One of the most important factors of pet care is food. Feeding your pet a high quality food will not only allow them better overall health thanks to improved nutrition and strong digestion, but also allow them to live a longer and more enjoyable life. Although many people choose dry kibble for their cat, there are actually a number of alternatives that are equally convenient and provide better nutrition. Surprisingly, one of the best cat food options, freeze-dried cat food, is one of the lesser known.
What is Freeze-Dried Cat Food
Freeze-dried cat food is a minimally processed, raw diet which has had most of its water content removed. Depending on the brand as well as your preferences, the food may need to be rehydrated before consumption. As is typical in most raw diets, freeze-dried diets are high protein foods as well as rich in amino acids. Plus, because the food is not cooked or overly processed, it has higher levels of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and natural micronutrients. These excellent nutritional advantages are only part of the reason freeze-dried cat food is so good.
Freeze dried pet foods focus on two things; the first is the nutritional advantages and the second is the convenience and safety provided by reducing the water content. Rather than completely removing all water from the food, the ‘water activity level’ is reduced below the level that pathogens can grow. This ‘water activity’ is not the same as normal moisture, and is characterized by the amount of water actively available to react with the solid ingredients in the food. Because the freeze-drying process greatly reduces the water content, the risk of growth of microorganisms is considerably reduced, and therefore the shelf life is extended.
Reasons to Choose Freeze-Dried Cat Food
There are a number of reasons to choose freeze-dried cat food:
- unparalleled nutritional value of the unprocessed raw ingredients,
- extended shelf value thanks to the process of freeze-drying,
- these products are also quite versatile, and can be used as a topper or complete meal.
Best Ingredients For Freeze Dried Cat Foods
The best ingredients for any freeze-dried pet food is whole meat products.
Freeze-dried chicken for cats is one of the most common protein sources, as we show in the cat foods we reviewed below. Other good ingredients are turkey, salmon, beef, lamb, rabbit and eggs.
Plants are a more debatable food source, but some edible plants include marigolds, zinnias, catnip, rosemary, and bean sprouts.
Is Freeze Dried – Raw Cat Food?
Best freeze-dried cat foods are marketed for being raw, and while that isn’t wrong, it is redundant because all freeze-dried pet food is raw. This is because raw ingredients are part of what makes the freeze-dried diet such a good one. Freeze-drying food first involves completely freezing the ingredients, and then using a machine which vaporizes any excess water. It is a common process used for everyday products like coffee, fruit, vegetables, herbs, fish, eggs, and even dairy.
Dehydrated Raw Food vs. Dehydrated Cat Food – What’s The Difference?
A slightly different cat food option is dehydrated raw cat food. Dehydration of raw food is done through a slow, delicate process involving warm air to remove any moisture. This allows a significant portion of the nutrients and enzymes to remain intact, though it typically contains less nutrients than freeze-dried foods.
Because there is more water present in dehydrated foods, without the use of any artificial preservatives, the shelf life is not as long as in freeze-dried foods. However, it does allow for some of the health benefits without the hassle of thawing, or ensuring proper refrigeration before consumption. When this type of food is being prepared for your cat, simply add water and mix.
Another alternative is simply dehydrated cat food. Similar to other methods of cat food production, dehydrated foods go through a process which removes the water content. Unlike raw diets, though, this type of diet is typically blended and cooked in a processing plant. This means that it lacks both the top-of-the-line nutritional value and extended shelf life of freeze-dried foods. It is argued, though, that this type of food still features better nutrition and taste than commercial dry cat food. Dehydrated cat food is usually rehydrated with warm water, mixed, and served to your cat.
Differences Between Normal Kibble and Freeze Dried Cat Food
To best understand the differences between these two things, we should address how each is made.
Conventional Dry Kibble
Kibble is created when wet and dry ingredients are mixed together to form a dough. The dough then undergoes a multi-hour, high temperature extrusion process to allow it a long shelf life. Kibble diets are not typically a whole food product, but rather ground meal or grain which have little nutritional value. Many of these type diets contain low quality ingredients and fillers, as well as artificial additives, chemicals, and preservatives. These dry cat foods can vary quite a bit, with cheaper cat food brands costing around six dollars for five pounds while superior brands will cost at least 20 dollars for the same amount.
Freeze-dried food is by all accounts and measures, the opposite to dry food. Most freeze-dried cat food diets will consist of natural whole ingredients, like chicken or rabbit. Other healthy ingredients may include pumpkins seeds, dried kelp, butternut squash, and egg.
Thanks to the low-heat dehydration process, the ingredients retain their nutrients without artificial preservatives. One downfall of freeze-dried food is that the high quality of the ingredients translates to a higher price.
The cost can sometimes be reduced by purchasing meat and other ingredients from the grocery store and preparing them at home for your cat.
Freeze-dried Cat Food Reviews
1. Instinct Raw Boost Mixers Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Cat Food Topper
This food topper is primarily made up of poultry, including chicken bone, heart, and liver, as well as turkey heart and liver. It also contains nutritious carrot, apple, and butternut squash.
- 36% crude protein
- 26% crude fat
- 15% crude fiber
- 6% moisture
2. Wysong Archetype Chicken Formula Freeze-Dried Raw Dog & Cat Food
Similar to other foods, this food contains lots of chicken, including chicken meat, organs and bone. Unlike some other options, this food contains healthy plant content like blueberries, barley grass, chia seeds, and broccoli sprouts.
- 44% crude protein
- 36% crude fat
- 0.3 % taurine
- 0.5% crude fiber
- 4% moisture
3. Life Essentials Wild Alaskan Salmon Freeze-Dried Cat & Dog Treats
Contrary to most other pet products, these treats contain only one ingredient, in this case, 100% wild Alaskan salmon. It is cubed and freeze-dried to create easy serving sizes. A low calorie cat treat.
- 84% crude protein
- 5% crude fat
- 1% crude fiber
- 4% moisture
- 4% ash
4. Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food
This food is chock full of chicken products, including bone, heart, liver, gizzard, and egg. It also contains raw goat’s milk, egg shell membranes, herring oil, and a variety of tocopherols.
- 55% crude protein
- 27% crude fat
- 1% crude fiber
- 8% moisture.
Best Freeze Dried Cat Food FAQ
Freeze-dried cat food is easy and simple to prepare. Firstly, the food should be set out to fully thaw. It should never be microwaved, as cooking the raw ingredients will release and break down key nutrients from the previously raw ingredients. The next step of preparing the food is rehydration. Although it is not required, it is highly recommended, as cats typically struggle to get enough water day to day. For the same reason the food should never be microwaved, it should be mixed with cool or lukewarm water, but never hot. After the food is thawed and rehydrated, it is ready to serve!
Although it may sound silly to be particular about rehydrating your cat’s dehydrated food, it makes a big difference! A dehydrated diet that contains raw ingredients will lose nutrients if it is mixed with hot water, so cool water should be used instead. If the dehydrated diet does not have raw ingredients, it has already been cooked and therefore has fewer nutrients. It is okay to mix this type of food with warm water, but in order to preserve most of the remaining nutrients, hot water should be avoided here as well.
Although this answer has no definite answer, since each cat will have unique tastes and preferences, there is a general answer. Most cats will really enjoy freeze-dried cat food since its taste and nutritional values are preserved thanks to the freeze-drying process. Plus, the meat, bones, and organs that make up the main ingredients replicate the type of diet a cat would have in the wild.The texture of freeze-dried food is also more similar to the diet of a wild cat than the texture of dried kibble.
Yes! Other cat foods contain subpar nutrients due to the cooking processes they undergo. Freeze-drying pet food, however, preserves the natural nutritional value of each ingredient. These raw ingredients contain important proteins, phytonutrients, and micronutrients that are vital for proper body and brain function.
In the last 15 years, the popularity of freeze dried pet foods has blown up. In 2015 alone, freeze-dried pet foods had a 62.7% increase in sales. This is because pet owners in recent years have become increasingly health conscious, allowing the natural food category to be quite successful. The popularity also stands as a testament to the food itself which is now recognized as one of the best cat food options available.