contains …
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1. Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Dr Elseys cleanprotein Chicken Recipe

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ is a high-protein, grain-free kibble made with high-quality ingredients, and the best dry cat food you can get on the US market. 

Inspired by the amount of protein your cat would eat from its prey in a natural environment, Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ recipes contain 95% animal-based protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It contains no grains, no added sugars, no fillers, artificial coloring, or preservatives, instead, the company uses gelatin as a natural binder.

This food promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for your cat, and from customer reviews, their cat’s coats and fur condition have significantly improved. The cats look healthier, their fur is softer and shiny, and they are energetic and happy. 

❗❗❗ cleanprotein™ update (2/22/22): At the moment the company continues to have production delays with the cleanprotein™ Chicken, and now also with the Salmon recipe, due to industry-wide ingredient shortages. The Salmon kibble is expected to be available by mid-March 2022 and the Chicken recipe around April 2022.

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken, dried egg product, gelatin, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pork protein isolate, flaxseed, natural flavor, salmon oil, potassium citrate, fructooligosaccharide, 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), calcium carbonate, minerals (zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, zinc proteinate, manganous oxide, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), potassium chloride, taurine, salt, mixed tocopherols (preservative), dicalcium phosphate, rosemary extract.

Caloric Content: 544 kcal/cup.

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 59%
Crude Fat (min): 18%
Crude Fiber (max): 4%
Moisture (max): 12%
Carbs 3.34% (as fed)
Ash 6.07% (as fed)

More info here and here.

1️⃣ Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe

Inspired by the nutrients found in wild prey, this diet contains 95% animal-based protein. It is grain-free, sugar-free, and free of artificial additives and preservatives, using ...
Dr Elseys cleanprotein Chicken Recipe

Similar recipes: 

  • Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Duck Recipe
  • Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Rabbit Recipe
  • Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Turkey Recipe
  • Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ With Salmon

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ meets the requirements for a complete and balanced diet based on the nutritional levels established by AAFCO for cats of all life stages and is suitable for cats with allergies or suffering from diabetes. 

Dr. Elsey’s cat food never had a recall for their recipes! 

Pros:
  • Species appropriate
  • 95% animal-based protein
  • Human grade ingredients
  • Very low carb content 4.32% (dry matter)
  • Sugar-free, Grain-free
  • Uses gelatin as a binder
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • No by-products
  • No artificial additives and preservatives
  • Suitable for cats with diabetes and allergies
  • Optimal content of taurine
  • Healthy Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Available in stores and online
Cons:
  • Expensive
    ( approx 80$ for 6.6lb / 3kg bag )
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat
  • Frequent production delays
  • Unavailability

1️⃣ Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe

Inspired by the nutrients found in wild prey, this diet contains 95% animal-based protein. It is grain-free, sugar-free, and free of artificial additives and preservatives, using ...
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2. SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Other Bird (the Turkey Recipe) high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Although not considered kibble, but rather freeze-dried little niblets, we added this high-protein recipe to the dry cat food list because these niblets don’t need to be rehydrated as other freeze-dried cat foods do. You can feed it to your cat like it is in the bag.  

The recipes are species-appropriate, they contain a high amount of animal protein, a fair enough amount of fat, and are low in carbs. No added sugars, artificial colors, or preservatives, and of course no grains! 

Nutritional information:
Ingredients:
Finely ground Turkey with bone, Turkey heart, Turkey liver, Turkey gizzard, Goat’s milk, Turkey egg, water, eggshell membrane, herring oil, mixed tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 49%
Crude Fat (min): 17%
Crude Fiber (max): 3%
Moisture (max): 8%

The Smalls freeze-dried raw cat food is suitable for cats of all life stages and is formulated to be complete and balanced for cats according to the AAFCO guidelines. 

2️⃣ SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Other Bird (the Turkey Recipe)

This recipe is species-appropriate, contains a high amount of animal protein, a fair enough amount of fat, and is low in carbs. No added sugars, artificial colors, or ...

Similar recipes:

  • SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Bird – the Chicken recipe
  • SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Water Bird – the Duck recipe

As far as we know the freeze-dried recipes from Smalls never had a recall, only their Human-Grade Fresh cat food had one recall for their fresh chicken and fresh turkey recipes. 

Smalls cat food is not sold in stores, instead, the company is shipping their boxes to you, with a monthly subscription of a custom meal plan for your cat. 

