In this article, I’m going to check out the best indoor cat foods on the market in 2021. Indoor cats get less exercise and require a high-protein diet to maintain weight.
Cats love to climb, hunt, and play in the wild. Often as owners, for logistical reasons, we have to keep our cat indoors to stay out of trouble. Cats are less likely to get injured or suffer illness when kept indoors. However with a limited capacity to play and exercise, indoor cats can gain weight far easier. This is especially true if fed low-quality commercial cat food.
There are many foods for indoor cats marketed as great solutions. They promise many key features that aren’t based on the critical nutritional needs of a cat. Unfortunately, the majority of these products aren’t complete and balanced nutrition sources. They tend to have a high amount of carbohydrates and added ingredients that don’t benefit a cat.
At Simply Cat Care, we recommend the best quality food to improve your cat’s chance of living out a happy life. In this review, I’ve analyzed the different indoor cat foods on the market to find which ones are suitable for your cat. I’ve also chosen some foods that aren’t marketed for indoor cats, yet have a far better nutritional value.
I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet before making a purchase.
Let’s get into the review.
Product Review: The Best Indoor Cat Food in 2021
Best Indoor Cat Food Dry Food
ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food is a great grain-free dry cat food for indoor cats. The reason this food benefits indoor cats is the high protein and low carbohydrate content.
The food is 96% meat, organs, and green mussels. This gives your cat a high amount of vitamins and minerals for top health.
This product is a great transitional option for indoor dry cat food. Most owners looking to let their cat graze all day will benefit from ZIWI as a lower carbohydrate choice.
On the downside, the price is on the higher side in this market. Also, the non-rendered meat used in the product may produce a strong unfamiliar smell that can take getting used to.
Best Indoor Cat Food Wet Food
It turns out that ZIWI Peak Provenance Canned Wet Cat Food doesn’t make good dry cat food for indoor cats, but great wet canned food.
Similar to the dry cat food, the ZIWI wet cat food is high in animal protein and completely grain-free. There are no fillers like potatoes, pea, or corn.
This product contains green mussels which are a great source of essential omega fatty acids. These foods help lower inflammation and improve your cat’s joints, keeping them active. This is especially important for indoor cats.
This product is pricier and produces a strong meaty smell. This food may take time for your cat to get used to, which might put off some owners.
Best Indoor Cat Food Dry Budget
In the budget range, you can’t do much better than Nulo Grain-Free Dry Cat Food for protein-rich grain-free dry indoor cat food.
The product is 83% protein with the first four ingredients being protein-rich meats. Two of those ingredients are chicken meal and turkey meal – which aren’t as high of quality as the pricier cat food, but the food is well supplemented to ensure balanced nutrition.
There are still a few carbohydrate-containing foods such as lentils, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas. A small amount of these foods may be tolerable for cats (especially compared to corn, wheat, soy, and brown rice type products) but raising the carbohydrate does increase the risk of a sensitive stomach.
Best Indoor Cat Food Wet Canned Budget
Moving on to the best budget indoor cat food in the canned variety we have the Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food.
Out of the tin, its first four ingredients are protein-rich animal foods which is a benefit (however the source of the liver is not stated). The product does contain some brown rice and cellulose which may test sensitive stomachs.
The product also contains guar gum, which is a typical thickener found in many human and cat foods. The jury is out on whether guar gum is bad for cats, but some adult cats might have upset stomachs with this ingredient (or the aforementioned carbohydrate foods).
Buying Guide: The Best Indoor Cat Food
In this buying guide, I’m going to help you work out what is best to feed an indoor cat. I’ll be going in-depth about this topic.
The goal of this buying guide is to give you information to help you find the best food for indoor cats.
Who is this guide for?
This guide is for owners who have a cat limited to an indoor lifestyle (e.g. small apartment, no backyard). This guide also benefits an owner wanting to learn more about cat nutrition topics in general.
What is the difference between indoor cat food and outdoor cat food?
You’ll often notice a lot of cat food marketed as ‘indoor cat food’.
Indoor cats tend to get less exercise than outdoor cats. As a result, they have lower total calorie requirements as they burn fewer calories.
