9 Best Tasting Cat Foods for Picky Eaters


best cat food for picky eaters

While some cats can seem like little garbage disposals, others are downright picky when it comes to eating. When you consider just how much effort goes into making cat food delicious for our feline friends, it can honestly be a little surprising that they’d refuse at all!

If you’ve spent any significant time reading cat reviews like have, you’ve noticed that the number one complaint is that cats simply refused to eat the food. It doesn’t seem to matter how expensive, how cheap, or how many quality ingredients are in a particular food- there’s always going to be a fussy cat that doesn’t want to eat it!

But is this really so unusual?

After all, we humans have our own distinct preferences, and what could be considered a delicacy to some would be plain gross for others! Our cats aren’t that much different but the big problem is that they can’t tell us why they’re not interested in a particular food.

That means it’s up to us to figure it out and we’ll be looking at a variety of foods that are likely to work for picky eaters. We’ll be checking out different tastes, smells, and textures to find foods that will interest almost any feline friend.

If you want to skip ahead and see what made the list, you can check out our favorites here:

Best Tasting Wet Foods for Picky Eaters: 

  1. Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry
  2. Premium Pick: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau
  3. Best on a Budget: Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Flavor
  4. Budget Alternative: Weruva Classic Recipes
  5. Best Limited Ingredient Option: Instinct LID

Best Tasting Dry Foods for Finicky Cats: 

  1. Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused
  2. Premium Pick: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore
  3. Best on a Budget: American Journey Dry Cat Food
  4. Best Limited Ingredient Diet: Blue Buffalo LID

But before we review each of these foods, let’s get a deeper understanding of why some cats are picky and what went into the foods we’ve selected.

Why Are Cats Picky Eaters?

Well, the first thing to ask is…picky compared to what?

Even though there are plenty of picky humans, we’re usually comparing our cats to other pets and most often dogs.

But there’s a big difference between the natural diet of dogs and cats. Cats are obligate carnivores which means they require meat in order to survive.  As a result, their diet in the wild is almost exclusively meat and doesn’t change that much.

Dogs, on the other hand, are hunters, scavengers, and omnivores. In the wild (and in the home) dogs are willing to eat a variety of foods depending on what’s available…or what’s in the trash.

Live Science explains that our cats aren’t avoiding foods outside of their normal routine just to be picky. Instead, they’re really just being practical. Cats have a sensitive digestive system that’s hyper-adapted to eating meat and trying new food could cause an upset stomach or illness. Even if that new food is just a different kind of prey.

While an upset stomach isn’t a big deal for our domesticated cats, it could prove deadly in the wild where cats walk the line between both predator and prey.

This instinct to avoid unfamiliar foods is alive and well in our cats today and scientists refer to this as neophobia.

While it can be easy to assume our cats are being dramatic or that the latest cat food is actually terrible, it may actually be our feline’s wild instincts driving them to avoid that fancy food you just bought!

When Should You Worry About Picky Eaters?

But we also don’t want to assume that our cat’s pickiness is just a cat being a cat and overlook a potential problem.

Refusal to eat can be a sign of a more significant underlying condition. According to Cornell Veterinary School, “A sustained loss of appetite (anorexia) is a clinical sign of many diverse feline health problems, ranging from diabetes, kidney disease, hepatic lipidosis, hyperthyroidism, and pancreatitis to conjunctivitis, asthma, and a fever.

In other words, it can be a very big deal.

So I want to make a clear distinction between a cat that has suddenly stopped eating anything and a cat that’s fussy, finicky, or picky. If your cat has stopped eating anything, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Not only because it could be a sign of something more significant but cats that don’t eat for even three to four days can begin to suffer from hepatic lipidosis which is a dangerous liver disease.

On the other hand,  if you’re trying to change your cat’s food to something more nutritious or just mix things up for your picky feline, then you’re in the right place!

What To Look For In Tasty Cat Food For Picky Eaters?

It’s important to have some idea of what makes good food tasty and appealing to cats so we have a better chance of pleasing picky eaters. These factors were also important parts in decided which foods to include on this list and which ones to skip.

Smell

In the veterinary world, when a cat refuses food one of the first options for encouraging them to eat is by introducing “stinky food.” That’s any food with a strong odor to it and it works really well.

That means we want to find foods with a strong smell to entice our cats and it’s an important part of our review criteria. But even if a food isn’t naturally stinky, we can throw it into the microwave for a few seconds to really ramp up the smell.

But why is smell so important to cats?

Cats have a more powerful sense of smell than taste. For comparison, humans have more than 9,000 taste buds which give us the power to experience a wide range of tastes while cats have only a few hundred.

Smelly food will play to your cat’s more powerful sense and is more likely to keep them interested! Or as Paws Chicago explains, “[cats] most powerful response to food is through smell, not taste.”

Texture

You may find that your fussy cat prefers a certain texture or in some cases even a particular preparation on your part. Most wet food comes in a pâté-style, chunks in gravy or in some cases more a soupy consistency with chunks of ingredients.