Good to know
We asked, and unfortunately, the company doesn’t have a way for customers to buy an all freeze-dried trial. To receive the freeze-dried raw Smalls you have to purchase the sampler pack for their Human-Grade fresh cat food first and then on the next delivery, you can customize it and add the freeze-dried varieties.
Pros:
  • Species-appropriate
  • Human grade animal products
  • Nutritious alternative to extruded kibble
  • High animal protein content
  • Sugar-free, Grain-free
  • No artificial additives
  • No by-products
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Suitable for cats with food allergies
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Optimal content of taurine
  • Healthy Omega 3 fatty acids
  • Nice crunch
Cons:
  • Super Expensive,
    (30$ per 12oz bag about 88.2$ for 1kg)
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat
  • Not sold in stores
    (you need a monthly delivery subscription)
  • Can’t buy it individually without trying out first the sample pack for the Smalls Human-Grade Fresh cat food.

2️⃣ SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Other Bird (the Turkey Recipe)

This recipe is species-appropriate, contains a high amount of animal protein, a fair enough amount of fat, and is low in carbs. No added sugars, artificial colors, or ...
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3. ZIWI® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe for Cats, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

ZIWI Peak Air Dried Venison Recipe for Cats

Ziwi® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe is made out of 96% animal ingredients. The recipe contains 93% free-range venison meat, venison organs (tripe, heart, lung, liver, kidney), and venison bone to which are added 3% New Zealand green-lipped mussels – a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin that helps with long-term joint health and mobility.

The food is then supplemented with lecithin, inulin from chicory, dried kelp, and all the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids a cat needs in its diet to thrive as a carnivore animal. Wich makes this diet complete and balanced for cats according to the food nutrient profiles established by AAFCO for all life stages. 

This recipe is gently air-dried to naturally preserve all the nutrients from the ingredients whilst eliminating pathogenic bacteria. Because they use a dehydration process they don’t need to add any starches or grains for palatability and binding purposes like normal extruded kibble does, which makes Ziwi Peak air-dried recipes species-appropriate for cats due to their macronutrient distribution and very low carbohydrate content.

This food is just as nutritious as a raw diet but in the convenient form of air-dried. It is grain-free, GMO-free (with no added hormones, antibiotics, or growth promotants), sugar-free (no glycerine or high glycemic ingredients such as potato or tapioca starch), no added artificial preservatives or colorants, and primarily made out of grass-fed venison with a 54% protein content in the dry matter. 

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients: 
Venison, venison tripe, venison heart, venison lung, venison liver, venison kidney, New Zealand green mussel, venison bone, lecithin, inulin from chicory, dried kelp, minerals (dipotassium phosphate, magnesium sulfate, zinc amino acid complex, copper amino acid complex, iron amino acid complex, manganese amino acid complex, sodium selenite), salt, preservative (citric acid, mixed tocopherols), vitamins (choline chloride, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement), dl-methionine, taurine.

Caloric Content: 267 kcal /level scoop (where one full scoop weighs approx 56.7g/2oz) 

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 45%
Crude Fat (min): 23%
Crude Fiber (max): 2%
Moisture (max): 14%
Ash (max) 12%
Carbs 6% (as fed)

See the full nutritional information here.

3️⃣ ZIWI® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe for Cats

Made out of 96% free-range venison meat, organs and bone, and New Zealand green mussel this recipe is gently air-dried, very low in carbohydrate content, grain-free, GMO-free, ...
ZIWI Peak Air-Dried cat food

Similar recipes:

  • Ziwi® Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Recipe
  • Ziwi® Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe
  • Ziwi® Peak Air-Dried Beef Recipe
  • Ziwi® Peak Air-Dried Free-Range Chicken Recipe

Ziwi Peak cat food recipes have never been recalled.

Overall, this food is nutrient-dense, based on a high animal protein content, moderate fat, and very low carb content. 

Pros:
  • Species-appropriate
  • Human grade animal products
  • 93% free-range grass-fed venison (whole-prey diet: meat, organs, and bones)
  • Nutrient-dense, more power in smaller servings
  • High animal protein content
  • Very low carb content (7% dry matter)
  • Grain-free
  • Sugar-free (with no other glycemic ingredients)
  • GMO-free (no hormones or antibiotics)
  • No artificial ingredients
  • No by-products, no fillers
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Mirrors raw food diet nutrition
  • Easily digestible
  • Promotes mobility, vitality, and the overall well-being of your cat
  • Optimal content of taurine and essential amino acids
  • Suitable for cats with food allergies
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Comes with a measuring scoop
  • Available in stores and online
  • Can be fed straight from the bag
Cons:
  • Very Expensive
    (approx. 53$ for a 2.2lb / 1kg bag.)
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat 
    (but offering more hydration than kibble)

3️⃣ ZIWI® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe for Cats

Made out of 96% free-range venison meat, organs and bone, and New Zealand green mussel this recipe is gently air-dried, very low in carbohydrate content, grain-free, GMO-free, ...
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4. Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food 

Stella & Chewys Chicken Dinner Morsels 

The freeze-dried crunchy morsels from Stella & Chewy’s can be fed dry or you can rehydrate them by adding warm water to help your cat transition to a diet rich in moisture. 

