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Best Cat Foods

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 46 Models Considered
  • 23 Hours Researched
  • 2 Experts Interviewed
  • 206 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best cat foods

    Last Updated August 2018

    Your cat is a family member – albeit a furry one – so why shouldn't you be as careful in feeding her a healthy, well-balanced diet as you are with yourself and your human family? Finding the best cat food for your feline friend can involve some trial and error, as what one cat thrives on might not be good for another, and some cats want variety, but you can learn how to tell a quality food from a poor one.

    It can be tough for the uninitiated, however – with so many different types of cat food on the market from hundreds of manufacturers, how do you select the right one for your fur baby? Well, if you need some assistance, you're in the right place. At BestReviews, it's our primary aim to help you – the consumer – find the perfect products to suit your needs. We test items in our labs and/or out in the real world, gather feedback from customers, and consult experts – all so we can bring you fair and thorough reviews that cut through the jargon. Read on for our full guide to cat food to learn all you need to know to keep kitty's tummy happy and their health in top form.

    A shiny coat, bright eyes, regular bowel movements, and the ability to easily maintain a healthy weight are all signs your cat is thriving on his food.

    Should you choose wet or dry food?

    The first question to ask yourself is whether you should feed your cat wet or dry food. Each type has its pros and cons, so it's up to you to decide which suits you and your cat best.

    Wet cat food

    Pros:

    • Wet cat food has a high moisture content which helps keep cats hydrated.

    • Fussy eaters generally find wet cat food more palatable.

    • Wet cat food tends to contain more meat and fewer grains and carbohydrates.

    • Moist food is easier for seniors or cats with dental issues to chew.
       

    Cons:

    • Wet cat food spoils more quickly when left out, so isn't suitable for free feeding.

    • As a rule, wet cat food costs more than dry food.

    • Wet foods often lack the nutrients of dry food.

    • Moist foods are messier/require some clean-up.
       

    Price: Basic cat food can cost as little as $1 per lb, whereas high-end brands cost up to $10 per lb.

    Dehydration is common in cats (since most don't drink much) and can lead to health issues such as kidney stones and recurrent UTIs. If your cat isn't much of a drinker, she might need wet food, rather than dry.

    Dry cat food

    Pros:

    • Dry cat food tends to be cheaper than wet cat food, pound for pound.

    • Dry food doesn't spoil quickly, so it's best for cats who don't eat their meals in one go and prefer to pick during the day.

    • Most people find dry cat food less messy and more convenient to feed, and it doesn't need to be refrigerated once opened.

    • A good dry food contains all of the nutrients cats need.
       

    Cons:

    • Cheaper dry cat foods can contain too high a percentage of grains/carbs, acting as fillers.

    • Due to its low moisture content, reluctant drinkers shouldn't be fed a diet comprised of dry cat food alone.

    • Dry foods are harder to chew and some cats do not like the texture.

    • There is limited flavor/texture variety.
       

    Price: You can find budget dry cat food for less than $1 per lb. High-end and prescription formulas may cost up to $8 per lb.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some cat owners choose to feed a mixture of wet and dry food to get the benefits of both.

    Picking the right food for your cat

    There's no one-size-fits-all solution to cat food, since every feline is an individual, with her own dietary requirements and preferences. You'll need to tailor your choice based on your cat's individual needs. Here are some of the factors that may influence which kind of food your cat requires.

    Age

    Kittens (under 1 year of age) should be fed kitten food, and some older cats may do better eating a senior formula.

    Activity level

    Indoor cats or those who live a fairly sedentary lifestyle will have lower calorie and protein requirements than very active cats.

    Adult cats should be fed twice a day, in the morning and evening, but kittens need more frequent meals – preferably four a day.

    Allergies

    If your cat has any food allergies, you'll need to take these into account when selecting her new food.

    Weight

    You can find low fat/low calorie food for kitties who tend to gain weight. Conversely, if your cat finds it hard to keep weight on (and you've ruled out health problems with the vet), he may need a higher calorie food, or simply larger portions.

    Ailments

    Some cats may need a specific diet due to chronic health conditions. If in doubt, ask your cat's veterinarian.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you're switching your cat's diet from one food to another, be sure to do so gradually over a period of five to seven days to avoid stomach upset.


    Considerations for selecting cat food

    Ingredient quality

    Cat food is its ingredients, so if your chosen food contains poor quality ingredients, that means it's a low quality food. You want a food that contains plenty of meat from named sources (so "chicken" or "beef," rather than "rendered meat product," for example) and not too much filler (such as corn, wheat, and other grains).

    The best quality foods contain meat sourced from North America, where you'll find a greater number of regulations in place over additives and welfare standards. Also, general nutrition principles apply – whole foods (over processed ingredients) are best.

