Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Updated: May 15, 2024

What are the best raw foods for cats?

Updated: May 15, 2024

There are a growing number of cat parents switching their pets over to a raw diet. But why?

Well, cats are carnivores by nature so many think it makes sense to feed them a diet more suited to the way their body works. 

Raw cat food consists of fewer processed ingredients and naturally occurring nutrients, which can help maintain a healthy weight, support a cat’s digestion and keep their teeth healthy.

See our list of the best raw cat foods recommended by our team of editors, made up of pet nutritionists and veterinarians.

  • Darwin's Natural Selections

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    Recommended

    Darwin’s Natural Selections raw cat food range is made up of three recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s second highest rating 4.5 stars.

    This food is formulated to mimic a cat’s natural diet, consisting of raw meat, organs, and bones. It contains no fillers or anti-biotics and is grain-free.

    Darwin’s Natural Selections Chicken for Cats was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis. It derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids a cat needs to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a raw food which contains 53.3% protein, 30% fat and 8.7% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.

    Read our review of the full Darwin’s Natural Selections Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken meat, chicken necks (including bone), chicken gizzards, chicken livers, chicken hearts
    Texture Wet
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 56%
    AAFCO Standards Unspecified
    Best For Kittens, cats and senior cats

    Get 10lbs of Darwin’s Raw Food for $14.95

    Sample buyer review...

    "I feel I can trust Darwin’s and feel very secure with their ingredients. They have always been amazing when it comes to answering my questions!"

  • Open Farm

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    Highly Recommended

    Open Farm Freeze-Dried Raw range is made of four recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating 5 stars.

    This range lists quality animal meat as the first ingredient. The protein content is high and carbohydrates very low and vitamins have been added to provide a well balanced diet.

    Open Farm Pet Foods was founded by Jacqueline Prehogan in 2014.  The cat food arm of the operation has its headquarters in Canada, and the products are developed and formulated there. However, production takes place over the U.S. border in the state of Minnesota. 

    Open farm Surf & Turf Freeze Dried Raw Cat Food was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.  It derives the bulk of its protein from salmon, an oily marine and freshwater fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 47.4% protein, 35.8% fat and 8.8% carbohydrates, with a fat-to-protein ratio of 76%.

    Read our review of the full Open Farm Freeze Dried Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Salmon, animal welfare certified beef, beef liver, beef heart and beef bone
    Texture Dry
    Type Freeze-dried
    Protein Percentage 47.4%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Kittens, cats and senior cats

    EXCLUSIVE: New customer offer

    20% off first auto-ship order with code CFA20

    Sample buyer review...

    "One of my boys is extremely picky but he seems to like this brand immensely."

  • Dr Marty Nature's Feast

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    Highly Recommended

    Dr Marty Nature’s Feast is made of three recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating 5 stars.

    This range of food is formulated by Dr Marty Pets, a company founded by Dr Marty Goldstein a leading veterinarian with more than 45 years’ experience. It offers multiple sources of good quality meat and fish protein and is free from artificial preservatives and fillers. Being freeze-dried means the nutrients are better preserved and it offers a well balanced and nutritious diet for adult and senior cats.

    Dr Marty Nature’s Feast Essential Wellness Fish & Poultry was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis. It derives the bulk of its protein from salmon, an oily marine and freshwater fish not only high in protein but also omega 3 fatty acids, essential oils needed by every cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 38.9% protein, 24.2% fat and 28.8% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 69%.

    Read our review of the full Dr Marty Nature’s Feast Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Salmon, turkey, whitefish, chicken liver & chicken heart
    Texture Dry
    Type Freeze-dried
    Protein Percentage 69%
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Adult and senior cats

    Exclusive new customer offer

    up to 54% off Dr Marty Nature's Feast

    Sample buyer review...

    "My feline Lilly has an immune disorder & respiratory problems. Lilly will stop eating when issues flare. I have tried to get her to eat so many wet cats foods at these times, but with no success until I picked up a bag of Dr Marty Natural Feast just to try one more thing, Lilly loved it, her hair got thicker, her energy was amazing, poop low smell, eyes totally cleared up. I'm so happy she is eating truly good food."

  • Purpose Freeze-Dried Raw

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    Highly Recommended

    Purpose Freeze-Dried Raw range is made of four recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest 5 stars.

    Made from limited ingredients, this cat food offers a very natural diet for your cat and is free from grain, corn, artificial preservatives.

    Purpose Carnivore Duck Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis. The bulk of protein is derived from duck, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a wet recipe containing 48.9% protein, 27.2% fat and 15.9% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.

    Read our review of the full Purpose Pet Food Freeze-Dried Raw range here
    Main Ingredients Duck, duck neck, duck gizzard, duck liver
    Texture Dry
    Type Freeze-dried raw
    Protein Percentage 48.9
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Senior cats, cats & kittens

    Save up to 35%

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    Sample buyer review...

    "My cat has food sensitivities so I was happy that this did not contain anything he can't eat. He likes this food consistently (he's somewhere in the middle on the pickiness spectrum)."

  • Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw

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    Highly Recommended

    Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw range is made of just two recipes which both receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest 5 stars.

    This particular food gives cat parents a convenient way to feed their cat a raw diet without the need for refrigeration or freezing and can be rehydrated with water or fed as a dry treat. It typically contains a high amount of animal-based protein and is free from grains, soy, corn, wheat, and artificial preservatives.

    Nulo was founded in 2009 by Michael Landa and Brett Montana after they saw the high rates of diabetes and other medical issues in dogs and cats while running their pet sitting business.

    Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken & Salmon Recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis. It derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in all 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 48.4% protein, 24.2% fat and 19.4% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 50%.

    Read our review of the full Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken, salmon, chicken necks, chicken liver & chicken hearts
    Texture Freeze-dried
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 50%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Senior cats, cats, kittens

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
    See discount in cart

    Sample buyer review...

    "Before I found out about Nulo, my three-year old Torti just got the basic treats, that truthfully, I had no idea what they were made from. Now I know she is getting the great protein she needs and food she LOVES! Thank you Nulo!!"

  • Instinct Raw Longevity

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    Highly Recommended

    Instinct Raw Longevity range is made of eight recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating 5 stars.

    This range of freeze-dried raw cat food contains high quality, animal based protein and has added vitamins to provide a well balanced and nutritious meal.  It also contains prebiotics and probiotics for digestive health and is free of artificial flavors, artificial colors, and preservatives.

    Instinct Raw Longevity 100% Freeze-Dried Raw Meals, Cage-Free Chicken Recipe is one of the recipes in this product range made by Instinct Pet Food, which was founded in 2002 and produces frozen and freeze-dried raw pet food from its facilities in Nebraska.

    This particular recipe derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in all 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 46.8% protein, 34% fat and 11.1% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 86%.

    Read our review of the full Instinct Raw Longevity Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, chicken heart, ground flaxseed & fish oil
    Texture Dry
    Type Freeze-dried
    Protein Percentage 86%
    AAFCO Standards Maintenance
    Best For Cats and senior cats

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
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    Sample buyer review...

    "We have three cats in the household. A very picky one, a little picky one, and a not so picky one. They all love it!"

  • Vital Essentials Mini Patties (Freeze-Dried Raw)

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    Recommended

    Vital Essentials Mini Patties range is made of six recipes which both receive the Cat Food Advisor’s second-highest rating 4.5 stars.

    Cats are carnivores who need lots of real meat and fish to keep them healthy. The freeze-dried process helps maintain the natural flavors and nutrients of the raw ingredients.

    Vital Essentials Mini Patties Rabbit Entree is one of the recipes in this product range made by Vital Essentials, the flagship brand of Carnivore Meat Company — a leading manufacturer of raw frozen and freeze-dried pet foods and treats in America.

    This rabbit recipe was chosen to represent the other product for a detailed review. The bulk of its protein comes from rabbit, which is naturally rich in all 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life. Rabbit is a novel protein source for many cats, making it a suitable option for those with food sensitivities or allergies.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 59.8% protein, 16.3% fat and 15.9% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 27%.

    Read our review of the full Vital Essentials Mini-Patties Freeze-Dried Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Rabbit, rabbit liver, rabbit heart, rabbit kidney & rabbit lung
    Texture Freeze-dried
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 59.8%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Senior cats, cats, kittens

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
    See discount in cart

    Sample buyer review...

    "I have six cats, and they all love these rabbit patties. I crunch the pattie and add a little water to give a little moisture. They like them dry also. They look forward to them! "

  • Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels

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    Recommended

    Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels range is made of six recipes which both receive the Cat Food Advisor’s second-highest rating 4.5 stars.

    This freeze-dried raw cat food is designed to provide a convenient way to feed a raw diet to cats. The food is made with real meat, including muscle meat, organs, and bones and is then freeze-dried to preserve the nutritional value and flavors of the ingredients. The freeze-drying process removes moisture while retaining the essential nutrients, making it a lightweight and shelf-stable option.

    Stella & Chewy’s Chick, Chick Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels Cat Food is one of the recipes in this product range made by Stella & Chewy’s, a company founded by Marie Moody.

    This particular recipe derives the bulk of its protein from chicken, which is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids a cat needs to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 47.7% protein, 26.3% fat and 18.3% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 56%.

    Read our review of the full Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Chicken with ground bone, chicken liver, chicken gizzard, pumpkin seeds, potassium chloride
    Texture Raw
    Type Freeze-dried
    Protein Percentage 56%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Senior cats, cat, kittens

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
    See discount in cart

    Sample buyer review...

    "Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels are amazing! All of my 9 cats love them! I know they are getting great quality nutrition eating raw. My cat Nola especially loves this food and it wouldn’t be mealtime without it. "

  • Primal Raw Frozen Pronto

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    Highly Recommended

    Primal Pet Foods Raw Frozen Pronto is made up of five recipes which all receive the Cat Food Advisor’s highest rating: 5 stars.

