Cats are cute, cuddly, can live a long time and make for the perfect pet. Just like humans, they require good nutrition to stay healthy and to prevent them getting sick, but it can be difficult to know what food is best for them. There are so many different types of cat food and so many options these days that a trip to your local pet store to pick some up can feel quite overwhelming. How do you know what to look for in cat food? What ingredients are good? What ingredients are going to help keep your cat healthy?
Luckily for you, we have put together this buying guide so you can make an informed decision about which cat food is going to be best for your kitty and their needs. Every cat has unique requirements based on their life stage, weight and health conditions; a kitten is going to need different food to an adult or senior cat, and a less active cat is going to need fewer calories than a more active one to help prevent unhealthy weight gain. The best dry cat foods are rich in protein and low in carbs, yet provide sufficient amounts of moisture to address your cat’s water needs.
What should I look for in cat food?
There are a few things you should focus on when looking at different cat foods so you can make sure you are getting the right one and the right ingredients.
Reading the label of the cat food before you buy is very important because there is a lot of information on there which can help you to determine whether it is right for your cat. First off, you should check the label to see who the food is intended for. Is it designed for kittens or adult cats? Or indoor cats with health conditions? This will help you to determine whether your cat will be getting the right amount of nutrients for their needs.
The label will also state the weight of the bag. Based on the amount of food your cat requires, you will be able to work out how many servings you will be able to get out of the bag and therefore which cat food is the most cost effective.
The ingredients will also be listed on the bag and this is, of course, very important. We will go into more detail about the ingredients below, but the heaviest and most prominent ingredients in the food will be listed first, in order of weight. You should always avoid byproduct meals and look for ingredients that can be found in your fridge so you know they are healthy and nutritious.
Cats are carnivorous and require primarily animal-based proteins to survive. The cat food that you feed your cat should have at least 30% of protein so they are getting the amount they need. Depending on their age, cats will need a different amount of protein. Kittens will need more for helping to build tissues as they grow. Adult cats will require a normal amount of protein to maintain the tissue and older cats will require more protein again to help maintain the tissue alongside other signs of aging.
We go into more detail about the ingredients you should look for in your cat food below, but as a general rule, you should look for the first five ingredients on the label as these are the ones that matter the most and make up most of the cat food. Unlike dogs, cats do not thrive well with carbohydrates in their diet and so the first five ingredients of the cat food should be meat. This can make for expensive cat food, but it is the best, healthiest and most nutritious for your kitty. Some manufacturers will include vegetables in the fist five ingredients which is fine, but at least three out of the five ingredients should be animal products.
You should always know the source of your cat food. Good cat food manufacturers will be closely regulated, so you know that the facilities where they make the food are safe and hygienic. The best option is to stick to US-based companies to be sure. You should look for certain words on the label of the food too, like “grass-fed,” “free-range” and “organic”, as only certain companies can use these words so you can be sure they are safe.
The digestibility of a food relates to how much of the food and nutrients are actually absorbed by your cat. Digestibility can be difficult due to the fact that just because your cat can eat the food, it doesn’t always mean they can digest it well. To tell whether a food is digestible or not, you should remember: whatever isn’t absorbed is excreted. If your cat’s feces are loose, frequent, large, foul-smelling or irregular, the food probably isn’t digestible.
Low quality ingredients like fillers, artificial preservatives and byproducts aren’t well-absorbed. Sometimes, these ingredients can even block the digestion of whatever good ingredients are left in the product. Higher quality, moisture-rich foods help improve the amount of food that is digested by your cat. This brings more vitamins, minerals and nutrients to the tissues in your cat’s body.
What ingredients are best in cat food?
There can be so many ingredients listed on cat food labels these days that it is difficult to know which ingredients are the best. Remember, cats are predators and require meat. The three main things you should look for in cat food is high protein, high moisture and low carbohydrates. Real animal protein is very important for building tissues, especially in young kittens. This protein can come from a range of animals, such as chicken, beef, eggs, venison, lamb, salmon, sardines, mussels and duck. Organ meat, such as chicken or beef liver, is also a bonus.
As cats eat living prey in the wild, evolution has not taught them to eat so many vegetables, even though they are also living organisms. However, there are many nutrients like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins in vegetables and therefore manufacturers include them in cat food. These vegetables should be ones that you can find in your fridge such as sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, apples and berries and can also be a great source of carbohydrates for your cat.
