There are so many dry cat food formulas out there! Cats are known to be foodies with a love for a delicious meal (and a glare if you forget to feed them on time)! You want to make sure your cat enjoys a healthy, well-balanced meal each time they feast. This all starts with the type of cat food you choose and its ingredients.
When picking from the array of cat food on the shelf, it’s important to know the ingredients which make cat food nutritious and healthy for our feline family members. Whether you are welcoming a new cat into your life or revisiting your current cat’s diet, we have some considerations for you to review before choosing the best dry cat food.
Ingredients to Look for in Dry Cat Food
High-quality cat food will feature a balanced and meat-based formula that provides the nutritional values that cats require, with no dangerous additives!
How do you identify a well-balanced and safe cat food? Studying the ingredients should tell you everything you need to know.
Ingredients In High-Quality Dry Cat Food
When scanning the ingredient list of dry cat food, be on the lookout for these ingredients and inclusions to select a healthy and worthy cat food.
- Meat protein. Good cat foods will feature at least 25 percent meat-based protein. It should also be the first ingredient on the list and should be from an easily identifiable source, such as chicken, fish, liver, etc.
- Amino acids. These essential acids are the building blocks for protein! Specifically, taurine is an important amino acid to look for in cat food.
- Omega fatty acids. Omega fats help skin and coat health to keep your cat looking pretty and shiny. Look for a 5:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3.
- AAFCO conformity. AAFCO regulates cat food quality. Look for cat foods that are in alignment with AAFCO guidelines. This should be listed on the bag.
- Minimal heat and processing. Excessive or high heat cooking dries out food and ruins nutritional value. Extreme heat also can alter the protein, which can be harmful. It’s best to look for cat foods that are slow-cooked or slow-baked.
- Lots of nutritious vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are essential to any well-balanced cat food.
Ingredients to Stay Away from in Cat Food
Sometimes the nutritional value of cat food is put on the back burner for faster production or lower prices. You don’t want to sacrifice your cat’s health to save money. This will likely be more costly in the long run. You should stay away from the following ingredients in cat food to ensure you are getting the best dry cat food possible.
- Dyes. Cat food can feature dyes that make the kibble different colors. Cats don’t care what color their food is – and we shouldn’t either! Some food dyes are found to cause harmful side effects, like tumors, cancer and allergies.
- Chemical preservatives. Synthetic preservatives like BHA and BHT are no good for a cat. These preservatives have been linked to cancer. Look for no preservatives or natural preservatives like vitamin E or vitamin C.
- Unbalanced pH. The ideal pH range for cat food is between 6.3-6.7; a pH level above or below these ranges can cause urinary problems in cats, like UTIs.
- Unnamed meat byproducts and/or meat meal. Meat byproducts, sometimes listed as meat meal, are not an ideal source of protein for your cat. These are made from discarded, undesirable meat and could be anything from roadkill to dead zoo animals.
- Flavor enhancers. Sodium acid pyrophosphate is a common flavor enhancer. It is unhealthy for cats and can cause dehydration, organ damage, cardiovascular disease, and more. Similarly, MSG in cat food is not ideal and should be avoided as it can aid in obesity and other health issues in cats.
- GMOs (genetically modified organisms). GMOs have been linked with diseases of the liver, pancreas, reproductive system and more.
- Legumes. We tend to think of legumes (like peas and beans) as healthy. However, in cats, legumes can cause dehydration and nutrient deficiencies.
- Excessive fish oil. Although cats can eat (and benefit) from fish oil, it should be in small amounts. Fish oil should not be fed every day, as it can cause vitamin E deficiencies in felines.
- Starchy veggies. Vegetables like sweet potato and potatoes can be used as binders in many cat foods. Cats don’t need excessive carbohydrates; it can lead to weight gain. It’s not toxic to feed cats starchy vegetables, but over time, it can lead to obesity and other health problems.
Top Picks for the Best Dry Cat Foods
Now that you know what to look for and what to stay away from, you may feel better equipped to pick out a nutritious dry cat food. You also may be still overwhelmed by the number of choices on the market!
Not all cat foods are made equally. You should always do your research as a responsible pet owner before buying food for your cat. Even after you’ve weeded out the dry cat foods with harmful ingredients and additives, you’ll still have several great options to choose from. We’ve put together a few suggestions of great dry cat food on the market right now that you might want to peek at!
Best For Picky Eaters
Got a picky cat? Try Solid Gold Indigo Dry Cat Food! This food can entice even the pickiest eater. This food also boasts no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives and is low in carbohydrates. Cats love the way this formula tastes!
For Sensitive Stomachs
Is your cat’s stomach bothered easily by food? If so, you should give Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Dinner a try! This food offers real and raw nutrition in the form of freeze-dried food. It can be served dry as-is or rehydrated with water. This food is low in carbohydrates and doesn’t contain grains, gluten, fillers, artificial preservatives, or colorings.
Best for Senior Cats
As your feline family member ages, you need to keep them feeling happy and healthy! To give your senior cat’s diet a boost, try Only Natural Pet’s Powerfood Poultry dry cat food! This formula features multiple species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids. It features nutritious protein sources and has fewer carbohydrates than most dry cat foods.
Best for Weight Loss
Does your cat need to lose a few pounds? We love our animals the way they are of course, but sometimes, for their health and wellbeing, you need a food formula that focuses on sustainable weight loss. If this sounds familiar, try out Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry cat food. This cat food never uses animal byproducts. Instead, this formula contains delicious and nutrient-rich liver-based protein. It doesn’t rely on low-value plant protein and features low carbohydrates for weight loss!
There have never been more dry cat food options on the market than today! There are more options to analyze and research; however, there are also more nutritious formulas than ever at your fingertips. By knowing what ingredients to look for, which to stay away from, and why, you’ll be a pro at picking the best dry cat food in no time. Your feline friend will thank you with years of companionship and fun!