Most dry cat food is not good for your cat.
The best dry cat food for your pet is not what you think it is. Most people choose the most well-known brands, but that’s not always the best choice for your kitty.
We spent months researching all of the top choices to find out which ones were truly healthy, high-quality products that will benefit your feline friend.
Here are our 7 favorite picks for dry cat foods with complete nutrition profiles and no artificial ingredients or preservatives!
Let’s get into it!
Product Review: The 7 Best Dry Cat Food Choices For Top Health in 2021
Best Dry Cat Food Overall: Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Chicken Formula
Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Dry Cat Food contains the proper nutrition missing from many commercial cat dry foods. This product is high in protein and fat, and low in carbs.
I like that this product uses gelatin instead of gluten or corn as a binder. This is an easy-to-digest animal protein source for cats. Another benefit of this product is the low levels of oxalate which help to prevent kidney stones.
This dry food is as good as it gets with no obvious flaws. Some of the other flavors produced by this brand have a little more carbohydrate than the chicken flavor.
The only other downside is the circular shape of the food which may be a little different than the saucer shapes of many dry foods. Also, the product is a little more pricey.
Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Taurine, Salt, Rosemary Extract
Best Dry Cat Food Runner Up: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring
Let’s take a look at Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring.
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry cat food is a great option for your adult cats. This dry food contains a range of meat-based ingredients to tickle the taste buds of your picky feline.
This dry cat food is an excellent option for cats who may have a sensitive stomach, as it contains no fillers or by-products. It also has a healthy balance of ingredients to help support great skin and coat health in cats.
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry cat food comes from New Zealand which is known for its fresh, high-quality meat ingredients.
There aren’t any major downsides to this product aside from the occasional mixed taste reviews and strong smell out of the bag. There are a small amount of added peas and chickpeas which some cats may not approve of.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Herring, Salmon Meal, Herring Meal, Dried Egg Product, Peas, Tapioca, Natural Chicken Flavor, Brewers Dried Yeast, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Chickpeas, Ground Whole Flaxseed, Tomato Pomace, Calcium Sulfate, Inulin (Prebiotic), Vitamin E Supplement, Pumpkin, Salmon Oil, Taurine, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid (Preservative), Citric Acid, Tannic Acid
Caloric Content: 3750 kcal/kg, 476 kcal/cup
Best Dry Cat Food Budget: Nulo Freestyle Indoor Cat Duck & Lentils
Let’s take a look at Nulo Freestyle Indoor Cat Duck & Lentils Recipe Grain-Free.
As a budget dry cat food, this choice has a few things I like. Firstly, Nulo doesn’t use any grains and no grain-based protein (e.g. cornmeal). This is great for better digestion and tolerability. The product also contains some ground flaxseed which may help reduce constipation risk. Finally, the protein is a robust 44.4% (dry matter basis) and most of the sources are great animal sources including duck, chicken, turkey, and cod.
Unfortunately, Nulo uses a little too many legume ingredients (lentils and peas) which raise the carb content to 21%. That is a little too high as a sole source of nutrition, and something to keep in mind.
Deboned Duck, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Deboned Cod, Whole Peas, Lentils, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid), Pea Fiber, Natural Flavor, Ground Flaxseed, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Kelp, Dried Sweet Potato, Dried Cranberries, Calcium Carbonate, Dl-Methionine, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Iron Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxidine Hydrochloride, Sodium Selenite, Riboflavin Supplement, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.
Calorie Content: 3,724 kcal/kg, 468 kcal/cup
Best Dry Cat Food for Kittens: ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food
Let’s take a look at ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food.
This dry cat food comes in at an affordable price which is fantastic if you have multiple kittens to feed or just want something that will be budget-friendly while still being healthy. I also love that this dry cat food contains 80% meat protein so it really does have the nutrients needed to help your kitten grow up healthy.
Another benefit is the high calcium content which will help your kitten have proper bone development. In addition, this dry cat food also has omega 3 fatty acids which will help your kitten have a beautiful coat and healthy heart. This dry cat food is really designed to make sure that all of the essential nutrients are in each meal so you can feel confident feeding this dry cat food to your kittens every day.
