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Best cat food: Keep your kitty healthy and hearty

best cat food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to provide your furkid with a nutritious and tasty diet, you’ll need the best cat food. It’s important that you look for one that has all the right vitamins, minerals and protein your cat needs to stay healthy and to thrive. 

But, with so many different types available on the market, it can often be tricky to find a suitable one. Similar to when choosing the best dog food, you need to decide which cat food would suit your kitty's lifestyle, whether that's dry or wet food, or if there are any specific dietary requirements. 

Before you choose the best cat food, there are a few things to consider. First, what protein source does it contain? Considering cats are natural carnivores, this would include meat, chicken, or fish. It’s also vital to look for cat foods which include fatty acids to help maintain their skin and shiny coat, and essential amino acids like taurine that promotes good vision and a healthy heart. 

What’s more, does your cat prefer dry food or the wet variety? While this is often a personal choice, the best wet cat food will have a soft texture being made up of slivers of meat or pate in a form of gravy. This softer texture will be more suitable for senior cats or those with dental issues. Wet cat food is high in water content which can help treat urinary tract or kidney problems. Best of all, if your furry friend is not keen on drinking a lot of water during the day, this can help to avoid dehydration. 

On the other hand, the best dry cat food has a crunchy texture and can keep for much longer without going off or smelling. What’s more, the harder kibble is great for dental health, since the abrasive texture helps to remove plaque and tarter while they eat. Bear in mind, there is no water content in kibble so always provide your cat with a lot of water. In any case, water fountains for cats can provide a source of running water which many cats prefer to still water.

In the meantime, here are our top picks for the best cat food that will make mealtimes more exciting!

PetRadar's pick of the best cat food

  • Best overall cat food: IAMS for Vitality Adult Dry Cat Food with Fresh Chicken
  • Best budget cat food: Applaws Multipack Fish Selection in Broth
  • Best premium cat food: Ziwi Peak Wet Mackerel and Lamb
  • Best grain-free formula: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food
  • Best for weight management: Blue Buffalo Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food
  • Best for hairballs: Royal Canin Hairball Care
  • Best for sensitive stomachs: Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
  • Best cat food variety pack: NUTRO Perfect Portions Grain Free Paté
  • Best for kittens: Royal Canin Kitten 

Best cat food: A pack shot of IAMS for Vitality Adult Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: IAMS)

IAMS for Vitality Adult Dry Cat Food with Fresh Chicken

Best overall cat food

Available online: Yes | Item form: Dry | Amazon Star Rating: 4.8

Good source of omega-3 fatty acids
High-quality, natural animal protein 
100% complete and balanced nutrition
Contains several forms of corn, which is an allergen for some cats

With stellar reviews everywhere from Amazon to Chewy, Iams’ reputation as a trusted brand that always delivers on quality makes it a standout choice in a crowded marketplace.

Made from real animal protein as the number one ingredient, and with no nasty fillers or additives, Iams is a winner with both pet parents and cats alike. The complete and balanced formulas meet all of your cat’s nutrition needs, with healthy doses of omega-3 to keep their coat shiny, and prebiotics and beet pulp to aid with digestion.

Cats love the crunchy kibble, which is great news as it’s been specially formulated with the right blend of vitamins and minerals to ensure good dental health. The extensive range also means you’re bound to find something that meets your cat’s specific needs, with everything from hairball control and urinary tract health to healthy digestion and weight management options.

The Proactive range is best if you’re in the US, but in the UK we prefer the Vitality range. Both are nutritious and complete products that are veterinarian backed, meaning you have expert assurance that what you’re putting in your cat's body is of the highest-quality.

While Iams is the clear front-runner when it comes to providing reputable nutrition that recognizes there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cat food, its products aren’t completely flawless.

Some of the formulas are higher in carbohydrates than we’d like to see, which isn’t great if you have a cat whose idea of exercise is an 18-hour siesta marathon, and the inclusion of several forms of corn may be an issue for cats with allergies or sensitive digestive systems.

While Iams hasn’t quite earned its halo in cat nutrition just yet, with so many cats giving it the paws up it’s definitely our recommended place to start.

For more information, read our Iams Proactive Health Adult Dry Food review.

Best cat food: A pack shot of Applaws Multipack Fish Selection in Broth

(Image credit: Applaws)

Applaws Multipack Fish Selection in Broth

Best budget cat food

Available online: Yes | Item form: Wet | Amazon star rating: 4.5 | 100% natural: Yes

Only includes human-grade ingredients
High percentage of protein
Free of meat by-products, additives and preservatives
May not be suitable for sedentary cats due to the higher carbohydrate content

If you’re looking for a nutritionally sound product that’s both kind to your feline fur baby and your bank balance, then Applaws is well worth a try.

Unlike some of the other more affordable products on the market, Applaws doesn’t compromise on quality by adding in animal by-products, additives and preservatives to bring down the price. The company understands how important your cat's health and wellbeing is and so only 100% natural, human-grade ingredients are used. 

Opening up a tin from the Applaws fish selection range is a bit like taking a trip to the seaside – you’ll be greeted with that ocean-fresh fish smell that cats go crazy for. The only other ingredients to make the cut are broth and rice, which means you can rest assured that your cat isn’t ingesting any questionable or potentially harmful ingredients.

We love Applaws for fussy cats who can smell the fake stuff a mile away, and the limited ingredients and often single-protein formulas are great for cats with digestive issues or food intolerances.

If you have a sedentary cat, though, bear in mind that the addition of rice pushes up the carbohydrate content, so if your cat isn’t very active or is overweight, then you may want to avoid or limit this product. It also doesn’t include any vitamins or minerals, so we wouldn’t advise having it as your cat's sole diet, unless you also provide your cat with supplements. 

Overall we love this high-quality, affordable range, and we’re pretty sure your cat will too.

Best cat food: A tin of Ziwi Peak Wet Mackerel and Lamb

(Image credit: Ziwi Peak)

Ziwi Peak Wet Mackerel and Lamb

Best premium cat food

Available online: Yes | Item form: Wet | Amazon star rating: 4.2

Limited ingredients – no additives, fillers or carrageenan 
Free range and sustainable farming practices
92% raw meat, organs and bone
Expensive if used as staple diet

If you’re wanting to treat your cat to a Michelin-starred dining experience then look no further than Ziwi Peak, a New Zealand-based company that’s quickly making a name for itself as one of the top cat food manufactures in the world.

It’s not hard to see why: made with 92% fresh meat, organs, bone, and seafood, all of its ingredients are human-grade, free-range, sustainably-caught and sourced within New Zealand using ethical farming and fishing practices.

If your little feline fur baby is prone to shooting you wistful and longing glances each time you sit down to try and enjoy your dinner, then you’ll be relieved to know that you can say goodbye to all that guilt-tripping. Your cat will love this meaty and moisture-rich meal that will leave them feeling less like a cat and more like a human.

This formula offers great peace of mind for you as a cat parent, as no animal by-products, additives or fillers make it into the Ziwi Peak range. It is also free of controversial ingredients such as carrageenan and guar gum, which have the potential to impair nutrient absorption.

While there is a lot to love about this premium product, price may be a factor here. It’s an expensive option if you have multiple cats or are wanting it to form the main part of your cat’s diet. It also contains a small percentage of green-lipped mussels, which not all cats enjoy – this is reflected in the less-favorable consumer reviews, so we would recommend trialling this before committing to buying in bulk.

However, if your cat isn’t averse to the taste, the addition of green-lipped mussels provides glucosamine and chondroitin, vital for healthy joints. The range also features chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption.

All in all, this high-quality, nutrient-dense range is cat food at its best.

Best cat food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Blue Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Natural Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food

Best grain-free formula

Available online: Yes | Item form: Dry | Amazon star rating: 4.8

High-quality proteins
Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals
Great for weight-management

If you’re looking for a tasty and nourishing recipe with everything your cat needs and none of what they don’t, then this high-quality formula from Blue Wilderness is well worth considering.

Granted, it’s a little more expensive than many other products on the market, but you get what you pay for with only the best real meats, healthy complex carbs and plenty of fruits and vegetables to provide a powerful hit of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Designed for indoor cats, this grain-free kibble helps protect against the weight gain that can often plague sedentary cats and being gentle on the digestive system, it’s ideal for kitties with stomach issues or allergies.

Featuring Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits, designed by veterinarians, this is a balanced recipe with a precise blend of all the nutrients your kitty needs to aid muscle development, keep their skin and coat healthy, and their immune system firing on all cylinders. 

With a minimum of 38% protein, 16% fat, and 6% fiber, this kibble will keep your cat feeling full and is available in 2lb, 5lb, and 11lb bags.  

For more information, read our Blue Wilderness High Protein Dry Cat Food review.

Best cat food for weight management: Blue Buffalo Weight Control Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hill’s Science Plan Perfect Weight Adult Cat Food

Best for weight management

Available online: Yes | Item form: Dry | Amazon star rating: 4.7

Only natural ingredients
No corn wheat or soy
No artificial flavors or preservatives
More expensive than their other formulas

It's not only humans who suffer from middle-aged spread, so if you've been noticing there's more of your cat to love than usual then feeding them food that helps control their weight may be a sensible option. And a much healthier one for your kitty.

This calorie-controlled food from Blue Buffalo is based on their normal cat food with a more carefully balanced formula to help your cat achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Made from all natural ingredients including deboned chicken, whole grains and vegetables, it provides a mix of protein and calories that's designed to get your cat tipping the scales in a more favorable direction while keeping them full.

With 30% protein, only 10% fat and no artificial colours or preservatives, this kibble is designed to give your cat everything it needs to thrive and survive. This is helped by the addition of Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits – a blend of apples, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, pumpkin and spinach designed by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists. They contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as the antioxidants and vitamins needed to support your furry friend's immune system and promote a shiny, healthy skin and coat.

This all-natural cat kibble made without poultry by-product meals is more expensive than their other formulas, so it may make your wallet thinner too, but compared to potential vet bills caused by the potential complications caused by cat obesity it may be a sensible investment in the long run. Not to mention how much better your fur baby will feel not having to carry around those excess pounds.

Best cat food: A pack of Royal Canin Hairball Care

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Hairball Care

Best for hairballs

Available online: Yes | Item form: Dry | Amazon star rating: 4.7

Veterinarian approved
Special blend of dietary fibers helps prevent vomiting and hairballs
High protein and fat content
Reduces plaque buildup 
Contains wheat and corn

If you’ve ever heard your cat making that dreaded retching noise in another room then you’re familiar with the mad dash to find them and get them outside before they bring up a hairball all over your carpet! 

While you might think that owning a cat means you’re destined to spend time up to your elbows in warm water scrubbing hairball residue off your floors, you’ll be delighted to know that Royal Canin has come to the rescue with a formula that helps move hairballs through the stomach and into the gastrointestinal tract, where they can’t be regurgitated.

What makes this product so special is its blend of insoluble and dietary fibers. The former acts as your cat's very own internal brush, sweeping the hairballs through the body and into the bowel, while the latter makes sure all the nutrients are fully absorbed, keeping your furry friend’s skin and hair healthy. 

The combination of fatty acids and fibers means that this blend has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great choice if your cat suffers from digestive issues. It also includes nutrients to prevent tartar buildup on teeth, which contributes to dental health.

We love this product for its effectiveness in preventing hairballs and because it comes from Royal Canin, a brand with a reputation for delivering high-quality products that keep cats healthy. However, it does contain wheat and corn, so if you don’t want those in your cat’s diet then you’ll want to give this product a miss. It’s also more expensive than some of the other hairball-prevention cat foods on the market, so this is also worth considering if price is a factor.

However, if those things don’t bother you then this is a great choice that allows your cat to groom themselves to their heart's content without you having to worry about cleaning up after them.

Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food pack shotPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Amazon)

Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food

Best for sensitive stomachs

Item Form: Dry | Protein: 34% min | Fat: 14% min | Moisture: 12% max

Easily digestible food
Contains real turkey
Helps sensitive skin
A bit more expensive than some

The Purina One range is designed to add complete nutrition to a cat's daily diet and the manufacturer promises to only use natural, high quality ingredients, all of which are included purely for their dietary purpose.

It means you're not getting fillers here and, because there are different formulas to suit the specific needs of different cats, you can be sure that you're supporting your feline's health concerns: this one, for example, being tailored for cats which have sensitive stomachs and skin.

The main ingredient of this dry food is real turkey and it's supplemented by chicken by-product meal, thereby ensuring a plentiful supply of protein. Indeed, your cat will get 36 grams of protein per cup here, which is more than enough to support a healthy heart and provide the building block of his or her nutrition.

The food also includes wholesome grains for energy as well as real carrots and peas. Vitamin D is provided naturally by beef fat. It's little wonder that a lot of vets will recommend Purina One because it's premium food, for sure. Not only will it give your cat a totally balanced diet, it should help them to stop vomiting and scratching. Many owners who have tried it, says it certainly does the trick.

How? Well, it's been created to be easily digestible so it shouldn't upset your feline's stomach (although a very small number of owners claim their cat had diarrhoea after eating it). Vitamins E and A will support your cat's immune system and the omega-5 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals support healthy skin and coat. The crunchy kibble works wonders on your cat's teeth too.

The main downside is that it's a little more expensive than some other dry food but you generally get what you pay for.

Best cat food: NUTRO Perfect Portions Grain Free Paté

(Image credit: Amazon)

NUTRO Perfect Portions Grain Free Paté

Best cat food variety pack

Item form: Wet | Protein: 12% | Fat: 5% | Moisture: 78%

Two convenient single-serving meals per twin-pack
High quality protein
Free from corn, wheat, and soy
Pouches can be hard to open

For the foodie fur baby who loves having their dishes rotated, you can't go past this variety pack from Nutro. Featuring real salmon and chicken, it's the perfect blend of land and sea.

Each tray has two individually sealed single-serve compartments that snap apart, minimizing waste and ensuring food stays fresh. The easy-to-chew paté is ideal for senior cats or any feline with dental issues that make chewing difficult. 

All of the dishes are grain-free, perfect if your cat has a sensitive stomach or allergies, and you won't find any nasties here either with soy, corn, wheat, artificial flavours, colors, and preservatives all excluded from Nutro's recipes.

We love the high quality ingredients in the different dishes, especially the use of real chicken and salmon as the number one ingredients. Each serving has all the vitamins and minerals your kitty needs to support healthy skin, a shiny coat, and a robust immune system. 

The one drawback noted by customers is that the trays can be somewhat difficult to open, with gravy spurting out when the lid gets removed. We recommend opening them over the sink to avoid any mess.  

Royal Canin Kitten food gravy reviewPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Kitten

Best overall kitten food

Item Form: Wet (Gravy) | Protein: 11% min | Fat: 3% min | Moisture: 80% max

Thin slices make it easy for young kittens to eat
Excellent protein, fat, and carbohydrate ratio
Antioxidants boost immune system
High price point for a staple diet

If you’re keen to ensure that your new four-legged friend has a balanced and nutritious diet, it’s hard to look past Royal Canin’s Kitten food. 

Royal Canin is a hugely respected cat food brand, earning praise from owners and veterinarians alike for its specialist formulas. It may be a little pricier per can than others on this list, but there’s little substitute for knowing that you’ve got your kitty some quality dinner from a trusted brand. 

The ratio of proteins to fat and carbohydrates, and other essential nutrients, in Royal Canin’s Kitten food is perfectly set up to deliver everything a growing kitten needs. This means that unless you’ve found yourself a fussy little fluff ball who craves a bit more variety, Royal Canin can easily be your kittens-only food. Though it’s useful to note that Royal Canin’s dry kitten food is formulated to complement the wet stuff so you can add a bit of crunch to your little one’s diet.

The meat comes in gravy (which can be a bit messy), and is deliberately sliced small and thin to make it easier on tiny mouths transitioning to solid food.

Of course, we do have to return to that price point, a kitten will need to be going through three or four of these cans a day to get everything they need. That might mean it’s a little much for some people to keep as a staple diet – it is worth noting that Royal Canin is often prescribed for kittens with digestive issues though. So, as long as you manage it properly, Royal Canin Kitten food could work well as part of a regular rotation. 

How to choose the best cat food

As a cat parent your precious fur baby is likely a much loved member of your family, so it goes without saying that you want to keep them happy and healthy for as long as possible. 

Feeding them a high-quality, nutritious diet is one of the best ways you can do that, but with so much choice available trying to decide on the best option can be confusing and more than a little headache-inducing!

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. Just like humans, every cat is unique and so focusing on your cat's individual needs is the best way to ensure that you’re fueling their body with exactly what they need to thrive.

All cats need high-quality proteins for lean-muscle growth, omega-3 and 6 fats to keep their skin and coat healthy, fiber to support digestive health, a range of vitamins and minerals, and plenty of water. However, your cat’s age, activity level, metabolism, and health issues are key areas to consider. 

Older and more sedentary cats will have different dietary needs to younger and more active cats. Likewise, those with specific health issues, such as allergies and food sensitivities, digestive or urinary tract issues, or weight problems, will require a different diet to otherwise healthy cats. 

Ingredients and budget are two other factors that are worth considering. Think about what you feel comfortable including in your cat's diet. Potential allergens such as corn, soy, wheat, and gluten can be problematic for some cats, as can artificial colours, flavors and preservatives. 

Price may also be a factor, and while it’s true that the more expensive brands on the market tend to be higher quality, our budget option featured in this guide is there to show you that there are choices available that are kind to your wallet while not compromising your cat’s health. 

Remember that one size doesn’t fit all, and your cat's dietary needs will be determined by their activity levels, weight, and overall health. Always check with your veterinarian to ensure you’re feeding the four-legged members of your family the most appropriate diet for their specific requirements.

You can find out more about specific types of in our round up of the best wet cat food and the best dry cat food.

Kathryn Rosenberg

Kathryn is a freelance writer with a passion for creating health and wellness, travel and wildlife content. Originally from New Zealand, her nomadic lifestyle has her currently fur baby-less. She scratches her pet parent itch by stealing frequent cuddles with any neighbourhood cat kind enough to indulge her.