The morsels are made from 98% raw cage-free chicken meat ground with bone, along with chicken liver and chicken gizzard to which are added seeds, herbs, probiotics, and supplements to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO for a complete and balanced diet for cats of all life stages. 

The recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein, grain-free, sugar-free, and relatively low in carbs

nutritional information:
Ingredients:
Chicken (ground with bone), chicken liver, chicken gizzard, pumpkin seed, potassium chloride, sodium phosphate, choline chloride, fenugreek seed, dried pediococcus 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 (min): 45%
Crude Fat (min): 25%
Crude Fiber (max): 5%
Moisture (max): 5%
Ash 12%
Carbs 5.08%

4️⃣ Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels

This recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein (98% cage-free raw chicken), grain-free, sugar-free, and relatively low in carbs.
Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels 
Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Morsels for cats

Similar recipes:

  • Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Stella & Chewy’s Sea-Licious Salmon & Cod Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Stella & Chewy’s Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
  • Stella & Chewy’s Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels

Some Stella & Chewy’s freeze-dried raw cat food recipes (the Chick Chick Chicken, Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey, and Salmon & Chicken dinners) were recalled in July and December 2015 due to the possibility of contamination with the bacteria Listeria. Listeria monocytogenes on rare occasions can cause disease in cats and dogs. Normally cats that have been consuming contaminated foods with listeria could present mild diarrhea and vomiting, and in more occasional uncommon cases it can lead to fever, muscle pain, trouble breathing, loss of pregnancy, and even death. Stella & Chewy’s cat and dog food recipes have never been recalled since. In addition, all their products are tested before packaging and they post the outside lab results on their website to ease customers’ minds. 

Overall this freeze-dried raw food is nutritionally good for your cat and has the convenience of kibble with a safe shelf-life it comes in three format bags, 3.5oz, 8oz, and 18oz.

Pros:
  • Species appropriate
  • High animal protein content
  • 98% cage-free raw chicken
  • Added probiotics for optimal digestion
  • Nutritious alternative to extruded kibble
  • Low in carb content 5%
  • Optimal content of Taurine and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Grain-free, Sugar-free
  • No by-products or chemical additives
  • Available in stores and online
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Crunchy
Cons:
  • Very expensive,
    ( 40$ for an 18oz /510g bag )
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat
    (but you can add warm water for extra moisture)
  • Hard to chew for cats with teeth problems if not rehydrated

4️⃣ Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels

This recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein (98% cage-free raw chicken), grain-free, sugar-free, and relatively low in carbs.
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5. Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Instinct Ultimate Protein Cage Free Chicken Recipe

Nature’s variety® Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe offers cat nutrition that mirrors the benefits of raw food, with 95% protein from real chicken

The recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein, grain-free, and uses chicken fat as the source of fats instead of manmade oils. It does not contain any added sugars or artificial additives. It does contain tapioca though, which is not ideal but highly used in grain-free dry foods to create palatability in the kibble structure.


Instinct® Ultimate Protein is packed with protein and every piece of kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw for added nutrition and to offer the taste of the raw. It is formulated to meet the nutritional levels for adult cat maintenance established by AAFCO, so this food it’s not suitable for kittens. 

The Instinct® Ultimate Protein cage-Free Chicken Recipe contains guaranteed levels of live, natural probiotics for good digestibility and optimal nutrient absorption and has natural Omegas and antioxidants to promote healthy skin and coat and strengthen the immune health of your cat.

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken, tapioca, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), ground flaxseed, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, dried whey protein concentrate, dicalcium phosphate, potassium chloride, salt, vitamins (vitamin e supplement, niacin supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin a supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin b12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin d3 supplement, biotin), montmorillonite clay, choline chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), taurine, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, freeze-dried chicken heart, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract.

Caloric Content: 491kcal/cup

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 47%
Crude Fat (min): 17%
Crude Fiber (max): 3%
Moisture (max): 10%
Ash 12.82%
Carbs 12% (as fed)

You are probably wondering what Montmorillonite Clay is from the ingredient list…Montmorillonite Clay is an anticaking agent, an additive meant to aid the absorption of excess moisture and prevent the clumping of food. Nature’s Variety uses Montmorillonite Clay in their pet food diets after it’s tested and guaranteed dioxin-free, and is also approved by AAFCO.

5️⃣ Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Ultimate Protein mirrors the benefits of raw cat food with a species-appropriate, high-protein (95% protein from real chicken), grain-free recipe, that is free of artificial ...
Instinct Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Similar products:

  • Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Duck Recipe

Nature’s Variety Instinct® Ultimate Protein varieties, as well as all the other dry or wet cat food recipes manufactured by the brand, have never been recalled, but Nature’s Variety had its most recent recall in 2015 for some of their chicken-based dog foods that were found positive for salmonella after FDA testing.

Pros:
  • Species-appropriate
  • Human grade animal products
  • 95% of protein is from real chicken 
  • Nutrition that mirrors raw diets
  • High animal protein content
  • Sugar-free, Grain-free
  • No artificial additives or preservatives
  • No by-products or animal meals
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Probiotics added for digestive health
  • Relatively low carb content (12%)
  • Balanced content of taurine and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Complete and balanced by AAFCO
  • Available in stores and online
  • Very positive reviews by customers
Cons:
  • Expensive
    ( 58$ per 10lb / 4.5kg bag )
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat
  • Not suitable for kittens
  • Contains tapioca as a binder

5️⃣ Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Ultimate Protein mirrors the benefits of raw cat food with a species-appropriate, high-protein (95% protein from real chicken), grain-free recipe, that is free of artificial ...
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6. Instinct® Raw Boost® with Real Chicken, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Instinct Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Instinct® Raw Boost® kibble for cats by Nature’s Variety® is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe with real cage-free chicken as the main ingredient which is not only freeze-dried raw coated but also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken in the recipe giving people a cheaper way to add raw foods in their cat’s diet.  

The recipe is high in animal protein and uses chicken fat as the source of fats. It does not contain any added sugars or artificial additives, colorants, or preservatives, but it does contain tapioca to create kibble palatability.

Instinct® Raw Boost® is packed with protein and every piece of kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw for added nutrition and to offer the taste of the raw. 

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, freeze-dried chicken, natural flavor, freeze-dried chicken liver, dried tomato pomace, pumpkin seeds, freeze-dried chicken heart, montmorillonite clay, carrots, apples, cranberries, choline chloride, salt, vitamins (vitamin e supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, vitamin a supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin b12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin d3 supplement, biotin), minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), taurine, dried kelp, salmon oil, blueberries, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract.

Caloric Content: 496 kcal/cup

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 41%
Crude Fat (min): 22%
Crude Fiber (max): 3.5%
Moisture (max): 9%
Ash 12% (as fed)
Carbs 12.50% (as fed)

Full diet information here.

6️⃣ Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Raw Boost is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe which is coated with freeze-dried raw and also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken.
Instinct Raw Boost with Chicken Grain-free cat food

Similar recipes:

  • Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Salmon High-Protein Kibble + Freeze-Dried Raw bites, Grain-free Recipe 
  • Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Rabbit High-Protein Kibble + Freeze-Dried Raw bites, Grain-free Recipe 

The recipe is formulated to meet the nutritional levels of a complete and balanced diet for cats of all life stages approved by AAFCO.

As we mentioned above, Nature’s Variety® Instinct® wet and dry cat foods never had a recall, but the company Nature’s Variety® was recalled in 2015 for salmonella contamination in some of their chicken-based dog food recipes. In 2013 they had a recall after plastic was found in the food and in 2010 another recall for potential salmonella on a limited amount of chicken medallions, patties, and chubs.

Pros:
  • High-protein kibble
  • Contains freeze-dried raw pieces
  • Natural probiotics included for digestive health
  • Grain-free, sugar-free
  • No by-products or artificial ingredients
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Relatively low carb content (13%)
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Optimal content of Taurine and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Very positive recent customer reviews
  • Available in stores and online
  • Affordable approx. 42$ for a 10lb bag
Cons:
  • Not hydrating enough
    ( make sure you provide daily fresh water to your cat )
  • Contains tapioca as a binder

6️⃣ Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Raw Boost is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe which is coated with freeze-dried raw and also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken.
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7. Orijen Original Cat, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Orijen Original Cat 

❗ Orijen Original Cat is the new name of the former Orijen Cat & Kitten formula.

