Cats

The 5 Best Cat Foods for Indoor Cats

April 8, 2020
Mallory Crusta

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The 5 Best Cat Foods for Indoor Cats

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Whether your cat hunts wild mice or balls of dust from under the bed, every pound of his body is pure carnivore. Living indoors doesn’t change a cat’s predatory nature.

Instead of loading up on fiber and starch, indoor cats deserve a diet that honors their carnivorous needs while keeping them lean and healthy.

That’s why the best cat food for indoor cats is protein-rich, satisfying, and delivers all the meaty nutrition your cat needs to stay slim, strong, and sharp.

And while it’s not the plant-heavy stereotype of lightened-up indoor cat food, it’s on the leaner side.

At a Glance: Best Cat Foods for Indoor Cats To Buy

We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

IMAGE PRODUCT
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates
  • A lean, low-calorie food
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  • Primarily made from meat ingredients
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Moderate calorie content helps your indoor cat maintain his weight
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  • Emphasizes animal-sourced protein sources as the main ingredients
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods
  • High fiber content may help to support healthy digestion
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  • A moisture-rich food that keeps your cat full and satisfied without too many calories
  • A very low-fat diet that should help your cat lose weight
  • Cats love the taste and texture of this food
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  • Contains chicken as its primary ingredient
  • Contains pumpkin, which may support digestive health
  • A calorie-dense food for cats with diminished appetites or muscle loss
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Since indoor cats are prone to gaining excess weight, their ideal diet gives them just the right amount of calories and no more.

Based on these criteria, we recommend Nom Nom’s Fish Feast as the overall best cat food for indoor cats.

This protein-rich, human-grade food is portioned out according to your cat’s weight goals and shipped to your home according to a regular schedule. With the help of the Nom Nom team, it’s easy to make sure your cat gets just the right amount of food in each meal.

But it’s not right for everyone. In addition to our top pick, we’ve chosen four more of the best cat foods for indoor cats. We’ll learn more about each of these foods soon, but first, let’s talk about what makes indoor cat food different.

Before we talk about the qualities we looked for when choosing our top foods, let’s answer a couple of important questions.

What is different about indoor cat food?

Because indoor cats don’t have any nutritional requirements that set them apart from cats who live outdoors, there is no standardized formula for indoor cat food.

Unlike life stage-specific diets, indoor cat foods aren’t formulated according to nutritional tables established by the AAFCO or any other agency. In fact, no agency oversees this labeling decision at all. Legally and nutritionally, the idea of indoor cat food remains undefined.

Although this food category remains officially undefined, foods marketed for indoor cats typically share a few characteristics. All of them center around the idea that indoor cats are relatively sedentary and thus need a lighter, more satisfying food that keeps them slim and in good shape.

Most indoor cat foods are:

  • High in fiber, which may help to control hairballs and increase satiety
  • Relatively low in fat and hence, lower in calories to help indoor cats maintain a healthy weight

While calorie management is important and your cat’s caloric intake should most certainly match his activity levels, food marketed for indoor cats isn’t necessary to achieve that balance.

Additionally, the type of fiber-bulking seen in your typical indoor cat food may not be necessary for either weight management or hairball control. Cats don’t need a lot of fiber—research by the Iams company found that the optimal feline diet has a crude fiber content between 1.4% and 3.5%.

While a little extra fiber might help to relieve a bout of hairballs or constipation, the amount found in indoor cat food is more than most cats need on a daily basis.

Do indoor cats need indoor cat food?

Not necessarily.

If your cat was previously eating a very calorie-dense diet, he may benefit from a lower-calorie food formulated for indoor cats. Cats with chronic hairballs or constipation might also benefit from the foods’ boosted fiber content.

But indoor cat food is far from the right answer for every cat who lives inside. Instead, indoor cat foods are usually some of the most species-inappropriate products on the shelf, brimming with low-value plant by-products and high-carbohydrate ingredients.

Whether they live indoors or out, no cat needs a lot of grains, fruits, vegetables, or beans—all of which are abundant in indoor cat food.

Here’s what we looked for when choosing the best indoor cat food.

When choosing the best cat food for indoor cats, we looked for figure-friendly foods that honor your cat’s needs as a carnivore. To help your cat maintain a healthy weight while leading a relatively sedentary indoor lifestyle, a good diet is satisfying and doesn’t give your cat more calories than he can burn.

For that reason, we prefer wet food to kibble for indoor cats. 

In comparison to dry cat food, canned or otherwise high-moisture food is less calorically dense and more satisfying, meaning that your cat can eat more while taking in fewer calories.

Instead of leaning on high fiber alone, we looked for easy-to-digest foods that support overall health.

Because chronic hairballs may be connected to digestive issues, it’s a good idea to choose a readily-digestible, anti-inflammatory diet. Foods made from high-quality protein sources are easy for your cat to digest and utilize.

If that product also contains anti-inflammatory ingredients like salmon and menhaden fish oil, it may also help to soothe inflammation in the GI tract. Some fiber supplementation may also help, but it’s not our priority when choosing the best indoor cat food.

