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Choosing cat food isn't always a straightforward process. It's a cat owner's responsibility to provide for a cat's basic needs, including its nourishment requirements, which can change over time.
"Cats are what we call obligate carnivores, meaning they must have protein as the majority of their diet," Dr. Lewis Singleton, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital in South New Jersey, explains. "Cats are not able to naturally make certain amino acids and vitamins such as taurine, arginine, vitamin A, vitamin D3, and other B vitamins, and therefore they must be included in their diet." Wet cat foods typically contain satisfying meat blends packed with amino acids, but what about dry kibble?
With Dr. Singleton's guidance in mind, here are the best premium dry cat foods.
Best Overall: CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Indoor Adult Cat Food
Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Salmon | Life Stage: Adult
Comes in various flavors
Uses real meat
Provides immunity support
The best premium option overall is Crave Indoor Adult Cat Food. It comes in various flavors, including chicken, chicken with salmon, salmon with ocean fish, turkey, chicken, and duck blend. Catering to the protein-rich diets cats need to thrive, the number one ingredient is meat. Other nourishing ingredients include pea protein, potato protein, flaxseed, and several essential vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin E which research shows can help cats' immune systems. Inspired by your pet's ancestral hunting diet, the recipes are created with high-quality protein and carbohydrates for healthy muscles, energy, and immunity support.
Best for Weight Loss: Blue Buffalo Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
Weight: 1 pound | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Brown Rice | Life Stage: Adult
Uses real deboned meat
Formulated without artificial preservatives
Bag isn't resealable
If you're looking for dry cat food to support weight loss, we suggest Blue Buffalo Weight Control. It's developed with an optimal blend of animal protein and calories, which helps your pet achieve and maintain an ideal body mass. Real deboned meat is the first ingredient. After that, you'll find brown rice, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids, vegetables, fruit, and vitamins. The round kibble contains a blend of specially-formed bites that are processed with less heat, which the manufacturer says helps preserve the nutritional value of the ingredients.
"The food is entirely free of corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, and preservatives. It also meets the nutritional standards established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), meaning that it’s a well-balanced and complete meal." —Nick Ingalls, Product Tester
Best for Kittens: Orijen Biologically Appropriate Cat Food
Weight: 11.9 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Cat & Kitchen | Life Stage: All
Uses fresh ingredients
85 to 90 percent animal-derived ingredients
If you've got a kitten at home, we recommend Orijen Biologically Appropriate Cat Food (formerly called Orijen Cat & Kitten Dry Food). It's formulated with fresh, whole ingredients like free-range chicken, cage-free eggs, and wild-caught fish, providing your developing kitten with the nutrients they need to grow. Also, you won't find any grains in the ingredients list, which some owners prefer to avoid. All components of the recipe are selected with your feline's biological needs in mind.
Best for Adult Cats: Royal Canin Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food
Weight: 15 pounds | Form: Dry, Pellets | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult
Rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals
Comes in 3-, 7-, or 15-pound bags
The best premium dry cat food for adult felines is Royal Canin Indoor Dry. Recommended by Dr. Singleton, it's formulated with a blend of fiber for digestion and weight maintenance.
This cat food contains optimal portions of chicken meal, animal fat, vegetable fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The highly digestible and metabolizable ingredients keep your adult cat healthy, energized, and satisfied. Be sure to buy this food from a reputable pet retailer as counterfeit versions of this pet food seem to be an issue. If you're shopping on Amazon, it's best to make sure the product is being sold and shipped by the manufacturer.
Best Raw: Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Dry Cat Food
Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Game Bird Recipe | Life Stage: Adult
Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Uses chicken and turkey meal
If you (or your pet) are partial to raw ingredients, Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused is your best option. This all-natural dry cat food caters to an ancestral feline diet. It's full of crave-worthy animal protein, including freeze-dried whole pieces of raw fish or game birds that help your cat's food taste fresh.
This grain-free and digestion-friendly recipe is full of taste, texture, and smell your cat will love. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy fur and skin.
Best Organic: Castor & Pollux Organix Grain Free Organic Cat Food
Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Sweet Potato | Life Stage: All
Made with free-range chicken
USDA Certified organic
Some cats refuse to eat it
If you're looking for an organic option, pick up a bag of Castor & Pollux Organix. This grain-free dry cat food is cooked in a certified organic kitchen. The number-one ingredient is free-range chicken, which is combined with a nutritional superfood blend of cranberries, coconut oil, and flaxseed. It doesn't have any added growth hormones, antibiotics, or artificial preservatives.
Best Grain-Free: Wellness CORE Grain Free Natural Dry Food for Adult Cats
Weight: 11 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken (Indoor) | Life Stage: Kitten, Adult
Helps maintain a healthy coat
Uses chicken and turkey meal
Although some cats may have allergies to certain grains, on the whole there's little researching showing that grain-free diets on the whole are healthier than conventional cat food diets. Nonetheless, some pet owners prefer grain-free.
Wellness Core is a natural dry cat food free of grains and fillers. The recipes contain real poultry or fish as the main ingredient and includes animal proteins and fats, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. This cat food is formulated to provide energy, promote digestion, immunity support, and a healthy coat.
Best Vet-Recommended: Hill's Science Diet Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food
Weight: 15.5 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult
Made with high-quality meat
Keeps cat full
More carbs than other formulas
Hill's Science Diet is another option Dr. Singleton often recommends. It's also the number one veterinarian-recommended dry cat food for its special formula of energy-support and digestible ingredients to fuel an indoor lifestyle. With high-quality meat, whole grains, fish oil, animal fat, vegetable fibers, and amino acids, it'll satisfy your cat's cravings and keep them full between meals.
Best with Probiotics: Purina Pro Plan Adult Complete Essentials Dry Cat Food with Probiotics
Weight: 16 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult
Rich in protein
Helps maintain a healthy coat
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials is a high-protein cat food developed with digestive health and immunity in mind. The primary ingredient is real chicken or salmon, combined with brewer's rice and a blend of live probiotics and prebiotics. This dry cat food also has omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin. The ingredient list also has eggs, animal fat, amino acids, and a range of essential vitamins and minerals.
The best overall premium dry cat food is the Crave Grain Free High Protein Indoor Adult Cat Food (view at Amazon). It boasts a protein-rich blend of high-quality meat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, it comes in multiple feline-approved poultry and fish recipes. However, Hill's Science Diet Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food (view at Amazon) is another great choice. The vet-approved formula is packed with meat, whole grains, animal fat, fish oil, and veggie fibers.
What to Look for in a Premium Dry Cat Food
Match your cat’s life stage to the dry food you choose to feed them. Kittens have unique nutritional needs as they grow and develop, so it makes sense to feed them accordingly. Through the active adult years, feed your cat a balanced diet that will supply plenty of nutrients and energy to keep them healthy and happy. Senior cats will have different diet criteria than either of these first two life stages, so pick a formula that has been developed for your kitty’s golden years.
This is a matter of taste, but the fact is that some felines are more finicky than others. Finding a dry cat food that your cat will eat and appreciate is sometimes a challenge, especially if you’re transitioning from wet cat food. While limited ingredient foods are good for digestion, they’re not always as appetizing to some cats. You may need to experiment with different protein sources and ingredients to find a dry cat food that your cat will gobble up.
Your cat needs certain nutrients to thrive, including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. For instance, taurine is an essential amino acid that your cat needs to absorb through diet. Look for dry cat food that meets the minimum daily requirements for essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
One thing to note is that your cat does not need carbohydrates in his or her diet, although there's no data to show what the optimal carbohydrate percent for cats should be.
How much dry cat food should you feed a cat?
If you're unsure of how much dry food to feed your particular cat, you can refer to the packaging for guidelines or check with your veterinarian. To give you a general idea, you should consider factors such as your cat's weight and age. Most adult cats (one year and older) can be fed around a quarter of a cup of dry food twice daily. Older cats or ones with special needs however, may need to be fed more often. This would be a case to check in with your veterinarian.
Ideally, it's recommended to feed your cat a combination of mostly wet food with dry food mixed in. This is because dry food is higher in carbs and cats don't generally need carbs in their diet. In this case, you can look at the recommended feeding amount on each type of food and half them.
What ingredients should you look for in premium dry cat food?
When selecting a premium dry food, it's important to select one that contains essential nutrients to meet your cat's needs. As stated above, taurine is one essential amino acid you should always look for in a dry food because it helps with digestion, muscle function, and immunity. Look for other ingredients like protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber helps with digestive function and weight management while high-quality protein (turkey, fish, chicken, etc.) keeps your cat energized and satisfied. A dry food high in omega-3 fatty acids is also more ideal as it helps promote healthy fur and skin.
Can dry cat food go stale?
Like any other pet food, dry cat food can go bad. Always check the "best by" date to make sure your food isn't past its due date. To best preserve your dry food, keep it in the original packaging—these bags are designed to help food maintain its freshness as long as possible.
Make sure to seal the bag properly after use to avoid air exposure as well. Air exposure can cause degradation of the food. Store your food in a cool, dry place as opposed to out in the sun as that can cause the temperature and humidity to rise in the bag.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Theresa Holland is a professional writer and animal lover with extensive experience writing about cats and dogs. In addition to The Spruce, she regularly contributes to MyDomaine and Byrdie.
For this piece, Theresa interviewed Dr. Lewis Singleton, a veterinarian at Banfield Pet Hospital, to obtain more information on dry cat food. Choosing the right cat food can be a daunting task, but consulting with a veterinarian about key ingredients to look for (or avoid) can make the task less intimidating. To make this list, each pick's flavor and nutrients were considered, as well as the cat's life stage.