Best Vet Recommended Cat Food: Top 5 Brands Reviewed

The best vet-recommended cat food is more than a prestigious label. It’s species-appropriate, made by a trustworthy company, and, if it’s a prescription food, keeps its therapeutic promises.

Because it has so many benefits for underweight or sickly cats, we’ve chosen Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d as the overall best vet-recommended food. In addition to Hill’s Prescription Diet, we’ve reviewed four other vet-recommended cat food brands and chosen top recipes from each.

Before we get into the reviews, let’s take a critical look at the world of vet-recommended food. We’ll explore which brands vets recommend, learn what makes vet-recommended food special, and talk to vets about which foods they recommend.

Quick Look at Our Top Picks:

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Editor's Choice

Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care
  • Rich in animal protein and fat
  • Full of specific organ meats rather than animal by-products
  • Low carbohydrate content
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Best For Kittens

Hill’s Science Diet Liver & Chicken Kitten Food
  • Rich in animal protein
  • ontains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and eye development
  • Low carbohydrate content compared to other Science Diet recipes
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Royal Canin Calorie Control Paté
  • Primarily made from animal protein
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
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Iams Perfect Portions Optimal Metabolism Chicken Recipe
  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Thickened without carrageenan
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Best Affordable

Purina Pro Plan True Nature Natural Beef & Liver Entree in Gravy
  • Rich in protein
  • Most cats seem to enjoy this food
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
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When you hear the words “vet-recommended cat food”, which brands do you think of?

You probably think of Hill’s Prescription Diet, Science Diet, Royal Canin, Iams or Eukanuba, and Purina Pro Plan.

What do these brands have in common and why do so many veterinarians trust them?

First, all of these brands are produced by companies with strong foundations. They’re large, well-established companies with plenty of money to spend on state-of-the-art manufacturing, research, and product development.

Secondly, these companies want to be recommended by veterinarians.

Veterinary endorsement and approval are priceless if you want to become an authority brand. These brands have spent decades establishing themselves as icons of scientific animal nutrition. While their reputations owe something to merit, you can’t ignore the role of marketing.

Though we’re starting to put together a picture of what vet-recommended food is in general, veterinarians are as dynamic and varied as anyone else. They don’t all agree on nutrition. Some don’t even recommend foods with the words “vet-recommended” on the label.

To understand what veterinarians think about feline nutrition, I set out to talk to real vets about cat food, asking how they choose the best food, which brands they trust, and what they feed their own cats.

Here’s what a few veterinarians have to say about cat food.

Sara Ochoa, DVM is a practicing veterinarian in East Texas and a veterinary consultant for DogLab.com. Sara says that when picking cat food, she looks for “an AAFCO statement saying that it is a full balanced diet,” adding that “there are certain low-end foods that do not meet these requirements.” The brands she recommends are Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina Pro Plan, and Eukanuba. If these brands are too expensive for her clients, she recommends “any of the Purina lines such as Purina One, or Purina Cat Chow. Also I recommend Iams cat food from the grocery store.” What does Sara feed her own cat? Hill’s Science Diet.

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS is a vet living and working in the UK. When asked what she recommends to her clients, Joanna emphasizes the importance of weight control, noting that “It’s important to select the right food for your cat’s age and neuter status. I often find myself recommending a neutered/sterilised diet as these are slightly lower in calories and around 50% of cats are overweight. It’s hard to encourage a cat to exercise more, so it’s all about getting the food right.”

Megan Teiber, DVM is a practicing veterinarian in the greater Chicago area and veterinary consultant for Tuft and Paw. She notes that veterinarians have differing opinions on feline nutrition and that veterinarian recommendations may change as research brings facts to light. When recommending a diet to her clients, she looks for foods that follow AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) guidelines. Specifically, she emphasizes that “among other criteria, WSAVA only recommends manufacturers that employ full time veterinary nutritionists.” Companies that meet this criterion include Iams, Hill’s, Purina, and Royal Canin.