Although cats need a lot of water, they are not wired to recognize thirst within their bodies and therefore do not drink as much as they require. Unless your cat can finish their water bowl every day, vets often recommend you should look for a wet cat food rather than dry kibbles. Kibbles are dehydrated and have all the moisture taken out of them, but wet cat food can be a great way to give your cat the moisture they are not getting otherwise.
Good fats are also a great ingredient for cat food. These can be found in the meat proteins, but can also be supplemented in the food. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, also known as EPA, DHA and ALA.
What ingredients are bad in cat food?
Just as there are things you should definitely be giving your cat, there is also a list of ingredients that your cat should not be eating. Certain ingredients are not suitable for cats and can cause series harm to them if ingested.
Most of these bad ingredients fall under the title of low quality ingredients. If the ingredients are sourced from a cheap location or are vague or nondescript, they may be unhealthy and could worsen health problems within your cat, including diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and obesity. There are also a list of ingredients you should definitely stay away from — low quality or not. Ingredients such as artificial colors or flavors, artificial or synthetic preservatives, corn, wheat, soy, sugar, any byproduct, rendered fat, carrageenan, vitamin 3K, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite.
Often, professionals recommend that if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, your cat shouldn’t be eating it. The best cat food will have only minimal, natural ingredients.
Should I give my cat dry, wet or raw food?
Every cat owner has an idea of which type of cat food is best for their kitty — and they’re right. Dry, wet and raw cat food all have their benefits, but they also have drawbacks, so it is up to you to decide which type of cat food is best for your cat.
A dry cat food is very convenient because you can leave it out for your cat to eat it as and when they want, when you’re not home. It also has a long shelf life and is one of the cheaper options for cat food. You should always make sure that the cat food you has natural ingredients in it — especially the first five ingredients listed on the label. Dry cat food should always be supplemented with wet food, preferably with natural ingredients such as chicken meat or fish.
Wet food has a much higher water content than kibble and can therefore be very beneficial for your cat. As mentioned above, cats do not naturally drink water and need to be taught to use a water bowl. If this is not working, you can try putting your cat on wet food to help increase their moisture intake. However, canned wet food can be a bit more expensive than dry food and it less easy to store and serve.
A raw food diet is completely natural and mimics the diet your cat would experience in the wild. In the wild, cats are strictly carnivorous and only eat raw meat. Therefore, it can be very beneficial to them to try to replicate this at home. A raw cat food diet is generally free from things like BHA and BHT. These are chemical preservatives and are potentially harmful to animals. However, preparing raw meat for your cat every day can be expensive and time consuming, especially with the added issue of the food spoiling and being difficult to store. Because of this, it is not always a possible option for many cat owners.
If you’re ready to find a new product that works for you and your cat, take a look at the list of best cat foods below, all available to you on Amazon.
The Best Cat Food Reviews
The Purina Beyond cat food consists of premium natural ingredients, with the first ingredient being sustainably sourced tuna from the Pacific Ocean. With 38% protein, this food helps your cat to maintain lean muscles, as well as having a balanced ratio of fat, carbohydrates and essential nutrients to help support a long, healthy life and provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition for adult cats. The recipe for this cat food is grain-free are there are no poultry by-product meal, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, so your cat is only getting the best ingredients from trusted sources.
This food also comes in different flavors — Icelandic Arctic Char, Ocean Whitefish and Egg, and Salmon, Egg and Sweet Potato.
This Purina Fancy Feast Medleys canned wet cat food in chicken flavor gives your much-loved kitty a gourmet meal. Protein rich, this cat food is made with chicken as well as tomatoes, carrots and spinach to give a complete and balanced diet to any adult cat, as well as providing essential vitamins and minerals help to keep them healthy. All the ingredients are of high-quality and this food is manufactured in US-facilities so you can be sure it is safe to feed your feline friend.
As this food is wet, it gives your cat the moisture they need to stay hydrated as well as nutrients. Perfect for picky eaters, it comes in twenty-four different flavors, either in a pate, a sauce, a broth or a gravy, so you can be sure there’ll be a flavor your cat will love.
Especially designed to fuel the energy needs of adult cats with an indoor lifestyle, the Hill’s Science Diet dry cat food is made from natural ingredients without any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Chicken is the number one ingredient in this food and this high-quality protein helps your cat maintain lean muscles in their older years. Natural fibers support good digestive health and an easy litter box clean up, and the easy-to-digest ingredients are easy on your cat’s stomach.
With clinically proven antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, you can be sure that this food is supporting your kitty’s immune system, plus DHA from fish oil supports brain health and eye development. Balanced minerals also promote strong teeth and bones. There is no chicken byproduct meal in this food and the food is made in the USA with global ingredients you can trust.
The Blue Buffalo Wilderness is high protein cat food, packed with more of the chicken cats crave to help build and maintain lean muscle mass. It is a grain free adult cat food and made with healthy carbohydrates including sweet potatoes and peas to help fuel your cat’s active lifestyle. Plus, it contains omega 3 & 6 fatty acids to support skin and coat health. There are antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables including carrots, blueberries and cranberries.
Also included are BLUE’s exclusive LifeSource Bits — a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully selected by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists to support immune system health, life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance. This food helps support healthy digestion as well as healthy weight, and amino acids support your cat’s heart and eye health. Formulated for the health and well-being of your cat, only natural ingredients make up this food, enhanced with vitamins and minerals. There are no byproduct meals, corn, wheat, soy or artificial flavors or preservatives.
With delicious flavors of chicken, turkey, salmon and ocean fish, the Meow Mix Original Choice cat food gives 100% complete and balanced nutrition for kittens and adult maintenance. Providing all the essential nutrients and vitamins your cat needs, this food has high-quality protein to help support strong, healthy muscles so your cat can stay active. Antioxidants also present help support a long, healthy life. You can give your cat a single morning serving and, as this is dry food, it can be left out for your cat to graze on as you go to work.
The amount you feed your cat of this food should be adjusted as they grow as well as their activity level so you can monitor aspects such as their weight.
With real chicken being the first ingredient alongside real salmon, the Rachael Ray Nutrish Superfood Blends cat food is easily digestible and provides essential nutrients to help support healthy energy levels and lean muscles in indoor cats. Chicken meal also included provides amino acids and omega-6 fatty acids to give healthy skin and a shiny coat. Naturally rich in fiber, lentils included in this food are low in fat and promote a healthy metabolism and an optimal weight, while fiber-rich pumpkin and leafy-green dandelion greens contain natural probiotics for healthy digestion.
Plus, this food contains cranberries and blueberries, antioxidant-rich fruits that are great sources of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, for a healthy immune system. There is also biotin and zinc present to help reduce shredding, which means less hair around the house! With no ground corn, wheat or soy, poultry byproduct meal or fillers, or artificial flavors or preservatives, all the ingredients in this dry food are of high-quality so your cat is getting the best. Available in two other flavors.
Specially formulated for indoor cats, this CRAVE cat food has 40% high protein from chicken and salmon to give them the meat they need. This protein gives them the nutrients they need for developing muscle, aiding digestion and supporting a healthy immune system, just like they would eat in the wild. This food gives them energy and helps them maintain a lean body, so you do not need to worry about weight issues within your cat.
All the ingredients in this dry food are well balanced for the right nutrients and also of high-quality, and there are no chicken byproduct meals, no wheat, corn or soy protein, no artificial colors or flavors and no artificial preservatives. This food also comes in chicken flavor, salmon and ocean fish flavor and turkey, chicken and duck flavor — so your cat can choose!
With 42% protein, the Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain cat food is packed with highly digestible energy for cats of all ages. Made with a unique combination of roasted venison and smoked salmon as well as chicken meal and ocean fish protein, your cat is getting optimal protein that is vital to a lean and healthy body with strong muscles. This protein is easily digestible energy that also has an optimal blend of amino acids. Superfoods such as fruits and vegetables — peas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, blueberries and raspberries — provide antioxidants that support your cat’s overall well-being, while guaranteed levels of zinc, selenium and vitamin E support the immune system.
In this food there are also omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy skin and a shiny coat, and added probiotics to help support healthy digestion and the immune system too. Made from trusted sources from around the world, there is no corn, wheat, grain or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in this food, so your cat is getting the right nutrients they need.
Halo Spot’s Stew cat food is designed for indoor cats and is made from real, whole chicken and chicken liver and never chicken meal, making sure your cat gets all the nutrients they need from the best part of the chicken. This real chicken also ensure great digestibility, providing more bioavailable nutrients to your indoor cat that you can actually see in their poop — the more digestible it is, the more your cat’s body is going to use it and the less excrement there is for you to pick up! This food is grain free and, alongside the chicken and chicken liver, includes chickpeas and non-GMO vegetables.
There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and all the ingredients come from reputable and sustainable sources. This Halo recipe aims to keep your adult cat at a healthy weight with reduced calories and fat, plus L-carnitine to boost metabolism. Even better, there are fatty acids from non-GMO plant sources and Vitamin E to help support healthy skin and maintain a shiny coat.
Instinct Original dry cat food is made with 81% real animal ingredients and nutritious oils, 19% vegetables, fruits and other wholesome ingredients. Responsibly sourced cage free chicken in the number one ingredient in this food, giving your cat a great source of protein to maintain lean muscles. Designed for all cats, including indoor cats and kittens, there are guaranteed levels of live, natural probiotics to support healthy digestion and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to promote a healthy skin and a shiny coat.
Antioxidant-rich ingredients like apples, carrots and cranberries present in this food also provide great immune health for your cat. There is no grain, potato, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meals, artificial colors or preservatives and each piece of kibble is made from freeze dried raw ingredients for nutrition and taste you can be sure your cat will love. This food is also available in duck, rabbit and salmon, so you can pick the flavor your feline loves!
This Iams Proactive Health cat food is designed for those cats who are prone to hairballs. With a proprietary filter blend, including beet pulp, and prebiotics, this food will help to aid easy digestion and can help reduce hairballs in your kitty. Also designed to help you monitor your cat’s weight, L-carnitine is also present in this food to help burn fat and support a healthy metabolism for an ideal body condition, helping you to maintain your cat’s weight as they get older.
Real chicken is the first ingredient in this food, supporting the build of strong muscles, and seven essential nutrients, including calcium and potassium, help to nourish a healthy heart. There is also an optimal omega 6:3 ratio for healthy skin and a shiny coat.
Ideal for cats at all stages of their lives, the 9Lives dry cat food gives a 100% complete and balanced nutritious diet to your kitty. With the flavors of salmon, chicken and beef, this food not only supports a healthy skin and shiny coat but also a healthy heart and clear vision. The high quality protein in this food helps support strong and lean muscle growth so your cat can be as active as ever. This large bag of dry food will last you a long time and can be left out for your cat to munch on even when you’re not at home. It also comes in different flavors — Protein Plus, Indoor Complete, Lean and Tasty and Plus Care, so you and your cat have options.
Nutro Max adult cat food is formulated for indoor cats and is made with select ingredients and the vitamins and minerals your cat needs for their health and wellness. The number one ingredient in this food is from chicken meal, made with real chicken but with most of the water and fat removed. There are no signs of chicken heads, feet or intestines in the food so you know your cat is getting the nutrients they need. These highly digestible natural ingredients that make up Nutro Max food are fortified with essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids, as well as easy-to-digest rice and never any corn.
There are also no colors, flavors or sweeteners. Ingredients such as vitamin E, taurine, vitamin C, tomato pomace, blueberries, and cranberries provide excellent sources of antioxidants for a healthy immune system, with taurine being essential for your cat’s vision and heart function. Fish oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and chicken fat also present in the food are rich sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, helping to support supple skin and a smooth coat. This food comes in a roasted chicken and a salmon flavor.
This Merrick Purrfect Bistro dry cat food is made with 70% protein for healthy fat ingredients and 30% produce, fiber, vitamins, minerals and other natural ingredients, so your cat is getting the perfect balanced diet. All the ingredients in this food are sourced locally and from trusted farmers and there is no sign of any poultry byproduct, artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy or gluten ingredients. The rich protein helps your cat to maintain lean muscles, while omega-6 and omega -3 fatty acids nourish your cat’s skin and fur to leave it super soft.
The antioxidants present help to support a healthy immune system, so your cat is getting the food they need with results that you can see. Even better, the added fiber in this mix makes it easily digestible while also helping with fur ball control.
With Rachael Ray Nutrish Purrfect Entrees, you get 24 2-ounce cups of wet food made with real white chicken meat and vegetables in real gravy. These all natural ingredients not only give an irresistible taste and texture all felines will love, but they also have added vitamins, minerals and taurine, great for your cats immune system as well as their vision and heart function.
These gourmet meals contain no grain, gluten or filler ingredients as well as no poultry by-product meal, artificial flavors, colors, or artificial preservatives, so you know your cat is getting only the nutrients they need and deserve to stay and healthy and strong. These cups also come in two other flavors — Sea-Sational Florentine and Fin-Tastic Primavera, depending on what your cat likes.
This variety pack of Purina Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers wet cat food has three different flavors even the pickiest of felines will love. In chicken, turkey and beef flavors, this food is made from high-quality ingredients to give a 100% percent complete and balanced nutrition. With small, delicate bites slow cooked to perfection delivering a tempting texture, this food is great for a cats currently uninterested in food and aims to entice them with delicious flavors.
Included in this food are essential vitamins and minerals to support your cats overall health and wellness, allowing you to monitor their weight while not worrying about what you’re feeding them. With this food you should feed an average size adult cat 1 can per 2.5 pounds of body weight daily, and so, while this food may not be the best for larger cats, it is perfect for kittens.
With the Purina Friskies canned wet food, you can deliver more of your cat’s favorite flavors to their dish. Instead of getting bored with the same flavor every day, these cans come in a four different flavor multipack including Salmon Sinner, Mariner’s Catch, Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Dinner and Chicken and Tuna Dinner. Each recipe features a smooth pate texture that is easy to nibble at, giving a great taste that your cat won’t be able to resist.
Made with high-quality ingredients and with real poultry and fish in each serving, you can feel good about the food you give to them, and they’ll also be getting essential vitamins and minerals to help support their overall health and wellness so they can stay active and healthy. This cat food comes in packs forty cans.
Real chicken is the first ingredient in this Crave Grain Free High Protein wet cat food. As cats thrive on a diet of high quality protein, Crave have made sure to include 12% of it in this food, giving your cat the nutrients they need for a lean, healthy body and the energy they need to play. Also included in this food are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, and there are no signs of any grains including wheat, corn and soy.
With no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or chicken byproduct meal, you can be sure your cat is getting only the ingredients they need to help keep them healthy. This cat food comes in packs of 24 and the cans are twin pack — meaning one tray does two servings, so they last you longer.
The Best Cat Food FAQ’s
Should I buy my cat different food based on their life stage?
Just like humans, cats have different needs depending on their age. For example, kittens will need more protein and calories in their food to help them grow, develop and grow muscle quickly. Older cats will need a lower-calories diet to minimize the chance of weight gain or other age-related issues. If you are unsure what you should be feeding your cat in relation to their life stage, you can always ask your vet.
Should I use the feeding recommendations on the label?
While they are useful and a good guideline, every cat is different and so the feeding recommendations on the label of the food may not be right for your cat. It will depend on their age, weight and overall health — again, you can always ask your vet.
Is my cat overweight?
There are a few ways to tell whether your cat is overweight or not. Firstly, you can run your hands along their flank. You should easily be able to feel their ribs but not see them. You can also look at your cat from above, where you should see a narrowing of the waist. Lastly, you can look at your feline from the side; you should be able to see a narrowing here, too.
Can my cat have “human” food?
Technically, you can, but this doesn’t mean you should. Giving your cat food from your plate heightens the risk of you giving them something poisonous. Also, if giving them treats becomes a regular thing, this can quickly lead to weight gain and health issues.
Can cat food go bad?
Cat food can go bad, depending on how you store it. Dry cat food is great in the fact that you can leave it out for your cat to eat when you are not home and it will not go bad over a long period time, as long as it isn’t moist or exposed to high heat. Wet cat food such as canned food shouldn’t be left out for more than four hours, and opened tins can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. You should always make sure to use the cat food before it’s expiration date and always remember to wash your cat’s food and water bowl every week.
How much water should I give my cat?
Cats don’t naturally like to drink water, but they need it! There should always be fresh water available for your cat. This will help them to digest their nutrients better and avoid health problems such as dehydration and urinary tract infections. Proper hydration is even more important if you are feeding your cat dry food, and wet food can be a great way to give your cat the extra moisture they need if they are not drinking from their bowl.
Why does my cat only eat out of the middle of her bowl?
If your cat’s bowl is too deep, this may be causing them pain when they try to eat as their whiskers will bump against the side of the bowl. Therefore, they may be eating out of the middle of the bowl to try to compensate. You can try buying a bowl with lower sides so they do not interfere with your cat’s sensitive whiskers.
Should I change my cat’s food from time to time?
This is completely up to you and your cat’s needs. Some cats will be very happy on the same food for a long period of time, while others will have changing and developing health needs that require different food. Just remember that if you do decide to change your cat’s food, you should introduce the new food slowly and gradually to avoid any stomach upset.
When should I transition my cat from kitten to adult food?
You should transition your cat from kitten to adult food around the age of one. Again, remember to do this carefully and gradually to avoid your cat getting sick, and always monitor how they take to the new food to ensure there are no issues.
Giving your feline friend the nutrition they need is very important to keep them happy and healthy. A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet is very important for cats as it mimics their food in the wild, so you should always pay attention to the first five ingredients on the label of your cat food to ensure they are rich in protein. Remember to stay away from any vague or nondescript meats, byproducts or low-quality foods to ensure your cat is getting the nutrients they need. With so many different types of cat food and different flavors to choose from, we know you can find a cat food your kitty will love so they can live an active life in good health.