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Best Cat Food Brands, What You Should Know

Updated on December 8, 2014

Is It Dinner?

A tuxedo cat makes his dinner request perfectly clear. "Now, please."
A tuxedo cat makes his dinner request perfectly clear. "Now, please." | Source

About the Best Wet & Dry Cat Foods

Unfortunately, the argument about the best cat food brands usually revolves around the choice between wet and dry. That's unfortunate because we already know the answer.

Studies show that wet food is a better, healthier choice.

What those studies never show is hard it is to get your cats to go along with the idea. No cat I know accepts the science.

Even so, does this mean that if you're feeding your cat dry food, you're feeding bad food?

No, not really, but it does mean you might be able to find better choices that your cats will go along with.

Smaller, innovative new companies are coming up with dry foods that have most of the same good ingredients as the best wet food.

And that's very good news for cat owners, like me, who share their homes with dry food addicts, especially older dry food addicts who've gotten more resistant to change as they aged.

Most experts now tell us that the best cat diet is raw food prepared carefully at home, but the same experts also tell us that the worst cat diets are raw food prepared at home without enough caution.

It isn't easy. Period. But it can be easier.

You may not have time to prepare raw cat food at home on a daily basis. I know we don't. Or maybe, the raw idea is just too much - for either or both of you.

That's why we're paying attention to the best cat food brands.

Merrick, Approved by Cats and Nutrition Experts Alike

Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free, 5.5 oz, Thanksgiving Day Dinner - Pack of 24
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free, 5.5 oz, Thanksgiving Day Dinner - Pack of 24

Thanksgiving is appropriate when you find a top quality cat food at a terrific price that cats love. The #1 ingredient is real meat. Grains used are whole grains. This is close to what you'd make on your own, if you had the time.


Best Wet Cat Food - Merrick With "Human Grade Ingedients"

Unless you fix it yourself, the best wet cat food will have "human grade ingredients."

You don't even want to think about what "non-human grade ingredients" might be.

And be vigilant in reading labels. Reject anything that contains "meat byproducts."

These are disgusting and even dangerous, often not much more than discarded waste.

What To Feed Your Cat: An Anecdote

Don't underestimate happiness as key to health and longevity.

My wife is a cat artist, and sell her work in a lively Christmas market in New York City.

Tourists come by from around the world, and many of them enjoy stopping to talk about cats. I've had dozens of customers who pull out their smart phones to show us photos of their cats, much as people used to pop up pictures of their children and grandchildren.

I started an informal poll, asking people who frequently mentioned how old their cats were what they fed them. An Australian vet whose cat lived to be an amazing 26 was typical.

"Whatever she wanted," he said, "mostly dry."

My conclusion - mealtime is no time for stress, for cats or us. Happiness is more important than any other ingredient, just like with us.

So, don't make it a mission.

Just do your best.

More from Merrick, One of Our Best Cat Food Brands - Other choices, including dry food.

Some additional choices from Merrick, including what might be the best dry cat food.

Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free, 5.5 oz, Turducken - Pack of 24
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain Free, 5.5 oz, Turducken - Pack of 24

Okay, so the marketing department could come up with a better name, but with no preservatives added and with human grade ingredients, Turducken is another great food choice for your cat or cats.

Merrick Before Grain Tuna #3 Meat, 11.1-Pound Bag
Merrick Before Grain Tuna #3 Meat, 11.1-Pound Bag

And one more great dry food choice. You'll still need to make sure your cats get the water they need elsewhere, but this will give them everything else you hope to get from a dry cat food.


The Best Cat Food

And why your cat's diet needs to be special

The most important thing to know when you think about the best cat food is that cats are "obligate carnivores." This means nature, through millions of years of evolution, designed them to thrive on nutrients and moisture from prey they hunt.

Most popular cat foods, especially dry foods, don't supply all they need, and many are based on food cats can't even digest well.

Why is dry food worse?

Most cats lack a strong thirst impulse because nature taught them to get their water from their food, not from a stream or pond. The reason is easy to understand.

Apart from the fact that, in the wild, kneeling to drink puts them in their most vulnerable position, our domestic cats' ancestors were desert animals.

(Remember how popular they were in Egypt?)

They had no other ready source of fluids. As a consequence, all cats that eat mostly dry food are in a persistent, if not critical, state of dehydration, which can lead to kidney disease and constipation, among other health issues.

But my cat loves dry cat food!

Of course, he or she does.

Commercial foods are sprayed with enzymes and other chemicals to trick their senses into thinking they're getting the good stuff. And it snowballs.

Popular dry food is often so deficient in necessary nutrients, you're cat is always hungry for more.

(This is like the trap overweight people fall into when they eat highly processed food.)

Dry foods, for the most part, are made up of carbohydrates from grains. The only carbs a natural cat would ever eat would be in the gut of prey animals they've hunted, making up a small part of their diet.

As a result, evolution never gave them the internal chemistry necessary for digesting carbohydrates. In short, your cat is probably pooping your investment away, unless he or she is constipated, an even worse and difficult to manage result.

Are wet cat foods always better, then?


Many wet cat foods, especially the biggest sellers and grocery store brands, succeed by being cheap. Cheap is achieved by obtaining questionable ingredients from renderers who process "food" not acceptable for human consumption and, worse yet, from other countries, like China, where regulation is spotty.

Many of the food recalls involved sources in China that supplied respected American brands.

What do cats want?

You may be surprised to know that a select group has already told us. A couple of years ago, researchers reported in The Journal of Experimental Biology that, using controlled experiments, they were able to see what cats pick when given a choice of foods.

