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The Best Dry Food for Cats

Updated on April 9, 2015
Which one is the best?
Which one is the best? | Source

What is the best cat food

How does a cat lover intelligently evaluate the choices of dry cat foods? Online cat food reviews frequently are just anecdotes and pages sponsored by brand name cat food companies are biased. Availability of the food and its cost, moral or sustainable beliefs also factor into the decision-making. Additionally, cat family members want to provide clean, safe meals which match their cats’ nutritional needs. But, perfect may not be attainable. Therefore, at the end of this article, I provide a chart which can be completed to help you as you compare dry cat foods.

The National Academy of Sciences released guidelines in 2006 on the nutritional requirements of cats at

Included in the valuable information are:


Weighing 1.8 lb
Weighing 9 lbs and consuming 250 cal/dayng 9 lbs and consuming 250 c
Crude Protein
10 g
12.5 g
Total Fat
4 g
5.5 g


Weight of cat:
5 lb
10 lb
15 lb
20 lb
Kittens (after weaning)
200 cal
Lean Domestic Cat
170 cal
280 cal
360 cal
440 cal

Also noted by the Academy: Meals should not have more than 10% fiber.

More to examine in dry cat foods

Some experts add these considerations for evaluating dry food:

1) Is the cat food too high in plant-based versus animal-based proteins?

2) Is the carbohydrate percentage too high?

[Lisa Pierson, DVM at]

Dr. Pearson states that cats cannot manufacture or combine partial proteins. (Vegetarians may be familiar with the complete and incomplete amino acid theory of proteins.) Proteins from animals have a complete amino acid profile. Plant-based proteins do not. Some veterinarians feel that a label correctly describing vegetable protein content still can be misleading.

Regarding the second, she writes, “in their natural setting, cats—whose unique biology makes them true carnivores--would not consume the high level of carbohydrates (grains) that are in the dry foods …that we routinely feed them. You would never see a wild cat chasing down a herd of biscuits… In the wild, cats eat high protein, high-moisture, meat-based diet, with a moderate level of fat and with only approximately 3-5 percent of her diet consisting of carbohydrates. The average dry food contains 35-50 percent carbohydrate calories.”

Best dry food for kittens

Gina Spadafori at Veterinary Information Network states,

“More than 60 different ingredients are required for your kitten's good health, and you need to make sure he's getting what he needs to grow and thrive. “ Another veterinarian, Paul D. Pion, DVM, believes you're best off sticking with big-name manufacturers because they are the most likely to have used feeding trials to test their foods.

“The best foods have been tested in actual feeding trials, not just by nutritional analysis. For kittens, look for the words ‘Complete and Balanced Nutrition’ and a statement that the food has been tested ‘for all life stages.’ “ []

So, look for documentation that the kitten food has been kitten-tested. (More on this below.)

Best Dry Cat Food for Adult Indoor Cats

Using the nutritional guidelines above, some cat owners may adopt a mission to find the lowest grain and carbohydrate dry foods. However, care must be taken in choosing these because they can be high in fat and therefore too high in calories.

Best Dry Cat Food for Senior Aged Cats

It appears that if your cat is otherwise healthy, adult dry food will serve it well. On the other hand, if your cat has urinary problems requiring intake of extra water, dry food is not providing that moisture. It may be necessary to insure your cat drinks enough fresh water. [] For cats with compromised kidney function, check any low-carb dry foods for high phosphorus. This could be particularly detrimental. []

Cat Food Regulatory Agency

Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, Educational Director for explains pet food quality control. “How do you know if the food you are buying is really any good? And can it be fed appropriately to your pet? To address these issues, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) was founded in 1909. This is the group that defines ingredients and official nutritional terms, and determines the protocols by which pet foods are tested.” A statement such as

‘Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [brand name omitted] provides complete and balanced nutrition for the growth and maintenance of cats.’

means that the food was tested on cats and kittens, and that it was found to provide optimal nutritional results.

Because of the great expense, the AAFCO allows for biochemical analysis as an alternative. However, since nutrients in the food aren’t always completely digestible, a chemical analysis is not as accurate as “feeding trials” or “feeding tests.” []

Decisions, decisions...

And this is only ONE of the aisles!
And this is only ONE of the aisles! | Source

Natural or Organic Cat Food

Information from the American College of Veterinary Nutrition explains that there are no regulations defining “organic” pet foods at this time (2012). In contrast, the term “natural” does have a legal meaning under the AAFCO. Cat food advertised as natural is:

“derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources… but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic…” So, we have some assurance about processing, although perhaps not as detailed as we would like.

Fill in the Blanks

I had hoped I could develop a list of brand names for the readers regarding what dry foods are “the best.” Unfortunately, products come and go quickly. Plus, each family has its own criteria for judging cat food. Thus, I offer the following Comparison Chart for you to use, which includes some of the cat nutritional recommended allowances. I hope it assists you.

Your Comparison Chart for Dry Cat Foods

Food 1
Food 2
Food 3
Food 4
Weighing 1.8 lb
Weighing 9 lb and consuming 250 cal/day
Crude Protein
10 g
12.5 g
Total Fat
4 g
5.5 g
Less than 10%
Less than 10%
Plant vs. animal protein
Availability and cost

Photos and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks, Sushma Webber!

    • Sushma Webber profile image

      Sushma Webber 5 years ago from New Zealand

      A well researched and to the point article. Keep up the good work.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      DirtFarmer and kelleyward, I am thinking about another cat food Hub, but more focused on understanding the label rather than evaluating wet food. Thanks for your comments.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      I've always fed my Persian Iams cat food and she's very healthy. As a cat lover I enjoy information like this. Kelley

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      Your advice makes sense given a cat's natural nutritional needs. My old cat (he's a little over 25) ate Iams original for years, but ... he's lost a tooth and now mostly eats wet. Any recommendations on a good wet food for cats? (He doesn't care much for the Iams wet--in any flavor.)

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      ThanksAliciaC. When I started researching this topic, I had no idea how complex it is. We are way past the days of having only 3 choices or unquestioningly trusting the big companies to do the right thing.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for the advice, Maren Morgan. There are so many different dry cat foods available that it's often hard deciding which kind is best for a particular cat, and new products often appear in the stores. It can be very confusing! I give my cats a mixture of dry foods that they like, and all the foods look like they have healthy ingredients. I'm always interested in looking at new foods, though.