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.
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Herring Meal, Oatmeal, Whole Peas, Chicken Fat, Whole Green Lentils, Turkey Meal, Whole Chickpeas, Whole Herring, Eggs, Pollock Oil, Natural Chicken Flavor, Lentil Fiber, Deboned Quail, Chicken Cartilage, Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Whole Cranberries, Dried Kelp, Choline Chloride, Zinc Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Taurine, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, L-Carnitine, Dl-Methionine, Copper Proteinate, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Citric Acid (Preservative), Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product
Caloric Content: 3850 kcal/kg, 439 kcal/cup
Best Dry Cat Food for Food Allergies: ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb
Let’s take a look at ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Lamb.
This is a great overall choice for food allergies and overall health. The product uses 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 helps to tackle food intolerances.
Unlike many dry cat food brands, Ziwi doesn’t use any peas, grains, corn, or added sugar which keeps the carbohydrate level at a low 4.7% on a dry matter basis. This is great for long-term weight control.
The cost is a little higher than typical dry cat food due to the quality. Another downside of this product is the mixed taste reviews.
Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Lung, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Bone, Lecithin, Inulin from Chicory, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Preservative (Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), DL-Methionine, Taurine.
Caloric Content: 5,600 kcal/kg, 318 kcal/scoop
Best Dry Cat Food for Picky Eaters: ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Let’s take a look at ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food.
This is a great choice for picky cats because of its range of animal-based ingredients. Cats are carnivores, so it is important to find a dry cat food that will help their digestive system and give them the meaty flavor they crave.
Orijen also uses freeze-dried meat coating to add taste. Best of all, this product is lower in carbohydrates than most competitors which are better for digestion and health.
Onto the downsides. Customers report a strong fish smell out of the bag, which may be offputting at first. Some cats may take longer to get used to the new taste than others, depending on their previous diet.
The product also contains some sources of carbohydrate from legumes, but the total carbohydrate on a dry matter basis is less than 20%. Unfortunately, Orijen doesn’t give a specific number amount.
New: Chicken, Turkey, Whole Mackerel, Turkey Giblets (Liver, Heart, Gizzard), Flounder, Chicken Liver, Whole Herring, Eggs, Dehydrated Chicken, Dehydrated Turkey, Dehydrated Mackerel, Dehydrated Chicken Liver, Dehydrated Egg, Chicken Fat, Whole Red Lentils, Whole Pinto Beans, Whole Peas, Whole Green Lentils, Whole Chickpeas, Natural Chicken Flavor, Whole Navy Beans, Pollock Oil, Lentil Fiber, Pea Starch, Chicken Heart, Choline Chloride, Dried Kelp, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Whole Cranberry,
Whole Pumpkin, Whole Butternut Squash, Collard Greens, Whole Apples, Whole Pear, Freeze-Dried Chicken, Freeze-Dried Turkey, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Dried Chicory Root, Turmeric, Sarsaparilla Root, Althea Root, Rosehips, Juniper Berries, Citric Acid (Preservative), Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product
Caloric Content: 4120 kcal/kg, 515 kcal/cup
Best Dry Cat Food Freeze Dried: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels
Let’s take a look at Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels for Cats.
The dry cat food is made in the USA. It contains no grains, gluten, or fillers so you are feeding your pet a healthy meal that will not cause any digestive issues. The ingredients in this freeze-dried cat food have been carefully chosen to provide optimal levels of nutrients without being too high in calories or carbs for your feline companion.
This product is freeze-dried which means your pet will get dry food that retains all the nutrients of fresh salmon and chicken. Stella & Chewy’s also contains taurine, probiotics, vitamins A & D as well as other important nutrients for cats making it one of the best options.
Freeze-dried foods are more expensive than regular kibble. They are also less convenient as you need to rehydrate the food before serving and the food cannot be left out for long periods.
