Best dry cat food 2024 how to know what to feed your cat

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Pet food is a multi-billion dollar industry with many brands touting to have the best dry cat food. Dry food is the most popular type of cat food but choosing which one to feed your cat can simply be overwhelming. The market and shelves are choc-a-bloc with cat food, with more new diets being introduced every year. It’s helpful to know tips for feeding a cat properly to assist you in being able to evaluate pet food manufacturers’ claims carefully. 

Various factors, including if your cat is adult or senior in age, their health status, personal preferences, and any dietary restrictions they may have, all play a role in your decision. Additionally, individual cats may respond differently to different brands and formulations. 

It's always a good idea to use reputable cat food brands known for producing high-quality dry cat food and the best wet cat food , but to help cut through all the noise and bring you trusted advice, we enlisted two vets to their thoughts on the nutritional content of the products featured in this guide.

We cover all the important elements such as flavors, calorie content, protein content and fat content, and provide an informative summary of why we’ve selected it as a top option for your furry feline friend. Plus, our experts answer that age old question — is dry cat food best? 

Expert opinion in this guide is provided by:
Dr Diana Hasler
Expert opinion in this guide is provided by:
Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Dr. Diana Hasler graduated with distinction from the University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in 2018. She has experience working as a small animal veterinarian in general practice, where she has treated many dogs, cats, rabbits, and rodents.

Dr Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS BVMedSci MRCVS
Dr Joanna Woodnutt MRCVS

Dr Joanna Woodnutt qualified as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham where she then went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She really took to the consulting side of things and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better.

PetsRadar's pick of the best dry cat food

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Rachael Ray Nutrish Indoor Complete Chicken with Lentils & Salmon Recipe Natural dry cat food

(Image credit: Rachael Ray)

Rachael Ray Nutrish Indoor Complete Chicken with Lentils & Salmon Recipe Natural Dry Food

Best overall dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 3lbs, 6lbs, 14lbs
Flavors: Chicken
Calories: 375 per cup
Protein: 14%
Fat: 14%

Reasons to buy

+
Made from real chicken
+
Good for metabolism 
+
Grain-free
+
No artificial flavors or colorings

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy on carbohydrates

This food contains two protein sources—chicken and salmon—to provide your cat with essential nutrients required to maintain healthy organs and lean muscle mass. Salmon additionally provides omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties that benefit cats’ skin, coats, and joints. The food contains lentils and dried pumpkin as sources of fiber to support digestive health.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Founded by the eponymous celebrity chef, the Rachael Ray Nutrish brand is well-known for its natural ingredients and nutritional benefits. It is therefore no surprise that this chicken-based, dry cat food option is a bestseller, and popular among cat owners to boot.

This particular brand uses real US farm-raised chicken  free from poultry by-products. Full of Omega-6 fatty acids – not to mention protein – your cat’s skin and coat will be guaranteed a healthy shine should you choose to purchase it.

Moreover, it’s grain-free, which effectively reduces any risk of allergies for your cat. Further reducing this risk is the fact that this contains a number of natural ingredients, such as brewers rice, corn gluten meal, as well as dried ground peas to contribute on the carbohydrate front. Added vitamins and minerals  aid your cat’s digestion and overall health, and there are no artificial fillers.

The small pieces of kibble make it easier to chew and digest, and the crisp and crunch texture is kinder to cats’ teeth, also ensuring that they are kept clean. Many owners praised it for making great treats when training their kitties, too!

However, it should be mentioned that the recipe does contain corn gluten meal, which could be a potential allergen for your cat. So if your cat does suffer from corn allergies, this is probably not the one for you. Also, bear in mind that the formula is quite high in carbohydrates, so you’d need to keep track if your cat starts getting tubby!

Overall, this is the ultimate in dry cat food that provides natural flavors, nutrition, and bags of protein, as well as representing good value for money compared to other premium cat food brands. And with a winning formula created by cat nutritionists, you can only expect the best balance of flavor and nutrition for your feline friend.

9 Lives Daily Essentials Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: 9 Lives)

9 Lives Daily Essentials with Chicken, Beef & Salmon Flavor Dry Cat Food

Best budget dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 3.15lb, 12lbs, 20lbs and 28lbs
Flavors: Chicken, beef, salmon
Calories: 310
Fat content: 28%
Protein: 31%

Reasons to buy

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Nutritionally complete and balanced
+
Good for those on a budget
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Low-fat formula

Reasons to avoid

-
Contains common allergens

The addition of chicken, beef, and salmon products makes this a tasty food for cats on a budget. Although the ingredients may not be as high quality as those in other foods on this list, this food has been formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of adult cats as established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

It’s not hard to see why this kibble is proving such a hit amongst pet parents with its large bags, delicious recipes, and affordable price - it ticks all the boxes for most feline furkids and their owners.

