7 Worst Cat Foods for 2024 – How to Choose a Quality Food

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Cat wandering: are not all cat foods good?

Worst cat foods, sounds really bad right? Whether you buy cat food at the grocery store or at a pet store, you may be buying something that's actually bad for your pet. Even some of the “healthy” food options are complete garbage and end up doing more harm than good.

Ask yourself the following:

Would I feed my kids or myself candy and potato chips at every meal? If not, why do the same to your cat? Do I know why carrageenan is so bad? Why not pick a food with preservatives?

We've compiled a thorough guide to help you make wise decisions. Learn what you should feed your fur baby. Understand the key ingredients that ensure you've made the right choice.

7 Worst Cat Foods for [year] - How to Choose a Quality Food 1

Here are the 7 Worst Cat Foods and Why They're So Bad

Ready to learn about the worst cat foods on the market? Keep reading to find out what they are and why they're horrible choices.

  1. 9 Lives Tender Morsels
  2. Friskies Canned Pate
  3. Hill's Science Diet
  4. Iams Proactive Health
  5. Purina ProPlan
  6. Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition
  7. Whiskas

How do you feel about carcinogens?

In 1982, the International Agency for Research on Cancer provided evidence showing how the thickening agent carrageenan was a carcinogen. The USDA considered limiting the amount of carrageenan in human foods, but they never followed through. All of this despite links of carrageenan intake to cancerous growths and intestinal ulcers.

Avoid it! Skip foods with carrageenan like Friskies Pate, Hill's Science Diet, Iams, Royal Canin, and Whiskas.

Would you feed your cat things you'd never eat?

Rendered products, think by-products, are parts of an animal that the FDA deems not okay for humans to eat them. This includes things like feathers, claws, beaks, and offal. Are you up for a yummy dinner of ground up intestines? Of course not!

If you don't like the idea of eating a chicken talon, would you want your cat eating them? Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition's Persian mix lists by-product meal, chick fat, and brewer's rice as the first three ingredients. It's junk food.

How about artificial food coloring?

the lab technician looks at the red liquid in the chemical glass bottle

The FDA regulates ingredient lists. It allows pet food companies to add some food coloring in order to make food more appealing. Coloring must not be harmful to animals. They're not necessary though. The smell alone is enough to appeal to a hungry stomach.

9 Lives, Friskies, Iams, and Whiskas all use artificial coloring.

Synthetic preservatives come next.

The FDA approves the use of ethoxyquin as a preservative in pet foods at a rate of up to 150 parts per million. Meanwhile, the FDA limits ethoxyquin to a maximum of 5 parts per million for humans. Do you see the discrepancy?

Foods with synthetic preservatives include 9 Lives, Friskies, Iams, Royal Canin, and Whiskas.

Finally, let's talk about grains.

In the wild, cats don't eat grains. They live on fresh kills – rodents, birds, and other small animals. Many pet food manufacturers inside on adding grains or fillers like beet pulp, brewer's rice, cornmeal, corn gluten, and wheat flour to cat food.

Other than adding carbs, grains offer no nutritional benefit. Skip foods that contain fillers. This includes every brand listed above.

Understand What Cats Need Before You Shop

pieces of meat cubes

Scientists teamed up with the National Research Council and released a complex guide into a feline's nutritional needs. This information is vital in helping you find the right product.

Can you really feed your cat a vegetarian or vegan food? What ingredient must always be first in the ingredient list? We'll cover all of these important questions.

Like a human, your feline has very specific nutritional needs. These include vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. Amino acids must come from animal meat sources, so skip any vegetarian diet for cats.

Before you look for foods, you need to understand what nutrients cannot be ignored. Here's the breakdown:

Amino Acids: There are 10 vital amino acids your cat must have his or her diet. Two of the most important amino acids are taurine and arginine. Arginine is vital in helping filter ammonia from the bloodstream. Taurine is necessary for metabolic function. Without taurine, heart failure is a major risk.

Fatty Acids: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important to your feline's body. Without enough fatty acids, he or she is at risk for vision problems, organ failure, and skin and coat health. Experts recommend a good food choice will have a fat content of no less than nine percent.

Minerals and Vitamins: Many minerals and vitamins are also important in your pet's diet. The vitamins come first, and they're followed by important minerals.

  • Folic Acid (Growth)
  • Pantothenic Acid (Conversion of food to energy)
  • Vitamin A (Cell health, growth, immune system, and vision)
  • Vitamin B1 (Energy and metabolism)
  • Vitamin B6 (Growth of red blood cells, hormonal levels, immune system, nervous system health, and production of glucose.
  • Vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin (Enzyme structure and function)
  • Vitamin D (Bone strength and phosphorus levels)
  • Vitamin E (Protects against free radicals)
  • Vitamin K (Blood clotting)

And now to the minerals:

  • Calcium and manganese (Bone health)
  • Chlorine (Balances acid levels)
  • Copper (Tissue health)
  • Iodine (Thyroid health)
  • Iron (Helps with hemoglobin production)
  • Magnesium (Muscle and nerve health)
  • Phosphorus (Development of DNA and RNA )
  • Potassium and sodium (Transmission of messages to nerves)
  • Selenium (Immune system)
  • Zinc (Cell and skin health, metabolism)

Pay attention to the nutrition facts on the back of the bag. Make sure nothing important's been omitted.

Learn How to Choose a Quality Food

Choosing a quality food is as simple as reading labels!

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It's that easy. Do not consider a bag of food until you've read the ingredients. The ingredients must contain pure protein choices in the top three spots. 

For example:

In a bag of Blue Wilderness Chicken Recipe, the first three ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal. That's a powerful punch of quality protein. You can read more about this brand here.

Nulo Medal Series Indoor Cat is another great choice. The top three ingredients are deboned trout, turkey meal, and chicken meal. Fatty acids top this list thanks to the trout.

In case, you haven't heard about The Honest Kitchen yet, now is the best time to get to know them!

Located in sunny California, The Honest Kitchen is one of the top pet food brands that manufacture premium-quality pet foods in the country.  It’s known as much for the quality of its products as for their unique form. 

Their pet formulas are produced and manufactured by the company itself, which was founded in 2002 by Charles and Lucy Postins who sought to create a fresh, natural diet for their dog, Mosi.

What started as a single homemade recipe turned into an entire company offering high-quality, dehydrated food products for cats and dogs alike. 

By using 100% human-grade ingredients and producing formulas in human-grade facilities, the brand ensures that all of its recipes are made of only the good stuff—wholesome, natural, and quality food that focuses on high safety standards for your cat’s health.


  • Exceeds AAFCO quality standards
  • USFDA registered
  • Made from human-grade ingredients
  • Easy to prepare (just add water)
  • Highly palatable, even picky eaters can't resist
  • Proven and tested to boost dog's energy
  • No weird/funky odor
  • Easy to store


  • Can be a little messy at times
  • More expensive than traditional pet food
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Their cat food recipes use nothing but the best, including real meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and colorful veggies.

Don't Forget to Pay Attention to Recalls

Even the best cat foods get hit with safety recalls. Bookmark the FDA Pet Food Recalls page and scan it regularly. If you see your top choice there, contact the company immediately for a refund and information on what to do next.

Many recalls are things that won't affect a pet, such as salmonella. The great risk comes to you as you handle the food.

That's it!

Hopefully, you have a better idea on how to pick the best cat food. Ingredients change from time to time, so reading labels is the best step towards making sure your fur baby eats a healthy diet. For even more information, read Your Cat's Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide for Pet Owners.

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