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Everything you need to know about grain free cat food

Maine coon cat eating in a bowl advice
© Pixabay

Grain free cat food is the new hot topic in the pet industry, but is it actually necessary? Here’s everything you need to know about grain-free cat food

By Alice Lang

Feline nutrition is being discussed more and more, with most cat owners investing lots of their time figuring out the right diet for their kitty. While it’s great to care so much about your cat’s diet, the information can sometimes be overwhelming, and in some cases, misleading.

The questions on every cat owners lips right now, are: “Does my cat need grain free cat food?” and “Are grains bad for cats?”. Truth be told, it’s still a heavily debated topic. While there’s no concrete evidence that grains are bad for cats, there are some strong points in their favour.

What is grain free cat food?

Normal cat food often contains grain in the form of corn, rice or wheat. Grain free cat food is, basically, what it says on the tin - it contains no grains whatsoever!

Why go grain-free?

Grey cat eating grain free food
Some cats have a grain allergy ©Pixabay

“Cats and dogs have no real nutritional need for grains in their diets. Pet food manufacturers use grain because it’s a cheap source of filler and adds protein and calories to the label on the bag,” explains The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook.

“But these are empty numbers for most cats and dogs because they don’t absorb nutrients from grains in the same way we do. In fact, many animals have developed sensitivities or allergies to certain grains.”

Some cats do develop a nasty grain allergy, which we’ll discuss in more detail later. If your cat is allergic to grains, it makes sense to switch to a grain free cat food. But what if they’re not? Should you still make the switch?

It’s a difficult one. If your kitty is doing fine with grain in their diet, there’s no urgent rush to change. But if you can afford the extra cost, there’s no harm in trying a grain free food, which may be better for their long-term health.

Many cheap cat food brands use low-quality grain purely as a filler, meaning they’re not actually doing much in terms of nutrition and might be hard for your cat to digest - even if you can’t see any physical symptoms. Opting for grain free cat food is a good way to closely mimic your cat’s natural diet, as good-quality grain free foods usually contain a higher percentage of protein.

Symptoms of grain allergy in cats

Noticed some unusual symptoms in your kitty, which seem to be intensified after eating a meal? It could be a grain allergy. Look out for the following symptoms, which could indicate a cat grain allergy:

  • Itchiness
  • Hair loss and bald patches
  • Inflamed, sore skin and scabs
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Excessive grooming
  • Lip ulcers
  • Ear infections
  • Cracked paw pads
  • Coughing

Do bear in mind that a grain allergy could turn up out of the blue, even if your cat has been eating cat food with grains for years.

If you suspect these symptoms could be down to a grain allergy, you’ll need to switch to a grain free cat food and see if the symptoms ease. If symptoms are severe, we’d also recommend taking your cat to the vet in case an underlying condition is present.

Grain free cat food: our picks

If you do decide to go grain free, make sure you give your vet a call. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s truly a good choice for your cat based on their individual needs and medical concerns and may even recommend an appropriate brand.


Well-known pet brand Purina has a few grain free variations available - including wet, dry and treats. We particularly rate their Beyond range, which boasts real, recognizable ingredients with a vitamin and mineral super boost. Be aware, though, that their main supermarket range isn’t grain free - always double check the label before you buy.

Wellness Pet Food


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This high-quality pet food brand offers several grain free cat food products which go by the name of CORE. It’s completely free of grains and packed with good sources of protein, whilst still being super tasty for your kitty. Perfect!

Natures Menu

Natures Menu has an impressive range of grain free wet and dry cat food, meaning there’s something there for every kitty. We love this brand, who focus on natural cat nutrition made from proper, high-quality ingredients. Always a great choice, grain free or not.


Lily’s Kitchen


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Many of Lily’s Kitchen’s delicious natural recipes are also grain free! This super pet food brand believes that pets are part of the family, so they deserve the best food possible. We couldn’t agree more! This brand comes highly recommended from us - they use fantastic quality meat and plenty of other wholesome ingredients, vitamins and minerals.


This is one of Pets at Homes own brands and has been a huge success amongst the feline community! Wainwrights boast complete, grain free varieties at a slightly more affordable price point, making it a good choice for those on a budget. This brand is also hypoallergenic and cuts out any ingredients which may cause food allergies in cats.

That's everything you need to know about grain free cat food! Ultimately, there's no scientific evidence (as of yet) which proves the benefits of a grain free diet for cats. However, it might be good to try it out and see if it improves your cats health. Good luck!