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The best dry cat foods: Find the perfect kibble for your kitty

Two cats eating dry cat food
(Image credit: Getty)

Dry cat food has many benefits both to pet owners and cats themselves. For instance your kitty can get all the nutritional goodness they need to keep them happy and healthy, while owners find it easy to store and with a long shelf life to boot.

 Another reason that pet owners tend to opt for dry cat food over the best wet cat food is because it's far less messy. If you have a fussy kitty who likes to eat on their own schedule, then dry cat food is much better for leaving out in a bowl for them to help themselves when they feel like it. This can’t be done with wet cat food as it has a shorter shelf life, and in that respect, dry cat food works out much better value for money too, especially if you have more than one moggy to feed.

It’s important to check the ingredients listed in dry cat food to ensure it has everything your cat needs to keep them strong. Most cat food is low carb which is good for keeping them a healthy weight, but be sure to choose a food with enough protein in for growth and development. Cats can be fussy, so if you’ve got a kitty who is picky or one who needs to be on a special diet, check out our guide to help you find the answer to Is dry cat food best? And you can also get advice from the experts in A vet's guide to healthy weight loss for cats.

There’s a huge range of dry cat foods on the market and it can be difficult to pick the right one, so we’ve made that job a little easier, by picking out some of the top dry cat food out there to suit all types of cat. Check out this list, and if they don’t take your fancy, you can also check out our guide to the best cat food for both wet and dry cat food options.

PetsRadar's pick of the best 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.

A packet of Whiskas dry cat food

(Image credit: Amazon)

Whiskas 1+ Dry Cat Food for adult cats with chicken

Best budget dry cat food

Weight: 15lb | Flavors: Chicken | Fat content: 10% | Protein: 32%

Nutritionally complete and balanced
Good for those on a budget
Can be combined with wet cat food
Some customers report their cats getting bored of it

Whiskas 1+ Dry Cat Food is a very recognizable brand if you happen to be from the UK. Even so, it remains one of the cheaper brands available and will appeal to those who want to keep their cat healthy without spending the earth on pet supplies.

When you look at the ingredients label, it becomes noticeable that there may be slightly fewer nutrients than some of the higher-end foods available, for instance protein comprises 32% of its analytical constituents. However the recipe remains one that carries a seal of endorsement from the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, providing an expert recommendation.

On the whole, existing customers seem to recommend it too as reviews for Whiskas 1+ Dry Cat Food for adult cats with chicken are positive in the majority. At the time this round-up was updated, 87% of over 3,000 reviews on Amazon gave it five stars, and 9% awarded 4 stars.

While there might be more expensive cat foods available with higher protein content, Whiskas cat food will still satisfy the needs of your cat for a very competitive price.

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. 

How To Choose The Best Dry Cat Food

Finding the right dry cat food to suit your feline friend can be challenging. But there are a few important things to consider when purchasing.

First, consider your cat’s age. Dry cat foods are often formulated and specifically designed for the age and size of your kittie. So whether you have older or younger cats, you’ll need a formula to provide the right amount of nourishment. When researching brands, carefully read the ingredients on the labels. 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.

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. 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!

If your cat decides dry food isn't for him/her then our round up of the best wet cat food or our guide to the best cat food overall will offer some tasty alternatives.