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When it comes to choosing the best food for your cat, a cat owners 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 10 picks for the best dry cat food brands.
At a Glance: The Best Dry Cat Foods to Buy
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Natural Cat Food
Made from premium-quality, all-natural ingredients
High protein kibble blended with freeze-dried raw pieces
Beneficial nutrients like chelated minerals and probiotics
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 chicken recipe 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.
Best Affordable Dry Cat Food: Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Cat Food
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 adult cat food recipe contains wholesome, nourishing ingredients to ensure complete and balanced nutrition and it is also highly digestible – all at an affordable price!
Best Dry Cat Food for Kittens: Grain-Free PURE Foundations LID Kitten Recipe
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 protein sources 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.
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 older cats.
Featuring lean proteins like Alaskan pollock and turkey meal, this grain-free dry cat food helps support your cat’s healthy weight. It is formulated with high protein levels, low carb content, and moderate calories with 16 nutrient-dense superfoods to ensure balanced nutrition.
This healthy weight formula is just what your cat needs to regain his figure and maintain optimal health. In addition to helping him lose weight, it also supports immune system health and will boost the condition of his skin and coat as well.
Best Dry Cat Food for Allergies: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Cat Food
Pet owners worried about allergies or food sensitivities should consider this Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Cat Food. 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.
For maximum flavor and nutrition, give your Maine Coon this Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Canyon River Recipe Cat Food. It features several premium proteins including fresh trout, smoked salmon, and ocean fish meal as well as plenty of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.
It contains grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and peas for digestibility as well as probiotics to support your cat’s digestion. It also contains beneficial supplements like dietary fiber and probiotics.
Best High-Protein Dry Cat Food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe with Red Meat
If you’re looking for a cat food made with real meat, consider this Blue Buffalo Wilderness Rocky Mountain Recipe with Red Meat dry food. This grain-free dry cat food features premium animal proteins like deboned beef, deboned lamb, and deboned venison for a total of 36% crude protein.
In addition to being packed with protein, this formula has a healthy blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, plus fresh fruits and veggies to provide natural sources for key nutrients. It is highly digestible and supplemented with both prebiotics and probiotics.
Best Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Senior Cat Food
As your cat gets older, it still needs a healthy and balance diet to avoid digestive problems. This Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Senior Cat Food recipe is a great option because it provides plenty of animal protein with moderate fat content to control calories.
It features farm-raised chicken and digestible brown rice, plus plenty of beneficial supplements like fish oil, chelated minerals, and vitamin supplements.
Best Vet-Recommended Dry Cat Food: Hill’s Science Diet Cat Food
This line of cat foods does not require a prescription to purchase, but it is still recommended by veterinarians. It is designed to address common issues like hairballs, digestive upset, sensitive stomach, urinary tract health, and even immune system health.
Hill’s Science Diet Cat Food comes in both dry food and wet food recipes, including variety packs of wet food to give your feline friend options. All recipes are complete and balanced for cats in all life stages.
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 content and fat content 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 adult 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 real 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, especially DHA and EPA.
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.
No Artificial Additives. The majority of your cat’s nutrition should come from quality ingredients. Avoid recipes that contain too many additives like artificial flavors and colors.
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 to ensure optimal nutrition and well-being.
Protein provides the building blocks for strong muscles and lean mass, so it should make up at least 26% of your cat’s pet food.
The healthiest protein sources 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 content, 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 carbs in their diet, but wholesome foods like whole grains and veggies 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.
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 tract health and it can support your cat’s metabolism and help it maintain a healthy weight.
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% canned 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.
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 feline friend 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 and to support your cat’s overall health.
If you’re not sure where to start in shopping for dry cat food, try one of our top picks reviewed above!
Kate Barrington is avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines