You want the best cat food for your discerning four-footed roommate, but with so many options, how do you choose? Keep in mind that while the best cat food isn’t always the most expensive one, it is common for low-grade foods to include fillers and artificial ingredients that a healthy cat wouldn’t touch if it could shop for its own food. It’s important to check the ingredient label when you’re shopping for cat food, taking note of the following:
What We'll Cover
- What is the Protein Source?
- What is the Fat Source?
- Does the Formula Include Taurine?
- Is it Grain-Free?
- Dry Food vs. Wet Food: Is One Better Than the Other?
- 6 of Our Favorite Best-Selling Dry Cat Foods
- A Closer Look at Each of These Dry Cat Foods
- Best Overall: Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Recipe with Trout and Smoked Salmon
- Best for Indoor Cats: CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
- Best High-Protein Formula: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Food for Cats
- Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
- Most Affordable Natural Food: Rachael Ray Nutrish Indoor Complete Super Premium Food for Cats
- Best for Weight Management: Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food for Weight Management
- Choosing a Dry Cat Food for Your Pet
What is the Protein Source?
It should be easy to identify. Real meat, like chicken, duck, lamb, or salmon, should be the first ingredient. If possible, avoid meat by-products since they may include a blend of meat-based scraps and leftovers. Some meat by-products are not bad, however, including liver, heart, and other organ meats, which can be very healthy for your cats. Unfortunately, the word by-product is a catch-all term on cat food labels, so you can’t be sure exactly what by-products are in your cat food. You may see the term by-product in lots of popular brands, but you’ll want to make sure that real meat is the primary source of protein.
What is the Fat Source?
Typically, fat comes from the protein source, which is a naturally occurring element found in most meats. Watch out for added fats and oils.
Does the Formula Include Taurine?
Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats, and it promotes healthy vision, digestion, and the immune system.
Is it Grain-Free?
Soy, corn, and wheat are cheap ways for cat food companies to bulk-up their food, but grains aren’t part of a cat’s natural diet. You may want to choose a grain-free dry cat food or ensure the grains are kept to a minimum and not within the first few ingredients on the list.
Dry Food vs. Wet Food: Is One Better Than the Other?
Both wet and dry cat food range in quality by company and formula, so you will find the good and bad versions in each type. Many believe that one is not inherently better than the other, and if you take a look at the ingredients and nutritional content between the two, you’ll see a lot of similarities. The top brands that make high-quality cat food make both high-quality wet and dry varieties. Wet cat food offers more moisture than dry food, up to 80 percent, while dry food has around 10 percent moisture. Many cat owners get around this difference by ensuring their cat has constant access to fresh water to drink.
6 of Our Favorite Best-Selling Dry Cat Foods
A Closer Look at Each of These Dry Cat Foods
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) outlines the minimum nutritional requirements for cats. If AAFCO is mentioned on the label, you know the formula meets the minimum requirements for a complete and balanced meal. Protein is a key element of any high-quality cat food, and AAFCO recommends a minimum of 26 percent protein in dry cat food.
This information is displayed on the label in the guaranteed analysis section, which shows the minimum or maximum percentage of nutrients in the food. While protein, fat, fiber, and possibly moisture will be your primary focus, you may also want to check the percentage of other ingredients if you have a cat with specific nutritional needs.
Check the ingredients list and double-check that meat is the first ingredient since you don’t want corn or soy to show up in that top spot. Chicken is a popular protein, but your cat might prefer duck, salmon, trout, lamb, or even venison. These six dry cat foods feature meat in that coveted number one spot, along with a host of other benefits that may be uniquely suited to your cat’s needs.
Best Overall: Taste of the Wild Canyon River Feline Recipe with Trout and Smoked Salmon
Nourish your favorite feline with the balanced diet nature intended with Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food! Formulated with novel proteins including trout and smoked salmon, th...
Protein: 32% (min)
Fat: 16% (min)
Fiber: 3% (max)
First five ingredients: Trout, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pea protein.
This grain-free recipe includes spring-fed trout and sustainably sourced salmon, as well as a proprietary blend of species-specific probiotics to support a healthy digestive and immune system. The Omega fatty-acid blend, taurine, and the antioxidants from ingredients like blueberries and tomatoes come together in a formulation that supports your cat’s health through all stages of life. There are no fillers or artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. Taste of the Wild is a family-owned and operated company that makes its products in the USA.
Best for Indoor Cats: CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
Ships (1) 4 Lb. Bag Of Crave Adult Dry Cat Food With Protein From Salmon & Ocean Fish
Real Salmon Is The #1 Ingredient To Give Cats The Flavors They Love And The Protein-Rich Diets They Need
Protein: 40% (min)
Fat: 18% (min)
Fiber: 6% (min)
First five ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, pea protein, split peas, chicken fat.
This formula is specifically made for adult indoor cats based on the naturally protein-rich diet of wild cats. Reviews indicate it’s a popular choice for picky eaters and cats with sensitive stomachs, and many people appreciate the premium approach at a reasonable price point. There is no corn, wheat, or soy protein included in this dry cat food.
Best High-Protein Formula: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Food for Cats
Inspired by the diet of the lynx, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a protein-rich, grain-free food that contains more of the delicious meat felines crav...
Protein: 40% (min)
Fat: 18% (min)
Fiber: 4% (max)
First five ingredients: Deboned duck, chicken meal, turkey meal, tapioca starch, peas.
Formulated by animal nutritionists with high-quality protein, complex carbs, and a variety of fruits and vegetables, this dry cat food promotes healthy skin, coat, and eyes, as well as a strong immune system and muscle development. It also has BLUE’s LifeSource Bits, the company’s blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals designed to support life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance. Blue Buffalo Wilderness comes in several formulas with different meat options so that you can choose your cat’s favorite flavor. The True Blue Promise ensures no artificial flavors, preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, or poultry by-products.
Best for Sensitive Stomachs: Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
One (1) 16 lb. Bag - Purina ONE Natural Dry Cat Food, Sensitive Skin & Stomach Formula
Real turkey is the #1 ingredient in this digestive health cat food with 34% protein
Easily digestible formula ...
Protein: 34% (min)
Fat: 14% (min)
Fiber: 4% (max)
First five ingredients: Turkey, chicken by-product meal, rice flour, corn gluten meal, soybean meal.
This special formulation starts with real turkey as the number one ingredient, and it is designed to be gentle on the digestive system. It also has Omega-6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat, with no fillers, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Happy cat owners across the internet recommend it for cats who frequently throw up their food or struggle with itchy skin. This is one of Purina’s many unique formulas designed to help your cats with specific needs.
Most Affordable Natural Food: Rachael Ray Nutrish Indoor Complete Super Premium Food for Cats
Rachael Ray Nutrish Indoor Complete Chicken with Lentils & Salmon Recipe Natural Dry Cat Food is a delicious protein-rich recipe packed with lentils, salmon and USA farm-raised chicken as the first...
Protein: 34% (min)
Fat: 12% (min)
Fiber: 8% (max)
First five ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, brewers rice, dried peas, corn gluten meal.
This recipe uses U.S. farm-raised chicken as its first ingredient, with a Superfood Blend and prebiotics from natural pumpkin for healthy immune and digestive systems. It’s a great natural choice, and it offers more fiber (thanks to the lentils in the recipe) than many of the other best cat food brands, which may be worth considering if your cat struggles with digestion or weight gain.
Best for Weight Management: Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food for Weight Management
Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food provides your four-legged friend with great tasting nutrition for a long, happy life. Made with wholesome ingredients such as savory chicken, t...
Protein: 30.2% (min)
Fat: 12% (min)
First five ingredients: Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, powdered cellulose.
That chubby tabby may be adorable, but the extra weight isn’t so good for his or her health. For cats that have a hard time managing their weight, a Hill’s Science Diet formula is a popular choice. This food provides the nutrition your cat needs with high fiber and a lower calorie content, allowing many cats to lose weight over the course of about ten weeks, safely and easily. It’s recommended for those prone to weight gain or adult cats leading a sedentary lifestyle. That said, if your cat is overweight, you may want to consult with your veterinarian to rule out potential health concerns and to get dietary recommendations.
Choosing a Dry Cat Food for Your Pet
Many people prefer dry cat food because it tends to be less expensive. It’s also easier to feed to their cats and simpler to store than canned wet food or dehydrated food. Some dry food is just as nutritionally sound as the more expensive alternatives. Even if you’ve already decided to go dry, you still have to narrow down the many brands and formulas to see what’s best for your cat. Choosing the right formula may seem daunting, but the best cat food is the one that’s best for your cat’s health and your budget and lifestyle, no matter if it’s wet or dry.