    This range provides cats with an excellent source of high-quality protein and nutrients and is made with natural, organic ingredients, free from grains, carrageenan, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

    Primal Pet Foods Raw Frozen Pronto Pork was selected to represent the other products in a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis. It derives the bulk of its protein from pork, which is naturally rich in all 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

    Dry matter label analysis reveals a dry recipe containing 53.8% protein, 23.1% fat and 15.1% carbohydrates . . . with a fat-to-protein ratio of 43%.

    Read our review of the full Primal Pronto Raw Frozen Cat Food range here
    Main Ingredients Pork (with ground bone), pork liver, organic kale, organic squash, organic carrots
    Texture Frozen
    Type Raw
    Protein Percentage 53.8%
    AAFCO Standards All Life Stages
    Best For Senior cats, cats

    Save up to 35%

    with Autoship
    See discount in cart

    Sample buyer review...

    "All nine of my cats love this food, it rehydrates relatively fast and it's great as part of their rotation of different foods in their diet. "

Why feed your cat raw food?

Some cat parents believe a raw diet provides many benefits to their pets.

Cats are obligate carnivores which means they have evolved to thrive on a diet primarily consisting of meat. Feeding cats a diet closer to what they would have eaten in the wild is considered more natural.

Raw food is predominately made from unprocessed ingredients, rich in nutrients. Proponents believe this can lead to better overall health, improved digestion, healthier skin and coat and increased energy in cats.

Some pet parents turn to a raw diet as a way to help a cat with food allergies or sensitivities. By removing common allergens or introducing novel protein sources, they hope to alleviate allergic reactions or digestive issues.

Advocates suggest chewing on raw meat and bones can help maintain healthier teeth and gums in cats. The chewing action may help remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing the risk of dental diseases.

And finally, raw diets are made up of high-quality protein and limited carbohydrates which some pet owners believe can help cats maintain a healthy weight or manage obesity.

Do vets recommend raw food for cats?

Opinions on raw diets among veterinarians vary, as scientific evidence supporting the claimed benefits mentioned above is limited.

There are also potential risks associated with handling raw meat, such as bacterial contamination.

Raw cat needs to be stored in the fridge in a sealed container or packaging to prevent cross-contamination and odor transfer to other items in the fridge.

Before transitioning your cat to a raw diet, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian who has experience and knowledge in this area to ensure that your cat’s nutritional needs are being met and to address any concerns or risks.

Cats can be sensitive to dietary changes, so a gradual transition is usually recommended. Start by mixing small amounts of the raw diet with your cat’s current food, gradually increasing the proportion of raw food over several days or weeks. This gradual transition helps prevent digestive upset and allows your cat to adjust to the new diet more easily.

Can I feed my cat a raw diet exclusively, or should it be supplemented?

A raw diet should be nutritionally complete and balanced on its own. However, some cat parents add certain supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids or taurine to their pets food, to ensure that their cat’s nutritional needs are fully met.

Again, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine if any additional supplementation is necessary for your cat’s specific needs.

What is the difference between freeze-dried raw and frozen raw cat food?

Both freeze-dried and frozen raw cat food aim to provide a more natural and species-appropriate diet for cats. The choice between them often depends on personal preference, convenience, and the specific needs of the cat and their owner’s lifestyle.

Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food:

  • Processing: Freeze-drying involves removing moisture from the raw food through a process called sublimation. The food is frozen, and then low heat is applied to convert the ice directly into water vapor, bypassing the liquid stage. This process helps preserve the nutrients, flavors, and textures of the raw ingredients.
  • Shelf Stability: Freeze-dried raw cat food has an extended shelf life and does not require refrigeration or freezing. It can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container until opened.
  • Rehydration: Freeze-dried raw cat food can be rehydrated with water before serving, although some cats may prefer to eat it in its dry form.
  • Convenience: Freeze-dried cat food is lightweight, easy to handle, and does not require thawing. It is often used for travel or as a convenient alternative to frozen raw food.

Frozen Raw Cat Food:

  • Processing: Frozen raw cat food consists of raw ingredients that are ground, mixed, and then frozen to preserve their nutrients and freshness. It typically contains raw meat, organs, bones, and sometimes additional ingredients like vegetables or supplements.
  • Shelf Stability: Frozen raw cat food must be stored in a freezer at or below 0°F (-18°C). It has a limited shelf life and can spoil if not properly stored or used within the recommended timeframes.
  • Thawing: Prior to serving, frozen raw cat food needs to be thawed in the refrigerator or using the defrost setting on a microwave. Thawing ensures safe consumption and better palatability for the cat.
  • Texture: Frozen raw cat food tends to have a moist and soft texture due to the higher moisture content compared to freeze-dried food.

Sources

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Article reviewed by
Laura Ward

Pet Nutritionist

Laura studied BSc (Hons) Animal Science with an accreditation in Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, before working for eight years in the pet food and nutrition industry.

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