Dry cat food is a popular choice for many kitties, and it is one that offers a lot of advantages. Choose the right type of food and it will combine balanced nutrition with the great taste that cats love. Whether you choose to feed your cat an entirely dry food diet or you would prefer to offer a combination of dry and wet, it is important that you go for high-quality stuff. This way, your cat will get the protein and essential nutrients they require from a single source. With this in mind, we have compiled a guide detailing the best dry cat food and what makes it so great.
The Best Dry Cat Food
Combining protein from chicken, turkey, salmon, and ocean fish, your cat will get a host of the vitamins and minerals that they require for healthy functioning. The top-quality protein comes from the meat sources that cats require, boosting their muscle development and support. The texture has also been crafted to be appealing to your kitty. This product is so highly rated as it offers such a popular taste to cats. Everything is produced in the USA from ingredients that have been sourced from all over the world.
Produced in the USA
Globally sourced ingredients
Range of essential vitamins and minerals
- BrandMeow Mix
- Weight16.4 pounds
The best value choice on our list is one that has been highly rated by previous customers. The top ingredient is farm-raised chicken, and there are no wheat, soy, or corn ingredients, which some cats don’t react well to. The smaller kibble size allows cats to get their mouths around it easier, while the crunchy texture is designed to be appealing to felines. As we just mentioned, real meat is the top ingredient. There are no poultry by-product meal or filters. Also, it is free of any artificial flavors or preservatives, which it is often advised for your cat to steer clear of. As well as chicken, this formula also contains wholesome fiber from brown rice and beet pulp.
No soy, corn, or wheat
Portion of profits go to Rachael Ray foundation
Small kibble size for easier eating
Crunchy texture that cats love
- BrandRachael Ray Nutrish
- Weight6.2 pounds
Cats need protein from real meat to survive and thrive, and this is exactly what is provided by this premium dry cat food. Combining the delicious crunchy bites with real chicken pieces, the two make the food even more appealing. You can rest assured that there are no filler ingredients contained within the cat food, as well as no artificial flavors or colors. With omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants, this food is crafted to offer a host of benefits including a strong immune system, and a healthy coat and skin.
Real chicken is top ingredient
Bites and meaty morsels
Supports a strong immune system
Made with real ingredients and no fillers
- BrandPurina ONE
- Weight16 pounds
Designed to maintain the healthy weight and improve the digestion of indoor cats, a blend of essential vitamins and minerals boost your kitty’s immune system. There is also plenty of lean protein to support your cat’s metabolism. As well as the high-quality ingredients, the food also provides a natural source of fiber, which makes your job of cleaning your cat’s litter box a lot easier! Great taste is assured with the flavors of salmon and chicken. It is one of the best dry cat foods for indoor cats.
Supports a healthy immune system
Complete and balanced nutrition
Contains lean protein and B vitamins
Salmon and chicken flavors for taste
- Weight20.4 pounds
Our premium pick is this grain-free dry cat food, which is packed with protein from chicken, helping to build and maintain lean muscle mass. Some of the healthy carbohydrates come from peas and sweet potatoes, giving your cat the energy they need for their active lifestyle. A unique feature to Blue Buffalo Wilderness food is the LifeSouce bits that contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Also, there are omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which serve to support the health of your cat’s coat and skin. No wheat, soy, corn, poultry byproducts, artificial colors or preservatives are contained within.
High in protein and high-quality carbs
Boosts immune system health
Promotes shiny coat and healthy skin with Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
No corn wheat or soy
- BrandBlue Buffalo
- Weight12.3 pounds
Made with real ocean whitefish as the number one ingredient, protein also comes from the eggs within the food, so there is plenty to give your kitty bags of energy. But it is also worth mentioning what the dry cat food doesn’t contain. There is no wheat, soy, corn, artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors. The other thing to mention is that this is a grain-free formula, which is especially helpful for cats who are suffering from dietary issues. The formulation is designed to offer complete and balanced nutrition if your kitty is on an exclusively dry food diet.
Grain-free dry cat food
High protein from ocean whitefish and egg
No corn, wheat, or soy
100% complete and balanced nutrition
- BrandPurina Beyond
- Weight11.2 pounds
Limited ingredient feeding is popular with some cat owners, and this one contains its protein from a single animal source – real chicken. This helps to maintain the strong muscles of your feline. The other main ingredient is peas, which provide fiber to aid in the healthy functioning of your cat’s digestive system. There are no artificial flavors, preservatives, or colors contained within this natural dry cat food. While the ingredients are simple, they still provide a natural balance of nutrients for your kitty.
Simple ingredient list
Fiber from peas supports healthy digestion
No corn, wheat, or soy
- BrandNatural Balance
- Weight10.4 pounds
Specially designed to support the optimal health of indoor cats, chicken is the top ingredient of this protein-rich food. The formula is designed to allow your cat to lose weight or maintain the healthy weight that they are already at. One of the special features of this cat food is the proprietary fiber blend with beet pulp that reduces hairballs before they occur. As you would expect from a brand of this quality, there are no artificial preservatives contained within the food.
