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Best dry cat food: Give cats a nutritionally balanced meal

best dry cat food guide
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best dry cat food is not only nutritionally complete but tastes delicious to cats too, making it a win-win for both you and your furkid.  

The major benefit of feeding your feline dry cat food is that you can leave it out all day. What's more, you can do so knowing that it won't lose its freshness, unlike wet cat food. Indeed, it's the perfect substance to give your cat if you're going to be away for two or three days, providing you're making plenty of it available. It won't stink out the house and your cat will be able to graze happily until you get back.

Cats won't turn their nose up at dry food, that's for sure. It tastes delicious and felines love the crunchy texture which is great for their teeth, removing any build up of plaque. Dry cat food is packed with vitamins and minerals, with manufacturers doing their utmost to create a nutritionally complete meal. And because you can buy it in big bags, you don't need to keep popping to the shops: purchase in bulk and it'll always be on hand.

So what food should you choose? Well, just as with the best dry dog food, you've got to make a decision. There's a lot of kibble out there to choose from, most of them claiming to benefit your cats in both different and similar ways with prices varying as much as the range of flavours. Do pay attention to the packets, however, because the claims help steer you in the right direction. For example, the best cat food formula for your pet may be one that helps your indoor cat with hairballs by aiding their digestive system.

Likewise, you may decide that your cat is active but isn't eating enough in which case a high calorie blend will work well. On the flip side, there are lower calorie alternatives for cats who prefer to laze around on your sofa or hang around your feet while you're watching television.

Of course, dry cat food isn't all good. It contains less moisture and greater levels of sodium than the wet variety so you'll need to ensure your felines get lots water, particularly so if they have kidney problems or urinary tract infections. Since cats have evolved to get most of their moisture from food, you can offer a mix of wet and dry. 

PetsRadar's pick of the best dry cat food

  • Best overall dry cat food: Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Cat Food
  • Best budget dry cat food: Purina Friskies Seafood Sensations
  • Best for weight management: Blue Buffalo Weight Control Adult Dry Cat Food
  • Best dry kitten food: IAMS Proactive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food
  • Best for preventing hairballs: Royal Canin Hairball Care
  • Best dry food for older cats: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Cat Food
  • Best dry cat food for digestive issues: Hills Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach And Skin Chicken Dry Cat Food
  • Best dry cat food for protein: Crave Dry Cat Food 

Best dry cat food. A packet of Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Cat Food

(Image credit: Rachael Ray)

Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Cat Food

Best overall dry cat food

Weight: 14lbs | Flavor: Chicken | Calories: 354 per cup | Protein: 34% min | Fat: 14% min

Made from real US farm-raised chicken and chicken meal
Reasonable price
Grain-free
No artificial flavors or colorings
Heavy on carbohydrates
Cats may be prone to gaining weight
Contains corn gluten meal, which is a potential allergen

Founded by the eponymous celebrity chef, the Rachael Ray Nutrish brand is well-known for its natural ingredients and nutritional benefits. It is therefore no surprise that this chicken-based, dry cat food option is a bestseller, and popular among cat owners to boot. 

This particular brand uses real US farm-raised chicken and chicken meal, free from poultry by-products. Full of Omega-6 fatty acids – not to mention protein – your cat’s skin and coat will be guaranteed a healthy shine should you choose to purchase it.

Moreover, it’s grain-free, which effectively reduces any risk of allergies for your cat. Further reducing this risk is the fact that this contains a number of natural ingredients, such as ground rice, brown rice, corn gluten meal, as well as dried ground peas to contribute on the carbohydrate front. Added vitamins and minerals  aid your cat’s digestion and overall health, and there are no artificial fillers.

The small pieces of kibble make it easier to chew and digest, and the crisp and crunch texture is kinder to cats’ teeth, also ensuring that they are kept clean. Many owners praised it for making great treats when training their kitties, too!

However, it should be mentioned that the recipe does contain corn gluten meal, which could be a potential allergen for your cat. So if your cat does suffer from corn allergies, this is probably not the one for you. Also, bear in mind that the formula is quite high in carbohydrates, so you’d need to keep track if your cat starts getting tubby!

Overall, this is the ultimate in dry cat food that provides natural flavors, nutrition, and bags of protein, as well as representing good value for money compared to other premium cat food brands. And with a winning formula created by cat nutritionists, you can only expect the best balance of flavor and nutrition for your feline friend.

Purina Friskies Seafood Sensations

(Image credit: Amazon)

Purina Friskies Seafood Sensations

Best budget dry cat food

Weight: 3.15lb, 16lbs, 22lbs and 30lbs | Flavors: Seafood | Fat content: 11% | Protein: 30%

Nutritionally complete and balanced
Good for those on a budget
Low-fat formula
Contains a touch of seaweed, which some cats don't like

For a kibble that both your cat and your bank balance will go crazy for, this lip-smacking seafood blend from Purina is hard to pass up. With flavors of salmon, tuna, and shrimp, this taste-of-the-sea treat is sure to be a winner.

Providing 100% complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages, this budget-friendly and low-fat formula has everything your cat needs to see them through from their playful kitten days to their adventurous adult years and their quieter senior lifestyle. 

While this may be an affordable option, we love that it comes from a reputable brand and that the lower price doesn’t mean a drop in the quality of ingredients. Packed full of essential fatty acids for skin and coat health and plenty of protein to support strong muscles, this kibble comes with tons of goodness in every serving. 

Best dry cat food. Blue Buffalo Weight Control Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Blue Buffalo)

Blue Buffalo Weight Control Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Adult Dry Cat Food

Best for weight management

Weight: 15lbs | Flavors: Chicken, turkey | Calories: 346 per cup | Protein: 30% min | Fat: 10% min

Natural ingredients
Deboned chicken with no meat by-products
No adverse effect on cat behavior
Bit more expensive
Can upset sensitive stomachs

If your cat tends to overeat on those lovely treats and is looking rather plump, Blue Buffalo Weight Control is the best choice to help slim them down.

Blue Wilderness is a product of the US-based Blue Buffalo company, known for making premium-quality pet foods featuring real meat, fruit, and vegetables. The main feature is the real deboned chicken with no meat by-products. The special formula is packed with whole grains and garden vegetables, as well as having carefully balanced calories to help your kittie maintain a healthy weight.

Since older cats develop difficulty chewing, the small pieces of food make it easy to gobble up, and the key thing is they contain hardly any fat.

Priced at around $21.98 (£15.49) for a 7lb bag, it is slightly costly. However, this can be overlooked if it means a more nutritious and calorie-controlled diet for your pet.

While it may be tricky to know straight away of its affect on weight loss, many owners have stated their cats’ have felt lighter within a couple of months. Some owners have even said their kittie seems more energetic, running and playing more, while their coats have a lovely glossy shine.

Bear in mind, some cats may have trouble digesting the food at first, so it’s advisable to monitor portions. Overall, this is a healthy, filler-free, low carb meal for your food-loving kitty.

Best dry cat food. A packet of IAMS Proactive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Iams)

IAMS Proactive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

Best dry kitten food

Weight: 16lbs | Flavors: Chicken, turkey | Calories: 373per cup | Protein: 34% min | Fat: 22% min

Formulated for the needs of kittens
No harmful additives and fillers
High level of protein and essential Omega-3
Risk of cats shedding
Risk of vomiting after meal

When you have little kittens at home, you’d want to take extra care on the meals that you give them. Younger cats especially can be prone to much sensitivity, so it’s important to find the right food that is formulated for the needs of your kitten.

One of the top brands on the market today is IAMS, and it comes highly recommended by vets. Its special formula is created for 1-12 months old or younger kittens that may need to build stronger immune systems. This is also to avoid the risk of different diseases they may develop as they grow.

Packed with all the healthy benefits for a young one, it has prebiotics and pulp to support their developing digestive systems. It contains Omega-3 to aid with healthy brain development and to promote healthy skin and shiny coat. And its high protein and essential minerals help to build strong muscles and bones. This quality formula is essentially designed to help your kitten thrive, and also suitable for pregnant and lactating feline friends.

Kittens really enjoy the flavors, and we liked the fact that the kibbles are small, making it much easier to eat and digest. Another bonus is the kibble soaks up water fast for those kittens that need softer food.

Bear in mind the formula contains corn, so keep an eye out if your kitten may have a potential corn allergy.

Overall, this is packed with all the healthy nutrients to give your young cat the best start in life, and a delicious treat.

Best dry cat food. A bag of Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Blue Buffalo)

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Dry Cat Food

Best dry food for older cats

Weight: 12lbs | Flavors: Chicken | Calories: 443 per cup | Protein: 40% min | Fat: 18% min

Packed with real chicken
BLUE’S ‘LifeSource Bits’ of vitamins and minerals
Grain-free
Slightly more expensive than other brands
Only sold in the US

As your feline friend gets older, there are some things to consider. Firstly, their metabolism starts to slow down, as they no longer get as much exercise. As a result, they need fewer calories in their meals, and smaller portions. Another worry with older cats is they may develop specific health problems and not be eating as well as they should be. To care for your senior cat, you would need to tailor their diet to ensure optimum health and a longer life.

The Blue Buffalo formula has been enriched with its special, LifeSource bits (a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and superfoods), and made with the best natural ingredients.

The first ingredient is real chicken, which packs a powerful protein punch. It’s also loaded with antioxidant-rich superfoods to support immunity, Omega-3 for a healthy skin and coat, taurine for vision and heart health, and essential amino acids to fuel all their fun activities. Plus, its fiber blend helps maintain healthy digestion, and is kind to tummies. There are never any grains, gluten, wheat, or by-products. It has the added benefit of having more than 75% moisture content that will help your feline pal stay hydrated much longer.

Cats seem to love this brand, and enjoy the flavors, although a few owners have mentioned the kibble being too small for their older cats, causing them to drop out of their mouths. Others have stated that it has helped to alleviate existing stomach problems, and vomiting from other brands. And many have praised the formula for making their feline friend’s coat super soft and shiny.

Bear in mind that a few owners mentioned that it made their cats sick after eating; however this could be due to an undiagnosed allergy. 

Compared to similar brands, prices are expensive, ranging from $16.98-$31.44. The brand is also only sold in the US which means you’ll need to order online if you live outside of the US. However, with all the nutritional benefits, you wouldn’t mind paying a little bit more for quality.

A pack of Royal Canin Hairball Care dry cat food

(Image credit: Royal Canin)

Royal Canin Hairball Care

Best for preventing hairballs

Weight: 22lbs | Flavors: NA | Protein: 34%

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

Royal Canin Hairball Care is a specialist food that aims to provide a superior source of nutrition for cats who have a tendency to cough things up. As such, its formula claims to move hairballs on through the body and out of the stomach, rather than all over your floor surfaces.

To do this it uses a blend of insoluble dietary fibres which sweep through the stomach and into the bowels, meaning hairballs are excreted as opposed to being vomited up. They also help stimulate good digestion and the increased absorption of nutrients.

In addition, Royal Canin Hairball Care’s balance of dietary fibres includes psyllium along with other minerals that will aid the digestive health of your cat beyond just preventing hairballs. This includes benefits like a healthier coat and better teeth to name just two.

It seems to be fairly successful at achieving its aim too, with numerous owners of long haired cats leaving glowing reviews that report a noticeable reduction in hairballs. Although some reviewers remarked that it cost more than standard food, most stated they would remain using it despite the extra cost due to its effectiveness. 

Hills Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach And Skin Chicken Dry Cat Food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Hills Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach And Skin Chicken Dry Cat Food

Best dry cat food for digestive issues

Available sizes: 3.5lb, 7lbs, 15.5lbs | Flavors: Chicken | Calories: 524 per cup | Protein: 35% | Fat: 22%

High in prebiotic fiber
Easy to digest
Vet recommended
Only one flavor choice

If your kitty struggles with regular digestive upsets then this gentle formula that’s been specially designed for sensitive stomachs could be the perfect solution. With high levels of prebiotic fiber to fuel beneficial gut bacteria and support a balanced microbiome, this kibble is highly digestible for optimal nutrient absorption. 

