Finding the right cat food starts with examining the ingredients and their formulations. The cat food industry is flooded with many options for normal cats or those with special needs, which leads to a wide variety in the cat food industry.
Veterinary prescription diets are available for cats with specific medical problems. Other foods are available for cats prone to hairballs and urinary or digestive problems. There is even a greater assortment of foods for normal cats and kittens.
Top 10 Best Rated Cat Food
Canidae features dry and wet pet food made from lamb, salmon, bison or duck. All kibbles are finished with HealthPLUS Solutions: a mixture of probiotics, antioxidants and healthy omega oils for optimal health and nutrition.
|Read 1225 Reviews|
Friskies strives to not only give cats delicious and nutritious food and treats that keep them healthy and strong, they also provide games and treats that help cats live life to the fullest.
|Read 19 Reviews|
Iams offers a premium line of cat foods that suit nearly every dietary restriction your cat may have, including grain-intolerance. Specially formulated wet and dry food options are available for any medical need.
|Read 15 Reviews|
Fancy Feast is a Purina brand of gourmet wet and dry cat food. Founded in 1982, they have a reputation for providing a great variety of high quality cat food products.
|Read 17 Reviews|
Meow Mix offers a free Help Me Choose webpage to help cat owners select the right formulas for their pets. The company offers wet and dry cat food options, as well as treats for felines.
|Read 13 Reviews|
Purina's Pro Plan cat foods come in a range of blends to accommodate finicky taste buds and special nutrition needs. Available in wet or dry forms, Pro Plan formulas are based on fish or chicken to provide great-tasting protein.
|Read 40 Reviews|
Made in a range of flavors including turkey, chicken, liver and salmon, Hills Cat Food caters to growing kittens. Chunks of meat excite hungry kittens while providing a nutritious range of vitamins and protein.
|Read 58 Reviews|
Blue Buffalo pet foods are made for both cats and dogs in all-natural formulas. Dry kibble, wet canned foods and treat pouches are available in a variety of special lines, such as Freedom-Grain-Free, and Wilderness-Meat-Rich.
|Read 1623 Reviews|
GREENIES is a part of Nurto Natural Choice, which is owned by Mars. The brand offers treats to improve dental health and to make it easy to get pets to take medication in a pill form. Products are made in the United States.
|Read 194 Reviews|
Merrick Cat Food features chicken, beef, liver and salmon, with blends available for seniors and kittens. The food is made without the use of grains, and vegetable fibers to aid digestion and stop the formation of hairballs.
|Read 8 Reviews|
What features matter most?
Before deciding on a particular brand of cat food, read the ingredients.
- Meat: Cats are carnivores so the main ingredients should be meats or meat meals, not grains or other carbohydrates.
- Fat: Fat should also be listed as one of the first five ingredients.
- Allergen free: Allergies lead to hot spots and yeast infections. Wheat, beef, chicken and soy are known allergens, so avoid these ingredients if your cat is prone to allergies.
Price is a major factor in any purchasing decision, and cat foods can run the gamut. Typically, there are grocery store brands, mid-tier and top-tier products.
Caution! Vitamins are lost or become less potent and fat becomes rancid in bags of food open more that 4-6 weeks, even in sealed containers.
- Lowest price: With cat foods, you often get what you pay for. Cheaper products often contain lower quality ingredients.
- Quality matches price: When looking at mid-tier brands, typically only available at specialty pet stores, it is important to make sure that the price is justified by the quality. Look at the ingredients and then compare prices.
- Bulk options: Buying bulk keeps costs down. Shop by the price per unit, not the price per bag.
Wet vs. dry
Wet food costs substantially more than dry, but it is also much better for cats.
- Wet food: Wet food is gentler for cats to digest, better for their urinary health and often more palatable. In addition, cats often get much of their daily liquids through wet food. The health benefits may be worth the extra cost of wet food.
- Dry food: As a cost-effective option, dry food offers complete nutrition, but it is important to verify the quality of ingredients. A bag of dry food can feed a cat for a month, and it usually costs about half as much as a wet diet.
- Blended diet: A diet of both wet and dry food may be the most cost-effective option, so check to see if a brand offers both options.
Different formulas offer different health benefits. Select foods to meet specific needs of each cat.
- Urinary tract health: Cats can be susceptible to a build-up of crystals in their urine, resulting in blockages in males. Urinary tract health formulas can prevent the problem before it starts.
- Hairball formula: Hairballs are a common problem. Hairball control formula can reduce or eliminate hairballs.
- Prescription formulas: Some cats have health problems requiring prescription cat food. There are foods designed for cats with kidney, liver and heart problems, urinary tract blockages and other issues.
Cats have an assortment of urinary crystals made up of different minerals. Food with lower amounts of the right mineral can have a direct impact on a cat’s health and longevity.
- Low mineral formulas: Limiting the right mineral in cat food means less likelihood of bladder crystals, blockage in males or possible kidney problems.
- Consult your Vet: Your veterinarian can tell you which minerals you should avoid for your cat.
- Consider a wet food alternative: The extra water in wet cat food helps dilute any type of mineral in the urine and reduces the build-up of crystals in the bladder and kidneys.
Kitten and senior formulas
Make sure a brand offers formulas addressing all life stages. Changing brands suddenly can cause cats to experience digestive problems.
- Kitten formula: Food specifically formulated for kittens has a lot more calories, protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus for their growing body and bones.
- Adult cat formula: From indoor cat to health-specific formulas, adult cat food should have everything necessary for lifelong health.
- Senior formula: As cats age, they need fewer calories and different nutrients. Senior formulas typically contain nutrition designed to improve joint health, cater to sensitive stomachs and help senior cats stay active.
What are different types of cat food?
Dry cat food
Dry cat food is made into small, compressed nuggets. Producing dry food requires larger amounts of starch from carbohydrates than other types of cat food. Choose dry food with the highest amount of protein possible.
Wet cat food
Wet or canned cat food is not dehydrated, so it is very moist and soft. It offers higher moisture content and lower calories.
Raw cat food
Raw food is mostly composed of meat, carcass frame with bone and vegetables or grains, along with any extra supplements added for health benefits. This type of diet mimics a cat's natural diet.
Special formula cat food
Some cat foods are specially formulated to combat certain health issues. Obese or obesity-prone cats might benefit from weight management formulas. Special veterinary formulations help cats with a variety of medical problems.
Who's it for?
A pet owner with a new kitten needs food to address healthy development, including calories and nutrients that support rapid growth.
Some cats are very picky about what they will and won't eat. They may turn their nose up at dry food, or go on a hunger strike when faced with a brand they don't like.
An indoor, inactive or senior feline might carry extra pounds. Creating a diet to help them shed extra weight is challenging, so a special formula might be necessary.
Special needs cats
Special formulas can help cats with kidney, liver heart problems and intestinal or other urinary conditions. This can help reduce veterinary bills.
What do the experts have to say?
Taking the concepts of farm fresh and locally sourced and applying them to pet food, Innova is a brand leader dedicated to providing top-quality food choices to concerned pet owners.
- Best for Active kittens, picky cats and inactive cats.
With a commitment to providing pet foods as close to what nature intended as possible, EVO offers a high-protein, low carbohydrate pet food option. Their goal is to provide the highest possible quality in both dry and canned foods.
- Best for Picky cats and inactive cats.
Developed by Iams, one of the leading cat food brands; Eukanuba was designed as a premium pet food brand. In fact, Eukanuba means "the tops" or "supreme" in jazz culture, where the name was taken from.
- Best for Active kittens, inactive cats and cats with medical problems.
As a premium cat food producer, California Natural Cat Food is designed to be healthy and top quality. California Natural offers organic pet food.
- Best for Active kittens and picky cats.
As a leader in the pet food industry and part of the Natura family of products, HealthWise focuses on providing pet food formulas to fit the health needs of all breeds and varieties.
- No by-products: HealthWise uses real chicken and chicken meal as the protein source.
- Fewer hairballs: Using a blend of oatmeal, flax seed meal and brown rice called Fiber Matrix, their kitten and cat formula dry food naturally reduces the formation of hairballs.
- Natural fatty acids: Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are a natural part of the food formula, found in ingredients such as herring meal, ground flax seed and chicken fat.
- Easy shopping: One type of cat and kitten food means no more peering through shelves looking for a special bag of food.
- Low in magnesium: Naturally low in magnesium, HealthWise cat food offers solid nutrition to male and female cats prone to struvite urinary crystals.
- Expert note: HealthWise voluntarily recalled dry cat food for potential Salmonella contamination in June of 2014.
- Best for Active kittens, cats and cats prone to struvite stones.
As a leader in the raw pet food category, Nature's Variety takes a holistic view on pet care. They create food as close to what nature intended as possible.
- Best for Active kittens, picky cats and inactive cats
Merrick has been a leading name in premium pet food for over 25 years. They don't produce formulas; they cook up delicious recipes designed to please the canine and feline palate.
- Best for Kittens, picky cats and inactive cats.
Created by Purina, one of the most trusted names in pet care, Pro Plan is a premium pet food with only one thing in mind - health. Pro Plan creates healthy blends and tempting flavors, all chock full of the nutrition pets need to stay glossy and active.
- Best for Active kittens, picky cats, inactive cats and cats with medical problems.
The Hills family of pet foods always makes the list when discussing premium options, in large part due to their unique formulas and prescription options.
- Best for Active kittens, picky cats, inactive cats and cats with medical problems.
Alpo Cat Food offers products cats need for optimal health and happiness in all stages of life, while running a company that believes in quality ingredients and sustainable operations. Alpo cat products include wet food, dry food and treats to deepen that special bond between a feline and its owner.
- Live chat capabilities: Alpo Cat Food offers customers the opportunity to connect with a cat food advisor who can offer the perfect selection for their furry friend.
- Different price points: The company markets its products to fit all budgets.
- Online matrix: This online feature helps determine which product is best for a specific cat, in case owners are unable to chat with an online advisor.
- Informational articles: Helpful topics guide owners to better understand their cat's behavior, health and overall wellness.
- Dietary restrictions: The company offers options for owners with cats that have certain dietary needs or restrictions.
- Online resources: The website helps people determine what breed of cat is best for their lifestyle, and it provides crash courses in finding the best breed of cat.
- Best for Budget-conscious pet owners, active kittens and nutrition conscience pet owners.
Fancy Feast is a company that is committed to preparing gourmet cat food selections, and has been doing so for over 25 years. Their headquarters are in St. Louis, Missouri, and they offer a wide array of product types and flavors. Their products will appeal to almost any feline; in fact, Fancy Feast understands that cats have very specific tastes and they endeavor to please even the pickiest cats while providing them with nutritious food. Fancy Feast is especially known for its high quality wet cat foods.
- Best for Picky cats, active kittens and cats that need good nutrition.
Friskies is a company that manufactures cat food products and other assorted pet items, under the umbrella of its parent company, Nestle Purina. Founded in 1965, Friskies continues to be one of the most famous names when it comes to giving cats something delicious for dinner. They are committed to nutrition, pet food quality and safety, pet welfare and sustainability.
- Best for Young cats, older cats, indoor cats and cats who need good nutrition.
Iams Cat Food is a company dedicated to providing pets with the best food possible. Iams was founded on the philosophy that pets need to be given the best nutrition possible. Since its founding, Iams has relentlessly researched new ways to improve their recipes and to ensure that their customers' furry family members are provided with all they deserve.
- Best for Cats who need good nutrition and cats who need to lose weight.
Kirkland knows cat owners sometimes worry about the food they give their four-legged friends, which is why it developed a food that meets a cat's special nutritional need using ingredients that cat owners can trust.
- Best for Active cats, cats who need probiotics and cats who may be overweight.
Meow Mix brand has been providing cat food and treats for four decades. The company makes wet and dry cat food formulas as well as soft and crunchy treats. Meow Mix also makes a special cat food formula designed to deliver nutritionally balanced food to kittens.
- Best for Cats that need nutritious food, picky cats and cats that need to stay a healthy weight.
NUTRO Cat Food is a company that offers premium cat food with a variety of flavors and textures to cats in all life stages. Tailored by the experts at The Nutro Company, it contains natural ingredients with added vitamins, minerals and trace nutrients to deliver the high-quality nutrition cats need to stay happy and healthy. With no poultry by-product meal, soy protein, rice flour, corn, wheat or vitamin K3, NUTRO Cat Food is free from many of the ingredients that are known to cause allergies in cats.
- Best for Indoor and outdoor cats, fussy cats and cats with specific health needs.
Reading and understanding cat food labels or the material on cat food maker’s websites can be confusing. In fact, the information may be misleading. Here is some helpful information.
