Best Cat Food Without Chicken


best cat food without chicken

When it comes to cat food, it’s all about protein. Not only is a quality animal-based protein the most expensive ingredient in your cat’s food but it’s also one of the most important. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they need meat in order to get all their required nutrients.

Chicken is typically the cheapest and most easily available source of protein for cat food and it finds it’s way into just about every cat food brand on the market.

While chicken might work for most kitties, some need cat food without chicken.

That’s why I’ve put together a list of my top three cat foods without chicken. We’ve got three options for dry and three options for wet so whatever you feed your cat we’ve got an option for you. I’ve also made sure to include a few options on the list that are completely poultry free.

We’ll be diving deep into all the ways that chicken can show up in your cat’s food along with reviews of each product but you just want to skip ahead and see which foods made the list you can see them here:

Dry Food

  1. Best Overall: American Journey Salmon Recipe
  2. Runner Up: Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Diet
  3. Best On A Budget: Taste of the Wild Canyon River

Wet Food

  1. Best Overall: NomNomNow Cat Food Delivery 
  2. Runner Up: American Journey Landmark
  3. Best on a Budget: Taste of the Wild Canyon River

 

How To Actually Find Cat Food Without Chicken

Cat food labels aren’t easy to understand. In fact, the FDA has an article that’s over 4,000 words explaining in detail the language of pet food labels.

And we aren’t even talking about ingredients.

For example, cat food brands can label their recipe as “with tuna” as long as 3% of the food includes tuna. So a cat food recipe labeled “Turkey with Tuna” only needs to have a minimum of 3% tuna in order to earn the “with” in the title. This very specific wording can quickly get overwhelming and things get even more complicated when you look at the actual ingredients.

That’s why I put together a list of the most common chicken ingredients and a few that could include chicken. That way, you know what to look for even if you don’t go with one of the chicken free foods I’ve listed here.

We’ll be referencing the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) for some of our definitions and you can learn more about them here. 

Chicken

As defined by the AAFCO, chicken is “is the clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails.”

Chicken Meal

Chicken meal is the flesh, skin, and muscle of a chicken treated with high heat to remove water and fat leaving behind concentrated protein. It’s then ground down into a meal.

Chicken By-Product

These are other parts of the chicken not typically used in food. That includes things like neck, freet, heads, and intestines but excludes feathers.

Chicken By-Product Meal

This is chicken parts like necks, feet, and heads but rendered to remove most fat and moisture.

Liver

Now this one is really important to look for as the ingredient “liver” alone doesn’t specify which animal it came from. In other words, “liver” could mean chicken liver but it could also mean turkey liver. This is obviously important to consider in our search for cat food without chicken. Overall, if you’re looking for cat food without chicken you should avoid the unnamed liver ingredient just to be safe.

Traces Of Chicken Can Still Show Up

While I believe the pet food industry is constantly improving and increasing standards as cat owners are demanding higher quality, you still (sadly) can’t believe everything you read on the ingredients label.

Whether that’s from direct neglect or simply a result of a facility that handles multiple types of pet food, a 2013 study found that 40% of cat and dog food contained meat that wasn’t listed on the label.

Take a guess at the most common unexpected ingredient to find it’s way into cat and dog food?

That’s right, chicken.

But It’s Okay…We Promise!

Keep in mind that studies like the one conducted by the AVMA sample a very wide range of cat food companies. Many already have bad reputations and aren’t known for quality products.

You won’t find them on this list.

Unlike some articles you may have read that list 20 of the “best” cat foods we’ve carefully vetted our selection and narrowed it down to three in both the dry and wet food categories.

Best Dry Cat Food Without Chicken

We’ve selected three of the best dry cat foods without chicken. Each one represents a different alternative protein source and each is completely grain-free.

Best Overall: American Journey Salmon Recipe

american journey cat food without chicken salmon recipe

Buy On Chewy

 

My number one selection is Chewy.com’s exclusive brand called American Journey. Specifically, the salmon recipe as the other flavors do feature chicken in the ingredient list. American Journey has been on the market since 2017 and they’re easily taking the number spot due to their high-quality ingredients, great price, and perfect recall history. American Journey is exclusive to Chewy.com and you can find it by clicking here. 

Pros:

  • Awesome ingredients with animal-based proteins as the first 4 out of 5 ingredients on the list
  • American Journey has ZERO recalls for any pet food product
  • The salmon recipe has no poultry of any kind
  • The price is great, especially when you consider the quality

Cons:

  • Features multiple protein sources which may upset the tummies of sensitive cats
  • Only one flavor that’s actually chicken free

All American Journey cat foods are also free of corn, wheat, soy, and even artificial preservatives. To get a better idea of how good this product really is, let’s take a look at the first five ingredients with a quick explanation.

