Commercial raw foods for cats are meant to mimic the type of diet they would eat out in the wild. Of course, your playful kitty romps around your cozy home and lives a much different life than she would in the wild. Is a raw or human grade cat food a necessity, then?
With so many cat food options available on the market, it can seem overwhelming choosing the right thing for your furry feline. There’s more than just the ingredients to consider; there’s cost, too. Raw cat foods are undoubtedly at the higher end of the cat food budget than most kibble.
However, if you’re like most cat owners and believe that your cat deserves to eat high-quality food just like you do, then a raw, human grade diet might be an excellent option for you. Foods that can genuinely claim the human grade title are as close to their original form as possible, giving your kitty an organic, non-GMO diet that could be beneficial to her overall health.
Let’s dig into this raw, human grade cat food thing, so you know what to look for and can decide if this type of food is the best option for your cat.
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What are Raw and Human Grade Cat Foods?
A lot of pet food companies claim to have a human grade food, and many of them link raw and human grade synonymously. However, just because a cat food is raw doesn’t automatically make it human grade, as in humans should be able to eat it straight from the packaging. So, let’s look at what each term means, and then how they work together to give your cat a wholesome diet.
If your cat were left out in the wild, her natural instincts would kick in, leaving her to search for raw food to eat. You might not like to imagine your lovable kitty eating raw meat like a vulture, but that’s the food she craves and the food she’s meant to eat.
A raw diet is the closest type to your cat’s natural diet. Your cat might have an easier time digesting raw food and could even get more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients than she would from a processed kibble.
Not all raw food is human grade, but many cat food manufacturers try to make their raw food pass the test to be able to claim the title. There are two types of “human grade” labels you might see on commercial cat food:
- Human grade ingredients: When you see “human grade ingredients” on a label, it means merely that human grade ingredients were used to create the finished product. For example, chicken, cranberries, and peas are all human grade foods at the start, but if they get processed too much, they could become feed grade in the final product.
- Human grade: A “human grade” label, however, means that the final product is human grade to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. That means that the final product is fit for a human to eat and it’s even packaged and stored to human grade standards.
The AAFCO states that either label doesn’t guarantee that a food has the nutrition your cat needs, indicating that this label may be a bit overrated. However, a raw food that’s also human grade might give your cat a balanced, wholesome diet.
Benefits of a Raw, Human Grade Cat Food Diet
Raw food that also has human grade ingredients or a human grade final product is minimally processed which cuts the risk of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) harming your cat. Raw foods also cut out most plant-based foods, like vegetables and fruits, which can decrease the carb content in your cat’s food. High carbohydrate and sugar content are often linked to unhealthy weight and feline diabetes.
Raw foods may also:
- Decrease inflammation
- Improve digestion
- Improve skin and coat
- Boost the immune system
- Contain enough taurine for your cat (many processed foods may lead to a deficiency, which can affect everything from eyesight to heart health)
Risks of Raw Food
Of course, there are some risks associated with raw food. You might suspect that your cat could get sick from eating raw meat, and your suspicions are correct. Raw meat is much more susceptible to bacteria growth than the meat in processed cat food, which increases your cat’s chances of salmonella poisoning.
However, many manufacturers are starting to use high-pressure processing to reduce the presence of bacteria in raw foods.
What to Consider Before Purchasing Raw, Human Grade Cat Food
If you think a raw, human grade cat food might be the best choice for your feline friend, then there are some critical factors to consider first.
Types of Raw Foods
You’ll find that raw cat foods come in a variety of forms, from fresh to frozen. No one kind is necessarily better for your cat than another, but instead, your choice will mostly boil down to personal preference.
Manufacturers usually package fresh raw foods in pouches or bags that can keep them sealed properly. Fresh foods will typically come in chunks – either small or large – of whole food pieces or smaller pieces of foods blended together.
