Freeze-dried cat foods are quickly gaining popularity with more and more people turning to them or raw and frozen cat foods instead of the regular dry kibbles or wet (canned) canine diet. Why is that so? What are freeze-dried cat foods? Do they have more benefits? Which brands should I buy? Let us together go through all your concerns.
What are freeze-dried cat foods?
Freeze-drying is a food dehydration technique that encompasses quick freezing followed by evaporation of the ice formed directly to vapor. Evaporation occurs under low temperatures in a vacuum to prevent the conversion of ice to liquids.
It is a kind of dehydration of foods while in a frozen state that gets rid of up to 98% of the moisture present, making it impossible for microbial activity to thrive. Consequently, the food is preserved and can last for a long time, ranging from months to years.
Why should you make a switch today – Benefits
Looking at a cat’s ancestral diet that was high-protein, moderate fats and low-carb obtained from raw flesh from their prey, such as birds, rabbits, moles, shrews, and so on, it is sensible to say that fresh, raw or frozen cat foods are the best choice.
They have all their nutrients intact, i.e., vitamins, minerals, and natural enzymes. Furthermore, they are more digestible, assimilate, and may reverse some issues like allergies, enhance oral health, prevent disease, and boost overall cat’s health.
Also, your cats will have a lesser stool amount. However, it is also true that some cats digest cooked foods better for one reason or the other.
Unfortunately, not everyone wants to handle raw diets. They may carry pathogens and require preservation since they are highly perishable. This reality check leaves freeze-dried cat foods the second-best choice that has a myriad of benefits that include:
1. Retain most nutrients
Freeze-drying happens under low temperatures, the foods are not cooked, and their processing uses fresh, raw, or minimally ingredients. Therefore, they retain most of their nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and natural enzymes, just as their raw ingredients.
Regular feline diets are at high temperatures before they are extruded or wet foods that are cooked while in their cans. For instance, baking or cooking degrades some vitamins, enzymes, and phytonutrients, and so on. It also reduces the bioavailability of some nutrients. However, it may increase the bioavailability of other ingredients.
Finally, it is worth noting that original vitamins and minerals in foods are highly bioavailable. This truth is the reason why minerals added to cat foods after being chelated with protein molecules to increase their bioavailability.
2. Retain appearance, taste, and aroma
Besides nutrients, most of these foods will retain their aroma, flavor or taste and appearance, making them very appealing to most cats, every the finicky eaters.
3. Easier to handle
They are dry, have a longer shelf-life, and don’t need refrigeration. These features make them more appealing than raw or frozen foods.
4. Don’t have artificial ingredients
Freeze drying doesn’t need any artificial additives. Also, there isn’t a need to add harmful artificial flavors or colors since, as already seen, the diets retain their original color, taste, and appearance.
Furthermore, a look at the sourcing of their ingredients will indicate that most are organic and from grass-fed, cage-free, or wild-caught animals, fish, or poultry. They have no hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs.
5. Superior quality
A peek at best freeze-dried cat foods will reveal the fact that they are of superior quality. They contain mainly meats and meat organs, and most don’t have grains, fillers, animal by-product meals, and so on.
Best Freeze-dried Cat Foods plus Toppers and Meal Mixers
If you want to have decided to switch to freeze-dried feline diets, below are reviews of the top brands in the market. We will also provide choosing tips after reviewing the best brands.
1. Stella & Chewy’s Chick, Chick Chicken Freeze-dried Raw Dinner Morsels Cat Food
Life stage: All cat life stages (weaned kittens, adult maintenance, pregnant or nursing queens)
Made to perfection and mimic a cat’s carnivorous ancestral diet, the Stella & Chewy’s Chick, Chick Chicken, should be your first choice if you are looking for the best freeze-dried chicken cat food.
- Protein-rich, with 98% chicken, organs, and bone sourced from raw, cage-free chicken
- Pure without grains, peas, lentils, potatoes, gluten, fillers, artificial colors, preservatives or added hormones, and antibiotics.
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals and has added taurine.
- Supports digestive health, thanks to the added probiotics
- Made at Stella & Chewy’s own USA kitchen in small batches.
- First ingredients: Chicken (ground with bone), chicken liver, chicken gizzard, and pumpkin seed.
- Calorie Content. 4,630 kcal/kg or 182 kcal/cup calculated Metabolizable Energy (ME).
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 45.0%, crude fats (min): 25.0%, crude fiber (max): 5.0%, moisture (max): 5.0% taurine (min): 0.2%
- Average price: $2.11-$2.17 per oz.
Besides chicken, Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose, Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey, Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken, Sea-Licious Salmon & Cod Absolutely Rabbit Freeze-dried Cat Food are excellent alternatives.
2. Primal Freeze-dried Raw Nuggets for Cats Turkey Formula
Life stage: Adult felines
Primal Freeze-dried Cat Food Turkey Formula is a wholesome tasty and safe choice of feline diet that will ensure your kitty stays healthy and maintains the right weight by providing superior nutrition.
- It contains 93% turkey, organs as well as fresh and ground bones (for calcium) sourced from raised humanely without hormones or antibiotics. Turkey is an excellent source of essential amino acids and fatty acids.
- Primal incorporates vitamin A, C, D, and B-complex-rich organic produce to enhance the food’s nutrition.
- Highly palatable, easy to digest, and serve. Merely portion, shred, rehydrate using water, raw goats milk, or bone broth.
- It doesn’t have synthetic vitamins as well as grain, gluten, wheat, corn, or soy, something that may benefit cats with allergies related to any of these ingredients.
- Comes in a resealable zipper to keep the food fresh
- Very safe. Primal uses HPP to kill any pathogen. Also, their products undergo tests in third party laboratories as well as tests and hold programs.
- Made in the USA
- First ingredients: Turkey, turkey necks, turkey hearts or turkey gizzards, turkey livers, organic collard greens, organic squash, organic celery, organic cranberries, organic blueberries, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds.
- Calorie content: 5,208 kcal/kg or 148 kcal/oz., with an ounce having about four nuggets.
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude Protein (min): 57%, crude fats (min): 32.3%, crude fiber (max): 2%, moisture (max): 3%, ash (max): 8.4%
- Average price: $2.29 per oz.
For variety, also consider beef & salmon, chicken & salmon, duck, Pork, Quail, Rabbit Formula, Turkey and Venison Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw.
If you are worried about Primal freeze-dried cat food recall, you have no reason to do so. Primal’s last recall was in 2017. It was due to too large grind bone size that that affected a few batches of Feline Chicken-Salmon and Turkey Freeze-dried Formulas.
3. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-dried Cat Food Topper
Feeding: Intermittent or supplemental feeding only
Freeze-dried raw feline diets tend to be expensive. However, with Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Cage-Free Chicken Recipe, you can reap all the benefits that freeze-dried foods have. Simply add this cat topper or mixer to their typical diets and see your cats go crazy while benefiting from pure and all-natural nutrition.
- Formulated with wholesome and minimally processed protein-rich cage-free chicken, liver, and heart, as well as a blend of healthy non-GMO fruits and vegetables.
- Supports healthy skin and coat, vitality and digestion
- No by-products of animal meals, grains, potato, soy, wheat, or artificial preservatives and colors
- Made in the USA
- First ingredients: chicken (including ground chicken bone), chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, chicken heart, carrots, apples, butternut squash, turkey liver, turkey heart, and ground flaxseed
- Calorie content: 4,352 kcal/kg or 16 kcal/tablespoon Metabolizable Energy (ME).
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 36%, crude fats (min): 26%, crude fiber (max): 15%, moisture (max): 6%.
- Average price: $2.00 per oz.
Apart from this chicken raw boost mixer, you can also go Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Rabbit or two other brands with functional ingredients, i.e., digestive health or skin and coat health.
4. Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast Grain-Free Freeze-dried Cat Food
Life stages: All life stages
Feline Natural Freeze-dried is one of the finest and tasty New Zealand’s brand food for cats made with high-quality ingredients.
- High in meats and very low in carbohydrates, about 98% chine, lambs, and organs with the remainder being New Zealand Green Mussel as well as Taurine, minerals, and vitamins.
- Good both as a complete meal or a cat food topper.
- No grains, wheat, gluten, dairy, cereals, rice, potato, animal meals, GMOs, additives, preservatives, or any other filler
- Made in New Zealand (for K9)
- It is costly, with an average price of $3.09 per oz.
- First ingredients: Chicken, lamb heart, lamb kidney, lamb liver, lamb blood, flaxseed flakes, New Zealand green mussel, and dried kelp.
- Calorie content: 4857kcal ME per kg or 185kcal ME per cup
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 48%, crude fats (min): 31%, crude fiber (max): 1%, moisture (max): 8%, taurine (min): 0.52%.
- Average price: $3.09 per oz.
Besides Chicken and Lamb Feast, alternative flavors are the Beef & Hoki as well as Lamb and King Salmon Feast Freeze-dried feline foods.
5. Northwest Naturals Freeze-dried Raw Cat Food Nibbles Rabbit Recipe
Life stages: All life stages
Northwest Naturals Freeze-dried Raw rabbit cat nibbles are a delicious and authentic carnivorous mouthwatering rabbit diet that your feline, including kittens, cannot resist.
- Nutritious carnivore diet with 98% rabbit meat, organs, and bone while the remainder is vitamins and minerals. Unlike most other foods, it doesn’t have vegetables or fruits.
- Easy to eat and feed, thanks to their small bite-size, which don’t necessarily need rehydration.
- Serves perfectly as a whole meal, treat, or as a cat food topper.
- Grain-free and gluten-free without any added hormones or antibiotics
- Made in the USA.
- First ingredients: Rabbit with bone, rabbit heart, rabbit liver, gelatin, water, dulse powder, dried kelp, ground flaxseed, organic psyllium husk powder, salmon oil
- Calorie content: Calculated Metabolizable Energy of 3875 kcal/kg or 136 ME Kcal/oz.
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 45%, crude fats (min): 15%, crude fiber (max): 5%, moisture (max): 5%, ash: 12%, taurine (min): 0.52%, carbohydrates: 1%, calcium: 1.85%, phosphorus: 1.70%, copper 17ppm, zinc 245ppm, sodium 0.52%, magnesium: 0.15%.
- Average price: $3.33 per oz.
Apart from the rabbit recipe, Northwest Naturals also have freeze-dried chicken, turkey, whitefish, and duck cat food nibbles.
6. Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Freeze-dried Grain-Free Cat Food
Life stage: All life stages and breeds
These Vital Essentials Nibs Chicken Mini Nibs are a tasty and crunchy complete and balanced meal for your cats made following the Alfa prey model (don’t have fruits or vegetables that these pets don’t eat in nature).
- Made with a single source protein, i.e., free-run, farm-raised, and humanely harvested whole chicken, organ, and bones.
- Features limited ingredient formulation, something good for felines that suffer from food allergies.
- Gluten-free, grain-free, guilt-free
- No added antibiotics, hormones, fillers, or flavoring
- Sauced, made and packed in the US.
- Ingredients: chicken, chicken liver, chicken heart, goat’s milk, water, herring oil, mixed tocopherols (a natural preservative) chicken egg, eggshell membrane, d-alpha tocopherols (a natural source of vitamin E).
- Calorie content: 3841 kcal/kg or 113 kcal/oz.
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 45.0%, crude fats (min): 15.0%, crude fiber (max): 3.0%, moisture (max): 8.0%.
- Average price: $1.92 per oz.
In addition to Chicken Mini Nibs, you can also buy Grain-Free Turkey, Rabbit, and Duck Mini Nibs. Also, Vital Essential have Freeze-dried Grain-Free Chicken, Turkey, and Beef Meal Boost Toppers, as well as Freeze-dried Grain-Free Turkey, Rabbit, Duck, Chicken Mini Patties.
7. Dr. Marty’s Nature’s Feast Premium Freeze-dried Raw Cat Food
Life stage: Adult maintenance
Dr. Marty’s Freeze-dried Cat Food Nature Feast is a nutrient-packed, all-natural feline diet made by an expert to ensure your pet is in perfect health and happiness.
- All-natural with 77% poultry, beef, salmon together with 23% cat-friendly healthy fruits, eggs, herbs, seeds, veggies
- Rich in naturally-derived omega-3 fatty acids for healthy skin and a shiny coat as well as naturally derived vitamins and minerals.
- Has prebiotics and flax to support digestion
- No fillers and grains.
- First ingredients: turkey, beef, salmon, duck, flax, beef liver, turkey hearts, turkey liver, sweet potato, eggs, pea flour, carrots, apples, blueberries, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and spinach.
- Calorie content: Calculated metabolizable energy ME of 4430 kcal/kg or 409 kcal/cup
- Guaranteed Analysis: Crude protein (min): 39%, crude fats (min): 23%, crude fiber (max): 2.5%, moisture (max): 5%, ash: 8%, taurine (min): 0.27%, omega-3 (min): 5%.
8. Nulo Freestyle Freeze-dried Raw Duck & Turkey Recipe Cat Food
Life stages – All life stages
Nulo Freestyle Freeze-dried Raw Duck & Turkey is a healthful and yummy complete meal or cat food topper that your feline will love.
- Made with high biological value protein, i.e., it has 98% turkey, duck, organs, and the bone with the remainder being superfoods like dried kelp and cranberries, minerals, and vitamins.
- Supports digestion and immune health, thanks to the added Ganeden BC30 probiotics.
- You can serve it with or without rehydration.
- First ingredients: Turkey, turkey necks, turkey liver, duck, duck liver, ground flaxseed, spinach, salmon oil, cranberries, coconut oil, inulin, dried kelp
- Calorie content: ME calculated of 5,214 kcal/kg, 235 kcal/cup
- Guaranteed analysis: Crude protein (min): 42%, crude fats (min): 37%, crude fiber (max): 2.0%, moisture (max): 5.0%, taurine (min): 2.0%, Bacillus coagulans (min): 1,000,000,000 CFU/lb.
- Average price: $2.63 per oz.
Nulo also has Freestyle Freeze-dried Raw Chicken & Salmon Recipe Cat Food
9. Only Natural Pet Raw Nibs Beef & Tripe Grain-Free Freeze-dried Dog & Cat Food
Life stages- All life stages
If you have dogs and cats, Only Natural Pet Raw Nibs Beef & Tripe Grain-Free Freeze-dried raw diet is a terrific choice of food for these two pets, made to mimic their ancestral diets.
- It contains high-quality beef meat and organ meats sourced in the USA as well as superfoods such as organic goat’s milk and wholesome fruits and veggies.
- You can use it as a balanced meal, treat or meal topper for both felines and canines
- Made in the USA.
- It has small bite-size bits making feeding very easy.
- First ingredients: beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver, beef heart, beef kidney, sweet potatoes, blueberries, broccoli, apples, and ginger.
- Calorie content: It has a calculated Metabolizable Energy of 4214 kcal/kg or 120 kcal/oz.
- Calorie content: Crude protein (min): 55.0%, crude fats (min): 14.0%, crude fiber (max): 2.5%, moisture (max): 5.0%
- Average price: $2.0 – $2.65 per oz.
Besides Beef & Tripe, recipes from Only Natural Pet are Chicken & Liver, Venison & Liver, and Salmon & Cod freeze-dried raw cat foods.
10. Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Meal Mixer Real Salmon Recipe Freeze-dried Raw Cat Food
Life stage: Adult maintenance of all cat breeds
Merrick Backcountry Real Salmon Recipe Freeze-dried Raw Cat food is a nutrient-dense, fresh, meaty tasting feline diet that will make your cat go wild. Feed it as a complete and balanced meal, mixer, or treat.
- Quality protein from salmon and whitefish for lean muscle building, energy and optimum health
- Undergoes High-Pressure Processing (HPP) and rigorous testing to ensure it is safe.
- No grains, soy, gluten ingredients, artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.
- Made in the US.
- First ingredients: Salmon, whitefish, chicken broth, dried peas, dried potatoes, gelatin, cranberries, carrots, apples.
- Calorie content: 3998 kcal/kg, 273 kcal/cup
- Calorie content: Crude protein (min): 40.0%, crude fats (min): 18.0%, crude fiber (max): 3.0%, moisture (max): 6.0%
- Average price: $ 2.12 per oz.
If you need a different recipe from Merrick, go for the real chicken recipe.
Besides the above brands, the following deserve and honor:
- Wellness CORE RawRev Grain-Free Original Recipe with Freeze-dried Turkey Liver Dry Cat Food
- Meat Mates Beef Dinner Grain-Free Freeze-dried Cat Food
- MEOW Freeze-dried Raw Chicken & King Salmon Cat Dry Food
Choosing the best freeze-dried cat food
With the many manufacturers, varied opinions sustained advertising and promotion, among other factors, it may be a challenge in deciding which freeze-dried cat food to buy. However, it doesn’t have to be hard. Here is what to consider:
1. Look at the product label
The product label is one thing you should never fail to look at when buying any cat food. It will tell you more about the ingredient list, life stage the diet is intended for, expiry date, guaranteed analysis, calorie content, and a lot more. There are products for all life stages, kittens, adult, and senior cats.
Also, you will get brands made to manage specific health issues. Such diets include hypoallergenic (for food allergies or sensitivities), digestion, hairballs, and weight loss formulas. Others are for kidney issues, urinary tract problems, diabetic cats, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, heart diseases, and so on. In such cases, get a recommendation from your vet.
Finally, don’t be carried by some words such as premium or all-natural. They have not regulated terms.
2. High-quality ingredients
Choose brands made with high quality, fresh ingredients. For instance, grass-fed, cage-free, wild-caught, human-grade, USDA inspected, and certified animal protein source. Additionally, choose organic, humanely raised, and those without hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs.
Avoid brands with fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, or unnamed animal meal by-products. Freeze-dried diets don’t need these additives.
3. Choose brands high protein and fewer carbohydrates
Cats are strict carnivores whose typical meals are high in protein, moderate in fats and low in carbohydrates. While kitties can digest and metabolize carbs, it only needs to be a small portion of their diet.
4. Brand reputation
Go for reputed brands who don’t recall their products often, especially if faulty products such as those that are contaminated, nutritionally insufficient, etcetera.
5. Place of manufacture
Buy brands made in countries known to have the best manufacturing and quality control regulations, such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Western European nations. Also, ensure they source their raw materials in these countries.
6. Other consideration
Look at your cat’s preference and compare prices from leading local and online stores like Amazon, eBay, PetSmart, Walmart, Chewy, Petco, among others, to get the best deal, including offers and free shipping.
Also, look at reviews, expert’s comments, and opinions of verified uses, and so on as they may pinpoint a lot more that you may not know, including quality of the food.
Finally, talk to your vet, especially if your pet has underlying health conditions or under restricted or therapeutic diets.
From the price analysis above, the most affordable freeze-dried cat food is Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Freeze-dried Grain-Free Cat Food going for $1.92 per ounce followed by Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-dried Cat Food Topper.
With all these benefits, expect to spend more. Furthermore, since freeze-drying isn’t a kill step, some present pathogens may reactivate when hydrated unless they undergo HPP (High-Pressure Processing) to kill the pathogens.
However, chances of having pathogens are on the minimal side and VERY unlikely to harm healthy cats. Also, some manufacturers carefully source for uncontaminated ingredients and test their end products to ensure they don’t have any harmful pathogens.
Therefore, ensure you CLEAN all surfaces, including your cat’s bowls and your hands with warm soapy water.