Compete and balanced nutrition
Helps your cat maintain a healthy weight
Reduced hairball formation
- Weight22.7 pounds
The natural fiber within this dry cat food improves your cat’s digestion and facilitates an easier litterbox cleanup for you. Again, this is another food that fuels the energy requirements of indoor cats. Recommended by veterinarians, the precise nutritional balance of this dry cat food supports the healthy skin and coat of your kitty. There are also clinically proven antioxidants contained within. It is made in the USA with globally sourced ingredients.
Fuels the energy needs of indoor cats
Made for adult cats between 1 and 6
High-quality protein supports lean muscles
Natural fiber supports digestive health
- BrandHill’s Science Diet
- Weight7.1 pounds
Our final choice is an adult food for indoor cats. The protein comes from chicken and salmon, which are both popular flavors for cats, and they also contain a lot of what they need. As this is a grain-free recipe, the carbs come from quality sources. Essential nutrients help the developing muscles of your cat, as well as supporting digestion. One of the main philosophies behind this food is that it is inspired by the ancestral diet of cats. There are no chicken by-products, wheat, corn, or soy protein.
Real salmon is primary ingredient
No corn, wheat, or soy protein
No artificial preservatives
- Weight10.2 pounds
Best Dry Cat Food Buying Guide & FAQ
Now we come onto the buying guide section, which aims to offer more information about dry cat food to help you choose the right one. First, we will identify some of the top things to look for, before comparing dry and wet food. Next, we will offer some information on how to read cat food labels and finish with our frequently asked questions section and a recap of the number one product on the list.
What to Look for When Buying Dry Cat Food
- Food for the Right Life Stage
Cats have different nutritional needs depending on what stage of life they are at. For example, kittens have different nutritional requirements for adult cats, who again need different things to seniors. Also, there are some other features which could make them appropriate for the stage of life that they are at. For example, kittens require smaller kibble that will fit into their mouths. Calorie requirements are also different. There is also food that is specially formulated with indoor cats in mind. As they typically get less physical exercise, they need food that is going to help them maintain their weight, or lose it if necessary.
- Balanced Nutrition
Dry cat food should offer everything that your cat needs to support their healthy functioning. Look for the healthiest dry cat food that offers a complete and balanced formula that contains all necessary vitamins and minerals.
- Real Meat or Fish
Pay attention to cat food that lists real meat or fish as a primary ingredient. This provides the protein that cats need in their essential functioning. But be wary of anything that fills its ingredient list up with ‘meat byproducts’ or similar.
- No Fillers, Artificial Colors or Preservatives
The best quality cat food isn’t packed with fillers that only add volume and diminish the amount of quality ingredients contained within. Wheat and corn are common fillers, but these are natural components of a cat’s diet. Look for grain-free food – particularly if your cat suffers from digestive problems. Also, some cats are sensitive to artificial preservatives or colors that can contribute to dietary issues. Focus on the cat food that offers natural ingredients. Some cat owners go down the grain-free route, and there is some debate as to whether you should or not. Speak to your vet if you want more advice on the subject.
- Quality Taste
When choosing a food for your kitty cat, it is also important that they are actually going to enjoy the taste. Otherwise, you are going to have an uphill battle getting them to eat it in the first place. As well as paying attention to the flavor, you could also check how else the manufacturer has made it more appealing to felines. For example, they may have enhanced the texture to give the crunch that cats like or added some real meat pieces. You may have to do a bit of experimentation to find the brand that your pet prefers.
While it is often more affordable to buy bigger bags of food, you need to ensure that you don’t get too much as it is more likely to go bad before your cat eats it. However, the bigger sacks are great for multi-pet households or larger felines with bigger appetites.
Is Dry Cat Food Better Than Wet?
There is a lot of debate as to whether dry or wet cat food is best for your four-legged friend. Nutritionally, premium dry and wet food offer similar benefits. Of course, you should purchase the better-quality food for your cat to experience the most benefits. The major difference between the two is that dry food obviously does not have that moisture content than wet food contains. It is always important to leave water down for your kitty, but particularly if they are on a dry food diet. Otherwise, dehydration can become an issue.
For many owners, this doesn’t have to be an either/or choice. They simply offer a combination of dry and wet food. For others, it comes down to what their kitty enjoys eating.
There are pros and cons to each. It is worth pointing out that a lot can be packed into dry food including vitamins, minerals, natural antioxidants, and fibers, offering nutrition that is balanced and complete. Also, there is some evidence to suggest that it is better for teeth as the crunchy texture helps to remove plaque from the teeth. Dry food is also a more affordable option. However, wet food is preferred tastewise by some cats, and the stronger smells can make them even more appealing. It also contains moisture naturally, and it is easier for cats to eat if they are suffering from dental issues or have missing teeth. Alternatively, you could look at soft dry cat food. On the downside, it tends to be more expensive and doesn’t stay fresh as long, particularly after you empty it into your cat’s bowl.
How to Read Your Cat Food Label
Looking at the back of your cat’s food can prove to be quite confusing. So, here are some tips to help you decipher them and choose the right option.
- Learn the Label Language
The first thing to know about cat food labels is the language that is used. You will have obvious information like the product name, weight, and what type of felines the food is intended for. For example, indoor cats or the best dry kitten food. Then you have the ingredient list, which is listed in decreasing order based on weight. You then have the guaranteed amount of nutrients, bearing in mind that these are different to ingredients. When you see things like ‘complete and balanced’ written in regard to a nutrient profile, this needs to meet or exceed a clearly established nutrient profile for a certain type of cat, whether this is a kitten, adult, etc. You can expect some feeding directions that tell you how much to offer your cat every day but bear in mind this should change based on the size of your cat, their metabolism, and daily activity level. There should also be a calorie statement that is listed on a per kilogram basis. This is one of the easiest measures to do a direct comparison on.
- Know More About Nutrients
The ingredient list tells you exactly what is in cat food, but the nutrients are about what is contained within these ingredients. First and foremost, your cat’s diet needs to revolve around protein. Cats have higher requirements than most mammals, needing 22 amino acids. While they can digest both plant and animal-based proteins, it is the latter that contains the essential acids. As a rule of thumb, cats should eat around 23 grams of protein per day, so look for high protein dry cat food.
Your pet also needs fat for energy, which serves to protect their body and build neurons. Cats also need 25 vitamins and minerals, which is more than the 23 required by dogs. Look for a ‘complete and balanced’ label that tells you that all the right nutrients have been added by the manufacturer. Carbohydrates are another good source of energy, which are contained in grains such as rice and corn. But many dry cat food is now grain-free, so you will find carbs from sources such as peas or potatoes.
- Decipher the Claims
Many dry cat foods have claims that can be a little confusing. You will sometimes find ‘natural dry cat food’, which means that no chemically synthesized ingredients have been added apart from minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. You will still see scientific terms for these substances, but you know that they are beneficial. You may see ‘organic dry cat food’ written on the label, which means that the ingredients have been grown on land free of pesticides for three years. Bear in mind that there are different levels of organic-based on the percentage of ingredients that are eligible to meet these criteria.
- Learn the Acronyms
There are often a lot of acronyms written on the back of pet food packaging that can be confusing. The most well-known is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which leads to pet food requirements such as proper identification, details of the manufacturer, and correct listing of ingredients based on weight. A few of the others that you may commonly see include ) CVM (the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine), AAFCO (Association of Animal Feed Control Officials, as well as the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). These all have roles within the field of pet food research.
Best Dry Cat Food FAQ:
Q: How much dry food should I feed my cat?
A: There are a number of factors that affect how much dry food you should give to your cat. First, there is their size. But there are also factors like their metabolism and how much exercise they get on a daily basis. As a general guideline, the back of the packaging will give you more information. You can match how much to give based on your cat’s current weight. You can weigh your cat in the simple way of stepping on a scale, recording your weight, and then checking the difference while holding your cat.
You should get into the habit of monitoring your cat’s weight. If they are starting to get overweight, you may have to reduce how much you are offering, up their physical exercise, or do a combination of the two. You also need to decide whether you are going to free-feed your cat or offer them set meals. This depends on the individual traits of your kitty and whether they are likely to overeat. If so, you should plan their mealtimes. Free feeding also has the disadvantage of you not being able to tell if your cat’s diet has changed.
If you are struggling to work out how much to feed your cat, you can create a plan alongside your vet or an animal nutritionist, and you can also ask them about vet recommended cat food.
Q: Can dry cat food go bad?
A: As with pretty much every other type of food out there, there is going to be a time when your cat’s dry food goes bad. Generally, this type of food is made from dehydrated meat, fish, and vegetables, which are then preserved cold. A lot of the food has expiration dates that are worth following, but as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t keep a bag open for more than a month. Over time, the taste and smell of the food will start to degrade due to contact with the air and moisture, and this is going to make it less pleasant for your cat to consume. As for storage conditions, you should look for a cool, dry place, away from direct moisture or heat.
Q: Should I moisten dry cat food?
A: To make dry cat food more appealing, you can add some moisture content. You will just need a small amount of filtered water to add to the top of the bowl which will naturally improve the flavor. This creates a little bit of ‘gravy’, and also has the advantage of adding the water content that they would not otherwise get from this type of food. You could also mix the dry and wet food together to improve the overall flavor of the meal.
Q: Can cats live on dry food only?
A: Cats can live on dry food only and it is not specifically bad for them, but you need to ensure that your kitty is getting enough water if this is all they eat. Dry food has a number of benefits including promoting better dental hygiene, as well as being the more affordable option. Also, it comes in numerous different flavor combinations, so you are likely to find something that will satisfy your cat’s appetite.
Our Top Pick
Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food
Providing complete and balanced nutrition, high-quality protein comes from four main sources. This five-star rated product contains all the essential vitamins and minerals that cats need. Made in the USA, the ingredients are sourced from around the world. The flavor has also proven to be highly popular with felines. For all these reasons and more, we have ranked it number one on our list.