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The Best Dry Cat Food (Review) in 2021

Wendy Young
Last Updated May 10, 2021

It is important to ensure optimum feline health if you also want to have a more meaningful and long-lasting relationship with your pet. And what better way to do this than to give Garfield highly nutritious food? The best dry cat foods are rich in protein and low in carbs yet provide sufficient amounts of hydration to also address your cat’s need for water. Choosing the best cat food may not be easy since there will always be unscrupulous manufacturers that undermine high-quality food manufacturing at the expense of your fur baby’s health. Don’t worry, though, as we’re here to share with you the result of our research on the 10 best dry cat foods in the market. Let’s take a look.

The Best Dry Cat Food

1

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food

Limited ingredient foods are always a big benefit to animals and never more so than with cats. Their naturally carnivorous nature will love the grain-free, low-carb ingredients. And many users note that their cats are keen to jump into each dish and enjoy to their heart’s content. Being high in protein, this option also caters to their active lifestyle and is, therefore, a great choice for outdoor cats.

ZIWI has worked to include as many superfoods as possible, without marring the taste and overall nutritional value of the food. That makes this a great choice for those seeking to add any additional supplements to their cat’s diet, without reaching for multiple extras to work in on their own. In other words, this is a great choice for cats in all life stages.

Great choice for cats of all ages

Sourced from ethical farms

High level of digestible ingredients means every mouthful adds nutritional value

Air drying process cuts out the risk of bacteria growth

A great alternative to raw food diets and more accessible for everyday cat owners.

Specification:
  • Brand: ZIWI
  • Model: ZPDCM1000P-US
  • Weight: 2.2 Pounds

2

Clearly deserving a spot in our list of the 10 best dry cat foods is this kibble from Blue Buffalo. BLUE for Cats Adult Dry Cat Food enjoys the trust of a great number of feline pet owners because of its amazing array of flavor choices and clinical purposes. It typically comes in single meat protein sources like chicken, salmon, and turkey or a combination of the three and added with brown rice. In addition to this healthy wholesome grain, Blue Buffalo also includes natural vegetables to help provide the cat food with an exceptional profile of natural antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that are packed into a proprietary technology Blue Buffalo calls LifeSource Bits. What really makes the Blue Buffalo stand out is the inclusion of 5 different strains of gut-friendly probiotics to help improve the digestion of your feline friend. Indoor Hairball Control & Weight Control is one of 9 cat food recipes included in our Blue Buffalo Cat Food Review.

 

Minimum of 30% to 36% protein, depending on formulation, and 15% fat

Maximum 10% moisture and 4.5% fiber

Enriched with fermentation extracts from 5 strains of gut-friendly probiotics

Fortified with DHA, EPA, and omega-6 fatty acids

Contains vitamins and minerals sourced from healthy fruits and veggies 

Specification:
  • Brand: Blue Buffalo
  • Model: 800642
  • Weight: 1 pounds

3

Hill’s Science Diet’s Indoor Dry Cat Food boasts of well-balanced nutrition for kitties. Its formulation places real chicken as its primary source of protein and fats while the addition of fish oil simply means that it has substantial amounts of EPA and DHA for anti-inflammatory and nervous system health, respectively. If there is one thing that you might be wary of with this cat food brands, that would be its allergenic grain content. Hill’s Science Diet’s Indoor Cat Food, unfortunately, contains wheat gluten, soy, and corn which can be a serious concern for those pet parents who are wary about pet allergies. Nevertheless, this formulation is specifically designed for tabbies that do not venture outdoors, giving them the kind of well-balanced nutrition they need. If they were more ‘outgoing’, we surmise Hill’s Science would formulate its product with more protein.

Read in-depth Hill’s Cat Food Review.  

Minimum 29.5% protein and 16% fat

Maximum 8% moisture

Fortified with fruits and veggies for their antioxidants

Enriched with vitamins and minerals 

Specification:
  • Brand: Hill’s Science Diet
  • Model: 8879
  • Weight: 7 pounds

4

For those who are quite apprehensive about the allergenicity of certain cat food, Natural Balance’s Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food is a great option since it contains only a single meat-source protein, unlike other brands that provide proteins from multiple meat sources. The Natural Balance dry cat food sources its meat proteins from salmon, chicken, duck, venison, or turkey.

Each single meat protein is then added with a plant protein that is either green peas or chickpeas. The beauty of this formulation is that you can easily identify the protein that your pet is allergic to. It’s also rich in proteins and has significantly higher moisture content than the Blue Buffalo. It also comes with healthy prebiotics, essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins for optimum feline health.

