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7 Best Dry Cat Foods For Health

Disclaimer

We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Looking to find the best dry cat food optimal health?

Most dry cat food choices are high in carbs and hard-to-digest. These types of products may not be best for long-term health.

In this article, I’ll help you with the best dry cat food options to suit a range of needs.

7 Best Dry Cat Foods For Health

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care. My goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions relating to your cat’s health.

Let’s look at what will be in this article

Let’s get into it!

Product Review: Best Dry Cat Foods For Health

Best Dry Cat Food Overall

Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Chicken Formula

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 2.0-lb bag

High protein for strength and energy

Low carb gelatin binder for easy digestion

Low in oxalates to reduce kidney stone risk

The circular kibble may not suit some cats

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Dry Cat Food is a popular low carbohydrate food that’s easy to digest.

This food is high in protein from chicken, egg, and pork products which is beneficial for strength and energy. Instead of using gluten, this product uses gelatin to thicken the product without increasing the carb content. This benefits your cat’s digestive system.

The main downside of this food is the circular shape which some cats may not enjoy. The price is also higher than mid-range options on the market.

Best Dry Cat Food Premium

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 5.6-lb bag

High protein for strength and energy

Low carb and grain-free for easier digestion

Carrageenan-free for sensitive stomachs

Strong smell out of the bag

Why Do I Recommend This Product?

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore is a premium high-quality product for optimal health.

The main ingredients in this food are chicken, herring, salmon, and dry egg.

These are suitable high-protein foods to increase your cat’s energy and strength. There are no fillers like gluten which helps with digestive health.

The main downside is the strong smell out of the bag. This food also uses peas and chickpeas which some cats may not enjoy.

Best Dry Cat Food Budget

Nulo Freestyle Indoor Cat Duck & Lentils

Nulo Freestyle Duck & Lentils Recipe Grain-Free Indoor Dry Cat Food, 4-lb bag

High in protein for optimal health

No grains or carrageenan for digestive health

Affordable

Suitable for all life stages

Slightly higher in carbs than optimal

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

Nulo Freestyle Indoor Cat is a lower-carb budget dry cat food that is better suited for long-term health than other brands.

The main advantage of this product is it does not contain grains which is beneficial for digestive health. It is also high in protein from duck, chicken, turkey, and cod which is beneficial for strength and energy production.

The downside of this product is the use of lentils and peas which are unnecessary for a cat. The total carbohydrate content is lower than other brands but higher than optimal (21% on a dry matter basis).

Best Dry Cat Food Kittens

ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food

ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food, 4-lb bag

High in animal protein for growing bodies

Affordable choice

High in calcium for growing bones

High in omega 3 fats for brain development

Made and produced locally in the USA

Higher in carbohydrates than optimal

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

ACANA First Feast is a dry cat food designed for kittens that provide added calcium for growing bodies.

The main benefit of this food option is the high meat protein content which is optimal for growth and muscle development. It’s also got additional omega 3 fatty acids to help with brain development.

The only drawback to this dry cat food would be its use of grains (in this case oatmeal and some legumes), but overall this is less (22.2% on a dry matter basis) than many other choices for kittens.

Best Dry Cat Food Food Allergies

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food, 14-oz bag

96% animal-protein foods for top health

Novel protein lamb to help with allergies

Low carb for weight control

Grain, pea, and soy-free for top digestion

Air-dried to lock in nutrients

Top choice for a limited ingredient diet

Pricey

Hit or miss taste reviews

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb is a premium low carbohydrate dry cat food suitable for allergy relief.

The main benefit is the use of lamb which is a novel protein food source. Novel proteins are less likely to cause allergies than common proteins such as chicken and beef. This is also a limited ingredient product that reduces the risk of diarrhea, itchy skin, and vomiting.

Downsides are the higher price and mixed taste reviews. The price is due to the higher quality ingredients used in the product.

Best Dry Cat Food Picky Eaters

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 4-lb bag

Organs, bones, and meat for optimal health

Delicious taste from freeze-dried meat coating

No corn, wheat, or soy for easier digestion

Sourced and made in the USA

Strong fish smell out of the bag

Reduced bag sizing for the same price

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a great choice for picky eaters.

This dry cat food benefits picky eaters due to the use of 90% animal-based ingredients and freeze-dried meat coating to boost flavor. The fat content of this product is around the ‘sweet spot’ for best taste results (22% on a dry matter basis). Research finds a fat content of 25% is optimal for palatability.

The main downside is the strong fish smell that may put off owners. The carbohydrate level is slightly high but lower than most dry cat food brands.

