The Best Grain Free Cat Food

As a responsible cat parent, it’s important to select the right diet for your kitty. Good cat food should be made from high-quality ingredients and contain all the nutrients your cat needs to stay healthy. Grain-free cat foods are specially formulated to mimic a cat’s ancestral diet. Since cats are carnivores, they are free from grains that may lead to health issues such as allergies and digestive disorders.

Our vet advisor, Dr. Addie Reinhard, researched dozens of grain-free cat foods to identify the best of the best, based on factors including quality of ingredients, formula, affordability, and Amazon reviews. She then narrowed down the search to 5 of the top-rated grain-free cat foods and was easily able to identify Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food as her top pick. Read how she chose the top 5.

Our Vet’s Top Pick

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food

Veterinarian-formulated organic hemp oils with pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.

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If you’re looking for grain-free cat food because your cat has specific allergies, then you’ll also want to look into your options to mitigate the unexpected allergic response. Talk to your vet about what to do for your cat’s specific needs.

Our Vet’s Top 5 Grain-Free Cat Food

Here are the top picks from our veterinarian. Compare the ratings and features of different models.

Vet’s Picks Model Rating Wet or Dry Specialty Formula Age Specific?
Best Overall Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food 4.5 Dry Sensitive Skin and Stomach
Best Budget Buy Purina ONE True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Plus Vitamins & Minerals High Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food 4.6 Dry High Protein
Best for Kitten Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Egg Formula Grain-Free Kitten Food 4.7 Dry Kitten
Best for Senior Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Adult 7+ Seafood Variety Pack Canned Cat Food 4.6 Wet Senior
Best Wet Food Purina Pro Plan Seafood Classic Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food 4.4 Wet Classic

*Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on reviews, feedback, and opinions of actual customers

Who Should Buy a Grain-Free Cat Food

  • Naturalists – If you’re big on “what your cat was meant to eat” then there’s a good chance that a grain-free diet will appeal to you. Though domesticated animals have evolved and their stomachs adapted to grains, you certainly wouldn’t see their wild counterparts eating oatmeal. For the pet parent who appreciates their pet’s wild side, grain-free food is a big win.1
  • Specific diet restrictions –  If your cat has allergies that make him sick or react poorly, then you’ll want to look into the possibility of easing the discomfort by a simple food switch. A grain-free diet will eliminate a lot of common allergens for your cat and any recipe that focuses on quality nutrients rather than fillers is likely to help your car’s allergies and discomfort. Grains will also contribute to weight gain, so if you’re putting your cat on a weight-loss diet, then you’ll want to check out the grain-free options, as well.
  • Sensitive stomachs and allergy-prone cats – Although your cat may not be allergic to anything specifically, you may find that she’s sensitive to certain foods, and a grain-free food will limit the ingredients included in her food. Even if grains aren’t the food sensitivities your cat has, more care is taken when limited the ingredients of food such as grain-free.

Who Should Not Buy a Grain-Free Cat Food

  • Reclaiming your cat’s health – You probably know that just like with humans, grains can certainly pack on the pounds. And while that may not be the healthiest way to do it, if your cat is malnourished (for example if you just adopted a former stray), then she’ll need those extra calories to regain their health.
  • Without cause – Though you can appreciate that cat food shouldn’t rely heavily on grains as a filler, it’s important to note that it’s not necessary for a cat to have exclusively grain-free food. As we mentioned, domesticated cats have drastically different digestive capabilities and you need not fear some grains in your cat’s food.

Research Tips (From a Veterinarian)

One of the best places to start for cat food recommendations is from your veterinarian. Veterinarians will know the best option for grain-free cat foods for your cat based on your cat’s medical history. It is typically a good idea to consult with your veterinarian if you are planning on changing your pet’s diet. It is also important to consider the following additional key features.

  1. Find a reputable pet food company – Perhaps the most important consideration when looking for the right food for your pet is selecting a reliable pet food company. I recommend feeding your cat a high-quality brand such as Hill’s, Royal Canin, or Purina. These companies have extensive quality control and testing to ensure that their food is safe.
  2. Look for the correct life stage – How old is your cat? Cats that are under 1 year of age should receive kitten food, and cats that are over 7 or 8 years old should receive senior cat food.
  3. Decide on dry or wet – There are pros and cons to both dry and wet cat food. Dry food is generally less expensive, less messy, easier to feed, and may help your cat’s teeth stay healthier. Wet food can be a little messy and slightly more expensive, but it is extremely good at keeping feline kidneys healthy which is especially important for older cats.
  4. Look for the AAFCO feeding statement – Your cat’s food should be complete and balanced for everyday feeding. Look for the AAFCO feeding statement that says ‘This product is formulated to meet AAFCO cat nutrient profiles for maintenance of adult cats.’ If a diet is intended only for intermittent or supplemental feeding, it shouldn’t be the main food your cat is receiving.

How Much Do They Cost?

Between $20-$40

Though you may have spent significantly more on your cat’s food years ago, the popularity has made it more comparable in cost to your standard cat foods. Though you can expect a slight increase, bear in mind that the price is directly connected to the cost of manufacturing and, therefore, the quality. Still, you can expect to feed your cat for mere dollars a day, even with grain-free foods. As a general rule, you can budget between $20-$40 a month for your cat’s food.

Our Methodology: Why Trust Pango Pets

As a small animal veterinarian with many years of experience, I often speak with cat owners about my grain-free cat food recommendations. All of the grain-free cat foods described here are foods that I would recommend to my own clients. I only chose cat foods from the most reliable and trusted pet food companies that have extensive quality control and testing to ensure product safety. Key product features including ingredients and palatability were also considered. I would feel comfortable feeding my own cats any of the foods listed here. – Dr. Addie Reinhard

The Best Grain-Free Cat Food: Full Reviews

Our Vet’s Top Pick

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food

For the best grain-free cat food, look no further than Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food.

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Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Grain-Free Cat Food comes from a manufacturer that knows its pet food. In fact, if your pet ever needs “prescription strength” diet foods, Hill’s Science Diet is probably going to be the manufacturer for that, as well. This food is specially formulated for cats with mild allergies or food and skin sensitivities.

Without the grains in this food, this recipe can focus on the good stuff – Like the salmon and yellow peas. In fact, salmon is the #1 ingredient. It also has an added prebiotic fiber that’s also easily digestible, making this an ideal food for your cat prone to digestive problems.

Pros
  • Includes omega-3 fatty acids, FOS prebiotic, and Vitamin E
  • Easily digestible
  • Salmon is #1 ingredient
Cons
  • Acquired taste
  • Only available in 13lb bag – no “trying”
Best Budget Buy

Purina ONE True Instinct Natural Real Chicken Plus Vitamins & Minerals High Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

If you want to make sure your cat gets a grain-free diet without breaking the bank, check out Purina ONE True Instinct Natural Grain-Free Dry Cat Food.

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Purina ONE True Instinct Natural Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a grain-free food with a high protein content so that your cat’s diet will provide him the quality nutrition he needs without the extra fillers. The specialized formula will promote a healthy coat, strong immune system, and provide lots of energy for even the highest energy cats.

This food is comprised of an impressive 35% protein derived from chicken and, not surprisingly, that’s the #1 ingredient. You’ll also appreciate that none of the ingredients are from by-products, and there are no artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors.

Pros
  • Chicken #1 ingredient
  • Highly digestible crunchy and tender bits
  • Omega-6s and 4 sources of antioxidants
Cons
  • Large morsels may be difficult for smaller cats
  • Strong odor
Best for Kittens

Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Egg Formula Grain-Free Kitten Food

If you’re looking for a kitten food that’s grain-free, you’ll want to consider Purina Pro Plan Kitten Chicken & Egg Formula Grain-Free Kitten Food.

