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14 Best High Protein Cat Foods in 2021 [Review]

What do cats need to feel their best? The easiest answer comes down to genetics: cats are obligate carnivores, which means they prefer a prey-based, mostly meat diet, and that means high protein cat food should be on the menu.

After researching the ins and outs of high protein cat food and the top brands’ wet and dry varieties, our picks for the best high protein dry cat food is Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula. We love the nutritious, highly digestible animal proteins that make up the ingredients. Our fave for high protein wet cat food is Weruva Cats in the Kitchen. We’re impressed by its premium, uncompromising quality, and we love how this high protein wet cat food appeals to all cat’s tastes while supporting their health!

These meat-heavy, high protein low carb cat food options are formulated to meet your kitty’s needs and fuel them with the foods they need to thrive.

Beyond our two top choices, we’ve rounded up our top fourteen picks for the best high protein cat food.

Top 14 picks for high protein wet & dry cat foods

  1. Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula Dry Cat Food
  2. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
  3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Adult Cat Food
  4. Taste of the Wild High Protein Real Dry Cat Food 
  5. Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food
  6. Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Low Carb Dry Cat Food 
  7. Solid Gold – Indigo Moon – High Protein & Grain-Free – Holistic Dry Cat Food
  8. Weruva Cats in The Kitchen Grain-Free Wet Cat Food 
  9. Purina Beyond Wild High Protein Wet Cat Food
  10. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Wet Cat Food
  11. Tiki Cat Grill Grain-Free, Low-Carb Wet Food for Adult Cats & Kittens 
  12. Crave Grain Free High Protein Wet Cat Food
  13. Wellness CORE Signature Selects Grain Free WetCat Food
  14. Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain Free Wet Cat Food

high protein low carb cat food

Best high protein dry cat food

#1. Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Dry Cat Food

Dr. Elsey’s veterinarian-formulated Cleanprotein high protein kibble contains only meat and animal proteins. With chicken and salmon, Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein dry is made up of 59 percent pure protein. The formula also has low oxalate levels, making this high protein cat food especially good for kitties with kidney issues and conditions.

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Dr. Elsey's Cleanprotein

Pros

  • Real meat is the first ingredient
  • No gluten, grain, soy, corn, vegetables, or GMOs
  • Low oxalate content
  • For cats of all life stages

Cons

  • Kibble may be too hard for cats with sensitive or missing teeth

2. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food

CRAVE Grain Free Chicken, and Salmon High Protein dry cat food boasts a 40 percent protein content. This adult indoor formula high protein kibble ditches artificial and processed ingredients in favor of whole, high-quality meats.

CRAVE Grain Free Chicken

Pros

  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • No corn, wheat, soy, grains, or chicken byproducts
  • Easily digestible

Cons

  • Low moisture content
  • Not available in wet food
  • Kibble may be too hard for cats with sensitive or missing teeth

3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Adult Cat Food

Blue Buffalo’s original high protein dry cat food, Blue Wilderness, is top-rated and top-selling natural high protein cat foods on the market. Designed to mimic lynxes and other wild cats’ diet, Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein dry adult cat food features 40 percent protein and is a favorite for its taste and high-quality ingredients.

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Blue Wilderness High Protein Dry Cat Food

Pros

  • Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient
  • Free of any fillers, corn, soy, preservatives, or additives

Cons

  • Contain some fruits and vegetables
  • Kibble may be too hard for cats with sensitive or missing teeth

4. Taste of the Wild High Protein Dry Cat Food

Taste of the Wild strives to recreate what our domestic kitties ancestors ate in the wild. The Rocky Mountain Feline Recipe is loaded with 42 percent protein, antioxidants, omega-3, omega-6 fatty acids, and species-specific probiotics for maximum digestibility and immune system health. With nutritious pea protein and sweet potatoes in supporting roles and roasted venison and smoked salmon topping the ingredient list, Taste of the Wild’s mostly animal protein-based high protein kibble is one of our favorites!