First ingredient – Ingredients are listed on cat food labels in the order of their weight in the food. Meat is allowed to also include its water weight. Meat is 70% water. If meat is listed as the first ingredient, it includes the water weight. The amount of real meat protein is actually much less. The second protein ingredient, generally a meat meal, is really the primary protein in the food, not the first ingredient.
Premium or holistic – There are no legal definitions for the words “premium” or “holistic”. These foods do not have to meet standards that are any different from other foods.
Natural – Natural is defined as any feed or ingredient from plant, animal and the earth and can be processed by any method as long as it is not mixed with synthetic products or processed by methods using synthetic products “except in amounts as may occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices.” Cat food can contain synthetic ingredients and still use the word “natural” if there is a claim on the label disclosing the presence of synthetic ingredients or products.
Organic – Cat food can be labeled “organic” if only 95% of the ingredients were raised organically.
Organic ingredients – Cat food can be labeled “made with organic ingredients” if only 70% of the ingredients were raised organically.
Meat – Meat from hoof stock is defined as ”striated muscle, but can include tongue, esophagus, diaphragm, heart with overlying fat, sinew, nerve and blood vessels that normally accompany flesh.” Everything in the chest except the lungs is considered “meat.”
Meat – Poultry meat is defined as “clean flesh and skin, with or without bone.”
Meat – Fish is the entire fish [head, fins, scales and entrails] or the flesh remaining after fileting.”
Deboned meat – Deboned meat or poultry is the meat removed from bone after the muscle has been removed. This is the meat used for sausages, hot dogs and processed chicken products in human food.
Quality – Cat food ingredients do not have quality standards like the USDA quality coding for human meats and products.
Quality control – The FDA and USDA does not require mandatory inspections of cat food companies. Quality control is voluntarily enforced.
USDA inspected – USDA inspected only means that the ingredients in cat food that cannot be used in human food came from a facility inspected by the USDA. There is no oversight of the ingredients once they leave the slaughterhouse.
Claims by cat food makers are not what they seem. It can be very difficult choosing the best food for your cat. It requires lots of independent research on your part.
Hear from our expert – Dr. Ken Tudor
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 21 Best Rated Cat Food
9Lives Cat food is dedicated to helping cats live a long, healthy life. 9Lives offers tasty wet or dry food that help support a variety of cat functions such as weight control, healthy digestion, and a healthy skin and coat.
|Read 232 Reviews|
Whiskas cat foods contain vitamins to support a balanced mealtime and come in three flavors: beef, chicken or seafood. Available in bags, sealed pouches or trays, Whiskas is protein-rich with an enticing aroma to excite any cat.
|Read 294 Reviews|
Innova is created from chicken and turkey, whole grains, vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables and a taurine supplement. Healthy fatty-acids will bring a beautiful shine to your cat's coat, and this food is good for cats of any age.
EVO Cat Food is crafted from a range of ingredients including chicken and turkey, herring, salmon, venison and duck. Cats can have their favorite delicious flavors and enjoy a nutritious back-to-basics grain-free diet.
Eukanuba Cat Food includes 91% animal protein in its tasty range of meals that cater to overweight and extra-furry cats as well as normal house cats. Flavors include lamb or chicken, with liver for added nutrients.
California Natural Cat Food comes in many nutritious flavors to entice the most finicky of house cats. Pets can choose from a balanced meal based on salmon, herring, venison or chicken, paired with brown rice or sweet potato.
HealthWise Cat Food contains chicken and rice with no by-products. The formula is healthy for cats and kittens, low in magnesium to help kitty avoid any urinary tract infections and high in whole grains to help hairball issues.
|Read Expert Review|
Nature's Variety Cat Foods is crafted from chicken, duck, rabbit and tuna in three ways: kibble, cans and Instinct Raw. This company prides itself on the use of real cuts of meat for a holistic approach to pet health.
With over 80 years of quality product experience, and a belief that pets and people are better together, Alpo Cat Food offers multiple nutrition solutions for cats of any age to thrive.
|Read Expert Review|
Sold in Costco warehouses, Kirkland Signature Cat Food products provide cats with a healthy food that also contains the added benefits of probiotics, which ensure digestive tracts stay healthy and thriving.
NUTRO Cat Food delivers balanced nutrition for indoor and outdoor cats in every life stage. Containing real fish or poultry as the primary ingredient, it provides a delicious taste even the pickiest cats enjoy.