Offering 100% complete and balanced nutrition, each tasty and crunchy bite of kibble contains all the nourishment your cat needs to thrive. Omega 3 fatty acids help promote healthy skin and a shiny coat, there’s taurine for heart and vision health, and plenty of protein to help build and maintain strong muscles.

Granted, it’s not going to suit every kitty and the low price does mean you get ingredients thrown into the mix that you won’t find in other more high-end brands, like corn, wheat, and soy. So if you have a furkid with a sensitive digestive system or allergies, it might be best to steer clear of this one. 

But if allergies aren't an issue with your cat and you're looking for a tasty formula that won't break the bank, this kibble from 9 Lives offers solid nutrition and outstanding value for money.

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

(Image credit: Stella and Chewys)

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Dinner Morsels

Best premium dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 0.2lbs, 0.5lbs, 1.1lbs
Flavor: Rabbit
Calories: 131
Protein: 44%
Fat: 30%

Reasons to buy

+
Protein-packed
+
Organic ingredients
+
Includes taurine

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Probably not great as a whole meal

Another product that's made almost entirely from something that probably wouldn't traditionally be described as kibble (in this case, dried rabbit), this will nonetheless have plenty of appeal for many cats.

As those of you who have cats who like to bring in the occasional woodland creature will testify, cats like the taste of raw meat, and this is the next best thing, especially if your cat dwells indoors.

Packed with taurine, this also includes taurine for vital organ enrichment. 

Proudly boasting organic credentials, this is free from grain, gluten, and any other artificial preservatives you care to name. 

However, you need to be careful when considering whether it's the right thing to feed your cat with – some don't too well with raw meat diets, even if you only intend to use this as a meal topper.

Regardless, if you want to feel like you're doing the environment a good turn, this could be something to go for. 

Purina Beyond Grain Free dry cat foodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Purina)

Purina Beyond Simply Grain Free

Best grain-free dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 3lbs, 5lbs, 11lbs, 16lbs
Flavors: Chicken
Calories: 394
Protein: 35%
Fat: 14%

Reasons to buy

+
Real meat
+
High protein
+
Limited ingredients

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

If you prefer to feed your cat grain-free food, Purina Beyond makes three different flavors for cats with different tastes. These diets contain high-quality protein with added fiber, and they are rich in antioxidants to support the immune system and natural probiotics to support gut health. They also contain limited ingredients for cats with potential food intolerances or sensitivities.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If you're looking for a high-quality kibble with a limited ingredient list that's free from many known allergens, then look no further than this popular formula from Purina.

High in protein, with real chicken as the first ingredient, this gluten-free and grain-free kibble comes packed with natural probiotics for a healthy digestive system, making it ideal for cats with sensitive stomachs.

With no corn, wheat, soy, poultry by-product meal, or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, it's gentle on the digestive system but comes packed with nutrition. Featuring taurine for heart and vision health, zinc for a robust immune system, and calcium for strong bones, this kibble has everything your kitty needs and none of what they don't. 

It's more expensive than other kibbles, that's for sure, but if you're looking for a clean and limited ingredient list that's free from a lot of the nasties found in inexpensive brands and has a rich and meaty taste your kitty will love, this option from Purina is well worth a try. 

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Amazon)
Best dry cat food for older cats

Specifications

Weight: 5lbs, 6lbs, 9.5lbs, 11lbs, 12lbs
Flavors: Chicken
Calories: 443
Protein: 40%
Fat: 18%

Reasons to buy

+
Packed with real chicken 
+
BLUE’S ‘LifeSource Bits’ of vitamins and minerals
+
Grain-free

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly more expensive than other brands
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Only sold in the US

It has a high protein content (crude protein: 40%), so this diet should not be fed to cats with kidney disease, as high-protein diets can exacerbate the disease.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

As your feline friend gets older, there are some things to consider. Firstly, their metabolism starts to slow down, as they no longer get as much exercise. As a result, they need fewer calories in their meals, and smaller portions. Another worry with older cats is they may develop specific health problems and not be eating as well as they should be. To care for your senior cat, you would need to tailor their diet to ensure optimum health and a longer life.

The Blue Buffalo formula has been enriched with its special, LifeSource bits (a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and superfoods), and made with the best natural ingredients.

The first ingredient is real salmon. It’s also loaded with antioxidant-rich superfoods to support immunity, Omega-3 for a healthy skin and coat, taurine for vision and heart health, and essential amino acids to fuel all their fun activities. Plus, its fiber blend helps maintain healthy digestion, and is kind to tummies. There are never any grains, gluten, wheat, or by-products. It has the added benefit of having more than 75% moisture content that will help your feline pal stay hydrated much longer.

