You want to give your pet the best of everything, including a healthy diet. It’s the best way to improve their quality of life and ensure many happy years together. One look at any grocery store shelf, and you’ll find many choices with fancy-sounding names and ingredients that may even sound tasty to you.
It may surprise you that a low carb cat food is an ideal choice. The reason lies in feline biology.
Cats must eat meat because they are obligate carnivores. That means that they must eat these types of foods. Their physiology differs from other animals that eat a varied diet like dogs and ferrets. Let’s delve more into your cat’s world and see why it matters.
Our Top Picks For The Best Low Carb Cat Food
Why You Should Consider Low Carb Wet Cat Food
You’ve probably have wondered what is the ideal low carb cat food with all the choices from which you have to choose. Wet and dry food both have their advantages and disadvantages that touch on aspects from both your pet’s and your point-of-view.
We’ve discussed the importance of the carnivore diet for your cat. However, there’s another vital factor to consider, moisture content. These pets don’t drink a lot of water compared to their canine companions slobbering at the water bowl.
Cats get the majority of their fluids from the foods they eat. As hunters, their prey would satisfy these needs. Wet foods replicate it with a high moisture content to make sure they get enough.
Of course, some could make a compelling statement about the higher cost and inconvenience of canned food. The fact remains that wet foods offer an excellent way to monitor your pet’s consumption and hence, caloric intake. And it can give you a heads-up if your cat isn’t eating, a sure sign that something is wrong.
If your cat is prone to urinary tract infections, discuss food choices with your veterinarian. The higher water content of these products may offer a better option for vulnerable pets.
What You Need to Know About Low Carb Dry Cat Food
Manufacturers have improved the quality and nutritional content of dry foods, bringing the added benefits of convenience and lower cost to the table. Generally, these products consist of 10 percent water and 90 percent foodstuffs. They offer a shelf-stable food while delivering adequate nutrition. About 20 percent of cat owners believe they are the more nutritious choice.
On the downside, they often contain more carbs which go against the carnivore lifestyle of cats. However, some of today’s products get around these issues with grain-free blends. We suggest checking the nutritional profile and ingredients list carefully for the carbohydrate content.
Defining the Carnivore Diet
You’ve probably heard of the terms carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore. They describe the type of eater based on their regular diet. Carnivores rely on meat. Herbivores enjoy a wide range of plant foods. Omnivores get the best of both worlds with a combination of foodstuffs.
Types of Carnivores
Scientists also look at the amount of meat that an animal eats to give some further insights into their diet. This information can help you understand what to look for in a low carbohydrate cat food and why it matters for your feline friend.
Hypercarnivores are at the top of the list with a diet that revolves entirely around meat. Your cat isn’t much different from the tigers and lions you see at the zoo. Centuries of evolution have equipped these animals with what they need to hunt successfully.
Think of the long claws and sharp teeth you see in your pet. You may even notice them stalking birds at the feeder or watching for mice scurrying around your garden. Cats are hard-wired for this lifestyle. Some experts think that cats are closer to these early roots than dogs.
The other types of carnivores include mesocarnivores like coyotes and hypocarnivores like the black bear.
What does this mean for your cat?
It tells us that a low carb cat food is the best choice for a diet for your pet. But you may wonder why it’s essential to give your cat a protein-based option. It has a lot to do with their digestion.
How Cats Differ From Dogs
Knowing how felines process food explains why you have to pick the right choice for your pet. Cats have a simple digestive system compared to that of plant-eaters like cows. It works for what they need it to do too. But it also affects what the best low carb cat food is.
Let’s consider some fundamental differences to put it in perspective.
Any organism whether it’s a dog, cat, or a human can make some of the nutrients they need from the foods they eat. But it’s not always the case. For example, you and I have to get adequate amounts of vitamin C every day. Most animals synthesize it within their bodies except guinea pigs which are in the same boat as people.
Cats are unique in that they can get some of the nutrition they need from the prey they consume. That explains in part their varying dietary needs. Felines can’t make vitamin A, but they can from the mice they catch. The same thing applies to niacin or vitamin B3.
The reason is that cats may lack certain enzymes or amino acids that dogs have to make these chemical reactions possible. Without these raw materials, they are vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies that can have serious health consequences.
That makes your choice of the best low carb cat food vital to your pet’s health and why a product for dogs isn’t a wise choice.
If you live in the country, you probably get the occasional mouse in your house. And if your cat sees it, they may go after it when their instincts take over and start the hunt. However, it’s probably not enough to ensure they get what they need.
Understanding the Protein Needs of Cats
Let’s talk about the most crucial aspect of your cat’s diet, protein. This macronutrient consists of several kinds of chemical building blocks called amino acids. The mix differs with the source. However, they’re not limited to meat. Many plant foods like rice and beans contain them too.
It boils down to the difference between a complete and incomplete protein.
The former contains all the amino acids you or your cat need. Meats usually contain the full line of them. The latter typically lack one or more. That’s one reason why vegetarians need to eat a variety of foods to ensure they get all of them.
The essential ones for cats are taurine, arachidonic acid, and arginine. They need to get adequate amounts from their diet since their bodies can’t produce them. Complicating matters is that felines don’t store proteins in their system like fats. It explains yet another difference between cats and dogs which can tap into fat reserves for energy.
Now let’s consider the million-dollar question about wet versus dry cat food.
The Top Low Carb Cat Foods
We considered each one carefully, reviewing the makeup along with the vitamins and minerals they contain for our low carb cat food list. We also looked at cost, quality of the ingredients, proportions, availability, and health considerations.
The philosophy of this manufacturer is to “Love them like family, feed them like family” which certainly rings true for many pet owners. We noticed was that deboned chicken was the first ingredient in the list. It’s a sure sign that protein is the main focus with this product along with one that has the real thing instead of by-products.
This point is particularly significant given the scandal involving the company in 2014. Purina accused Blue Buffalo of false advertising regarding its ingredient profile. After some name-calling back and forth, they owned up to the evidence and apologized. We hope that bygones are bygones and that the manufacturer has learned a valuable lesson about the loyalty of pet owners to their companions.
Blue Buffalo Low Carb Grain-Free Dry Cat Food claims that the diet of the lynx inspired its formulation which is a bit of a stretch given the primary prey items are the snowshoe hare, birds, squirrels, and mice. However, we appreciated the nod toward the carnivore-focused attention for this low carb cat food dry. It doesn’t contain grains which keeps the carbs in check.
The protein, fat, and moisture percentages are adequate at 40, 18, and 9 percent, respectively. The taurine content hits the mark too at 0.15 percent minimum. It comes in an enticing array of flavor choices including duck, salmon-venison-halibut, turkey-quail-duck, salmon, trout, rabbit, and red meat. It also has specific formulas for weight control, hairballs, and indoor cats.
The food contains several plant-based ingredients including sweet potatoes, cranberries, blueberries, and herbs.
Presumably, these additions replicate what a wild cat would get from its prey. There are also some nutrient additions which we liked to ensure a complete and healthy diet.
For comparison, the food is 443 calories per cup.
Low Carb Grain-Free
Purina, of course, is a household word with its product line going back to 1894 making foods for livestock. It’s an excellent point in the company’s favor because it shows its commitment to providing optimal nutrition to a variety of animals. Cat Chow came on the scene in 1963 with a dry kibble. It’s worth noting that they produce a low carb dry cat food for diabetic cats too.
Purina Beyond Grain-Free Low Carb Dry Cat Food comes in several flavor combinations including ocean whitefish-egg, white meat chicken-egg, salmon-egg-sweet potato, salmon-brown rice, Icelandic char, Pacific tuna, and wild turkey-lentil. We like the addition of egg since it is an excellent source of many nutrients including vitamin D. Taurine is at the 0.15 percent minimum.
The fact that they identify the fish sources is impressive because they are sustainable and best choice options according to Seafood Watch. Looking at the ocean whitefish-egg flavor, we noticed that the protein choices were first in the ingredient list before switching to egg, beef fat, sweet potatoes, and nutrients. The meat ones are sometimes problematic with some cats, so caution is necessary.
The manufacturer is quite transparent with its ingredients as well as sourcing, although the health benefits listed on its website are vague. For this product, the protein, fat, and moisture content percentages are 35, 14, and 12 percent, respectively. We’d prefer to see a bit higher protein closer to the 40-mark. That said, we were impressed to learn that nutritionists are on staff to oversee the operation.
For comparison, the food is 467 calories per cup.
Going to the other end of the spectrum, this company started small in 2010 producing raw food. We’re not fans of those products, but that’s another story. The premise is worthwhile, with an emphasis on feeding cats the meat that they need instead of a highly processed one. They come in a broad range of flavors from rabbit to tuna to beef. They are available in singles or variety packs.
You’ll find them in 12 packs of 3-ounce cans along with 24 packs in this size and 5.5-ounce cans. The ingredient list reads like it should with the protein first across the board followed by recognizable items like apples, spinach, and fish broth. You have to go pretty far down before you get to the added nutrients.
The nutritional profile was a stark departure from a low carbohydrate dry cat food. The percentages of protein, fat, and moisture content per can—using the Chicken Me Out Pate as an example—are 10, 7, and 78, respectively. Taurine is 0.10 percent minimum. That tips the scale for cats susceptible to UTIs. A comparison with the Oh, My Cod and Purrky Turkey yielded similar figures.
Looking at a few other products, we saw that the rabbit formula had beef as its second ingredient. That raises a red flag for pet owners with cats with meat allergies. Again, we typically see exotic flavors like this one an option these individuals use. It’s a departure from the chicken and fish varieties that stick closer to the label on the can.
For comparison, the food is 117 calories per can.
This manufacturer uses a similar marketing strategy to appeal to customers wanting to feed their pets a diet closer to what they’d get in the wild. They produce both dry and low carb canned cat food. They come in two flavors, Canyon River with trout and salmon along with Rocky Mountain with salmon and roasted venison.
Taste of Wild is family-owned with products made in the United States. They are transparent about sourcing some ingredients overseas. The Taste of The Wild Grain-Free Low Carb High Protein Cat Food doesn’t contain wheat, corn, or soy like comparable items of this ilk. Interestingly, venison and salmon don’t show up until sixth and seventh on the ingredient list with chicken in the forefront.
One could make the case that it’s not exactly what it advertises that it is. However, the inclusion of poultry likely makes it more palatable while benefiting from the lean protein sources that venison offers. We didn’t think it was a deal breaker.
It includes an array of fruits and vegetables like blueberries, tomatoes, and raspberries. It also has a full complement of added nutrients including species-specific probiotics. The low carb cat food is appropriate for all life stages which likely explains the inclusion of the latter. It’s a definite advantage if your cat likes it, and you don’t want to make a change as your pet gets older.
The percentages of protein, fat, and moisture content are respectable at 42, 18, and 10 for the dry with 0.15 percent minimum for taurine. The wet has 8, 3, and 82, respectively. The former offers superior nutrition.
For comparison, it is 390 calories per cup.
Easy Portion Size
This manufacturer also offers pet owners the option for a single variety or a multi-pack of flavors. The Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Low Carb Wet Cat Food line takes the guesswork out of knowing how much you should feed your cat. It comes in salmon, chicken-tuna, turkey, chicken-liver, seafood, chicken, whitefish-tuna, and beef. We looked at the 24 2.6-ounce tray (48 servings) package.
This product contains savory chicken, roasted turkey, and tender beef. The first thing we noticed is that this particular one isn’t an option for pets with allergies to meat. However, the company offers other packages that don’t include it if that’s an issue. The one we considered has a protein, fat, and moisture content of 9, 5, and 80 percent, respectively. Taurine is 0.05 percent minimum.
Each flavor lists a meat source as the first ingredient. We were shocked to see non-descript poultry and meat by-products appear as soon as fourth with the chicken pate. We also were dismayed to see taurine listed last. The containers certainly making it quicker and easier to feed your cat. And it’s an effective way to control their caloric intake if they’ve put on some extra pounds.
Overall, the emphasis focuses more on tasty foods instead of carnivore nutrition in keeping with a cat’s unique physiology. And we can’t help but think that marketing is more to make the products sound appealing to the pet owners than keeping with the pet’s nutritional needs.
It’s when you get to the feeding guidelines that you start to notice some facts. The website recommends feeding three portions per 5 pounds of body weight, two times a day. So, you’re starting at six portions per day for a smaller cat. That adds up quickly, making it more expensive than many other premium wet cat foods. Your pet will likely enjoy them nevertheless.
For comparison, the calorie count is 48 per serving.
After reviewing all the low carb cat food options, our pick for our favorite of the bunch is Taste of The Wild Grain-Free Low Carb High Protein Cat Food. We liked the nutritional profile of the lowest carbohydrate dry cat food. It had the highest protein content which supports feline physiology the best. We also appreciated having a canned option if moisture is an issue.
Including probiotics also caught our attention. We saw it as a healthy option for food to feed our kittens and cats throughout their life. We also have to give the manufacturer props for their transparency and family-run business. Of the products we reviewed, it was our favorite.