Some cats like to lick the gravy or juice off their wet food rather than actually eating it. While that may help some picky cats start eating, it’s difficult to make a strong argument for one type of texture over another. Instead, we’ll be looking at a variety of texture options that you can try.

Protein Source

The majority of cat foods focus on one or two types of protein as the main ingredient. While the most popular ones are usually fish or chicken flavored, some picky eaters may prefer novel protein sources like duck, rabbit, beef, lamb, or something else.

I’ve already written about the best cat foods without chicken, but in this article, we’ll be looking at a variety of novel protein sources and specifically trying to find a few brands with several options.

The new protein source may not only smell more interesting but as committed carnivores, your cat will likely appreciate the difference in taste as well.

Fat Content

Fat is a rare ingredient in the wild and as a result, it’s particularly appealing to predators like your little feline friend. High-fat content alone isn’t a surefire way to get a picky cat to eat, but it can help pique the interest of our feline friends and improve the overall taste.

Foods with a higher fat content from quality sources are not only better aligned with your cat’s natural diet, but they can also help keep your cat’s coat healthy. We took a close look at several high-fat cat foods to manage shedding in another article but this list will include some high-fat options as well.

Healthy and Nutritious

This one should go without saying but just because our cat is a picky eater doesn’t mean we should be feeding them the equivalent of cheeseburgers and ice cream every day. We also don’t want to make the mistake of encouraging our cat to prefer lower quality foods.

While we may be willing to make some compromises to get our picky eaters to chow down, the foods on this list are made from quality ingredients.

Don’t Forget About Temperature

Finally, there’s the temperature of the food. While this isn’t going to impact the foods that we select for this list (since it’s up to you to microwave them) it’s still an important factor to consider.

As hunters, cats would prefer food to be body temperature and would certainly not make a habit of eating cold food. While you can store wet food in the fridge between feedings, if you’ve got a picky eater it’s a good idea to give it a quick zap in the microwave.

Just make sure it’s not too hot!

Dry or Wet Food For Fussy Eaters?

One of the most common questions in the world of feline nutrition is whether wet food or dry food is a better option for cats.

In most cases, you’ll find the strongest arguments on the side of wet food with cat parents and veterinarians citing the benefits of increased moisture, less processing required, and decreased carbohydrate content. But the answer isn’t always so clear and you can make strong arguments for either type of food.

It’s important to consider the benefits of each and what your cat truly needs. For example, if your cat doesn’t drink much water (which is extremely common) then that may tip the scale for wet food.

But in the case of picky eaters, we’ve got another thing to consider and that’s which food type our fussy felines will actually eat! Most folks find that cats prefer the taste of wet food but I’ve had several cats that simply preferred dry- no matter how smelly the wet food was!

The debate between wet and dry food deserves its own article but if you’re interested in learning more, you can check out this article by Dr. Brennen McKenzie that breaks down the differences between the two.

The main takeaway here is that we need our cats to eat and whether that’s dry or wet food, either can work for our picky cats!

Best Tasting Wet Food for Picky Cats

Now that we’ve got a good idea of what we’re looking for, let’s look at our favorite picks starting with wet foods.

Best for Overall: Merrick Backcountry

Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Real Meat Wet Cat Food Duck (24) 3oz pouches
518 Reviews
Merrick Backcountry Grain Free Real Meat Wet Cat Food Duck (24) 3oz pouches
  • #1 Ingredient Is Real Deboned Duck
  • Grain-Free Nutrition With No Gluten Ingredients For Easier Digestibility

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Merrick’s Backcountry line of wet cat food comes in a wide range of flavors including rabbit, duck, beef, and whitefish. These unique flavors, along with the strong-smelling and thick gravy make this a great option for fussy felines. 

Merrick Backcountry has 7 different flavors to choose from and many of them will be new to your cat. I suggest starting with the rabbit option which seems to be the most popular among picky cats but anything outside the standard cat food flavors is also worth trying.

This wet cat food comes in individual pouches which are packed with plenty of stinky gravy. Remember, your cat’s sense of smell is more powerful than their sense of taste and that extra “stink” can really motivate a fussy cat to dig in.

Merrick Backcountry is also reasonably budget-friendly which makes it easy to try a few flavors. There’s a variety pack option but at the time of writing, it was all based around poultry so I’d skip that and make your own mix.

When it comes to ingredients, Merrick Backcountry isn’t perfect but the first 6 ingredients are all animal-based which is a huge plus that sets it far ahead of many cat food brands. As I’ve already mentioned, when it comes to picky cats sometimes we have to find a balance between nutritional quality and actually getting our cats to eat the food. I think this food does a great job of walking that line.

You can check out reviews from other picky cat parents, along with checking out the latest price on Amazon, by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s dive into the first 5 ingredients in the rabbit recipe to see what makes this food our best overall pick.

1. Deboned Rabbit

We always want to see an animal-based protein as the first ingredient and not only is rabbit a good source of protein it’s also a relatively unique one. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officers, when meat is listed on a pet food label it describes “primarily the muscle tissue of the animal, but may include the fat, gristle and other tissues normally accompanying the muscle, similar to what you might see in a portion of raw meat sold for human consumption.”

That makes this a great start to this recipe.

2. Lamb Broth

We should always expect to see broth or water added to wet food recipes and so this is no surprise. However, the addition of lamb broth, instead of rabbit or chicken broth, is a bit unexpected but certainly welcome since it adds to the uniqueness of the flavor and smell profile.

3. Beef Broth

While I’d rather see another animal-based meat source, the addition of another broth helps keep this recipe juicy, stinky and easy on the budget. I also like that we’re seeing another somewhat novel protein source as the base for the broth.

4. Beef Liver

Some folks might be a little hesitant when they see a liver product, or any other organ meat added to a list of ingredients. Even though organs are typically thought of as “by-products” they do have a place in a healthy diet.

After all, in the wild, your cat certainly wouldn’t turn their nose at the liver of the fresh game they just caught. Instead, they’d eat it just like they would any other part!

Liver is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that cats need. But there’s also a potential benefit for picky cats as well! Veterinarian Jennifer Coates explains that “many predators show a preference for these parts of the body over skeletal muscle, probably due to the fact that they are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.”

That means that not only is liver a viable ingredient, when kept in moderation, but some cats may actually prefer the taste which can help our finicky eaters. Adding ingredients like this can also help keep costs down which is exactly what we want to see in a budget option.

5. Deboned Lamb

I’m happy to see another meat-based product on this list and even better it’s another unique protein source that you don’t see in every cat food. That means we can catch our picky eaters off guard with lamb, beef, and rabbit!

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the rabbit recipe:

Deboned Rabbit, Lamb Broth, Beef Broth, Beef Liver, Deboned Lamb, Dried Egg Whites, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Sodium Carbonate, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Inulin, Rosemary Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 47.3% Protein
  • 15.7% Fat
  • 6.3% Fiber

Premium Pick: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau

Tiki Cat Luau Grain-Free, Low-Carbohydrate Wet Food with Poultry or Fish in Consomme for Adult Cats...
2,093 Reviews
Tiki Cat Luau Grain-Free, Low-Carbohydrate Wet Food with Poultry or Fish in Consomme for Adult Cats...
  • GRAIN FREE NUTRITION – Cats are carnivores, so give your cat the meat and seafood she craves with each...
  • HIGH MOISTURE CANNED FOOD – Count on the high moisture content of each can of Luau to give your cat the...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Made from a short list of simple ingredients, Tiki Cat’s Puka Puka Luau offers cats a diet that’s closely aligned with you cat’s carnivorous roots. This canned food also has a unique texture picky eaters may find interesting. 

Our best overall pick is serious cat food with a silly name! Tiki Cat’s Puka Puka Luau is one of my favorite cat foods on the market and with its quality ingredients and unique processing it makes a great starting point for picky cats. There are several chicken and fish-flavored options to pick from but the food does lack a little variety in terms of novel proteins.

Still, one look at this food and you’ll notice that it actually looks just like a can of shredded chicken you’d pick up for human consumption. You can even see the founder of Tiki Cat taking a chomp of her cat food in this video, so you know she’s serious about her brand!

But what makes this good for picky cats?

The Puka Puka Luau flavor is a stripped-down cat food that sticks to the basics. That means it’s a great option for picky cats that might not like a particular ingredient.

For starters, you won’t find any kind of thickening agent that you’d typically see in wet food. That means no guar gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, montmorillonite clay, or anything else. With the exception of carrageenan, those are acceptable thickening agents but it can also be worthwhile to leave them behind and stick with something simple.

But without the thickening agents, this food isn’t a pâté nor is it your traditional chunks in gravy. Instead, it’s pretty much just shredded chicken in chicken broth. Not only is this closer to what your cat would have eaten in the wild, but it also gives this food a unique texture when compared to other brands.

Overall, Tiki Cat’s Puka Puka Luau is a high-quality cat food that makes a great premium option for picky cats due to its simple formula and unique texture. While you find anything too exotic in terms of flavors, there several fish options to pick from and of course chicken.

You can read more reviews, see all the flavors and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredients Analysis

We’ll take a closer look at the chicken flavor to get a better idea of what’s inside this recipe. If you want an even more in-depth analysis of not only the ingredients found in this recipe but also the entire brand, make sure to check out our full review of Tiki Cat.

1. Chicken

If you take one look at an open can of this food (you can see a picture here on Amazon), you’ll know right away that chicken is the first ingredient. Again, the food looks like a can of shredded chicken but has the benefit of being nutritionally balanced for our cats.

2. Chicken Broth

We’ll see a broth of some kind in almost any wet or canned food. I like that the type of broth matches the main protein and the simple single flavor could be good for picky cats.

3. Sunflower Seed Oil

Even though sunflower seed oil doesn’t have the same nutritional benefits that we see in something like fish oil, it’s still an acceptable source of healthy fats for your cat. Fat adds flavor and while I’d like to see an animal-based oil here, it’s still a good addition.

4. Tricalcium Phosphate

Tricalcium phosphate is an anti-caking agent that also helps balance the overall pH of your cat’s food.

5. Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid and an absolute requirement for your cat.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the chicken recipe:

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Sunflower Seed Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Calcium Iodate, Calcium Pantothenate, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin K3 Supplement.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 80% Protein
  • 13% Fat
  • 0% Fiber

Best on a Budget: Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Flavor

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Recipe with Salmon and Roasted Venison in Gravy Wet...
709 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Recipe with Salmon and Roasted Venison in Gravy Wet...
  • A Taste Of The Wild With Roasted Venison; Real Salmon Is #1 Ingredient In A Stew; Optimal Amino Acid...
  • Premium Ingredients With Added Vitamins & Minerals; Fruits And Vegetables As Superfoods For Hard-Working...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Taste of the Wild cat food offers a quality list of animal-based ingredients without breaking the bank. The first 6 ingredients are all sourced from animals which many carnivore kitties will love. 

Taste of the Wild shows up on several lists of our best cat foods and for good reason. Taste of the Wild does a great job at staying budget-friendly without making any major compromises in terms of ingredient quality.

The biggest compromise we usually see is the addition of non-animal products into the top lists of ingredients. Animal products are going to be more expensive than something like corn, peas, or potatoes and while Taste of the Wild does include potato starch it’s not until ingredient 7. Everything before that is all sources from animals which is exactly what our meat-eating cats need.

The only downside for picky eaters here is the inclusion of chicken. While the Rocky Mountain flavor is described as Salmon & Roasted Venison, chicken is still a prominent addition and makes up three of the first six ingredients. If you already know that your picky eater won’t go for chicken, then this might be a deal-breaker and you can check out our budget alternative for more options.

But it seems that the combination of fish and salmon is a winning combination for many cats. You can read more reviews from other picky cat parents and check out today’s price by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s dive into the Rocky Mountain recipe by analyzing and reviewing the first 5 ingredients. If you’d like to learn more about Taste of the Wild, including all their cat foods, you can check out our complete review of the brand.

1. Salmon

We always want to see an animal-based protein as the first ingredient and salmon is a good option. Not only do most cats like the taste of fish, but it’s also a good source of quality fatty acids.

2. Fish Broth

We should always expect to see broth or water in wet foods. Broth is typically the better option, compared to water, not only for the nutritional value but also taste which is important for our fussy cats. Even though the next several ingredients are chicken-based, I like seeing several fish ingredients to give the recipe some flavor and variety.

3. Chicken Broth

While having two types of broth in one diet certainly isn’t ideal, it’s one of the ways that Taste of the Wild is able to stay budget-friendly. The good thing here is that the chicken broth can add some additional flavor.

4. Chicken Liver

Chicken liver is an ingredient that can certainly raise some eyebrows since it can immediately get categorized as a by-product along with all the negative associations that go with it.

However, organ meat is not only nutritious but according to Dr. Jennifer Coates, many predators seem to prefer it over muscle meat. So even though a diet of entirely organ meats would come with its own problems, it may be a good addition when it comes to improving taste and smell for fussy cats.

5. Chicken

Many cat food companies put their best ingredients in the first spot and fill the rest up with lower quality options.

That’s why I love seeing chicken as the 5th ingredient in this recipe since it shows me that Taste of the Wild isn’t just pushing their lower quality ingredients under the rug.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Rocky Mountain recipe:

Salmon, Fish Broth, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chicken, Dried Egg Whites, Potato Starch, Pea Flour, Smoked Salmon, Roasted Venison, Peas, Ocean Fish, Guar Gum, Natural Flavor, Sunflower Oil, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Inulin, Tomatoes, Blueberries, Raspberries, Taurine, Dl-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 44.4% Protein
  • 16.6% Fat
  • 8.3% Fiber

Budget Alternative: Weruva Classic

Weruva Classic Cat Food, Mideast Feast With Grilled Tilapia & Whole Meat Tuna In Gravy, 3Oz Can...
2,502 Reviews
Weruva Classic Cat Food, Mideast Feast With Grilled Tilapia & Whole Meat Tuna In Gravy, 3Oz Can...
  • Mideast Feast (3oz cans, pack of 24) Featuring chunks of hand-flaked off the bone Tilapia, in gravy. Our...
  • Weruva Classic Cat Food - The original lineup of our timeless, natural recipes inspired by the rescue...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: The Weruva Classic line features more than a dozen flavors and many of them you can’t find anywhere else. They have some very interesting seafood ingredients that even picky cats will find tempting. The texture is chunky which some fussy cats will love (but of course others won’t). All at a very budget-friendly price. 

Weruva has some of the most unique flavors you’ll find in any cat food featuring ingredients like squid, shrimp, mussels, trevally, and more. This uniqueness is what makes it a good option for picky cats. Some fussy felines may find that they simply can’t resist the taste and smell of some shrimp and trevally!

Wervua does a great job staying budget-friendly but as always there’s going to be a compromise and we find a bit more broths and sunflower-based products in these recipes as compared to other diets on our list. Still, that doesn’t make this a bad option and it’s all about finding balance.

It’s also important to note that there’s some variety between recipes. For example, Grandma’s Chicken Soup is one of my least favorite since it starts off with broth and includes pumpkin, peas, and carrots all within the first 5 ingredients.

On the other hand, the Marbella Paella recipe, which we’ll review below, has animal-based protein sources as 4 out of the first 5 ingredients including several strong-smelling creatures from the sea.

If your priority is pleasing a picky eater, then Weruva can make a great option. They’ve also got several variety packs based around a certain theme like seafood. These packs can be a great place to start.

You can see all the unique flavors along with today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

Analysis of the First 5 Ingredients

To get a better idea of what’s inside Weruva, let’s take a closer look at the Marbella Paella recipe. What I love about this recipe is that it’s an interesting mix of seafood flavors without any qualifiers.

1. Mackerel Flakes

Mackerel flakes are a great first ingredient and while you might find these offered individually I’ve never seen them as a prominent ingredient in cat food. Mackerel is not only a great source of protein but also a tasty source of fat, too. Flakes are the flesh of the fish shaved into fine flakes and you can see chunks of it inside the food.

2. Water Sufficient for Processing

While I’d much prefer to see an animal-based broth, water isn’t the worst ingredient we could find. Despite its potential for diluting the overall taste of the food, with several other animal-based ingredients to follow, this recipe should still be plenty stinky (in a good way) for your fussy cat.

3. Calamari 

Calamari is squid and one of several ingredients within the first five that you’re not going to see in almost any other cat food. Calamari is rich in protein and adds an enticing seafood smell to this diet.

4. Shrimp

Shrimp is another high-protein ingredient that has several other nutritional benefits. Like many items on this list, it also adds to overall “scent appeal” of this diet.

5. Mussel

Another great protein source, mussels also contain plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids to keep your cat’s coat looking great. And hopefully keep their belly full, too!

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Marbella Paella recipe:

Mackerel Flakes, Water Sufficient For Processing, Calamari, Shrimp, Mussel, Sunflower Seed Oil, Locust Bean, Carrageenan, Dicalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K), Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 85% Protein
  • 11.4% Fat
  • 3.5% Fiber

 

Best Limited Ingredient Option: Instinct LID

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Real Turkey Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by...
700 Reviews
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Real Turkey Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by...
  • GRAIN FREE CAT FOOD FOR CATS WITH SENSITIVITIES: Instinct Limited Ingredient cat food is made with 1...
  • NATURAL CAT FOOD WITH CAGE FREE TURKEY: Crafted for cats with food allergy, our Limited Ingredient Diet...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Limited ingredient diets limit the protein down to only one animal source. While this is typically used for cats that have food allergies, it can also be great for picky cats that dislike a specific ingredient. Instinct has three flavors, including rabbit, that make great options for picky cats. 

Limited ingredient diets are ones where there’s only one protein source. Despite the name, it doesn’t mean that they have fewer overall ingredients or really anything else- just that there’s simply one protein source per recipe.

Not only can diets like this be a great way to please picky cats, but they can also help you understand what your cat actually likes. The protein source is always the most prominent ingredient and if your cat eats the limited ingredient rabbit diet there’s a good chance they like rabbit since there aren’t other animal-based protein sources in the diet.

While creating a cat buffet like this can quickly become expensive it may be the best option for learning more about your picky eater.

Many limited ingredient diets also avoid chicken and Instinct is no different. You can choose between rabbit, salmon, and turkey. Even though that’s not a huge range of flavors, they’re unique enough that they’ve got a good chance of getting fussy eaters interested.

You can check out more reviews and see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

We’re going to take a closer look at the first 5 ingredients in the turkey recipe but I do want to call attention to ingredient number 6 which is montmorillonite clay. This ingredient can spark some debate but it’s primarily used as an anti-caking agent and regarded as safe for cats. You can read more about a veterinarian’s opinion on montmorillonite clay in cat food here.

1. Turkey

We always want to see a quality animal protein as the first ingredient and it’s no different for a limited ingredient diet. Turkey is a great option and based on AAFCO definitions, we can expect turkey, as it’s listed here, to be a similar quality to what you might find at the store but with some of the less appealing cuts mixed in too.

2. Turkey Broth

Broth is a part of any wet food diet and because this is a limited ingredient diet the broth is sourced from the main animal-based protein.

3. Turkey Liver

While liver gets dropped into the by-product category, we’ve already talked about how organ meats can actually be a great addition, in moderation, to your cat’s diet. Not only would your cat’s wild ancestors happily chow down on the liver, but in some cases, predators prefer organs like the liver. That means there’s a chance ingredients like this could be more appealing to your fussy feline.

4. Peas

Peas aren’t something your cat would typically eat in the wild but it’s far from the worst ingredient. Peas have a relatively low glycemic index, which measures a food’s impact on blood sugar, and even contain a little protein. I’m also happy to see it a little further down the list in position four instead of within the top three.

5. Pea Protein

While animal-based protein sources are always preferred, studies support the idea that plant proteins are still highly digestible by cats. Because this is a limited ingredient diet, we’re also limited in the additional proteins we can add without increasing the overall cost too much.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the turkey recipe:

Turkey, Turkey Broth, Turkey Liver, Peas, Pea Protein, Montmorillonite Clay, Potassium Chloride, Minerals (Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Salt, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 47.9% Protein
  • 29.9% Fat
  • 8.3% Fiber

Best Tasting Dry Foods for Fussy Cats

With the wet food diets out of the way, let’s take a look at our favorite dry foods for picky cats.

Best Overall: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Pacific Catch Recipe Grain Free Dry Cat Food
512 Reviews
Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Pacific Catch Recipe Grain Free Dry Cat Food
  • #1 Ingredient Is Real Deboned Salmon
  • Freeze-Dried Real Raw Fish Pieces To Lock In Fresh Taste

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Merrick’s Backcountry dry cat food mixes traditional kibble with freeze-dried chunks of meat or fish. Not only does this enhance the smell of the overall food, but it can also improve the taste. It also helps add some variety to the traditional texture of dry kibble. 

We saw Merrick’s Backcountry line take the best overall spot for wet food and it’s no different when it comes to dry kibble. But this isn’t exactly your standard kibble- instead, it’s “raw infused”.

That means there are small bites of fresh dried fish or poultry that are designed to enhance taste, texture, and smell.  Freeze-dried cat food is becoming more popular and while Merrick isn’t the only one mixing it in with dry kibble they’re doing it with a great balance of quality and budget-friendliness.

While there are some less than ideal ingredients, like potatoes and peas, three out of the first five ingredients are sourced from animals and the freeze-dried ingredients make up for some of the downsides.

You can read reviews from other parents of picky cats and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at the first five ingredients for the Pacific Catch recipe. While we will see the addition of non-grain carbohydrates like potatoes and peas, this a lot more typical in dry foods which have a different manufacturing process.

1. Deboned Salmon

Just as we’d expect in a Pacific Catch recipe, we see salmon as the first ingredient. Salmon is a great source of quality protein, fatty acids, and stinky fish flavors that many cats love.

2. Salmon Meal 

The AAFCO explains that meal is the meat of the specific animal treated with heat and then ground into a powder. This is a common ingredient in dry foods and while it does put the meat through more processing, it’s still a high-protein ingredient.

3. Whitefish Meal

Just as above, this is the ground meal from whitefish.

4. Potatoes

Potatoes aren’t my favorite ingredient and they’re certainly not something your cat would have eaten in the wild. But they are a way to keep the overall cost of this product down.

5. Peas

Peas are another imperfect ingredient but with a relatively low glycemic index and some protein, they’re not the worst option. Again, because of the way dry foods are manufactured, we’ll see more of these types of ingredients included.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Pacific Catch recipe:

Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal (Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids), Whitefish Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Natural Flavor, Potato Protein, Sweet Potatoes, Pork Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Whitefish, Trout, Dried Yeast Culture, Salt, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Phosphoric Acid, Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 46% Protein
  • 15.7% Fat
  • 4.4% Fiber

 

Premium Pick: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore

TIKI PETS Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring Grain Free Dry Food Gluten Free, 5.6 lbs....
479 Reviews
TIKI PETS Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring Grain Free Dry Food Gluten Free, 5.6 lbs....
  • HIGH PROTEIN - 47 percent protein guaranteed, nutrition that mimics cats natural prey diets. Because cats...
  • BAKED DRY CAT FOOD - baked to preserve nutrients and enhance flavor, no animal by-products, no corn, no...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Tiki Cat’s Born Carnivore line focuses on what cats really need in their diet: meat! With high protein and plenty of animal-sourced ingredients, this recipe does a great job lining up with your cat’s carnivore nature. This dry food is also baked which gives the kibble a softer texture (compared to other kibbles) and can improve overall taste. 

When it comes to dry cat food, it’s almost impossible to avoid carbohydrates. Grains, starches, and similar ingredients are part of the manufacturing process and usually required to create the traditional kibble shape and texture.

But the folks at Tiki Cat are doing their best to produce a low-carb dry food with their Born Carnivore line. This diet focuses on quality animal-based proteins for your little meat-eater and the first 6 ingredients in the Chicken and Salmon recipe are all sourced from animals.

Each recipe in the Born Carnivore line is also baked which gives the kibble a slightly different texture that some cats may find interesting. But more importantly, it avoids the traditional extrusion process that most dry cat food is put through. The extrusion process requires extremely high heat which can degrade and damage raw meat ingredients. It also removes the majority of the moisture which can not only impact taste but also texture.

Baked kibble doesn’t have to go through the same intense heat which means the ingredients may taste and smell better to some cats. Overall, the Born Carnivore line of foods are nutritious, contain high-quality ingredients, and a somewhat unique take on the traditional dry food that may entice even the pickiest eaters.

You can read more reviews from picky cat parents and see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at the Born Carnivore line by reviewing the first five ingredients in the Chicken, Herring, and Salmon meal! Before we dive in I do want to mention ingredient 7 which is tapioca (also known as tapioca starch). This is a carbohydrate but it’s also far down the list- which is a good thing. You can read more about tapioca in cat food in this article.

I also want to point out that while they do bake the food, some of the individual ingredients are still treated with high heat as part of the rendering process.

1. Deboned Chicken

As we’d expect from a diet with carnivore in the name, the first ingredient is an animal-based protein source. As we’ve already seen from AAFCO definitions, chicken in this form is close to what we’d see in the grocery but with a few of the less desirable cuts thrown in.

2. Chicken Meal

This is the ground-up meat of chicken after it’s been treated with high heat. The heat removes both moisture and fat so the meal is typically a very high protein ingredient.

3. Herring

Herring is a popular fish but not so common in the world of cat food. It’s a good source of protein and fats. I’m also happy to see it showing up as plain meat and not a meal.

4. Salmon Meal

Similar to the chicken meal above, this is salmon that’s been ground up into a meal.

5. Herring Meal

We see more meal but this time in the form of herring.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Chicken, Herring, and Salmon recipe:

Deboned chicken, chicken meal, herring, salmon meal, herring meal, dried egg product, peas, tapioca, natural chicken flavor, brewers dried yeast, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), chickpeas, ground whole flaxseed, tomato pomace, calcium sulfate, inulin (prebiotic), vitamin E supplement, pumpkin, salmon oil, taurine, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, niacin supplement (vitamin B3), copper sulfate, vitamin A supplement, manganese sulfate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), biotin, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, calcium iodate, folic acid, sodium selenite, rosemary extract, ascorbic acid (preservative), citric acid, tannic acid

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 47.7% Protein
  • 21% Fat
  • 3.8% Fiber

Best on a Budget: American Journey Dry Cat Food

american journey cat food review

Buy on Chewy

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Quality ingredients, budget-friendly pricing, and awesome reviews make this is a good choice for picky cats. Four of the first five ingredients are sourced from animals which means this food should taste great to your carnivore cat. 

American Journey is a great all-around option. While it doesn’t have any fancy freeze-dried infused bits or a unique take on the manufacturing process, it’s an excellent dry food at a very tough-to-beat price.

In the salmon recipe, four of the first five ingredients are all sourced from animals which is a plus not only for the nutritional value of this diet but can also improve the overall taste as it’s in line with your carnivorous kitty’s preferences. There are also more than 651 five-star reviews backing up just the salmon flavor!

You can only get American Journey on Chewy but if you’re a new customer, you can grab a 30% off deal on your first order which makes this fussy-cat-friendly food even more affordable. You can click here to read reviews and learn more about the 30% off deal.

First 5 Ingredients Analysis

Let’s dive into the first 5 ingredients of the salmon flavor to get a better idea of what’s inside this dry cat food.

1. Deboned Salmon

We always want to see muscle meat as our first ingredient whenever possible but the fact that we’re able to get this with our budget option is even better.

2. Salmon Meal

As we’ve seen with other meals, this is salmon after it’s been treated with heat and ground up into a meal. It’s a lower-fat but very high protein ingredient.

3. Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch is a carbohydrate, but still not a grain which is why this diet is still considered grain-free. Tapioca starch, and similar products, are needed for the manufacturing process and generally considered an acceptable ingredient in cat food.

4. Menhaden Fish Meal

This is the same type of ingredient as the salmon meal but in this case, it’s made from the Menhaden fish. Another good source of protein for this recipe.

5. Dried Egg Product

Eggs are more common in dry food and while they sometimes have a bad reputation, they’re not a bad addition and one of the most bioavailable forms of protein you can find.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the salmon recipe:

Deboned Salmon, Salmon Meal, Tapioca Starch, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Egg Product, Pea Protein, Peas, Natural Flavor, Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Pea Fiber, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Inulin, Taurine, DL- Methionine, Salt, Spinach, Apples, Blueberries, Carrots, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, L-Carnitine, Manganese Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Rosemary Extract, Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 44.4% Protein
  • 16.6% Fat
  • 4.4% Fiber

Best Limited Ingredient Diet: Blue Buffalo

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free, Natural Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food, Fish &...
1,872 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...

Why It’s Good For Picky Cats: Limited ingredient diets like this one limit the animal protein down to only one source. Even though these types of diets are usually used in the case of food allergies, they also make great options for picky eaters as it allows you to really focus in on a specific flavor that your feline likes. 

Remember, just because it’s a limited ingredient diet doesn’t mean it has fewer ingredients overall or that it’s inherently healthier.

