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5 Best High Protein Cat Food: Our Top Picks

David Fields
Last Updated on
by David Fields

This is our review of the best high protein cat food in 2022.

As a pet owner, it’s imperative to find the right food for your animal companion. You need to find sources that match their needs for nutrition and growth without breaking the bank, and that means looking for high-quality foods.

Cats require a high-protein diet, which can mean that some food options aren’t giving them what they need to grow and stay healthy. By looking for a specifically high-protein blend, you can ensure that your cat has the right kind of energy they need to stay active.

Here are the best cat foods with high protein and how to select the one that’s right for your fuzzy friend.

High Protein Food for Cats Comparison Table

TOP 5 Picks
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe
  • Food form: Dry
  • Flavor: Chicken
Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry
  • Food form: Dry
  • Flavor: Chicken, Turkey, Fish
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Pate Canned
  • Food form: Wet
  • Flavor: Chicken, Turkey & Chicken Liver
Purina ONE Adult Ideal Weight High Protein
  • Food form: Dry
  • Flavor: Turkey
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry
  • Food form: Dry
  • Flavor: Chicken

How We Picked High-Protein Cat Foods

Choosing the right high-protein food for your cats is vital. They should eat a mix of wet and dry food to get the proper amount of water every day and get the right combination of nutrients.

We’ve evaluated some of the top cat food brands across the spectrum, from budget-friendly options to the most premium foods available, to bring you a comprehensive list of the best high-protein cat foods available for your pet.

We took protein percentage into account in our assessment, but we also considered the amount of fat and other nutrients available in the food.

We looked at both wet and dry options, most of which were utterly grain-free and all of which contained natural animal proteins and minimal byproducts. We also looked at the manufacturers’ philosophies when it came to creating their foods.

We ranked some of the top cat foods using these factors to find the top five standouts across all areas.

Best High Protein Cat Food Reviews

We’ve explored the high-protein options on the market and narrowed the field down to our top five favorites.

Here are the details for the best high-protein cat foods, including breakdowns of their nutritional analyses and serving recommendations. Experts always recommend that all of these foods, wet or dry, be fed alongside access to fresh, clean water.

1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe

Best Overall
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe
Best Overall High Protein Cat Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe is all-natural, packed with protein and nutrients, and proudly grain-free. It includes no artificial flavors or preservatives and no meat by-products, and we love it for its unmatched quality.

You can get both wet and dry versions. The adult dry variety boasts levels of 40% protein and 18% fat, and a combined 5% of significant minerals and fatty acids. The wet food contains 8% crude protein minimum per can, alongside roughly the same percentages of minerals and fatty acids.

Blue Buffalo recommends mixing the dry food with warm water to “fully release flavors and aroma.” This process can help increase your cat’s water intake if you prefer not to introduce wet food.

Note, though, that Blue Buffalo has had a few recalls – like most cat food brands – and some cats have strong allergies and adverse reactions to the food. If you want to try Blue Buffalo, start with a small amount and observe your cat’s response.

Pros
  • All-natural
  • Safe and nutritious grain-free carbs like peas and sweet potato
  • High protein and good fat content
Cons
  • Some cats have allergies to the recipe
  • The brand has not always been transparent about ingredients
  • Expensive

2. Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry

Best Dry Food
Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry
Best High Protein Dry Cat Food
Orijen’s foods come from high-quality prey animal ingredients that your pet was “born to eat.” They are grain-free and biologically matched to your cat or dog’s naturally intended diet. While they don’t have the wet and dry food options that Blue Buffalo does, they’re an excellent option for a dry food-loving cat.

Their Original Grain-Free Dry cat food is 40% protein, 20% fat, and approximately 7.5% combined minerals, nutrients, and fatty acids, including DHA and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). Its main ingredients are chicken, turkey, mackerel, flounder, and herring, with supplementation from cranberries, chickpeas, lentils, pumpkin, and a few other fruits, vegetables, and roots.

