If you have recently decided to change your cat’s lifestyle from mostly outdoorsy to indoor-only, you’re probably thinking about changing her diet – and if you’re not, it’s time to do so. Cats who are free to wander outside get lots of exercise so they can eat foods high in calories and still maintain a healthy weight. But felines who spend most or all of their time inside the house/apartment are much less active, so it’s wise to keep those calories in check and tailor your cat’s diet to her unique needs.
But what cat foods are best suited for indoor cats? To answer that question, we read through research and veterinarian recommendations and checked out hundreds of cat food formulas on the market. In the end, we created this top 10 list that should help you find the best cat food for indoor cats easily. Of course, you have to figure out what flavors your cat likes the most, as well as what products fit your budget the best, but we hope that our recommendations, as well as our buying guide, will be able to help you make an informed purchasing decision.
Best Cat Food for Indoor Cats Buying Guide & FAQ
Because indoor cats have a different lifestyle than outdoor cats, it’s important that their diet is tailored to their unique needs. For instance, it’s always a good idea to buy cat foods that are high in protein as most felines thrive on such diets, however, if you have an overweight cat that spends most of his time lazing around the place, it’s better to go for foods that are lower in all macronutrients, including protein and fat.
We realize that finding the best food for indoor cats can be a bit difficult, so we’ve put together this buying guide and we answered some of the FAQs down below. Read on to learn about important aspects of feeding an indoor cat and things you should pay close attention to. The more you know about the special needs of indoor cats, the easier it will be to purchase the right product.
Important Considerations for Feeding Indoor Cats
Cats who either mostly or completely live indoors have a few advantages: unlike outdoor cars, they’re not exposed to various life-threatening situations that outdoor cats are, such as car accidents, predation from dogs and other animals, etc. They’re also much less exposed to feline diseases and fleas and parasites. Overall, indoor cats do appear to lead healthier lifestyles than their outdoor counterparts, but that’s only, and only if they’re fed well and they get a fair bit of exercise/play.
Because they cannot go outside and hunt, run and play, indoor cats definitely tend to be less physically active. For this reason, it’s of vital importance to tailor their diet to their unique needs – a good cat food for indoor cats needs to have all important nutrients and then some. For instance, since indoor pets can’t eat grasses they normally eat outside, cat foods need to be moderately high in fiber to help with their digestion and hairball control. The tricky part? These cat foods cannot be too high in calories.
As we mentioned a few times throughout this article, indoor cats are simply not active enough to eat foods very high in calories – at least not frequently. So what the problem comes down to is finding the cat food that has all the right nutrients and that is preferably rich in protein and fiber, but is not very high in calories.
But how is one supposed find such cat foods? Well, definitely check out our Top Picks if you already haven’t, as you’re guaranteed to find the right product there. But if you really want to make sure you’re doing everything right, talk to your vet. In order to recommend the right cat food, your veterinarian should weigh your cat, check if she has any health issues and take in consideration her physical activity levels. Of course, it’s best if the vet can tell you how many calories your pet should roughly eat a day, but this is not absolutely necessary as you should be able to guesstimate how much food is enough based on your cat’s current state ( for example, if she’s stressed out because you moved recently or she’s nursing, etc., it’s perfectly fine to feed her more than you normally would).
Generally speaking, although all cats are different, it’s a good idea to look for foods that are:
- High to moderately high in protein (unless your cat if overweight)
- Moderately high in fiber
- Low to moderately low in fats (unless your cat gets plenty of exercise)
- Fortified with important vitamins and minerals.
Ingredients To Avoid Feeding Your Indoor Cat
We’ve covered the things you should focus on when purchasing cat food, but what about the things you should avoid?
Like all cats, indoor cats require high-quality protein, healthy fats and some fiber to be healthy, but they do not need many carbohydrates, including grains, vegetables and fruits, in order to thrive. Does that mean you should avoid these foods? Absolutely not – many whole grains, fruits and veggies contain a bunch of beneficial ingredients, including antioxidants such as vitamins and minerals, and other healthy compounds. However, being that most cat foods are already fortified with vitamins and minerals, if you have an overweight cat, it’s best to put her on a low-carbohydrate diet and focus on good-quality meat (protein).
But whether your indoor cat is lean and healthy, or overweight and could use to lose some weight, there are things he or she should always stay away from. These include:
- Artificial preservatives: all cat foods must contain some form of preservative so they can last a long time, however, it’s best to avoid questionable preservatives such as large amounts of BHA, BHT and TBHQ.