You may also like our Natural Balance Cat Food Review.

329 kcal per cup

Minimum 30% protein from single meat source

8 to 10% fat

12% moisture

Amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals

1:3 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids 

Specification:
  • Brand: Natural Balance
  • Model: 2363314872
  • Weight: 5 pounds

5

You really wouldn’t expect celebrity chef and TV personality Rachael Ray to do well in pet nutrition. However, ever since the establishment of its Nutrish brand of pet food, it has slowly climbed the rankings in the world of pet food. Whether this is because of the pull of her celebrity status or not, you can bet the Nutrish Natural Dry Cat Food deserves to be mentioned in this list of reputable and trustworthy dry cat food brands.

What Nutrish promises is the absence of cereal grains in its formulation, making you feel more confident and safer about the allergies that might befell your pet. Nutrish also prides itself of not using any meals from poultry byproducts. At any rate, you can say Rachael Ray is right on the money when it comes to affording your feline friend good nutrition. 

Take a look at our Rachael Ray Cat Food Review.  

Minimum 34% protein and 14% fat

Maximum 4% fiber and 9% moisture

With omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids

Enriched with calcium, zinc, and phosphorus

Complete with biotin and taurine

Filled with other minerals,vitamins, and antioxidants 

Specification:
  • Brand: Rachael Ray Nutrish
  • Weight: 14-lb

6

There’s no doubt that Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food is one of the 10 best cat foods in the market especially for felines that are at high risk for the development of joint problems such as arthritis. One of the main advantages of Wellness Natural is that it includes chondroitin and glucosamine in its formulation, affording felines the ability to nourish and optimize the health of their joints. Wellness Natural has another big plus going its way. It contains one of the highest levels of crude protein in our list, currently rated at a minimum of 38%.

While this is naturally beneficial especially for young cats, making it an excellent kitten food, too high a protein level can be quite dangerous to cats that have kidney problems, however. Like the other products in our list, Wellness Natural uses chicken as its primary protein source although getting the salmon or the combination of salmon and turkey would be more interesting as these provide EPA and DHA for brain health and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Regardless, Wellness Natural should still be a great choice since it has an ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids plus the addition of natural antioxidants.

Read here our detailed Wellness Cat Food Reviews.

Minimum of 38% protein and 18% fat

Maximum 10% moisture and 3% fiber

Contains chondroitin and glucosamine

1:4 ration of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids

Fortified with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants 

Specification:
  • Brand: Wellness Natural Pet Food
  • Model: 8808
  • Weight: 12 pounds

7

If it’s a high protein dry cat food that you’re after, then Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe is a splendid choice as it contains a minimum of 43.5%, especially for its kitten food variety. This is welcome news for those with kittens in their households as kittens require substantially higher levels of protein than do adult cats. The unique composition of Instinct guarantees that more than 4 out of 5 of its ingredients are based on animal sources while the remainder is what constitutes carbs like wholesome grains, veggies, and fruits. It also uses a variety of novel proteins in its formulations to help augment the grain free nature of its design. It comes in duck, salmon, rabbit, and, of course, chicken. Its Kitten Chicken variant should be helpful in determining if your young feline is allergic to chicken or not. Adding to the health benefits of Instinct is the addition of 60 million colony-forming units of Bacillus coagulans, one of the beneficial bacteria that naturally reside in the cat’s gut. This helps improve digestion while boosting your cat’s immune system.

Take a look at our Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food Review.

Highest minimum protein and fat content at 43.5% and 20.5%, respectively

Modest fiber and moisture content at 3% and 9%, respectively

Fortified with DHA, Vitamin E, and taurine

Added with ascorbic acid, other vitamins, and minerals

Contains 60 million CFUs of the probiotic Bacillus coagulans

Contains essential fatty acids 

Specification:
  • Brand: Nature’s Variety
  • Model: 769949658757
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds

8

The Proactive Health Specialized Care Adult Dry Cat Food formulated and manufactured by IAMS deserves its place in this list of the best cat food brands because of its well-balanced nutritional formula that takes into consideration the unique needs of a feline that prefers to stay indoors rather than go outside exploring. Each kibble of the IAMS Proactive is formulated to contain the right proportions of proteins, fats, moisture, and fiber with the addition of other healthy and all-natural ingredients to keep your feline happy and satisfied.

For more information on the brand, check out our Iams Cat Food Review.

Provides 373 kcal of energy per cup

Minimum protein and fat content rated at 32% and 15%, respectively

Modest amounts of fiber and moisture at 3% and 10% at maximum, respectively

Enriched with carnitine, taurine, choline, and rosemary extract

Completed with vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants

Specification:
  • Brand: Iams
  • Model: 10146528
  • Weight: 22 pounds

9

Purina’s Cat Chow Gentle Dry Cat Food formulation is one of the most unique products we’ve seen so far when it comes to kitty chow. The Cat Chow has effectively ditched the usual chicken meal into its formulation for the more novel, hopefully less allergenic turkey. However, while it has replaced chicken with turkey, Cat Chow still contains corn gluten, soybean meal, and wheat flour. Nevertheless, the moderately high fiber content should help with more efficient fecal elimination while the moisture content is perfect for ensuring hydration in your cat.

Find out more about Purina Cat Food.

Contains a minimum of 34% protein and 11% fat

Contains a maximum of 5% fiber and 12% moisture

Enriched with 25 essential minerals and vitamins

Contains biotin, choline, and taurine

Specification:
  • Brand: Purina
  • Model: 16633
  • Weight: 13.25 pounds

10

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels for Cats

This freeze-dried raw food from Stella & Chewy has proven to be consistently highly rated. This is likely due to the quality content of the cat food as a whole – but it also comes with a wide range of additional benefits. Added supplements help to maintain the overall health of your cat, while grain-free food makes sure that every mouthful is packed with nutrients.

Everything is sourced from organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. Which, when combined with the top-quality production process, right made here in the US, offers unbeatable value for money. Your cat is sure to love this food and will reap the benefits of all the added goodness it has to offer.

Can be rehydrated using warm water or served plain

Made in the US with certified organic ingredients

Never contains grains, gluten, fillers, artificial preservatives, or colorings.

Ingredients which are rich in protein

Supports an improved appetite, digestion, immune system, and overall skin and brain health.

Specification:
  • Brand: Stella & Chewy’s
  • Model: CAT-FDC-18
  • Weight: 1.13 Pounds

Best Dry Cat Food Buying Guide

We understand the most common mistakes made by most newbie cat owners in selecting the most appropriate food for their pet. Like any other buying endeavor, you should always look for the quality of the products and less on the price. More importantly, however, is for you to determine the purpose of giving dry food to your cat. For example, growing kittens will require different nutrition from a cat that is already in its senior years. Also, some cats are not really active so they will require significantly fewer calories, lest they risk developing obesity. Choosing the right cat food is more about understanding the unique needs of your pet. We’ve prepared to guide you through the process of choosing the best dry food for your cat.

You May Aldo Like: Best Kitten Food

What Should I Look for in the Best Dry Food for My Cat?

Feline chow typically comes in various types, ingredients, presentations, and flavors, among others. There clearly is no single product that can be considered ideal for any type of cat since every feline is inherently unique. Just as some of us don’t like chicken in our diets, so too some cats, although not by choice but rather because of necessity. That said, it is important to make sure you’re choosing the best dry food for your cat. But how do you do that? Here are some things you really have to look for every time you start scouring the shelves of pet food at your local pet store.

  • The 1st five ingredients on the label matter 

Manufacturers are required by law to list their ingredients according to their proportion relative to the mass of the product. While dogs are known to thrive relatively well even with carbohydrates in their diets, cats, on the other hand, do not. That is why it is essential the first 5 ingredients listed on a product’s label must be primarily animal meats.

However, packing the full first 5 with only meat products can be a very expensive proposition which, sadly, will be passed on to the consumers in the form of a higher price. From the vantage point of manufacturers, this is simply not a good way to make money. As such, some would definitely include vegetables, wholesome grains, or even fruits in their first 5. Again, this is perfectly alright as long as the majority, say, 3 out of 5, of the principal ingredients come from animal sources. The protein from animals is more easily digestible compared to proteins that come from certain plant products.

Also, there is a question of whether you should take whole meats, meals, or byproduct meals. Whole meats provide your feline with the best concentration of proteins and fats from a single source. Meals, on the other hand, can be a combination of different meats which have substantially higher protein content. The only issue is that, if your feline is allergic to animal proteins, identifying the allergen might prove difficult.

As for byproducts, there’s a bit of controversy as some manufacturers strongly advise against purchasing products that contain meat byproducts. But science actually says that byproduct meals are a good source of minerals that may not be present in whole meats. As long as you can ascertain the product has undergone meticulous processing, ensuring only the highest possible quality for your cat, then it should be a wise choice.

  • The protein question 

If you’ve noticed our selection of the best cat food items, most have a protein content of 30% or more, at the very least. This is because cats are inherently carnivorous and they thrive primarily on animal-based proteins. We already know what proteins do to the body, especially to young kittens. That is why, depending on the developmental age of the cat you’re going to give the cat food to, you’d have to take note of the protein content.

Kittens require more protein because of their need for building tissues. Adult felines, on the other hand, will require just the normal amounts of protein to maintain the tissues. Elderly cats will require more protein again to help improve the integrity of the tissues amidst the ongoing changes associated with aging. However, if they have kidney disease, then they will need less protein.

  • Artificial ingredients

Everyone knows the implications of artificial ingredients and other synthetic chemicals on the overall health and wellbeing of pets. As such, it is imperative to educate yourself with the knowledge of the most common artificial ingredients that are toxic to pets, especially cats. Look for such substances in the ingredient list of a particular product. If none is written, then the manufacturer must have a very explicit statement saying their product doesn’t contain these harmful chemicals.

  • Safety record 

This is akin to the overall credibility, trustworthiness, and credibility of a pet food manufacturer. Understand that even big-name companies and well-established organizations can produce feline dry food products that are of questionable quality. It’s not so much about whether the product was utterly ineffective or not, but rather how the company managed such an issue. How were they able to overcome the odds of losing their client base because of such a product? One way to evaluate this is by looking at their performance in the years after the controversy. If they have been making good progress it simply shows their resilience. 

What Ingredients Should I Look For in Cat Food?

We have already discussed this above. Kitties are natural predators. They thrive on meat. As such the ingredients that you really need to look for in their respective diets should be the following.

  • High protein
  • High moisture
  • Low carbohydrates

Protein is important for building tissues. This is more important among kittens as they require plenty of easily digestible animal proteins to help build the different tissues in their still-developing body. The point is to make sure you get an animal-based protein.

Check out Best High Fiber Cat Food

Moisture is needed, unless your feline friend can finish its bowl of water within the day. Cats are known to have a very low thirst drive. Their brains are not really wired to recognize thirst. As such, their cells may already be very thirsty and yet they still won’t drink. That is why it is imperative to give them access to free-flowing water as the continuous movement of water simulates the movement of prey. This arouses the cat’s curiosity, making them want to drink. That said, veterinarians actually recommend canned or wet cat food instead of dry kibbles because the moisture content of kibbles is so low, with the maximum typically in 15%. This pales in comparison to wet cat food which can have a moisture content of as much as 70 to 80 percent of its weight. We’ll have a separate discussion on why dry kibbles are still favorable, though.

As we have described above, cats are habitual predators. They pounce on living prey. While plants are living organisms, they don’t possess some of the innate characteristics of prey. As such, evolution has taught cats never to chow down on plants. However, many of the nutrients like antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins are found in plant food sources. Therefore, manufacturers have found a way to incorporate many of these healthy veggies, fruits, and grains into their recipes. However, since cats require proteins more than carbs, the carb content of dry cat food should be minimal.

Why Should I Give My Cat Dry Food Instead of Wet, Canned, or Raw?

We mentioned above that cats don’t have the drive to drink. That is why they must be trained to drink from their water bowls. However, if your feline simply uninterested or hasn’t learned the art of drinking from its bowl, then you will need to give it wet or canned cat food. These contain a lot of moisture which should help hydrate your feline. Unfortunately, since 80% of the weight of the food is water, its nutrient content will have to make do with the remaining 20%. As such, nutrition-wise, wet or canned cat food is less superior to a portion of dry cat food.

This is one of the main reasons why it is better to give felines dry food. It has more nutrients packed into each kibble as it only contains about 12 to 15 percent water. That means the remaining 85 to 88 percent is composed of nutrients. This is where you will need to assign values to the protein, fats, and carbs.

There are other benefits to giving dry food to your feline. It’s more economical since it doesn’t spoil easily and each package is often good for a few weeks of feeding. The texture of the dry kibbles can also help provide healthier teeth and gums for your feline friend. Overall, unless your cat is not drinking water, then dry cat food is an excellent choice.

best dry cat food

Cats require the right nutrients for them to develop into healthier, happier felines. In choosing their best nutrition, it is important to focus on high-quality proteins and to stay away from those that contain plenty of carbs and artificial ingredients. It is also important to look at the credibility of the pet food manufacturer as this can give you an idea of the quality of their product. And in case you’re wondering where to start, our 10 best dry cat foods should set you on the right path.

Sources:

  1. Feeding Your Cat, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Wendy Young
Wendy Young
A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.
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