Orijen Original Cat is a moderate protein, grain-free, and relatively low carbohydrate content dry cat food made with fresh or frozen-raw cage-free chicken and turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish. 

Their authentic WholePrey recipe uses animal parts like meat, bones, cartilage, organs, and fat to mimic the diet your cat’s ancestors would eat in the wild. 

The recipe is composed of 90% animal ingredients and 10% fruits, vegetables, and added nutrients like vitamins, minerals, natural preservatives, and probiotics to meet the AAFCO recommendations for a complete and balanced diet for cats of all life stages, which makes it suitable for cats and kittens.

The kibble is freeze-dried coated to offer your cat a raw yummy flavor and does not contain grains, sugars, or any artificial additives. 

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken, turkey, whole Mackerel, Turkey giblets (liver, heart, gizzard), Flounder, chicken liver, whole Herring, eggs, dehydrated chicken, dehydrated turkey, dehydrated mackerel, dehydrated chicken liver, dehydrated egg, chicken fat, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, whole peas, whole green lentils, whole chickpeas, natural chicken flavor, whole navy beans, pollock oil, lentil fiber, pea starch, chicken heart, choline chloride, dried kelp, mixed tocopherols (preservative), vitamin E supplement, zinc proteinate, whole cranberries, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, collard greens, whole apples, whole pears, copper proteinate, thiamine mononitrate, niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, dried chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, citric acid (preservative), rosemary extract, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus casei fermentation product.

Caloric Content: 515 kcal/8 oz cup

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 40%
Crude Fat (min): 20%
Crude Fiber (max): 3%
Moisture (max): 10%
Crude Ash 8%
Carbs approx. 19%

7️⃣ Orijen Original Cat

Orijen Original Cat is a moderate protein, grain-free, and relatively low-carb dry cat food made with fresh or frozen-raw cage-free chicken and turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish.
Orijen Original Cat ingredients

The brand also provides kibble only to adult cats or kittens:

  • Orijen Fit and Trim (for adult cats)
  • Orijen Guardian 8 (for adult cats)
  • Orijen Kitten grain-free kitten cat food

Similar recipes from Orijen for cats of all life stages are:

  • Orijen Regional Red
  • Orijen Tundra 
  • Orijen Six Fish
Orijen Original Cat 

As the leading brand of Champion Petfoods, Orijen has two manufacturing plants, the NorthStar kitchen in Alberta, Canada, and the DogStar kitchen in Auburn, Kentucky, USA.

Orijen customers from Canada, Europe, and Asia get the foods made in the Canadian kitchen whilst Orijen customers from the US, Central, and South America get the recipes made in the Kentucky kitchen. The company only makes dry foods for cats and for dogs with the ingredients locally acquired from safe sources near their manufacturing facilities and their NorthStar and DogStar kitchens have received Safe Food Quality (SQF) and Safe Feed/Safe Food (SFSF) certifications.

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Orijen recall hystory

All these safety regulations because Orijen has been recalled once in 2008 in Australia where a small number of cats got sick and even died after eating Orijen cat food, although Champion Petfoods claimed that the fault was not with their recipes but with the mandatory irradiation treatments implemented by Australia’s food import regulations.

Before 2009, any pet food that contained raw meat, fresh meat, or cooked at low temperatures had to undergo an irradiation treatment to destroy any potential microbial contamination before ending up in stores. This mandatory treatment exposed the foods to gamma rays that not only destroyed microbes but also drained the Vitamin A from the food and increased the promotion of free radicals that have put cat lives in danger. 

The Orijen food was also found to contain various heavy metals and toxins in their food such as BPA, Arsenic, Cadmium, Mercury, and Lead, but the amount was below the level approved by the FDA. This is due to the high amount of fish the recipe contains and it’s one of the things we do not like about Orijen. 

Good To Know
Since the company opened its facility in Kentucky, costumes have reported a serious decrease in the quality of the food compared to the original recipes made in Canada. The majority of the customers that received the recipe from the Kentucky production complain that the food smells strange, looks different and made their cats vomit, have diarrhea, urinate inappropriately outside the litter box and they found blood in the urine and stools of their cats and it even caused urinary obstruction, urethral blockage and forming crystals in some cats. Other cat parents reported coat issues like dandruff and fur shedding.

