Chicken is probably the most popular ingredient in modern cat food, and almost all other meat ingredients pale in comparison to its popularity. From the bare-bones grocery store brand to the ultra-premium freeze-dried ranges, formulas that utilize Chicken are almost always available.
Sadly for many cats and cat owners, Chicken is also one of the most widespread causes of allergic reactions or intolerances in cat food. These allergic reactions or intolerances can cause a variety of symptoms to cats, such as vomiting, diarrhea, bloat, and sometimes worse.
Finding high-quality, nutritious cat foods that do not contain Chicken can be a significant challenge, with many cat owners finding themselves stuck, unable to make a decision.
Thankfully Chicken free cat food is in a much more abundant supply than it has been in the past, and this article will lay out some of the best formulas available.
What Should I Do If I Think My Cat Is Allergic To Chicken?
If you suspect your cat may be allergic to Chicken but can not yet prove it, we recommend trying a Limited Ingredient Formula.
Limited Ingredient formulas allow you to quickly remove the majority of ingredients from your cat’s diet and then reintroduce them over time until you can recognize or pin down the problem ingredient(s).
For example, if you fed your cat a limited ingredient formula that contained no Chicken-based ingredients and any adverse reactions they were previously suffering stopped or were significantly reduced, it could very likely be the case that your cat has an allergy to Chicken and will now require food without Chicken.
While it may be tempting to jump to this conclusion, it is also essential to ensure that it was not another ingredient in your cat’s diet that you also eliminated simultaneously. This could be achieved by reintroducing some of those other ingredients, such as specific vegetables or fruits.
This technique ensures that if the symptoms or reactions do not continue to subside, then it is likely that another ingredient or environmental factor may be the cause.
Other common dietary allergens in cat food are Beef, Legumes, Potatoes, and Grains, but virtually any ingredient could be a suspect.
What About Chicken Fat?
Some of the most prominent and well-known pet food brands make use of Chicken Fat in their pet food recipes. Examples include Solid Gold and Fromm, which many will be familiar with from browsing the shelves of local pet food stores.
Chicken Fat is actually a very beneficial ingredient for most cats and can provide beneficial fatty acids, such as the Omega 6 Fatty Acids.
For this reason, and several others, we have nothing against Chicken Fat. However, many would assume that this could present problems for cats who have a Chicken allergy.
However, as Solid Gold argues, more cats react negatively to the protein in Chicken rather than the fat. Therefore Chicken Fat may not cause the same adverse reaction that Chicken protein may. Nevertheless, it is worth being aware of, as some cats may also react poorly to Chicken Fat.
Chicken Fat can often be particularly far down the ingredient list, which means it may not be spotted by unsuspecting cat owners who are instead focusing on the core ingredients further up the list.
This is one of the main reasons that you should read the full ingredient list of a cat food recipe before feeding it to your feline friend. By doing this, you will not be caught off guard by minor ingredients that could cause your cat unneeded stress and discomfort.
Best Alternatives To Chicken In Cat Food
Fish are an incredibly nutritious ingredient and are some of the most common to be found in cat food along with Chicken. They contain high-quality protein and fat, especially the advantageous Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids, which are proven to provide a range of health benefits such as improved skin and coat health or improved cognitive function.
There is a large variety of fish ingredients commonly used in cat food, such as Tuna, Salmon, Herring, Whitefish, Menhaden Fish, and many more.
The nutrition these fish ingredients can provide varies, but most of these are considered to be high-quality. The large variety of fish available can aid your search as you are bound to find a fish that your cat enjoys.
Unfortunately, many fish-centric formulas also include small amounts of Chicken or Chicken ingredients like Chicken Meal or Chicken Fat.
The likelihood of small quantities of these ingredients being present is why it is essential you carefully analyze the ingredient list of any prospective recipe and ensure it is entirely Chicken free. All of the fish ingredients we will suggest later in this article are free of any Chicken products.
If fish doesn’t appeal to your cat, then red meats such as Beef, Lamb, or Pork are a safe bet. Red meat is rarely seen in cat food recipes, especially compared to dog food, where it features more regularly. Despite this, red meat can still be a viable option and something that many cats enjoy.
Red meat is high in animal fat, which can provide your cat with a concentrated energy source for their active and energetic lifestyles. Also, red meat tends to be higher in minerals such as Iron and Zinc that are just as crucial as nutrients like protein and fat.
Most cat food formulas with a heavy focus on red meat do not contain any chicken ingredients, but you should always check the formula in question’s ingredient list to be certain.
Novel Meat Formulas contain meats that are rarely used in cat food or food for human consumption. The primary advantage of these meat ingredients is that it is unlikely your cat would have been previously exposed to them.
While the causes of dietary allergies are far too complex to be explained in this article, it is believed by many that this reduced chance of previous exposure drastically decreases the possibility of your cat having an adverse reaction.
Some examples of novel meats that are found in pet food recipes include Kangaroo, Venison, Bison, Rabbit, and Crocodile.
The core downside to novel meat formulas is that they are often expensive or hard to reliably source, which is understandable given that many of these animals are not domestically farmed like more traditional livestock.