Best Dry Cat Food Limited Ingredients

Stella Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels

Stella & Chewy's Yummy Lickin' Salmon & Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food, 3.5-oz bag

High protein for stronger muscles

Raw wild-caught salmon for brain health

Freeze-dried to retain nutrients for health

Grain, pea, and soy-free for top digestion

Sourced and made in the USA

Pricey

Lacks the convenience of dry cat food

Pieces may be too large for some cats

Why Do I Recommend This Food?

Stella Freeze-Dried is a freeze-dried cat food treat that contains limited ingredients and is suitable for food intolerance relief.

The main benefit out of the bag is it contains no grains, gluten, or fillers to help prevent digestive issues from irritating ingredients. The animal-based ingredients provide your cat with a range of nutrients for optimal health.

The main downside is the price and lack of convenience. Freeze-dried foods are more expensive and intended for ‘treat’ or ‘topper’ use. They are also less convenient as you need to rehydrate the food before serving and the food cannot be left out for long periods.

Buying Guide: The Best Dry Cat Food For Health

What should you look for in the best dry cat food?

Dry cat food is a convenient choice for cat owners.

The use of low-quality ingredients like corn, rice, and wheat isn’t optimal for cats. Cats are carnivores and thrive off a high animal-protein diet.

Too many grain or plant-based ingredients may result in vomiting or diarrhea.

This buying guide will provide tips to find high-quality dry cat food. Your cat will have better digestion, and energy for happiness.

What Ingredients Should I Look For?

Always look at the fine print of the dry cat food bag you want to buy for your cat.

The first place to start is the ingredients list and nutritional panel.

This is usually on the back or side of the bag.

Otherwise, you’ll find the information listed on the website you purchase the food from.

Here’s what to look for on the nutrition panel.

Protein

Cats need high protein diets for strength and energy production.

Why is this?

Cats are strict carnivores (otherwise called obligate carnivores).

This means they eat animal-based foods as a sole source of nutrition. Without the intervention of man, cats would not be able to survive without meat in the diet.

Cats use protein for energy production.

A cat’s liver converts stored protein into glucose throughout the day through a process called gluconeogenesis. This process seems to run higher than other animals.

When given a choice, cats prefer a protein level of 52% on a dry matter basis in their food.

A nutritional label lists the crude nutrient values. Use this calculator to find out how much protein is in your cat’s food on a dry matter basis.

Good high protein ingredients include:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Mussels
  • Egg

Bottom Line: Look for dry cat food with a high protein content (~50% dry matter basis) for optimal energy, strength, and approval

Fat

Cats need a moderate-fat diet to provide energy and help with nutrient absorption.

Fat contributes to the taste of foods.

Research finds a sweet spot of 25% fat content is best for approval and cats self-select a diet with ~36% fat when given a choice of foods.

Fat is a high-energy food and helps with weight loss.

This is an important consideration for senior cats tend to experience a decline in weight and fat digestion.

Omega 3 fatty acids from sources such as salmon may be important for joint health with aging.

With all this said, dry cat food is calorically dense. This tends to give cats more energy for weight maintenance so fat may be less important in this food source.

Bottom Line: Look for dry cat food with a moderate fat content for taste and weight maintenance

Carbohydrates

Most cat food labels don’t list the carbohydrate content of their food.

In the wild, cats don’t consume carbohydrates. They get their energy from animal-based foods.

Carbohydrate foods are also more likely to cause digestive distress and vomiting.

If given the choice, cats prefer a lower carbohydrate diet.

Dry cat food made from mostly plant protein (e.g. corn gluten meal) may lead to a higher risk of constipation and painful urinary stones.

A cat has fewer enzymes involved in carbohydrate digestion. Although cats may be able to digest well-cooked starch in small amounts, excessive amounts may digest.

Cats self-select food with ~12% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis, which appears to support the idea of a low-carb diet.

Most dry cat food choices contain 30% or more carbohydrates in the bag and aren’t the best choices. There aren’t many choices on the market that contain 12% carbohydrates or less.

This is one reason why I recommend:

(1) Using a low carbohydrate dry cat food option (like any of the products recommended in this article)

(2) Give your cat wet foods in their diet

Wet foods are lower in carbohydrates and improve digestive health.

Check out my article on the top 9 tips for cat nutrition to learn more.

Bottom Line: Choose a dry cat food lower in carbohydrates to improve food acceptance and digestive health

Moisture

Most dry cat food is low in moisture.

There isn’t anything you can do about this, and there isn’t high moisture dry food.