Overall, Orijen is a good cat food inspired by a cat’s diet in the wild, with a considerably low amount of carbs compared to other cat foods on the market, with safe sources of animal ingredients and species-appropriate recipes, but the bad reviews left by customers related to the US recipe makes the brand’s integrity questionable. We hope they will do better, but for now, they are nr. 7 on our list. 

Pros:
  • High animal protein content
  • 90% animal-based ingredients
  • Relatively low carb content ( approx. 20%)
  • No grains, sugars, or artificial additives
  • Supports digestion
  • Contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Optimal content of taurine
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
Cons:
  • Expensive,
    (66$ for a 12lb / 5.4 kg bag)
  • Has more vegetable content than cats need in their diet
  • Ample amount of bad reviews about the kibble made in the US facility making cats sick
  • Too much fish for our liking that contains heavy metals
  • The food also smells too fishy for fussy eaters, no matter the recipe
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat’s diet

7️⃣ Orijen Original Cat

Orijen Original Cat is a moderate protein, grain-free, and relatively low-carb dry cat food made with fresh or frozen-raw cage-free chicken and turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish.
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8. Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken & Cod Recipe, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken and cod cat food

The Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe is formulated with 83% animal-based protein and low glycemic index carb ingredients to which is added a natural prebiotic supplement (chicory root)  to make sure your cat gets all the necessary amino acids to have a healthy life.

The recipe is grain-free and contains a moderate amount of animal proteins with a rather low amount of carbs (approx. 20%), but still consists of more vegetable ingredients a cat should have in its diet. 

The diet is grain-free, sugar-free, and doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients like preservatives, colorants, or chemical additives, it also doesn’t contain any tapioca or tapioca starch.

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
deboned Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, deboned cod, whole peas, lentils, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols & citric acid), natural flavor, pea fiber, ground flaxseed, dried chicory root, dried kelp, dried sweet potato, dried cranberries, calcium carbonate, dl-methionine, taurine, zinc proteinate, choline chloride, vitamin E supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), iron proteinate, niacin supplement, copper proteinate, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, manganese proteinate, pyridoxidine hydrochloride, sodium selenite, riboflavin supplement, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, yucca schidigera extract, vitamin B12 supplement, calcium iodate, folic acid, rosemary extract.

Caloric Content: 486 calories per cup.

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 40%
Crude Fat (min): 20%
Crude Fiber (max): 4%
Moisture (max): 10%
Crude Ash 7.5%
Carbs 19.51% (as fed)

See the full nutrient profile here.

8️⃣ Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken & Cod Recipe

This recipe is formulated with 83% animal-based protein, it is grain-free and contains a rather low amount of carbs ( approx. 20%), but, it consists of more vegetable ingredients ...
Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble variety foods

Similar recipes:

  • Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Turkey & Duck Recipe, Cat & Kitten
  • Nulo Freestyle Indoor Cat Duck & Lentils recipe for adult cats 
  • Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Trim Salmon & Lentils recipe – adult cat 
  • Nulo Freestyle Alaska Pollock, Duck & Sweet potato recipe – for Senior cats
  • Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Hairball Management Turkey & Cod recipe – for adult cat maintenance

Nulo dry cat food is a premium cat food manufactured in the US with ingredients procured from North America, France, and New Zealand that are tested for quality and safety before they are used in any of the Nulo products. 

Nulo has never been recalled for any of its recipes and it’s complete and balanced for cat nutrition according to AAFCO based on a cat’s life stage. 

Pros:
  • Generally made out of animal-protein 
  • Relatively low carb content 20%
  • Supports gastrointestinal health
  • Supplemented with probiotics
  • No added grains, sugars, or artificial additives
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Optimal content of taurine
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Affordable(48$ per 14lb / 6.35kg bag)
Cons:
  • Includes more vegetable content than cats need in their diet
  • Not hydrating enough as all dry cat foods

8️⃣ Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken & Cod Recipe

This recipe is formulated with 83% animal-based protein, it is grain-free and contains a rather low amount of carbs ( approx. 20%), but, it consists of more vegetable ingredients ...
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9. Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken, high-protein dry cat food

Instinct Original Grain Free recipe with real chicken for cats

Instinct® Original by Nature’s Variety® is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe with cage-free chicken as the main ingredient containing 81% animal ingredients and 19% fruits, vegetables, and other non-animal ingredients.

As their Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe, the kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw to offer the raw taste and enhance nutrition for your cat. 


