Choosing the Best Dry Cat Food

Deciding on the best dry kibble for your beloved feline is no easy task. But once you find what you’re looking for, you’ll know the best dry cat food you can continue to buy again and again. 

Quality dry cat food is rich in protein, low in carbs and keeps better than wet cat food. But if you’re feeding with dry cat food predominantly, continuously have drinking water available for your cat to prevent dehydration. You can certainly feed your cat a mix of wet and dry food also, but you know your cat’s needs and preferences more than we do! 

The good thing to note is that dry food is more convenient and cost-effective while still offering plenty of essential nutrients to give your cat a happy and healthy life. This guide is a good general start to finding the best dry cat food overall.

Our Top Dry Cat Food Features

With so many dry cat food brands and reviews out there, it can feel dizzying to start sifting through. That’s why we’re here to help ease your decision-making. The below factors should be your top buying considerations:

Healthy Ingredients

It’s good practice to keep an eye out for optimal, nutritious ingredients. It’s a good sign if dry cat food has the vitamins and minerals in the table below. Always double-check with your vet in case your cat needs more or less of certain ingredients. And look out for guaranteed nutritional labels, specifically food that has the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) label. 

Real Meat This should always be a priority ingredient to ensure your cat is getting sufficient protein and energy. This is also where a high amount of iron will be present to keep your cat strong.
Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids These are good fats essential to your cat’s overall health and coat health.
Fiber and Carbohydrates Fuels your cat with sustained energy.
Magnesium Helps your cat absorb vitamins and minerals.
Sodium The AAFCO recommends that dry cat food has at least 0.2% sodium to support natural growth.
Calcium Needed for female cats to produce milk and helpful for bone growth and health.
Vitamin A Good for a healthy immune system and vision.
Vitamin D Known for being a fat soluble that maintains the functioning of bones, nerves and muscles, though shouldn’t be taken in excess.
Zinc Good for maintaining healthy skin.
Phosphorus Helpful in energy metabolism and building healthy bones/teeth.

Flavor

Cats are known picky eaters, so there’s no point in buying dry cat food packed with nutrients if they don’t like the taste. Just ensure that the product has real meat as opposed to just the flavor of that meat. Popular cat proteins include chicken and fish, but your cat may be a wild card and enjoy lamb! One thing is for sure – you’ll find out pretty quickly which flavor your cat likes. 

Cat Age and Diet Sensitivity

This is when you especially need to consult with your cat’s vet. Age, illness and dietary needs will have an impact on what you should look for in dry food. For example kittens will need smaller kibble while senior cats need food packed with immune-boosting nutrients. And depending on the age, different levels of fat and calories are needed. This chart is a good start to assess the daily recommended proteins and fats depending on what stage of life your cat is in:

Kittens (around 1.8 lb) Adult cat (around 9 lb) Nursing cats (around 9 lb with 4 kittens)
Crude protein 10 g 12.5 g 41 g
Total fat 4 g 5.5 g 12 g

It’s also important to note, that in some cases for cats with health conditions, dry food may not be as valuable because it lacks the moisture that makes food easier to digest. Also, something to be wary of if your cat has dental issues, urinary disease or diabetes. 

No Artificial Preservatives

Cats can be sensitive to artificial flavors, but it’s also  – the last thing your cat needs is the fake stuff. Read through the ingredient list to ensure there’s all natural ingredients in your cat’s dry food.

Top Dry Cat Food

Now, hopefully you feel more confident in what to look for while shopping for the best dry cat food to satisfy your cat’s health and tastes!

Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food

Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Weight Management Chicken Flavor Dry Cat Food
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Just like the human epidemic, almost 50% of the pet population is overweight. Even a little extra weight can impact the pet’s quality of life and relationship with family because that extra weight can reduce play time, impact mobility and affect the lifelong general health of your cat. Hill’s nutritionists and veterinarians developed Prescription Diet Metabolic clinical nutrition specially formulated to support your cat’s weight management. In fact, 88% of pets lost weight at home in two months when fed the nutrition of Metabolic.

  • When switching to this formula, 88% of pets lost weight at home in just 2 months.

  • Naturally works with your pet’s unique metabolism and helps to avoid weight regain after weight loss.

  • Helps your pet feel full and satisfied between meals while supporting vitality and holistic health.

  • Formulated with S+OXSHIELD to meet specific nutrient standards, shown to promote a urinary environment that helps reduce the risk for struvite and calcium oxalate crystals.

  • Offers the same great taste and benefits as they did prior to the introduction of the S+OXSHIELD seal.

Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Tomato Pomace, Flaxseed, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Coconut Oil, Pork Fat, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, L-Lysine, Choline Chloride, Carrots, DL-Methionine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C) , Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, L-Carnitine, minerals (Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene

Caloric Content

297 kcal/cup

Cat Chow Hairball & Healthy Weight Indoor Dry Cat Food

Cat Chow Hairball & Healthy Weight Indoor Dry Cat Food
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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. 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.

  • 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

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

  • 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)

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

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food
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Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Dry Cat Food provides your four-legged friend with great tasting nutrition for a long, happy life. Made with wholesome ingredients such as savory chicken, this nourishing recipe is balanced to meet your pet’s needs, promote weight loss and maintain lean muscle. Manufactured in the United States, every ingredient meets strict requirements for purity and nutrient content which exceed industry standards. Formulated for adult cats that require fewer calories, this Hill’s Science Diet provides your cat the nutrition she needs for a lifetime of health and happiness.

  • Proprietary ingredient blend support your pet’s healthy weight loss while maintaining lean muscle.

  • Cats who are a healthy weight are less prone to develop weight-related health issues.

  • Antioxidant and vitamin blend work together to help support a healthy immune system.

  • Made from natural, high-quality ingredients without any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

  • Made in the USA, this is a complete and balanced diet recommended for adult cats that require fewer calories.

Chicken, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Meal, Dried Tomato Pomace, Dried Beet Pulp, Flaxseed, Chicken Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Coconut Oil, Lactic Acid, Calcium Sulfate, L-Lysine, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Carrots, DL-Methionine, Taurine, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Iodized Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, minerals (Manganese Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Apples, Broccoli, Cranberries, Green Peas.

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

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

  • 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

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

There will never be a full consensus on this matter. Many cat owners and vets will have their differing opinions. Ultimately, both dry and wet food have their own pros and cons – but they are both good in content and quality when sourced from reputable brands. Furthermore, it’s critical to assess your cat’s dietary needs based on their health, age and weight from your vet. 

When it comes to dry food over wet food, dry food is typically better in the following ways: 

  • More convenient for storage and feeding. 
  • Cost effective and cheaper.
  • Safer for leaving out all day. 
  • Tasty and palatable for many cats. 
  • Good nutritional ingredients. 
  • Good for dental health. 

Price doesn’t necessitate quality in every case. But you definitely get more meat protein and fewer carbs in wet food. While dry food is cheaper, it still provides value and quality – but this  based on the natural ingredients, content and company.

Okay, so dry food isn’t inherently bad for cats, it’s just moisture deficient. It’s widely known and understood that wet food generally provides more optimal benefits when it comes to hydration, weight loss, taste, meat protein content and even urinary tract infections. 

However, dry food still has all of the nutrients that your cat needs to be healthy and happy. Cats are picky eaters, so there’s no formula when it comes to how much your cat will like dry food. But you can always experiment with different types and formulas that include a range of meats. 

If you’re going to feed your cat a predominantly dry food diet then you’ll need to ensure they drink enough water. Or you can mix wet and dry food together.

Yes! As we mentioned above, the combination of wet and dry food in a feline’s diet is absolute kryptonite. As long as both types of food you’re feeding are high quality and all the nutritional needs of protein, vitamins, fat and minerals are met, then why not? It’s going to keep the texture fresh, the scent savoury and mealtime exciting. Most cats might prefer the taste of wet food, but if you combine the two – it will still be quite palatable. 

It’s a cost-effective combination as well. Your cat can still enjoy wet food without breaking your bank. Plus, when you add wet food into the mix, you’re keeping your cat hydrated.

Low quality dry food will be full of artificial preservatives, fillers that come from mostly grain and wheat based ingredients. Look out for the following core components in dry, kibble food to keep your cat on a healthy path: 

  • “Complete and Balanced” Label as set out by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). 
  • Named Animal Protein like chicken, lamb, or beaf. Avoid food that says “meat” 
  • Healthy fats like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids
  • Taurine. According to IAMS, taurine is an essential amino acid that is important for muscle function, vision, among other things. A good thing to look for in dry food. 
  • Vitamins A, C and D are all good inclusions.

As there are ingredients to keep your eyes peeled for, there are also ingredients to be wary of for your cat’s health. You need to keep the bad ingredients out. Aim for foods with an AAFCO endorsement and stay away from food sourced from Asian countries (or at least cross-check if it’s okay with your vet). Healthy cat food should not include: 

  • Anything labeled with “meat” or “by-product”. The protein source should be identified clearly and listed first. 
  • Chemical preservatives: BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin
  • Artificial colors: Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 or caramel coloring. 
  • Sugar
  • Sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite 
  • Too many carbohydrate fillers: corn, wheat or soy (this leads to weight gain in cats)

Ultimately, the shorter the ingredient list – the better!

According to the Animal Medical Center in New York, an average 8-pound indoor cat needs around 240 calories a day. When feeding an adult indoor cat, we recommend around ⅓ – ½ cup of quality dry food per day. However, if you’re feeding your cat a mix of wet and dry, then feed about 1/4 of an eight ounce cup of dry cat food each day fed with 2.5 ounces of canned food (about 1/2 of a normal can of cat food).

At the end of the day, these proportions are just a guide and you should always consult with your vet to adjust a diet that fits your cat’s needs.

Most owners feed their cats in the morning and at night. The best part about dry food is you can feed them a double dose in the morning and that can be enough to satisfy their hunger for the rest of the day – without compromising food safety!

The best and healthiest dry cat food is rich in high-quality protein. It doesn’t contain a lot of carbohydrates and it’s free of artificial additives that do more harm than good.