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Best Wet Cat Food 2020: Reviews and Cat Food Guide
The best wet cat food is made with your cat’s carnivorous needs in mind. It’s rich in fresh animal-sourced protein and free from plant-based fillers. It’s manufactured by people with a reputation for making safe, trustworthy products. And of course, it’s absolutely delicious.
In this buying guide, you’ll learn which ingredients to look for and which to avoid. You’ll find out why the “first ingredient rule” is wrong and how to evaluate cat food ingredient lists instead. We’ll talk about meat byproducts, recall history, sourcing, and other controversial topics.
Once you’ve learned how to identify the best wet cat food, we’ll dive into a curated list of the top 10 best wet and canned foods on the market.
Wet vs. Dry Cat Food - Which Type is Better?
Let’s start with one of the most fundamental debates in the cat food world—is wet cat food or dry kibble better?
Wet cat food has lower plant content than dry food.
Most dry cat food manufacturers use high-carbohydrate ingredients like corn, wheat, potatoes, or tapioca. These starchy ingredients are binders and help the kibble to maintain its shape.
Wet food manufacturing works differently. You can make wet food with nothing but meat, water, and supplements. Therefore, wet foods are usually relatively simple and species-appropriate.
Wet cat food provides the hydration your cat requires.
Think of the last time you ate popcorn without anything to drink on the side. That’s a rough representation of how your cat feels on a dry diet. Most dry cat foods have less moisture than a bowl full of unbuttered popcorn and cats rarely drink enough to make up for it.
Having originally dwelt under arid desert conditions, it appears that cats evolved to thrive in a dry environment. This means that they have low thirst drives. Rather than drinking from a puddle, stream, or bowl, they prefer to get their hydration from juicy prey.
The fact that many cats now have water bowls and water fountains does nothing to change the feline desire to drink. When a cat is given a water-depleted diet, they may drink more than they would while eating high-moisture food, but they will not take in enough water to thrive.
The most apparent consequence of chronic dehydration is a tendency to develop feline lower urinary tract disease or FLUTD.
Is dry cat food better for your cat’s dental health?
While dry food may be marginally better than wet food for dental health, it’s certainly not a solution to periodontal disease. Any minimal abrasive effect is balanced by the increased carbohydrate content of dry cat food, which leaves a starchy film on your cat’s teeth and contributes to plaque buildup.
If you feed your cat wet food, brush their teeth daily, and supplement their diet with raw meaty bones or specially-made dental treats. They’ll be much better off than a cat who eats a dry diet and receives no other dental care.
How to Find the Best Wet Cat Food
Read the ingredient list. Here’s how to do it the right way.
It’s important to read the ingredient list on cat food labels. Maybe you've heard that the first ingredient makes or breaks a food. While this is true in part, it’s an overly simplistic analysis method and is exploited by cat food manufacturers to create the illusion of a meat-rich food.
Cat food ingredient lists are written in order of weight.
If a recipe includes one pound of chicken along with fifteen ounces of potato and fifteen ounces of potato protein concentrate, chicken will be the first item on the list, despite the fact that potato is the predominant ingredient. Further, the weights of the ingredients are calculated before the food is cooked. Once the water is cooked out, the chicken will weigh considerably less, but the ingredient list won’t tell you that.
Nevertheless, the cat food company can proclaim that their food has “real meat” as the first ingredient and many consumers will be excited to see wholesome chicken leading up the ingredient list.
Instead of relying on rules of thumb, think critically.
Look at every ingredient and ask yourself what purpose it serves and how it fits into a strictly carnivorous diet. If the ingredient list describes a food made primarily from clearly-named pieces of animals and has very little or no plant parts, then it’s probably a relatively good choice for your cat.
Seek out highly-digestible protein sources.
As obligate carnivores, cats require large amounts of protein, ideally from animal sources. Animal protein is easy for their bodies to metabolize and produces very little waste.
Different sources of protein have varied bioavailability levels. Protein from corn gluten meal, for example, is less bioavailable than protein from poultry by-product.
When cat food manufacturers load up their foods with plant protein as a cost-effective alternative to meat, they boost protein percentages on the label, but fail to provide an efficiently nourishing food.
Are meat by-products a wholesome source of animal protein?
On a cat food label, animal by-products, meat by-products, poultry by-products, and by-product meals refer to meat ingredients that would otherwise be discarded after human meat processing.
According to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) the following defines meat by-products:
“Meat by-products is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.”
A pound of meat by-products could be primarily beef muscle meat and organs or it might be minimally-digestible pig intestines.
It’s impossible to know which animal parts are used and from which types of animals they were sourced. For example, meat by-products may involve non-slaughtered animals, sometimes those who were euthanized by drug injection.
Because they’re nutritionally ambiguous, meat by-products aren’t an ideal ingredient in cat food. They’re particularly problematic for cats with food allergies or sensitivities.
To achieve the nutritional complexity of meat by-products without sacrificing ingredient integrity, superior cat food manufacturers use specifically-named, high-value animal parts, including muscle meat, organs, and bones.
Avoid ingredients that could harm your cat over time.
Some ingredients or additives are generally considered safe and are therefore included in cat food, but pose a health risk over time.
Carrageenan - This algae derivative makes wet cat food nice and thick, but it could worsen inflammation and may have carcinogenic properties.
Artificial Colors - Many artificial colors are associated with negative health effects. Even if there was no evidence that synthetic food dyes cause behavioral and physical problems, they’re not necessary. Artificially-colored cat food is an insult to your intelligence, so get offended and reject any food made with dyes.
Too Much Fish - Fish is often contaminated with heavy metals and toxic waste. Additionally, fish-based canned foods may contribute to hyperthyroidism as your cat ages.
BPA - While not an ingredient in your cat’s food, this chemical is used to line cat food cans and is worth talking about here. It’s speculated that eating out of BPA-lined cans may increase your cat’s risk of developing hyperthyroidism in their senior years. You can usually avoid BPA by choosing small cat food cans or asking the manufacturer.
Look for a species-appropriate nutrient breakdown.
Generally, cats require a diet that’s rich in protein with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content. A mouse might be 70% moisture, 19% protein, 6.3% fat, and 1.7% carbohydrate.
This prey-model nutrient distribution will support good health and is a healthy guideline for wet cat foods. Note that because carbohydrate matter isn’t printed on cat food cans, you’ll need to estimate the carbohydrate percentage using this formula or a calculator like this one.
Top 10 Best Wet Cat Foods 2020 - Reviews
Now that you’ve learned what to look for in the best wet cat food, here’s our list of the best wet foods on the market. All of these foods are made primarily from high-quality animal protein and are low in carbohydrate-dense plant ingredients.
Ziwi Peak is a brand with an exceptional reputation in multiple significant areas.
Their foods feature high-quality ingredients representing a whole prey-inspired variety of animal parts. Ziwi Peak foods contain kidney, tripe, liver, lung, and bones.
These ingredients contribute to Ziwi Peak’s consistently species-appropriate macronutrient profiles with generous amounts of meat-sourced protein, low carbohydrate content, and moderate fat. Customer reviews indicate that their foods are delicious and cat-friendly.
Finally, Ziwi Peak has an excellent reputation for quality and safety. The foods are made in New Zealand with local ingredients and adhere to the country’s stringent safety regulations. Overall, Ziwi Peak appears to be one of the most trustworthy companies in the pet food industry today.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Ziwi Peak’s most popular recipes.
Ziwi Peak Lamb Cuisine Ingredients
Lamb, Lamb Broth, Lamb Liver, Lamb Lung, Lamb Kidney, Chick Peas, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Heart, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Bone, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B1 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement).
Sheba Perfect Portions Paté is a cat food that your furry friends will love! One big benefit is that it is a really convenient food for us owners.
This food comes in serving trays with two portions. You just snap the tray in half, peel the cover off, feed pussycat, and save the other side for your cat’s next meal. Minus washing up!
This particular type includes three varieties - chicken, turkey and beef. They are all made without corn, soy, or wheat acting as unnecessary and artificial tummy fillers. With a smooth and light consistency this will be a big winner with your feline friends.
There is very little waste with this food as there can be with canned food. Reviewers also love this food and brand with a 4.3 out of 5 rating on Amazon.
It’s pawfectly clear that Sheba Perfect Portions Paté is a winner.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Sheba’s most popular recipes.
Sheba Perfect Portions Pate Ingredients
Chicken Broth, Salmon, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Poultry By-Products, Meat By-Products, Guar Gum, Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Copper Sulfate), Added Color, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Vitamin E Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex [Source of Vitamin K Activity]), DL-Methionine, Salt, Taurine.
Those of you with some culinary experience will understand that making gravy involves flour, cornstarch, or other high-carbohydrate thickeners.
This is why pate foods are typically better than canned foods with shreds, morsels, or chunks in gravy. Because they’re typically lower in carbohydrates, most of the foods on this list are pates.
If your cat prefers chunks, shreds, or strips of meat in gravy, he might like wet food from Tiki Cat.
This company offers a wide variety of canned foods featuring shredded meat in broth. These broths are free from common thickeners like potato starch, tapioca starch, and other carbohydrate sources, making the foods appropriate for your carnivorous kitty. Even cats with diabetes can safely enjoy Tiki Cat shreds.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Tiki Cat’s most popular recipes.
Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Ingredients
Chicken, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Seed Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin K3 Supplement.
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4. Best Wet Cat Food for Kittens: Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food Kitten
To support kittenhood development, choose a high-calorie food rich in excellent protein and the vitamins and minerals kittens need.
Nature’s Variety Instinct offers a grain-free kitten food made with a hearty concentration of animal ingredients, minimal plant matter, and boosted levels of DHA for healthy brain and eye development. It has high calorie content to fuel your kitten’s activity and rapid growth.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Chicken Kitten Food Ingredients
Chicken, Beef Liver, Chicken Broth, Salmon (Source of DHA), Eggs, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Taurine, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Minerals (Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley.
As cats become more ‘senior’ a common problem can be urinary issues.
With the Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Urinary Tract Health Formula this can potentially be prevented before issues kick in.
Cats prone to urinary problems benefit from a diet low in magnesium. They also benefit from foods that keep the pH level as neutral as possible. This will avoid the formation of urine crystals in their bladders. This variety of Purina provides just that.
With a high moisture content (78%), this food also keeps your cat hydrated. This helps with urination allowing for a healthy ‘pee-schedule’ preventing the formation of crystals in the bladder.
This food has close to 3000 reviews by Amazon customers!! Many reviewers have mentioned their senior cats have reacted well to a regular diet of this wet cat food
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Purina’s most popular recipes.
Purina Pro Plan FOCUS Urinary Tract Health Formula Ingredients
Water Sufficient For Processing, Meat By-Product, Chicken, Wheat Gluten, Corn Starch-Modified, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Soy Flour, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt, Added Color, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide. C-4664.
This limited cat food is designed for adult cats with sensitive skin and stomachs.
It is made from recipes designed to provide a balanced diet. It is easy to digest, has antioxidants and supports the cat’s immune system. It contains Omega 3 fatty acids to restore skin and coat luster.
If your cat suffers from food allergies, consider switching them to a more limited, low-allergy cat food formula like this. Many reviewers report that their cats, those diagnosed with IBD and food sensitivities, react incredibly well once switching to this diet.
This food is also recommended by so many since it's hydrolyzed and contains light proteins that are easy on a cat’s digestive system.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Purina’s most popular recipes.
Royal CANIN Feline Selected Protein Adult Ingredients
Water sufficient for processing, duck, duck liver, pea flour, duck by-product meal, pea protein, vegetable oil, carrageenan, fish oil, carob bean gum, calcium sulfate, natural flavors, taurine, DL-methionine, choline chloride, cysteine, potassium chloride, glycine, vitamins.
Weruva foods are made from simple ingredients like shredded chicken and other meats in gravy. They’re quite moisture-rich, which makes them low-calorie and satiating. These are qualities that will help you out when your cat’s on a diet.
Weruva doesn’t give you many calories to the dollar, so it may not appeal to budget-conscious shoppers. If you don’t like the idea of paying top dollar for a food that’s 85% water, you may prefer to add your own water to a more calorie-dense food.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Weruva’s most popular recipes.
Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Paw Lickin’ Chicken Ingredients
Chicken (Boneless, Skinless Breast), Chicken Broth, Potato Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil, Calcium Lactate, Xanthan Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement.
CORE is Wellness’ line of grain-free, meat-based food. At around 40 calories per ounce, this food is one of the highest-calorie foods on the market. This makes it a good choice for cats who need to gain weight.
Wellness CORE foods are primarily made from high-quality animal ingredients and are low in carbohydrates, but they tend to contain plant-based additives such as ground flaxseed and ground potatoes.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Wellness CORE’s most popular recipes.
Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Chicken & Turkey Ingredients
Chicken, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chicken Meal, Turkey Liver, Dried Ground Potatoes, Natural Flavor, Cranberries, Guar Gum, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Salmon Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Taurine, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Dried Kelp, Chicory Root Extract, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Magnesium Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Many brands claim to offer natural cat food, but few can claim organic certification. Castor & Pollux ORGANIX is one of the few that can. All ORGANIX cat foods have USDA Organic certification and are made with 95% or more certified organic ingredients.
While this brand offers some of the only USDA certified organic foods on the market, they’re not the most species-appropriate. Castor & Pollux foods are meat-rich, but they also contain peas, coconut flour, pea protein, and other plant ingredients.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of Castor & Pollux ORGANIX’s most popular recipes.
Castor & Pollux Organix Turkey Cat Food Ingredients
Organic Turkey, Water Sufficient for Processing, Organic Chicken, Organic Chicken Liver, Organic Dried Peas, Organic Coconut Flour, Organic Dried Egg Product, Organic Pea Protein, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Carrots, Organic Cranberries, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Vitamins (Niacin, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid).
Here’s some fantastic news for budget shoppers. Most economy wet cat foods are grain-free, meat-rich, and have very little carbohydrate matter. Fancy Feast Classics are a long-time favorite. They’re tasty, affordable, and their ingredient lists are more species-appropriate than those on some super-premium brands.
Despite the good qualities of Fancy Feast, it’s not perfect. Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Feast, for example, contains synthetic ingredients, including artificial flavors and added food dyes.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of one of the most popular Fancy Feast Classics recipes.
Purina Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Feast Ingredients
Chicken, Poultry Broth, Liver, Meat By-Products, Fish, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Tricalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Added Color, Salt, Minerals [Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Taurine, Vitamins [Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Vitamin A Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement], Sodium Nitrite (To Promote Color Retention).
What should you do if your cat won’t eat wet food?
Now that you’ve learned how to choose a great wet cat food and have gotten to know ten of the best foods on the market, your remaining challenge is to get your cat to eat their new and improved diet.
Cats who’ve eaten moist food all of their life will likely transition to a new product easily, but kibble addicts might need a twelve-step program.
First, if your cat is free feeding throughout the day, they need to stop.
Free feeding is a problem for several reasons. For one, cats who eat wet food can’t freely eat throughout the day, so any cat moving onto a wet diet will need to kick their grazing habit. Secondly, if your cat is hesitant to eat wet food, you’ll need to use hunger to your advantage. Cats who free-feed don’t get hungry enough and lack motivation to try something new.
To break your cat of the free feeding habit, start taking away your cat’s food after fifteen minutes, regardless of how much they’ve eaten. Eventually, your cat will learn to eat within the allotted time lest they go hungry.
Start moistening your cat’s dry food to help them become comfortable eating a softer food.
It’s important that the moistened food is tossed into the trash or at least refrigerated after a few hours. When it gets wet, dry food becomes a breeding ground for toxic mold and other potentially harmful organisms.
Mix wet food into the kibble.
In addition to moistening your cat’s dry food, you may place a small amount of wet food on top of their dry food, gradually increasing the wet food quantity until it’s replaced the kibble altogether.
The transition may take days, weeks, or even months—it all depends on how stubborn your cat is and how good their wet food tastes. You might have to deal with some pitiful meowing or dirty looks from your cat, but in the end, the transition to wet food is worthwhile. Cats deserve a hydrating, meat-rich diet, and the best wet cat food embodies those nutritional ideals in a convenient form.
This article was written by Mallory Crusta, a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.
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