Pet parents know all too well just how difficult it can be to select a high-protein cat food formula that their kitty actually likes and thrives on. But ensuring the recipe is formulated to provide proper nutrition and support that allows your cat to flourish is just as important.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they are biologically required to consume meat in order to achieve and maintain optimal health and wellness. A diet that doesn’t include enough animal protein can lead to possible health issues down the line, which is why high protein foods for cats can be beneficial for most healthy cats. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best high-protein cat food formulas to suit various needs and tastes. 

Our Top High-Protein Picks

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The 10 Best High-Protein Cat Foods

Here are our 10 favorite selections of cat foods high in protein to keep your furry feline friend happy, healthy, and satisfied:

Best Overall Cat Food High in Protein: Overall Winner

Our pick: Smalls Human-Grade Fresh

Smalls Ground Bird Cat Food

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Smalls human-grade fresh cat food is a clear frontrunner when it comes to quality ingredients and taste. This high-protein wet cat food is available in three proteins (chicken, turkey, or beef) with no additives or mystery meats. For example, the Bird recipe features chicken thigh, breast, liver, and heart. These yummy human-grade recipes are also a smart option for picky eaters, as they are available in smooth, ground, or pulled textures, depending on what your feline friend prefers.


  • Chicken and turkey are available in three textures (smooth, ground, or pulled) and beef is available in two textures (smooth or ground) to suit your cat’s taste
  • Transparent, additive-free ingredient list in this high protein cat food wet formula
  • Science-backed formula that you can feel good about
  • Ships right to your door for added convenience
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages

Things to Consider

  • The price is high compared to other options on the list
  • Smalls’ “Cat Concierge” customer service team is only available online; no direct phone support

Best High Protein Dry Cat Food

Our pick: ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Orijen Dry Food high protein

Looking for one of the best high protein dry cat food options that will appeal to picky eaters? The ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is formulated with 90 percent premium animal ingredients, including chicken, turkey, turkey giblets, chicken liver, whole mackerel, whole herring, and flounder. If that’s not enough to entice your finicky feline, it’s also freeze-dried coated for added flavor. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the tasty ingredients also support your kitty’s digestion, skin and coat, and heart health. What more could you and your cat ask for?


  • The high protein grain free cat food is crafted with 90 percent whole-prey animal ingredients, including poultry, organs, and bones
  • First five ingredients are fresh or raw
  • Contains prebiotics like dried chicory root and fiber from fruits and veggies
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from pollock oil support skin and coat health
  • The freeze-dried coated formula will appeal to most picky eaters
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages
  • Comes in 4-, 10- or 12-pound bags
  • Made in the USA 

Things to Consider

  • The price point is quite high for a dry cat food high protein formula
  • Includes a mix of plant-based protein
  • If your cat isn’t a fan of the Original recipe, other flavors are available 

Best Value High Protein Dry Cat Food

Our pick: Crave Adult Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food

Your feline friend deserves high-quality cat food, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire grocery budget on premium kibble. Crave is a good option for those looking for a relatively budget-friendly high protein dry cat food that doesn’t skimp on quality. The 40 percent high protein cat dry food formula features real chicken as the first ingredient—no soy or grains like corn or wheat. It also contains quality carbohydrate sources for energy, plus vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.


  • 40 percent high-protein diet to support a strong, lean body
  • Real chicken is the first ingredient
  • No chicken by-product meal, soy, corn, or wheat
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Available in 2-, 4- and 10-pound bags
  • Great price point for the quality
  • Comes in other flavors like Chicken & Salmon or Salmon & Ocean Fish 
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for maintenance

Things to Consider

  • Chicken is not the only source of protein. Also contains pea protein, split peas, fish meal, and potato protein
  • Some customers were surprised at the size of the kibble, which is a bit larger than other high protein cat foods

Best Freeze-Dried Cat Food with High Protein

Our pick: Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw

Smalls freeze dried cat food

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If you’re looking for a convenient yet efficient way to ensure your cat is getting a high-protein meal that is minimally processed and rich in nutrients, freeze-dried raw cat food is worth considering. Smalls freeze-dried raw offers the same high-protein advantage as raw cat food without the fuss of having to handle raw meat on a regular basis. There are three different formulas to choose from: chicken, turkey, and duck, all of which are free from mystery meat, artificial flavors, and preservatives.


  • Very convenient alternative to traditional raw cat food options
  • No mystery meat or artificial flavors
  • Crunchy texture ensures even picky cats will gobble it right up
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages

Things to Consider

  • The formula is expensive compared to other brands
  • Smalls’ customer service is only available via text or chat

Best Dry Cat Food High Protein for Seniors

Our pick: Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging

Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Natural Mature Dry Cat Food

Senior cats require a much more specific diet than kittens or adult cats, including less calorie-dense portions and slightly less protein. That said, most healthy senior cats should still be consuming a relatively high-protein diet. The Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging is a smart option for the majority of senior cats and features deboned chicken as the first ingredient. The senior-specific formula includes the right balance of essential proteins, amino acids, and carbohydrates to ensure your senior furbaby remains healthy and happy into their golden years. 