The recipe uses peas as a binder solution for a grain-free formula and tapioca as a secondary binder and does not include any other legumes or starches compared to other brands, reducing the carb content of the recipe. The main protein sources come from chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and menhaden fish meal and they use chicken fat instead of vegetable-based oils. 


Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, natural flavor, dried tomato pomace, white fish meal (pacific whiting, pacific sole, pacific rockfish), salt, vitamins (vitamin e supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin a supplement, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), montmorillonite clay, carrots, apples, cranberries, choline chloride, potassium chloride, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), freeze-dried chicken, dl-methionine, taurine, freeze-dried chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, freeze-dried chicken heart, dried bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract.

Caloric Content: 505 kcal/cup

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 41%
Crude Fat (min): 21%
Crude Fiber (max): 3%
Moisture (max): 9%
Ash 13.95% (dry matter)
Carbs approx. 12%

9️⃣ Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Instinct Original is a high-protein, grain-free, raw-coated cat kibble recipe containing 81% animal ingredients(with cage-free chicken as the main ingredient) and 19% fruits, ...
Instinct Original chicken dry cat food

Similar recipes:

  • Instinct® Original with Real Duck
  • Instinct® Original with Real Rabbit
  • Instinct® Original with Real Salmon

Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken meets the standards established by AAFCO for cat nutrition suitable for all life stages. 

As we already pointed out the Instinct® by Nature’s Varietyt® cat food recipes never had a recall but the company’s dog recipes that contained chicken-based ingredients were recalled for testing positive for salmonella in 2015. 

Overall this food is high in animal protein, with moderate fat and relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other dry cat foods. 

Positive
  • High-protein kibble
  • Made primarily from animal protein
  • Natural probiotics for digestive health
  • Grain-free, sugar-free
  • No by-products or artificial additives
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other foods
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • Optimal content of Taurine and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Available in stores and online
  • Affordable (approx. 40$ for an 11lb bag)
Negatives
  • Not hydrating enough as all dry cat foods
  • Includes more vegetable content than cats need in their diet
  • Contains tapioca

9️⃣ Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Instinct Original is a high-protein, grain-free, raw-coated cat kibble recipe containing 81% animal ingredients(with cage-free chicken as the main ingredient) and 19% fruits, ...
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10. Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe with Roasted Venison & Smoked Salmon , high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain

Taste of the Wild® brings to the table affordable, high-quality cat food which is grain-free and features real meat as the first ingredient all by being inspired by a cat’s diet from natural prey. 

Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® despite the roasted venison and smoked salmon ingredients promoted on the food bag has as the first ingredient a protein-dense chicken meal followed by peas and sweet potatoes, chicken fat, and pea and potato protein which are concentrated plant protein sources. 

Nutritional Information:
Ingredients:
Chicken meal, peas, sweet potatoes, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), pea protein, potato protein, roasted venison, smoked salmon, natural flavor, ocean fish meal, DL-Methionine, potassium chloride, taurine, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried Lactobacillus Plantarum fermentation product, dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation product, dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried Enterococcus faecium 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 B12 supplement, sodium selenite, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid. Contains a source of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms.

Caloric Content: 425 kcal/cup

Guaranteed Analysis:
Crude Protein (min): 42%
Crude Fat (min): 18%
Crude Fiber (max): 3%
Moisture (max): 10%
Ash 8.9% (as fed)
Carbs 26.5% (as fed)

🔟 Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild offers affordable, high-quality cat food, with moderate protein (approx. 42%) it is grain-free and has real meat as the first ingredient, but also contains ...

Even though the recipe contains 42% crude protein we are not sure how much of that is coming from a vegetable protein source, so that’s why Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain ends up last on our list. 

The Rocky Mountain® recipe is formulated specifically for cats of all life stages to meet the nutrient levels established by AAFCO.

Taste of the Wild® has had a big recall in 2012 due to a multi-state salmonella outbreak contamination caused by different brands of pet food all manufactured in Diamond Pet Foods facilities, the owner of Taste of the Wild brand.

Although the recipe is indeed grain-free, it contains more vegetables than needed for a proper species-appropriate diet for cats, but overall, compared to other cat foods on the market is still a cat food with moderate protein content and a quite decent amount of carbs. 

