The Daily Cat - Best Dry Cat Food Graphic

Best Dry Cat Food

Kibble (pellets of dried, ground-up ingredients) is not essential for your cat, but it is a super convenient way to manage their food intake and supplement their diet. Many owners turn to dried products for their long shelf life, attractive price points, and ease when leaving food out for cats to graze on.

There’s no universal recommendation for how much of a role dry food should play in your cat’s diet. Some cats will thrive on dry food-only, while others prefer a mix of dry and wet, or just the wet stuff. But, the more dried food your cat eats, the more attention you should be paying to the quality and nutritional profile of their favorite product.

The best dry cat foods are rich in well-sourced protein, low in carbs and unwanted additives, and provide for any nutritional needs or dietary preferences specific to your feline friend’s age, size, and condition. The best diets involving dry food also provide your cat with the hydration that a dried product cannot.

How we determine the best dry cat foods

How we determine the best dry cat foods

We’ve run the numbers on over 500 dry cat foods available on the market right now, to bring you the real information needed to make the right shopping decisions. Our best product recommendations are based on a combination of several metrics, including macro- and micro-nutrients, moisture content, and pricing on a per calorie basis. The dry foods that came out on top are listed further down this page, along with links to places where you can find them for a good deal.

Below, we’ve laid out the key factors behind dry food’s quality and nutritional benefits, with explainers on protein, fat, and omega content, as well as filler ingredients, artificial preservatives, and of course, flavor!

No cat has identical dietary needs, and as an owner, you’re in the primary position to judge what works best for your pet. That said, it helps to know what, and what not, to look for in a quality dry food product. So let’s get into it!

The Best Dry Food For Cats 2020

We’ve thoroughly analyzed and reviewed dozens of dry cat food. Based on factors such as how the food is made, ingredient composition, and quality, we’ve identified only the very best dry cat foods available below. Here are our top 8 delicious and nutritious dry cat foods on the market.

Best Overall

The ‘grain-free’ label is perhaps most useful when shopping for dry foods—the category where grains and other unhealthy fillers are the most widespread. Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein dry formula is about as healthy as dry cat food gets, with a nutritional profile inspired by the protein levels found in natural prey.

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Shop Now

First ingredients:

  1. Chicken
  2. Dried egg product
  3. Pork protein isolate
  4. Gelatin
  5. Chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols)

With an all-animal first five ingredients, this formula manages to source 90 percent of its protein content from natural animal sources with a high biological value—mainly chicken, pork, salmon, and egg. This not only makes it a great supplement to wet food but also an effective way to support underweight or growing cats.

As a true grain-free recipe, Dr. Elsey’s is extremely light on carbohydrates and sugars, as well as being “no-to-low oxalate,” meaning that it’s appropriate for cats with a high risk of developing oxalate crystals and bladder stones.

What are owners saying?

Over 300 reviewers have given Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein formula a rating of 4.5, with many owners pointing out how switching kibbles resulted in healthy weight loss. Others noted how their picky cats seemed immediately interested in this product—which counts as unusual behavior for them.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 59.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 18.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 4.0%
  • Moisture (max): 12.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 7.0%

Top Premium Pick

If you’re looking for premium, fresh and filler free dry food—look no further than Smalls Simply Cooked Chicken Kibble.

Smalls Simply Cooked Chicken Kibble
Shop Now

Key features:

  • High quality ingredients
  • Made in the United States
  • Freshly prepared and cooked gently to preserve nutrients and moisture
  • Delivered to your home on a monthly schedule
  • Animal meat is the main ingredient

Smalls is a stand-out brand in our books because the ingredients are human-grade, meaning it’s both good enough for us and our feline friends. It’s approved by the AAFCO as a complete and balanced diet for all life stages.

You can be rest assured that when you feed your cat Smalls, you’re providing them with high quality ingredients. This food is free of animal by-products, meals or artificial flavourings and packed with sources of Omega 3 fatty acids to give your cat a healthier, shinier coat. The first ingredient is always sourced from nourishing, pure animal protein, which is then supplemented by other vital nutrients like digestive enzymes and probiotics. Not to mention, cats love this stuff and it’s relatively low in carb content compared to other dry food.

And it’s conveniently made fresh and delivered straight to you on a monthly schedule. The food is prepared by a small team of chefs in a regulated human food facility. You can build a custom recipe schedule in order to introduce your cat to more raw and fresh food.

Besides the chicken recipe, they also offer turkey and fish flavors in the kibble range.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 40.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 17.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 4.0%
  • Moisture (max): 10.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 20.0%

Best Air-Dried

Hailing from New Zealand, Ziwi Peak’s air-dried food resembles tender jerky chunks more than it does kibble.

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Recipe Cat Food
Shop Now

Key features:

  • Made from high-quality ingredients
  • 95% digestible, high protein so you can feed smaller quantities
  • Little to no carbohydrate content
  • Contains a range of muscle meat, organs and bones
  • Species appropriate nutrients

Through a gentle twin-stage dehydration technique, they are able to preserve all natural ingredients while cutting off pathogenic bacteria. As a result, your cat is fed species-appropriate food that closely resembles food in the wild, making it highly palatable.

The ingredients used are directly raised or grown on New Zealand farms that have ethical practices. This means all of the meat is free-range, grass-fed cattle, sheep and deer or sustainably caught fish. They also harness all parts of an animal, like the heart, liver, kidney and bone, to supply essential vitamins and minerals. This recipe features mackerel, lamb, lamb organs and a variety of minerals and amino acids.

It’s packed with a dense-nutrient punch of more than 95% fresh meat, organs, bones and New Zealand green mussels, which are known for supporting joint health. Also, a little goes a long way with this food. Because of the quality ingredient composition and dense profile, it’s easier for your kitty to digest and easier on your wallet.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 43.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 25.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 2.0%
  • Moisture (max): 14.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 4.0%

Best grain-free formula

Another grain-free dry food worth considering is Nulo’s chicken and cod recipe.

Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food
Shop Now

Key features:

  • Dry food
  • 4.3 (150 ratings)

First 5 ingredients:

  1. Deboned Chicken
  2. Chicken Meal
  3. Turkey Meal
  4. Deboned Cod
  5. Whole Peas

In addition to an all-meat line up across the first four ingredients (which gives an overall animal protein of 83%), we like the attention that Nulo pays to the shape of their kibble pieces. Each piece is manufactured in a small disc shape with a softer texture, making it easier for kittens to bite and chew.

What are owners saying?

“I love this food because the pieces are tiny! My girl doesn’t chew so she was swallowing large pieces of other brands whole.”

“I wanted to love it but when I gave my kitty, Einstein, the choice between this and Dr. Elsey’s dry food, he would only eat Dr. Elseys.”

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 41.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 21.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 3.0%
  • Moisture (max): 9.0%

Best for weight loss

Your cat needs a high protein diet, because let’s face it: they are born carnivores. That is why Tiki Cat’s Born Carnivore dry food line offers at least 44% of protein on average in their products. In fact, you are guaranteed high quality protein as the #1 ingredient. No fillers and no fake add-ins.

Shop Now

Key features:

  • Kibble is baked to enhance palatability

  • Contains low carbohydrate content

  • Grain-free formula

  • Good source of Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids

  • No processed plant proteins

Made with digestibility in mind, these products are made without potatoes, corn, rice or wheat. Not to mention all Tiki Cat food is made without animal by-products, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.

The chicken and egg formula in particular packs a punch with real chicken as the first ingredient to help maintain lean muscle and chicken liver to add extra flavor. It’s gently baked to preserve all of the good nutrients and superfoods such as pumpkin, salmon oil and ground whole flaxseed. All to provide your feline with healthy skin, healthy joints and healthy weight maintenance. This is a complete and balanced diet for all life stages.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 43.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 19.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 3.5%
  • Mositure (max): 10.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 18.0%

Best budget pick

For an all-natural recipe without the crazy price tag, go with Stella & Chewy’s natural freeze-fried food; it’s truly the cat’s meow! And potentially one of the best value picks for what you get – sustainably sourced ingredients, raw protein and essential vitamins for your cat’s health.

Stella & Chewy’s Chicken Dinner Freeze Dried Raw Morsels
Shop Now

Key features:

  • Rich in protein (98% meat, organ and bones) and low in carbohydrates
  • Contains raw food nutrition to make a biological appropriate diet
  • Includes probiotics for optimal digestion
  • Boasting vitamins and minerals such as Vitamins A & E, taurine and antioxidants
  • No added fillers or artificial flavors and preservatives
  • Safe for the shelf and transitioning your cat to a moisture rich diet

This food is made to closely mimic a cat’s natural diet in the wild: high in protein and low carbohydrates. For this reason, the product’s recipe is 98% of poultry meat, organ and bone. So it’s not only rich in animal protein but contains no grains or gluten. Additional ingredients include taurine,

The morsels are freeze-dried and the recipe is made in small batches right here in the USA. It’s the perfect choice if you want convenience, something that tastes good and if you’re trying to transition your kitty to a high-moisture diet. You can easily feed it as is (raw) or slowly rehydrate it by adding cool or warm (never hot) water.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 45.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 25.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 5.0%
  • Mositure (max): 5.0%

Best for indoor cats

With farm-raised chicken listed as the first ingredient and chicken meal listed as an additional protein source, your cat will be spoiled with Nutro’s great tasting, protein rich diet.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food
Shop Now

Key features:

  • Contains real chicken as the first ingredient
  • Contains fiber to support digestion
  • Free of artificial ingredients

Its formulation is supplemented with essential antioxidants like Vitamin E for a healthy immune system, a natural fiber mixture for healthy digestion and Omega 6 fatty acids for a healthy and shiny coat.

Ingredients such as pea protein and whole brown rice make it higher in carbohydrate content than other foods. However, brown rice is an easily digestible, nutrient rich grain that provides your cat with energy. And while there’s more carb content, there’s still relatively low calories at around 378 calories per cup, making it ideal for indoor cats.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 33.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 14.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 7.0%
  • Moisture (max): 10.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 35.1%

Best for senior cats

With farm-raised chicken listed as the first ingredient and chicken meal listed as an additional protein source, your cat will be spoiled with Nutro’s great tasting, protein rich diet.

IAMS Proactive Health Senior Adult Dry Cat Food
Shop Now

Key features:

  • Pure chicken protein is the first ingredient to support strong muscles
  • Vitamin E helps revitalize immunity back to healthy adult levels
  • L-Carnitine is added to help maintain healthy weight
  • Addition of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin
  • No artificial preservatives or synthetic dyes

Made especially with senior cats in mind, this product is made to support your cat’s immune system, muscle strength and dental health among other benefits.

Real animal protein is the number one ingredient in all IAMS dry cat food formulas. This product boasts chicken as its first ingredient to maintain your cat’s vitality and support their older muscles. The crunchy kibble helps to reduce plaque buildup. And calcium is an essential nutrient to nurture your senior cat’s bones, joints and the heart.

Nutritional info:

  • Crude protein (min): 34.0%
  • Crude fat (min): 17.0%
  • Crude fiber (max): 3.0%
  • Moisture (max): 10.0%
  • Carbohydrates: 34.5%

Dry food quality

Dietary factors

Your cat’s needs