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Best raw cat food: Six fantastic picks that your favorite furry carnivore will love

Included in this guide:

The best raw cat food
(Image credit: Getty)

Using any of the best raw cat foods is an excellent way to supplement, or improve, your cat’s regular diet of the best cat food. Raw cat food is exactly as it sounds – it uses raw ingredients, and it can come in either freeze-dried form, treats, or toppers. Just like the best dry cat foods, it’s always prepared to strict guidelines to make sure that the food is fresh and free from any form of bacteria. You can, of course, prepare the best raw cat food at home using choice cuts from the butcher, but you need to be careful when preparing it. Getting pre-made raw food definitely takes the guess-work out of it all and you can click here to read more about the benefits of raw cat food.

What should you look for to make sure you’re getting the best raw cat food? Well, a good start is looking to see whether the food meets the AAFCO suggested standards for pet food. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) generates and recommends guidelines for the definitions and suitability of ingredients that go into pet foods. While it’s never a 100% guarantee, the closer your cat food is to these standards, the more likely it is to be beneficial to your kitty’s health, and the less likely it is to contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E.Coli, which can be present in raw ingredients. Just so you know, these standards are that a food contains at least 26% protein, 9% fat, and that it contains a set number of minerals and vitamins. You’ll find more information about AAFCO standards on their website.

Raw cat food is more expensive than other types of cat food, including the best wet cat food, so we’ve researched to see which of these foods are actually worth the expense, and which ones will provide no real nutritional benefit beyond regular cats foods. While raw foods do contain fewer additives, and good levels of protein, many of the premium dry and wet cat foods provide similar (or better) nutritional value, so if you’re going to spend extra on the best raw cat food, make sure it’s actually worth it for your cat.

Best raw cat food stella

(Image credit: Stella)

Stella and Chewy’s Freeze-Dried raw cat food

Types: Dried food
Flavours: Chicken, Duck, Rabbit, Salmon and Chicken, Cod and Salmon, Turkey
Suitable for: All ages
Reasons to buy
+Good introduction to raw cat food+Very ethically sourced+Plenty of nutritional benefits
Reasons to avoid
-Not very cheap

One of the overwhelming favorites when it comes to the best raw cat food is Stella and Chewy, as this company makes excellent freeze-dried raw food, in a wide variety of flavors. As with most raw cat food, Stella and Chewy is keen to point out that there are no added ingredients like hormones, filler, or preservatives – the meat they serve is processed, but not overly so. It’s rich in protein, which is perfect for cats, and seems to be widely loved if the wealth of positive user reviews are to be believed. 

Stella and Chewy also prides itself on producing cat food from responsibly sourced meat and fish, and that its ingredients are gluten free, which can be an issue for cats with certain dietary problems. There are plenty of claims about the health benefits of Stella and Chewy’s food, and the credentials are good: the guaranteed list of ingredients and percentages meet AAFCO guidelines, and the preparation method is recognized by both the FDA and the USDA, so you’re less likely to get contaminants than any other brand.

If you’re looking for ethically sourced raw cat food that actually has the nutritional value to benefit you kitty, this is easily one of the best out there. The wide range of flavors means you should be able to find something your cat enjoys too. The only downside is the price – this is not cheap food, although it compares well to some of the premium, specialized diet food from other manufacturers.

Best raw cat food Instinct

(Image credit: Instinct)

Instinct Raw Boost Mixers

Type: Toppers
Flavors: Chicken, rabbit
Suitable for: All ages
Reasons to buy
+Multipurpose food that can be used as treats as well+Minimally processed+Highly recommended
Reasons to avoid
-Ethically not as well sourced as competitors 

The alternative to a pure, raw diet is toppers. These are freeze-dried raw ingredients that can be mixed in with (or placed on top of) regular food, to supplement your cat’s diet. So they’re getting the benefits of raw meat and fish with the added vitamins and minerals that dry food brings. At the top of the list of toppers is Instinct’s Raw Boost Mixers.

You can buy this in chicken and rabbit flavors, and there’s also a special formula for both digestive health, and skin and coat maintenance. The meat used here is minimally processed, and is boosted with vegetables that are produced to non-GMO standards. While it doesn’t quite have the same ethical standards as Stella and Chewy, Instinct is still at the top-end of responsible cat food.

If you want to go full raw diet, Instinct does do a bag of pure, raw, freeze-dried chicken pieces. It comes highly recommended by users, but we think Instinct’s range is far better for the toppers, which are a better way to introduce raw food into your cat’s diet, and retain the benefits of other food types. And, let’s not forget, toppers can be used as treats too!

Best raw cat food PureBites

(Image credit: PureBites)

Purebites Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Treats

Type: Treats
Flavors: Chicken, Duck, Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp, Minnow
Suitable for: All ages
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of options+Widely loved+An easy way to introduce food into your cat's diet
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive for treats

If you just want to use raw food as a treat, and a way to lightly supplement your cat’s diet, then treats are a great option. Purebites makes some excellent treats, and they come in a wide range of flavors. If your cat likes seafood, then there are plenty of fish options, including shrimp and minnow (not something you see every day). As with most other raw food, these treats are free from grains, and good for cats with allergies, as they contain few ingredients that would inflame these kinds of issues.

At around $4 per bag, these cat treats are pretty expensive, but it’s an affordable way to get raw meat and fish into your cat’s diet, and prevent them from eating too much and getting sick. While Purebites says that these treats are hypoallergenic, implying that they are suitable for cats on restricted diets, we think it’s best to check with your veterinarian before feeding them to kitty, if they are on a severely restricted diet.