Salmon With Ground Bone, Chicken With Ground Bone, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Fenugreek Seed, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement
Caloric Content: 4,440 kcal/kg, 125 kcal/oz
Buying Guide: How to Choose the Best Dry Cat Food for Optimal Health
Do you want to improve your cat’s health?
You can do so by feeding them good quality food. The right diet is essential for a healthy and happy kitty, but it is difficult to know what foods are best for your feline friend.
Dry cat food is a great option because it contains all of the nutrients that cats need in their diets. It also has an extended shelf life, which makes it easy to store and use as needed.
If you have been looking for ways to improve your cat’s health, then this guide will help you learn more about how dry cat food can benefit them and how to choose the best options.
By following these tips from our buying guide, you will be able to provide better nutrition for your furry friend without having to spend hours researching ingredients online or visiting pet stores every week.
How do I choose the best dry cat food?
The most important thing to look for when choosing dry cat food is the ingredient list.
Look at the first five ingredients listed on dry cat food and check for high-quality animal protein sources like chicken, beef, turkey, duck, and fish.
The first five ingredients are what make up most of the dry cat food, so they need to be wholesome and healthy for your cat.
These ingredients give you a good idea of the nutritional quality of dry cat food.
Why do cats need animal protein?
Cats are strict carnivores, which means they eat animal-based foods as a sole source of nutrition.
Many dry cat food choices are too high in carbohydrates and additives, so stick to dry cat food with meat sources listed first.
Cats don’t need carbohydrates in their diet (and rarely consume any carbs at all in the wild).
The reason for this is cats have livers that convert stored protein into glucose throughout the day. Protein is what cats mainly use for energy and growth.
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.
In fact, there are many nutrients only get from animal-based foods, which is why these ingredients are so important in a cat’s diet.
Check out my article on the top 9 tips for cat nutrition to learn more.
What ingredients should I avoid in dry cat food?
Avoid dry cat food that uses fillers like corn, wheat, rice, and soy.
These ingredients are inexpensive to use in dry foods. They help keep costs down when the dry food is made by mixing grains with preservatives or flavorings.
The main thing to remember is the majority of protein should come from high-quality animal protein sources and not plant protein sources. 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.
The reality is cats never consume these foods in the wild and they don’t benefit from them at all.
Many dry cat foods are given meat flavorings (umami flavor) to trick cats into thinking they are having a meat product.
The reality is cats really just need the meat in the first place – not ‘meat flavored’ wheat.
What macronutrient ratio should I aim for when buying dry cat food?
Cat’s prefer a diet that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein (1).
Research into the diets of wild cats finds they consume a ratio of (4). It is often thought cats get a lot of carbohydrates from eating the intestines of rats, but the reality is they don’t eat the digestive system of their prey.
Here is a comparison of the typical diet of a cat compared to a human:
Table 1: Diet Comparison of Cats vs Humans
|Wild prey based diet||1-2||30-68||30-68|
|Commercial cat food diet||15-35||20-50||30-40|
|Human low carb diet||20||50||30|
Try to choose a lower carbohydrate cat food choice.
Although there is little evidence to suggest a higher amount of carbohydrates results in long-term harm, it’s best to err on the side of caution and give your cat a diet more in tune with its digestive system and physiology.
Cats do not have salivary amylase (an enzyme that digests carbohydrates in the mouth) and have low levels of carbohydrate digesting enzymes in their gut.
Less carbohydrate is probably best for this reason and excess may lead to digestive distress.
To calculate the carbohydrate of dry cat food you need a dry matter basis analysis.
Unfortunately, cat food manufacturers make this calculation hard by not including information on carbohydrates – which means you have to deduct the total of ingredients to find out the percentage of carbohydrate – and then convert that into a dry matter basis number.
If this sounds like a pain – it is because it is a pain! Consumers shouldn’t have to do this.
What are the best dry cat food brands on the market today?
The amount of companies making good dry cat food is few and far between.
There are a few that have better choices than others which include:
- Ziwi Peak (Air-Dried)
- Tiki Cat
- Dr Elsey’s
There are some other independent choices, but these are the main options sold commercially.
