Best Cat Food & Brands Reviews in 2019
The Guide to Ensure Your Cat’s Dietary Health
Just walk into any supermarket and you’ll understand how many people own cats; there are more brands of cat food on the shelves than there are options in most categories of human food – making it nearly impossible to figure out which is the best cat food brand for your pet.
In reality, most commercially-available cat foods aren’t very good choices at all. They’re loaded with poor-quality meat byproducts, and even worse, unnecessary or even unhealthy grains, other fillers and gravies that add tons of bad carbs to your cat’s diet. That’s what often leads to diabetes and other serious feline illnesses. Even vet-recommended cat food can potentially be a problem, because many veterinarians receive incentives for selling certain brands.
What can you do to ensure your pet’s dietary health? After extensive research I’ve put together a collection of comprehensive cat food reviews – so you can consider this site your “cat food advisor.”
Top 12 Best Cat Food & Brands – Reviews
I’ve put together a list of the 12 best cat foods based both on experience and reviews from other cat owners.
1. Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe
Let’s be honest right from the start. Dry cat food is not an ideal diet for felines because it doesn’t supply the amount of water they need for good health. Wet food is about three-quarters water, but obviously dry food doesn’t contain any.
However, most cat owners rely partially or heavily on dry food because it’s convenient, it’s compatible with automatic-feeding systems – and because their cats love it. So if you’re going to be feeding your pet dry food it’s crucial to find the best. Taste of the Wild is my top rated cat food because it’s just as good as high-end name brands, but much less expensive.
Most importantly, Taste of the Wild is grain-free, with most of its carbs coming from healthy sources like potato. The proteins are primarily unusual preparations that cats find delicious, like roasted venison and smoked salmon. Fruits and vegetables, active cultures to help digestion and antioxidants are also added.
Taste of the Wild also makes wet food (although it’s made with carb-heavy gravy), but it’s even more difficult to find than the dry varieties (venison and salmon, and trout and salmon) which are readily found online.
- Grain-free with no major allergens or artificial preservatives
- Made from high-quality meat products, fruits, digestion-healthy additives and antioxidants
- Less expensive than “well-known” grain-free food
- Cats love the taste
- Some protein is meat meal, not all meat (to keep prices lower)
- More expensive than “standard” dry food
2. Purina Fancy Feast Classic Gourmet Wet Cat Food
Please take this advice seriously, from someone who dealt for years with a beloved cat who primarily ate dry food and developed Intestinal Bowel Disease: just switching to wet food isn’t enough. You need to carefully choose the wet food that you feed your pet, and Fancy Feast Classic (be sure it’s “Classic,” not the company’s foods with gravy or its roasted, chunk or grilled lines) is the way to go for most cat owners.
This Fancy Feast product isn’t the very best wet food available, but it’s the most affordable quality choice for everyday feeding, with the added advantage that most cats will gobble it up without hesitation. Fancy Feast Classic stands out because it has many fewer carbohydrates and much more protein than the company’s other products; low carbs and high protein is the combination that many experts agree is best for a cat’s health. There’s also no wheat gluten in any of the Classic wet foods, a real plus because wheat gluten is very allergenic and can hurt a cat’s digestive tract.
- Low-carb, with the carb/fat/protein ratios closely matching what felines eat in the wild
- No wheat gluten, many flavors also grain-free
- Cats love the taste
- Protein isn’t as high-quality as in expensive brands
- Some brands have small amounts of grain filler
- Often confused with less-healthy Purina Fancy Feast lines
3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Duck Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo (sometimes simply marked as “Blue”) is perhaps the best premium cat food on the market with a premium price to match. If you’re in a position to lay out some extra bucks long-term, though, their Wilderness dry food is terrific.
This food (in fact, all Blue Buffalo cat food) is all-natural with no added corn, wheat or soy products or preservatives, and the company uses actual meat, not the meat by-products found in many lower-priced foods. That makes Blue Buffalo better for your cat than many competitive products because by-products are harder to digest (and not as tasty).
Beneficial digestive aids and antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are added to Wilderness dry food in the form of what the company calls “Life Source Bits,” to make this Blue Buffalo food one of the very best choices if you’re going to feed your cat dry food.
- All-natural, low-carb and grain-free
- All meat (many flavors made with “human-grade meat”), no meat by-products
- Good mix of vitamins, digestion-healthy additives and antioxidants in “Life Source Bits”
- Variety of unusual, cat-friendly flavors available, including rabbit and duck
- In the upper price range
- Cats sometimes refuse to eat the “Life Source Bits,” lowering the food’s nutritional value
4. Hill’s Science Diet Indoor Dry Cat Food
Hill’s Science Diet is one of those cat foods that provoke widely varying opinions. It’s recommended by an enormous number of veterinarians, who say the food is scientifically formulated from high-quality ingredients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, without meat by-products or artificial preservatives.
On the other hand, critics point to the inclusion of whole-grain wheat plus wheat and corn gluten, as well as Hill’s previous extensive use of by-products as well as soy protein that cats can’t digest (the company says it no longer uses those products) to question Science Diet’s commitment to providing the best foods for cat nutrition.
The bottom line is that this dry food is definitely much higher in carbs than our previous choices, yet also contains healthy additives and supplements that cats need, without artificial ingredients. It’s also a food that many cats adore for its taste and its small, easy to chew bits. Is it the best dry food you can buy? No. Should you feed it to your cat? Millions of cat owners have for 25 years – but ask your vet her opinion if you’re not certain. Science Diet foods are moderately-priced.
- Made from meat and meat meal, no longer using meat by-products or soy
- Antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids included
- No artificial preservatives, flavors or colors
- Contains grains and gluten
- High in carbs
- Not the best food for cats with allergies
5. Sheba Pate in Natural Juices Adult Wet Cat Food
Sheba’s Pate is an affordable wet food that checks off most of the important “healthy” boxes, quite similar to Fancy Feast Classics in that it does use some meat by-products but is wheat-, soy- and corn-free without artificial preservatives. That means it’s high in protein and low in carbs, exactly what you want in the wet food that you feed your cat.
These Sheba foods are also good for diabetic cats (as are the Fancy Feast Classics) because of their low carb content. The company makes an effort to use quality meats and fish; for example, their seafood is sourced according to guidelines set by “responsible seafood” watchdogs. It’s also noteworthy that the natural juices in the Sheba Pate are just that, and not gravy that is typically loaded with carbs. One caution: stay clear of the Sheba variations with chunks or jelly. They’re not the same, and not as healthy.
- Low-carb, high protein
- Grain-free, no artificial preservatives
- Natural juices are appreciated by some cats
- Uses meat by-products
- Smell lingers longer than most competitive wet food
- More cats reject this food than would be expected
6. Nutro Max Indoor Cat Adult Dry Cat Food
This is one of those dry foods that’s OK for cats as a “sometimes” meal because it’s relatively healthy and quite inexpensive. It shouldn’t be your cat’s full-time regular food source, though, without wet food and other dry foods to supplement it. That’s because there’s no real meat in the Nutro Max, only meat meal, along with lots of carb-loaded grains like brewer’s rice, wheat flour and corn gluten meal.
On the flip side there’s no corn of any sort in this wet food, there are added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and the higher-carb rice and oat fiber in Nutro Max does help minimize the development of hairballs, even though those ingredients can be an issue for cats with allergies. Look for the flavors that don’t have added salt, if possible, because your cat doesn’t need it.
- Contains antioxidants and anti-hairball ingredients
- Taste appeals to most cats
- High-carb grains are a major ingredient
- Only meat meal is used, no actual meat
- Several potential allergens are used to make the product
7. Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Indoor Adult 27 Dry Cat Food
One of the higher-priced dry cat foods on the market, Royal Canin Feline Health products are worth their cost unless your cat has allergies. The company uses higher-quality meats than most competitors to make its foods (along with some meat meal mixed in), a very good thing. It also uses rice, corn, corn gluten meal and wheat gluten, which as you know by now (if you’ve been paying attention) means that the Indoor Adult 27 is higher than optimal in carbs and might cause problems if your cat has allergies.
There can be some benefits to less protein and more carbs: it’s a good choice for cats with kidney problems, and it makes the food and your cat’s stools less smelly. There are also ingredients in this Royal Canin formula designed to minimize tartar on your pet’s teeth, another plus. Just be sure to include wet food in your feline friend’s diet, in addition to this or any other dry food – and you might also want to look into the company’s Special 33 formula, which is great for cats with sensitive tummies.
- High-quality meat used as a primary ingredient
- Lower protein good for cats with kidney issues
- Good for cats’ dental hygiene
- High in carbs
- Not good for allergic cats
8. Iams Purrfect Delights Flaked Adult Wet Cat Food
Flaked wet cat food usually looks disgusting to humans. Of course, it’s not designed for us – and as awful as Iams Purrfect Delights might appear (and smell) when you open the can, chances are good that your cat will have the opposite reaction.
