As a pet owner, and a cat person in particular, you want to ensure your pet gets the very best dry cat food. So, you do your research and read product labels, but you’re still unsure which brand to go with, which type of cat food can meet your specific cat’s nutritional needs, and what type of food offers a flavor that your cat won’t turn their nose up at. Finding a cat food that checks all of these boxes can be tough.
Fortunately, with the help of two of my cats, I’ve tested several of the leading brands and narrowed it down to six dry cat foods that not only will your cat love, but each one is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients that are vital to your pet’s coat, skin, and overall health. I’ve also created a buyer’s guide that will go over what you need to look for when you’re reading product labels and how you can determine if a particular brand of cat food will work for your pet. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes each of the products that made it onto my must-have list, in addition to important nutrient information that can help you narrow down your choices and find a cat food that will be perfect for your favorite feline.
Dry Cat Food Comparison Chart
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food
This dry kitten food by Hill’s Science Diet contains chicken as the main protein source, in addition to natural fibers that are designed to promote healthy digestion. The kibble contains DHA from fish oil, which supports healthy eye and brain development in young cats. The formula also promotes strong teeth and bones and contains balanced minerals, rice, and lean chicken, for a flavor all kittens will find appealing. This formula is perfect for kittens who need a specially formulated cat food that’s designed to fuel the energy needs of indoor cats while providing important nutrients that support eye development and brain health.
- Contains DHA
- Specially formulated to support eye, brain, and bone health
- Designed for indoor cats
- Seven-pound bag
- Chicken is the main protein source
- Can cause bloating
This formula contains balanced minerals that will promote strong bones and teeth, natural fibers that aid in digestion and a well-balanced formula that ensures your kitten will grow and thrive. The fact that the main protein source is chicken is a huge plus, as is the fact that the formula contains all-natural ingredients and no fillers.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium Dry Cat Food
This cat food is designed to promote the nutritional needs of indoor adult cats. It does not contain any:
The main protein source is chicken, which is a huge plus for pet owners looking for a nutrient-dense cat food that provides the proper nutrition for indoor felines. This food also contains essential vitamins, minerals, and veggies, in addition to taurine, which promotes heart health.
Main ingredients include:
- Brown rice
The addition of brown rice provides an excellent carb source and its high in both fiber and vitamin B. The beet pulp is another great source of fiber and provides prebiotics that supports healthy digestion and a healthy digestive tract.
- All-natural ingredients
- Chicken is the main protein source
- No additives, byproducts, or fillers
- Contains brown rice
- Can cause gassiness
This is an all-natural formula that’s designed to promote a healthy digestive tract, strong bones, oral health, and immune health. This is the perfect formula for active indoor cats and it offers the type of rich natural chicken flavor that all cats will love.
Taste of the Wild Grain Free Rocky Mountain Premium Dry Cat Food
This is one of the top-selling foods by Taste of the Wild, due to the main protein sources which are smoked salmon and roasted venison. This formula contains forty-two percent protein and is grain-free. Additionally, it contains a fatty acid blend that supports a healthy coat and skin, antioxidants for immune health, and fruits and veggies. The formula also includes probiotics that aid in digestion.
This formula does not contain:
- Artificial flavors or colors
- Fillers, preservatives, or byproducts
- Venison and salmon are the main protein sources
- Free of fillers and byproducts
- Can cause constipation in some cats
The high protein content can lead to constipation in some cats, especially seniors and cats who have ongoing digestive issues. When transitioning from your old cat’s food to this one, make sure the change is gradual by adding ten percent of this food to your cat’s diet, while minimizing their normal serving of old cat food by ten percent. The high-quality protein sources and the all-natural ingredients will boost your cat’s immune system, fuel their energy, and leave your cat feeling full and satisfied.
Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Natural Kitten Dry Cat Food
This kitten food contains whole grains, fruits, and garden veggies, with real chicken as the main protein source. This formula is designed to support healthy growth and development and contains choline, ARA, and DHA to support retinal development and cognitive development. During a time when a cat is the most vulnerable, this cat food is an excellent choice and one that was created by a team of holistic vets and animal nutritionists.
- Contains healthy fats
- Chicken is the main protein source
- All-natural formula
- Contains a blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- Can cause bloating
This formula contains ingredients that are designed to promote the health and well-being of kittens, featuring only the finest natural ingredients, with the addition of vitamins and minerals, so you can be sure your cat is getting a balanced diet, and cat food that’s packed with flavor and all the nutrients a growing cat needs for proper growth and development.
Nutro Max Dry Cat Food
This three-pound bag of cat food is designed for all life stages and it features an all-natural formula that supports immune health, growth, and development. It contains blueberries, taurine for heart health, vitamin E for coat health, and chicken. It’s also fortified with DHA, which promotes brain development. Lean chicken is listed as the first ingredient, which means it has a very high chicken content. A high protein content is a must in order to fuel energy, growth, and development.
- All-natural ingredients
- Contains fortified DHA
- Promotes heart health
- Designed for all stages of life
- Can cause constipation
- Can cause excessive gas
This formula contains all-natural ingredients and can be used for cats of all ages, however, it can cause digestive issues in older cats with underlying conditions, such as kidney problems.
Nutro remains one of the leading cat food manufacturers primarily for its high-quality formula that’s designed for all stages of life. This protein-packed, all-natural formula will support immune health, growth, development, and contains a whole learn protein source, which is exactly what both indoors and outdoor cats need in order to thrive.
Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food, for Adult Indoor Cats
During adulthood, cats need to be fed a nutritious diet that will support digestion and everyday health. This product is specially formulated to fuel an indoor cat’s energy needs and is specifically designed for grown cats. It contains all-natural ingredients, including DHA from fish oil which supports eye health and brain health. The balanced minerals support bone health and oral health, while the fiber content ensures proper digestion. When you make the switch to this cat food from your cat’s old food, make sure you do so gradually, since the high protein and fiber content can cause excessive gas and digestive upset if given in a higher amount too quickly.
- Contains chicken as the main protein source
- DHA fish oil for brain and eye health
- Aids in digestion
- All-natural ingredients
- Can cause bloating or diarrhea
This formula is often recommended by vets since it contains all-natural ingredients, is free of soy, wheat, fillers, additives, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors. This formula contains chicken as the main protein source and essential vitamins and minerals that can promote immune, eye, bone, and heart health. This food is also reasonably priced and contains the type of natural chicken flavor that no cat will turn its nose up at.
Dry Cat Food Buyer’s Guide
There’s no doubt that a cat can be picky, so not only do you have to choose a healthy formula, but you also need to find one that will taste good to your cat. Aside from flavor, the right type of cat food can be very beneficial to your cat’s health, offering the type of nutrients needed for skin and coat health, but the wrong type of cat food can be loaded with fillers that will cause your cat to gain weight, offering no real nutritional benefits. This guide is designed to show you exactly what you need to look for to ensure your feline is getting the proper diet he or she needs to thrive.
Benefits of Dry Cat Food
Many pet owners are on the fence about dry cat food, mistakenly believing that wet cat food is better, but dry cat food can offer many of the same benefits and then some.
Dry cat food can be a better option for a number of reasons.
- It supports dental health and can prevent or remove plaque
- It can be left out all day, allowing your cat to graze, whereas wet cat food must be thrown out after a period of two hours.
- It doesn’t have an overwhelming odor like wet cat food does
- It’s more nutrient-dense than many types of wet cat food
- It will help to increase water intake
- Many cats prefer dry over wet
- Dry cat food offers you more bang for your buck
- It can be purchased in bulk
- It comes in conveniently sized bags
- It’s more affordable than wet cat food and has a longer shelf life
- It’s easier to measure out the correct portion for your feline, based on their weight
- It’s very easy to store and perfect for travel
As you can see, there are many reasons to go with dry cat food over wet cat food. If you’re on a tight budget, your cat is dealing with weight issues, and you simply can’t stand the strong odor associated with wet cat food, then a nutrient-dense dry food can be an excellent option.
Dry Cat Food Labels
When you’re shopping for cat food and trying to compare products, reading the label will give you plenty of important information.
The first thing to consider is the purpose of the food. Some food will be made for:
- Indoor cats
- Active cats
- Older felines
- Weight control
- Hairball management
It’s important to look for this information so you can ensure your cat will be getting the right type of nutritional value they need.
What’s the net weight of the food? The label will clearly state the recommended serving size based on your cat’s weight and/or age. Knowing how much a bag weighs will help you calculate how many servings are in each bag.
The first few ingredients listed will give you a good idea of the type of nutritional value the food offers. The ingredients are listed based on weight, from highest to lowest. This means if the first ingredient is corn, then the food will be primarily made out of it. If one of the last ingredients listed is fish, then you’ll know right away that the food contains very little fish. Animal organs, boneless meat, and meat, in general, should be listed as the first few ingredients. You should avoid any type of food that mentions byproducts. These foods are low-quality. Good cat food will include a list of simple ingredients, such as grains, sweet potatoes, and fish. It shouldn’t include ingredients that you can’t even pronounce.
Where do the ingredients in the food come from? Make sure you choose a company that sources its ingredients from sustainable suppliers and farmers. Does the food contain any corn, soy, or grains? Make sure you avoid foods that contain these types of carbs since they tend to cause poor blood sugar control, inflammation and can promote weight gain, all of which can be very bad for older cats.
This is a chart that will detail the percentage of each of the ingredients, including phosphorous, fiber, fat, protein, and other ingredients. If you’re still not sure if the cat food is right for your pet, you can also consult your vet, who can help you to determine what the right percentage is for your cat. As an example, many adult cats need around thirty percent of crude protein, with lower amounts of phosphorous.
What Ingredients to Look For
High-quality pet food will contain premium ingredients. When you’re shopping for pet food, keep an eye out for the following ingredients:
Animal protein: The food’s protein should be clearly listed, so you’ll know exactly what the protein source is. Animal protein sources can include duck, mussels, sardines, salmon, lamb, venison, eggs, beef, and chicken. Organ meats may also be included. This will usually include beef liver or chicken livers.
Fruits and veggies: Most of the carbs in your pet food should consist of fruits and veggies. Look for foods that contain berries, apples, zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
Healthy fats: These fats are naturally found in animal proteins, but they can also be added to pet food. Healthy fats include omega 3 fatty acids such as ALA, DHA, EPA.
Marine plants and herbs: This will include kelp, sage, rosemary, thyme, dill, and basil.
Ingredients to Avoid
Feeding your cat high-quality food that’s nutrient-dense can increase their lifespan and can help prevent certain diseases. But choosing the right cat food isn’t just about looking for the right ingredients, it’s also about knowing what bad ingredients to keep an eye out for. Ingredients to avoid are low-quality and can be potentially toxic to your cat. These ingredients can lead to health issues in your cat later on in life, such as obesity, cancer, kidney disease, and diabetes.
Avoid cat food that contains the following ingredients:
- Artificial flavors and colors including caramel coloring, yellow five, red forty, and blue two
- Synthetic preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA
- Any food that contains byproducts
- Any product that fails to clearly identify the type of protein source that is in the food. These labels are usually vague and will simply list “meat” as the protein source.
- Rendered fat, which can promote mold growth and bacteria
- Sodium nitrate
- Vitamin 3K
Basically, if you’re not familiar with an ingredient, or can’t even pronounce it, then it’s probably not a natural ingredient and something that can potentially harm your cat in the future.
The Fewer Ingredients the Better
In most cases, foods that contain fewer ingredients are usually a better, healthier option. High-quality pet foods will only include foods that your cat needs, with no fillers.
You should also be wary of any foods that contain certain hype words on the package, such as premium or natural. These foods aren’t regulated by the FDA, which means that a food label is able to claim that the food contains all-natural ingredients but it can still contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
Look for these words on the package instead:
These words are legally regulated and can only be used legally by certain companies.
Where Does the Food Come From?
When a pet recall occurs, it’s typically due to an issue at the facility it was produced at. A recall is not often due to the ingredients used. As an example, as rendering facility will often list meat meal as the main ingredient. This means the food contains some type of mystery meat that came from a slaughterhouse or factory farm. A good pet food company will always tightly regulate their facilities by assessing their production standards, equipment, and employees. Stick with companies that are US-based.
Any type of pet food can be tricky in terms of how your cat’s body responds to it and whether or not they will be able to digest it properly. In terms of digestibility, this concerns the level of nutrients that their body will actually absorb. Certain low-quality ingredients such as animal byproducts, artificial preservatives, and fillers are not easily absorbed.
Whatever is not absorbed is excreted, which means the food you give your pet that’s not digested and absorbed properly can result in feces that’s:
The moisture level is one factor that influences digestibility. Moisture-rich foods that are high-quality will improve the amount of food that’s digested. This will result in an increase in minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients that are brought to the tissues in the cat’s body.
Some manufacturers don’t have to be forthcoming regarding the digestibility of the foods they produce. Those that do are not required to have third-part testing done in order to confirm their digestibility claims.
Choosing the Right Dry Cat Good
Choosing a food for your pet will boil down to what works best for your cat based on their needs. Dry food is very convenient for the pet owner, which is why most of them prefer to use this type since it can be left out all day, which allows pets to eat whenever they’re hungry.
When you’re shopping for dry pet food the first thing you’ll want to pick is a natural protein source from poultry, or salmon. Most adult cats will thrive with this type of protein source and can benefit from this type of well-balanced diet.
Picking the healthiest dry food ensures that your pet is given all the nutrients they need. As a pet owner, you care about your cat’s well-being and their needs. The bottom line, you need to pay careful attention to the label, your pet’s specific nutritional needs, and how they respond once they’ve begun eating the food.
Take note of the following:
- Is their digestion regular?
- Have you noticed an improvement in their skin and coat?
- If your cat has ongoing health issues, has it improved since you’ve switched to the new food?
The answers to these questions can help you determine if the new cat food you’ve purchased is the right fit for your pet.
Food Based on Life Stage
Just like humans, a cat will have different nutritional needs as they grow, which is why you need to choose a pet food based on your cat’s age.
A kitten will require more protein and a higher caloric content, compared to adults. The food will also consist of important nutrients that are needed to support growth and development.
Older cats will need to eat food that’s specifically formulated for seniors since these foods will have a lower protein content, due to the decreased activity level of seniors. These foods will also contain other important nutrients that are designed to improve urinary tract health, weight management, and kidney health.
Adult cat food will have a moderate amount of protein and there will also be options for urinary tract health, hairball management, oral health, and weight management.
As you can see, it’s crucial that you use the correct life stage pet food for your cat, in order for them to benefit from essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, that can support their health needs or conditions, such as chronic UTIs, kidney stones, hairballs, or a cat that’s highly active.
If your cat is prone to hairballs and is constantly hacking them up throughout the day, then choose a pet food that’s specifically designed to prevent this. These foods will come loaded with healthy oils, such as salmon oil, or even pumpkin, both of which can make it easier for hairballs to slide through their digestive tract, which will prevent vomiting and hairballs.
In addition to learning what to look for in a dry food that’s nutrient-dense and high-quality, you’ll also need to know what factors will have the biggest influence on the price. Basically, animal protein is the most expensive factor, especially when compared to plant protein. Foods that contain all-natural ingredients will also be more expensive compared to food that contains byproducts. Dry cat food is often much more affordable compared to freeze-dried, frozen, fresh, or wet food. Because of this, it’ll be up to you to find a food that offers the right balance between affordability and quality.
You may already be overfeeding your cat and not even know it, assuming your cat is overweight because they spend twenty hours a day sunbathing and sleeping on the back of the couch. However, if you’re not paying attention to the manufacturer’s feeding recommendations, then your cat is being overfed. According to the APOP, also referred to as the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately sixty percent of cats are overweight. With obesity comes a wide range of health issues, including diabetes. Cats are also more prone to weight gain compared to dogs since dogs tend to be more active.
If you’re following the manufacturer’s feeding recommendation on the label and your pet is still overweight, then consult your vet for advice regarding how many calories your pet should be consuming daily. To prevent your cat from becoming obese, pay attention to the label’s serving recommendations and don’t simply overfill their bowl and fill it again once it starts to run low. Measure out the right amount, pour it in their bowl and refill it at dinner time. Not all cats will eat their entire meal in one sitting. Many cats will prefer to graze, eating twenty percent of their meal and coming back for more throughout the day. Cats should be fed twice a day only.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Not to Feed Your Cat?
Cats are very sensitive to a variety of foods, and some may even be toxic for them.
Avoid feeding your cat the following foods:
- Dog food
- Raisins and grapes
- Milk and any type of dairy product
- Raw dough
- Caffeinated drinks
- Raw meat and bones
- Raw eggs
Should Cats Have Grain-Free Food?
For the most part, cats don’t require a diet that’s grain-free, however, if your cat is dealing with a weight problem, then a grain-free pet food, can help to reduce the number of carbs they eat per day, which is often responsible for weight gain in felines. You’ll need to pay close attention to the grain-free food label as there are some that contain carb levels that are similar to pet foods that contain grains.
Is it Okay to Change Cat Food Brands?
Switching your cat’s food to a new food is perfectly fine, but the change should be made gradually, in order to avoid digestive upset. This means mixing their old brand with the new brand. You’ll need to begin by giving them eighty percent of their old food and incorporating ten percent of the new food. Continue to decrease the amount of old pet food they get by ten percent daily, while increasing the amount of the new food by ten percent, until they are eating a diet that consists only of the new pet food. In cases in which there is a food recall, then you’ll have no choice but to give them a totally new food. If this happens, try to find a pet food that’s similar in terms of ingredients, especially when it comes to the main protein source.
Do Cats Get Bored of Eating the Same Food Every Day?
Pets tend to get bored eating the same food daily, just like people. In some cases, cats that eat the same food for several months can develop allergies to one or more of the ingredients. When you change up their diet it can help to prevent their body from exposure to potential allergens. However, the change in pet food must be done gradually, to prevent potential digestive upset.
Will Cats Starve Themselves if They Don’t Like the Food?
Cats are very stubborn, which is why you should never assume that he or she will eventually eat their new food once they get hungry enough. If a cat goes more than three days without eating food their liver will begin to fail. This condition is known as feline hepatic lipidosis, which can be potentially deadly. So, yes, a cat can actually starve themselves to death if they don’t like the food. If you notice your cat has not eaten their food, skipping three meals or more, then switch the cat food and monitor their food intake closely for the following days.
The best dry cat food will be nutrient-dense, will have an excellent protein source listed as one of the first three ingredients, will not contain any harmful byproducts, additives, or fillers, and will be appropriate for your cat, based on their stage in life. By reading the label and doing a little research, you can find a pet food that will work for your cat and provide them with the nutrients they need in order to thrive. This guide and the product recommendations I’ve included will help set you on the right path to finding a pet food that your cat will love, and one that’s nutritious and affordable.