The 30 Best Dry Cat Foods In 2021
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The best dry cat food honors your cat’s carnivorous needs with plenty of animal-sourced protein, just the right amount of fat, and low carbohydrate content. It’s made from high-quality ingredients and comes from a company with a reputation for integrity.
As straightforward as those requirements are, finding great dry cat food isn’t as simple as it sounds. Most dry foods look more like cereal than a carnivore-appropriate meal.
Your typical kibble is loaded with corn, potatoes, rice, and other ingredients few cats would choose on their own. And finding food made from safe, high-quality ingredients? That’s a challenge, too.
At a Glance: Best Dry Cat Foods 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.
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Through researching the pet food industry, reviewing dozens of foods, and doing hands-on testing, we’ve done the work to find the few dry foods that are worth pouring into your cat’s bowl.
The following 30 foods are top-notch products that meet our quality standards. We’ve included top recommendations for cats and households of all kinds, with options for adult cats, kittens, senior cats, and those with food sensitivities or other dietary needs.
Coming in at the top of our list is Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula. This food delivers an unexpected combination of crunch, flavor, and carnivore-appropriate nutrition. With plenty of species-appropriate protein and radically low carbohydrate content, this kibble is among the few that honors your cat’s nutritional needs.
Here’s How We Chose The 30 Best Dry Cat Foods On The Market.
We looked for foods that emphasized high-quality protein.
Cats have some of the highest protein requirements of any species on Earth. Indeed, cats need about 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Anything less leads to reduced lean muscle mass and, potentially, weight loss. Cats should eat high-protein foods composed of at least 50% protein on a dry matter basis.
But remember that not all protein is equal. It comes in many forms. Some are readily available to your cat’s body. Others aren’t. For example, both leather and eggs are high in protein, but the egg’s biological value is a bit higher.
We don’t know exactly which protein sources are most digestible for cats, but we do know that as obligate carnivores, cats seem to get the most out of animal-sourced protein.
We also know that muscle meat and organs are rich in beneficial protein, while other animal parts are less biologically available.
For those reasons, we looked for foods that prioritized animal-sourced protein from clearly-named sources like chicken, turkey liver, eggs, and other high-value animal parts.
While some plant proteins are virtually unavoidable in the dry food space, we gave lower grades to products that contain large amounts of protein from peas, soy, corn gluten meal, and other plant sources.
Because excessive carbohydrates can spike your cat’s blood sugar and increase his risk of developing diabetes, we looked for low-carb recipes.
Low-carbohydrate dry cat food is a rare thing. Most kibble contains starchy ingredients like corn, potatoes, wheat, and other ingredients that would be a better fit in a loaf of bread than your cat’s food.
Though they’re not nutritionally essential, these ingredients play an important role in making dry cat food. They help to give the kibble its crunch and structure. Without those ingredients, most kibble would fall flat or floppy.
A few brands break the kibble mold by producing foods that combine the convenience, crunch, and shelf-stability of kibble with low-carbohydrate formulations that honor your cat’s dietary needs.
We disqualified foods with artificial flavors, colors, and other ingredients that might harm your cat over time.
There are a few common cat food additives that we’d rather not see in your cat’s food. These include artificial dyes, which have been linked to various health issues, artificial flavors, and certain potentially-harmful preservatives. We disqualified any foods that contained BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin.
We prioritized foods from brands with a history of quality and safety.
Where your cat’s food comes from matters. To determine whether or not they were safe, trustworthy options, we evaluated recall histories, customer reviews, and the backgrounds of their parent companies.
Best Dry Cat Food: Our Top 30 Recommendations
Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein foods are all about high-quality protein for easy digestion and maximum nutrition.
This recipe features chicken as its main ingredient with dried egg product and pork protein isolate as secondary proteins.
Instead of using starchy binders like corn, legumes, and potatoes, Dr. Elsey’s food uses gelatin to keep everything together. As a result, its carbohydrate content is under 10% on a dry matter basis. It’s a crunchy, high-protein, low-carb kibble with everything your cat needs to feel his best.
While most dry foods are extruded into crunchy pieces of kibble, this food is made using an air-drying process. By dehydrating raw meat, organs, and bones, Ziwi Peak destroys pathogenic organisms like salmonella and listeria while retaining the nutritional value of fresh animal ingredients.
