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For most cats, a dry food diet is less than ideal because of its low moisture content, calorie density, and high levels of carbs. That said, dry food does offer some advantages for the right person—and the right cat. Dry food is convenient to serve and store, it’s economical, and it has a longer shelf life than canned wet food.
Dry food may not be perfect, but there are things to look for in terms of quality. The best dry cat foods will be rich in high-quality protein. They won’t contain a lot of veggies. And they’ll be free of additives that might harm your cat over time.
Based on hours of research and testing, we’re bringing you an updated list of the best dry cat foods in the industry. The following foods earn their place with outstanding ingredient quality, nutritional merits, and safety records.
At a Glance: Top 9 Best Healthy Dry Cat Foods To Buy
- Low in carbohydrates
- Made primarily from species-appropriate animal ingredients
- One of the most nutrient-dense dry foods on the market
- Primarily a meat-based recipe with four animal proteins
- Relies primarily on animal-sourced fat
- Salmon oil provides DHA for brain and eye development
- Made without grain, potato, corn, wheat, or soy
- No animal byproducts, artificial colors, or preservatives
Why Trust Cats.com?
We personally purchased and tested the foods on this list. Our team did not receive them in exchange for a favorable review.
When researching cat food, we analyze the information on the label including the guaranteed analysis, list of ingredients, and life stage designation. We also check for product recalls and consult customer reviews to learn about reformulations or issues with product quality.
During our in-depth testing, we observe the product’s appearance, texture, consistency, smell, and packaging. We also feed the food to our cats to get their opinion regarding palatability and general appeal.
In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples of several recipes for analysis at an ISO 17025-certified food testing and analysis lab. Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us each recipe’s exact macronutrient and micronutrient content. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals.
Finally, we consulted 7 veterinarians to get their professional opinion on what makes great cat food.
Our Veterinary Advisors
- Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
- Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH
- Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM
- Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
- Dr. Albert Ahn, DVM
- Dr. Elizabeth Youens, DVM
Top Picks Explained
While we’ve since updated the products featured in this roundup, we still love the dry cat foods that Mallory discusses in this video.
Top 9 Best Dry Cat Foods on the Market Reviewed
Best Dry Cat Food: Comparison Table
|Product Name||Primary Protein||Age Range||Guaranteed Protein||Calories Per Ounce||Cost Per Day*|
|Open Farm RawMix Open Prairie Recipe||Chicken||All Life Stages||38%||105||$1.15|
|Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™||Chicken||All Life Stages||59%||114||$0.65|
|Nulo Freestyle Chicken & Cod Recipe||Chicken||All Life Stages||40%||110||$0.53|
|Kirkland Signature Chicken & Rice Recipe||Chicken||All Life Stages||30%||115||$0.25|
|Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Recipe||Mackerel||All Life Stages||44%||128||$3.00|
|Young Again Mature Health Formula||Chicken||Adult & Senior Cats||54%||132||$0.50|
|Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Kitten Food||Chicken||Kitten||42%||111||$0.90|
|FirstMate Chicken Meal with Blueberries LID Formula||Ocean Fish||All Life Stages||36%||100||$0.60|
|Instinct Original Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Chicken Recipe||Chicken||All Life Stages||41%||122||$0.63|
*Cost per day is calculated using the food’s average cost per ounce and the daily caloric requirement for a healthy adult cat (about 200 calories).
What To Consider When Buying Dry Cat Food
When researching potential inclusions for this roundup, we prioritized recipes with high protein content sourced from animal meat, rather than plants. We also avoided brands that rely on unsafe fillers or artificial flavors or preservatives, opting for natural options wherever possible.
Lastly, we considered each brand’s reputation, referring to Consumer Affairs and product listings to learn more about customers’ experiences. We even contacted companies directly to get a sense of each brand’s customer service.
Look For High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Options
Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM, CEO of the nonprofit organization Ruthless Kindness, says that “an ideal diet would have 5-10% of calories from carbohydrates, about 50% of calories from protein, and about 45% from fat.”
Frustratingly, dry cat food is notorious for its high carbohydrate content. To make the situation even more challenging, carbohydrate content is not listed on cat food labels—meaning you’ll need to calculate it based on other nutrient values (you can use the carbohydrate calculator provided here.)
Consider The Type And Quality of Protein
Since meat contains all the amino acids that cats need, while plant protein doesn’t, it’s important to look for diets that emphasize animal-sourced protein. It’s also best to avoid animal by-products. These aren’t necessarily worse than clearly-named cuts of meat, but they do introduce a degree of uncertainty about protein quality.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM, veterinary writer for ExcitedCats, advises that cat owners “check the ingredients list on the label and be sure that the food you choose uses real, whole meat as at least the first ingredient, preferably first two to three. Whole meat is more easily digestible and provides all of the necessary protein for a cat.”
Avoid Products That Contain Artificial Flavors
Because they may stir up inflammation or erode your cat’s health over time, it’s a good idea to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Instead, look for natural dry cat foods that rely on animal-sourced flavors and safe preservatives.
Choose Reputable Brands
Not all cat food brands are created equal. To find a brand you can trust, it’s helpful to investigate their recall history. Avoid brands with a history of frequent recalls, deception, or secrecy. Additionally, a brand’s customer service (or lack thereof) can tell you a lot about the company. Brands that offer prompt, transparent service are preferable to those that are unresponsive.