Carrageenan is a controversial cat food ingredient that is used to improve the texture of wet cat food. Some studies have claimed that it does more harm than good, while other studies claim that it has no nutritional benefit at best. If you want to be cautious and remove the ingredient from your cat’s food completely, that is certainly doable.
There are plenty of options, from those that are budget-friendly, to those that are on the expensive side but provide the correct nutrients for your kitty.
What is carrageenan?
Carrageenan is a food additive used to stabilize and thicken canned cat food. It is also found in several human foods like ice cream, chocolate milk, and most alternative dairy products.
It is the extract of Irish Moss, a red seaweed that has been used in cooking for hundreds of years. But there have been recent studies that list carrageenan as a possible cause of gastrointestinal problems, including cancer. On the other hand, there are several studies that claim these findings are flawed.
Regardless of possible complications, carrageenan has been found to be indigestible without any real nutritional value. Its only real use is to improve, fill, and thicken the texture of wet cat food. There is no real health benefit to carrageenan, so it makes sense to simply avoid it when possible.
Is carrageenan found only in cat food?
Carrageenan is typically only found in wet or canned cat food since it is used to emulsify, thicken, and give wet cat food its texture.
Best carrageenan-free cat foods
1. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Recipe
This is a great budget-friendly alternative if you would like to try something different in the search for cat food without carrageenan. While most of the ingredients are solid, including salmon, fish broth, chicken broth, chicken liver, dried egg whites, and chicken, this canned food brand does contain guar gum which some cat owners may choose to avoid.
The first six ingredients are all from animal sources, but the product also contains pea flour and potato starch which add to the overall carbohydrate content.
Still, it is a solid, budget-friendly, carrageenan-free option.
2. American Journey Landmark
American Journey Landmark’s line of wet cat food is one of the best budget cat foods that is carrageenan-free. The brand claims that their wet cat food is free of soy, corn, wheat, grains, carrageenan, or any synthetic flavoring or coloring.
The ingredients are great because they contain neither veggies nor carbohydrates. Four of the first five ingredients are all fish-based sources.
This company has built a great reputation for themselves with no product recalls since they started in 2017.
The pricing is also very budget-friendly which is always a plus for cat owners.
3. Feline Natural Beef and Hoki Feast
This brand makes some of the most one-of-a-kind, species-appropriate cat foods on the market. Aside from the beef, it also includes a variety of organ meats that provides a unique source of essential nutrients for cats.
It is made without using lentils, peas, starches, unnatural additives, gelling agents, carrageenan, and many other unwanted ingredients. This is very apparent in their short, 20-item ingredient list.
The only downside is its price as a premium cat food. It may be over budget for some cat owners.
4. NomNomNow Cat Food Delivery
This is a premium cat food delivery service that uses human-grade ingredients completely free of thickeners. You can easily identify every ingredient in the food, which is only lightly cooked to preserve nutrient density. Despite there being vegetables in the chicken and fish recipes, the food is still low carb and will be a great option for your cat.
They will send you food portions based on the weight and activity level of your cat in order to provide the right amount of calories.
Because this is a premium delivery service, it is on the more expensive side.
5. Stella & Chewy’s Freeze Dried Dinner Morsels
This product from Stella &Chewy is not exactly wet food, nor is it dry kibble.
It is a freeze-dried food that is a cross between both. Inspired by a raw diet, you can give it as dry kibble, or add water to make it wet food.
It has high-quality ingredients with 98% of the product coming from animal sources. It also contains some probiotics to prevent bacterial growth. This food is not only carrageenan-free, it is also healthy for your cat.
6. Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken
Not all Tiki Cat products are carrageenan-free, but the Puka Puka Luau line of products definitely are. This cat food looks more like shredded chicken with ingredients you can see, instead of having a pate-like consistency.
The recipe is simple. It is chicken in its own broth with micronutrients and healthy fats added in, which makes it low-carb and species-appropriate.
This Tiki Cat recipe is a great option for owners looking for a simple cat food that is free of thickening agents and carrageenan.
7. Merrick Backcountry Grain-free Morsels
This food does contain guar gum as an alternative to carrageenan. While still a controversial ingredient, guar gum is a much safer alternative when compared to the list of accusations thrown at carrageenan.
Despite that, Merrick is still an outstanding choice because it represents a great balance of price and quality. The first six ingredients, which are deboned turkey, turkey broth, chicken broth, turkey liver, deboned chicken, and dried egg whites, all come from animal-based sources. It may not be a budget option, but its price is still competitive.
Iif you do not mind the guar gum inclusion, this is a great option that balances quality and price.
8. Dr. Elsey Clean Protein
This brand has really made a name for itself as one of the best filler-free cat foods in the market. It boasts a 4% carbohydrate content with no fruits, vegetables, grains, or by-products. It also has a high protein content with 90% of its ingredients being animal-based. It is one of the best quality, species-appropriate wet cat foods in stores.
It does not use carrageenan or guar gum because it uses agar-agar as a thickening agent.
This brand has never had a recall since they began as a company in 2017. It may not be the most budget-friendly amongst the choices, but it is the most complete cat food in terms of being the best for your cat when all factors are considered.
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