1. Deboned Salmon

Any cat food that doesn’t feature an animal protein as the first ingredient should be avoided. The first ingredient we see on American Journey’s salmon recipe is exactly what we want to see: deboned salmon.

2. Salmon Meal

This is salmon but with the fat and water removed after high heat treatment.

3. Tapioca Starch

This is essentially a carbohydrate but luckily it’s the only that we’ll find within the top five ingredients. Remember, grain-free doesn’t mean carbohydrate-free. While it’s not great it’s about the issue I have with the first five ingredients.

4. Menhaden Fish Meal

Similar to the salmon meal, this is menhaden fish but with fat and water removed via a rendering process.

5. Dried Egg Product

Dried egg is easy to store and low cost but still a high-quality protein source for cats. This is one that’s common across American Journey products but so typical to see in other cat foods.

Summary

Overall, American Journey is the clear winner when it comes to the best cat food without chicken. With no recalls (for any pet foods) and a long list of quality ingredients focused on animal proteins is can be a great option. The only downside would be the mix of different animal proteins which might be a deal-breaker if your cat has allergies or a sensitive stomach. If you want to read more, you can check out my complete review of American Journey cat food. 

Runner Up: Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Diet

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Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free, Natural Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food, Fish &...
1,752 Reviews
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free, Natural Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food, Fish &...
  • STARTS WITH REAL WHITEFISH: This limited ingredient cat food has a single animal protein source plus...
  • INDOOR CAT FOOD: BLUE Basics cat food helps meet indoor cats unique needs with natural fiber sources to...

The runner up is Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Diet. Limited Ingredient Diet (often shortened to LID) is a cat food formula that is limited to one type of protein source and often only one type of carbohydrate source. Limited ingredient diets are often used to help cats with food allergies by greatly decreasing the number of proteins that your cat could be reacting to. They’re also a great option for chicken-free cat food.

Blue Buffalo has three different flavors (turkey, duck, and fish) and each is completely chicken free. You can see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here. 

Pros:

  • Multiple flavors to choose from all of which are chicken free
  • No grain, soy, corn.
  • Excludes egg which can be great for some cats

Cons:

  • Slightly lower quality ingredients with the inclusion of plant proteins
  • Mixed recall history within the last 5 years

Blue Buffalo is a solid option and the limited ingredient line is perfect for those looking to avoid chicken. Let’s take a quick look at the first 5 ingredients to get a better feel for the product. We’ll be looking at the Fish & Potato recipe since it’s also completely poultry free.

1. Deboned Whitefish

Similar to American Journey, we see deboned fish as the first ingredient which is exactly what we want to see.

2. Menhaden Fish Meal

This is menhaden fish but with most of the fat and water removed with heat. It’s a good source of protein.

3. Tapioca Starch

This is our first carbohydrate on the list and while it’s not ideal, it’s much better than anything corn, soy, or wheat-based.

4. Peas

Peas are another source of mostly carbohydrates. I’d love to see another protein instead.

5. Pea Protein

This is the concentrated protein from peas. Peas happen to be one of the vegetables that are higher in protein but it’s still not a substitute to an animal-based protein.

Summary

With two carbohydrates and only two animal sources of protein, we can see why Blue Buffalo is in the runner up position. Still, it helps that this limited ingredient diet focuses on only one animal protein source which makes it a great option for cats with sensitivities. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read my complete review of Blue Buffalo Limited Ingredient Diet. 

Best On A Budget: Taste of the Wild Canyon River

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Recipe with Real Trout and Smoked Salmon Dry Cat Food for...
6,019 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Recipe with Real Trout and Smoked Salmon Dry Cat Food for...
  • A Taste of the Wild with real trout is the #1 ingredient; and smoked salmon; optimal amino acid profile,...
  • High protein ingredients with added vitamins & minerals; fruits and vegetables as SUPERFOODS for...

I’ve picked Taste of the Wild Canyon River as our best on a budget option. This dry cat food features trout at the first ingredient which makes it somewhat unique in the cat world food and a great option if you suspect your cat is having trouble digesting more traditional proteins. The ingredient list is more similar to our Blue Buffalo product which makes Taste of the Wild a solid budget option. You can get the latest price from Amazon by clicking here. 

Pros:

  • Trout is the first ingredient which makes this a more unique option
  • Made in the USA and family-owned since the 1970s
  • Limited filler and unique carbohydrate sources

Cons:

  • Salmonella recalls in 2012 do raise some concerns (learn more)
  • Limited on flavor choices

Taste of the Wild takes a more unique approach to their carbohydrate choice by including potatoes and sweet potatoes. This could be a great option for cat owners that want to try something new while still avoiding chicken. Let’s take a closer look at the first five ingredients.