Purebites get excellent user reviews across the whole range of treats, which means they are loved by cats across the country. The most popular flavor does seem to be chicken, but this is often the case for cat food. At $4 per bag, it’s worth trying with your cat.

Best raw cat food origen

(Image credit: Orijen)

Orijen Grain Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Type: Dried food
Flavors: Various
Suitable for: All ages
Reasons to buy
+Consistent flavors+Not filled with grains+Will appeal to a wide range of cats
Reasons to avoid
-Limited choice

If you’re looking for a raw cat food that covers a variety of bases, then Orijen’s grain free mix is a great choice. Orijen uses what it calls the ‘whole prey’ approach, which means it mixes in a variety of raw meats, and guarantees that the first five ingredients into every batch of its cat food are animals or fish, before adding fruits and vegetables for other nutritional benefits. Orijen claims that the recipe is 90% meat, 10% other.

This means that the flavor stays consistent, which is important for many cats, but it does limit choice – your kitty will either eat this, or it won’t. Of course it isn’t filled out with grain, or that would defeat the point of it being natural, raw cat food. What it does have, as an added bonus, is a coating of freeze-dried liver to retain the kibble shape, and appeal to your cat’s sense of taste. 

This is one of the highest rated cat foods across a number of pet food retailers, and has an impressive score of 4.6 stars on Chewy – making it seem pretty close to one of the best raw cat foods. It does seem that the range of meat and fish ingredients (which, amusingly, one reader review described as disgusting) appeal to a wide range of cats, as many people recommend it for picky eaters.

Best raw cat food Vital

(Image credit: Vital)

Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Cat Treats

Type: Treats
Flavors: Minnow, chicken hearts, chicken, chicken giblets, rabbit, Ahi tuna, duck liver, salmon
Suitable for: All ages
Reasons to buy
+Clear list of ingredients +Suitable for gluten-free and grain-free diets+An upper class of treat
Reasons to avoid
-On the pricey side

For anyone who wants to get as close to possible with their raw cat food, then Vital Essentials does an excellent range of treats which are – essentially – exactly what they say. The minnow treats are actual freeze-dried minnows. The chicken hearts are actual freeze-dried hearts. While the rabbit bites aren’t recognizable… you get the general idea. If ever you were uncertain about the ingredients in your cat’s raw food, these treats from Vital should set your mind at ease.

As these are pretty much all protein and natural ingredients, they’re suitable for gluten-free and grain-free diets. While they won’t give your cat all the nutrients it needs, they are a great accompaniment to some of the best dried cat food out there, which will happily give your kitty all it needs to stay healthy.

At over $5 per bag, these treats are very premium, but you’re getting raw cat food in its purest form. We’d recommend them for already healthy cats, looking for a better class of treat, but can’t say they’re the ideal basis for a balanced diet.

Best raw cat food

(Image credit: Almo)

Almo Nature Raw Wet Cat Food

Type: Wet food
Flavors: Duck, chicken, chicken and ham
Suitable for: Adult cats
Reasons to buy
+An affordable option+A very reputable company+75% of human grade raw ingredients
Reasons to avoid
-Not suitable for picky eaters

If you’re looking for the best raw cat food that is also wet, then we recommend seeking out Almo Nature’s range of raw food pouches. These contain around 75% of human grade raw ingredients, and come in a variety of flavors to suit most cats’ tastes. What’s more, they aren’t all that expensive either, especially compared to some of the premium dry food you can buy. A pack of 24 sachets costs just over £20/$23, so you’re paying about £1/$1 per serving.

While the process of making these pouches is less well documented (although all natural ingredients are used, and the food is both gluten and grain-free), it’s nice to know that all profits from sales of this good gets put back into biodiversity work. While this is of no tangible benefit to you or your cat, it does make Almo well worth trying. 

The downside is that cats are undecided about whether or not they actually like it. Most negative user reviews cite the fact that their cat simply wasn’t interested in trying the flavors they purchased, which means it probably isn’t suitable for picky eaters…. Meaning it might be the best raw cat food.

How to introduce the best raw cat food into your cat's diet

If you decide to switch your cat over to raw food, you absolutely shouldn’t just make a straight swap, even if it is the best raw cat food. Cats’ digestive systems are surprisingly delicate, and any change in their food should be introduced over the course of a couple of weeks, as you phase out the old cat food and introduce the new. We suggest starting with a very small amount of raw food – perhaps 10-15% of the cat’s daily food intake – before slowly building up the quantity. If your cat is sick, or refuses to eat the raw food after a couple of days, it’s a good idea to stop, or speak to your veterinarian about whether or not a raw diet is a good idea for your kitty.

We’ve seen numerous user reviews online claiming that their cats were sick after trying raw food. This could be because the regular food was substituted immediately, instead of being slowly removed and replaced with the raw. Equally, some cats simply don’t like raw, or their stomachs’ won’t tolerate it, despite the natural ingredients present. As with anything cat related, it usually comes down to the specific cat, and what one mog loves… another simply won’t enjoy at all, even if it's the best raw cat food you can find.

Andy Hartup

Andy is an online Editor-in-Chief, a photographer, and a cat owner of 25 years. He has owned many types of cat, rescuing some and adopting others from kittens. He currently lives with Pickle, a tortie, who loves to play with Christmas wrapping bows and eat flowers.