Indoor cat food is less calorically dense, by lowering carbohydrate and fat content. Some brands include added fiber and vegetables (which aren’t necessary for cats – but they get added anyway).
There is no AAFCO guideline towards the word ‘indoor’ on a cat food label. In other words, there are no specifications on what an indoor cat food needs to contain by law. Indoor is a word cat foods brands use to market their product, similar to the words natural and premium.
Marketed cat food for indoor cats needs thorough examination to ensure satisfaction with the product ingredients.
You want high-quality food for your canned cat food or dry cat food. Let’s take a closer look at what you want to look for.
What should I look for in indoor cat food?
Let’s take a step back here for a minute.
Cats can adjust their appetite to maintain a healthy weight.
That means if they eat too much and gain a little fat, they will adjust by eating less. The hypothalamic region of the brain regulates food intake.
This process is a negative feedback loop. Similar to humans eating junk food all day, if a cat eats low-quality foods it will tend to overeat.
To help your cat regulate its appetite you need to give them a high-quality animal product that is lower in carbohydrates.
Let’s take a closer look at beneficial foods for a cat.
Indoor cats benefit from a high-protein animal-based diet
Balanced nutrition starts with high protein animal foods. This should be the predominant ingredient for an adult cat from meat and organs. This is because cats are obligate carnivores.
A cat only requires animal foods to provide nutrition and does not have the proper physiological characteristics for plant digestion .
Adapted to hunting, cats are keen meat-eaters.
There are a lot of features that indicate a preference for meat consumption. These include a low intestine-to-body ratio, sharper carnassial teeth designed for tearing meat, night vision, and a wider detection of sound frequencies than humans .
When given a low protein diet, cats do not have the ability to downregulate the loss of protein to conserve protein stores. A cat’s diet needs to be at least 16% protein by energy .
In a human, taurine is a non-essential amino acid, however, this is essential for cats. Taurine is only found in animal products and if not supplemented otherwise, will lead to a cat having a taurine deficiency .
Meat and organs provide all the essential vitamins and minerals your cat needs in ways they can absorb.
Cats get their vitamin D from animal foods (cats cannot get Vitamin D from sunlight) as with Vitamin A (cats cannot convert beta carotene to retinal – the active form of Vitamin A).
Indoor cats benefit from a lower carbohydrate diet
Cats have a very limited amount of salivary amylase. Moving into the intestinal area, cats also have low amounts of disaccharidases (needed to digest sugar molecules) and these levels don’t increase in response to dietary carbohydrate intake .
In other words, giving a cat more carbohydrates won’t help them produce more enzymes needed to break down carbohydrates in the diet.
Whilst cats can digest some carbohydrates, an excess may lead to diarrhea and flatulence .
Check out my top 9 tips for feeding your cat for more.
What does [insert meat] + meal mean?
You might also see an ingredient like ‘chicken meal’ or ‘beef meal’ (or chicken by-product meal).
This is a lower quality heat treated and rendered meat. Cat food made from lower quality rendered meat saves cost as the possible expense of reduced nutritional and digestive benefit.
Check out my guide to reading labels for more information.
What does an indoor cat need to eat?
An indoor cat needs the same micronutrients for health as any other cat.
Cats get the majority of their nutrition from animal-based foods. This is because they are carnivores.
Cats evolved to consume small prey such as birds and fish.
An indoor cat needs a high-quality diet that is lower in carbohydrates.
Do indoor cats need less food?
Indoor cats tend to exercise less than outdoor cats. This means they burn fewer calories.
If an indoor cat eats a diet of junk food and does not exercise, it will gain fat.
How much should a cat weigh?
A cat’s optimal weight depends on its age and length.
There’s no specific exact weight, but rather a range where your cat optimally lies (read my guide to feeding your cat for the optimal weight over here to learn more).
More than half of US pets are overweight or obese . Obesity predisposes cats to a higher mortality rate from conditions such as feline diabetes, hyperlipidemia, orthopedic disorders, and reproductive disorders .
Cats are obligate carnivores and a diet that moves outside their ‘preferred’ nutrition, may compromise their health. Hunting cats consume a diet with higher protein, moderate fat, and lower levels of carbohydrate .