- Artificial flavors: a good cat food will contain everything a feline already loves to eat, and while a little bit of added flavor can’t do much harm to outdoorsy cats, it’s best to avoid them for indoor cats completely, simply because they’re not as active.
- Garlic and onions: why would a cat food contain garlic and onions, you ask? We don’t know, but we can positively tell you that quite a number of brands uses garlic as flavoring for their cat and dog foods, even though a steady intake of the Allium species can cause anemia in cats and dogs.
Q: Do indoor cats need different food?
A: Because most indoor cats don’t get nearly as much exercise as cats that are free to explore the great outdoors, most indoor cats do need to be fed differently – namely, they should eat less. However, that doesn’t mean that cat foods for indoor cats should be less nutritious – on the contrary, these foods should contain even more nutrients than ‘regular’ cat food. Protein, fat, fiber and a wide array of minerals and vitamins should all be a part of your indoor cat’s diet.
Some of the best cat food brands have specially formulated kibble and wet food for indoor lifestyle, however, it’s not necessary to look for specifically labeled indoor cat food in order to feed your feline pet the right nutrients. Just focus on healthy cat foods and avoid over-feeding your furry friend.
Q: Should I use the feeding recommendations on the food label?
A: If you have a healthy, lean cat and you buy only best cat food (no overly processed fillers and a bunch of unnecessary calories), then using the feeding recommendations on the cat food label is not only ok, but advisable.
But if your kitty is on the chubby side, it’s wise to talk to your vet as she or he can tell you if you should reduce your cat’s caloric intake and by how much. If they advise you to feed your cat less than what is recommended on the food label, definitely listen to their advice.
Q: Can cat food go bad?
A: To be able to last for months without spoiling, all cat foods contain some form of preservatives. Some contain natural, other artificial preservatives, but if you’re buying a done formula, it’s bound to have some ingredients that will keep the food fresh and safe for a long time. Saying that, cat foods do not last forever – they can definitely go bad, even if their expiration date is still not due. For instance, if the food is exposed to high temperatures during transport, it can go bad before it even reaches your doorstep! That’s why it’s important to:
- Only buy foods that contain preservatives
- Actually look at and smell the food before you serve it
- Store it as advised on the label.
Q: How Big Should My Indoor Cat Be?
A: Cats love to eat, we love to spoil our cats – do you see the problem? It’s easy to over-feed our feline pets when they beg for their toppings, treats and other not-that-healthy foods. But it’s important to stay your ground when feeding an indoor cat. No matter how much he or she meows and begs for more, do not over-feed. Even just a couple of extra pounds puts your cat at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes, arthritis and other health problems.
According to Pet Health Center, domestic cats should weigh around 10 pounds, although of course, this can vary depending on the breed and frame. For example, a 5 pound Siamese cat can be as healthy as a 25 pound Maine Coone – it just depends on the breed. It’s always best to check with your vet, but if you want a quick tip, here’s one: when you look down at your cat, he or she should have that hourglass figure. If you see a saggy belly hanging down, it’s highly likely your kitty is overweight.
Q: How Much Should I Feed Her?
A: How much should you feed your cat depends on a few factors:
- Physical activity: if your cat leads a sedentary lifestyle, it’s important to keep an eye on her daily calories intake. If she gets a fair bit of exercise, it’s ok to be more relaxed with her diet.
- Stress levels: if you’ve recently moved, or your cat had a surgery or she’s pregant/nursing, it’s ok to give her more food than usual. However, once the stressor is eliminated or reduced, it’s advisable to follow the feeding recommendations established by your veterinarian.
- Weight: if your cat is lean and healthy, just follow the feeding recommendations on the food label, but if she’s overweight make sure you reduce her daily calorie intake.
- Life stage: kittens and still developing indoor cats require more food than adult and senior cats. Seniors who are not particularly active should eat much less than ‘regular’ felines, so make sure you do not over-feed them.
Our Top Pick
All cat foods that ended up on Our Top Pick list are great choices for indoor cats. But Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Recipe would be our top-of-the-top product because it’s highly, highly nutritious and palatable.
Although not particularly low in fats and calories in general, this kibble has absolutely all essential nutrients an indoor cat needs:
- It’s high in protein
- It has moderate amounts of fats
- It contains moderate amounts of fiber
- It has species-specific added probiotics
- Has no artificial preservatives, colors or flavors
All of these things make this kibble great for feline’s overall health. However, because this is not a low-calorie food, it’s important not to over-feed your cat but feed her the recommended amount of food (vet recommendations are the best) on the same schedule that she’s been accustomed to.
All in all, we found the Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Recipe to be a budget-friendly, healthy and nutritious cat food that is well-suited for indoor cats.