This process doesn’t require the starches or binders involved in extrusion, so the food remains low in carbohydrate matter without any plant ingredients your cat doesn’t need.
This food features free-range, grass-fed lamb as its primary ingredient with green-lipped mussels as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.
This recipe is 98% chicken muscle meat, organs, and ground bone. The food also contains pumpkin seed as a fiber source, along with probiotic bacteria for digestive support. It’s a protein-rich, low-carbohydrate food that honors your cat’s carnivorous needs.
You can serve your cat the food as-is or rehydrate it with warm water. Because it works as both a dry and wet food, it’s a great option for those who want to transition their cat to a high-moisture diet.
While some freeze-dried foods are made with rehydration in mind, these morsels are intended to go into the bowl dry. They combine the convenience of dry food with the nutritional integrity of raw.
With its straightforward recipe, use of an array of muscle meat, organs, and bones, and the inclusion of herring oil as a source of species-appropriate fat, this Vital Essentials recipe is a good option for those who want to try freeze-dried food as an alternative to traditional dry food.
This Kirkland Signature food isn’t your average economy kibble. Instead of animal by-products and vaguely-named rendered meals, it features clearly-labeled proteins like chicken and chicken meal. The recipe is also different in what it does contain—you’ll find a mix of prebiotics and probiotics seldom found in other cheap kibble foods.
This baked kibble from Tiki Cat is a protein-rich recipe with less carbohydrate matter than your average dry food.
While other grain-free foods tend to contain concentrated sources of plant protein like corn gluten meal and pea protein, this food focuses on protein from meat. Deboned chicken, chicken meal, and chicken liver are its main ingredients.
In addition to these protein sources, the food contains species-appropriate sources of fatty acids for skin and coat health, inflammation modulation, and overall health.
This recipe is rich in protein with plenty of animal-sourced fat. Though it’s a meat-based recipe, it also includes an array of supplemental ingredients like probiotics, flaxseed, pumpkin, and berries.
Solid Gold foods have earned a strong reputation over the years and this recipe is no exception. It receives almost exclusively positive customer reviews, with 95% of Chewy reviewers saying they’d recommend it to a friend.
Only Natural Pet’s Feline PowerFood kibble is an outstanding product in several ways.
It’s rich in animal-sourced protein with an ingredient list centering around deboned chicken, turkey meal, and chicken meal. The food also contains an array of beneficial additives, including salmon oil and green-lipped mussels as sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Prebiotic fiber, probiotics, and digestive enzymes promise to support digestive health.
Between its emphasis on bioavailable protein and the use of anti-inflammatory ingredients, this food is a good option for senior cats.
Like Ziwi Peak foods, The Real Meat Company products are air-dried meals featuring muscle meat, organs, and bone. With a single protein source and relatively minimal plant inclusions, this food is a limited-ingredient meal appropriate for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.
This Simply Nourish food is marketed for indoor cats. At up to 8% fiber on an as-fed basis, it’s slightly higher in fiber than most foods. Though a high-fiber diet isn’t essential for all cats who live inside, some posit that extra fiber can help to alleviate the hairballs and constipation common among indoor cats.
It’s rich in protein from deboned whitefish, chicken meal, turkey meal, and deboned chicken. At around 21% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, the kibble is relatively-low carb compared to other dry foods.
With 100 calories per ounce, this kibble is one of the lowest-calorie dry foods you can buy. It’s a good option for cats who need to lose weight. In addition to being a good choice for overweight cats, this food is one of the highest-quality kibble products you can buy. It’s made from human-grade ingredients in a Chicago human food processing facility.
Compared to other dry foods, this chicken-based recipe is low in carbohydrates and a relatively species-appropriate choice.
Like our number one recommendation, this Dr. Elsey’s food is a low-carbohydrate, meat-rich switch from your standard kibble. It features salmon as its primary ingredient, but it’s not a single-protein food. Each serving contains a mix of salmon, chicken, salmon hydrolysate, pork protein isolate, and dried egg product as sources of highly-digestible protein.
Unlike other Dr. Elsey’s foods, it contains chickpeas. These add protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Though it’s a little bit more plant-heavy than other recipes from the line, the food is around 9% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis and one of the least starchy dry foods you can buy.
This food from Simply Nourish delivers all the protein, fat, and calories your kitten needs to grow and thrive. It contains deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as sources of nourishing animal protein. Fish oil provides the omega-3 fatty acids that support kittens’ brain and eye development.
If your cat has food sensitivities, IBD, or other digestive problems, a novel-protein diet can help. Though the definition of novel proteins varies from cat to cat, relatively unusual ingredients like venison are usually a safe bet. This food from Ziwi Peak is made from venison muscle meat, tripe, heart, liver, and other organs as its primary proteins. New Zealand green-lipped mussel helps to ease inflammation while inulin helps to support probiotic activity in the gut.
With minimal carbohydrate content, a simple ingredient list, and the emphasis on a novel protein, this recipe has everything you could want for a cat with IBD and other GI issues.
With a meat-first ingredient list, plenty of protein from clearly-named sources, and an emphasis on animal-derived fatty acids from chicken fat and salmon oil, this food has all the species-appropriate nutrition we look for.
Though it’s not perfect—whole peas, tapioca flour, and other plant ingredients appear on its ingredient list—this Tiki Cat food is one of the best in the kibble department.
Wysong’s Epigen 90 recipe is 90% meat and virtually carbohydrate-free. It’s a low-starch formula that uses gelatin instead of traditional high-carbohydrate binders.
It’s primarily made from chicken meal and organic chicken with meat protein isolate as a secondary source of highly-digestible protein. This unnamed meat comes from unknown sources and isn’t an ideal ingredient for cats with food sensitivities or allergies.
In addition to these protein sources, the food contains a long list of supplemental ingredients like coconut oil, chia seeds, prebiotics, and probiotics.
Like the Epigen 90 formula listed above, this Wysong food is a low-starch recipe featuring animal proteins as its main ingredients. In contrast to Epigen 90, it’s lower in meat-sourced protein, with potato protein appearing alongside animal ingredients early on in the recipe.
The food contains an array of nutraceuticals, including organic barley grass powder, dried yogurt, and several strains of probiotic bacteria.
Overall, this food is high in protein and low in fat with low carbohydrate content compared to other dry kibble products.
This food from Petcurean’s Go! Solutions line is a grain-free food that features meat ingredients like chicken meal, turkey, duck meal, salmon meal, and trout.
Though it emphasizes meat-derived protein as its main ingredients, the food also contains peas, potatoes, and other supplemental fruits and vegetables. It’s not the lowest-carbohydrate kibble on the market, but at around 20% carbs, it’s less starchy than most.
The food contains salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids and several strains of probiotic bacteria.
Instinct by Nature’s Variety offers a meat-rich food with 95% protein from chicken. The recipe features chicken as its primary ingredient, followed by tapioca as a binder and chicken fat as a nourishing fat source.
Later on the ingredient list, the food contains small amounts of freeze-dried raw chicken for a nutritional boost.
The food is 13.33% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, making it one of the most low-carbohydrate kibble products on the market.
This dry cat food from Wellness CORE contains deboned chicken as its primary ingredient, followed by chicken meal, turkey meal, and several plant-based binding agents. In addition to the standard array of synthetic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, the food contains prebiotics and probiotics for digestive support.
At just over 29% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, this food is one of the highest-carb products on this list.
While this Farmina recipe isn’t nutritionally flawless, Farmina foods are some of the highest-quality products on the market. This food is twin-extruded for better digestibility, vacuum coated for nutritional longevity, and made from fresh—never frozen—ingredients.
Like all recipes in Farmina’s Natural & Delicious line, this recipe is 70% animal ingredients. Boneless chicken, dried whole eggs, and herring are the food’s primary protein sources.
The food contains sweet potatoes as its primary binding agent, with small amounts of pea fiber, suncured alfalfa meal, and other fruits and vegetables later on the ingredient list. A blend of green tea, turmeric, and rosemary act as antioxidants. Psyllium serves as a source of prebiotic fiber. Aloe vera gel helps to control inflammation.
This Instinct by Nature’s Variety food is from the brand’s original line, consisting of 81% animal-derived ingredients. The recipe features chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and menhaden fish meal as its primary protein sources, with chicken fat as its main source of fat.
With guaranteed levels of bacillus coagulans, the food is a source of beneficial bacteria that may help to support digestive health.
Near the bottom of the ingredient list, you’ll notice that the food contains an array of freeze-dried chicken liver and heart. These add flavor and a pop of added nutrition.
At about 15% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, this food is one of the lowest-carbohydrate foods on the market.
Compared to other dry foods made without artificial colors, by-products, or added flavors, this Taste of the Wild recipe is among the most accessible and affordable on the market.
It features chicken meal as its first ingredient, followed by peas and sweet potatoes as binding agents. In addition to chicken, the food contains pea protein and potato protein as concentrated sources of protein. The food contains small amounts of venison, salmon, and ocean fish meal.
Along with prebiotic fiber, various strains of probiotic bacteria help to support digestive health and overall wellbeing.
This Crave dry cat food is marketed for adult cats who live indoors.
At 6% fiber on an as-fed basis, it’s slightly higher in fiber than other foods—a quality that some think can help to prevent hairballs in indoor cats. It’s lower-calorie than most dry foods, too—that might help to prevent the obesity common among indoor dwellers.
The food is primarily made from chicken and chicken meal with pea protein and potato protein as secondary sources of amino acids. At 44% protein and 22.2% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, it’s not the most species-appropriate food you can buy.
It is, however, a few meat ingredients ahead of other comparably-priced kibble foods.
Chewy house brand American Journey offers decent-quality food at an accessible price.
This recipe is a poultry-based food featuring turkey, chicken, and eggs as primary protein sources. With an emphasis on animal-derived protein, animal-sourced fat, and relatively minimal carbohydrate content at 22-24% on a dry matter basis, this food is one of the more species-appropriate kibble products you can buy at this price point.
Though this food isn’t the best limited-ingredient food you could buy—it contains four protein sources, two of which are some of the most commonly-allergenic proteins for cats—it’s one of the better dry foods you can buy.
With an emphasis on animal-sourced protein and the inclusion of salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, this food has plenty of carnivore-appropriate nutrition. It also contains several strains of probiotic bacteria for digestive support.
This Earthborn Holistic cat food features turkey and chicken meal as its primary ingredients, followed by peas and several pea derivatives. In addition to legumes as binders and protein sources, the food contains a smattering of supplemental fruits and vegetables like blueberries, carrots, and spinach.
The ingredient list concludes with several strains of probiotic bacteria for digestive health and overall wellbeing.
This recipe from Pure Vita is made with allergic and food-intolerant cats in mind. It features chicken and dried egg product as its primary protein sources. Peas and pea flour hold the kibble together.
Like all Pure Vita foods, the kibble is infused with the Good4Life system of digestive supplements and is DNA tested to ensure that it doesn’t contain any proteins that aren’t on the label.
At 24% calories from carbohydrate, the food is slightly lower-carb than your average kibble.
With an ingredient list centering around fresh, clearly-named ingredients like deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and cod, 83% of this food’s protein content comes from meat. After these ingredients, the recipe consists of legumes, chicken fat, probiotics, and synthetic vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
It’s a protein-rich food with slightly less carbohydrate matter than most dry foods on the market.
This food from Purina ONE’s True Instinct line is one of the better economy-level dry foods on the market.
It’s far from perfect—the food contains poultry by-product meal, vaguely-named animal fat, and a few concentrated sources of plant protein—but it’s better than many of its neighbors on the budget-tier shelf. The recipe doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives that might harm your cat. It emphasizes meat over plants. And it contains animal-derived fat instead of plant oils.
With 93% of Chewy reviewers saying they’d recommend it to a friend, this food is a big hit among customers. Most reviewers say that it tastes great and meets their quality requirements.
Most cats have low thirst drives, meaning that they don’t lap up enough water to make up for a moisture-depleted diet. Considering that cats rarely get enough water through drinking alone, a high-moisture diet is the best way to make sure they get the hydration they need.
High-moisture alternatives to dry food include canned, raw, and homemade cooked recipes. With upwards of 70% water content, these foods are an effortless way to make sure your cat stays hydrated and healthy.