With plenty of Vitamin E and Omega-6 fatty acids, this nourishing formula is also ideal for cats with skin or coat issues. Designed to help promote and maintain healthy skin and lustrous fur, the soothing blend of ingredients will have your kitty looking their best in no time.

We love that this recipe has recently undergone an overhaul, making real chicken the number one ingredient and introducing a proven antioxidant blend of vitamins and minerals to strengthen your cat’s immune system. 

crave dry cat foodPets Radar Approved Award

(Image credit: Crave)

Crave Dry Cat Food

Best dry cat food for protein

Weight: 2lb | Flavor: Chicken | Calories: 402 per cup | Protein: 40% min | Fat: 18% min

40% high-protein 
Animal protein is the main ingredient 
Inspired by ancestral diets 
 High in carbohydrates 

Inspired by a cat's instinctive diet, Crave packs its food with high quality protein from animal sources. As such, at least 60 percent of its dry cat food comes from either chicken, turkey, dried beef liver or fish, depending on flavor, while the rest is made up of plant proteins. Your cat will certainly get plenty of nutrients and amino acids from Crave's food and that will ensure your felines are bounding with energy.

Even so, this dry food is also notable for what it doesn't have as much as what it does. For starters, it is free of grains and, although cats don't need to avoid grains as a rule, you can see the particular thinking here: cats don't munch on grain in the wild so why introduce it into their domestic food when you're looking to produce meals based on animal instinct? 

It'll certainly do no harm to cut out the grains: scientists have found no link between grain-free food and ill-health in cats yet there is a good change it will reduce the risk of allergies. But as well as having no maize, wheat or soya, this product has an absence of dairy, artificial preservatives, and artificial colours or flavours. Again, it's all about being natural and ensuring cats build strong and healthy muscles. Most owners say their cats love the taste, too.

How to choose the best dry cat food

Cats eat kitten food

(Image credit: Getty)

Finding the right dry cat food to suit your feline friend can be challenging. If you're not sure which is the best dry cat food for your kitty, there are a few important things to consider when purchasing.

Age

First, consider your cat’s age. Dry cat foods are often formulated and specifically designed for the age and size of your kitty. So whether you have older or younger cats, you’ll need a formula to provide the right amount of nourishment.

Protein and fat sources

Look for quality first ingredients such as real chicken, lamb, turkey, salmon and tuna, which are all rich in protein. Chicken liver and heart are both rich in taurine, an amino acid that humans produce but cats cannot. Generally, focus on foods that contain calcium, fats and essential vitamins. And try to avoid those with artificial fillers designed to make your cat feel full, and lack any nutritional value.

Dietary restrictions

Consider your cat’s dietary restrictions, needs or conditions, such as allergies or weight issues. There are some dry cat food brands tailored to specific dietary needs to help maintain optimal health. Cost and value for money is another factor, as cat food can often be expensive.

Value for money

Cost and value for money is another factor, as cat food can often be expensive. Choose a suitable quality brand within your budget and avoid the latest expensive trends. Of course, you need to consider your cat’s tastes and preferences as to what they like and dislike. Whether they prefer chicken or tuna, or large or smaller-sized kibbles, this will influence what you purchase. Plus it will make your beloved cat more happy, healthy and content in the long run!

Is dry cat food better than wet?

Both dry cat food and wet cat food have pros and cons. The benefits of dry cat food includes convenience, ease of use and its typically cheaper cost. 

One of the drawbacks to dry is that it does not provide the same moisture content as its wet counterpart. Felines on a dry cat food diet should have access to a constant supply of water, so pet owners often consider adding a pets drinking fountain to their home. 

Dry cat food does, however, provide a handy addition to a food puzzle dispenser and can also be a very efficient way to provide calories in thin cats with food volume limitations. Wet cat food, on the other hand, can be more expensive but can be beneficial in cats prone to lower urinary tract disease, constipation and that are overweight.  

During routine check-ups, you can ask for a nutritional evaluation from a vet, including diet history and a body condition score, if you're not sure which is best for your feline. Our round up of the best wet cat food or our guide to the best cat food overall can offer some tasty alternatives.