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Canned cat food is an essential part of your cat’s diet. While cats do enjoy a varied selection of food and should be fed both dry and wet foods, canned cat food has the advantage of a high water content, which helps to keep your kitty hydrated (most cats don’t drink much water, so it’s important for them to “eat” their fluids).
How much you feed them and what type of canned cat food depends on several factors, including their age, overall health needs, and size. You should also keep an eye on the ingredients when shopping for cat food, since some cats have sensitivities to certain ingredients or preferences when it comes to protein source.
Read on for the best canned cat foods.
Best Overall: Wellness Complete Health Turkey & Salmon Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
When selecting a canned food for your feline friend, look for one that has been certified “Complete and Balanced” by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This means the food contains a high-quality mix of ingredients to meet your feline's basic nutritional needs, explains Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH of Telemedicine practice Animal Acupuncture, in New York City, including meat, taurine (a building block for protein synthesis and a vital amino acid for cats), and water.
You can tell simply by looking at the first five ingredients (turkey, chicken liver, whitefish, chicken broth, salmon) in this blend that it’s good for your cat. In addition to taurine, it also contains a blend of antioxidant-rich cranberries, vitamins, balanced minerals, and omega fatty acids.
Best for Weight Gain: Tiki Pets Tiki Cat Luau Wet Food Salmon
Without any fillers, carbs, or gum, Tiki Pets is loaded with good-for-feline proteins that will help your cat keep weight on the right way. The salmon variety offers 3.5 percent crude fat, slightly higher than other flavors, yet still in the healthy range. If you think your cat is underweight, one of the easiest fixes may be to increase its portion sizes and this 8 ounce can readily allow you to do that. Of course, if your cat can’t keep weight on or is losing weight for no apparent reason, it’s important to speak to your vet to find out if there’s an underlying reason, reminds Dr. Barrack.
Best Kitten: Purina Fancy Feast Grain Free Pate Wet Kitten Food
It's important to feed your kitten food that’s specifically labeled for kittens, as it will be formulated to help support their growth and healthy development with higher protein content and calories. It should also have increased vitamin and mineral supplementation (such as calcium and phosphorus), Dr. Barrack says.
This grain-free blend comes in smaller 3-ounce cans sized for kittens appetites. If you do have any left over, remember to cover and refrigerate; it will stay good for up to three days. The soft, pate style is easy for kittens to chew and digest. This box comes with four different flavors so you can experiment until you find their favorite.
Best for Seniors: Purina Pro Plan Senior Canned Wet Cat Food
While the best food for your senior cat depends on your own cat’s unique health needs, in general, it is best to maintain a diet filled with proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and water throughout all stages of your cat's life, Dr. Barrack says. This grain-free, made in the U.S.A. blend from Purina contains 10 percent minimum protein to help maintain your older cat’s lean muscle mass, antioxidants beta carotene, and vitamin E for a shiny, healthy coat, prebiotic fiber for easier digestion, and phosphorous for kidney support.
Note that you may want to cut back on portion sizes if you notice your cat is less active or gaining weight.
Best for Allergies: Blue Buffalo Blue Basics Limited Ingredient Duck & Potato Pate Cat Food
Even if your cat never had allergies before, they can develop environmental or food allergies as they age, Dr. Barrack says. “Food allergies are diagnosed via special elimination diets; then once the food allergen is identified, it will be important to keep this from your cat’s dietary intake long-term,” she adds.
Serving a cat food with fewer ingredients, like this Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet, is an important step in developing a hypoallergenic diet for your cat. It’s grain, corn, soy, dairy, and egg-free and it doesn’t contain any preservatives or artificial flavors. The food has just one protein source—duck—which cats tend to be less sensitive to than chicken or beef.
Best Natural: Weruva BFF OMG Rainbow A Gogo Variety Pack Wet Cat Food Pouches
Wervua cat foods are made in human-grade facilities, so you can relax knowing they’re made of the highest quality ingredients. Each of the six flavors in this grain-free variety pack is high-protein and low-carbohydrate with meat, fish, or broth as its main ingredient. The chunky gravy food comes in a plastic pouch that some find easier to open than a traditional can, though others wish the pouches were resealable. The food contains added vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants along with taurine to boost your cat’s health and appearance. As a general rule, you should feed your cat 1 ounce of food for each pound of bodyweight daily, spread out over two meals.
Best Grain-Free: Tiny Tiger Pate Beef & Poultry Recipes Variety Pack Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
You may have heard cats described as “obligate carnivores,” which means they require meat to survive and thrive and don’t generally tolerate high carbohydrate diets well, Dr. Barrack explains. The flavors in this variety pack contain between 10 to 11 percent crude protein that should more than satisfy your cat’s natural animal instincts. That’s along with broth for adequate water content and added taurine, vitamins, and minerals. Cats do get bored with their food, so a variety pack of flavors is a smart choice as it will help you mix up their meals.
With meat, fish, and broth as its first five ingredients Wellness Complete Health Turkey & Salmon Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food (view at Amazon) contains all the protein needed to satiate your obligate carnivore. The addition of taurine, antioxidants, vitamins, balanced minerals, and omega fatty acids round out the nutritional profile of this popular canned cat food. If you suspect your cat has developed a food allergy, Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Duck & Potato (view at Amazon) contains duck as its protein source which cats tend to tolerate better than chicken or beef.
What to Look for in Canned Cat Food
When buying canned cat food, you’ll want to consider how old your cat is. Different products are formulated especially for kittens, adult cats, or seniors. These various products will have different ingredients that cater to your cat’s specific nutritional needs.
It’s always a good idea to look at the ingredients when choosing a canned cat food. Experts say you should look for a named source of protein, such as salmon or chicken, rather than a meat by-product. You’ll also want to see just how much filler, or carbohydrates, are in the formula, as cats are carnivores and cannot digest large amounts of carbs very well.
Certain cats have specific nutritional needs, whether it’s ingredients that prevent hairballs or low-calorie foods to help them lose or maintain weight. Many canned cat foods are specially formulated to help achieve your pet’s health goals, but keep in mind that these types of formulas are often more expensive.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This piece was written by Anne Fritz, who has been writing pet content for The Spruce for more than two years. When researching picks to include in this round-up, she read dozens of customer and third-party reviews, considering the cat food's quality and ingredients. She also spoke with Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian and founder of Animal Acupuncture, based in New York City.