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The Best Dry Cat Food (Review) in 2021

Last Updated August 31, 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 10 Top Rated Dry Cat Foods

Editor's PickProduct NamePriceRating
Best Air-DriedZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat FoodCheck Price on Chewy4
Best for Weight ControlBlue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control & Weight ControlCheck Price on Amazon4.7
Best for Joint ProblemsWellness Complete Health Chicken & Rice Dry Cat FoodCheck Price on PetSmart4
Best Freeze-DriedStella & Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Dinner MorselsCheck Price on Chewy4.3
Best for KittensNature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Kitten FoodCheck Price on Amazon4.5
Best High-ProteinWysong Epigen Starch-Free Chicken FormulaCheck Price on Chewy3.8
Best for Immune SupportDr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Cat FoodCheck Price on Amazon4.5
Best HypoallergenicNatural Balance L.I.D. Salmon & Chickpea FormulaCheck Price on PetSmart5
Best for Picky EatersPrimal Chicken & Salmon Formula Raw Nuggets Freeze-Dried Cat FoodCheck Price on Chewy4.1
Best for Indoor CatsHill's Science Diet Adult Indoor Chicken RecipeCheck Price on Amazon4.8
*Ratings are from Amazon, Chewy, and PetSmart at the time of publication and can change

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.

Crude protein 43.0% (min)

Crude fat 25.0% (min)

Crude fiber 2.0% (max)

Moisture 14.0% (max)

Ash 12.0.0% (max)

Chondroitin sulfate 1300 mg/kg (min)

A great choice for cats of all ages

Sourced from ethical farms

Brand: ZIWI

Allergens: None

First 5 Ingredients: Mackerel, Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver

Primary Proteins: Fish, lamb

Flavor: Mackeral and Lamb

Life Stage: All life stages

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$100

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

A high level of digestible ingredients means every mouthful adds nutritional value

The air drying process cuts out the risk of bacteria growth

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

Cons

Very strong smelling dry cat food

Can be a little sticky due to higher moisture content

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. Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball & 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

Brand: Blue Buffalo

Allergens: Barley, Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Barley, Brown Rice, and Pea Starch

Primary Proteins: Chicken, pea protein

Flavor: Chicken and Brown Rice

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$25

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

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

Contains vitamins and minerals sourced from healthy fruits and veggies 

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

Cons

Can lead to urinary crystals – check with a vet before buying!

Not as palatable to cats as some other brands

3

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

Brand: Wellness Complete

Allergens: Gluten

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Deboned Chicken, Pea Fiber, Turkey Meal

Primary Proteins: Chicken, pea, turkey

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$34

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

Contains chondroitin and glucosamine

Fortified with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants 

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

Cons

Not the most palatable

Many buyers noted that their cat had no interest in this dry cat food

4

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.

Crude protein 45.0% min

Crude fat 25.0% min

Crude fiber 5.0% max

Moisture 5.0% max

Taurine 0.2% min

Can be rehydrated using warm water or served plain

Brand: Stella & Chewy

Allergens: Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride

Primary Proteins: chicken

Flavor: chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$400 

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

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

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

Uses ingredients that are rich in protein

Made in the US with certified organic ingredients

Cons

More expensive than some others on our list

Uses chicken by-products in the ingredients

5

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

Contains essential fatty acids 

Brand: Nature’s Variety

Allergens: Egg, chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat, Egg Product

Primary Proteins: Chicken, turkey, fish

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Kitten

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$83

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

Fortified with DHA, Vitamin E, and taurine

Contains 60 million CFUs of the probiotic Bacillus coagulans

Added with ascorbic acid, other vitamins, and minerals

Cons

Small kibble size isn’t suitable for larger cat breeds

6

Wysong Epigen Canine/Feline Dry Diet Cat Food

The Wysong cat food offers an incredible dietary option for your adult cat, offering a grain-free alternative that is hard to compete with. Its main ingredients are entirely based on what your cat (and dog) would naturally eat and links them to their obligate carnivorous nature. Real chicken hit the top spot on this list, which leads to a massive 60% protein capacity.

Of course, that also means that these dry foods are not suitable for indoor cats or kittens. More importantly, however, the fresh meat basis on which this cat food was created can be far too rich for some cats, too. You’ll need to add this to your cat’s diet much more slowly than you would with competitors. Otherwise, your cat will have stomach problems – and eventually refuse to eat it.

Crude Protein 60%

Crude Fat (min) 15%

Crude Fiber 4%

Moisture 10%

Taurine 0.2%

Brand: Wysong

Allergens: Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Organic Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potato Protein, Meat Protein Isolate

Primary Proteins: Chicken, Turkey, Potato

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$32

Specification:
  • Brand: Wysong
  • Model: WDCFE5
  • Weight: 5 Pounds
Pros

Designed to mimic the natural diet of your cat

Plenty of added goodness to maintain your cat’s digestive system

High nutritive value with a natural chicken flavor

Cons

Can lead to stomach upset in most cats

The stomach upset can lead to some cats refusing the food (read review for more info)

7

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Cat Food

Dr Elsey’s have done really well here, to create a cat food formula that takes the best ingredients and provide them at a really low price (all things considered). A high protein content means that this isn’t ideal for indoor cats or kittens – but works brilliantly for outdoor cats and active pets.

Plenty of added amino acids from appropriate sources help to keep your cat healthy and happy, too. Just be aware that the kibble pieces can be quite large for some smaller cats, and that you’ll need to make more frequent purchases, sadly, due to the smaller bag size.

Crude protein 59.0% min

Crude fat 18.0% min

Crude fiber 4.0% max

Moisture 12.0% max

Eicosapentaenoic acid 0.06% min

Docosahexaenoic acid 0.06% min

Vitamin e 150 iu/kg min

Omega-3 fatty acids 0.9% min

Brand: Dr Elsey’s

Allergens: Chicken, Egg

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat

Primary Proteins: chicken, egg, pork

Flavor: chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$60

Specification:
  • Brand: Dr Elsey’s
  • Model: 119079
  • Weight: 2.0 pounds
Pros

95% of protein is animal based

Just 4% carbohydrates and ideal for weight management

Low risk of urinary crystals

Smaller bags need more frequent purchases

Kibble pieces can be quite large for smaller breeds

Cons

Smaller bags need more frequent purchases

Kibble pieces can be quite large for smaller breeds

8

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

8 to 10% fat

12% moisture

Brand: Natural Balance

Allergens: Fish

First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Chickpeas, Peas, Salmon Meal, and Pea Protein

Primary Proteins: Salmon, chickpea, and peas

Flavor: Salmon

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$24

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

Ideal for cats with allergies

Minimum 30% protein from single meat source

Ample amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals

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

Cons

Food can go bad quickly and there’s no way to reseal the bag

9

Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Nuggets Grain-Free Raw Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Best suited as a topper or to supplement your cat’s daily diet, these freeze-dried chunks work wonders for those seeking the very best for their pet. The high protein content comes from cat-appropriate sources, complementing your dry foods perfectly, if you’re after upping the health quota of your food.

Naturally filled with vitamins and minerals that help to support your cat, giving them healthy skin and ideal digestive system, this is an ideal – if expensive – choice. Just be aware that, due to the natural quality of this option, the quality of your bag may change from order to order.

Crude Protein 52%

Crude fat 32%

Crude fiber 1%

Moisture 3%

Brand: Primal Pet Foods

Allergens: Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: chicken, chicken necks, chicken gizzards, salmon, chicken livers

Primary Proteins: Chicken, salmon

Flavor: chicken and salmon

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$122

Specification:
  • Brand: Primal Pet Foods
  • Model: FCF-FD
  • Weight: 0.32 Ounces
Pros

Can be used as full meals or as toppers

Naturally filled with vitamins and minerals

Free from antibiotics or hormones

Cons

Expensive as a whole food

Customers note that quality can change between orders

10

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

Brand: Hill’s

Allergens: Corn, gluten, wheat, chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Fat

Primary Proteins: Chicken

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$29

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

Fortified with fruits and veggies for their antioxidants

Enriched with vitamins and minerals 

Cons

A considerable amount of filler

Not suitable for cats with sensitive stomachs

11

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 review of Rachael Ray Cat Food.

Minimum 34% protein and 14% fat

Maximum 4% fiber and 9% moisture

Brand: Rachael Ray

Allergens: Chicken, gluten,

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Brown Rice, Brewer’s Rice

Primary Proteins: Chicken

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: All ages

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$17

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

With omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids

Filled with other minerals,vitamins, and antioxidants 

Enriched with calcium, zinc, and phosphorus

Cons

Contains gluten

Can be quite dusty

12

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

Brand: Iams

Allergens: Corn, Gluten, Wheat, Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Grits, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn

Primary Proteins: Chicken

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$19

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

Enriched with carnitine, taurine, choline, and rosemary extract

Completed with vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants

Cons

A considerable number of fillers in the ingredients

13

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

Brand: Purina

Allergens: Corn, Gluten, Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Turkey By-product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Rice, Chicken By-product Meal

Primary Proteins: Turkey, soybean, chicken

Flavor: Turkey

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$19

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

Contains biotin, choline, and taurine

Enriched with 25 essential minerals and vitamins

Designed for sensitive stomachs

Easily digested

Cons

Made with a lot of meal and fillers

14

Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food

Solid Gold have proven to be very popular with some pet parents of an adult cat. This particular option is great for grain-free cat food that can help your adult cat with allergies or a sensitive stomach. Free from corn, wheat and soy, there is also no gluten in this food.

At the same time, it still manages to balance protein fairly well – although the fat content is a little high. As such, a couple of reviewers noticed that their cat put on some weight, with this choice. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight, it may be best to avoid this option.

Crude protein 42.0% min

Crude fat 20.0% min

Crude fiber 3.0% max

Moisture 10.0% max

Docosahexaenoic acid (dha) 0.05% min

Vitamin e 100 iu/kg min

Taurine 0.15% min

Omega-6 fatty acids 3.0% min

Omega-3 fatty acids 1.0% min

Ascorbic acid 100 mg/kg min

Total microorganisms 2 x 105 cfu/g min

Brand: Solid Gold

Allergens: Chicken, fish

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Peas, Chicken, Dried Eggs

Primary Proteins: Chicken, fish

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: All life stages

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$35

Specification:
  • Brand: Solid Gold
  • Model: 84335
  • Weight: 12.0 pounds
Pros

Added probiotics for cat health

Grain-free and no gluten

No corn, wheat or soy, making it suitable for allergy sufferers

Cons

Real chicken doesn’t appear until the 5th position on the ingredients

Some cat food reviews noted that their cat put on weight with this option

15

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Taste of the Wild comes up frequently, when it comes to top lists, and it’s easy to see why. The company clearly know what customers want and how to provide the basics to cats. Indeed, the percentages of protein and fat are ideal for most, healthy adult cats and this suits many pet owners well.

However, with this option there’s one big thing holding it back. The main ingredients are mostly filler-based, with meat meal being the number one ingredient – as opposed to fresh chicken. Given that cats need to eat meat from high-quality sources, this is a major con to this option and why it sits at the bottom of our list.

Crude protein 42.0% min

Crude fat 18.0% min

Crude fiber 3.0% max

Moisture 10.0% max

Zinc 120 mg/kg min

Selenium 0.3 mg/kg min

Vitamin e 150 iu/kg min

Taurine 0.15% min

Omega-6 fatty acids 2.8% min

Omega-3 fatty acids 0.3% min

Total microorganisms not less than 80,000,000 cfu/lb min

Brand: Taste of the Wild

Allergens: Chicken

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Peas, Sweet Potatoes, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein

Primary Proteins: Chicken, Pea, Potato

Flavor: Chicken

Life Stage: Adult

Typical Monthly Cost: ~$23

Specification:
  • Brand: Taste of the Wild
  • Model: 154558
  • Weight: 14 Pounds
Pros

Ample protein to support cell regeneration

Plenty of added vitamins and minerals to support a healthy body and coat

Added probiotics, prebiotics and antioxidants

Cons

Cats seem to get bored of this

Main sources of protein are filler based

Best Dry Cat Food Buying Guide & FAQs

We understand the most common mistakes made by most newbie cat owners in selecting the most appropriate food for their pets. 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 also like our guides on the Best Kitten Food and Best Dry Food for Senior Cats.

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.

Low Carbohydrates

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.

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 Avoid?

best dry cat food

BHT, BHA, and Ethoxyquin

These chemicals are used to maintain the overall freshness of the cat food (and are also used in dog food or any other kibble). However, ethoxyquin is illegal to use for human consumption and can be harmful to ingest or touch. Of course, some manufacturer’s still use this in pet food, alongside BHT and BHA – both of which can be carcinogenic.

Meat Byproducts

The American Animal Feed Control Officials (A.K.A. American Feed Control Officials or AAFCO) defines meat byproducts as the following: “Secondary products produced in addition to the principal product.” While some chicken meal, or other meat meals, are unavoidable and can even be beneficial to adult cats, watch out for “meal by-product” or similar ingredients on the label.

Corn Meal and Carbohydrate Fillers

Any fillers that are added to the cat food have no nutritive value – but fill up your cat. So, it won’t be long before your cat gets hungry again. As such, fillers and meals can play with your cat’s blood sugar or lead to a wide range of different problems in the long run. Instead, opt for grain-free, filler free dry cat food.

Keep Your Kitty Hydrated – Consider Investing in Water Fountain

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.

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.

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.

How to Switch or Transition Cat Foods

If you’re trying to switch dry kitten food, just be wary of the cat’s digestive system, which is extra sensitive at such a young age. While you may be using the right animal proteins and working with the finest dry cat food, you’ll still need to transition slowly.

Firstly, you’ll need to begin with a small amount of the new cat food and the majority of the meal coming from the old dry cat food (or wet cat food, if you’re changing over from wet food). Do this same mixture for one or two days.

On the next day, you’ll need to add between a quarter and a third of the new dry cat food with the old dry or wet cat food. A few days after this, you need to switch the dry cat food so that it sits as half and half. Then, you’ll change the formula again to three-quarters of new dry cat food and a quarter of the older cat food. On the final day, your dry cat food should be completely made up of the new cat food.

Sources:

  1. Masayuki Funaba, Evaluation Of Meat Meal, Chicken Meal, And Corn Gluten Meal As Dietary Sources Of Protein In Dry Cat Food, National Center for Biotechnology Information
  2. Feeding Your Cat, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Best Dry Cat Food FAQs:

The best dry cat food offers high nutritive value, over caloric density. In other words, the dry food shouldn’t be filled with any unnecessary ingredients. These unnecessary ingredients include artificial flavors, corn, gluten, meal variations and preservatives.

Nor should it be packed with carbs over proteins and fats. Ideally, the latter two should come from animal protein, since this high-quality protein ensures the nutrition comes from the natural source – one which your cat would otherwise find in the wild.

Most adult cats will thrive with the healthiest dry cat food – and the best dry cat food has the best nutritive value. Which means you need to get dry cat food that supports grain-free diets – allowing the kibble to be packed with only the best stuff. Meaning no fillers, preservatives or grains, which are often used to add caloric density.

The simplest and easiest thing to mix dry cat food with is canned food. Wet cat foods are often more enticing to your cats, since wet food has a stronger scent and appeals to your cats obligate carnivore nature. Wet food also has the benefit of having a higher moisture content, so your cat food will therefore help to maintain your urinary tract health.

Every cat is different, and therefore the answer to this is different, depending on the type of cat you have. Indoor cats will need lower levels of protein, while outdoor cats need grain-free dry cat food, as this ensures the cat food is made up of the highest nutritive value possible.

Meanwhile, an adult cat will have different needs to a kitten. Kitten dry food often includes more fats and calories that adult dry cat foods. Indeed, this is the same rule followed in wet food, too. This is so your cat food supports healthy growth, leaving your kitten with a supported immune system, strong muscles and quality bones, too.

As such, how much dry food you need to feed your cat changes, depending on these and many other factors. However, as a rule, it is recommended that owners feed their cats roughly 24- 35 calories per pound.

Older cats are less active and often have more health concerns. As such, you need to be sure that your older cats are able to maintain a healthy weight, and that you can keep your cat’s teeth healthy. As well as this, you’ll need to find dry cat food that has a high moisture content. Not only will this keep your cat enticed, it’ll help to maintain urinary tract health, too.

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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