Should I try freeze-dried for my cat instead of traditional dry cat food?
Freeze-dried cat foods are usually a nutritionally better option than most dry kibble. They contain more protein and less added carbohydrates.
This is beneficial because dry cat foods are often loaded with carbohydrate fillers like corn or wheat, which may cause digestive difficulty.
The main downside of freeze-dried cat food is the cost which is much higher than most dry cat food options. They are typically used as treats and toppers as opposed to stand-alone meals.
That said, freeze-dried cat food is a great way to give your cat a condensed nutritionally dense snack with the convenience factor of dried cat food.
Check out our best freeze-dried choice in this article over here.
Does the shape of the kibble matter for cats?
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 your kitty’s insides (5).
Keep in mind you can soften dry cat food with water before serving to make it easier to eat.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of dry cat food?
Dry foods are less expensive than wet canned foods, which help keep costs low when feeding your pet daily meals.
This of course is often due to the worse nutritional value dry foods offer, but dry food is also an ideal choice for owners that spend long periods out of the house and don’t have another way to feed their cat.
Aside from that, there isn’t a benefit to feeding your cat dry food vs wet canned products.
This brings us to…
Best wet cat food vs best dry cat food – Which is better for your pet?
In almost all situations wet canned cat food is better for your cat than dry cat food. Cats are carnivores and need to eat meat in order for them to survive.
Not only that, cats struggle to drink water. Wet cat food is a primary source of hydration for cats.
A diet void of wet cat food may result in urinary stones and other kidney health complications (5).
Dry kibble dry cat food is mostly made of grains, corn, or rice which do not provide the same full range of nutrients that your pet needs to thrive on a daily basis.
Most cats will start rejecting dry foods after they have eaten them and some even get removed from research because they refuse to eat the foods given in the study.
Many people mistakingly believe cats as ‘fussy’ but the reality is cats have a specific nutritional need for a high protein diet.
Dry cat food is lower in moisture than dry dog food which may lead to urinary tract infections and other health issues. You can moisten dry cat food to increase moisture.
There are dry cat food options available but you must carefully read the ingredients to ensure they contain animal proteins.
How can I transition my cat to a new diet?
If you want to switch dry cat food brands, it is important that you do so slowly.
You can either 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.
The slow shift will help reduce any digestive issues and also prevent rejection.
How much dry cat food should I feed my cat per day?
This will depend on how much dry and wet canned cat food you intend to feed your cat.
I recommend feeding your cat some canned food in their diet to make sure they get enough moisture (which is lacking in dry kibble).
If you are just giving dry food then it is recommended that cats receive around 15-20 grams per kilogram of weight for an adult cat.
Most cat food packages give you a feeding guide that helps you to measure out the proper amount needed for a healthy weight.
Remember that dry cat food is calorically dense. This means it is easy to overfeed your cat dry food if you don’t measure scoops correctly.
That leads to weight gain, and obesity gives your cat a higher risk of diabetes. 92% of all obese cats are fed a diet of mostly dry cat food, and many of these cats are ‘free fed’ (as in letting the cat eat as much as they want).
Check out my guide which helps you find out how much to feed your cat.
How often should you feed my cat dry kibble?
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.
What is the best way to 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.
Conclusion: The Best Dry Cat Food (Final Thoughts)
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 which include the price, the quality of dry cat food, and what ingredients are in them.
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.
I recommend giving your cat some wet canned cat food (at least 50% of the diet) since it is hard for them to drink enough water. Cats get most of their moisture from wet canned cat foods.
I hope you found this article helpful on your journey to finding the best dry cat food for your pet.
Our Best Dry Cat Food Pick Overall: Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Chicken Formula
This is a great dry cat food choice for the following reasons:
- Low in carbohydrates (<1%) for easy digestion
- High in animal protein for strength and energy
- Low in oxalates to reduce kidney disease risk
- Positive taste reviews
Check out Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein Chicken Formula below: