Cat owners may see their indoor cat as just that — an indoor cat. But the cats themselves like to stalk and play like they’re a lion hunting in the wild.
However, your indoor cat’s dietary needs may be closer to a lion than you realize, which can make it challenging to find dry cat food that meets all their nutritional needs.
That’s why we’ve put together a quick guide to find the best dry cat foods that deliver the essential nutrients they need to maintain their overall health. Remember that your cat may have unique dietary needs based on their life stage and unique digestive system and tastes, so consult with your veterinarian for the best advice!
Understanding Cat Nutrition
One of the baselines for understanding your feline friend’s dietary needs is knowing what an obligate carnivore is. Obligate carnivores, a group that includes your house cat, have acidic digestive tracts which quickly consume meat and rely on them for many of their nutritional needs.
However, it’s important to note that obligate carnivores don't only eat meat. In the wild, they consume the whole prey — which includes the stomach of their herbivore prey and provides much of their fiber content in the wild.
As a result, cats need meat mixed into their diet, on top of other ingredients that provide essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and taurine.
How Healthy Is Dry Food for Cats?
With that being said, you’re probably wondering if any dry cat food can deliver all the nutrients cats need, or if you need to mix dry food with wet cat food.
Wet cat food has benefits, like adding water to your cat's diet so they avoid issues like urinary tract blockages. However, there are several benefits to dry food that many cat owners don’t realize.
- Dry food offers flavors and textural variety that may keep a cat more interested in eating than wet food alone.
- Similar to other food formats, dry foods can be specifically formulated to meet dietary needs based on your cat’s life stage or specific digestive issues like sensitive stomachs.
- If fiber-lacking fillers like corn are taken out of dry food ingredient lists, then they can also be a high-protein food that supports a healthy cat!
It’s best to look for a high-quality dry cat food in order to provide your cat with the healthiest option that meets their needs.
What Should You Consider When Choosing Dry Cat Food?
We mentioned the importance of prioritizing dry cat foods filled with healthy ingredients like high-quality carbohydrates, added taurine, and fatty acids instead of fillers and meat by-products. Your cat may also need more specific ingredients in their dry cat food to help control digestive issues like hairballs or support specific needs like bolstering their immune system.
Ingredient Quality and Source
When you read the ingredient list on a bag of dry cat food, you should look for ingredients that come from recognizable sources. For example, real chicken, turkey (muscle and organ meat) and salmon are all good protein sources to see as main ingredients.
Meat meals or by-products may be in many premium-priced cat food, but these ingredients are highly processed, and while they’re high in protein, their nutrients are denatured through the high-heat production process.
Feline life stages (your cat’s age) determine what nutrients they need most, since cats' nutritional needs change as they age.
For example, a kitten would need more moisture-rich food to help them get away from nursing and be more comfortable eating an adult cat diet consisting of a mix of wet and dry foods. Senior cats also have their own special dietary needs to maintain wellness.
Special Dietary Needs
Although feeding your cat according to their life stage is a good guideline, it’s not the rule for maintaining feline health. Remember that each cat is an individual that will have unique dietary needs and even preferences for specific foods.
It’s always important to pay attention to your cat and how they react to food changes while at home. However, the best way to determine their special dietary needs is to have regular visits with a veterinarian who can diagnose any shortcomings in their current diet.
Which Ingredients Should Your Cat Avoid?
There are also cat food ingredients that you should avoid when shopping for dry cat food, so make sure you read the labels thoroughly. Here are a few ingredients to try to steer clear of:
- Low-quality carbohydrates. While carbs are necessary for energy production, cats don’t need as many as other mammals. However, the source of the carbs is important. For example, grains are a cheap and easy-to-add carb source, which is why many pet food brands use them. But cats need more fiber-rich complex carbs, and can meet their carb requirements from other plant-based sources that provide a better balance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Unnecessary dyes, or other ingredients without nutritional value. Some cat foods add ingredients like food dye or artificial flavors to make their food look or taste more appealing. However, if you opt for high-quality, minimally processed cat food, the flavor will come from the ingredients themselves rather than additives.
- Complicated ingredient lists. While it’s not unusual to see ingredients you don’t recognize in the vitamins and minerals section of a bag of cat food, seeing long lists that are full of artificial preservatives (rather than animal protein like real chicken) is a sign that you may need to look further into the brand.
How To Choose Dry Cat Food for Your Pet
Now that you know what not to have in your cat’s diet, we’ll share a short list of how to decide which dry food is right for your cat.
Read the Ingredient List
We’ve already mentioned reading the ingredient list several times, so it’s no surprise that it’s the first step before buying pet food! Use the tips we’ve provided to look for high-quality meats (no meat meals or by-products), check for fiber-rich vegetables (and avoid nutrient-lacking carbs like rice, wheat, or corn), and ensure it’s full of natural ingredients (rather than artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives).
Consider Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
A dry cat food with high-quality ingredients still won’t be the best choice for your cat if it doesn’t match with their nutrition needs. Consider if your cat has a sensitive stomach or needs help with hairball control and their lifestyle. An indoor cat may need different food than a more active outdoor cat.
Still, there are macronutrients that most ingredients fall under and that every cat needs in their diet: water, minerals, protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
If you feel overwhelmed and want advice tailored to your cat, ask your veterinarian. They can make specific recommendations based on your cat’s nutritional needs and health history.
Consider Supplementing With Additional Moisture
Moisture is important for cats, and it’s one of the reasons that dry foods tend to cause challenges with digestion and urinary tract health. However, it’s no secret that dry cat food is a convenient option for many pet owners. Consider topping their kibble with extra hydration, like water, bone broth, or goat’s milk, to keep them happy and healthy!
The Best Dry Cat Food for Cats and Kittens
Your cat deserves food that makes them feel healthy and as active as they want to be, whether they’re a kitten, adult, or senior cat. All of these human grade recipes are made with thoughtfully sourced protein as the first ingredient, were crafted with a vet nutritionist, and have fiber-rich veggies and probiotics to help support digestion.
We’ve listed a few of our best dry cat foods here to get you started!
1. Grain Free Chicken & Whitefish Clusters
Add diversity and excellent animal protein to your cat's diet with this grain free cat food that you’ll feel just as good about buying as your cat feels about eating it.
This dry cat food has an excellent mix of proteins thanks to wild caught fish and cage free chicken as well as a healthy amount of fat, fiber, and moisture in every cup. On top of that, you can give it to a kitten or adult cat, so if they fall in love with it early in life, they can still eat it at their next life stage.
2. Grain Free Turkey & Chicken Clusters
These clusters have a leaner mix of protein that still provides the protein your cat needs. The lower fat content could make this cat food an excellent choice for an indoor cat who is less active than their outdoor counterparts and is a great choice for kittens and adult cats.
3. Grain Free Chicken Clusters
This dry cat food is a great choice for any cat, but it is especially helpful for cats with digestive issues since it has fiber-rich veggies and is boosted with probiotics that support their digestive system. On top of that, it packs a punch of protein to make sure they have all the energy they need!
More Food-Related Tips for a Healthy Cat
Although eating the best dry cat food has a major impact, there are other behaviors and habits that can affect their long-term health:
Follow Feeding Guidelines
Many cats like to see food in their bowls at all times. But if you constantly refill their food, you may struggle to follow the feeding guidelines that keep them healthy.
After all, even healthy foods can become unhealthy when they’re not eaten in moderation, so follow the recommended guidelines for the dry cat food you decide is best for your cat. A great place to start is by making sure that your cat doesn’t eat more than the recommended daily portions for their food.
We also highly recommend you avoid ‘free feeding’ your cat (the practice of leaving your cat’s food out all day), so that you can closely monitor your cat’s calorie intake.
Transition to a New Diet Carefully
Cats have sensitive digestive systems, so if you abruptly change their food, they may react. That could be a physical reaction or a behavioral change like less energy or simply refusing to eat their new food.
The best way to avoid disruptions to their typical behavior is by gradually transitioning your cat to a new food instead of suddenly. Start by mixing your cat’s old food with their new food and increase the quantity over the course of seven to 10 days as they get more comfortable with their new food.
Monitor Your Cat’s Weight
Feline obesity is a serious issue that can take years off your cat's life as well as lessen the quality of those years. While cats can become obese due to natural factors like genetics, their dry food and the amount of it that they eat also plays a major role.
If your cat is overweight, there’s never a bad time to start them on a plan to reach a healthy weight.
If you’re unsure if your cat is overweight, then compare them against this chart to see what range they fall under and continue to monitor their weight moving forward.
[Insert THK cat body weight chart]
The even more accurate way to decide if your cat is obese and how you can help them lose weight is through a visit to your vet with regular follow-ups to make sure your weight loss plan is working.
Find the Best Dry Cat Food from The Honest Kitchen
There are many cat food brands that promise a nutritious meal for your cat. However, The Honest Kitchen is one of the few cat food brands that make their foods to 100% human grade standards.
Whether your goal is to simply maintain your cat’s current health, improve their nutritional intake, or help them reach a healthy weight, The Honest Kitchen is the best place to find the food to help you do it.