Grain Free Cat Food

February 19, 2020

Grain Free Cat FoodWith the growing popularity of labeling foodstuff as gluten free, grain free, sugar free, etc in the food industry, it is no wonder this trend had spread to the pet food industry as well. As a cat parent, you may wonder what is all this fuss on grain free cat food, which is gaining mainstream popularity among cat owners.

Many ordinary cat owners like you and me have burning questions and are really clueless about things like should you convert your pet’s diet to a grain free one? Is a grain free diet absolutely necessary? This article will attempt to answer some of the most common questions you have on grain free cat food.

What is grain free cat food
As the name implies, grain free cat food is made free from grains such as barley, corn, oats, rice and wheat. To replace grains in cat food, other plant based ingredients such as carrot, cranberries, peas and potatoes are used instead.

As a number of cats are found to be susceptible to food allergies arising from the use of grains as ingredients in cat food, grain free cat food are developed to resolve this issue. Grain free cat food is oftentimes mistaken as the savior to food allergies, when in fact food allergies can come from many different sources such as beef, dairy or fish.

Does my cat need a grain free diet
Most cats do not require grain free cat food, especially if your cat did not show signs of having food allergies. In fact, grain can actually be good for cats. Also, a research has shown that corn is the least likely source of food allergy in cats. However, if your cat displays the following signs or develop similar symptoms, your kitty may be allergic to certain food.

  • Bald patches
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Inflamed skin
  • Itchiness
  • Sores and scabs

To confirm whether your cat is really allergic to grains, you can go to your veterinarian for help. Your veterinarian will be able diagnosed what is wrong with your cat, and what type of stuff is your cat allergic to after further tests such as an elimination trial. He or she will then be able to advise you on the next course of action.

Is grain really bad for cats
Grains can be good for cats, unless your cat is allergic to grains. To replace grains in cat food, pet food manufacturers replaced them with other plant based carbohydrates such as apples, beet, butternut squash, carrots, lentils, oatmeal, pears, peas, pumpkin, quinoa and rice, etc. These ingredients can be inappropriate and potentially harmful to cats. As such, grains cannot be considered harmful to cats, unless your cat is allergic to grains.

Why grain free cat food may not always be the best choice
Many cats’ diets can be reflective of their owner's personal preferences or simply being influenced by mainstream perspectives. For example, most cat owners who fed their pets grain free cat food will normally go with the diet of giving their pets a high protein, low carb diet as well.

However, this diet is only suitable for diabetic cats. Active and healthy cats need enough carbohydrates in their diets to meet their energy needs. Also, do not assume grain free means low carb. In fact, in order to replace grains, pet food manufacturers turn to high carbohydrate food such as potatoes. This dispels the notion that grain free means low carb.

Also, many cat owners have the mistaken belief that all food allergies are due to the presence of grains. This cannot be further than the truth. In fact, as mentioned previously, research has shown that corn is the least likely culprit and these food allergies may have come from eating beef, dairy products and fish.

At the end, it will depend on your cat. If your cat is allergic to grains, then a grain free cat food is the most obvious option for you. Otherwise, a grain free diet may not always be the best choice for your cat.

These are some of the most common questions that cat owners have regarding grain free cat food.

Q: Are grain free cat food high in protein?
A: Not necessary. Certain grain free cat food may be high in protein, but what you may not know is that these proteins may be plant based. This is not necessarily bad as plant based proteins are lower in phosphorus as compared to animal proteins. Even though phosphorous is an essential nutrient, having too much of it can become a medical issue down the road. Studies have shown there is a link between high phosphorous diets and kidney disease in cats.

Q: Can grain free cat food cause diarrhea?
A: No. Unless your cat is allergic to a certain ingredient or ingredients in a grain free cat food, grain free cat food should not cause your cat to develop diarrhea.

Q: Does grain free means gluten free?
A: No, grain free and gluten free are two different things. Why certain food products need to be gluten free? It is because of a painful medical condition called celiac disease that more 3 million Americans suffer from. And there is no concrete scientific evidence that cats can suffer from this condition.

Q: Does grain free means low carb?
A: Not necessary. In order to replace grains in some cat food, pet food manufacturers have to substitute grains with high carb ingredients such as lentils, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes and tapioca, etc.

Q: Does grain free cat food cause heart problems in cats?
A: Yes, though it depends. Heart problems in cats, also known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) are a heart condition that is caused by a deficiency in taurine. Taurine is a vital amino acid that cats need, and which cannot be synthesized by cats on their own and can only be obtained via their diets. Once research has shown that low levels of taurine leads to DCM, pet food manufacturers have acted instantly to add taurine to commercial cat food.

However, an investigation by the FDA in 2018 strongly suggested a strong link between grain free diets and DCM. Though the investigation is more focused on dogs, cats are also involved. Pets that are fed grain free diets are more likely to develop DCM. The latest updates from FDA indicates that the investigation is still ongoing to verify whether grain free diets are the main cause of DCM in cats and dogs. You can read more about the FDA investigation here.

Q: Is grain free cat food dangerous?
A: No. Unless, a grain free cat food contains ingredients that are harmful or toxic to your cat, grain free cat food should be safe. Therefore, it is best to do a proper research first before transitioning your pet to a new grain free cat food.

Q: Is a grain free diet better for cats?
A: Not necessary. While grain free diets are being touted by enthusiastic cat owners as being the better diet for cats, the reality is really different. A lot will depend on the energy and nutritional needs of your cat and also existing medical conditions if any.

Q: What is the best grain free dry cat food?
A: It’s hard to really pinpoint the best grain free dry cat food. However, if you are looking for more opinions, check out this article on Best Dry Cat Food for more information.

Q: What is the cheapest grain free cat food?
A: Cheap doesn’t mean good or quality. However, if you are on a budget, you can check out our article on Best Cat Food for more information.

Finding the right grain free cat food for your cat is not difficult. Do proper research and check out the different brands and types of grain free cat food first, before making a buying decision. Check out the various reviews and testimonials from other cat owners too. You can also ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Your hard work will ensure that your pet will be strong and healthy for years to come.


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More information here. does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We go to great lengths to help cat owners better understand their pet cats. However, the content on this site is not substitute for veterinary guidance.

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