When it comes to choosing the best food for your cat, your first decision is between wet and dry food. Dry cat food offers a long shelf-life, it is easy and convenient to feed, and it comes in a wide range of flavors and formulas.
If you’ve decided to feed your cat dry food, take the time to choose a high-quality product made with premium ingredients and properly balanced for optimal nutrition.
Continue reading to learn more about your cat’s basic nutritional needs and to receive some simple tips for picking the best cat food to provide for those needs. You’ll also receive our top 5 picks for the best dry cat food.
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What to Look for in Dry Cat Food
Your cat is an obligate carnivore which means that its body is better adapted to deriving nutrition from animal than from plant sources.
Both protein and fat should come from animal sources, though some plant foods can be used for supplemental fiber and essential nutrients.
Overall, your cat’s food should provide optimal nutritional balance for long-term health and wellness.
Here are some things to look for in a good dry cat food:
- Premium Ingredients. The higher the quality of the ingredients in your cat’s food, the better it will be able to digest them. Animal-based ingredients should be the focus in any cat food.
- Animal Protein. Your cat requires a protein-rich diet to support lean muscle mass, so look for quality animal proteins like meat, poultry, and fish.
- Omega Fatty Acids. Healthy fats provide your cat with energy and support its skin and coat health. Look for a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Nutritional Balance. Most dry cat foods contain vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure nutritional value. Chelated minerals are the best mineral supplements because they’ve been bound to protein molecules which makes them easier for your cat’s body to digest and absorb.
Also Read: The 5 Best Grain-Free Cat Foods
Keeping all of these things in mind, you’re now ready to learn how to choose the best dry cat food. Here’s what you need to know:
Special Dietary Requirements of Cats
As has already been mentioned, the majority of your cat’s food should be made up of animal-based ingredients.
Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles and lean mass, so it should make up at least 26% of your cat’s diet.
The best sources of protein for cats are things like meat, poultry, and fish because they are complete proteins – this means they contain all of the essential amino acids your cat needs in its diet.
After protein, the next most important nutrient is fat. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, so it is a highly concentrated source of energy.
Essential fatty acids also support your cat’s healthy skin and coat. Look for a recipe balanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Generally speaking your cat needs a minimum of 9% fat, though highly active cats and growing kittens may need more.
Cats have no nutritional requirements for carbohydrate in their diet, but these foods can provide fiber and essential nutrients. The key is to keep the carbohydrate content as low as possible without sacrificing balanced nutrition. You should also look for beneficial supplements like prebiotic fibers, probiotics, and chelated minerals.
Keep reading to see our top 5 recommendations for the best dry cat food.
The Top 5 Best Dry Cat Foods
Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s nutritional needs, you’re ready to start shopping. Remember, the best dry cat food will be focused on animal-based ingredients including premium animal proteins, healthy fats, and beneficial supplements for nutritional balance. Here are our top 5 picks for the best dry cat food that you should consider:
If you want your cat to enjoy the best that nature has to offer, feed it this Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Natural Cat Food. Not only is this formula made with premium natural ingredients, but it is a combination of high-protein kibble and freeze-dried raw pieces for maximum nutrition and flavor. This recipe features real chicken as the main ingredient with plenty of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. It also contains beneficial supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics.
- Made from premium-quality, all-natural ingredients
- High protein kibble blended with freeze-dried raw pieces
- Beneficial nutrients like chelated minerals and probiotics
- Very expensive to feed as a staple diet
If you’re on a budget, you can still provide your cat with a high-quality diet in this Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Cat Food. This cat food features real chicken as the number-1 ingredient and it is completely free from artificial additives. It is inspired by Rachael Ray’s cooking, so you can bet that it is full of natural flavor. This recipe contains wholesome, nourishing ingredients to ensure complete and balanced nutrition and it is also highly digestible – all at an affordable price!
- Made from all-natural ingredients, no by-products or fillers
- Real chicken as the number-1 ingredient
- Highly digestible recipe for maximum nutrient absorption
- Not a grain-free recipe, some cats may be sensitive
- Doesn’t contain probiotic supplements
To get your kitten started on the right foot with a high-quality dry food, consider this Canidae Grain-Free PURE Foundations LID Kitten Recipe. This recipe features a limited number of ingredients to prevent food allergies and it is made with premium proteins like fresh chicken. It contains only the highest quality natural ingredients with no fillers, by-products, or artificial additives. Plus, it is supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption and probiotics for healthy digestion. Overall, it contains 35% protein and 18% fat.
- Made with only 8 main ingredients to reduce risk for allergies
- Contains several sources of quality animal proteins
- Supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics
- Some kittens may be sensitive to poultry ingredients like chicken and turkey
Also Read: The Best Kitten Food
As your cat gets older, it may not need as many calories, but it still needs a nutrient-rich diet. This Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Senior Dry Food is a great option because it features all-natural ingredients, 70% of which come from healthy proteins and fats. This recipe is formulated for both indoor and outdoor cats, plus it is grain-free for digestibility. It doesn’t contain any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients and it is free from by-products and artificial additives as well. It just consists of real, whole foods to ensure premium balanced nutrition for your senior cat.
- Made with a total of 70% protein and fat ingredients
- Features real deboned chicken as the main ingredient and a lean source of protein
- Plenty of beneficial supplements for healthy and balanced nutrition
- Contains some plant protein (potato protein)
Also Read: 5 Best Cat Foods for Senior Cats
If you’re worried about allergies or food sensitivities, this Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Cat Food is the way to go. Available in several flavors, this cat food features a limited number of main ingredients to reduce the risk for triggering your cat’s allergies. It features only the highest quality natural ingredients and it is grain-free for digestibility. You’ll find that it contains plenty of healthy supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics but is completely free from corn, wheat, soy, by-products, and artificial additives.
- Made with a limited number of premium natural ingredients
- Contains 30% protein and 14% healthy fats
- Free from corn, wheat, soy, by-products, and artificial additives
- Contains some plant protein (pea protein)
- Main source of fat is plant-based (canola oil)
Also Read: 5 Best Hypoallergenic Cat Foods
Should You Mix Wet and Dry Cat Food?
Dry cat food is typically more affordable than wet food when it comes to your cat’s staple diet and it also provides dental benefits to help keep its teeth clean.
On the other hand, wet food is higher in moisture which is beneficial for urinary health and it can support your cat’s metabolism and help it maintain a healthy bodyweight.
To ensure that your cat gets the benefits of both, consider feeding it a mixed diet of wet and dry food.
For general health, mix about 25% wet food with 75% dry food. If you’re concerned about your cat’s weight or its urinary health, increase the amount of wet food to 50/50 or even more to 70% wet food and 30% dry food.
For more information on The best wet cat foods on the market today, click here to read to the full guide
Another concern with feeding your cat dry food is that there is some risk for kidney problems as well as urinary tract blockage and inflammatory bowel disease.
In many cases, these problems can be avoided by boosting the moisture content of your cat’s diet. To do so, mix some wet food with your cat’s dry food or try moistening its wet food with water or broth.
What About Food Allergies and Sensitivities?
In addition to thinking about the quality of your cat’s food and mixing dry and wet food you should also think about the potential for food allergies and sensitivities. Cats have the potential to develop allergies at any point in their lives and common allergens include beef, chicken, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, and artificial additives. If your cat has itchy skin, recurrent ear infections, or a dry and brittle coat, it could be suffering from a food allergy. Switch to a hypoallergenic cat food made without the ingredients your cat is allergic to or try a limited ingredient diet to reduce the risk for triggering food allergies.
Dry cat food is cost-effective, convenient to feed, and it comes in a wide range of formulas to meet your cat’s individual needs and preferences.
The best dry food for cats will be made with premium-quality animal ingredients including animal proteins, healthy fats, and a balance of vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal nutrition.
If you’re not sure where to start in shopping for dry cat food, try one of our top 5 picks reviewed above!