Is Grain Free Cat Food a Good Choice? A Different Take on Feeding Your Feline

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vet verified Dr. Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM Associate Professor of Clinical Nutrition

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Ithaca, NY

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Wellness CORE Grain Free Turkey & Duck Formula Canned Cat Food

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Grain free cat food is becoming more and more popular among pet parents, but is it a good choice? Learn here how to choose the best diet for your cat.

There is a lot of talk in the pet community about grain-free foods, and you might be wondering what’s causing all the hype. Many scientists believe that a grain-free diet is more appropriate for cats because they are carnivores, and foods rich in proteins rather than grain-based carbohydrates more closely resemble their natural diet.

But is grain-free cat food the right choice for your cat?

The Gripe with Grains

Grains like corn, wheat, and rice are the foundations for many cat foods. This is because they are cheap to produce and allow the food manufacturer to meet the carbohydrate requirements for their foods while saving some money.

These types of grains, however, can cause problems for some cats. Some cats are allergic to grains, and others have difficulty digesting them. Some scientists believe that this is because cats weren’t designed to do so -- they lack a salivary enzyme called amylase that helps break down carbohydrates like corn and wheat before reaching the stomach. Cats do, however, use amylase secreted by the pancreas during digestion in the intestines.

A wild cat’s natural diet would contain more protein and likely ingest only small amounts of carbohydrates through the proteins (or animals) they consumed.

Hence, grain-free cat food like Blue Buffalo cat food is the right choice for your cats. Consuming these food products will ensure that no grains go inside your cat’s stomach so that she can easily digest what she eats.

Grain-Free Advantages and Disadvantages

Some cats do great on grain-free diets while others do not. Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages.


  • Grain-free diets can contain more ingredients your cat would be eating in the wild. Proteins like fish and meat are found in greater amounts in some grain-free foods. (However, some manufacturers of grain-free foods simply substitute other highly glycemic carbohydrate sources like potato and tapioca, similar to grains in their nutrient makeup.) Using grain-free cat food brands will ensure that your cat gets all the essential nutrition she needs. However, if she is not getting enough nutrition, you can try providing supplements like Atopica for cats to ensure that she stays healthy.
  • Some cats develop an allergy to grains, and grain-free diets aim to eliminate the ingredients causing the sensitivity.
  • Grain-free diets reduce the chances of allergy to cats who are allergic to grains. Not preventing this can lead to problems, including diarrhea, constipation, and food allergy. In this case, you will have to put in more effort to clean your house, especially if it is not used to using a cat litter box. However, you can use Dr. Elsey’s Cat Litter Attract. This cat litter has a pleasant scent that can attract your cat to use the litter box.


  • Because grain-free foods can be higher in protein, they can also be higher in fat. Be sure you are feeding your cat the appropriate portion size, so they do not put on weight. However, you can easily avoid this problem. You can try making your cat do more physical activity in different ways. To begin with, you can get interactive cat toys for her to play around with them and avoid putting on weight. Moreover, you can also take her on a walk or a hike along with you. However, ensure to take all the essential accessories like cat carriers, cat collars, clothes, etc., while going on a hike.
  • Grain-free foods that contain more protein will likely be more expensive. However, you will probably be feeding your cat smaller portions because of the high protein, which may make up for the price difference.

How To Shop For Grain-Free Cat Food

Talk to your veterinarian about whether a grain-free food is a good choice for your cat, and ask for brand recommendations. When shopping for grain-free cat food, be careful not to be tricked by labels that say “all-natural” or promise to make your cat healthier than anything else. You can get the full story by checking out the ingredients and nutrient analysis on the back of the bag or can.

Just because a food is grain-free doesn’t mean it will be right for your cat. Always check with your veterinarian before switching your cat to a new diet.

The Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Your Kitty

Cats are obligate carnivores. That means if they don’t eat meat, they can die. Meat is a crucial part of any cat’s diet, and while a balanced diet is vital, most cats can stand to have some of the filler cut out of their food. For a lean, high octane diet, grain-free cat foods can help your cat burn a little bit cleaner, filling them up with all the proteins and vitamins they need without any starchy carbs that make some cats sluggish.

Now, you should always consult with your vet before switching your cat’s diet to something new, especially if the change is as drastic as one that omits a substantial portion of what they were eating. This diet is not for every cat. However, it benefits cats dealing with weight management issues or diabetes.

Diabetes can be a significant problem in cats. If that’s the case, you will see common symptoms like excessive urination, loss of weight, extreme thirst, dehydration, etc. Take your cat immediately to the vet and get the pet meds like Glipizide for diabetes. To avoid such problems, it is best to feed grain-free food like Wellness Cat Food and others mentioned below.

Here are a few of the top-rated grain-free cat foods.

Grain-Free Food

Wellness Core Grain-Free Dry


  • Packed with nutrients
  • No meat by-products or fillers
  • Full of antioxidants, omega fatty acids, and probiotics
  • High-quality animal protein

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Dry


  • No hormones or antibiotics
  • Made with whole fruits and vegetables for an immunity boost
  • Great for all stages of life
  • Full of natural antioxidants

Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned


  • Gluten-free
  • Full of omega fatty acids
  • A complete and balanced diet
  • Great for all life stages

Tuffies Pet Pure Vita Dry


  • Pure ingredients
  • Boosts your pet's vitality
  • Eases your cat's digestion
  • Delicious and nutritious

Canidae Grain Free PureSEA


  • High-Quality Salmon Meal
  • Superior Digestibility
  • pH-balanced formula
  • Blended for optimal nutrition

B.F.F. Tuna and Shrimp Sweethearts


  • Whole meat tuna
  • Optimal nutrition for your cat
  • Enjoyed by even the most finicky cat
  • Made to meet human grade standards

Before Grain Salmon Dry


  • 96% meat content
  • All-natural, whole food source
  • Vitamins A and E for healthy eyes
  • No added preservatives

More on Cat Nutrition

Cat Nutrition for Male Cats
What to Feed a Cat: Female Cats
Nutrition for Feeding a Senior Cat

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis, or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.

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