  • Made with deboned chicken, brown rice, flax, and peas
  • Formulated with the right amino acids and essential proteins to support senior health
  • Great price point for the quality of the formula
  • Enhanced with additional antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
  • Free from artificial additives, corn, wheat, and soy
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for maintenance

Things to Consider

  • Some pet parents mentioned that their cats didn’t like the taste or texture
  • The kibble size might be too large for senior cats with missing teeth

Best High Protein Cat Food for Kittens

Our pick: Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate Canned Kitten Food

Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Wet Canned Cat Food

You might not think that kitten-specific food makes that much of a difference for your new furbaby—but kittens require a much more nutrient dense food for the first few months of their life. Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Liver Pate canned kitten food is an excellent high protein cat food option geared toward kittens, thanks to its grain- and additive-free recipe, added DHA to help support both healthy brain and eye development, and soft pate texture that makes it easy for those tiny little teeth to comfortably chew. 


  • Turkey is the first ingredient
  • Grain-free recipe
  • Formulated with high-quality ingredients that support kitten health
  • Soft pate texture allows kittens to easily chew 
  • Free from artificial additives and fillers
  • Meets AAFCO nutrient profiles for all life stages
  • Comes in 3-oz and 5.5-oz cans

Things to Consider:

  • The price per serving is rather high
  • Some pet parents mentioned that their kittens didn’t like the flavor

Best Low Fat High Protein Cat Food

Our pick: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Optimal Weight

Tiki Cat low fat high protein cat food

Specially formulated for overweight adult cats, this low fat high protein cat food touts deboned yummy turkey as the first ingredient. Mixed with pumpkin for optimal digestion, this high protein dry cat food contains 47 protein. Because each morsel is baked, it is low in carbs and includes only 100 percent non-GMO ingredients. This formula can be served on its own or with toppers, treats, or wet food for extra hydration.


  • Real deboned turkey is the first ingredient
  • Contains 40 percent less fat than Tiki Cat Born Carnivore High Protein Chicken & Egg Recipe
  • Baked kibble is minimally processed
  • Made without grains, gluten, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors
  • Contains no processed plant proteins
  • Contains 150 mg/kg of L-carnitine cats need

Things to Consider:

  • More premium food is a bit on the pricey side
  • Very finicky cats may not care for this food

Best High Protein Low Carb Cat Food

Our pick: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Salmon Kibble Dry Food

Cleanprotein high protein low carb cat food

With salmon as its first ingredient, Dr. Elsey’s offers a grain-free, high protein low carb cat food to satisfy your cat’s hunger. This kibble is designed for all life stages, and it supports the nutritional needs of active, overweight, and diabetic cats. Each bag is free of grains, gluten, corn, soy, and wheat, so you won’t have to worry about additives your cat doesn’t need.


  • Free of grains
  • Contains no fillers or artificial preservatives
  • Manufactured in the United States
  • Money-back guarantee
  • This recipe contains approximately 7.36% carbohydrates on an as-fed basis (approximately 8.56% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis)
  • Made with wild-caught salmon

Things to Consider

  • Food should be fed at room temperature
  • Finicky cats may need some time to adjust

Best Cat Food High in Protein Developed by Animal Nutritionists

Our pick: Cat Person

Cat person high protein cat food

Cat Person worked with experienced animal nutritionists to create their 19 tasty recipes for even the most discriminating palate. Made with meat, broth, and very little else, these protein-rich recipes are made for cats who deserve the best. The recipes are pate, meat shreds in broth, and kibble formulas. Best of all, there are no fillers and no grains in any of the selections. The subscription delivers food to your residence every four weeks or as desired. Get started by answering a few questions about your cat and receive a customized meal plan.


  • Can be fed to both kittens and adult cats
  • Three textures in 19 different flavors
  • Free of corn, soy, grain, and other fillers
  • Contains up to 2.5 times more protein than AAFCO standards
  • High protein wet cat food and pate arrive in easy open cups
  • Dry food arrives in smaller, resealable two-pound bags for freshness

Things to Consider:

  • Can be on the costly side for multiple cat households
  • You may need to experiment with different textures and flavors to determine your cat’s favorites

Best Food Topper with High Protein for Cats

Our pick: PureBites Mixers Grain-Free Cat Food Toppers

PureBites Mixer for cats

PureBites Mixers are an excellent wet food option for cat parents looking for a no-nonsense, high-protein meal topper or treat. Choose from seven different flavors with limited ingredients, such as pure chicken breast in water or wild skipjack tuna paired with Alaskan salmon in water. These grain-free cat food trays are extremely high in protein as well as super hydrating. Note that at around 30 calories per tray, the wet food serving is not a complete and balanced meal on its own.


  • The grain-free formula consists of just one or two protein-packed ingredients
  • Available in seven flavors
  • Includes added water to ensure your furbaby is receiving adequate hydration

Things to Consider:

  • Intended for supplemental feeding only; This is a mixer that can be fed along with a complete and balanced cat food
  • Refrigerate unused portions
  • Lots of packaging given the size of each serving

Protein Rich Cat Food FAQs

Cat eating from cat food bowl

How Much Protein Does a Cat Need?