Some ingredients such as corn gluten meal reduce the moisture in feces, increasing the risk of constipation.

Adding some water to dry food helps to increase the water content of your cat’s diet, as well as providing wet foods in the diet.

A water fountain may help with hydration. Check out my best water fountain choices for help.

Bottom Line: Most dry cat food is low in moisture. Try adding a little water to the diet and make sure to include wet foods in the diet for hydration

Functional Foods

There is little evidence that cats benefit from functional foods.

Some ingredients may be negative for a cat’s health.

For example, rice bran and apple pomace decrease the absorption of taurine, an essential amino acid.

An excess of fiber appears to reduce protein digestion. Senior cats have worse protein digestion, and should not get a high fiber diet.

Some ingredients may benefit hairballs and constipation.

For example, sugarcane and beet pulp may help reduce the formation of hairballs and help with vomiting.

Bottom Line: There is little evidence that cats benefit from functional foods. Sugarcane and beet pulp may relieve hairballs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Dry Cat Food For My Cat?

The best choices include the following:

  • Premium
    • Ziwi Peak (Air-Dried)
    • Tiki Cat
  • Mid-Range
    • Orijen
    • Acana
    • Dr Elsey’s
  • Budget
    • Nulo

There are some other independent choices, but these are the main options sold commercially.

Bottom Line: There are only a handful of high-quality dry cat food brands, so choose carefully

What Is Freeze-Dried Cat Food?

Freeze-dried cat food is dried to retain nutrition quality.

It’s a better option than most dry kibble choices, but more expensive.

This type of food is suited for use as a treat or topper to boost flavor and nutrition.

Check out my best freeze-dried choices for health in this article.

Bottom Line: Freeze-dried cat food retains a higher quality of nutrition and uses fewer filler ingredients than kibble, however is pricier.

Does The Shape Of Dry Cat Food Matter?

Yes.

Cats prefer round kibble without sharp edges.

Cats tend to gulp down food quickly without chewing at times, which means hard kibble stays hard and hurts their insides.

Keep in mind you can soften dry cat food with water before serving to make it easier to eat.

Bottom Line: Cats prefer a round dry kibble shape without sharp edges

How Often Should I Feed My Cat?

Cats eat as much as 7-20 times during the day in the wild.

Whilst it may be unrealistic to give your cat that many meals, it is better to give your cat small frequent meals.

Carefully measure out food and divvy it up over the day in as many intervals as practical.

Keep in mind that cats also hunt during the night and may explain why you get early morning paws in the face for feeding.

Check out my guide on how much to feed your cat to learn more.

Bottom Line: Cats prefer many small meals over the day, but make sure not to over portion

How Do I Store Dry Cat Food?

Store dry cat food in a dry, cool place to prevent the food from spoiling.

A dry pantry or a cabinet is a perfect location for cat owners who want their dry pet food out of sight and smell range.

  • Keep dry pet food in its original bag with the zipper closed after each use to lock in freshness.
  • Check expiration dates on the bag and throw dry cat food away after the expiration date.
  • Avoid exposing dry pet foods to heat or moisture by storing dry pet food in a garage, basement, or attic rather than on an indoor countertop.
  • Keep dry pet foods sealed inside containers and place them out of reach from animals that may try to chew through plastic bags.

Bottom Line: Store dry cat food in a cool, dry place to extend shelf life

How Do I Transition My Cat To A New Food?

Switch foods slowly.

Mix a small amount of the new dry cat food in with your current dry cat food or simply replace one meal at a time over the course of one week.

Follow this plan:

  1. Add 25% new food to 75% old food
  2. Increase the new food to 100% over the course of 2 weeks

The slow shift will help reduce any digestive issues and also prevent rejection.

Bottom Line: Gradually introduce a new food into the diet for best results

Conclusion: Best Dry Cat Food

In this article, I talked about the best dry cat food on the market.

There are a lot of things to consider when buying dry cat food. The most important thing to consider when choosing dry cat food is the ingredients.

Look for a kibble made from animal protein sources and fewer carbohydrate ingredients. This ensures your cat has food it digests easily and gets the nutrition it needs for health.

Give your cat fresh water in a bowl and provide wet canned food in the diet for hydration.

Speak with a vet for more assistance.

Best Dry Cat Food Pick Overall

Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Chicken Formula

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 2.0-lb bag

High protein for strength and energy

Low carb gelatin binder for easy digestion

Low in oxalates to reduce kidney stone risk

The circular kibble may not suit some cats

Disclaimer

We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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