The website provides a handy calculator to recommend how much food to give your cat based on their current and ideal weight. For instance, they recommend giving a healthy 4-6 lbs cat or kitten between ⅕ and ¼ cup per meal, twice per day.

Pros
  • Uses fresh or raw ingredients
  • Suitable for cats’ digestion
  • “Wholeprey” diet and 90% of ingredients are protein
Cons
  • Your cat may have allergies to ingredients
  • Not suitable for cats with sensitive stomachs
  • Certain regions aren’t as well sources as others
  • Expensive

3. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Pate Canned

Best Wet Food
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Pate Canned
Best High Protein Wet Food for Cat
We love Wellness because they use only natural ingredients without any artificial fillers or flavorings. In fact, the brand is so committed to helping pets in need that they created the Wellness Foundation, which supports many animal welfare nonprofits.

When it comes to their food, Wellness’ philosophy is “make it well; make it count.”

According to their website,

Their CORE Pate comes in six varieties, including a kitten formula. It has 12% protein per can and 8% fat, as well as added Taurine and fatty acids from flaxseed. The texture is smooth and uniform for easier consumption, and that the formula supports hydration and urinary health.

The wet food formula also helps maintain hydration overall. Cats don’t naturally seek out water on a regular schedule, so introducing nutritious wet food like this pate can help keep your pet hydrated.

While this canned option is more expensive per ounce than the dry food options above, it’s an excellent choice for anyone with a picky eater or a cat with a sensitive stomach.

Pros
  • Formulated to give cats energy, hydration, and a healthy coat
  • Nutrient-dense
  • Grain-free
Cons
  • The food may not last well through shipping, so be sure to choose a short shipping time.
  • Newer recipes may contain additives
  • Pricey

4. Purina ONE Adult Ideal Weight High Protein

Best Budget Food
Purina ONE Adult Ideal Weight High  Protein
Best Budget Food for High Protein
Purina’s ONE is a trusted brand, and their high protein line is excellent for cats needing to control their weight. It comes in both wet and dry varieties, is grain-free, and is high in protein.

The dry food comes in at 42% protein minimum and 9% fat, and it also has 5-7% vitamins and minerals, including taurine, calcium, and fatty acids. The wet food (which comes in beef, chicken, turkey, and whitefish flavors) is 11% protein per can and contains vitamins A and E as well as Taurine.

The nutrients in both dry and wet formulas help with weight loss, a strong metabolism, and a healthy immune system. Over time, this Purina ONE formula can help an overweight cat increase in energy and health.

Purina ONE also has options for indoor and outdoor cats and options for hairball control. Veterinarians trust the brand, and the nutrients help with overall muscle and heart health.

Overall, this is a solid choice and great value for the money.

Pros
  • Good value and affordable
  • Trusted brand
  • Wet and dry options
  • Great for weight loss or diet
  • Contributes to healthy metabolism and immune function
Cons
  • Some cats may be sensitive to this formula
  • The ingredients aren’t as high quality as other brands on this list

5. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry

Best Natural Diet Food
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry
Best Natural Diet High Protein Cat Food
Taste of the Wild uses wild game species such as salmon, duck, venison, and boar to provide a more “native” diet to your cat’s food. We like that their formula draws from the diets of real-world relatives to domestic cats.

Their Rocky Mountain blend is specifically venison and salmon flavored, with 42% protein and a blend of probiotics designed to inspire digestive and immune health. It’s 18% fat minimum, with added vitamins and minerals such as zinc, selenium, Taurine, vitamin E, and fatty acids.

Taste of the Wild uses all-natural ingredients and whole foods cooked with fruits and other superfoods to produce the highest quality nutritional meal for your cat. While you’ll pay a bit more for the quality, it’s well worth it for the health-conscious cat owner.

The combination of superfood nutrients is excellent for your cat’s metabolism, immune system, and overall energy and health. However, the high protein can cause stomach upset for some cats, so be sure to introduce it slowly.

Pros
  • Includes vitamins and antioxidants
  • Has species-specific probiotics
  • Family-owned and sustainable
Cons
  • High protein content may cause urinary problems for some cats
  • Pricey

How Dry vs. Wet Cat Food Differs

While some cats prefer either wet or dry food, it’s a good idea to incorporate at least some wet food into your cat’s diet. Let’s look at the breakdown of differences between wet and dry cat food.

Hydration

Moisture is the most significant difference between dry and wet cat food. Dry food has about 10% water, whereas wet food should be at least 75% water.

Cats evolved as a desert species, and therefore don’t have as strong of a thirst drive as other domesticated animals. Because of this, a significant amount of their daily moisture intake should come from their food.

Wet food is a great way to introduce extra hydration to your cat’s diet when they aren’t naturally seeking water breaks.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits

Both dry and wet cat food can be healthy and nutritious for your pet. In general, the nutritional value depends more on the brand and ingredients than on whether the foot is dry or canned.

However, dry food can often contain more carbohydrates than wet food. Cats are natural carnivores, so they don’t need a lot of carbs in their diet, and carbs can be challenging to process.

As long as you monitor your cat’s health and the amount of food they’re eating, the additional carbs shouldn’t be a huge problem. Since many pet owners leave dry food out all day, though, it can be hard to monitor how much your cat is eating.

Dry food can be just as nutritious as canned food, but if your cat is getting overweight, you may want to reduce the amount you leave out during the day.

How They’re Made & Stored

Wet canned cat food usually comes from fresh or frozen ingredients with high water and fat content. Dry cat food, on the other hand, usually comes from cooked food.

Dry cat food lasts longer once opened and can be stored in a pantry. Wet cat food, once opened, must be stored in a refrigerator and will go bad within 24 hours.

Price

In general, wet or canned food is a good deal more expensive than dry food. Prices will obviously vary by brand, too.

If you are on a tight budget, a nutritious bag of dry food is an excellent option for your cat. However, canned food might be worth the splurge for cats that are picky eaters or have sensitive stomachs.

Cats Eating Wet and Dry Cat Food
Cats Eating Wet and Dry Cat Food

Why Your Cat Needs High Protein Cat Food

Protein is one of the essential building blocks of a cat’s diet. It’s vital to their energy and growth, especially when they’re very young – so much so that if they don’t get enough protein from their diet, a cat’s body will start trying to break down its muscle tissue.

Protein functions as a source of the necessary amino acids cats use to build their fur, skin, and claws, as well as their muscles. It’s easier for their bodies to break down than carbohydrates, as cats are obligate carnivores and are not physically capable of storing large amounts of carbohydrates.

Experts recommend giving your cat at least 30-40% protein in their food when they’re kittens, and this increases to 35-45% when they reach adulthood, which means that nearly half of their food needs to be protein-based for them to feel energetic and full.

A healthy cat will have a shiny, soft coat and have normal stool and skin due to proper protein consumption.

Some medical conditions might mean a cat needs more protein than average in its diet. Chronically underweight cats can gain weight faster on a high protein diet and are less likely to develop diabetes or become obese.

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What Counts as “High Protein”?

In general, any protein percentage of 30% or higher is considered high protein. Different cats need different amounts of protein, so it’s best to consult with your cat’s veterinarian before choosing high-protein cat food.

All the options in our list contain 40% protein at a minimum, so they are on the higher end of the spectrum.

Be sure to read the ingredients on any cat food you are considering for your pet. Anything that claims to be high in protein should have natural meat as the first ingredient on the list. If you don’t see that, you risk getting a lower quality protein that might harm your cat.

Risks of a High Protein Diet for Your Cat

Though protein is, in fact, essential to a cat’s development, there are also some risks associated with putting them on a very high protein diet. In senior cats especially, having an extremely high protein intake can worsen the symptoms of kidney disease.

Though it can prevent it in some cases, high protein diets may also lead to obesity in older cats. Because protein is converted into fat when consumed in excess, feeding a cat an extremely high protein diet can lead to them gaining too much weight, just as any other diet in excess would.

The best way to avoid these risks is to regularly check in with your veterinarian, who can follow your cat’s progress and help you adjust their diet to match their needs.

What to Avoid When Choosing Cat Food

Be warned that there are a few ingredients that you should avoid whenever possible.

While they make for cheap cut-ins that can make the food you buy less expensive, in the long run, they’re only going to damage your cat’s digestive system, which can mean that you’ll need to put them on an even more specialized diet later on.

It’s best to be proactive when making your cat food choices. To keep your cat healthy, avoid:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHA,  and other chemical preservatives that can lead to liver and kidney damage
  • Meat by-products with no clear identity, such as meals and other offcuts, as these often contain toxins
  • High percentages of plant matter such as cornmeal, legumes, or soy, can cause digestive upset

You should also be careful not to use cat food past its expiration date, including dry foods. Most cat owners don’t think about how they store it, which can lead to the food becoming stale and unappealing, or, at worst, developing mold or other pathogens.

Wet food is also susceptible to mold when left un-refrigerated after opening.

Store dry food in a sealed, cool, dark container and wet food in a cool environment. Put any unused wet food in the refrigerator after opening it, and keep it for no more than a few days at a time.

What to Look For in Your Cat’s Food

Knowing what shouldn’t go in your cat’s food is one part of the battle; knowing what should go in it and how much of it they should be getting is the rest.

Adult cats should be consuming about 20 calories per pound of weight (so a 10 lbs cat should have about 200 calories a day). This amount may vary from cat to cat and depending on whether they’re fixed, trying to lose weight, or trying to gain weight.

Pregnant and nursing cats, and kittens, will need significantly more calories to maintain healthy growth. Half of these calories should be from protein.

Of course, in a high-protein blend, the kind of protein used is critical.  Cats should have a diet of primarily animal-based protein, so real chicken, beef, and fish are good options, and plant-based proteins like soy and corn should be avoided.

As mentioned, your cat’s dry food should be at least 40% protein, and the wet should be at least 8% protein per can.

Fats play a significant role in your cat’s energy, though not quite as much as proteins. For this reason, their food should be relatively high in natural fats, making up about 30% of their daily calories.

The food should also provide essential amino acids like Taurine, Arginine, Methionine, and Cysteine.

These are building blocks for all kinds of tissues, from their brain and nervous system to their organs, fur, and skin. Cats cannot synthesize these from their diet, so they should be directly included in the formula.

Frequently Asked Questions

Finally, let’s jump into a few frequently asked questions from cat owners themselves.

What Brand of Cat Food Has The Highest Protein?

We’ve found Taste of the Wild to have the highest percentage of protein in several of their recipes. Since they base their ingredients on meats that cats have evolved to eat, their proteins are also the best for your cat’s digestion.

However, higher protein isn’t always necessarily better, and our overall best pick is Blue Buffalo for their holistic ingredients list and value.

Is Higher Protein Cat Food Better?

Always consult with your veterinarian before choosing a new type of food for your cat. Depending on your cat’s age and health, she may need different protein levels from other cats.

In general, cats need diets that are pretty high in protein, but the exact levels may vary.

Does Wet Cat Food Have More Protein Than Dry?

In general, wet cat food contains higher concentrations of natural protein. Manufacturers use fresh ingredients to make canned cat food. The fresher the ingredients, the more nutrients stay packed into each bite.

However, you may find that your cat prefers dry food or that the dry food has plenty of protein for your cat.

What Cat Foods Do Vets Recommend?

While your vet should recommend different brands based on your cat’s particular needs, there are a few brands that consistently perform well with veterinarians.

From our list above, the two brands most commonly recommended by vets are Purina and Wellness CORE.

All of the brands on our list are veterinarian-approved and provide excellent nutrition for both indoor and outdoor cats.

About David Fields
David Fields
David Fields is a long-time animal lover and has been blessed to share his life with many companions. A short list includes ragdoll cats, siberian husky and greyhound dogs, an African Grey parrot, many fish of all sorts, and a pandemonium of parakeet. He writes most of the articles on iPetCompanion and is regularly featured on other popular websites on the Internet.
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