    Some experts claim that animal byproducts would be a natural part of a cat's diet (since they eat prey whole), whereas others argue that the kinds of byproducts used in commercial pet food are unspecified and of extremely poor quality, and therefore should be avoided. It's up to you to make the call as to whether or not you're happy to feed your cat a food containing animal byproducts.

    You should expect to see added vitamins and minerals in a quality cat food. While the primary ingredients should contain all or most of the nutrients your cat needs, the added vitamins are a good backup to cover any shortfalls.

    Protein content

    An adult cat food should contain a minimum of 26 percent crude protein, by weight, and kitten food should contain at least 30 percent. Higher levels of protein are fine, but any lower and your cat won't be getting enough protein to maintain healthy muscles, tissues, and organs.

    Grains and carbohydrates

    In the wild, carbohydrates make up only 1 to 2 percent of a feline's diet, so why do so many foods contain large amounts of grains? The answer is that grains and other carbohydrates are cheap fillers that bulk out food at a much lower cost to the manufacturer than meat. If a cat food contains a lot of carbohydrates, your cat will need to eat more of it to get all the nutrients she needs, so it can work out more expensive than feeding a higher quality food – and pack on unhealthy weight.

    While small amounts of grains and carbohydrates are a useful energy source for your cat, too large an amount should be considered filler.

    Names and ingredient percentage

    The name of a cat food might be able to give you an idea of how much of any named ingredients are contained in the food (but only if it’s American made). According to regulations from the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), cat foods must contain a certain percentage of any named ingredients, which varies depending on the wording.

    • If the food has a simple name such as "Tuna Cat Food" or "Salmon for Cats," it must contain at least 95 percent of the named ingredient (or at least 70 percent once you account for any added water).

    • If the food name contains words such as "dinner," "platter," "entree," or "formula" – for instance "chicken dinner" or "cod and mackerel formula" – it must be comprised of at least 25 percent of the named ingredient or ingredients.

    • If the food states "with" an ingredient, it must contain a minimum of 3 percent of said ingredient. So, if a cat food is labeled "Chicken Dinner with Egg," it legally has to contain at least 3 percent egg.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    All cat food should include added taurine – it's vital for your cat's health (he could go blind without it) – and his body doesn't produce it naturally.

    Tips

    • While some people advocate making your own cat food (so you know exactly what goes in it) we wouldn't recommend it, unless you happen to be an expert in cat nutrition. A cat can easily become deficient in essential nutrients on a homemade diet.

    • Cat foods come in a range of flavors and all cats will find some more palatable than others, in the same way that people have foods they love and others they're not fond of.

    • Look on the package of your chosen cat food for an AAFCO nutritional statement. It should state it's "suitable for adult maintenance," "suitable for growth and development," or "suitable for all life stages." This statement shows that the food in question meets the minimum nutritional requirements set out by the AAFCO.

    • Don't leave wet cat food in your pet's bowl for more than a few hours. If you leave it down too long, it will start to spoil and attract pests and grow bacteria.

    • We'd recommend looking into the safety record of your chosen cat food's manufacturer before you buy. If a brand has regular recalls, it's reasonable not to trust that they can produce safe, high-quality food every time.

    You may find that feeding your feline friend a range of cat food flavors from a young age will prevent her from becoming too picky an eater.

    FAQ

    Q. Are there any cat food ingredients that should be avoided?

    A. Some ingredients are a sign of an unhealthy or low-quality cat food and should be avoided. Here are some you should always steer clear of.

    • Artificial preservatives, such as BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin

    • Artificial colorings

    • Artificial flavorings

    • Sugar

    • Meat products that don't specify what animal they're from

    • Propylene glycol (sometimes listed simply as "PG")

    • Rendered fat

    Q. Does the order in which ingredients are listed on the package make a difference?

    A. Yes, ingredients are always listed in weight order from highest to lowest. So, if "chicken" is the first listed ingredient, it's the ingredient that's found in the food in the largest quantity by weight. This means it's easy to spot foods with lots of fillers. If an ingredient is found toward the beginning of the ingredient list, you know there's a large amount of it in the food.

    Q. My chosen cat food is labeled "natural" – what does this mean?

    A. Some terms, such as "natural" and "premium," might sound good but have no health or quality claims. As such, manufacturers can include these terms on their packaging without it really meaning anything, so don't blindly believe buzz words. Other terms, such as "human-grade," do have legal meanings, so if they're included on the packaging, they have to meet the legal standards for these terms. It's worth noting, however, that this only applies to packaging, so companies can use these terms on their website without them meeting the legal definitions. Reading ingredients is always more reliable than labels.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer