Choosing the Best Cat Food for Indoor Cats

Cute ginger cat siting on window sill and waiting for something.

Our pets are overweight! In 2018, a wide-ranging US survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention put a number on something vets and owners have long suspected: that an estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs are classified as either overweight or obese.

While your cat may have developed certain expectations when it comes to the size and contents of their dinner, weight management should be a serious concern for owners, especially those caring for indoor pets.

A large proportion of veterinarians recommend an indoor lifestyle for most cats, as a way to ensure both mental and physical wellbeing. But despite the benefits, the truth is that indoor cats are far more likely to develop obesity, diabetes, and secondary conditions related to inadequate diet and exercise.

The Problem

With more cats rejecting the neighborhood streets for a quiet life lounging inside, levels of dietary and exercise-related diseases are rapidly increasing. In cats, diabetes usually manifests itself in a manner similar to Type 2 diabetes in humans, meaning it arising from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors.

While the causes of obesity can crudely be defined as a longterm imbalance between calories consumed and burned, the reality is more complex. Domestic cats are well-adjusted to indoor living, but their bodies are evolved to operate as predators. Cats source almost all their energy from calorific fats and favor a lifestyle of long periods of rest and sleep, interrupted by short bursts of activity—these are strategies that work well in the wild, but can quickly contribute to weight gain at home.

The Solution

Managing weight-related risks in cats should never mean cutting down on nutrition. All cats need access to quality, well-sourced protein, fats, minerals, and foods with high moisture content.

The key is to develop a diet able to deliver the right nutrients in a lower calorific profile. Indoor cat foods should be specifically formulated for this purpose. Typically, they’ll achieve this by mixing very low amounts of carbohydrate with high levels of protein and some natural fats.

In other words, the whole conversation about indoor cat food revolves around a trade-off between nutrition and calories. We need our cats to maintain a healthy weight without sacrificing other aspects of health. Let’s look at the primary factors in a weight management diet, and how to meet nutritional needs while also controlling calories.

Preventing weight gain

Nutritional breakdown

Essentially, the nutritional requirements for every cat remain the same. Younger cats may benefit from higher levels of protein, while more fat may help senior cats retain muscle mass. But no matter their age or condition, every moggie needs a combination of protein-derived amino acids, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates in the form of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Here’s how an indoor cat’s nutritional profile should look:

The best indoor cat foods of 2020

The most important factor in feeding your indoor cat the best cat food is more or less watching their calories and ensuring that most of their calorie intake is from animal protein. Remember that indoor cats are more stationary, so they need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight.

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Fish Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

With whole, high-quality ingredients, Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free wet food for adult, indoor cats, features real fish as the first ingredient.

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Fish Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Buy on Chewy

Key Benefits

  • 24-pack of 3 or 5.5-ounce cans

  • Smooth texture with a great taste to boot!

  • Fish is the main ingredient, which is loaded with great omegas, and provides protein and energy to keep your cat going

  • Free of grain, gluten, byproducts, corn, wheat, soy

  • No artificial flavors or preservatives

By utilizing cod and whitefish for a protein-rich formula, pet parents can rest assured their cats are being fed a well balanced meal. Omega fatty acids, DHA and added taurine support muscle maintenance, vision and overall feline health.

Because it doesn’t contain worrisome ingredients such as gluten, grain, preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, by-products and artificial flavors, adult cats will receive wholesome nutrients, and no filler. Adult cats of all ages will appreciate Blue Buffalo’s pate, featuring a smooth texture even seniors can enjoy.

Fish, Fish Broth, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Natural Flavor, Fish Oil, Flaxseed (source of Omega 3 and 6 Fatty Acids), Powdered Cellulose, Guar Gum, Taurine, Potassium Chloride, Cranberries, Blueberries, Salt, Carrageenan, Cassia Gum, Choline Chloride, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols.

Caloric Content

1,000 kcal/kg, 85 kcal/3 oz can, 156 kcal/5.5 oz can

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

As a canned cat food, blended with only the finest ingredients, Blue Buffalo Freedom’s Indoor Adult Chicken Recipe packs in all the nutrients with a taste cats love.

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Adult Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
Buy on Chewy
Buy on Pet Warehouse

Key Benefits

  • Nutritious source of wet cat food for adult cats.

  • Key Benefits

  • Smooth texture and quality taste that appeals to the majority of cats.

  • Main ingredients of chicken and chicken broth make this a great source of protein, and will keep your cat full of energy.

  • Free of grains, byproducts, gluten, corn, wheat, soy, any artificial flavors, and preservatives. Making this a great natural product, and ideal for cats with stomach sensitivities.

As a canned cat food, blended with only the finest ingredients, Blue Buffalo Freedom’s Indoor Adult Chicken Recipe packs in all the nutrients with a taste cats love. Formulated without worrisome ingredients, you won’t have to worry about sensitive kitties reacting to artificial flavors, artificial coloring, grains, gluten, corn, soy, wheat, peas, preservatives or by-products. 

Made with the intent of providing muscle maintenance and real energy, Blue Buffalo began with whole sources of protein, and followed with fruit and veggies. Cats will enjoy this pate-style wet food, crafted with only the finest ingredients. Plus, pet parents and felines alike will especially appreciate the BPA non-intent cans Blue Buffalo uses for all of their canned wet cat food products.

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Natural.

Caloric Content

1,179 kcal/kg, 97 kcal/3 oz can, 178 kcal/5.5 oz can, 418 kcal/12.5 oz can

Purina Beyond Simply Indoor Wild-Caught Salmon, Egg & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Pet parents concerned with the overall health of their indoor cat, will appreciate the benefits Purina Beyond Simply Indoor dry cat food has to offer.

Purina Beyond Simply Indoor Wild-Caught Salmon, Egg & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Buy on Chewy

Key Benefits

  • Great quality protein, with wild-salmon the number one ingredient

  • Full of high-quality nutrients, using limited natural ingredients, including probiotics for your cat’s digestive tract

  • Indoor formula consists of less fat, to aid weight management

  • Natural fiber for hairball control, and antioxidants to aid the immune system

  • Can be served alone, or with Beyond wet foods or toppers. A great food to boost protein and increase hydration

  • No corn, wheat, soy, poultry byproducts, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Featuring a boosted, natural blend of fiber, Purina Beyond’s wild-caught salmon, egg and sweet potato recipe controls hairballs, while preventing compaction. 

Made without the hassle of added preservatives or artificial flavor, adult cats enjoy bites of real chicken and turkey. In order to promote a healthy lifestyle, this dry kibble encourages optimal weight maintenance through balanced nutrition. Added taurine improves vision health, while omega fatty acids, vitamins and minerals support overall feline health.

New: Salmon, Pea Starch, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Canola Meal, Cassava Root Flour, Dried Egg Product, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Yeast, Dried Sweet Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Beef Fat Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Natural Flavor, Phosphoric Acid, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Bisulfate, Potassium Chloride, Whole Cranberries, Salt, Taurine, DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, MINERALS [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], VITAMINS [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7)], L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product. C424319.

Original: Salmon, Chicken Meal, Pea Starch, Pea Protein, Canola Meal, Cassava Root Flour, Dried Egg Product, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Yeast, Dried Sweet Potatoes, Pea Fiber, Beef Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols, Natural Liver Flavor, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Bisulfate, Choline Chloride, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, Taurine, Salt, Whole Cranberries, Calcium Carbonate, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D-3 Supplement], Vitamin E. B-4243.

Caloric Content

New: 3,250 kcal/kg, 322 kcal/cup

Original: 3,301 kcal/kg, 357 kcal/cup

Cat Chow Hairball & Healthy Weight Indoor Dry Cat Food

Indoor cats require nutrition specifically catered to their needs, which is exactly what Purina had in mind when they created Cat Chow Hairball and Healthy Weight Indoor dry cat food.

Cat Chow Hairball & Healthy Weight Indoor Dry Cat Food
Buy on Chewy

Key Benefits

  • The tasty recipe is made using garden greens, which provide a delicious taste with herbal undertones

  • Low calorie to aid your cat in maintaining a healthy weight for indoor cats

  • Full of antioxidants, which are key to a healthily functioning immune system

  • Includes natural fibers to aid hairballs (less cleanup for you)

  • There are 25 vitamins and minerals present to help your cat reach its nutritional requirements

Taking into consideration an indoor feline’s activity level, environment and weight management needs, this hairball and healthy weight formula contains fewer calories and increased fiber.

Blended with 25 vitamins and minerals, Cat Chow supports your four-legged friend’s health, while providing balanced nutrition. This pea free dry cat food provides antioxidants in order to boost the immune system. Essential fatty acids and protein work together to provide appropriate energy, and a healthy skin and coat.

Chicken By-Product Meal, Whole Grain Corn, Soy Flour, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Rice, Beef Fat Naturally Preserved With Mixed-Tocopherols, Liver Flavor, Chicken, Powdered Cellulose, Soybean Hulls, Calcium Carbonate, Phosphoric Acid, Salt, Natural Flavor, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Parsley Flakes, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Minerals [Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin (Vitamin B-3), Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B-5), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Folic Acid (Vitamin B-9), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Biotin (Vitamin B-7), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K)], L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 5. M450018.

Caloric Content

3,372 kcal/kg, 358 kcal/cup

Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Dry Cat Food

Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight and Hairball Care is an easily digestible dry cat food, formulated especially for indoor kitties.

Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Dry Cat Food
Buy on Chewy

Key Benefits

  • This formula has been formulated to meet the specific requirements of helping adult cats maintain a healthy weight, and to reduce hairballs, as well as litter box odor

  • Packed full of fiber (blend) to reduce hairballs

  • Made with L-Carnitine to promote healthy weight maintenance

  • Texture that cats love! It’s crunchy kibble, and will help keep your cats teeth free of tartar, and clean

  • Made for cats 1 year or older (ideally)

Indoor blends are special, because they are created to control hairballs, maintain a healthy weight, and even reduce odors in the litter box. Adult cats will benefit from the fat reduction, as well as the blend of carbs to keep them feeling full.

As a dry cat food, the crunchy texture provides oral care, in order to clean teeth and prevent tartar. Whole ingredients such as rice, grains and beets, reduce hairballs while supporting the digestive system. Beet fiber also plays an important role in digestion, as prebiotics feed bacteria in order to maintain a healthy gut biome – a crucial step in overall feline health.

Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Grits, Corn Gluten Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Turkey, Powdered Cellulose, Natural Flavor, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Egg Product, Caramel Color, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Bisulfate, Choline Chloride, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharides, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Source of Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Source of Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement (Source of Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid], Taurine, Minerals [Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid (Preservatives ), L-Carnitine, Rosemary Extract.

Caloric Content

3364 kcal/kg, 302 kcal/cup

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

With whole, real chicken listed as the first ingredient, Blue Wilderness Indoor Hairball and Weight Control dry cat food is a great choice for indoor adult cats.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Indoor Hairball & Weight Control Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Buy on Chewy

Key Benefits

  • Pure grain-free (100%) recipe for weight control in cats. Featuring lean chicken as the main ingredient, to assist building and maintaining strong muscles

  • Supports healthy digestion and prevents hairballs with natural fiber blend, and helps maintain an ideal weight with balanced calories from proteins and fats.