After ruling out foods that don’t meet AAFCO and WSAVA standards, Dr. Teiber advocates for a canned diet. “Canned food helps cats to stay better hydrated, feel more satiated, and can prevent and manage health conditions such as obesity, cystitis (bladder inflammation), and diabetes.  I typically recommend a lower carbohydrate diet for most of my feline patients. Canned foods naturally have higher protein and lower carbohydrate content than most dry foods.”

Best Vet Recommended Cat Food: Our Top 5 Picks

In the following segment, we’ll review each of the top vet-recommended brands and their best recipes. While the brands were chosen strictly based on veterinarian recommendations, the top products were chosen based on the criteria outlined in our article on the overall best cat food.

Here’s a brief summary of the qualities we look for:

  1. Minimal carbohydrate content
  2. High-quality animal protein
  3. High in moisture
  4. Free of potentially harmful additives

We’ll also be looking at a few prescription cat foods. Any prescription foods must live up to their promises, having demonstrated benefits for cats suffering from the intended condition, be it obesity or kidney failure. Sometimes, this means that a prescription food is good for sick cats, but deviates from the nutritional standards we’d look for in other foods.

Hill’s Prescription Diet

Hill’s Prescription Diet foods are only available with a veterinarian’s prescription. In fact, Hill’s has trademarked the “prescription diet” name. Most similar foods are called “veterinary diets” to avoid infringing on the Hill’s trademark.

Recipes in this line target health conditions and special needs, including IBD, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and urinary tract health. Most, but not all, Prescription Diet recipes get good reviews. Some customers say they save lives.

Like all Hill’s Pet Nutrition products, Hill’s Prescription Diet foods are backed by the company’s research and development department and large expert staff.  They’re manufactured in company-owned facilities from what the company calls “carefully selected” ingredients.

Hill’s Prescription Diet foods have been recalled at least twice.

Learn more about Hill’s Pet Nutrition in our complete review.

Top Recipe: Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care

Hill’s Prescription Diet a-d Urgent Care

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It’s impossible to unequivocally declare one Prescription Diet recipe as better than the rest. They’re all made to do something different. The urinary care recipe isn’t going to be a good choice if your cat doesn’t have urinary tract problems—and so on.

After reviewing the Hill’s Prescription Diet lineup, however, one recipe stands out as a particularly beneficial option for its intended purpose. That recipe is a/d Urgent Care. If you have a cat in desperate need of nutritional support, this food could be a lifesaver.

It’s not the best food for healthy cats, but it’s not for healthy cats. This recipe was made for cats recovering from serious illness, accidents, surgeries, and metabolic changes.

Each can contains 180 calories, so it’s calorically-dense with plenty of animal protein and fat. It contains a combination of liver, meat, heart, and pork protein isolate as highly-nutritious, palatable, and ultra-digestible sources of animal protein. The food has increased potassium levels and increased B vitamins to give an energy boost. Its paté texture is creamy-soft for sensitive cats or those with bad teeth.

The food gets positive reviews from customers, who say that it has helped their sick or senior cat gain weight and stay healthy.

Ingredients

Water, Turkey Liver, Pork Liver, Chicken, Turkey Heart, Corn Flour, Pork Protein Isolate, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Chicken Liver Flavor, Egg Flavor, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Taurine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C), Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Potassium Citrate, Choline Chloride, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Magnesium Oxide, Beta-Carotene.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein8.5% min
Crude Fat5.2% min
Crude Fiber0.5% max
Moisture78.0% min – 80% max
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What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal protein and fat
  • Full of specific organ meats rather than animal by-products
  • Many customers credit this food with restoring or stabilizing their cats’ health
  • Low carbohydrate content

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Expensive

Hill’s Science Diet

Science Diet is a Hill’s Pet Nutrition brand focused on what the company calls “biology-based nutrition” for all stages of cats’ lives.

The company is known for industry-leading nutrition research and employs over 220 veterinarians, food scientists, technicians, and Ph.D nutritionists. The Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center in Topeka, Kansas is a world-class research facility that bolsters Hill’s’ status as a leading authority on animal nutrition. Hill’s Science Diet cat food is manufactured in company-owned facilities located in the United States.

With the exception of some of their canned recipes, Science Diet products tend to be carbohydrate-heavy and full of plant ingredients. Almost all of them contain a combination of select cuts of meat and vaguely-specified by-products.

Science Diet dog and cat food has been recalled several times due to issues ranging from melamine in 2007 to a vitamin D-related recall in early 2019.

Top Recipe: Hill’s Science Diet Liver & Chicken Kitten Food

Hill’s Science Diet Liver & Chicken Kitten Food

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After reviewing the Science Diet lineup, this kitten food appears to be one of the brand’s best products. It’s not a great choice for every cat, but if you have a kitten or a pregnant or nursing cat, this is one of the best vet-recommended foods you can give her.

As kitten food should be, this food is relatively high in protein and calories to support early stages of growth. At 15% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis, it’s a little bit on the high-carb side, but low in carbohydrates compared to most Science Diet recipes.

It doesn’t contain any artificial flavors or chemical preservatives, but does contain carrageenan, a controversial thickener that may have carcinogenic and inflammatory properties.

Ingredients

Water, Pork Liver, Pork By-Products, Chicken, Chicken Fat, Egg Product, Corn Starch, Pork Protein Isolate, Soybean Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, L-Lysine, Brewers Dried Yeast, Guar Gum, Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Powdered Cellulose, Iodized Salt, Taurine, Calcium Sulfate, Dried Beet Pulp, Locust Bean Gum, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), DL-Methionine, Carrageenan, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Magnesium Oxide, L-Tryptophan, Beta-Carotene.

Typical Dry Matter Analysis:

Protein45.7%
Fat29.1%
Crude Fiber0.9%
Carbohydrate15%

What We Liked:

  • Rich in animal protein
  • Contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and eye development
  • Low carbohydrate content compared to other Science Diet recipes

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some reviewers say the food has an odd, unappetizing texture
  • Contains carrageenan

Royal Canin Cat Food

Since its inception in the 1960s, this brand has earned its title as pet food royalty. It has a rich history, massive product offering, and global distribution.

Royal Canin was the first manufacturer of dry pet food in France and the first European company to use an extrusion machine. Now a Mars subsidiary, Royal Canin is a global company with manufacturing facilities in the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Russia, China, South Africa, Argentina, Poland, and the UK.

Royal Canin’s more than one hundred cat food recipes are available in veterinary offices around the world. Their vast selection includes food for almost everything you could think of, targeting specific life stages, body sizes, lifestyles, health conditions, and breeds.

Royal Canin has been recalled at least three times.

Read our full Royal Canin review here.

Top Recipe: Royal Canin Calorie Control Paté

Royal Canin Calorie Control Paté

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Royal Canin has foods for almost every ailment, cat type, and condition you could think of and this one’s for cats who need to lose weight. It’s a canned food that contains a mix of pork by-products and chicken liver as primary protein sources, along with some wheat gluten.

Unlike many other Royal Canin recipes, the food is relatively low in carbohydrates at roughly 11% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis. It’s free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Some might not like the food’s inclusion of carrageenan.

Customer reviews are glowing, saying that their cats love eating the food and are losing weight on it.

Ingredients

Water Sufficient for Processing, Pork By-Products, Chicken Liver, Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Guar Gum, Carrageenan, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Phosphate, Natural Flavors, Calcium Sulfate, Fish Oil, Taurine, Vitamins [Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Niacin Supplement, Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement], L-Carnitine, Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.), Chondroitin Sulfate.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein7.0% min
Crude Fat1.5% min
Crude Fiber2.0% max
Moisture87.0% max
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What We Liked:

  • Primarily made from animal protein
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Receives positive customer reviews

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains wheat gluten
  • Contains carrageenan

Iams Cat Food

This well-known brand dates back to 1946, when it was created by an autodidactic animal nutritionist named Paul Iams. The brand is all about “nutrition that’s tailored to bring out their unique best”. All Iams recipes are crafted for cats of specific life stages and activity levels.

