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Best Dry Cat Foods

Updated June 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.

  • 25 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 135 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 dry cat foods

    Last Updated June 2018

    Your feline friend deserves the very best, and that includes a quality dry cat food to keep her healthy and well-nourished.

    But with the hundreds of dry cat food brands available on grocery store shelves, in pet stores, and online, how do you choose the right one? It can be tricky, because there's no single “best” cat food out there – though some are definitely better for your cat than others.

    Read on for our full guide to dry cat food and then, when you're ready to buy, scroll up to our product matrix to see our five favorite cat food formulas.

    Think about your cat's specific needs when choosing a dry cat food. Different cats have different nutritional requirements, so select food for your kitty accordingly.

    Why feed your cat dry cat food?

    What are the benefits of feeding your cat dry food? We delve into the answers below.

    • Convenience

    Dry cat food is convenient and less messy than wet food.

    • Freshness

    Some cats don’t eat a full meal all at once; they prefer to “graze” as they feel the need. Dry food can be left out all day without spoiling, so your kitty can pick at it as he pleases.

    • Variety

    You can alternate between dry cat food and wet cat food to provide a varied diet that is less likely to bore your cat.

    • Economy

    Pound for pound, dry cat food tends to be cheaper than wet cat food.

    EXPERT TIP

    You can find certified organic dry cat foods. These foods must contain at least 95% organic ingredients.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Once opened, store your dry cat food in a cool, dry place. Take note of the expiration date.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Look for a dry cat food that contains the kind of quality ingredients you'd be happy to put on your own table.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Usually, a larger bag gives a better price per pound. It may cost more upfront, but works out cheaper in the long run.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    What should you look for in dry cat food?

    Not all dry cat food is the same. There are some excellent brands with quality ingredients, but there are also some subpar formulas that are essentially the feline equivalent of junk food. Here's what you should look for.

    • Quality protein: Quality dry cat food has a high protein content. Look for a formula that is at least 26% protein; a formula of 30% protein or more is even better. The protein should come from a quality animal source, not from animal by-products.

    • Taurine: Taurine is an essential amino acid for cats. While it occurs naturally in meat, we recommend a brand with added taurine to help your kitty avoid a taurine deficiency.

    • Vitamins and minerals: Look for a dry cat food with a range of added vitamins and minerals. Ideally, they should be chelated for easier absorption.

    • Fats: High-quality dry cat food should contain plenty of good fats and fatty acids, such as omega-3.

    • Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are an important ingredient in dry cat food. They provide carbohydrates as well as vitamins and minerals.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most feline nutritionists agree that cats should eat a mixture of wet and dry food. Many cats don't drink enough water on their own; they need the extra hydration that wet food provides.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Unlike dogs, who are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. Their food needs to contain plenty of protein from animal sources. Look at the ingredients before you buy cat food of any brand.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Adult cats (over the age of one year) should be fed regular adult cat food – unless the cat is pregnant or lactating. Mama cats need a special diet to provide sufficient calories and nutrients.

    What should you avoid in dry cat food?

    You should also know what kinds of ingredients signal a low-quality food. Ideally, cat foods that contain the following should be avoided:

    • Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

    • Animal by-products

    • Undisclosed meats and animal fats

    • Rendered fat

    • Sugar

    • Cornmeal as a filler

    • Large quantities of carbohydrates (smaller amounts okay)

    CAUTION

    Avoid dry cat foods that contain unnatural preservatives, particularly BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Studies show that these preservatives may be carcinogenic.

    Considerations for selecting dry cat food

    Nutritional adequacy

    Look for a statement of nutritional adequacy on the package of any dry cat food you're considering.

    This statement simply means the food meets or exceeds the minimum nutrient requirements set out by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). So, if a dry cat food is labelled as "complete and balanced," it must meet AAFCO standards for a complete food.

    This doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good food, but any food that doesn't meet these standards is definitely a bad one, so it's a good starting point from which to investigate further.

    Your cat’s dietary requirements

    Consider any particular dietary requirements your cat may have. You can find a wide range of dry cat foods to suit kitties with particular dietary requirements.

    For instance, there are gluten-free formulas and grain-free formulas available for kitties who need them.

    Cats can be intolerant or allergic to wheat and other grains, but if you don't have reason to believe your kitty has such an allergy, there's usually no need to avoid dry cat food containing grains – unless the food contains large amounts of grains as filler.

    Product recalls

    You want to select a cat food brand you can trust. It's worth checking to see if your chosen brand has had many product recalls. If so, it's reasonable to doubt the overall quality of the food and/or the company's manufacturing process. You can check for product recalls on the FDA website.

    Your cat’s age

    You'll find different dry cat foods for different feline life stages. Kittens have higher calorie, fat, and protein requirements to help them grow. Adult cats need fewer calories than kittens but still enough to help them maintain a healthy weight. Senior cats need a diet lower in calories and fat with easy-to-digest proteins to help avoid kidney issues.

    Your cat’s activity level

    A very active cat is going to need more calories than a sedentary one. Think about your cat's activity level and choose his food based on this. You can find special house cat formulas for cats who live indoors and therefore expend fewer calories than cats who roam outside all day.

    Flavor

    Dry cat foods come in a range of flavors or formulas, from venison and salmon to whitefish and egg. Of course, different ingredients have different nutritional properties, but since all cat food is formulated to meet felines' dietary needs, your main concern should be picking a flavor your furry friend enjoys. Cats can be fussy eaters, so it might take some trial and error to find a flavor your cat loves.

    Ingredient quality

    It can be tough to gauge ingredient quality simply by reading the label, but we've got some pointers to help you out. Look for cat food that contains real animal protein, either from whole sources or in "meal" form. It's not a good sign if the label simply states "meat" or "meat products."

    Consider the order in which ingredients are listed; those listed first are present in a greater proportion to those listed farther down.

    If you delve even deeper into your research of a particular cat food brand, consider where the ingredients are sourced from – especially meats. Meat sourced from overseas can be of poor quality, and the animals may be kept in inhumane conditions.

    Grain-free food is the latest cat food trend, but grains provide carbohydrates and other nutrients that can be good for your cat in small amounts. There's no need to go completely grain-free unless your kitty has been diagnosed with a grain allergy – or you have been advised by your veterinarian to do so.

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    BestReviews

    Dry cat food prices

    Dry cat food is available at a range of price points to suit different budgets. Just be aware that you usually get what you pay for with cat food, so a cheap bag won't be as nutritionally sound as a pricier one.

    Since cat food can come in bags of varying sizes, we've examined the price per pound.

    Budget

    Budget dry cat food tends to cost between $0.60 and $1 per pound. These formulas usually contain lower-quality meats and a greater amount of filler.

    Mid-range

    Mid-range dry cat food costs between $1 and $2 per pound. You can find some excellent foods in this price range, especially toward the upper end.

    High-end

    High-end dry cat food costs between $2 and $5 per pound. In this price range, expect to find foods filled with high-quality ingredients that are often organic and/or locally sourced.

    You'll find information about how much to feed your feline on the packaging of your chosen dry cat food. That said, it is only a guideline, so you may have to adjust the amount slightly if your cat starts gaining or losing weight. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

    FAQ

    Q. How can I tell if my cat is thriving on her dry food?

    A. The following signs suggest your cat is thriving on her dry food.

    • She has a shiny coat

    • Her teeth and gums appear healthy.

    • She has regular bowel movements that aren't loose and watery or dry and pellet-like.

    • She easily maintains a healthy weight.

    • She enjoys her food and has a healthy appetite.
       

    Q. Is dry cat food better than wet cat food?

    A. Dry cat food and wet cat food have both pros and cons. According to many veterinary nutritionists, you should ideally feed a combination of dry and wet food to get the best of both worlds.

    Q. What is freeze-dried cat food?

    A. Freeze-dried cat food is a form of dry cat food that consists of raw, freeze-dried meat. It can be rehydrated to create something akin to wet cat food, but it's shelf-stable in its dry form and lasts a long time before spoiling. It's designed for pet parents who'd like to feed their cats a raw diet, but without the hassle.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor