What is the best dry food for cats? What to look for in dry cat food? How do you decide which food to buy? What is the best brand of dry kibble for cats? Is dry cat food better than wet? Is there such thing as healthy dry food for cats?
Many cat owners have concerns when they decide to go with dehydrated food. These concerns are mostly related to nutrition. We decided to provide some guidelines and reviews of the best dry cat food brands which will help you to decide what is the best food for your cat.
Healthiest Dry Cat Food 2023 – Our Choice
In order to make sure that your cat lives a long and satisfying life, you must be ready to provide healthy food options. Below we list our recommendations for best dry cat food based on checking the ingredients for each product.
Why Trust Our Recommendations?
As cat owners we had our own reservations about dry cat foods. They just seem unnatural. Like with any other recommendation on our website we had to do a deeper dive into the nutrition label and meat sourcing before deciding to serve it to one of our cats. In the end, the taste prevails and cats decide. Its not our goal to check every product in the market, but to check the most common ones and recommend dry cat foods which we believe best conform to AAFCO guidelines and source their ingredients from quality meats. This is the best way to guarantee healthy meal for our cats, while ensuring they also get important nutrients like fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. We also make sure cat foods we recommend are grain free and do not contain fillers.
What Makes The Best Dry Food For Cats?
Dry food for cats usually contains more carbs than found in wet cat food. The reason behind this is the fact that many dry food brands use grains (cornmeal or rice, for example) to process the kibble.
Some brands contain vegetable protein sources and this is definitely not ideal for your cat.
High quality dry food for cats should have the best available protein source.
Taking into consideration that cats are carnivores, best protein sources in dry food for cats would be meat, fish, poultry and their by-products. In some cases, these types of animal protein might create allergies in cats. For this we recommend you try hypoallergenic cat food, which includes novel protein sources or hydrolyzed protein.
The ingredients should also include vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids and essential amino acid – taurine. For more info on specific nutrients, see our best cat food guide which also specifies AAFCO guidelines.
- Does not contain water – needs to be provided separately
- Often contains many fillers to bind the ingredients – pay special attention to the label
- Increased share of carbs – make sure its grain free
- High protein ratios
- Super practical
- Does not go bad easily
- Does not “invite” bugs when left out
This list shows that there are many advantages to dry cat foods – or dry kibble, in its most common form. As long as one buys the highest quality food and ensures available water for their feline friend, dry cat food is a healthy option as well. If you have a cat that is overweight, consider our list of best cat food for weight loss. There you will find dry cat food with low calorie ingredients.
What to Look For In The Best Dry Cat Food
Lots of low quality dry kibble contains fillers and high share of carbohydrates. These things are not a part of a cat’s natural diet. They are used to tie together all the ingredients and have little nutritional value, if any.
These ingredients are usually based on wheat and grains.
You have to make sure that you are getting the most valuable nutrition for your cat. When you buy kibble based food you should keep an eye on the following:
What is the specific protein source in the ingredients?
There are so many dry cat food brands that offer and advertise high protein formulas. You need to be sure that they are being clear about where that protein comes from.
If a protein source is described too generally as “meat,” for example, this is not sufficient enough.
It is best to find products that list the meat and fish protein source explicitly, for example:
It’s even better if the brand is listing more specific meat cuts, for example – liver or the breast
Different by-products usually have lower quality than regular meat sources. We are not saying that they are bad. Even some of the top dry cat food brands are using by-product meat to increase protein content. If you want to completely avoid byproducts, but still want the easy handling and storing as with dry cat food – try freeze dried cat food which offers many of the advantages of the kibble but promises much better nutritional quality. Naturally this comes with the price – conventional dry cat food is more affordable.
What is the specific fat source in the ingredients?
Similar to what we mentioned above, it’s best if the fat source is clearly stated in the ingredients. Fats should come from fatty meaty sources or sometimes oils. Fatty fish like salmon is prefect, as is beef and other types of meat. Especially blue fish
If you have an older cat and you are looking for dry kibble for older cats, make sure that fat levels are lower. Older cats are usually less active and higher fat levels cause issues with digestion. Sometimes older cats tend to lose muscle too fast, so high calorie cat food is recommended.
Is there enough taurine ?
If the product contains taurine, it adds an extra benefit level to the diet of your cat.
Different studies are suggesting that adequate amount of taurine in cat’s food gives the best chance of avoiding cat heart disease and degeneration of eyesight.
