Top 10 Best Dry Cat Foods of 2020

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The best dry cat food is rich in high-quality protein. It doesn’t contain a lot of veggies. And it’s free of additives that might harm your cat over time.

Great food is easy to describe, but finding kibble worthy of your cat’s bowl? That’s a little more challenging.

At a Glance: Top 10 Best Healthy Canned, Soft, & Wet Cat Food To Buy

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Top Pick

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Made primarily from species-appropriate animal ingredients
  • One of the most nutrient-dense dry foods on the market
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Best for Sensitive Stomach

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Morsels
  • The nutrition of raw meat in a shelf-stable, safer format
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Great for cats transitioning to a healthier moisture-rich diet
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Budget Pick

Kirkland Signature Dry Cat Food
  • Primarily composed of clearly-named protein sources
  • One of the most affordable foods you can buy
  • Doesn’t contain artificial colors and harmful preservatives
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Best for Diabetes

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dry Cat Food
  • Made from high-quality ingredients
  • Virtually zero carbohydrate content
  • 95% of the protein in each meal is bioavailable
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Best Baked Dry Cat Food

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Dry Cat Food
  • Relatively low in carbohydrates
  • Contains delicious, nutrient-rich liver
  • Doesn’t rely on low-value plant protein
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Best for Picky Eaters

Solid Gold Indigo Moon® Dry Cat Food
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Cats love the way that Solid Gold foods taste
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Best for Senior Cats

Only Natural Pet Dry Cat Food
  • Primarily made with nourishing protein sources
  • Contains multiple species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low in carbohydrates compared to other dry cat foods
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Best for Diabetic Cats

Young Again Dry Cat Food
  • Made from human-quality ingredients in a human-grade kitchen
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Contains species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids
25% Off Your first Order
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Best Limited Ingredient

The Real Meat Company Grain-Free Air-Dried Cat Food
  • Contains a variety of meat, organs, and bone
  • Species-appropriate protein concentration
  • Low plant content compared to traditional dry foods
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Best for Kittens

Simply Nourish Source Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • No artificial ingredients
  • Emphasizes whole named meats and meat meals rather than by-products
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Over the last year, we’ve reviewed over 80 cat food brands, including most of the biggest brands on the planet. We’ve read customer reviews, spoken with market insiders, and tested foods hands-on.

Based on that research, we’re bringing you an updated list of the best cat food brands and products in the industry. The following foods earn their place with outstanding ingredient quality, nutritional merits, and safety records.

Because it defies stereotypes with its low starch content, lack of legumes, and generous doses of species-appropriate protein, we’ve selected Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ kibble as the best dry cat food on the market.

Read on for our list of the top 10 healthiest dry cat foods on the market in 2020. After exploring our product roundup, you’ll learn about the good and the bad of dry food and how to make it part of a healthy diet.

Top 10 Best Dry Cat Foods on the Market Reviewed

#1 Top Pick: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Dr. Elsey’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 59% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.80/day

Unlike most grain-free foods, Dr. Elsey’s kibble doesn’t contain any legumes, potatoes, or other plant-sourced ingredients. Instead, it relies on gelatin as its sole binding agent. This allows Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ cat food to keep its carbohydrate content under 10%. That’s practically unheard of among dry foods.

Dr. Elsey’s cat food has never been recalled.

Top Recipe: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

This recipe features chicken as the main ingredient. Instead of using starchy ingredients like corn, legumes, or potatoes, the manufacturer relies on gelatin as a binder. Translation? This food is one of the lowest-carbohydrate kibbles you can buy.

With chicken, egg, and pork protein isolate its first ingredients, this food is high in protein and easy to digest.

Ingredients

Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharide, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Carbonate, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Cobalt Carbonate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide), Potassium Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Taurine, Salt, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein59.0% min
Crude Fat18.0% min
Crude Fiber4.0% max
Moisture12.0% max
Ash6.77%

What We Liked:

  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Made primarily from species-appropriate animal ingredients
  • One of the most nutrient-dense dry foods on the market
  • Doesn’t contain any of the most common inflammatory ingredients

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Expensive

#2 Best for Sensitive Stomach: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Morsels

Stella & Chewy's Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Stella & Chewy’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Freeze-Dried
  • Guaranteed Protein: 45% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.80/day

These freeze-dried morsels from Stella & Chewy’s capture the natural nutrient value of raw meat while destroying potentially-harmful bacteria. The freeze-drying process makes the food shelf-stable like kibble and gives the morsels a bit of crunch.

This food is a great option for kibble addicts transitioning to a high-moisture diet. You can gradually add warm water to your cat’s meals until the raw morsels have been fully rehydrated.

Stella & Chewy’s cat food was recalled twice in 2015 due to potential listeria contamination.

Top Recipe: Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

These freeze-dried morsels are made primarily from ground chicken meat and bone along with liver and gizzard. Botanicals, probiotics, and supplements are included in addition to the nutrient-rich meat.

Altogether, this is an extraordinarily low-carbohydrate food that emphasizes muscle meat, organs, and bone above all else. If you want something that combines the nutritional integrity of raw food with the convenience of kibble, these morsels may be the solution for you.

Ingredients

Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Fenugreek Seed, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein45.0% min
Crude Fat25.0% min
Crude Fiber5.0% max
Moisture5.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • The nutrition of raw meat in a shelf-stable, safer format
  • Great for cats transitioning to a healthier moisture-rich diet
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Primarily made from high-quality protein sources

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some cats won’t like the freeze-dried texture
  • Relatively high phosphorus content makes this a poor choice for senior cats

#3 Best Budget: Kirkland Signature Dry Cat Food

EVAXO Kirkland Signature Chicken and Rice Cat FoodBuy On Amazon

  • Brand Name: Kirkland Signature
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 30% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.14/day

If you want to feed your cat dry food on a budget, Kirkland Signature’s kibble is a great option to consider. While most budget-friendly kibble contains potentially low-value animal byproducts and rendered meals, this brand emphasizes clearly-named proteins like chicken and chicken meal.

Along with a better grade of primary ingredients, Kirkland Signature dry cat food contains nutraceuticals that are seldom found in the cheapest kibble on the market. Kirkland Signature cat food was recalled in 2012 as part of a salmonella-related recall initiated by pet food manufacturer Diamond Pet Food.

While it’s convenient to buy Kirkland Signature cat food on Amazon, you’ll find the best deals in Costco’s pet product aisle. If possible, head to the nearest Costco warehouse for the biggest savings.

Top Recipe: Kirkland Signature Chicken and Rice Dry Adult Cat Food 

This Kirkland Signature kibble features chicken and chicken meal as its primary ingredients. A mix of brown and white rice add carbohydrates and consistency. Unlike most foods at this price point, the food contains a mix of supplemental probiotics and prebiotics that may help to support digestive health and overall wellbeing.

Though it’s not radically high in protein and isn’t a low-carbohydrate food, this product has a wealth of qualities that set it apart from other dry cat food. Especially if budget is your top priority, it’s one of the best options on the market.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Chicken Flavor, Flaxseed, Sodium Bisulfate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Animalis Fermentation Product, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin D Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein30.0% min
Crude Fat20.0% min
Crude Fiber3.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Primarily composed of clearly-named protein sources
  • Doesn’t contain any of the artificial colors and potentially-harmful preservatives found in most budget cat foods
  • One of the most affordable foods you can buy

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not a low-carbohydrate food

#4 Best Air-Dried: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Dry Cat Food

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel & Lamb Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Ziwi
  • Made In: New Zealand
  • Food Form: Air-Dried
  • Guaranteed Protein: 43% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2-$3/day

This cat food looks more like chunks of jerky than bits of kibble. It’s made differently, too. While most kibble is extruded, this food is air-dried. A twin-stage dehydration technique destroys pathogenic bacteria. It doesn’t, however, destroy nutrients.

This makes Ziwi Peak dry cat food one of the most species-appropriate and nutrient-dense dry products you can put in your cat’s bowl. All Ziwi Peak recipes are composed of 96% or more fresh meat, organs, bones, and New Zealand green-lipped mussels.

The foods feature high-quality ingredients raised or grown on what the company describes as ethical New Zealand farms.

Top Recipe: Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Mackerel and Lamb Dry Cat Food 

Read Our Full Brand Review

While most other foods rely on synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace nutrients lost in cooking, this food harnesses the nutritional power of the heart, tripe, liver, lung, kidney, and bone. This recipe features mackerel, lamb, and a variety of lamb organs.

With virtually no plant content, this recipe is extremely low in carbohydrates. The food’s carbohydrate content stands around 4%. That’s less than most canned foods.

While the food is more expensive than most others on the market, it’s very nutrient-dense, so you can feed your cat less at every meal.

Ingredients

Mackerel, Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Lung, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Bone, Lecithin, Inulin from Chicory, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Preservative (Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), DL-Methionine, Taurine.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein43.0% min
Crude Fat25.0% min
Crude Fiber2.0% max
Moisture14.0% max
Ash12.0% max

What We Liked:

  • Minimally processed foods harness the nutritional value of fresh meat
  • Made from high-quality ingredients
  • Virtually zero carbohydrate content
  • 95% of the protein in each meal is bioavailable

What We Didn’t Like:

  • At just 14% moisture, this food is no substitute for a hydrating canned, homemade, or raw diet
  • Extremely expensive
  • Not every cat will like the jerky texture

#5 Best Baked Dry Cat Food: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Dry Cat Food

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken Luau Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Tiki Cat
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 46% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.50/day

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry cat food is relatively high-protein, low-carbohydrate baked kibble. The recipes in Tiki Cat’s Born Carnivore line contain 44% protein on average.

They’re grain-free foods that contain legumes like peas and chickpeas instead of corn, wheat, and other traditional plant ingredients. In contrast to many other dry foods that rely on plant fillers to boost the protein content, Born Carnivore foods contain little or no plant protein.

Tiki Cat has never been recalled.

Top Recipe: Tiki Cat Born Carnivore Chicken Luau Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

This food is primarily made from deboned chicken, chicken meal, and chicken liver, combined with tapioca starch, chickpeas, flaxseed, and whole peas.

These plant inclusions contribute to the food’s approximate 18% carbohydrate content. Though it’s more than your cat requires, anything less than 20% carbohydrate is exceptional for dry food.

Ingredients

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Dehydrated Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Product, Tapioca Flour, Ground Whole Flaxseed, Whole Chickpeas, Whole Peas, Natural Salmon Flavor, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Brewer’s Dried Yeast, Natural Chicken Flavor, Calcium Sulfate, Choline Chloride, Chicory Extract, Salmon Oil, Taurine, Pumpkin, Iron Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin Supplement (Vitamin B3), Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium D-Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein46.0% min
Crude Fat20.0% min
Crude Fiber3.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Relatively low in carbohydrates
  • Made primarily from high-quality protein sources
  • Contains delicious, nutrient-rich liver
  • Doesn’t rely on low-value plant protein

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains minimally-nourishing plant ingredients
  • No dry food is adequately hydrating

#6 Best for Picky Eaters: Solid Gold Indigo Moon® Dry Cat Food

Solid Gold Indigo Moon with Chicken & Eggs Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Solid Gold
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 42% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.34/day

Indigo Moon® is Solid Gold’s line of grain-and-gluten-free dry cat food. The foods are relatively high in protein with lower concentrations of carbohydrates and plant ingredients than you’ll find in other dry foods.

After several decades in the industry, Solid Gold has earned a reputation for trustworthy and tasty foods that have won the approval of generations of cats.

Solid Gold food was recalled once. In 2012, the company recalled selected dog foods due to suspected salmonella contamination.

Top Recipe: Solid Gold Indigo Moon® High Protein Wild Alaskan Pollock & Eggs Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

While animal-sourced protein takes center stage, the formula also contains potato protein, a concentrated plant protein source and not ideal for cats.

In addition to primary ingredients, the food contains an array of supplemental ingredients, like salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, prebiotic fiber, and probiotics for digestive health.

The total carbohydrate content of this recipe is around 22%, which is lower than many other dry foods.

Ingredients

Ocean Fish Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pollock, Potato Protein, Tapioca, Dried Eggs, Ground Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Carrots, Pumpkin, Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Potassium Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Folic Acid), Taurine, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Blueberries, Cranberries, Choline Chloride, Dried Chicory Root, Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein42.0% min
Crude Fat20.0% min
Crude Fiber3.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
Ash7.2%

What We Liked:

  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Made primarily from species-appropriate protein sources
  • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
  • Cats love the way that Solid Gold foods taste

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains potato protein, a concentrated source of plant protein
  • No dry food is adequately hydrating

#7 Best for Senior Cats: Only Natural Pet Dry Cat Food

Only Natural Pet Dry Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Only Natural Pet
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Dry Food
  • Guaranteed Protein: 47% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.34/day

Only Natural Pet’s Feline PowerFood kibble is among the best dry foods you can buy.