Ground raw food is typically put into patties or rolls that you can refrigerate and feed to your cat. To create these, manufacturers ground raw foods and blend them to create the patty or roll, much like a cat version of sausage. This can be a good option for picky eaters who prefer the texture of canned food over chunks of food.
Freeze-dried food is raw food with its moisture removed. Moisture is what causes raw food to have a short shelf-life, so you’ll likely find that you can keep freeze-dried food much longer than fresh food.
Frozen raw foods have the longest shelf-life of all, which is why some companies choose to sell their raw foods this way. However, you can freeze most other types of raw food yourself if you decide to extend their shelf-life. You can thaw most of them relatively quickly.
Raw foods can contain a variety of proteins, from chicken to salmon. Your cat may have a preference as to what flavors he prefers, but there are some that may not agree with cats with food sensitivities or allergies. If your cat has had any symptoms of food intolerance, like upset stomach or diarrhea, from processed food with a specific protein, then that protein could cause even more issues for your cat in its raw form.
Some of the common protein allergies in cats include:
It might be a good idea to start your cat off with an easy-to-digest protein, like chicken or turkey, before trying him with a salmon, tuna, or lamb recipe. Most manufacturers of raw food have several formulas with different main proteins to choose from so that you can find the best kind for your cat.
Again, this will be a matter of preference for you as a cat owner. Some cat food brands that create raw food note on the packaging whether the food has been through high-pressure processing (HPP). It’s up to you to decide if this is a crucial feature of your cat’s raw food to have.
Those for high-pressure processing believe that the benefit of reducing the number of bacteria in the food is worth the side effect of modified food. Although the food is still raw after undergoing HPP, it doesn’t stay in its most natural form, which is why naysayers believe that HPP moves raw food too far away from being truly “raw.”
However, the USDA approves the process and calls it a natural method for bacteria removal to create a sterile, safer product.
No matter your stance, you can find what you need to know by looking at the cat food label or calling the manufacturer and asking if it participates in HPP with its raw foods.
Cost is one of the most important factors to consider when purchasing cat food. Everyone wants to feed their cat a top-notch, quality food made with real ingredients that provide balanced nutrition. However, with top-of-the-line foods comes higher costs that not every cat owner can afford.
We understand, which is why we’re noting cost as something to consider. Raw, human grade food is some of the priciest you can buy, but there is still a trick to ensuring that you get the most food for your dollar.
When looking at cat food prices, pay attention to the cost per ounce of food. Sometimes, packages look like they’re the same size, but one may contain half the food even though the two prices are the same.
Instead of focusing on the price tag, look at the ounces shown on the package. Divide the cost by the total ounces to arrive at the price per ounce. This can help you decide between two brands that might be comparable in ingredients, but very different in pricing.
Some of the foods we’ll review are ones you can find on Chewy, an online pet supply retailer that makes it easy for you to check reviews, ingredients, nutritional facts, and price, so you can have a one-stop place to do some research.
Reviewed: The Best Commercial Human Grade Cat Food from Raw Ingredients
Here, we’ll examine four of the top raw, human grade cat foods on the market. These foods focus on real ingredients that mirror the type of diet your cat would have in the wild, but with even more nutritional value packed into every meal.
Smalls Subscription Boxes Check Price
Smalls is the only cat food in our review that isn’t currently available on Chewy. However, this raw, human grade cat food is pushing the envelope of what a cat food should be, which is why we think it’s important to include on our list.
Smalls focuses on raw, human grade ingredients with easy-to-digest proteins, like chicken breast, turkey breast, and chicken gizzards. When paired with things like eggs for additional protein and vitamin-rich vegetables, like kale and spinach, this food is just about the same type of meal you’d feed your own family as part of a healthy diet.
Smalls uses proteins that are specifically designed to improve your cat’s metabolism, which could benefit inactive, overweight, or older cats. Plus, the proteins can give your cat extra energy, which may even prompt him to be a bit more active!
An additional benefit is that Smalls for Smalls ships food straight to your door. You can choose what recipes you want, and how often you need them, and set up your subscription plan directly on the website.
- Easy-to-digest proteins
- Supplemented with a blend of vitamins and minerals for additional nutritional value
- All formulas meet or exceed AAFCO standards
- All grain-free recipes
- Subscription meal plan makes shopping for food simple
- A bit heavy on the carb content
- Can be pricey if you choose to feed your cat Smalls meals every day and for every meal
The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dehydrated Cat Food Check Price
The Honest Kitchen is known for using wholesome, USA-based ingredients in its cat food, and its dehydrated formulas are some of its most popular. This raw food is packed with plenty of protein that your cat needs to build muscle and burn energy, plus just enough carbohydrate and fiber content to give your cat a balanced, nutritious meal.
The Chicken Recipe uses easy-to-digest free-range chicken that can benefit cats that have food sensitivities or allergies. Plus, this grain-free formula can be a good option for cats who might be at risk for diabetes, inflammation, and other health problems that stem from a diet rich in grains.
Your cat will also have the benefit of vitamin and mineral supplements in addition to the naturally-occurring nutrients found in ingredients like pumpkin, flaxseed, and cranberries. The additional nutrients enhance this raw food to give your cat’s immune system and overall health a welcome boost.
- 70 percent free-range chicken as the main protein
- Dehydrated to extend shelf life and preserve ingredients
- Very high protein content
- Simple to create a meal using a small amount of fresh water
- Finicky eaters may not like the pasty texture once you rehydrate the food
Whole Life LifeBites Duck Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food Check Price
Whole Life LifeBites formulas can be a food on their own or a mix-in to your cat’s current food. Either way, your kitty can get the benefits of raw food from a Whole Life LifeBites freeze-dried formula.
This particular formula focuses on two proteins: duck and chicken, which are notably easy-to-digest meats for cats. Unlike some raw foods that grind up every part of the animal for protein, including bones, Whole Life LifeBites uses only the muscle and meat parts to give your cat the most protein possible.
Whole Life adds to the nutritional value of this food by including fiber-rich ingredients, like pumpkin, flaxseed, chia seed, and peas, and probiotic-rich yogurt to support a healthy digestive system. If your cat has had digestive issues in the past, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation, then this food could help make everything move a little easier.
Whole Life also uses a supplement blend in its raw food formulas to enhance the nutritional profile. Your cat will benefit from taurine, Vitamin E, Vitamin D3, and other vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy kitty.
- Freeze-dried to maintain wholesome ingredients while increasing shelf-life
- Can mix into other food for additional nutrients
- Whole chicken as main, easily-digestible protein
- Vitamin and mineral supplement increase nutritional value
- May have a crumbly texture that might not appeal to some cats
- Human grade ingredients rather than human grade final product
- Some kitties may have sensitivities to added yogurt
Caru Free Range Chicken Bone Broth for Dogs & Cats Check Price
If you’re not 100 percent sold on the idea of a raw food diet for your cat – or your cat’s too picky to try raw food – but you love the idea of wholesome ingredients and beneficial proteins, then Caru’s broth may be a good option to try.
You can pour this raw broth made from human grade ingredients directly onto your cat’s food to moisten it, rehydrate it, or just add a little bit of flavor for picky eaters. The broth has free-range chicken bone as its sole protein, which can add the right amount to an already protein-rich food.
The broth is also made with organic veggies and herbs, including carrots, celery, and parsley, for natural vitamin and mineral content sourced from non-GMO and unprocessed ingredients. With the addition of apple cider vinegar, a substance many experts recommend as a natural fighter against ear infections, urinary tract infections, and more, this broth may support a healthy immune system for your feline friend.
- Helps add flavor to food, which could assist mealtime for picky eaters
- Adds some extra protein to your cat’s meal
- Organic ingredients
- Made from bones of free-range chicken
- Much pricier than human broths