As for the food itself, it’s a mixed bag. Iams uses good quality chicken and seafood for its flaked food as you’d expect, since the product is marketed as a premium product. But they use tapioca starch, which is high in carbs and a potential allergen for many cats, as a filler and in the gravy that comes with the food. The Purrfect Delights also seems to lead to more weight gain – in some cats – than many competitive wet foods. There’s no added corn or glutens, however, and aside from the tapioca starch there are beneficial nutritional ingredients like vitamins and minerals. Just be sure to get a clothespin for your nose before you open the can.
- High-quality meat in the product
- Most cats devour it
- Good mix of vitamins and minerals
- Tapioca starch is high in carbs
- Can lead to weight gain in some cats
- Smells and looks nasty
9. Wellness Complete Health Natural Canned Grain-Free Wet Pate Cat Food
Wellness Complete Health is expensive. It’s also a very, very good cat food. Here’s how you can tell: cat foods list their ingredients in order, by the amount of each ingredient that’s used. Most cat foods have fillers or by-products in their top two or three ingredients but Wellness’s first three ingredients are all real meat. That means lots of excellent protein, and a lot less “other stuff” goes into these wet foods.
The Wellness Pate is very low-carb, grain-free and all-natural, with no meat by-products or artificial ingredients. There are also healthy vegetables and fruits, and essential vitamins and minerals added to promote good feline health. This food is low in magnesium as well, which is great for urinary health. There are ten different flavors, from the usual chicken and turkey to the more interesting chicken and lobster combo.
It might sound like the best cat food, so why isn’t it higher in these cat food rankings? Price. If you can afford it regularly, it’s a great choice.
- Excellent quality meat
- All-natural and grain-free
10. Wellness Core Natural Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
You can probably tell that I think Wellness is one of the best cat food brands out there, and the company’s Core dry food is just about as good a kibble as you’ll find – except, again, for that pesky expensive price tag. As with the wet food, this is an all-natural, grain-free product made from high-quality poultry and seafood (the available flavors are chicken and turkey, and turkey and duck). And once again, there is no wheat, soy, corn by-products or artificial anything in the Wellness dry food.
Wellness says that its dry food has 80% more meat than its competitor’s, because it doesn’t have use common carb-loaded fillers. While there’s no way to verify the number without owning a testing lab, the number sounds believable from watching the way cats will devour a bowl of Wellness Core. That alone should make you happy, but even better is that this is a low-carb cat food that’s simply first-rate.
- High quality fish and poultry
- All-natural and grain-free
- High protein, low-carb
11. Whiskas Tender Bites Favorite Selections Wet Food, Variety Pack
It’s tough to draw snap conclusions about the Whiskas Tender Bites Variety Pack, because there are four flavors with different (and sometimes strange) characteristics. For example, the beef flavor has more beef by-products than beef, and the whitefish and tuna flavor has more chicken, beef liver and meat by-products than either whitefish or tuna. The turkey and giblets flavor has lots of wheat gluten, which isn’t used in the other three flavors. In short, some flavors are more nutritious than others, and some have more carbs than others.
What isn’t up for grabs is the fact that cats really like Whiskas, particularly because the meat is chunky and apparently delicious. The Tender Bites use natural juices instead of gravy and have the usual minerals and vitamins included in their formula, so while they might not be the very best choice on my cat food advisor website, they’re not bad at all.
- Has high levels of protein with large chunks of meat
- Most flavors lower in carbs and gluten
- Uses a lot of protein by-products
- Some flavors use odd meat combinations or wheat gluten
- Inconsistent ingredient formulas
12. Purina Cat Chow Gentle Adult Dry Cat Food
It’s cheap kibble. That’s the main attraction to this ubiquitous dry cat food, which has dominated the mainstream cat food market forever. The more important fact is that the formula for Purina’s Gentle dry food is easy on sensitive stomachs, probably because there’s not a lot of high-quality protein to digest. The primary ingredients are turkey by-product meal, corn gluten meal, ground corn, brewer’s rice and soybean meal – not what any nutrition expert or most vets would recommend for good feline health, but tasty for cats and for whatever reason, easy for their stomachs to handle.
This is not what you’re looking for if your big question is “What is the best cat food for a healthy pet?” But for some, this could be the solution to a big tummy problem.
- Easy on sensitive stomachs
- Cats like it
- Low-quality protein content
- High in carbs and allergens
- Low overall nutritional value
What I Learned While Researching – The Best Food for Your Cat
Feline nutrition is a complete and complex veterinary discipline, so it’s difficult to sum up the “do’s and don’ts” of properly feeding a cat in a few paragraphs. After doing lots of research, though, I’ve learned a number of important facts that I want to pass along.
There’s no one-size-fits-all food that’s best for cats, nor is it a good idea to simply buy a cat food based on your pet’s age. Health challenges like kidney or intestinal bowel disease can make some foods that would be fine for healthy cats a death sentence for others. Allergies are a problem for many felines. And the amount of water your cat needs will vary depending on whether you feed her dry food, wet food or a mix. Consulting with your vet is always a very smart step.
Don’t Take Digestibility for Granted
The good stuff in cat food doesn’t do much good if your cat can’t absorb it into his body. More and more brands are including a “digestibility percentage” on their labels but since they determine that percentage themselves, there’s no way to know if it’s legitimate. At any rate, it’s better to consider the given digestibility figures than to ignore them – combine that with a check for high-quality ingredients, which will almost always be the easiest for cats to handle properly.
What Should Be in a Cat’s Diet?
The simple answer is protein, fat and carbohydrates, just as for any mammal. The bigger question is what percentage of each is appropriate for a cat. There’s no universal agreement among experts on the details other than that cats are carnivores and protein should make up a large portion of their nutritional intake, with high-quality protein easier to digest and better for the kidneys (a common feline health issue). There’s a growing belief, though, that lower-carb diets are healthier for most cats; once again, you should get your vet’s opinion before making a decision.
The Dangers of Low-Quality Ingredients
It’s not just digestibility and kidney health that argue for buying cat food that uses high-quality ingredients. There are other dangers ranging from obesity to intestinal disease and cancer that can stem from eating food with rendered fat or unsafe artificial additives. Always go high-quality and natural, if possible.
Where Does Your Cat’s Food Come From?
Of course, there’s no way to know specifically how or where your cat’s food has been manufactured. However, rendering facilities often produce cat food, and they’re more likely to use animal by-products that have steroids or antibiotics in them – that’s what sometimes turns up in the ingredient known as “meat meal.” Buying from reputable cat food producers, and checking to see how often their foods are recalled, are your best defenses.
There’s No “Right” Type of Cat Food
Dry or wet food? What about dehydrated foods, or raw diets? There’s no right or wrong when it comes to cat food, other than complete agreement that your cat needs enough water if he’s eating dry food on a regular basis.
There are pros and cons to each type of diet. Wet food provides lots of hydration and is usually more nutritious than dry food, which may have a lot of carbs and lower quality but is convenient and cheaper. Raw food is the closest to your cat’s “natural” diet, but it’s hard for indoor cats to digest and is easily contaminated, difficult to process and expensive. Dehydrated uncooked/unprocessed food would seem to be the best of all worlds, but once again there are the issues of making sure the cat gets enough supplemental water and expense.
Finally, every cat will eat some types of diets and refuse others. Check with your vet, and then choose the option that makes the most sense for your budget, time constraints and pet’s preferences.
Smart Steps to Take
I’ve mentioned all of these steps during the course of this cat food review article, but here are the three smart steps to take before deciding on and buying a regular cat food.
Read Labels and Do Research:
The first ingredients mentioned on the label will be the ones that make up most of the food’s content, but the rest will tell you if lots of unhealthy filler material or allergens are also included in the recipe. Not sure what some of those weird-sounding things are on the label? That’s what the Internet is for – learn what you’re feeding your best friend before putting out the bowl.
Check The Digestibility:
I’ve explained why this is so important, but I’ll say it again: great food doesn’t do your cat any good if he can’t absorb it into his body.
Talk to Your Vet:
She’ll be happy to advise you, particularly if your cat has special medical or dietary needs. And don’t be afraid to ask about things like carb content; the vet may not volunteer the information, but understands the controversy surrounding it and will be able to shed some extra light on what’s best for your cat.
I’ve tried to give you plenty of options on this list of cat food ratings, so there are choices for every budget, need and preference. For most cats (and their owners), I believe that Taste of the Wild Cat Food is the best dry food, and Purina Fancy Feast Classic Gourmet Wet Food is best for those who feed their pet wet food on a daily basis.
Have a different opinion on the best cat food brands? I’d love your feedback!