1. Trout

As mentioned, trout is a bit more unusual when it comes to cat foods so it’s a nice option if you’re looking for an alternative protein.

2. Ocean Fish Meal

This is the concentrated meal of ocean fish. Unfortunately, the specific fish isn’t mentioned.

3. Sweet Potatoes

This the first carbohydrate and it’s a more unique one for cat foods.

4. Potatoes

Even though I think the inclusion fo sweet potatoes is interesting, I don’t love seeing two types of potatoes in the top 5 ingredients.

5. Pea Protein

As we’ve seen before, pea protein is the concentrated protein from peas. While it’s good to see another protein source it’s not great to see it come from plants instead of an animal.

Trout, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pea protein

Summary

Taste of the Wild can be a great alternative for chicken-free dray food. While it doesn’t have the same ingredient profile as our number on selection, it’s still an excellent choice and a solid budget option. Just remember that cat foods come in different sizes and you’ll want to find the price per pound or ounce when comparing options to find the best price. You can check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. 

Best Wet Cat Food Without Chicken

Wet food is a great option for keeping your cat hydrated and healthy. It can also make a great treat or if you’ve got a particularly picky kitty it might be the only thing you feed. We’ve got three of the best options for wet chicken free cat food.

Our Number One Pick: NomNomNow Food Delivery

Our number one pick is NomNomNow Food Delivery.

My brother uses this service and I have to say it is amazing! If you truly want to spoil your kitty AND have the most control possible over their diet this is the way to go. NomNomNow has a fish-based diet that contains no chicken, by-products, or grain. It’s about a close as you can get to cooking for your cat without doing all the work. You can learn more about NomNomNow by clicking here.

Pros:

  • Simple, high-quality ingredients that you can actually see
  • Small batch production
  • Custom made proportions based on your cat’s weight and activity (so you don’t’ have to guess how much to feed)

Cons:

  • Premium cat food with a premium price

NomNomNow really is a great service and product and if your cat has a sensitive stomach it might be the perfect option. What I really love about this cat food is that not only do they have a chicken-free option but you can actually see and recognize what’s in your cat’s food. Instead of seeing a brown blob, you can see the fish, carrots, and other ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, let’s take a look at the first 5 in the NomNomNow Fish Feast formula.

1. Talapia

Talapia is a popular fish that’s a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Salmon

I love seeing Salmon as our second ingredient here and I’d expect nothing less from a premium cat food service.

3. Beef Fat

We haven’t seen any other food on our list include beef fat so far and I love this as an animal-based energy source.

4. Yuca

Yuca is the first carbohydrate and is closely related to the tapioca starch we’ve seen on other ingredient lists.

5. Carrots

As usual, I’d love to see more protein but carrots are acceptable!

Summary

NomNomNow is a premium cat food with a premium price. But you absolutely get what you pay for and it’s some the highest-quality cat food you can feed your cat. With built-in portion control you can also rest easy knowing your cat is getting the correct amount of food. Overall, it’s s excellent choice and the fish feast flavor is completely chicken-free. You can learn more about NomNomNow by clicking here.

The Runner Up: American Journey Landmark 

american journey cat food landmark no chicken

Buy On Chewy

 

It should be no surprise to see American Journey products showing up again on this list. This time, I’ve selected their Landmark line of products which they market as gourmet cat food. This chicken free cat food has an excellent ingredient list all based around fish products. Just like the dry food, this product is exclusive to Chewy.com. You can get the latest price by click here. 

Pros:

  • Four of the first five ingredients are all animal-based with three different types of fish
  • American Journey has a perfect recall history with ZERO recalls
  • Multiple poultry free flavors to choose from

Cons:

  • Extra fishy smell

The Landmark line from American Journey has multiple fish-based products which are great for cat owners looking for a chicken-free wet food option. This wet food is very carnivore friendly (which I love). Let’s take a closer look at the first five ingredients.

1. Tuna

We already know that cats love tuna and this is a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.

2. Fish Broth

Broth is a typical ingredient in wet food and it’s good to see that it’s fish-based but I’d prefer to see the fish named.

3. Seabream

Seabream is a type of fish and another great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.

4. Tilapia

Yet another fish shows on our ingredients. Again, we’ve got a great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids.

5. Sunflower Oil

Our first non-animal based ingredient and I’m pleased to see that it’s NOT a carbohydrate.

Summary

The Landmark line of wet cat food is a great option at an excellent price. Especially when you consider the quality of the ingredients inside. It’s technically our runner up but I see more as an alternative to NomNomNow food delivery. You can get the latest price and check out the other chicken-free flavors by clicking here. 