The Best Cat Food for Indoor Cats: Our Top 5 Picks

Overall Best: Nom Nom Fish Feast Cat Food Delivery

Product Info:

  • Protein: 18% Min
  • Fat: 6% Min
  • Fiber: 0.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Fresh Food Delivery
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates
  • A lean, low-calorie food
  • Comes in custom-portioned packets ideal for healthy weight control
  • Doesn’t contain any additives that might harm your cat over time

Cons:

  • Only available with a subscription
  • Contains some plant ingredients

This fresh, homemade-style cat food has just about everything we look for in the best cat food for indoor cats—and a few qualities that you won’t find in any other product on the market.

It has all the basics, like a meat-centric ingredient list that features high-quality fish above anything else. It’s an easily-digestible, species-appropriate food that supports healthy digestion. It’s moisture-rich, satisfying, and relatively lean to help your cat stay slim.

But it also does some things that make it different from almost every other food on the market. Nom Nom food is a custom cat food delivery service. Each meal is portioned out according to your cat’s unique needs, so whether your cat needs to lose, gain, or maintain his weight, Nom Nom will do the calculations to make sure your cat gets just the right amount of calories in each meal.

And because it’s delivered straight to your doorstep according to a regular schedule, this food allows you to keep your cat’s pantry stocked without ever leaving the house.

If you’re interested in trying out Nom Nom’s cat food subscription service, you can get started with an obligation-free variety pack.

Best Affordable: Fancy Feast Classic Tender Liver & Chicken Feast Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 5.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Primarily made from meat ingredients
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Moderate calorie content helps your indoor cat maintain his weight
  • Moderate fiber content

Cons:

  • Contains vaguely-named, potentially-low quality protein sources
  • Contains artificial flavors

If you want to feed your indoor cat well on a budget, consider this food from Fancy Feast’s Classic line. This paté is a protein-rich, meat-based product that satisfies your cat’s carnivorous needs without too many calories.

While its macronutrient profile is on point, this food’s ingredient quality isn’t exactly where we’d like it to be—liver and meat by-products head up the ingredient list. Artificial flavors show up a few slots later.

Though it contains a couple of questionable ingredients, this food remains a carnivore-worthy product that should help your indoor cat stay fit and healthy.

Best Dry Cat Food for Indoor Cats: Simply Nourish Source Fish & Chicken Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 39% Min
  • Fat: 16% Min
  • Fiber: 8.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Dry
  • Made In: United States

Pros:

  • Emphasizes animal-sourced protein sources as the main ingredients
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other dry foods
  • High fiber content may help to support healthy digestion

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have enough moisture to keep your cat healthy
  • High in carbohydrates

The only dry food on our list, this Simply Nourish recipe is a meat-rich recipe formulated for indoor cats. As an indoor-specific formula, this recipe delivers fewer calories and a little more fiber than your standard kibble. At up to 8% fiber on an as-fed basis, this diet may help to alleviate the hairballs and constipation common among indoor dwellers.

This recipe is protein-rich, with deboned whitefish, chicken meal, turkey meal, and deboned chicken taking up significant real estate on the ingredient list. And while it’s certainly not the species-appropriate ideal, this food isn’t the starchiest kibble on the shelf. At about 21% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, it’s one of the lower-carbohydrate dry foods you can buy.

Best Indoor Cat Food for Weight Loss: Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Succulent Chicken in Chicken Consomme Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 16% Min
  • Fat: 2.6% Min
  • Fiber: 0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: Thailand

Pros:

  • A moisture-rich food that keeps your cat full and satisfied without too many calories
  • A very low-fat diet that should help your cat lose weight
  • Cats love the taste and texture of this food
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • A single-protein food that may be appropriate for cats with food sensitivities

Cons:

  • Made with plant oil instead of animal-derived fat sources
  • Doesn’t contain any fiber

If your indoor cat needs to lose weight, a high-moisture, low-fat diet is an effective tool to help him get his weight under control.

This food from Tiki Cat is just that. Juicy, meat-based, and low in fat, this food has everything it takes to help your cat slim down while feeling satisfied.

With chicken meat serving as the food’s main—and only—protein source, each meal delivers plenty of protein to help your cat maintain lean muscle mass while losing fat.

Unfortunately, this food doesn’t contain any sources of omega-3 fatty acids, instead opting for sunflower seed oil as its lone fat source. It also doesn’t contain any sources of fiber. If your cat is prone to hairballs and constipation, you may want to supplement this food with a pot of cat grass or an occasional spoonful of pumpkin.

Best for Seniors: Health Extension Chicken & Pumpkin Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 2.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Canned/Paté
  • Made In: Thailand

Pros:

  • Contains chicken as its primary ingredient
  • Contains pumpkin, which may support digestive health
  • A calorie-dense food for cats with diminished appetites or muscle loss

Cons:

  • Contains pea protein and tapioca starch
  • Doesn’t contain animal-sourced omega-3 fatty acids

Final Thoughts

Once your indoor cat reaches his senior years, his dietary needs will change. Senior and geriatric cats may start losing muscle mass, necessitating a higher-quality, higher-protein diet.

With plenty of protein from chicken, this food promises to support that muscle mass as your cat ages. Along with a few other supplemental ingredients—coconut oil and apple cider vinegar also show up on the list—the food contains pumpkin, an ingredient that may help to support digestive health and ease hairball issues.

With 38 calories per ounce, this isn’t your standard low-calorie food for indoor cats, but it can be a good choice for seniors who are starting to lose weight with age.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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