Eating a healthy diet is as important for cats as it is for humans (1). But it’s not always easy to figure out what cat food brands deliver on real feline nutrition, and which don’t.
So how do you narrow it down and choose the best dry cat food for your cat?
Start by reading our guide. We’ll cover everything you need to know. If you want to skip ahead, our top pick for the best dry cat food is Iams ProActive Health Healthy Adult Original.
Table of Contents
Our top 10 best dry cat food choices:
- Iams ProActive Health Healthy Adult Original
- American Journey Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Wilderness Indoor Chicken Recipe by Blue Buffalo
- Royal Canin Feline Digestive Care
- Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets
- Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe
- Katz-N-Flocken Lamb Recipe by Solid Gold
- Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Rabbit
- Purina Cat Chow Hairball & Healthy Weight Indoor Dry Cat Food
Our top picks for the best dry cat food:
Following our criteria above, we found the best dry cat food for your kitty.
For cats who have stomach issues, we recommend trying the Iams ProActive Health formula.
This kibble contains a combination of prebiotics and beet pulp. The former maintains the good gut bacteria while the beet pulp is an excellent source of fiber, promoting a healthy digestive tract.
- Promotes healthy digestion and strong gut defenses.
- Contains high-quality chicken.
- Fortified with minerals, taurine, and fish oils.
- The recipe includes some carbs for energy.
- High in fat, not ideal for overweight cats.
Iams has an emphasis on protein, including only high-quality chicken in this recipe, which helps to maintain a strong, lean muscle mass. This also increases your kitty’s chances of sustaining a healthy weight while receiving all the needed amino acids.
The crunchy texture of the kibble helps to keep your cat’s teeth clean. As they munch, it removes tartar and plaque. What’s more, the formula is fortified with minerals and vitamins, promoting strong bones. It contains a healthy dosage of taurine and fish oils for heart health and coat.
Iams recommends this recipe to adult cats that are at least one year of age. It contains an optimal amount of carbs (not too many!), which helps your kitty keep their energy levels up.
If you want the best grain-free dry cat food, consider the American Journey Duck Recipe. What’s great about this formula is that it consists of real, deboned duck, bringing your kitty the needed proteins.
American Journey left out all the bad stuff, like by-product meal, wheat, corn, soy, and artificial preservatives. Instead, it’s enriched with taurine, omega fatty acids, and other essential amino acids for healthy heart and eyes, silky fur, and skin.
Other ingredients include wholesome veggies and fruits, which provide antioxidants, supporting your cat’s immune system. It’s a full meal, packed with all the good nutrients a cat needs to thrive.
It’s recommended for adult cats and is produced in the US using carefully selected ingredients from around the world.
- Real, high-quality deboned duck.
- No fillers, like by-product meal, wheat, corn, or soy.
- The formula is rich in omega fatty acids and taurine.
- Includes fruits and vegetables to support the cat’s immune system.
- Made in the US.
- Creates smelly poop in some cats.
For the indoor kitties who are wild at heart, the Wilderness Indoor Chicken recipe from Blue Buffalo is worth a look. It’s another grain-free recipe, leaving more room for the necessary nutrients your cat needs.
- Grain-free formula.
- Comes with Blue Buffalo LifeSource Bits—superfood kibble.
- Enriched with a healthy dose of omega fatty acids.
- Kind to the digestive system.
- Made in the US.
- The kibble is small.
The first ingredient in this recipe is real high-quality chicken. In addition, Blue Buffalo includes LifeSource Bits—these are incorporated into the kibble and are made from a blend of minerals, vitamins, fruit, and vegetables to support the immune system.
To improve your furry friend’s skin and coat, the kibble has added omega fatty acids. The formula helps maintain healthy digestion and the lack of grains and preservatives means it’s a good choice for sensitive tummies. It’s formulated to support adult cats and is produced in the US, ensuring high-quality.
Royal Canin formulated its Digestive Care dry cat food specifically to help your cat’s digestion. It’s recommended for cats with sensitive stomachs that are prone to funky poop and vomiting, which often results from fast eating.
To combat this, Royal Canin made ring-shaped kibble that encourages your kitty to slow down and chew. Chewing helps release the nutrients from the food before it enters the digestive tract.
- Ideal for kitties with sensitive stomachs.
- Ring-shaped kibble, which slows down chewing.
- Rich in fibers
- Has prebiotics.
- Goes well with wet cat food.
- The pieces might be too big for some cats.
The Digestive Care kibble includes an optimal balance of fibers and prebiotics. These create a wholesome diet, protecting your cat from the inside by supporting their digestive health.
Recommended for cats ages one year and up. Royal Canin suggests pairing it with the Digestive Care wet food line for optimal results.
Another dry food suitable for sensitive stomachs is the L.I.D. from Natural Balance. L.I.D. stands for Limited Ingredient Diets and is specifically formulated to be gentle on a cat’s tummy. As the name suggests, the recipe contains a limited amount of ingredients.
- Limited ingredients
- Excellent for sensitive tummies or food allergies.
- Includes high-quality duck.
- The kibbles are enriched with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and omega fatty acids.
- Free of preservatives and artificial flavors and colors.
- The kibble pieces are small.
Among the few ingredients, you have high-quality duck as the primary protein source. In addition, the crunchy pieces contain a punch of vitamins, essential amino acids, minerals, and omegas that help your fur baby thrive.
The formula doesn’t include any artificial flavors or coloring—it’s also free of grains but does contain some carbohydrates, providing highly-digestible energy.
The Taste of the Wild Canyon River dry cat food is a balanced diet, based on great protein sources like trout and salmon. It’s grain-free, including only peas and sweet potatoes to provide your kitty with energy.
- Suitable for all life stages.
- Real salmon and trout.
- Enriched with essential amino acids.
- Fruits and vegetables incorporated for prebiotic support.
- High counts of omega fatty acids.
- The kibble is very hard, it may be difficult for senior cats to chew.
It’s highly digestible, offering natural antioxidants from fruits and vegetables that support your cat’s immune system. Some of these include blueberries, raspberries, and, tomatoes. A unique component is dried chicory root, which, together with the fruits and veggies, provides prebiotic support and healthy digestion.
There’s also an optimal content of marine-sourced omega-3, which partly comes from the smoked salmon and ocean fish. Additionally, it’s also rich in omega-6, derived from plant sources. These two components work to improve your kitty’s skin and fur, giving it that lush, healthy appearance.
Taste of the Wild also fortified it with essential amino acids, which optimizes your cat’s absorption of nutrients, ensuring they get all the benefits.
The kibble is suitable for all life stages, and there are instructions included on the bag on how to portion for different ages. It’s also produced in the US by a family-owned company, setting high food safety standards.
The Nulo Freestyle Chicken and Cod recipe is specially formulated for both kittens and cats. The Freestyle formula provides your kitty with all the right nutrients to maintain lean muscles without empty calories.
It’s a grain-free chicken and cod recipe, which is perfect for cats who can’t decide between chicken or fish. It’s based on 83% animal proteins with a low glycemic index, making it a great low carb dry cat food.
- Suitable for both kittens and adult cats.
- The recipe contains 83% real animal protein.
- Disk-shaped kibble that’s easy to chew.
- High-quality ingredients.
- Enriched with vitamins and amino acids.
- Patented Nulo probiotic BC30
- The pieces are too small for some adult cats.
The blend of fish and chicken comes from high-quality sources and enriched with omega fatty acids for fur and skin health. Included in the recipe are pure probiotic strains that promote gastrointestinal health as well as vitamin C and E for overall wellness.
What’s great about this kibble is the shape. It’s disk-shaped, with a crunchy yet chewable texture that’s suitable for growing cats. Want to know more about the Nulo cat food brand? Check out our extensive review of the Nulo Freestyle cat food lineup.
The first ingredient in Solid Gold Katz-n-Flocken Lamb and Brown Rice formula is real lamb. The recipe is specially designed to suit cats with food sensitivities. The kibble is easily digestible, and the brown rice and pearled barley create a taste that many cats seem to enjoy.
- Suitable for cats with sensitive stomachs.
- Star-shaped kibble encourages slow chewing.
- Iron-rich food for muscle health.
- Free of wheat, soy, and corn.
- The formula isn’t for every cat.
This whole-grain dry food is rich in iron, improving muscle health, while the combination of superfoods strengthens the gut and immune system.
If your kitty is prone to gobbling down kibble, then this star-shaped food might help. It encourages your fur baby to chew thoroughly, which may reduce vomiting and smelly poop.
Solid Gold’s dry kibble is free of wheat, soy, and corn, which supports sensitive stomachs and cats with food sensitivities.
What we find reassuring about Solid Gold is its founder Sissy, who has focused and perfected a recipe for gut health. She designed it to cleanse, balance, and improve the immune system and gut health.
If you’re searching for something fit for a king kitty, then the Instinct Original recipe is where to look. It contains real, farm-raised rabbit meat, ensuring quality.
- Real raw rabbit meat.
- Packed with essential nutrients for optimal cat health.
- No corn or grains.
- Made in the US with premium components.
- It contains synthetic vitamin K, which isn’t suitable for every cat.
The rabbit is raw and freeze-dried to provide your cat with raw-based food. The recipe is carefully constructed to offer your cat a wholesome diet, full of all the essential nutrients.
Besides the rabbit meat, it includes vegetables and optimal levels of probiotics, antioxidants, and omegas. Instinct Original states that there are no grains, potatoes, wheat, corn, soy, by-product meal, or artificial additives. The result is a nutritious meal that makes an excellent low carb dry cat food choice. It’s produced in the US using only premium ingredients.
Indoor cats don’t require as much energy as those roaming the perimeters. The Cat Chow Hairball and Healthy Weight is a special formula designed for indoor felines. It contains fewer calories, which helps your kitty maintain a healthy weight and manageable energy levels.
- Hairball control cat food.
- Designed specifically for indoor cats.
- Contains garden greens for crunch and taste.
- Offers a punch of essential vitamins and minerals.
- The formula contains 40% carbohydrates.
What’s great about this is the natural and added fiber in the kibble. This helps control the frequency of hairballs on the rug. If you’re looking for hairball control cat food this is a good choice.
In addition to this, it includes accents of garden greens, which add a nice crunch and taste. It also has a healthy amount of antioxidants to support their immune system, plus 25 essential vitamins and minerals.
Why feed your cat dry cat food?
Dry food has key benefits both for your kitty and yourself. Here are a few reasons why you should opt for dry food:
Economical and convenient
One of the most significant advantages is how convenient it is.
Dry cat food comes in pre-sized bags that make it easier to store and keep fresh up until its “best by date.” Once open, all you need is a bag clip or storage container to keep it in.
It’s also considerably more affordable than canned cat food. You won’t have to buy as much since it stores for longer, which is perfect when you’re on a budget.
Convenient for free choice feeding or portion-controlled meals
Another great benefit of dry cat food is for free choice feeding. Meaning, you leave the bowl of kibble out so that your cat can eat throughout the day. This, of course, isn’t suitable for all cats. But if you’re at work or out of the house most of the day, your fur baby still has food to eat.
Dry cat food is also excellent for portion-controlled meals. Simply use a measuring cup to create sizable portions. This makes it easier to help an overweight cat, too.
Use it as treats
If you have a playful cat, dry food can work as treats. It’s easy to place inside a treat ball, encouraging your cat to play and exercise.
Is dry cat food better than wet?
Dry cat food isn’t right for every kitty. For example, cats suffering from health conditions, like kidney diseases or dental problems, should avoid a dry food diet. This is due to the lack of moisture in kibble.
Because of the low water content of dry food, it makes it hard for some cats to chew and digest it. Plus it can wreak havoc in their bodies if they don’t drink enough water as it makes them susceptible to recurrent bladder infections, urinary tract infections, and bladder stones (2).
Precisely how much water your kitty should drink in 24 hours depends on its weight and size. It requires some math to figure out exactly, but on average, a 10lb cat needs one cup of water per day (3).
If your cat has dental issues, a common in older cats, either feed them wet food or soften your kibble with water (5). This is easy, just adding a little water and then microwave for a couple of seconds. Heating the kibble intensifies the smell, which may entice an older feline with a weakened sense of smell to eat it (6).
Some brands also make special soft dry cat food for older cats. However, specialized diets can cost more.
Wet vs dry cat food
Dry and canned cat food are, nutritionally, pretty much the same. Canned or wet cat food comes in portion-sized cans whereas kibble is bagged.
The biggest difference between the two is the moisture content. Canned cat food has a much higher water content, making it softer and easier for cats to chew—so it’s better for older kitties.
Some cat parents swear their cats favor canned food over kibble. But, this isn’t always the case. If your cat has been raised on a dry diet, they might not like wet food. And vice versa.
Wet cat food is typically pricier, especially if you have several cats. It also doesn’t stay fresh out as long as kibble, since it will go bad if you don’t refrigerate it after opening.
If you’re torn between canned and dry cat food, you can always try mixed feeding. That’s where you alternate between the two. For example, feed dry food in the morning then a serving of wet food at night. This is a good way of creating a feeding routine that includes the best of both worlds.
Another option is to mix the two in one sitting. Simply combine the two and serve—your kitty gets the crunch of the kibble and moisture from the wet food.
Make sure that you maintain proper portion control. Otherwise, your fur baby might not get their needed nutrients to preserve an optimal weight.
About semi moist cat food
Semi moist cat food, not to be confused with soft dry cat food, may seem like an economic solution for an older cat who can’t eat kibble since it’s less expensive than switching to canned. Plus, it has a high moisture content of 60 to 65%.
That said, be careful which brand you buy. Some contain higher amounts of sugar and salt than both dry and wet food does. This makes it unhealthy, if not dangerous, for some kitties (7).
Some brands even load their semi-moist cat food with chemical preservatives, artificial flavor enhancers, and colors. This is why many experts recommend that you only use it as an occasional treat.
However, it’s quite convenient—it generally comes in a pouch that you simply open to pour the content into a bowl. If you choose to feed semi-moist food, consult your veterinarian beforehand to make sure you’re getting a reputable brand and serving the right portions.
You can read more in our comprehensive review and see our top picks of the best semi moist cat foods.
Choosing the best dry cat food
Before we get to our top 10, we have some points to help you find the best dry cat food for your kitty.
Life stage specific
Cats have different nutritional needs at different life stages. Kittens, for example, need more of some nutrients and calories than an adult cat.
As your kitten grows and enters adulthood, they need a balanced diet for a healthy balance of nutrients and energy. In their senior years, however, illnesses become more frequent and your cat may even need soft dry or wet cat food (8). So, it’s important to match your kitty’s life stage to the food you buy.
Through every life stage, your cat will need certain essential nutrients to thrive. These include the following:
- Vitamins: Both water and fat-soluble vitamins play an important role in your kitty’s bodily functions. vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C.
- Minerals: This includes calcium, iron, magnesium, chloride, and sodium. Minerals are essential for maintaining pH levels, enzyme formation, oxygen transportation, and nutrient utilization.
- Amino acids: These are found in animal protein and are vital for maintaining optimal health. Essential amino acids include taurine, arginine, histidine, leucine, and valine, to name a few (9).
On the label, look for ingredients that meet your cat’s minimum daily requirement. You should aim for low carb dry cat food since carbohydrates aren’t beneficial to cats. The best dry cat food brands tick all the right boxes in terms of quality and nutrition.
Kibble based on real meat
Cat food containing real meat is essential for any cat during all life stages. It’s where it gets most of its needed nutrients.
Cat food brands are any brands that use fillers. These are basically worthless components the manufacturer used to fill out the bag—this, unsurprisingly, makes it the worst dry cat food you could offer your kitty. Some examples of common cat food fillers to avoid are corn, cornmeal, wheat gluten, rice bran, oat hulls, soy, soybean hulls, peanut hulls, citrus pulp, wheat mill run, grain fermentation soluble, meat, poultry, and fish byproducts.
Investing in the best dry cat food is an easy way to make sure your cat is getting all the nutrients they need in a healthy diet. Cats need a balance of nutrients to thrive, and dry cat food has a lot of benefits. It’s more affordable and has a longer shelf-life than wet.
Our favorite today is Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe because of the focus on low glycemic ingredients and quality real animal meat.
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Last update on 2021-03-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API