“Cats require a minimum of 26 percent protein as adults and a minimum of 30 percent as kittens. This can vary if your cat is sick,” explains Dr. Emily Swiniarski, veterinarian and chief medical officer of PAWS Chicago. “Many senior cats require higher levels of protein due to muscle loss. Dogs require less protein than cats because cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must eat meat in order to thrive.”

Is High Protein Dry Cat Food Better than Wet?

Dry food, or kibble, tends to have more carbs than a high protein wet cat food. In some cases, reading the label of a bag of dry cat food reveals a high protein content. It’s not that wet cat food is better than a high-protein dry cat food because each manufacturer is different, even within the same line.

What Is Considered A Protein Rich Cat Food?

Regarding a protein-rich cat food, you want one that is palatable to your cat, offers the best nutritional value, is easily digestible, and promotes energy and good health. The highest protein dry cat food formula is ideal if your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist agrees.

 Per the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient profile guidelines, cat food containing at least 40 percent crude protein is high.

Does Low Fat High Protein Cat Food Exist?

Yes, pet parents can consider a low fat high protein cat food as a feeding option.

Because the pet food standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) are based on minimum amounts of protein, anything over 30 percent protein is labeled as high-protein, when in reality, it’s not a high-protein food when compared to a cat’s natural diet. Technically there are no regulations stipulating what is truly a “high-protein” cat food, Swiniarski says, but it could be considered anything over the minimum amount of protein in the food.

Is Low-Fat High Protein Cat Food Better for My Cat?

Because high-protein food can lead to weight gain if not closely monitored, your veterinarian may recommend feeding a low-fat formula of high-protein fresh food to your cat. If you are concerned that your cat may gain weight from a high-protein diet, be sure you are feeding the best low-fat formula for your individual kitty.

High-Protein Food for Cats: What to Look For

Cat being held by owner hungry

With the number of options and formulas on the market these days, selecting the right cat food for your feline friend can be a paralyzing decision—but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure you’re making the right decision for your cat:

Consider opting for wet food: “Canned foods contain higher moisture content, which is beneficial to cats in many ways,” Swiniarski says. “Having evolved from desert dwellers, cats do not drink much water but increased water can help cats avoid dehydration and keep the kidneys and bladder healthy.” With dry cat food, nutritional value and integrity is often lost due to the high temperatures and high pressure used during the production process. If you prefer kibble, you can always mix in a high-protein wet food topper to supplement your pet’s diet and boost hydration.

Look for whole meats: “Look for meat in your cat’s food. Even meat meal is good for cats, as it contains dense protein and minerals—it is essentially meat without the water,” Swiniarski says. “Grains, fruits, and vegetables are not a required part of a cat’s diet but can be part of completing a balanced diet,” she adds.

Avoid soy-based protein: Again, since cats must eat meat from other animals in order to survive, you’ll want to beware of soy used as an ingredient to increase the protein content in a diet without adding to its quality. “Soy-based proteins do not contain the same amino acids and essential nutrients that cats need,” Swiniarski says.

Ensure proper amino acids: If the cat food label has the AAFCO symbol, the food has met the minimum requirements for protein as well as amino acids to support complete and balanced nutrition, Swiniarski says. “Cats must eat enough meat to ingest specific levels of amino acids that come from the breakdown of proteins (and other foodstuff),” she adds. “Choosing a food supported by AAFCO requirements will ensure proper amino acids.” The most important amino acid to look for is taurine, which is essential for cats.

High-Protein Cat Food: Pros and Cons

Cat eating from bowl

High-protein cat food is well-worth the investment for most feline parents. Here are some of the major benefits as well as things you’ll want to consider before making the switch.


Most cats thrive on a high-protein diet: “Most cats do very well on a high-protein diet that is nutritionally complete and balanced,” Swiniarksi says. “There is no evidence to suggest otherwise, except for cats with kidney disease.”

Amino acids build and repair important body functions: The protein and amino acids in high-protein cat food can help ensure your cat stays in great shape. Protein can build and repair everything from muscles and skin to fur and claws while also benefiting proper hormone regulation and boosts the immune system as well.


Protein rich cat food can be harmful for cats with kidney disease: “High-protein diets are not good for cats with kidney disease. Kidney disease itself is very common in senior cats. If fed a high-protein diet, the kidneys must work extra hard to filter excess protein in the bloodstream,” Swiniarski says. “Studies in humans show that high-protein diets cause kidneys to decline faster. While this is not proven in cats, studies do show improved quality of life when protein levels are controlled in nutritionally complete and balanced diets during kidney disease.”

Cat foods high in protein might cause weight gain: “Excess protein is broken down into glucose and filtered through the kidneys. Cat food high protein diets can cause weight gain—some healthy weight gain like increasing muscle mass, but it can also cause cats to become overweight with excess fat,” Swiniarski says. “Young or active cats are much less likely to become overweight.”

You’ll want to speak to your veterinarian about how much protein your cat requires based on its age, weight, and lifestyle before making any changes to its existing diet. Remember, when it comes to cat food with high protein, it is always a discussion to have with your veterinarian.