Cats are notoriously picky eaters; some love wet food, some love dry cat food and others will only eat raw food. Whichever type of food your cat prefers, you want to ensure that you’re feeding them the best.
First you need to know a few things about cats’ dietary requirements, then you need to know a few things about cat food ingredients, and then you can look through cat food ratings to find the best cat food that suits your budget.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that the bulk of their diet has to be meat-based as their bodies aren’t able to property digest or absorb nutrients from other food types, like starches, carbohydrates and even most vegetables. This means that even if you are a hardcore vegan, you have to feed your cat meat.
They don’t digest grains very well, so grain-free cat food is best. Having said that, there are some top-quality cat foods that do contain grain, but they are balanced by human-grade meat, essential fatty acids and minerals and vitamins.
Depending on your cat’s lifestyle, age and health, you can also choose to buy specialist cat food, including diets for allergies, hairballs, urinary tract infections, weight loss, digestive problems, kidney problems and mobility problems, as well as diets for indoor cats and you can even get breed-specific cat food (e.g., Siamese cat food).
Choosing food for the right stage of life is also important, as cats’ nutrition needs change with their age. Kitten food should be high in calories, protein, fat and calcium for healthy growth, while senior cat food should be lower in calories and contain nutrients for healthy joints and other age-related concerns, such as sensitive stomachs.
Cat food ingredients
We’ve said that cats are obligate carnivores, so their food needs to consist primarily of meat. When you’re looking at cat food ingredients, at least 3 of the first 5 ingredients should be meat or meat meals. One of the other first 5 ingredients should be a ‘good’ fat. Grains should not feature heavily, nor should ‘by-products’. Try to avoid foods with wheat and soy, as these are common food allergens for cats.
Wet cat food tends to tick more of the recommended dietary requirements than dry food, especially regarding the meat : grain ratio. Wet food also contains more water, which helps keep cats, who have low thirst drives, hydrated. A combination of wet and dry food is nice for cats who like to eat little bits for breakfast and supper and snack during the day. It’s best to use the same brand of dry and wet cat food for consistency, rather than to mix and match brands.
Raw food diets are also popular for cats, especially brands that use fresh, organic ingredients.
Best cat food brands
Websites like Consumeraffairs.com and Consumersearch.com have compiled (and regularly update) lists of the best cat food brands on the market, including dry food, wet food, saw food, special diets and grain-free food. The rating criteria are quite strict and look at the quality of the meat ingredients, the quality of the grain (if there is grain), safety (recalls) and even the price of different cat foods available.
Here’s an overview of some of the best rated cat foods available.
- Purina Pro Plan canned and dry cat food comes in different varieties for medical problems and life stages (kitten, adult and senior).
- 9Lives canned and dry cat food for weight control, healthy skin and healthy digestion
- Hills wet and dry cat food is available in several varieties for kittens, adults and older cats, including Science Diet, Prescription Diet and Ideal Balance (e.g., Hills for joint and mobility (j/d), digestive problems (i/d), urinary tract health (c/d) and Hills for senior cats and kittens). Hills cat food is well-known for being recommended by veterinarians.
- Innova Natures Table is grain-free, gluten-free and by-product-free. It contains added vitamins, minerals, 11 amino acids and flaxseed oil for essential fatty acids.
- EVO Cat Food is high in protein, low in carbohydrates and grain-free and contains no artificial preservatives or ingredients. It’s available in dry and canned cat food varieties and is good for weight control in inactive or indoor cats.
- Eukanuba Cat Food has a high protein content with added essential fatty acids for improved overall wellbeing. There are a range of veterinary diets for cats with medical problems, including obesity, kidney, intestinal, skin and urinary tract problems.
- California Natural Cat Food is organic, allergen free and has no artificial preservatives, coloring or flavors.
- HealthWise Cat Food (under the Natura pet food brand) contains no by-products and is low in magnesium with high levels of natural essential fatty acids. It is recommended for cats with urinary tract infections and hairballs.
- Nature’s Variety Cat Food comes in canned, dry and raw varieties (Instinct Raw). Its limited ingredients, high protein content and the fact that it is grain- and gluten-free make it a good choice for cats with food allergies. It’s also known as one of the few canned cat food brands that doesn’t use carrageenan to thicken its wet food; in fact it doesn’t use any thickeners.
- Merrick Cat Food has dry and wet food varieties for kittens and senior cats and is grain-free.
- Orijen Dry Cat Food comes in adult and kitten and dry and wet varieties and is well known for its high quality protein content and for being grain-free, preservative-free and using only natural ingredients.
- Wellness Core Original Dry Cat Food uses only natural ingredients and high-quality protein. It is grain-free and contains added probiotics for gut health and flaxseed and salmon oil for essential fatty acids.
- Blue Buffalo Wild Delights Cat Food comes canned and dry, both of which are grain-free and gluten-free and contain no by-products, artificial preservatives or common allergens like wheat and soy.
- Halo Spot’s Canned Cat Food is grain-free and contains all natural ingredients. The protein content is fresh meat and it contains complete vitamins and minerals.
- Nature’s Logic Feline Canned Cat Food is a premium brand that boasts all natural ingredients for a diet that is similar to what cats would eat in the wild. Nature’s Logic also has an excellent quality frozen raw food option.
- Newman’s Own Organics Canned Cat Food is made with human-grade ingredients, although it does contain grain and carrageenan.
- Trader Joe’s Canned Cat Food is a great value for money cat food brand that offers premium quality at supermarket prices.
- Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula is a premium quality dry cat food that is corn, soy and by-product free.
- The Honest Kitchen Grace offers premium quality dehydrated raw cat food that contains human-grade ingredients.
- Feline’s Pride Chicken Formula provides cats with a balanced and complete diet in frozen raw food form.
- Weuva Canned Cat Food is grain-free, GMO-free, MSG-free and carrageenan-free.
- Petcurean Go! Fit + Free Grain Free Cat Food has a high protein content and contains essential fatty acids and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Acana Pacifica Cat & Kitten Fish Formula Dry Cat Food contains all natural ingredients and 11 essential amino acids and is grain-free. Acana’s Grassland Regional Grain-Free Cat Food has a high-protein content and is low in carbohydrates and magnesium. It also contains 11 essential amino acids.
- Nutrience Natural Fish & Duck Formula dry cat is not grain-free but it provides a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates and is good for cats with sensitive stomachs.
- Fromm Game Bird Formula cat food contains cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, with chicory root extract and taurine for healthy eyes and heart.
- Chicken Soup for the Soul Dry Cat Food provides a complete and balanced diet of protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
- Evanger’s Pheasant & Whitefish Formula is by-product free and doesn’t contain allergens like corn, wheat and soy. It contains essential fatty acids and taurine for eye and heart health.
- Wysong Uetic Feline Dry Diet supports cats who have problematic urinary tract systems. It contains micronutrients, probiotics, prebiotics, essential fatty acids and antioxidants.
- Precise Holistic Cat Food is recommended for cats with skin allergies and who are prone to ear infections and leaky gut syndrome. It’s high in meat protein and includes crude fat and vitamins and minerals for overall health.
- Natural Planet Organic Cat Food is internationally certified for its organic integrity. Its protein content is high (organic crude meat) and it is by-product-free.