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Taste of the High Protein Dry Cat Food

Pros

  • Contains real, quality meats
  • No grain, corn, soy, wheat, additives, preservatives, or fillers

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Low moisture content

5. Nulo Freestyle Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Nulo’s limited-ingredient high protein Freestyle is a new breed of kibble. Freeze-dried raw meat makes up the core of Nulo’s Freestyle cat food. Made up of a whopping 98 percent animal protein, Nulo Freestyle’s Chicken and Salmon and Turkey and Duck dry cat food provide 42 percent protein.

Crafted for cats at all life stages, Nulo’s “prey” approach to nutrition reflects what cats eat in the wild. This high-protein kibble also includes powerful probiotics and essential vitamins and minerals.

Nulo Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Pros

  • Limited fruit and veggie ingredients
  • Highly digestible
  • Low carb

Cons

  • May be pricey
  • Some cats may not like the taste

6. Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Low Carb Dry Cat Food

Take your kitty to a protein-packed paradise with Tiki Cat’s Born Carnivore Chicken Luau dry cat food. This high protein low-carb and grain free kibble is made from real deboned chicken. With an impressive 47% protein, Tiki Cat’s Chicken Luau is complete and balanced for cats at all life stages. Wholesome superfoods like pumpkin, salmon, and flax seeds provide essential nutrients and vitamins.

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore

Pros

  • No gluten, corn, GMOs, soy, additives, or fillers
  • Highly digestible
  • Appropriate for cats of all ages

Cons

  • Hard to chew for cats with sensitive or missing teeth

7. Solid Gold Indigo Moon High Protein Dry Cat Food

Solid Gold takes highly digestible and palatable unprocessed protein like whole chicken and Alaskan pollock to craft their Indigo Moon High Protein cat food. Solid Gold’s high protein dry cat food supplies 42% protein. This energy-boosting, immune system-supporting kibble takes nutrient-rich superfoods, real meat, and healthy fats to provide complete, balanced, and holistic nutrition.

Solid Gold Indigo Moon High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • Real meat is the first ingredient
  • Made in the U.S.
  • No gluten, corn, or soy
  • Appropriate for cats of all ages

Cons

  • May be difficult to find in stores
  • May be too hard for cats with missing or sensitive teeth

high protein wet cat food

Best high protein wet cat food

#1. Weruva Cats in The Kitchen Grain Free Wet Cat Food

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen grain-free high protein wet cat food comes in various flavors and textures. Featuring protein-packed meats like tuna and turkey, and nutritious ingredients you can see and pronounce, Weruva Cats in the Kitchen checks all our boxes for high protein wet cat food.

Weruva Cats in the Kitchen Grain Free Cat Food

Pros

  • Real meats are top ingredients
  • No gluten, corn, soy, or meat by-products
  • Many flavors and textures

Cons

  • May be difficult to find in stores

2. Purina Beyond Wild High Protein Wet Cat Food

Purina’s prey-inspired high protein canned cat food Beyond Wild provides 10% protein. Beyond Wild high protein, wet cat food comes in two flavors (with the Beyond wet food line as a whole available in over twenty varieties), making it a fantastic high protein option for finicky felines. Beyond Wild’s Turkey, Liver, and Quail recipe is crafted from whole animal meats and nutrient-dense organs to provide your kitty with energy and balanced nutrition.

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Purina Beyond Wild High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • No corn, wheat, soy, meat by-products, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Only one vegetable ingredient
  • Low carb

Cons

  • Some cats may not like the pate texture

3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Wet Cat Food

Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness high protein pate wet cat food is a moisture-packed alternative to the hard kibble used in Blue’s high protein Wilderness dry cat food. Quality meat, iron-rich organs, and wholesome ingredients like omega-3 packed flax seeds make this 10 percent protein wet cat food a balanced, digestible, and immune system boosting choice for all cats.

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Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • Real, unprocessed meats are the first ingredients
  • No corn, soy, preservatives, additives, or anything artificial
  • Limited vegetable ingredients
  • There are options for kittens and senior cats
  • Available in many flavors
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Some cats may not like the texture

4. Tiki Cat Low-Carb Wet Food for Adult Cats & Kittens

Tiki Cat Hana Grill high protein wet cat food is a fabulous choice for kitties who crave hearty, meaty foods, but also need to eat low-carb diets. With its 16 percent protein content, grain free ingredients, and essential vitamins, Tiki Cat’s Hana Grill can help with weight loss and maintaining lean muscle.

Tiki Cat Grain Free Variety Cat

Pros

  • Real meat is the first ingredients
  • No soy, corn, potatoes, by-products, GMOs, or artificial ingredients
  • Made with dolphin-safe tuna
  • For cats of all ages

Cons

  • May be difficult to find in stores
  • Not appropriate for cats with fish allergies

5. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Wet Cat Food

CRAVE has wet high protein cat food as well as their dry high protein cat food. With nine flavors, like turkey and duck, and two different varieties (pates and meaty morsels in gravy), this grain free high protein cat food has something for every cat and their tastes. CRAVE high protein cat food provides 12 percent of highly digestible and energy-supporting protein.

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • The first ingredients are whole meats and organs
  • No corn, soy, wheat, artificial preservatives, or meat by-products
  • Available in two textures with nine flavors

Cons

  • Cats with fish allergies can’t eat it

6. Wellness CORE Signature Selects High Protein Wet Cat Food

For the more finicky felines out, there is Wellness CORE Signature Selects high protein canned cat food. Available in eight different flavors, Wellness CORE Signature Selects delivers 10% protein. Our pick, Flaked Skipjack Tuna, and Shrimp is a meaty, grain-free, high protein cat food suitable for cats of all ages. The flaked, chewy texture and rich broth set this apart from high protein pates on the market.

Wellness CORE Signature Selects High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • The top ingredients are the real meat
  • No corn, wheat, soy, preservatives, or artificial ingredients
  • For cats of all ages

Cons

  • Cats who prefer pates may not like the texture

7. Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain Free Wet Cat Food

Instinct’s Ultimate Protein high protein pate cat food is designed to fuel your kitty with unprocessed, whole, lean meats. Packed with 11% pure protein (95% of which comes from highly digestible animal protein) and superfoods like pumpkin and kale and antioxidant-rich blueberries and cranberries, Instinct takes the most wholesome plant and animal ingredients to provide a balanced high protein wet cat food.

Wellness CORE Signature Selects High Protein Cat Food

Pros

  • Real meat and animal proteins
  • No gluten, grains, corn, soy, wheat, or meat by-products
  • Good for cats of all ages

Cons

  • Some cats may not like the texture
  • Not appropriate for cats with fish allergies

high protein cat food wet

Is high protein food good for cats?

Protein isn’t just your cat’s number one energy source; it’s also key to maintaining a healthy immune system, hair and skin, lean muscle, heart health, and other major bodily functions.

Animal-based proteins like fish, meats, and eggs contain more essential amino acids than plant-based proteins for cats. These amino acids are “building blocks” of protein and are crucial parts of your kitty’s diet.

Beyond meeting your kitty’s basic needs for their quality of life, high protein diets help treat some conditions like diabetes and obesity. And maintaining a healthy weight is harder than you may think.

A 2018 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) study found that a staggering 59.5% of domesticated cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. That’s a total of 56 million cats!

Here’s where high protein diets come in. Two studies have found that feeding overweight cats high protein diets can help them lose weight and maintain muscle mass to stay lean and continue burning calories.

Are there risks with high protein diets?

To use blanket statements that high protein diets are ideal for all cats can not only do cats and their individual needs a disservice, but can even be dangerous.

Senior cats with conditions like Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) are especially vulnerable to potential health conditions if they have excessive protein in their diets.

Packing on the protein during mealtime for senior cats can be life-threatening. Senior cats tend to have slower digestive systems and are far less active than adult cats, so in short, they don’t need as much protein as younger cats.

As senior cats are the most at risk for developing kidney failure, feeding them high protein diets can put more strain on their poorly functioning kidneys, worsening their condition. Diets too low in protein are also problematic and can contribute to muscle and weight loss. If anything, senior cats should be fed diets specifically formulated for their optimal health.

Diets with excessive protein have been linked to digestive conditions. Some studies have found kittens who eat very high protein diets may have a difference in their intestinal bacteria. Less “good bacteria” in their gut means that kittens may be prone to digestive upset and abnormal appetite regulation and cholesterol levels.