Taurine is a common ingredient in pet food. If you notice this chemical sounding name “Taurine” on the packaging, don’t be afraid. It’s a good one of essential and beneficial amino acids which has it source in meat protein. This is why vegetable sourced protein in cat foods is not the best choice as it does not contain taurine. Taurine is beneficial for cat’s immune system among other things. Check our article about best food with taurine.
You should actually look for taurine in the food label, however, dont expect it since it is not required by FDA to be listed. You can also get special taurine supplements for cats if you are unsure if your food contains enough.
Carbohydrates – no grains is the way to go
Dry kibble is sometimes packed with filler ingredients. Corn or wheat are usually used to make these ingredients.
Their purpose is to keep dry cat food glued together. However, grains are not a part of cat’s natural diet.
>>> Grain free cat food is your best choice. Always look for products with the grain free label.
Carbohydrate levels in grain-free cat food are very low. Your cat will get healthier protein by eating grain-free food for cats.
Make sure not to buy cat treats full of carbs either. See our list of best low calorie cat treats.
Natural and artificial preservatives – recognize the ones to avoid
Pet food contains preservatives. That’s the fact. That is the reason why unopened packages don’t get bad even if they stay like that for months.
Some of the better products get their durability with use of citric/ascorbic acid (vitamin C), rosemary, sage, tocopherols (vitamin E) and clove. These are natural ingredients and they are great! If you see these on your the dry cat food label, it’s a great sign.
Not so healthy ingredients are BHA, TBHQ, BHT, and ethoxyquin since these are all synthetic preservatives.
Avoiding BHA (listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen”) and TBHQ, is recommended by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The center also recommends avoiding BHT whenever possible.
All of these recommendations are for humans. However, all of these recommendations are based on animal studies. They all have, at some point, proven harmful to animals and their immune system.
Artificial Flavourings and Colour
Artificial flavours are often added to cat food to compensate for the lack of quality ingredients. This can lead to allergic reactions in your cat. Issues like hyperactivity and allergic reactions are all linked to artificial colours.
Nutritional value from this kind of dry cat food is zero. The important thing is that the same goes for the “natural flavouring”.
Don’t be fooled by the name “natural” since it can have as much processing as artificial flavour. According to AAFCO, “natural” is the term that includes more ingredients than it excludes.
It is very likely that the protein ingredients were not of very high quality in the cat food if the manufacturer had to add extra flavour.
Garlic in the dry food for cats
Several cat food formulas are using garlic as a flavouring. Garlic is the part of Allium species (these include leeks, scallions, shallots and chives as well).
Damage to red blood cells and anemia can be caused in cats if they have a steady intake of plants in these species.
What Are The Best Dry Cat Food Brands?
As you can figure out from all of the things that we mentioned above, protein is the highest valued macronutrient for cats.
You should never forget that cats are carnivores and their diet in the wild consists almost entirely of protein. This should be reflected in their home food as well and this is what makes the biggest difference in the best brands of dry food for cats.
Full of protein, delicious and GRAIN FREE.
Blue Wilderness produced high quality cat food. This is definitely the top contender for the top dry food for cats ever.
BLUE Wilderness’ cat food is “cold formed”. This is a process which ensures that the ingredients don’t lose nutritional value, thanks to the fact that the process avoids excess heat. Heat destroys vitamins and minerals, and the cold process preserves them.
With this food you can have a peace of mind that the natural, real chicken is used as a protein source.
Their True Blue promise also states that there are no artificial colors or flavours, as well as no wheat, soy or grain. This is very important, especially if your cat is prone to flatulence. In this case you might find cat food for gassy cats helpful.
The list of ingredients clearly shows protein sources, amino acids, vitamins and minerals and fats.
This tasty cat food presents the perfect combination of health benefits and tasty, high quality ingredients for your cat.
After we finished reviewing Purina’s Cat Chow Naturals Dry Food we were not surprised that this was the best selling dry food for cats at some point.
No artificial preservatives or flavours, plenty of natural fibre and the fact that it’s made from real meat is putting Purina Cat Chow Naturals among the best dry cat food brands.
This dry food has low caloric density and your cat will feel more full after consuming less calories. This is very good food for weight control.
Cats really enjoy Purina’s Cat Chow Naturals, however, it contains some grain based ingredients and therefore we can’t put this dry cat food as top rated in our list.
If you are looking for the best holistic dry cat food, Freedom Indoor will probably be your choice. Blue Buffalo manufactured dry food that is grain free and gluten free!