The brand’s foods are unusually rich and nutritionally complex, containing an array of supplemental ingredients that you won’t normally find in a mid-priced dry food. In addition to a wide variety of unexpected supplements, PowerFood has a strong foundation, with species-appropriate protein sources dominating each ingredient list and no excessive carbohydrate sources.

Why do we recommend this brand as one of the best dry cat foods for seniors? In addition to outstanding protein digestibility, Only Natural Pet dry cat food contains an array of anti-inflammatory ingredients. These additives may ease arthritis and other conditions common among older cats.

Only Natural Pet cat food has never been recalled.

Top Recipe: Only Natural Pet Feline PowerFood Poultry Dinner Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

Only Natural Pet’s poultry-focused recipe is composed of a mix of animal-sourced protein—deboned chicken, turkey meal, chicken meal, and plant protein—garbanzo beans and pea protein both make an appearance later on the ingredient list.

In addition to primary ingredients, the food contains a mix of supplemental ingredients that you don’t often see in cat food. The food contains salmon oil and green-lipped mussels as sources of omega-3 fatty acids.  A mix of prebiotic fiber, digestive enzymes, and probiotic organisms promise to promote digestive health and support the immune system.

Ingredients

Deboned Chicken, Low Ash Turkey Meal, Low Ash Chicken Meal, Garbanzo Beans, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Pea Protein, Pea Fiber, Tapioca Starch, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Chicory Root Extract, Flaxseed Meal, Taurine, Dl-Methionine, Dried Green Lipped Mussels, Turmeric, Dried Pumpkin, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid], Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Calcium Carbonate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate], Choline Chloride, Dried Lactobacilus Casei Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Thermophilum Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Trichoderma Reesei Fermentation Product, Apergillus Oryzae, Fungal Protease, Lipase, Fungal Pancreatin, Fungal Amylase, Bromelain Enzeco.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein47.0% min
Crude Fat18.0% min
Crude Fiber6.0% max
Moisture10.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Primarily made with nourishing protein sources
  • Contains multiple species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives that might harm your cat
  • Low in carbohydrates compared to other dry cat foods

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains plant-based protein sources

#8 Best for Weight Loss: Smalls Simply Cooked Kibble

Smalls-Cat-Food-Review-Dry-Chicken-Side-by-Side

25% Off Your First Order

Read Our Full Brand Review

  • Brand Name: Smalls for Smalls
  • Made In: United States
  • Food Form: Kibble
  • Guaranteed Protein: 40% min
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $1.00/day

Because it’s calorie-dense and not as satisfying as its wet equivalents, dry cat food is rarely the best choice for overweight cats.

But if your cat refuses to eat anything else, this cat food from Smalls could be a good option for weight loss. All three varieties of Smalls kibble are made from human-quality ingredients in a human food processing facility in Chicago, Illinois.

Though they contain sweet potatoes, peas, and other ingredients that aren’t ideal for your carnivore, Smalls food is low in carbohydrates compared to most dry foods.

Smalls cat food is delivered to your home according to a monthly delivery schedule, making it one of the most convenient options on the market.

The company also offers homemade-style fresh foods and freeze-dried meals. Using their custom recipe plan builder, you can gradually incorporate more raw and fresh food into your cat’s diet.

Top Recipe: Smalls Chicken Kibble Recipe

Young Again’s ZERO line is formulated with guar gum as its primary binding agent, liberating it from the use of starchy ingredients that could spike your cat’s blood sugar. With hydrolyzed pork as its main ingredient and a mix of chicken and herring meal rounding out the list of protein sources, this food is loaded with easy-to-digest animal-sourced protein.

In addition to its main ingredients, the food contains an array of supplemental ingredients that might support your cat’s wellbeing. You’ll find fish oil, prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Egg Product, Pea Protein, Chicken Liver, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols And Citric Acid), Lecithin, Sun-dried Miscanthus Grass, Yeast Culture, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Sea Salt, Potassium Chloride, Yeast Extract, Fructooligosaccharides (Fos), Taurine, Dl-methionine, L-tryptophan, Tricalcium Phosphate, Cranberry Extract, Chamomile Flower, Fumaric Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Thyme Extract, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Nicotinic Acid, Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, D-calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Biotin, Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, Sodium Selenite, Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein40.0% min
Crude Fat17.0% min
Crude Fiber4.0% max
Moisture10.0% min – 10% max
Ashn/a

What We Liked:

  • Made from human-quality ingredients in a human-grade kitchen
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Contains species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Cats love the way the food tastes
  • Delivered to your home according to a monthly schedule

What We Didn’t Like:

  • At over 20% calories from carbohydrate, this food has more starch than your cat requires
  • Significantly more expensive than most similar foods

#9 Best Limited Ingredient: The Real Meat Company Grain-Free Air-Dried Cat Food

The Real Meat Company 90% Lamb Grain-Free Air-Dried Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: The Real Meat Company
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 34% min
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $1.39-$1.90/day

The Real Meat Company produces air-dried foods featuring 90% muscle meat and organs mixed with vitamins, minerals, and fruit and vegetable ingredients. Because their recipes feature single protein sources, they may be a good option for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.

The Real Meat Company foods have never been recalled.

Top Recipe: The Real Meat Company 90% Lamb Grain-Free Air-Dried Cat Food

Read Our Full Brand Review

This recipe contains lamb, lamb lung, liver, heart, and bone, along with pumpkin, parsley, vitamins, minerals, and added amino acids. Lamb is the only protein source and a novel protein for most cats. That makes this food a good option for cats with food sensitivities or allergies.

This makes it a protein-rich meal that delivers the nutrition your cat needs in its most biologically available form. And because it applies plant ingredients with a light touch, this food appears to be relatively low in carbohydrates—especially when compared to your typical kibble.0

Ingredients

Lamb, Lamb Lung, Lamb Liver, Lamb Heart, Parsley, Pumpkin, Rosemary, Inulin (from Chicory), Ground Lamb Bone, Vegetable Glycerin, Taurine, Choline Chloride, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E Supplement), Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Sulfate, Vitamin E, Iron Proteinate, Selenium Yeast, Copper Sulfate, Nicotinic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin K1, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide (Source of Iodine), Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein34.0% min
Crude Fat22.0% min
Crude Fiber2.0% max
Moisture15.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Species-appropriate protein concentration
  • Contains a variety of meat, organs, and bone
  • Low plant content compared to traditional dry foods
  • Economical compared to other air-dried foods

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains an unnecessary amount of plant ingredients
  • Some cats won’t like the jerky texture
  • Many customers report that their cats don’t like this food

#10 Best for Kittens: Simply Nourish Source Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Simply Nourish Source Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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  • Brand Name: Simply Nourish
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 40% min
  • Life Stage: Growth
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $0.26/day

Simply Nourish is a PetSmart-exclusive brand and a fair contender for those who want to buy good dry food on a budget. Simply Nourish SOURCE foods cost about $0.13 per ounce, adding up to about $0.33 per day—considerably more affordable than most of the foods on this list.

In 2014, PetSmart recalled several lots of Simply Nourish dog treats due to potential mold growth. Simply Nourish cat foods, however, have never been recalled.

Top Recipe: Simply Nourish Source Chicken & Turkey Kitten Dry Cat Food 

Read Our Full Brand Review

This formula addresses the needs of growing kittens. It’s primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients, with deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal taking up the first three spots on the ingredient list. It contains fish oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, which is essential for brain and eye development.

High-moisture food is nutritionally superior for cats of all ages and it’s a good idea to establish healthy eating habits early. That said, if you’re set on feeding your kitten dry food, this is one to consider.

Ingredients

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Potatoes, Dried Peas, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Ground Flaxseed, Deboned Turkey, Pea Fiber, Fish Meal, Natural Flavor, Dried Chicory Root, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Dried Cranberries, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Choline Chloride, Taurine, Minerals (Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols & Citric Acid (Preservatives), Rosemary Extract.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein40.0% min
Crude Fat20.0% min
Crude Fiber5.5% max
Moisture10.0% max
Ash8%

What We Liked:

  • Relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other dry foods
  • Emphasizes whole named meats and meat meals rather than by-products
  • No artificial ingredients

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains generically-named “fish” without specifying the fish species used
  • Contains more plant ingredients than some of the other foods on this list

Best Healthy Dry Cat Food Summed Up & Price Comparison

Brand NameMade InProteinAge RangeCost Per Day
Dr. Elsey’sNew Zealand59% minAll Life Stages$0.80/day
Stella & Chewy’sUnited States45% minAdult$2-$3/day
Kirkland SignatureUnited States30% minAll Life Stages$0.80/day
ZiwiNew Zealand43% minAll Life Stages$0.14/day
Tiki CatUnited States46% minAll Life Stages$0.50/day
Solid GoldUnited States47% minAdult$0.34/day
Only Natural PetUnited States47% minAdult$0.34/day
SmallsUnited States40% minAll Life Stages$1.00/day
The Real Meat CompanyUnited States34% minAll Life Stages$1.39-$1.90/day
Simply NourishUnited States40% minKitten$0.26/day

Here’s how we chose the best dry cat food on the market.

We looked for high-protein, low-carbohydrate dry cat food.

Your cat is an obligate carnivore and thrives on a high-protein diet with moderate fat and little or no carbohydrate matter. No cat needs a high-carbohydrate diet.

Dry cat food is notorious for high carbohydrate content. High-carbohydrate ingredients are a physical necessity in the extrusion process. But all dry foods are high in starch. A few products honor your cat’s nutritional needs by keeping carbohydrate content low.

The best foods have a carbohydrate content of 10% or less. Carbohydrate content is not listed on cat food labels, so we’re forced to calculate it based on other nutrient values. When choosing the cat foods listed above, we used the carbohydrate calculator provided here. If ash content was not available for a given food, we used 6% as a default. Actual carbohydrate values may differ from these estimates.

Are grain-free foods dangerous?

It’s been over a decade since the anti-grain trend created a new generation of overpriced junk food—high-carbohydrate grain-free kibble. Swapping corn and wheat for sweet potatoes and peas does nothing nutritionally significant for your cat’s health. Most cats are not gluten intolerant and, contrary to popular belief, grains are not the leading cause of feline allergies.

Even worse, we’re now seeing that grain-free foods might be more than a misguided but harmless fad. Grain-free foods might be harmful for dogs and cats. In mid-2018, the FDA began an investigation into a potential correlation between grain-free pet food and an increased risk of canine dilated cardiomyopathy. While almost all of the reports involved dogs, it appears that the issue applies to cats as well.

The jury is still out on why grain-free foods are associated with an increased risk of DCM. Speculations include the use of legumes like peas and chickpeas, a tendency among grain-free foods to use nontraditional proteins like kangaroo and alligator, and potential nutritional deficiencies.

While there’s no confirmation that grain-free foods are harmful to cats, it won’t hurt to use caution. But that doesn’t mean you should look for foods that contain corn, wheat, and soy. Instead, the best foods are free of both grains and the potentially-harmful ingredients so often used in grain-free foods.

We paid attention to protein quality.

We chose diets that emphasized animal-sourced protein rather than protein from plants. Meat contains all the amino acids that cats need, while plant protein doesn’t. And while we don’t have all the details on the bioavailability of every protein source, it appears that most plant proteins are less digestible than their high-quality animal protein counterparts.

Additionally, animal by-products may contain a slurry of minimally-digestible animal parts, including connective tissue, intestines, and skin. While by-products aren’t necessarily worse than clearly-named cuts of meat, they introduce a degree of uncertainty about protein quality.

We avoided foods with artificial flavors and other ingredients that might harm your cat.

Because they may stir up inflammation or erode your cat’s health over time, it’s a good idea to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Instead, we looked for natural dry cat foods that rely on animal-sourced flavors and safe preservatives.

We looked for dry cat food sold by reputable companies.

When researching potential inclusions, we looked up every brand’s recall history and disqualified those with a history of frequent recalls, deception, or secrecy.

Additionally, we studied each brand’s customer reputation. We referred to Consumer Affairs and product listings to learn more about customers’ experiences. We also got first-hand experience with the brands’ customer service by contacting the companies directly. A two-minute phone call can tell you a lot about a cat food company. We gave preference to brands that offered prompt, transparent service.

Even the best dry cat food isn’t the ideal diet for your cat.

While even the worst wet cat food manages to give your cat plenty of moisture, all dry food is moisture-deficient. Compared to those who eat a high-moisture diet, cats who eat dry food are at an increased risk of chronic dehydration and urinary tract disease.

Furthermore, almost all kibble has more starch than your cat needs. If you have to give your cat dry food, here are a few tips to help you do it better.

Incorporate it into a rotational feeding plan.

Rotating kibble with homemade, raw, or wet cat food will keep your cat from becoming a dry food addict. It also promotes healthy moisture intake. Proper hydration helps to prevent urinary tract disease, helps to support healthy skin, may keep your cat’s immune system healthy, and supports overall wellbeing.

Click here for our guide to the best wet and canned cat food on the market.

Invest in a water fountain to encourage your cat to drink more.

Cats who eat dry food drink more water than those who eat a high-moisture diet, but that doesn’t mean that they’re better hydrated. In fact, one study found that cats who ate wet food took in more water despite not drinking anything at all.

Even dry-fed cats may be hesitant to drink from a bowl. Cats instinctively avoid still, potentially stagnant water. A water fountain appeals to your cat’s preference for well-aerated moving water.

Click here for our guide to the best cat water fountains. 

You may add water, goat’s milk, or cat milk to increase the moisture content of your cat’s food—but don’t leave it out for long.

Many dry foods are contaminated with mycotoxins, which thrive in warm, damp environments. If you do choose to add moisture directly to your cat’s dry food, make sure that your cat eats all of it within a few hours.

Don’t rely on dry cat food to keep your cat’s teeth clean.

Though it may be better than a soft diet for dental health, dry cat food alone will not prevent periodontal disease. To keep your cat’s teeth healthy, brush his teeth daily and consider taking them in for professional cleanings. The best dental cat treats may also help. Want to learn more about feline nutrition and choosing the best food for your cat?

Click here for our guide to the overall best cat food on the market.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.

9 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Dry Cat Foods of 2020

  1. AvatarMike

    My cats are only about 3 years old. I have been feeling like buying 80 cents per pound purina and kit and kabootal food is not worth the savings versus how much i value my guys(and girl). At the same time i dont want to spend $50 for a 16 pound bag of food. What is the best food for indoor cats(ages 2-4 year old) at about 2$ a pound? I dont want to overspend on crap thats marketed as good food, but also dont wont to buy garbage for them. I started buying rachel ray and other brands that are about 14$ for around 5 pounds of food. They dont eat as much of it as quickly as the cheap stuff. I am not sure if they dont like it, or its its just making them more satisfied.

    Reply
  2. AvatarScott Williams

    Dear Mallory;
    There is one brand of both dry and wet cat foods that is consistently passed over on all the “top” lists and it’s wrong. I feed Akiko, my 2 year old jet black DSH nothing but Performatrin Ultra, food and treats. It’s made in Canada from all Canadian ingredients, and is grain free and very high in animal protein, nutrients and minerals, quite comparably to high end brands like Blue . Also, if you buy it in Canada it’s lower priced than the brands like Blue. More and more Canadian veterinarians are telling there pet owners(Performatrin makes dog food as well) to switch to Performatrin Ultra because it’s just that good. I know Aikiko is very healthy and happy with it, and that’s good enough for me.

    Thank-you for your time;
    Scott Williams

    Reply
  3. AvatarMallory Crusta

    Hello Scott!

    Thanks for bringing Performatrin Ultra to my attention! I took a look at the product selection and it does appear that it’s an above-average cat food—nutritionally on par with some of the brands on this list of the best dry food. Again, I appreciate you leaving a comment and will keep Performatrin in mind for future “top” lists.

    All the best to you and Aikiko,

    Mallory

    Reply
  4. AvatarIdan

    Hello,
    It is sad that a lot of good US brands aren’t sold outside of the US and are extremely expensive to import.
    I would like to point out you are a bit inconsistent in that you rated Orijen 8 and Acana 9, while giving Acana a better grade in your Full Brand Review.

    Reply
  5. AvatarMallory Crusta

    Hello Idan,

    Thanks for your comment! Where are you from? I may be able to recommend a few good brands that are available in your country. Also, thanks for pointing out that discrepancy. This article was written before the brand reviews and should be updated for consistency.

    Purrs,

    Mallory

    Reply
  6. AvatarJay

    My vet cautioned me about grain free foods. The heart problems showing up in dogs due to lack of taurine in grain free food is also a concern for cats. Can you recommend a quality dry food that is not grain free? Thank you!

    Reply
    1. AvatarBrittney

      My cats eat grain free and their food absolutely contains taurine. It’s an essential ingredient for cat foods. Just read the ingredients label. If taurine is one of the last ingredients listed then it doesn’t contain much. The higher on the ingredients list that taurine appears, the more that food contains!

      Reply
  7. AvatarAubrey

    My vet recommended royal canin and said that grain free may cause heart disease but I wonder about vet’s motives (feeding pets unhealthy food gives them more business). I bought some tiki cat at the pet health food store instead. Interested in checking out Dr. Elsey’s instead. I was using 4health before.

    Reply

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