Positive
  • Moderate animal-protein content
  • Supports digestive health
  • Grain-free
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Complete and balanced for cats of all stages by AAFCO
  • An optimal amount of taurine and omega 3 fatty acids
  • Animal-based source of fat
  • Low cost (37$ for a 14lb bag, approx 2.64$ /lb)
Negatives
  • Has more carb content than cats need in their diet
  • Contains many plant protein sources
  • The kibble crumbles easily in the bag
  • The product ‘promotes’ venison and salmon as main ingredients, but the main ingredient it’s actually chicken meal
  • Not hydrating enough for your cat

🔟 Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild offers affordable, high-quality cat food, with moderate protein (approx. 42%) it is grain-free and has real meat as the first ingredient, but also contains ...
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Final words

cat care award that's meow

If you are looking for more affordable but still healthy choices of food for your cat, check out our article Best budget cat foods that will give you the best 10 budget wet cat foods + the best 10 budget dry cat foods currently on the market, all individually reviewed.

We took research seriously and came up with what we think it’s the best 10 high-protein, grain-free dry cat foods on the US market at present times. This article will be revised and updated in the eventuality of new cat food that meets the standards to join our list.

Until then, these are our best 3 picks:

Overall best

High-quality human grade ingredients, species-appropriate, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food

1️⃣ Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe

Inspired by the nutrients found in wild prey, this diet contains 95% animal-based protein. It is grain-free, sugar-free, and free of artificial additives and preservatives, using ...

Affordable

Good quality, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food with added freeze-dried niblets

6️⃣ Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Raw Boost is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe which is coated with freeze-dried raw and also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken.

Cheapest

Good quality, high-protein, grain-free dry cat food:

🔟 Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild offers affordable, high-quality cat food, with moderate protein (approx. 42%) it is grain-free and has real meat as the first ingredient, but also contains ...

Oh and one more thing! In case you were wondering…

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How to calculate carbohydrate content in cat food

AAFCO labeling conventions do not require the carb content to be shown in the guaranteed analysis on the label of cat food. If you want to determine the carbohydrate content of cat food you need to do it by yourself. You can find out the carb content of cat dry foods by adding up the percentage of crude protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and ash from the guaranteed analysis, and then you have to subtract their sum from the total of 100%.

Carbs = 100 – (crude protein + crude fat + moisture + crude fiber + crude ash)

Once again, here are the best high-protein dry cat foods reviewed above:

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Round-up of the best high-protein dry cat foods [click to expand]

1️⃣ Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Chicken Recipe

Inspired by the nutrients found in wild prey, this diet contains 95% animal-based protein. It is grain-free, sugar-free, and free of artificial additives and preservatives, using …

2️⃣ SMALLS Freeze-Dried Raw Other Bird (the Turkey Recipe)

This recipe is species-appropriate, contains a high amount of animal protein, a fair enough amount of fat, and is low in carbs. No added sugars, artificial colors, or …

3️⃣ ZIWI® Peak Air-Dried Venison Recipe for Cats

Made out of 96% free-range venison meat, organs and bone, and New Zealand green mussel this recipe is gently air-dried, very low in carbohydrate content, grain-free, GMO-free, …

4️⃣ Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels

This recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein (98% cage-free raw chicken), grain-free, sugar-free, and relatively low in carbs.

5️⃣ Instinct® Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Ultimate Protein mirrors the benefits of raw cat food with a species-appropriate, high-protein (95% protein from real chicken), grain-free recipe, that is free of artificial …

6️⃣ Instinct® Raw Boost with Real Chicken

Raw Boost is a high-protein, grain-free cat kibble recipe which is coated with freeze-dried raw and also includes freeze-dried raw bites of chicken.

7️⃣ Orijen Original Cat

Orijen Original Cat is a moderate protein, grain-free, and relatively low-carb dry cat food made with fresh or frozen-raw cage-free chicken and turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish.

8️⃣ Nulo Freestyle High-Meat Kibble Chicken & Cod Recipe

This recipe is formulated with 83% animal-based protein, it is grain-free and contains a rather low amount of carbs ( approx. 20%), but, it consists of more vegetable ingredients …

9️⃣ Instinct® Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

Instinct Original is a high-protein, grain-free, raw-coated cat kibble recipe containing 81% animal ingredients(with cage-free chicken as the main ingredient) and 19% fruits, …

🔟 Taste of the Wild® Rocky Mountain® Feline Recipe

Taste of the Wild offers affordable, high-quality cat food, with moderate protein (approx. 42%) it is grain-free and has real meat as the first ingredient, but also contains …

We hope you enjoyed our unbiased small reviews and we helped you choose the best option for your cat and you. If you have other recommendations please let us know in the comments below.

Have a purrfect day! 

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