Cats seem to love this brand, and enjoy the flavors, although a few owners have mentioned the kibble being too small for their older cats, causing them to drop out of their mouths. Others have stated that it has helped to alleviate existing stomach problems, and vomiting from other brands. And many have praised the formula for making their feline friend’s coat super soft and shiny.

Bear in mind that a few owners mentioned that it made their cats sick after eating; however this could be due to an undiagnosed allergy. 

Compared to similar brands, prices are expensive. The brand is also only sold in the US which means you’ll need to order online if you live outside of the US. However, with all the nutritional benefits, you wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more for quality.

Royal Canin Hairball Care dry cat food

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Hairball Care

Best dry cat food for preventing hairballs

Specifications

Weight: 6lbs, 14lbs
Flavors: Chicken
Calories: 524
Protein: 29%
Fat content: 17%

Reasons to buy

+
Special blend of dietary fibers helps prevent vomiting and hairballs
+
High protein and fat content
+
Reduces plaque buildup 

Reasons to avoid

-
Contains wheat and corn

This food claims to contain an exclusive blend of dietary fibers that can benefit cats who have issues with hairballs by stimulating the gastrointestinal tract to pass ingested hairs through the stomach and into the intestines. This allows hairballs to pass through the digestive tract into the feces instead of being vomited back up.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

Royal Canin Hairball Care is a specialist food that aims to provide a superior source of nutrition for cats who have a tendency to cough things up. As such, its formula claims to move hairballs on through the body and out of the stomach, rather than all over your floor surfaces.

To do this it uses a blend of insoluble dietary fibres which sweep through the stomach and into the bowels, meaning hairballs are excreted as opposed to being vomited up. They also help stimulate good digestion and the increased absorption of nutrients.

In addition, Royal Canin Hairball Care’s balance of dietary fibres includes psyllium along with other minerals that will aid the digestive health of your cat beyond just preventing hairballs. This includes benefits like a healthier coat and better teeth to name just two.

It seems to be fairly successful at achieving its aim too, with numerous owners of long haired cats leaving glowing reviews that report a noticeable reduction in hairballs. Although some reviewers remarked that it cost more than standard food, most stated they would remain using it despite the extra cost due to its effectiveness. 

Hills Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach And Skin Chicken Dry Cat FoodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Hills)

Hill's Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach And Skin Chicken Dry Cat Food

Best dry cat food for digestive issues

Specifications

Available sizes: 3.5lbs, 7lbs,15.5lbs
Flavors: Chicken
Calories: 524
Protein: 29%
Fat: 17%

Reasons to buy

+
High in prebiotic fiber
+
Easy to digest
+
Vet recommended

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one flavor choice

This diet has high digestibility to allow optimal absorption of nutrients in cats who have a sensitive tummy. It contains prebiotic fiber to support “good” bacteria in the guts and allow for a balanced microbiome. It also provides vitamin E and omega-6 fatty acids to support skin health in cats who are prone to dry skin.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If your kitty struggles with regular digestive upsets then this gentle formula that’s been specially designed for sensitive stomachs could be the perfect solution. With high levels of prebiotic fiber to fuel beneficial gut bacteria and support a balanced microbiome, this kibble is highly digestible for optimal nutrient absorption. 

With plenty of Vitamin E and Omega-6 fatty acids, this nourishing formula is also ideal for cats with skin or coat issues. Plus, according to the Research in Veterinary Science journal, Vitamin E is beneficial for a cat's immune systems. Designed to help promote and maintain healthy skin and lustrous fur, the soothing blend of ingredients will have your kitty looking their best in no time.

We love that this recipe has recently undergone an overhaul, making real chicken the number one ingredient and introducing a proven antioxidant blend of vitamins and minerals to strengthen your cat’s immune system. 

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet dry cat foodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Instinct)

Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet

Best simple-ingredient dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 5, 11lbs
Flavors: Turkey
Calories: 463
Protein: 35.5%
Fat: 16.5%

Reasons to buy

+
Simple ingredient list
+
Free from many known allergens
+
Raw coated kibble

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

This food contains turkey meal as its first ingredient and is nutritionally balanced according to the AAFCO guidelines for adult cat food. Before making the decision to feed your cat raw food, it is important to note that raw diets increase the risk of your cat developing digestive infections with Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, among others—this risk also applies to any humans who handle their cat’s raw food.

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

With a clean and limited ingredient list that contains only one animal protein and one vegetable, this formula from Instinct is ideal for cats with food sensitivities. Made with farm-raised rabbit or turkey, this nutrient-rich and easily digestible kibble provides all the essential amino acids your kitty needs to thrive.

Made without grain, dairy, eggs, chicken, beef, fish, sweet potato, potato, chickpeas, corn, wheat, soy, artificial colors or preservatives, this kibble eliminates all of the common allergens that can prove difficult for kitties with delicate digestive systems and yet it still contains high levels of Omegas and antioxidants for a healthy skin, coat, and immune system.

Perhaps the most unique thing about this formula is that it's the first raw-coated kibble, where every piece is coated in freeze-dried raw rabbit or turkey for extra nutrition and taste. Minimally processed and made with only the highest quality ingredients, this protein-packed kibble is well worth a try.

Solid Gold Grain-Free Dry Cat Food for indoor catsPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Solid Gold)

Solid Gold Let’s Stay In Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food

Best dry cat food for indoor cats

Specifications

Available sizes: 3lb, 6lb, 12lb
Flavors: Salmon, chicken
Calories: 425
Protein: 36%
Fat: 16%

Reasons to buy

+
Prevents hairballs
+
Probiotics for gut health
+
Real meat

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited range of flavors

This food is high in protein, with salmon as its main protein source, and it provides probiotics and lentils (a fiber source) to support gut health. It also claims to provide hairball control for cats prone to hairballs. While there is no chicken protein, this food does contain turkey meal, so this diet is not suitable for cats with sensitivities to poultry

Dr. Diana Hasler BVM&S MRCVS

If your feline furkid spends the bulk of their time indoors and you're looking for a formula that will meet their unique needs and nourish them from the inside out, this kibble from Solid Gold is well worth considering.

Crafted specifically with indoor cats in mind, it features fermentable fiber and probiotics to aid digestion, improve gut health and prevent the formation of hairballs. 

It also contains a powerful superfood blend that includes ingredients like pumpkin, almonds, lentils and broccoli to ensure your kitty gets all the vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy.

Containing 100% real salmon as the first ingredient, this formula is grain and gluten free and comes packed with omega fatty acids to support skin, coat and immune health.

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Ziwi Peak)

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Recipe Cat Food

Best hypoallergenic dry cat food

Specifications

Weight: 0.8lbs, 2.2lbs
Flavor: Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Mackerel & Lamb
Calories: 256
Protein: 44%
Fat: 24%

Reasons to buy

+
Made from healthy ingredients
+
High in protein and low in carbs
+
Environmentally sustainable

Reasons to avoid

-
High-protein diet might not be suitable for all cats

Offering its customers a taste of New Zealand, this product presents a twist on conventional kibble by being made from dried meat.

There are a number of different types on offer – this product is mackerel and lamb, – such as beef, chicken, and venison – giving you a choice of high-end products to feed your cat with.

As you would expect from an all-meat product, the protein percentage is very high. This is ideal for hypoallergenic cats, but might not be to all felines' tastes, especially those with kidney disorders.

There is also a 'superfood' twist; being cold-washed in Green Tripe, New Zealand Green Mussels, and Organic Kelp, it claims to support healthy weight, less shedding, and joint health. Taurine is also included to support brain and heart health.

While this product is inevitably more expensive than other products due to its composition, the health benefits are undeniable. If you're reluctant to give your cat an all-meat diet, why not use it as a topper on their existing meals?

How to choose the best dry cat food

Finding the right dry cat food to suit your feline friend can be challenging. If you're not sure which is the best dry cat food for your kitty, there are a few important things to consider when purchasing.

Age: First, consider your cat’s age. Dry cat foods are often formulated and specifically designed for the age and size of your kitty. So whether you have older or younger cats, you’ll need a formula to provide the right amount of nourishment.

Protein and fat sources: Look for quality first ingredients such as real chicken, lamb, turkey, salmon, and tuna, which are all rich in protein. Chicken liver and heart are both rich in taurine, an amino acid that humans produce but cats cannot. Generally, focus on foods that contain calcium, fats, and essential vitamins. And try to avoid those with artificial fillers designed to make your cat feel full, and lack any nutritional value.

Dietary restrictions: Consider your cat’s dietary restrictions, needs, or conditions, such as allergies or weight issues. There are some dry cat food brands tailored to specific dietary needs to help maintain optimal health. 

Value for money: Cost and value for money are other factors, as cat food can often be expensive. Choose a suitable quality brand within your budget and avoid the latest expensive trends. Of course, you need to consider your cat’s tastes and preferences as to what they like and dislike. Whether they prefer chicken or tuna, or large or smaller-sized kibbles, this will influence what you purchase. Plus it will make your beloved cat more happy, healthy, and content in the long run!

How much dry cat food should I feed my cat?

As a rule of thumb, you should always be checking the product packaging guidelines for how much of it you should feed to your cat as this can depend on their weight and build. But you are safest to consult a vet on this if you want to feel extra confident that your moggy is being fed the right amount and that the food fits your pet’s unique dietary requirements. A vet will also be able to advise on a good wet-to-dry food ratio for your cat’s diet. 

Is dry cat food better than wet?

Woodnutt tells us that both wet and dry food can provide complete nutrition for your cat, and either is a suitable choice. 

“However,” she says, “A wild cat’s diet is about 80% moist