Unlike omnivorous dogs, which can eat meat and plant material, cats have evolved to be strict carnivores. Even though she’s only 8 pounds, your Fluffy has a lot more in common with the tigers and leopards of the world than she does with dogs or humans. If given her way, she’d gladly eat nothing but the animals she could catch.
In the wild, cats eat almost exclusively rodents, birds, and small prey. Ideally, your cat should get less than 10% of their calories from carbohydrates, eating a primarily meat-based, high-protein diet. Unfortunately, with modern cat foods, this is sometimes difficult to maintain.
If you are in the market for the highest protein cat food, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best options for you!
Our Top Picks For The Best High Protein Cat Food
What are the Advantages of a High Protein Diet for Cats?
A high-protein, low-carb diet most closely mimics the feline’s natural diet in the wild, and countless cat companions have observed that their furry friends prefer a diet rich in meat. But veterinary medicine backs up what cat lovers already knew: that a high protein diet is ideal for cats.
A high protein diet may help reduce the risk of feline diabetes. It’s also known to lessen the chances of obesity in your cat. Since about half of all domestic cats are obese, a high protein diet can be a critical step in making the overall feline population healthier.
Are There Disadvantages to High Protein Cat Food?
In most cases, a high protein cat food can benefit your pet, but some veterinarians warn that a diet with excessive protein can be dangerous to kittens and senior cats. A healthy adult cat is at little danger of suffering from excessive protein, but kittens may have a higher need for carbohydrates to fuel their growth.
Senior cats can be at risk of developing kidney disease, and since the kidney is the organ that filters out excessive protein, it may be possible to give your old friend too much. Companions of senior cats may want to get their kidneys checked a couple of times a year; most veterinarians agree that the quality of protein (meat and animal) is more important than the quantity.
If your cat already has a kidney condition, diabetes, or obesity, you’ll want to work closely with your veterinarian to make sure that any dietary transition is safe for your furry friend.
How to Choose the Best High Protein Low Carb Cat Food
Protein is essential for cats, but it’s also crucial that they get the majority of it from an animal source. Cats cannot metabolize plant-based proteins as dogs can, and their bodies usually convert these proteins into glucose (sugar). This can cause weight problems and diabetes.
While we know that humans benefit from a well-balanced, well-rounded diet, the fact is that our feline friends usually do best with a pretty monolithic meal plan. Cats eat meat, and they have little use for fruits and veggies.
High Protein Wet Cat Food vs. High Protein Dry Cat Food
The process of turning meat into dry kibble requires a certain amount of filler. When you make meatballs at home, you usually need to add something like bread crumbs to help the meat hold together. Likewise, making dry cat food from meat usually requires some filler.
Cheap dry cat foods will typically use grains as an affordable and efficient packing, but these grains don’t provide much actual nutrition to your cat. They can be a source of fiber, but felines can’t digest grains, and some grains convert to glucose (sugar) and cause weight or metabolism problems.
All of these high protein foods contain no grain, but the dry foods will still need some sort of filler. In place of grain, they might use potato, pea, sweet potato, or other fruits and veggies. Since some filler is expected in dry cat food, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to remember that none of these ingredients are actually edible food for your cat.
Because wet cat food has less of a need for binding agents and fillers, it’s often presumed to be the most nutritious option. Wet cat food, like dry cat food, can be healthy or it can be junk food.
The high protein wet cat food on this list has a good nutritional profile, but some wet cat foods contain fillers as well. A high-quality dry cat food beats a cheap wet cat food every time, so it’s essential to read labels and be selective with both.
Wet cat food includes a much higher moisture content than dry cat food. In many cases, your dry kibble eater will naturally drink more water to compensate for the lack of moisture in the dried food. However, if your cat is showing signs of dehydration or you’ve been advised by your veterinarian to watch out for it, wet cat food will often give your kitty more moisture than they’ll willingly take in from water.
How You Should Choose a High Protein Cat Food
First, ask your veterinarian. Your cat may have unique or unexpected medical needs that require a special diet or a particular type of food, so it’s essential to check with your vet. This is especially important if your cat has a weight or metabolism problem, or if he has a history of problems with diarrhea, constipation, or kidney/liver issues.
Once you’ve got the all clear from your cat’s doctor, you’ll want to try a small amount of the new food. Nutrients only work if you can get them INTO your cat! If your cat turns their nose up at the new menu, their diet won’t improve, and cats can sometimes have unique or particular tastes, especially when it comes to food they aren’t familiar with.
If you like the nutrition, your vet signs off on the change, and your cat gives two paws up, you can start to switch your cat over to the new food. If you’re switching from one dry food to another dry food, it’s usually best to do it gradually. Add about one part new food to three parts old food for the first few days or week; then, increase the new food to half the total ration. Once your cat adjusts to that, you’ll do ¾ new food and ¼ old food. Gradual replacement is the best way to prevent digestive upset.
If you’re switching from one wet food to another wet food, you’ll want to make the replacement slowly, too. Start by changing one feeding every 3-4 days with the new food, then gradually increase the frequency of the new food until your kitty has made the full switch.
While a change to your cat’s diet can often cause temporary digestive problems, if the tummy trouble persists, contact your veterinarian to make sure the new food isn’t what’s causing it.
How We Chose the Best High Protein Cat Foods on This List
We wanted to look for high protein cat food, dry and wet, that would be readily available in most stores and were not prohibitively expensive. We’re looking at these high protein cat foods based on the following factors:
- Nutritional value
- Protein content
- Protein to carbohydrate ratio
- The prevalence of plant-based proteins – this can distort the reported protein content, as cats can’t process plant proteins
- The amount of fillers, binders, and non-nutritional ingredients
- Grains and starches
- Extras (probiotics, Omega 3 and Omega 6 content, manufacturing process, etc.)
The Best High Protein Cat Foods
- Purina Beyond Grain-Free, Natural, Adult Dry Cat Food
- Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Premium High Protein Dry Cat Food Rocky Mountain – Roasted Venison and Smoked Salmon
- Crave Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
- Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Cat Food
- Purina One Natural Adult Canned Wet Cat Food
Purina Beyond Natural is a much better alternative to grain-filled dry cat foods, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Purina claims that sweet potatoes contain beta carotene, and while cats can absorb beta carotene, they cannot process that into Vitamin A.
Cassava root flour is included for fiber. In the wild, cats would get fiber from the hair and bones of their prey, but indoor kitties can sometimes be deficient in dietary fiber. Plant-based fiber increases the carbohydrate content of cat food, so felines on a high-protein diet might opt for hair and bones over plant-based fibers.
When it comes to Purina Beyond Natural dry cat food, there’s a lot to like. At an affordable price point, it’s available virtually everywhere Purina foods are sold, so it’s easy to find for any cat parent.
High Protein Dry Cat Food
Taste of the Wild cat foods come with a wide range of flavors, but we’ll be looking at the roasted venison and smoked salmon version. However, the nutritional content is similar to all the varieties this company makes.
The protein and fat content is significantly higher than most commercial dry cat foods, and the carbohydrate content is quite a bit lower than expected. Unfortunately, the ingredients reveal that a significant portion of that protein comes from peas and potatoes rather than the meat, and the meat that is used is primarily chicken meal or ocean whitefish meal.
Potato protein is not easily digestible by cats, and it converts quickly to sugar. Pea protein is not very biologically available to your cat, and some nutritionists have expressed concerns that pea protein, too, can quickly convert to sugar. In short, these ingredients both make it look high protein, but your cat will simply process them as fiber or sugar.
Taste of the Wild has a great idea: make high-protein, low-carb cat food with the convenience and affordability of dry cat food. Unfortunately, the execution is lacking. In most cases, Taste of the Wild will be perfectly excellent for your furry friend, but it’s not going to give them the bioavailable protein that it advertises.
We do love the probiotics in this food, but we were frustrated to find that a lot of the hype surrounding this food just isn’t accurate. Sure, it’s got a high protein content and lots of “superfoods” that make it sound really great, but it’s mostly indigestible plant matter and cheap filler ingredients.
Crave is a relative newcomer to the high-protein cat food industry, launching as recently as 2017. They bring the experience of their parent company, Mars, which also makes Iams, Whiskas, Eukanuba, and Pedigree.
Crave seems to be nutritionally complete, and while it still sits at 24% carbohydrates, that’s quite low compared to most dry cat food brands. The protein content, as with the Taste of the Wild dry cat food above, may not be entirely accurate; since they list several high-protein plants in the ingredients, not all of that protein will be bioavailable to your cat. Still, there’s a higher percentage of animal-based protein in this formula than in Taste of the Wild.
Of all the high protein dry cat foods in this list, Crave seems to be the most nutritionally bioavailable due to its high content of meat protein and lower use of plant proteins.
We didn’t expect to like Crave this much, but their protein content is fantastic and they definitely prioritized protein from animals. With a high protein and low carb formula, Crave appears to be the most nutritionally complete high-protein option that’s readily available in the grocery store or pet store.
Omega 3 and Omega 6
Blue Buffalo is a premium pet food brand that’s created a grain-free, high protein cat food.
Like some of the other high protein brands on this list, Blue Buffalo Wilderness claims a high protein content, but much of the protein comes from plant sources that aren’t as nutritionally rich for cats as animal sources. However, this food is one of the best for essential fatty acids, and it also includes a probiotic to help promote digestive health.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free High Protein dry cat food shows a lot of promise, and it could be an excellent protein source for your cat’s dry cat food needs. For a more active cat or a cat with glucose (sugar) problems, it might be best to supplement this with a high-protein, animal-based wet cat food.
With probiotics and a great source of essential fatty acids, this one comes very close to the top of the list. Like Taste of the Wild, it does include a lot of plant-based ingredients, and despite being billed as “grain-free,” there is barley (which may be a problem to cats with sensitive tummies). But the excellent protein content and the emphasis on animal protein makes this one of our top 4 high protein cat foods.
Purina One makes an affordable, readily available wet cat food with high protein content and without grain fillers.
Purina One Natural wet cat food is pretty standard. It’s nice to see Purina delving into the high protein cat food arena, but with the soy protein, they may have missed the mark here.
Purina One Natural High Protein may be a great wet cat food, but it’s not nearly as high in protein as it first appears.
We’re not impressed with Purina’s entry into the high protein cat foods. While it’s affordable and easy to find, this food is primarily filled with non-digestible plant parts. Its protein count looks impressive, but your cat can’t digest most of it.
If your cat is anti-dry food, this may be the best high protein wet cat food for you. If your cat is sensitive to soy or artificial coloring, you’ll want to steer clear, but it’s a good option for most cats
Because this was a close race, we must list two clear winners: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food and Crave Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food.
From a protein standpoint, Crave edges in the lead, as they have the most bioavailable protein and a minimal amount of plant-based fillers. If your cat is susceptible to grain, the barley grass in Blue Buffalo may present a problem.
However, we can’t count Blue Buffalo out entirely, as we’re very impressed with the overall protein content and the added extras that make it stand out. A good balance of those Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids can help your cat have a shinier coat, a stronger immune system, less joint pain, and less itching and inflammation.
If Crave is leaving your cat’s coat dull, switching to Blue Buffalo might help resolve the problem. If you have an indoor-only cat, Blue Buffalo could be a better option because it contains probiotics. While your outdoor cat may get plenty of probiotics from catting around, your indoor cat may have an environment that’s too sterile to help them maintain a healthy immune system.