What other things can help improve an indoor cat’s health?
Indoor cats benefit from other things to improve their health and wellbeing.
Cat’s left indoors benefit from a puzzle feeder.
The goal of a puzzle feeder is to slow down your cat eating, allowing you to free-feed (let your cat consume as much food as it sees fit) but not to the point of overconsumption.
Cat trees are a great way to boost an indoor cat’s exercise.
Not only that, but many cat trees come with scratching pads to give your cat a spot to scratch out its nails.
I’ve reviewed the best cat trees on the market for larger cats over here.
How do transition your cat to a new food?
Transitioning your cat to a new diet takes time.
Many cat food packages include a guideline for transitioning food (in the hope it will help maximize the possibility of your cat liking their product).
The process should take one week. Introduce more food over time until your cat acclimates to the new food.
What ingredients should I look for in cat food?
There are a few things that you should consider before buying any cat food.
Cat’s are obligate carnivores and need a species-appropriate form of nutrition to maintain their health and quality of life.
When selecting cat food, I use the following general checklist.
- Grain-free: Avoid corn, wheat, and other grain-based products in dry cat food. Easier to digest carbohydrate sources such as rice and potato are minimal.
- Soy-free: Cat’s are not able to digest legumes.
- No/minimal fillers: Fillers such as gums (e.g. carrageenan, xanthan gum) or artificial preservatives may lead to sensitive stomachs
- No/minimal vegetables: Cats are obligate carnivores and don’t require vegetables in the diet. Some vegetables (e.g. onions, garlic) may lead to food intolerance.
- Avoids allergenic proteins: Turkey, lamb, rabbit, and duck products are less likely to cause an allergenic reaction for sensitive stomach cats. Chicken, beef, and fish may lead to allergic reactions. Speak with your vet for help.
- Preference for whole animal protein products: A product containing ‘meal’ contains rendered meat that may have fewer nutrients than whole meat products (e.g. liver, bone, skin). Quality ingredients include whole animal foods and organs. Animal foods provide the vitamins & minerals your cat needs in a digestible form. Animal foods contain a higher quality protein source for cats.
It is difficult to find a food that fits these criteria perfectly, but the goal is to find a food that is as high quality as you can practically and reasonably source. In my guides, I try to find products that contain the least amount of troublesome foods to recommend as wet and dry food choices.
As always, consult with your local veterinarian for more help with choosing food.
Conclusion: Best Indoor Cat Food
In this article, I’ve talked about how to choose the best indoor cat food.
Many cat food brands market a product as ‘indoor cat’ food, which is a vague term. There is no guideline or laws around the word ‘indoor’ and it does not mean there’s a certain quality to the product.
Indoor cats tend to get less exercise than their outdoor dwelling brethren. This equates to fewer total calories burned. An indoor cat may be more prone to weight gain, especially if consuming low-quality food items.
The best cat food for indoor cats is a wet food or natural dry cat food that is rich in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. Animal protein contains the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals required to maintain a healthy cat. A cat’s diet needs these foods to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
Indoor adult cat food is often marketed by many cat food brands. However, the typical indoor formula cat foods still contain a range of ingredients that may test a sensitive stomach (e.g. brown rice, corn, wheat, soy, and peas). This may fool unsuspecting cat owners who don’t look at the fine print to investigate the real merit of the product chosen for their cats.
You do not need to purchase a product that is marketed specifically for indoor cats. Rather, you want a product that is appropriate to maintain a healthy cat in general.
There are many ways to improve the environment of an indoor cats to benefit their health and weight. A cat tree provides a source of entertainment and exercise.
Our Top Pick: Best Indoor Cat Food in 2021
ZIWI peak is a high-quality animal protein-rich cat food to feed your cat. It a complete and balanced grain-free product, high in vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids to maintain a healthy indoor cat. The product also provides green mussels, which are a unique ingredient that is a fantastic source of essential omega 3 fatty acids for top joints and skin.
This product meets the needs of an indoor cat that may get a little less exercise overall and needs a high-quality product to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, the product is at a higher price in the cat food market.
After more cat-related content?
Check out our cat guides below.