Some may consider sourcing exotic and expensive meat ingredients such as this as excessive and say that there are plenty of more affordable formulas without Chicken ingredients readily available. However, for some, these formulas are a lifeline for their cats, who react very poorly to the vast majority of commercial cat food.
If you are interested in Novel Meat diets, we recommend you check out the below articles.
Best Cat Food Without Chicken
Smalls Ground Cow Recipe Review
While Smalls isn’t a cat food brand you’ll find at your local pet food store or even online at the large pet food websites like Chewy, it is worth considering.
Smalls produce human-grade fresh and freeze-dried raw cat food, which has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. In addition, smalls offer their products in a subscription-style arrangement similar to meal plan services.
You can learn more about how Smalls works in our Smalls Brand Review.
This type of subscription service has become hugely popular in the dog food market, with brands like The Farmer’s Dog, Ollie, and Nom Nom taking advantage. Many pet owners prefer the convenience of delivered pet food and the ease of pre-portioned food.
While many of Small’s recipes include Chicken and other poultry ingredients, they do produce a fresh recipe free of any Chicken ingredients.
Their Ground Cow recipe includes Ground Beef, Beef Liver, and Beef Heart as its primary meat ingredients. This mix of Beef and organ meat ingredients provides a plentiful supply of protein and fat, along with some beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Outside of this Beef content, Smalls includes a small portion of Green Beans, Peas, and Spinach. These vegetable ingredients provide a modest proportion of carbohydrates and fiber that closely aligns with a cat’s natural diet.
Tiki Cat Hanalei Luau Wild Salmon In Salmon Consomme Review
Tiki Cat is one of our favorite cat food brands and one that most cat owners will have seen before either on the shelves of their local chain or specialist pet food store.
One of Tiki’s greatest advantages is their huge product range, especially of wet/canned cat food. This huge range ensures there will always be a recipe that appeals to every cat and, more importantly for us, plenty of chicken-free cat food recipes.
You can check out Tiki Cat’s full product range in our Tiki Brand Review.
The above Salmon-based recipe is a prime example of this and comes in a flaked form which many cats are huge fans of.
The primary ingredient of the recipe is Salmon which will come as a surprise to no one. Salmon is an excellent choice for cats as it is a dense source of high-quality protein and fat.
In addition, Salmon is one of the best sources of the beneficial Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which many believe can provide cats with similar health benefits to humans, which can include an improvement in the condition of a cat’s skin and fur.
Outside of this Salmon content, the recipe contains little to no other ingredients which is far and above most other cat food brands.
American Journey Salmon Recipe Review
American Journey is one of the youngest brands’ to feature here and is one that you will not see on physical retail shelves. American Journey is the own brand of the huge pet food website Chewy which is best known for its home delivery and subscription discounts.
Chewy has successfully grown the American Journey brand over the last few years and now has a huge product range to choose from for both cats and dogs. This range includes dry cat food, wet cat food, and some specialized recipes such as those for Kittens and Indoor cats.
You can check out American Journey’s full product range and their backstory in our American Journey Brand Review.
What makes American Journey very appealing to cat owners is that it is extremely competitively priced compared to other brands. Cat owners can take advantage of Chewy’s subscription discounts as well as lower costs due to purchasing online.
The above Salmon recipe from American Journey is a prime example of this, with a 12lb bag costing as little as $30.
While a large portion of American Journey’s recipes include Chicken as an ingredient, they do have a broad range of fish-based recipes, including this Salmon recipe.
The formula includes a mix of Salmon and Salmon Meal, along with some Menhaden Fish Meal and Egg Product. This mix of animal-based ingredients provides an impressive proportion of protein and fat at 40% and 15% respectively.
Outside of this, American Journey stays consistent throughout most of its recipes and utilizes ingredients like Tapioca, Peas, and Flaxseed to provide a mix of carbohydrates, plant-based protein, fiber, and more.
Catch of the Season Whitefish Review
Open Farm is a Canadian-based pet food company but is quite unique because its manufacturing facilities are actually within the United States.
This cross-border approach helps Open Farm easily distribute and promote their products in both countries, which isn’t the norm. Many of the large US-based brands have struggled to break into the Canadian market.
Open Farm has a very broad range of products, far broader than most. This includes traditional dry food, wet food, freeze-dried food, and “gently cooked” food.
While some brands prefer a more specialized approach, this wide product range allows Open Farm to appeal to almost all niches and double down on their fans.
You can learn more about Open Farm and why they are fast becoming a popular pet food brand in our Open Farm Brand Review.
The above Whitefish recipe is typical of their dry cat food range and is an excellent choice for cats that need a chicken-free diet.
Whitefish and Whitefish Meal are the two primary ingredients of the recipe. Whitefish is often given to pets who have sensitive or easily upset stomachs as it can be calming or less likely to cause adverse reactions compared to other meat and fish ingredients.
The Whitefish is joined by a portion of Herring Meal which, when combined, provides an impressive proportion of protein and fat at 37% and 18%.
What makes this recipe even more unique is that Open Farm chooses to use seasonal whitefish ingredients rather than a more consistent source. This means that the flavor of their recipe may vary slightly throughout the year, which could be appealing to some cats.
Outside of this fish content, Open Farm utilizes the industry favorites of Chickpeas and Lentils along with a small portion of Pumpkin to provide carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and fiber.
Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Recipe Review
Taste of the Wild is probably the best-known brand to feature in this article and has taken the United States by storm since its launch back in 2007.
While Taste of the Wild may not have the flashy packaging full of keywords like other brands or a huge and diverse product range, it is extremely reliable and consistent, which are traits that many value highly.
You can read an in-depth review of Taste of the Wild in our Taste of the Wild Brand Review.
While their cat food range is quite small, it does include some variety in the ingredients used and in its form. The above Canyon River recipe is fish-based and so does not contain any poultry ingredients such as Chicken.
However, unlike most brands who tend to stick to Salmon or Whitefish, Taste of the Wild uses Trout as its primary ingredient, which is quite unusual.
Despite this, Trout is still an excellent addition to a cat food recipe and is high in fish-based protein and fat, along with beneficial fatty acids. This Trout is joined by a smaller portion of Ocean Fish Meal and Salmon, which, when combined, provide a moderate overall proportion of protein and fat.
However, given its lower price point compared to some other brands, it uses a large range of plant-based ingredients such as Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes, and Peas.
These ingredients provide a moderate proportion of carbohydrates with some plant-based protein and fiber. While it would be ideal if these ingredients weren’t present in these portions, it is a necessary evil to keep the price of the recipe low.
Go! Carnivore Grain-Free Salmon + Cod Recipe Review
Go! has quite a varied range to appeal to the majority of cats, including Kittens and Senior cats. From this large range, we are big fans of their Carnivore range which has a higher proportion of meat ingredients.
You can check out the full Carnivore range and other information on Go! in our Go! Brand Review.
Given we are looking at Chicken-free recipes, Salmon was once again the obvious choice thanks to its high-quality protein and fat content as well as high levels of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
However, Salmon isn’t the only fish ingredient present, and Go! uses a smaller portion of Cod and Herring to supplement this Salmon.
On the plant-based ingredient side of this dry cat food recipe, Go! uses a mix of industry regulars, including Peas, Lentils, and Potatoes. These ingredients provide a moderate proportion of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.
Ziwi Peak Air Dried Lamb Recipe Review
Ziwi Peak is by far the most expensive brand we will discuss, but you should dismiss them immediately because of that higher cost.
Ziwi Peak is based in New Zealand and specializes in air-dried and wet pet food recipes. Air-dried pet food is similar to freeze-dried food and is made up almost entirely of meat ingredients.
What makes Ziwi Peak stand out is its use of high-quality ingredients, most of which are sourced from New Zealand. These higher-quality ingredients are in line with those that humans would eat, which means your cat would be getting the very best on offer.
You can learn more facts about Ziwi Peak, including information on their ingredient sourcing, in our Ziwi Peak Brand Review.
The bulk of Ziwi Peak’s recipes focus on Lamb, which is no great surprise given the abundance of sheep in New Zealand.
96% of their air-dried Lamb recipe is from Lamb-based ingredients, and this huge proportion doesn’t just include traditional meat cuts. It also includes various organ meat ingredients like Heart, Liver, and Kidney.
Organ meat ingredients like this can greatly enhance cat food making it more enticing to eat and providing several beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Due to the fact that 96% of the recipe is meat-based, there are no notable plant-based ingredients present, and as such, the proportion of carbohydrates present is negligible.
Instinct Raw Boost Grain Free Recipe With Real Salmon Review
Instinct is a regular feature in our recommendations, and for good reason. The brand is widely available for purchase from large physical and online pet food sellers, it is fairly priced, and their recipes have impressive nutrition.
We normally recommend recipes from their Original range, which are a safe bet for pets who aren’t picky or have specific health issues.
However, we’ve chosen to select a recipe from their Raw Boost range which is growing in popularity. This kibble is a mix of traditional dry cat food and freeze-dried kibble.
This combination provides a unique texture and taste that many cats enjoy. While freeze-dried food is not necessarily better than traditional dry cat food, it tends to contain a higher proportion of protein and fat, which is beneficial to cats, given they are obligate carnivores.
You can learn more about Instinct’s freeze-dried and raw offerings in our Instinct Brand Review.
Like several others here, we’ve gone with Salmon once again, but we won’t bore you with the details on why. Instinct chooses to supplement their Salmon with Menhaden Fish meal and Whitefish Meal.
Menhaden Fish Meal is an interesting addition and is regularly used by mid-priced and premium brands. It is an oily fish that is harvested for its oil, but once this oil is extracted, a nutritious fish meal remains. This is then sold to pet food manufacturers.
While this may not sound ideal, the use of Menhaden Fish Meal is preferred by many to supplement protein and fat levels over alternatives like plant-based ingredients or by-products.
You can learn more about Menhaden Fish meal in our article Menhaden Fish Meal in Dog Food.