Iams calls their food safety program one of the strictest in the business, noting that it exceeds FDA and USDA standards. The company adds that they receive superior ratings from the American Institute of Baking, an independent certification authority for the human food industry.

Nevertheless, Iams has been recalled six times since 2004.

Read our full Iams cat food review here.

Top Recipe: Iams Perfect Portions Optimal Metabolism Chicken Recipe

Iams Perfect Portions Optimal Metabolism Chicken Recipe

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While other Iams foods have high carbohydrate content and plant-centric ingredient lists, this food from the Perfect Portions line stands out as a relatively simple, species-appropriate recipe.

The food is made from chicken, chicken liver, and dried egg product as primary protein sources. It contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids and is relatively low in carbohydrates. On the negative side, the food contains “added colors”, a vague term typically referring to synthetic dyes.

The food gets primarily positive customer reviews, though some complain that the portion size is too small or their cat won’t eat it.

Ingredients:

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Added Color, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Magnesium Sulfate, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Salt, L-Carnitine, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Potassium Iodide, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K).

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein9.5% min
Crude Fat5.0% min
Crude Fiber1.0% min
Moisture78% max
Ash3.5% max

What We Liked:

  • Features named cuts of meat and organs rather than vague animal by-products
  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Thickened without carrageenan

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some reviewers don’t like the twin pack design and small portion size
  • Contains added color

Purina Pro Plan Cat Food

This Purina brand emphasizes performance, excellence, and expertise. Each Pro Plan formula is created with the combined expertise of over 400 scientists, including pet nutritionists, vets, and animal behaviorists. The Pro Plan lineup includes veterinary diets targeting feline health conditions, life stage-specific foods, and recipes for healthy cats of all ages.

Purina Pro Plan is manufactured in the United States in Purina-owned facilities. The company uses ingredients sourced from around the world.

In 2016, tubs of Purina Pro Plan wet dog food were recalled due to inadequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Other Purina brands have been recalled multiple times.

Learn more about Purina in our complete review.

Top Recipe: Purina Pro Plan True Nature Natural Beef & Liver Entree in Gravy

Purina Pro Plan True Nature Natural Beef & Liver Entree in Gravy

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Though Purina Pro Plan offers prescription foods and diets targeting specific health conditions, most are high-carbohydrate foods and less-than-ideal options for healthy cats. If your cat doesn’t have any special dietary needs, this Pro Plan recipe is a standout option.

This beef-based canned food from the True Nature line contains a mix of named meats like beef and turkey and vaguer items such as liver, meat by-products, and fish.

It’s a low-carbohydrate food containing few plant ingredients, with the exception of wheat gluten as a source of protein. The food is thickened with carrageenan, a potentially harmful seaweed derivative. Like other foods in the True Nature line, the food doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

Ingredients:

Water Sufficient for Processing, Beef, Liver, Wheat Gluten, Meat By-Products, Turkey, Natural Flavors, Fish, Xanthan Gum, Tricalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Carrageenan, Salt, Taurine, Magnesium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Manganese Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Potassium Iodide.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein11.0% min
Crude Fat2.2% min
Crude Fiber1.5% max
Moisture82% max
Ash3.0% max

What We Liked:

  • Rich in protein
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Most cats seem to enjoy this food
  • Free of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains potentially carcinogenic carrageenan
  • Made with wheat gluten

Whether it’s a prescription food or formulated for daily care, the best vet-recommended food goes beyond the label to deliver top-notch nutrition and benefits that justify its price tag.

Your veterinarian should be a feline nutrition ally—an expert who can help you to make smart decisions to ensure your cat’s long-term health.

Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian critical questions about her nutritional recommendations. Ask how she chooses a good food, which brands she trusts, and, if she has a cat, what she feeds him. You and your vet should work together to understand the why behind the recommendations.

By maintaining a critical mindset, asking the right questions, and recognizing your vet’s expertise and limitations, you can feel confident that both you and your vet are making the right choices for your cat’s health.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.

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