Best On A Budget: Taste of the Wild 

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Recipe with Trout and Salmon in Gravy Wet Canned Cat Food,...
688 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Recipe with Trout and Salmon in Gravy Wet Canned Cat Food,...
  • A Taste Of The Wild With Real Trout As The #1 Ingredient In A Tasty Stew; Optimal Amino Acid Profile,...
  • Premium Ingredients With Added Vitamins & Minerals; Fruits And Vegetables As Superfoods For Hard-Working...

Notice a trend here?

Our best on a budget chicken-free wet food is again going to follow suit with our dry options as we’ve selected Taste Of The Wild High Protein Wet.

This formula is completely chicken free and features the less common trout as the number one protein source. This can be a great option if your cat has a general poultry allergy or if you just want to avoid bird-based protein sources for other reasons. You can check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. 

Pros:

  • Trout is the number one ingredient
  • Made in the USA and family-owned since the 1970s
  • Limited filler and unique carbohydrate sources

Cons:

  • Salmonella recalls in 2012 do raise some concerns (learn more)
  • Includes egg which some cat owners may prefer to avoid

Taste of the Wild is my budget pick but it’s still a great choice for cat owners trying avoid chicken products. Let’s take a closer look at the first 5 ingredients to see why it’s a solid choice (but why American Journey is still your best bet).

1. Trout

As with the dry food, trout is the first ingredient which is a great alternative protein source.

2. Fish Broth

Fish broth is great but as previously mentioned, I’d love to see the actual fish used.

3. Vegetable Broth

I’d love to see another animal-based ingredient instead of another broth.

4. Ocean Fish

Good to see fish on the list but again I’d prefer to see the actual name of the fish.

5. Dried Egg Product

Egg is a highly bioavailable source of protein so it’s inclusion on the list but some cats may be sensitive to it.

Summary

Taste of the Wild isn’t at the same level in terms of ingredient quality compared to American Journey but it’s still an excellent choice and solid budget option. It’s also completely chicken-free which is exactly what we’re looking for. You can get the latest price on Taste of the Wild wet cat food on Amazon by clicking here.

Frequently Asked Questions

There’s always a lot of questions around diet especially when you’re looking at more unique options like cat food without chicken. I’ve put together our list of the most common questions to try and help you out!

Q: My Cat Doesn’t Have Any Diagnosed Chicken Allergy. Should I Still Consider Cat Food Without Chicken? 

Most definitely! Even without an allergy, understanding your cat’s food and exactly what’s in it (and what isn’t) is all part of pet ownership. Changes to diets can also affect your cat’s stool and vomiting so it’s usually worth trying a few foods over time to find what works best. You might also find that your cat simply prefers the flavor of foods without chicken (I know mine does!)

Q: Should I Replace My Cat’s Current Food With Chicken-Free Food Immediately?

It’s best to slowly transition your cat from one food to another. Hill’s has a great article on how to make this transition which you can find by clicking here. 

Q: Should I Feed My Cat A Raw or Homemade Diet? 

That’s completely up to you. While a raw diet can work for many cats (and maybe best for those with a lot of sensitives) it can take a lot of work to pull off. The biggest concern we have is making sure your cat’s diet is balanced.

Like human food, cat food is often fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin D is an example for humans and taurine is often seen in cat food. At the end of the day, this is something you should discuss with your veterinarian.

Q: How Do I Know If My Cat Has Food Allergies? 

Food allergy symptoms can take a lot of forms but most often you’ll see digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea. In other cases, you may see skin irritation. It’s not advised that you diagnose allergies on your own and your veterinarian can help you diagnose food allergies using a food trial.

Q: Why Worry About Chicken In Cat Food? 

With chicken showing up as a top ingredient in so many brands of cat food, why should we be worried about it at all?

The reality is that cats, like people, can develop allergies to certain proteins. One of the most common feline food allergies is…

You guessed it, chicken!

While you should always turn to your veterinarian to diagnose any kind of food allergies in your cat, changing your cat’s diet may still be worthwhile for a variety of other reasons besides allergies.

Q: What Chicken Alternatives Are Available? 

You might think that you’re only looking at a few alternative protein options for avoiding cat food with chicken in it.

But there’s a surprisingly large variety of products that feature unique sources of animal protein.

  • Pork
  • Duck
  • Pheasant
  • Bison
  • Venison
  • Tuna
  • Arctic Char
  • Salmon
  • Turkey
  • And more

Final Thoughts

That’s it! You’ve got our top picks for cat food without chicken and hopefully, you’ve learned what to look for too!

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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