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Optimeal® Blog

What Ingredients of Cat Food Are the Best? What to Look For

By Optimeal Team


As a cat parent, you want to make sure your cat is able to thrive and live their life to the fullest. How can you do this? The key is in what you feed your feline friend. Cats are active, bright, curious, energetic, and intelligent creatures — their food should support these qualities.

When it comes to cat food, there’s a lot to consider. From the ingredient list, to processing methods, to essential nutrients, there are many different parts of cat food to navigate. That’s why we made this helpful guide.

Here’s everything you need to know about the best ingredients to look for in cat food.

Real Meat as the First Ingredient

While it’s important for your cat to get a range of whole fruits and vegetables, furry felines are mostly carnivores at heart. They need real sources of high-quality protein from meat in order to thrive and replenish their energy.

Meat provides essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that support your cat’s health and wellness. Let’s break down the best meats for cats and which types of meat to avoid.

The Best Meats for Cats

If you’re a cat parent, it’s important to know which ingredients will most benefit your furry feline. Meat is one of the first ingredients to consider. Popular meats in cat foods include ocean fish, poultry like chicken and turkey, beef, and organ meats.

Each of these animal proteins provides rich nutrients for your cat to enjoy. Let’s take a closer look at some of the nutritional benefits of these meats.


Salmon, tuna, sardines, and other oily fish are excellent for cats. They offer a wide range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that help support various facets of health.

These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are essential for supporting heart health, immunity, the formation of healthy fats, growth and development, proper nervous system function, and mobility.

Fish are also rich in vitamin D and riboflavin, as well as minerals like phosphorus, calcium, zinc, iron, iodine, magnesium, and potassium. These are essential for helping your feline friend thrive!

Chicken & Turkey

Cats can also enjoy poultry like chicken and turkey. These lean meat sources are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin, iron, calcium, and, of course, protein.

If you’re making homemade cat food or feeding your cat a treat, avoid canned or deli sources of these meats. These tend to have high levels of sodium and preservatives designed to extend their shelf life. It’s best to stick with natural, fresh ingredients in cat food and treats alike.


It may come as a surprise, but beef is packed with nutrients that are essential for supporting your cat’s health. You can find iron, zinc, selenium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12, potassium, pantothenate, magnesium, and phosphorus in this type of meat.

Organ Meats

Another surprising meat source to look for are organ meats. Organ meats aren’t as popular as other types of meat, but they’re one of the most powerful natural sources of protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for your feline. Organ meats are also packed with vitamin A, D, E, B12, and K, folate, zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and much more. Look for organs like liver and hearts on the cat food label. They also increase the palatability of a product and have a high digestibility.

The Dangers of Animal By-Products

When considering real meats, we also must consider their less-than-ideal counterparts. These are known as “meat by-products.” Meat by-product meals are meat products that can include the leftover, unwanted parts of the meat such as feathers, bones, eyeballs, talons, hoofs, horns, even manure, and more.

Whole Fruits & Vegetables

While meat should be the first ingredient in the best cat food for your feline, they should also get a range of whole fruits and vegetables in dry cat food and wet cat food alike. This includes blueberries, strawberries, apples, pears, bananas, carrots, green beans, cranberries, peas, potatoes, beets, chicory root, and more! (These are just our favorites, a lot of which we include in our own formulas!)

These fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help combat oxidative stress from free radicals in the body.

Consider our Chicken & Veggies Recipe, or our Lamb & Veggies Recipe. Both of these options are designed to support immune health, healthy digestion, and nutritional balance with a notable helping of fruits and veggies to give your feline the prebiotic fibers they need to support regular digestion.

Whole Grains

Another important ingredient to look for on the cat food label is what kind of grains, if any, are included. Many pet parents choose grain-free cat food to help their felines process and break down food more easily. Other pet parents choose to give their cats whole grains that are free of gluten, like rice or oatmeal.

The key is understanding your cat’s nutritional needs. If they have trouble breaking down certain grains like corn or wheat, it may be best to avoid gluten. If your cat still has trouble digesting rice or oatmeal, you can opt for a grain-free recipe, too, like our Adult Chicken & Turkey in Gravy Recipe.

Below are two gluten alternatives to consider on the cat food label.

Natural Rice

Natural rice like brown rice and wild rice is a great alternative to gluten-based grains. With the flavor and texture cats love and the nutritional benefits of regular grains without the gluten, this ingredient is a powerful contender on the ingredient list. Rice is rich in fiber, which can help your cat feel fuller with less calories. Rice also helps transport oxygen throughout the body and deliver it to the tissues, supporting proper organ function.


Oatmeal is another gluten alternative to consider giving your cat to get them their share of carbohydrates. Oatmeal is rich in iron, calcium, vitamin B6, manganese, and fiber that contribute to your cat’s overall health.

Finding the Perfect Cat Food For Every Cat

When searching for the best cat food, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every cat. Here at Optimeal®, we know how important it is to have a wide selection of cat food options to choose from.

That’s why we offer 12 different cat food recipes so every cat can find the best food for them. From kitten food, adult cat food, and elderly cat food, to special cat food set aside for those with dietary restrictions or specific dietary or nutritional needs, we have a food for every feline.

If you’d prefer to keep grains out of your cat’s diet, you can find grain-free cat food. Similarly, if your cat prefers fish, salmon, or shrimp over chicken and turkey, you can find this recipe of cat food, too.

Your cat’s food is their fuel for life, helping them explore, learn, and grow for years to come. By prioritizing real meats, whole fruits and veggies, whole grains that are free of gluten, and learning which ingredients to avoid, you can make sure your feline friend gets everything they need to thrive.

Explore our wide-range of super premium, all-natural cat food here!


Omega-3 fatty acids and the benefits of fish consumption | NIH

Can Cats Eat Oatmeal? 5 Best Benefits Revealed! | Feline Living

What's in Pet Food? | AAFCO



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