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Purina Pro Plan Kitten Grain-Free Food is made by the veterinarian recommended brand so you can purchase this food with confidence. Its recipe is specially formulated to promote growth and development in your kitten, making sure she has the energy and nutrients she needs to reach adulthood.

The omega-rich recipe will support strong cognitive and heart development and the calcium will give her strong bones and teeth. Since you’ll want to give your cat kitten food the first year of their life, you’ll definitely want to find a quality product and this certainly fits the bill.

Pros
  • Real chicken #1 ingredient
  • Includes calcium, phosphorous, and other growth-supportive minerals
  • No corn, wheat, or soy
Cons
  • Acquired taste
  • Crunchy bites may be difficult for little teeth
Best for Senior Cats

Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Adult 7+ Seafood Variety Pack Canned Cat Food

If your senior kitty is ready for a specialized diet, then try Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Adult 7+ Seafood Variety Pack Canned Cat Food.

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Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Adult 7+ Canned Cat Food will give your cat a variety of foods to choose from – which is an excellent way to make sure you’re offering your cat the kind of food he likes and keeping him from getting bored with his food. (Though if he dislikes change, maybe just use this pack as a method to determine which of the foods he prefers and then buying just that one from then on).

Soft or wet foods are a common consistency for senior cats because as they age, chewing harder foods becomes more difficult, and some cats (particularly the cats 10+) have lost teeth, making food that’s easy to chew almost as important as a food that’s easily digestible.

Pros
  • 3 seafood flavors
  • Includes microflora for digestive support
  • Real meat #1 ingredient
Cons
  • Pate, not bits
  • Multiple meats per recipe
Best Wet Food

Purina Pro Plan Seafood Classic Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

For a wet food that’s completely grain-free, check out Purina Pro Plan Seafood Classic Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food.

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Purina Pro Plan Seafood Classic Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food offers your cat the nutrients he needs and none of the grain fillers that cat foods often have. The wet food is made with real seafood, and each ingredient in the food’s formula is chosen for a specific purpose. After incorporating this food into your cat’s diet, he’ll have plenty of energy and, because it’s so easy to digest, you won’t need to worry about stomach issues, either.

The cans are easy to open with a pull tab, so you’ll be able to pull the lid off and hand the can itself to your cat if you’re in a rush.

Pros
  • 25 essential vitamins and minerals
  • 40% protein
  • Oceanfish #1 ingredient
Cons
  • Changed formula tastes different
  • Strong odor

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods should cats avoid?

Certain foods including onion and garlic, grapes and raisins, and chocolate are highly toxic to cats and should always be avoided. Other foods like grains and dairy products can cause health issues such as allergies and digestive issues in some cats.

Does grain-free food cause heart problems in cats?

No. Heart problems in cats are not caused by grain-free food. Dilated cardiomyopathy (a type of heart disease) has been linked to taurine deficiency in cats. For this reason, many manufacturers of cat food add taurine to their recipes.

What are the benefits of grain-free cat food?

Grain-free cat food is great for cats with allergies or food intolerances. It is also higher in protein than regular cat food, and more closely mimics a cat’s ancestral diet.2

Should cats eat grain-free?

A grain-free diet may not be necessary for all cats, but many cats with allergies or dietary intolerances can benefit from eating grain-free. Before switching to a grain-free diet, always consult with your veterinarian.3
  1. Cecchetti M, Crowley SL, Goodwin CED, McDonald RA. Provision of High Meat Content Food and Object Play Reduce Predation of Wild Animals by Domestic Cats Felis catus. Curr Biol. 2021;31(5):1107-1111.e5. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.12.044
  2. Prantil LR, Heinze CR, Freeman LM. Comparison of carbohydrate content between grain-containing and grain-free dry cat diets and between reported and calculated carbohydrate values. J Feline Med Surg. 2018;20(4):349-355. doi:10.1177/1098612X17710842
  3. Sanderson SL. Pros and Cons of Commercial Pet Foods (Including Grain/Grain Free) for Dogs and Cats. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2021;51(3):529-550. doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2021.01.009.