Maybe the most surprising result was that the cats picked protein as their food of choice even when there was less of it than the carbs available. (Carbs=dry food.)

What the scientists did was offer foods with varying amounts of protein, fat and carbs. They were free to eat whatever they wanted. The result from their self-selection in terms of calories chosen: 100 from protein (like meat) 67 from fat, and 24 from carbohydrates.

(Many thanks to Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic vet and founder, along with Jackson Galaxy, of Spirit Essences.)

Best Natural Cat Food From Prairie Nature's Variety - A Natural Food Company Making Both Wet and Dry Food

Nature's Way, as their name suggests, offers holistic pet nutrition for cats (and dogs.) They are one of the new, innovative companies, located in Lincoln, Nebraska, I mentioned earlier. Quality product is not sacrificed for price.

Instinct Original Grain Free Real Duck Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by Nature's Variety, 3 oz. Cans (Case of 24)
Instinct Original Grain Free Real Duck Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by Nature's Variety, 3 oz. Cans (Case of 24)

All the great features mentioned above, plus no need to get different foods for cats at different life stages. This balanced food covers all of them and all breeds.

Nature'S Varitey Prairie Homestyle Duck & Chicken Stew Canned Cat Food, 5.5 Oz. Cans (Case Of 12)
Nature'S Varitey Prairie Homestyle Duck & Chicken Stew Canned Cat Food, 5.5 Oz. Cans (Case Of 12)

From Nature's Variety's line of "home style" wet foods, intended to mimic the the stuf we gave our cats in the old days, i.e., scraps from the table. But their nutrition and ours have both now improved. A chunky stew floats in gravy, an inducement for older cats.


Recommended by Billy and Sam

Pure Vita Grain Free Chicken - 15 Lbs
Pure Vita Grain Free Chicken - 15 Lbs

PureVita grain-free chicken cat food is nutritionally balanced for cats of all ages. Billy and Sam both love it, making it one of the few things they agree on.


The Best Dry Cat Food - PureVita, recommended to by Sam and Billy.

The best dry cat food matters to me because neither of our cats are willing to go completely wet food.

After trying numerous dry foods from several manufacturers (and doing a lot of careful research), we found one that's grain free and meets the nutrition standards of The Association of American Feed Control Officials.

Did I mention that Billy and Sam both love it? It actually ranks right up there with Feline Greenies for cat enthusiasm and is so much better.

© 2013 David Stone

What do you think?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      HHIS I should have thgohut of that!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Well, if you're looking for the hhtsaeielt food, it won't be the dry. That is only for our convenience, but not for the cat's health.I wouldn‘t really recommend feeding any dry food. Cats are designed to get their water from food. That's the way nature designed them, they have low thirst drive. When fed dry, they won't drink enough to compensate for the lack of moisture. They will only consume about 50% of the water they should be having. This can lead to kidney disease, UTI, crystals, blockage, renal failure and more. Free feeding also contributes to obesity. And the fact that dry food is over-processed means, that most of it’s little nutrition has been already destroyed, leaving almost no nutrients for your cat. It needs to eat more to meet it’s needs, and in the process consumes more calories from the fillers.Btw wetting the dry food will not help. There’s bacteria on the kibble and the water would just allow it to grow.The only way to give the cat it's natural hydration is to feed it wet food only.But some wet foods are not of a very high quality, either. That goes for most commercial foods. Just like the dry, they are often made with cheap fillers such as corn, wheat, soy, rice etc. These are not a part of cat's natural diet (it’s an obligate carnivore – it eats meat) and they are not designed to digest it. Grain is carbohydrate which the cats can't process and it turns into blood sugar and fat, causing diabetes and obesity. In the wild, where cats only hunt for meat, diabetes and obesity are unheard of. It's us who cause these by feeding a species inappropriate food.We usually read labels on our food, but rarely on the food for our cats. Learn to read the label and understand the ingredients. The hhtsaeielt food to feed apart from raw feeding is grain-free wet food with no by-product. Some good brands are Wellness CORE, EVO, Merrick, Nature's Variety, Blue Buffalo Wilderness and more. These will give your cat the proper hydration and nutrition it's designed to get and it will be strong and healthy.If you switch it's diet, do it gradually, by mixing the current food with the new one over couple of weeks until there's only the new. This will prevent diarrhea and upset stomach.You will probably get a lot of different answers, so google feline nutrition or look at the links below, and do the research for yourself. I personally wasn't able to find one reliable source (besides the pet food industry) that would say grain is beneficial for cats or that dry is beneficial for them.More on cat nutrition below, Good luck!

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      5 years ago from New York City

      @julieannbrady: What I've read is that the foods geared to special needs often skimp on other things. My suggestion is, feed your cat good regular food she likes and deal with tummy troubles with Spirit Essences. I have a lens on the product. The line is the equivalent of aromatherapy for animals, using herbs that are safe, and they've done wonders for our cats. Nice to her from you, Julie.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You've shared some food brands that I hadn't known about ... lately, I've been feeding Boots the pink bag of Iams for sensitive stomachs.

    • David Stone1 profile imageAUTHOR

      David Stone 

      5 years ago from New York City

      @TommysPal: Cats seem to have very individualized tastes. Ive only found one dry food (that's still on the market) that every cat I know likes. You hear all kinds of guarantees from people from experience with their own cats that don't work out with your own. Anyway, my one exception is Pure Vita, which fortunately has the hight quality standards I feel comfortable with while giving the guys what they love.Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Very interesting page. I tried Taste of the Wild dry cat food and all three of my cats want nothing to do with it. I'm thinking about trying the Merrick dry food. Thanks for sharing this lens.


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