Popular, wholesome recipe that doesn't include grain, artificial ingredients, or by-products. Has fruits, vegetables, probiotics, and antioxidants, plus extra nutrients not found in other foods.
It's expensive, and caused some cats digestive upset. Several reports of cats not eating it.
Provides a grain-free diet with roasted venison, salmon, fruit, and vegetables. Contains antioxidants and probiotics. Consumers are thrilled with how much their cats love it.
Pricey, and some cats didn't like it. Some owners also reported digestive upset after their cats ate it. Contains chicken meal.
Offers both an exceptional value and quality ingredients. Formulated with natural fiber for indoor cats, and free of artificial flavors and preservatives.
A few reports of cats not being fond of it, but many more consumers say their cats love it. Contains chicken by-product meal.
A mid-range priced with a formula that includes antioxidants and amino acids. No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. 100% money-back guarantee.
Kibble pieces are somewhat large, and may be difficult for some cats to chew. Some cats experiencing stomach upset after eating it. Contains grain and by-products.
A grain-free formula by a popular brand. No artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, or poultry by-products. Top ingredient is ocean whitefish, a flavor most cats love.
A bit pricey, yet still less expensive than several of its competitors' grain-free cat food recipes. Some cats don't like it.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
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.
BestReviews is here to help you navigate the world of cat food and select an option that offers quality ingredients for your kitty and a good value for you. We work hard to find and deliver the most accurate and up-to-date information about products, and in doing so, we never accept manufacturer incentives. Our goal is to be completely unbiased in our quest for the best.
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.
What are the benefits of feeding your cat dry food? We delve into the answers below.
Dry cat food is convenient and less messy than wet food.
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.
You can alternate between dry cat food and wet cat food to provide a varied diet that is less likely to bore your cat.
Pound for pound, dry cat food tends to be cheaper than wet cat food.
Once opened, store your dry cat food in a cool, dry place. Take note of the expiration date.
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.
While dry food can make up an important part of your cat's diet, 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.
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
Undisclosed meats and animal fats
Cornmeal as a filler
Large quantities of carbohydrates (smaller amounts okay)
Avoid dry cat foods that contain unnatural preservatives, particularly BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Studies show that these preservatives may be carcinogenic.
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.
Unlike dogs, who are omnivores, cats are obligate carnivores. Their food needs to contain plenty of protein from animal sources.
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.
You can find certified organic dry cat foods. These foods must contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Look for a dry cat food that contains the kinds of quality ingredients you'd be happy to put on your own table, rather than fillers and by-products.
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.
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 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.
You'll usually get a better price per pound if you opt for a larger bag. While it may cost more upfront, it works out to be cheaper in the long run.
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 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.
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.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.