  • Aids digestion using a natural fiber blend, which helps in preventing hairballs

  • Consists of a balance of calories from proteins and fats, to help your cat maintain a healthy weight

  • Great for healthy skin and coat, as omega-3 and omega-6 help with this

  • Full of omegas (healthy fats), amino acids (building blocks for muscles), and LifeSource Bits (unique blend of antioxidants/vitamins/minerals). These combined support the overall health of your cat, and boost it’s immune system

  • Taurine is good for cats vision and cardiac health (heart). L-carnitine aids in keeping a healthy metabolism as well

  • Great for cats with food sensitivities/allergies as it’s free grains, has no chicken/poultry byproducts, and does not contain corn, wheat, gluten, or soy

Offering both weight, and hairball control, this grain-free dry cat food provides boosted nutrition in every bite. With additional fiber to support digestion, prevent hairballs and feed a healthy gut, pet parents can rest assured their feline is getting a well-rounded meal. 

Ingredients such as L-Carnitine, taurine and omega fatty acids nourish skin, coat, vision, and heart health, as well as support your cat’s metabolism. Formulated without worrisome ingredients, in order to provide kibble to sensitive kitties, Blue Buffalo Wilderness left out: corn, soy, wheat, by-products and soy.

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Pea Protein, Peas, Menhaden Fish Meal (source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids), Powdered Cellulose, Pea Fiber, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed (source of Omega 6 Fatty Acids), Natural Flavor, Potato Starch, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Psyllium Seed Husks, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Potatoes, Dried Chicory Root, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Caramel Color, Potassium Sulfate, Salt, preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, L-Carnitine, Ferrous Sulfate, Niacin, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Cranberries, Blueberries, Barley Grass, Parsley, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Turmeric, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Oil of Rosemary, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), L-Lysine, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Dried Yeast, Dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Dried Aspergillus niger fermentation extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, Dried Bacillus subtilis fermentation extract, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite.

Caloric Content

3,667 kcal/kg, 410 kcal/cup

FAQ

Indoor cats and outdoor cats are the same though…no? The short answer is yes. But when it comes down to it, indoor cats aren’t as active as outdoor cats, so they’re not burning as many calories. 

In theory, they can eat the same diet because they have the same nutritional requirements. However, if you own an indoor-only cat, you may want to consider purchasing an indoor cat food that is specifically formulated to have fewer calories per serving than regular cat food. Most targeted indoor formulas are designed to regulate a cat’s healthy body weight and help with problems that indoor cats often encounter, such as hairballs. You may also find other products that are labeled as ‘light’ cat food.

Ultimately, as long as the food is nutritionally complete and balanced, your cat can enjoy both wet and dry food. In fact, a combination of both is ideal. What’s most important is that the food contains a high amount of crude, real animal protein, healthy fats and low carbohydrates. 

Wet food helps with increasing water intake and most cats prefer the taste. Then dry food is more affordable and helps with preventing plaque build-up. Occasionally mixing the two will just keep your feline friend surprised if he or she refuses to eat one or the other.

While being an indoor cat is a factor that certainly affects the type and amount of food you feed, so will other factors, including age, breed, and any specific health conditions. A recommended feeding guide for a healthy, active, 10 lb indoor cat is 270-320 calories per day. 

If you’re going to feed a wet and dry food combo, then you should feed them about ¼ of an eight ounce cup of dry food and 2.5 ounces of canned food (the equivalent of half a can of cat food).

Most indoor, domestic cats should weigh around 10 pounds. But this can also vary depending on the breed. For example, a Maine Coon cat can be healthy at about 25 pounds while a Siamese cat can be healthy at 5 pounds. Always double check with your vet to make sure your cat is at its right weight.

You can feed your indoor cat any food product that maintains a balanced nutritional profile and includes the following key components: 

  • Crude-Protein Heavy: at least 30% of real animal protein 
  • Healthy Fats: animal-based fat (at least 15-20%)
  • Fiber Rich: aid in digestion, weight maintenance and hairball control 
  • Vitamins, minerals and enzymes, and fatty acids
  • Water and moisture-rich