You can find many reviews of this cat food online. Every review of Blue Buffalo’s Freedom Indoor dry cat food is stating that it makes great improvement in fur and coat health. It also helps to maintain a healthy weight.
Ingredients are digestion friendly and gentle what makes this dry food great for cats with sensitive digestive systems. Its produced with real meats from quality sources.
However, you should always remember that you need to manage potions properly. There is no cat food that can provide health benefits n full unless you keep an eye on this.
Is Dry Cat Food Better Than Wet Cat Food?
People like to have strong opinions about this debate. Everyone has their own argument why is dry cat food better than wet food.
To be honest, premium dry cat food and premium wet cat food are very similar from the nutritional aspect. However, dry cat food does contain some starches as part of the production process, and in some cases this can be more than your cat’s body requires.
When we say premium, we are referring to the food manufactured by the brands with excellent reputation.
The biggest arguing point is that the same amount of moisture content is not provided in dry cat food, as opposed to wet cat food.
If your cat is eating dry cat food only it is important to keep the water accessible all the time. A cat that eats only dry food should drink roughly one cup of water per ten pounds of its body weight, during the 24 hour window. If the cat does not get enough moisture through dry cat food and water sources, it might suffer from various consequences – most notably chronic dehydration and urinary tract infections.
Combining both dry and wet food is becoming increasingly popular due to this. The same thing is with the drinking water fountains many people are installing in their homes these days. Fountains might be especially good for cats since some do not want to drink from bowls with stale water. It is probably an evolutionary device to avoid poisoning.
Note that according to some studies, cats that drank water in addition to eating dry cat food still were less hydrated than cats that ate wet cat food. This means that the rotation might be the best way to keep your cat well hydrated. This ensures that cats stay hydrated all the time, regardless of their food diet.
You can improve your cat’s diet by rotating the food sources so the cat does not exclusively eat kibble. This is general rule for any diet – versatility increases quality and health. In case where your cat prefers dry cat food, you can give it cooked meat you prepare for it. Maybe best to avoid relying on food scraps from your lunch or dinner since some spices and ingredients people use might be harmful for cats. You can also occasionally buy wet cat food to make it easier on yourself. In any case, make sure your cat’s diet is diverse and combines canned food and dry kibble.
Another option is making the dry cat food moist by adding water to it. In this case, note that the food can easily go bad, so in case your cat does not eat all at first, throw it away and do not keep it in the bowl since bacteria might activate on it.
We can’t say that dry food is better or worse than wet. It comes down to your cat’s preference. If you make sure that you are using good food, with high quality ingredients, your cat should be good with either choice.
Best Dry Food For Indoor Cats
Indoor cats can have somewhat different circumstances than outdoor cats. Overall when researching the best dry cat food for indoor cats, one shouldn’t veer off far from the standard nutrition advice for cats. So basically take in consideration everything we wrote above.
Indoor cats can suffer from dry cat food in cases when all their needs arent being met. Most notably, this means that one has to ensure that cat is provided with enough water, as we mentioned above, through a water fountain, blow with water and rotating wet cat food. Outdoor cats will find water outside, however indoor cats depend on you! Grain-free should be the rule, especially for indoor cats that like dry foods because they tend to be less active.
There is not much difference for your cat if its spends its days indoors or outdoors. As long as the foor is made of best ingredients and is high protein it should be fine. Situations where food can be damaging to indoor cats are mostly related to obesity of indoor cats, which move less. In this case, serve your cat smaller portions and less food overall. Another example of when one has to be careful with the food for cats is with cats that have diabetes. If you have such cat, read our article about cat food for diabetic cats.
Best Dry Cat Food FAQ
Best dry cat food specifically for indoor cats is made according to general rules of good cat nutrition. Most important is that it is rich in protein, grain-free and without fillers. We have taken time to test several options and recommend best products in the article.
We prefer to review products instead of brands. Brands have a whole range of dry cat food products, which target different uses and price points. We are only interested in nutritional info, so we evaluate each product based on this.
Dry kibble is very practical, especially for the indoor use. It doesnt go bad easily, and it doesnt rott in the bowl in case the cat did not eat everything. Wet cat food if left out in the bowl overnight can atract various bugs, like ants or even cockroaches.
Main disadvantage is the fact that this type of food does not include moisture, hence the name. Cats get water from food and its crucial for the pet to have a source of fresh water to prevent dehydration and other issues. Also make sure to rotate wet and dry cat food in order to diversify diet for the indoor cats. Outdoor cats usually have less issues with exclusive dry cat food diet.