But it does mean that if your cat eats the duck flavor for example, that there’s a good chance they like duck! Now you’re one step closer to figuring out how to satisfy your fussy feline.

I went with Blue Buffalo because it offers some more unique flavors like duck and is backed by more than 1,400 five-star reviews at the time of writing.

You can read some of those reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s get a better idea of what’s inside the duck recipe by reviewing the first five ingredients.

1. Deboned Duck

The first ingredient should always be an animal-based protein and it’s no different here. Duck is a great protein source that can add some variety to interest fussy cats.

2. Duck Meal

Duck meal is made by treating duck meat to high heat and then grinding it up into a meal. It’s low fat, but also high protein.

3. Pea Protein

Pea protein isn’t the best option, and I’d always want to see an animal-based ingredient, but studies suggest that pea protein is still highly digestible by cats.

4. Tapioca Starch

We’ve seen tapioca starch show up on a few recipes on this list. It’s primarily used in the manufacturing process but does add some carbohydrate content to this diet.

5. Peas

Peas are my least favorite ingredient on this list and while your cat wouldn’t naturally eat peas they’re still relatively low impact and luckily they’re in position 5 instead of further up the list.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the duck recipe:

Deboned Duck, Duck Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Peas, Canola Oil (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Potatoes, Fish Oil (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Calcium Carbonate, Salt, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Potassium Chloride, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Potato Starch, Taurine, Caramel, Alfalfa Meal, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (a natural preservative), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Parsley, Kelp, Blueberries, Cranberries, Barley Grass, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Turmeric, Ferrous Sulfate, Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Oil of Rosemary, L-Carnitine, L-Lysine, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Sulfate, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Calcium Iodate, Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 33% Protein
  • 15.4% Fat
  • 6.5% Fiber

Can I Add Something To Make My Cat’s Food Taste Better?

Yes, you can but you wouldn’t want to make it a long-term solution. Techniques like adding a meal topper or mixing in some tuna water can certainly encourage a fussy feline to eat but over time your cat may start to expect these kinds of additions to their food.

Careful when you shop around for meal toppers since some of them are pretty much the feline equivalent of adding icing or sprinkles to your cat’s food. Sure, it might make them eat the food but at what long-term cost?

There are also plenty of nutritious options that will not only improve the taste of the food but also increase the amount of water your cat is consuming which is especially useful in the case of dry foods.

We’ve covered many of these options extensively in our article about what cats can safely drink besides their normal water but one of my favorite additions is bone broth. Bone broth has a ton of benefits for cats which you can read about here. Even though you can make your own bone broth, I usually recommend that people pick up some ready-to-go options off Amazon and you can see my favorite one here.

Is Your Cat A Social Eater?

There are plenty of picky eaters out there, but many cats are also what you’d call social eaters. When I worked at one of the largest shelters in the US, we’d have volunteers whose job was to walk around and pet the cats to encourage them to eat.

But a cat doesn’t have to be in a shelter to be a social eater and a few pets can often make a cat want to chow down. For some cats, you can even see the switch flip where they suddenly decide “Hey, I’d like to eat now!”

Check out this video of a handsome feline getting some pets and then “flipping the switch” for mealtime:

This is similar to cats that like to have someone watch them while they eat and some felines just need a little encouragement at mealtime. So consider sitting with your picky eater, especially when introducing new food and giving them some extra attention.

How to Transition Your Picky Eater to a New Food

Many picky eaters may not actually be picky and instead, it could be an issue in how they were introduced to the new food.

The best practice for introducing your cat to a new food is to actually offer a mix of both. Over time, you increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of the old food until you’ve completely transitioned to the new food.

Not only is this important for keeping your cat’s GI tract happy but it also helps balance the neophobia, or the fear of new foods, that we talked about at the start of the article.

So if you’re cat is already a picky or fussy eater, it’s a tall order to try and get them to completely adopt a new food with no transition period.

Other Factors To Consider

At this point, we’ve covered everything you need to know when it comes to selecting the right food but what if there was another reason why your cat is picky about their food?

Let’s briefly look at a few other factors to consider when dealing with a fussy feline.

Location

We’ve talked a lot about the best location for the water bowl in other articles, but the food bowl is just as important.

Your cat should have the chance to eat without having to worry about being surprised by a human or another pet. That means placing the food bowl in the corner probably isn’t the best option.

Instead, give your cat a chance to see what’s going on around them while they chow down. Remember, your cat is not only a predator but also small enough that she would have been prey for some larger animals and those instincts are still alive and well today.

Whisker Fatigue

While it might sound a little far-fetched, your cat’s powerful whiskers can become agitated if they’re constantly rubbing against the inside of a food bowl. Instead of being picky, a cat may actually be experiencing this uncomfortable condition.

You can try feeding your cat in shallow bowls to reduce the contact with the whiskers and we’ve got a list of our favorite options here.

Closing Thoughts

That’s everything you need to know about finding the perfect (and best tasting) food for your picky feline friend!

What do you think?

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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