The 9 Best Premium Dry Cat Foods of 2021, According to a Veterinarian

Delicious and nutritious options for your feline friend

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Best Premium Dry Cat Food

The Spruce / Sabrina Jiang

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.

Our Top Picks
The main ingredient is meat, which is blended with essential carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.
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With optimal levels of animal protein and calories, it helps cats achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
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It's formulated with fresh ingredients like free-range chicken and wild-caught fish, providing your kitten with the nutrients they need to grow.
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Best for Adult Cats:
Royal Canin Dry Cat Food at Amazon
The highly digestible and metabolizable ingredients will keep your adult cat healthy, energized, and satisfied.
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Merrick's dry cat food is full of high quality animal protein, including freeze-dried whole pieces of raw fish or game birds.
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This cat food is made in a certified organic kitchen with free-range chicken and other organic ingredients.
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The grain-free recipes contain real fish or poultry, plus animal fat, vitamins, amino acids, and probiotics.
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Made with meat, fish oil, whole grains, animal fat, and vegetable fibers, this vet-recommended cat food will satisfy your pet.
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This cat food contains live probiotics and prebiotics for healthy digestion and immunity support.
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Best Overall: CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Indoor Adult Cat Food

CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food

Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Salmon | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Comes in various flavors

  • Uses real meat

  • Provides immunity support

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

Blue Buffalo Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

Weight: 1 pound | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Brown Rice | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Uses real deboned meat

  • Grain-free

  • Formulated without artificial preservatives

What We Don't Like
  • 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.

What Testers Say

"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

orijen-cat-food

Weight: 11.9 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Cat & Kitchen | Life Stage: All

What We Like
  • Uses fresh ingredients

  • 85 to 90 percent animal-derived ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

Royal Canin Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food

Weight: 15 pounds | Form: Dry, Pellets | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Digestion-friendly

  • Rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals

  • Comes in 3-, 7-, or 15-pound bags

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused Cat Food

Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Game Bird Recipe | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Grain-free

  • Digestion-friendly

  • Rich in omega-3 fatty acids

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Castor & Pollux Organix Organic Dry Dry Cat Food

Weight: 10 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken & Sweet Potato | Life Stage: All

What We Like
  • Made with free-range chicken

  • USDA Certified organic

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Wellness CORE Grain Free Natural Dry Food for Adult Cats

Weight: 11 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken (Indoor) | Life Stage: Kitten, Adult

What We Like

  • Various flavors

  • Helps maintain a healthy coat

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Hill's Science Diet Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food

Weight: 15.5 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Made with high-quality meat

  • Keeps cat full

  • Digestion-friendly

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Purina Pro Plan With Probiotics High Protein Adult Dry Cat Food

Weight: 16 pounds | Form: Dry | Flavor: Chicken | Life Stage: Adult

What We Like
  • Rich in protein

  • Digestion-friendly

  • Helps maintain a healthy coat

What We Don't Like
  • Not grain-free

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.

Final Verdict

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.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food
The Spruce / Jordan Provost

What to Look for in a Premium Dry Cat Food

Life stage

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.

Flavor

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.

Essential nutrients

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.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Dry Adult Cat Food
The Spruce / Jordan Provost
FAQ
  • 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.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. O'Brien T, Thomas DG, Morel PC, Rutherfurd-Markwick KJ. “Moderate dietary supplementation with vitamin E enhances lymphocyte functionality in the adult cat.” Res Vet Sci. doi:10.1016/j.rvsc.2015.01.007. PMID: 25660045.

  2. Hunter, Tammy, DVM. “The Importance of Your Pet's Skin and Coat and the Role of Diet.VCA Hospitals.

  3. Clinical Nutrition Team. “Grain-Free Diets – Big on marketing, Small on truth.” Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University. 

  4. Verbrugghe, Adronie, and Hesta, Myriam. "Cats And Carbohydrates: The Carnivore Fantasy?Veterinary Sciences. doi:10.3390/vetsci4040055

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