On the other hand, diets with too little protein may stunt kittens and young cats’ growth and development.

Ultimately, the quality of the protein is the most important, not just the quantity!

Do senior cats need a high protein diet?

If your senior cat doesn’t have CKD or kidney failure then yes, they can and often do benefit from a high protein diet.

Senior cats tend to have slower digestive systems than younger cats which means it’s harder for them to get the amount of protein and fats they need from the foods they eat.

Despite their physical activity levels slowing down, senior cats need to eat foods that provide high amounts of energy. This doesn’t mean they need to eat a calorie-heavy diet, in fact, more of the opposite is true.

The best nutrition for elderly cats is foods crafted from animal proteins that have high bioavailability and high moisture content. In other words, they need high protein diets in order to best maintain their lean muscle mass, help their aging organs function, and keep their bodies nourished and fueled.

What is the best protein for cats?

When we look at the best protein for cats, we’re looking at two things: species appropriateness and digestibility. Our obligate carnivore kitties must eat meat and animal protein diets to have the healthiest lifestyle. In fact, it’s a biological necessity for them!

That said, one of the most digestible proteins for cats is the one most commonly found in cat food: chicken or, specifically, chicken eggs! The animal proteins with the highest biological value, which is basically a fancy word for digestibility, for cats are eggs, beef, and chicken. Fish and lamb also provide optimal nutrition.

cat food with high protein eggs

What percentage of cat food should be protein?

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, adult cat food is required to contain at least 26 percent protein. Veterinarians and the AAFCO recommend that adult cats eat 35-40 percent protein, and kittens eat 30-40 percent protein daily.

Some high protein cat food diets contain as much as 50-58 percent protein.

In dry cat food, protein contents that are 40 percent and higher are considered high protein cat food.

When it comes to wet cat food, the numbers are a little different. To save you from having to break out your calculator and struggle through feats of mental gymnastics (like we did!), we did the math for you. Because protein contents in cat food are measured by dry volume, moisture-packed wet cat food reports numbers that look lower, but are just as potent as dry cat food. Crude proteins of 10% and more in wet cat food are considered high protein cat food.

Wet or dry? Which has more protein?

The great wet versus dry debate exists in the high protein cat food world too! The short answer: it’s complicated. Comparing protein contents in dry cat food and wet cat food is tricky because of the huge difference in both foods’ ingredients—namely, moisture content or water.

Because dry cat food has much less water than wet cat food, they appear to have a lot more protein than wet cat food.

The measurements between wet and dry cat food are also very different. Nutrition labels created on a “dry matter basis” mean that dry cat food is always going to report higher protein levels.

What you need to know is that both wet and dry cat food can provide the same amount of high quality, high protein for your kitty.

high protein canned cat food

Best high protein dry cat food

After researching dozens of high protein dry and wet cat food brands, we narrowed down the best foods for readers. Our top pick for high protein dry cat food is Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula. 

We stand by our belief that Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Formula is the best high protein kibble you’ve ever heard of! We love the nutritious, highly digestible animal proteins that make up Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein’s ingredients and the obsessively researched blend of vitamins, minerals, and oxalate levels. We also love that cats of all ages can enjoy this high protein dry cat food!

Top pick for high protein wet cat food

We’re tickled by the punny names of each of the flavors of Weruva Cats in the Kitchen high protein wet cat food, and we’re impressed by its premium, uncompromising quality. With its nutritional and species-appropriate ingredients and the wide variety of different flavors and textures, we love how this high protein wet cat food appeals to all cat’s tastes while supporting their health! Our favorite pick for high protein wet cat food is Weruva Cats in The Kitchen.

Top takeaway

With lean meats and limited, wholesome, plant ingredients, cat food with high protein provides a complete nutritionally balanced diet for kitties of all ages, and life stages to thrive on. High protein cat food with its highly digestible animal and plant proteins, low carbohydrates, and often grain free formulas is a top choice for helping cats maintain lean muscle, energy levels, and fuel digestion and immune system health.

Victoria Tomis

Last update on 2021-03-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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