Updated Fall 2019! Product ratings have been tweaked, and the top dry cat foods list has been adjusted to match. More info here.
Following up to our popular list of CatFoodDB’s Best Wet Cat Foods, next in this series is our list of the highest-ranking dry kibble formulas. Although dry foods are generally higher in carbohydrates and lack the moisture that cats require as part of their diet, certain varieties can still be considered excellent choices for your cat. Dry cat foods are also considerably more convenient for humans, as they don’t spoil as easily. Additionally, dry cat food left out for cats that do better with free-feeding as opposed to scheduled meal times.
Since every cat is different, it’s impossible to pick the singular “best” dry cat food. Allergies, health concerns, price and even the pickiness of your particular feline will also all play a part in helping you determine what is the best cat food (wet or dry) for your situation.
However, analyzing all the data has shown me there are definitely different tiers of quality across the 700+ dry food products I’ve looked at. Below you’ll find 14 of the best dry cat foods that scored the highest using my fact-based, unbiased analysis of each product using the manufacturer’s published nutritional information.
The analysis done for each product is the same as did with the CatFoodDB’s Best Wet Cat Foods post, where I evaluated and ranked each product based on their published ingredient lists and the guaranteed analysis.
For the purposes of this list, a dry cat food is any variety that contains less than 80% moisture as reported by the manufacturer. However, varieties labeled as a raw, freeze-dried, dehydrated or frozen diet have been excluded as those formulas are different enough to warrant their own list in the future.
Additionally, specialty varieties were also excluded from this evaluation. These specialty foods include all veterinary diets, and well as products specifically developed for kittens or senior cats. Cats requiring these specialty diets have their own unique dietary concerns and their products should often be evaluated on different criteria.
Each product is given a score based on an analysis of its ingredient list. Those with a named protein or protein meal (ie “chicken” or “chicken meal”) as their first ingredient are scored highest. Products with named proteins and meals in their top 5 ingredients are also scored better than those products without. Land-based proteins are also rated more favourably than seafood-based proteins – see this blog post for and in-depth explanation of why. Also, note that a generic “meat” or “fish” ingredient doesn’t count as a protein in my evaluations; I find it rather suspicious that a manufacturer is unable or unwilling to identify the source of the protein!
Products listing by-products, or bulk-adding fillers and grains in their top ingredient positions are scored lower. Additionally, any questionable preservatives included in the ingredient list will also reduce the product’s score.
By law in North America, every commercially prepared cat food must publish a ‘Guaranteed Analysis’ that describes the percentages of protein, fat, fiber and moisture that are contained within the product. Although these aren’t exact values, they do allow us to approximate and compare the total amount of protein and carbohydrates that are contained in each product.
Similar to their ingredient score, each product is also scored based on its nutritional analysis – those products that have higher amounts of protein and lower amounts of carbohydrates reported in this nutritional breakdown are scored higher.
The 14 products below scored highest of all the dry food products in the CatFoodDB database, each earning either 8 or more paws for their nutrition levels and ingredient lists. All are high in protein, and generally contain less cheap fillers than lesser-ranked products. Unfortunately, dry cat foods by their very nature will contain a larger amount of carbohydrates than their canned food counterparts. However, all of the listed products below had other quality indicators besides carb content that helped them score higher.
Note however that this is by no means the full list of the best products reviewed here on CatFoodDB. It’s important to keep in mind that the protein and especially the carbohydrate numbers are only estimated values. Although each cat food manufacturer is required by law to publish a Guaranteed Analysis that defines each product’s maximum values of fiber and moisture in addition to its minimum values of protein and fat, exact nutritional percentages are not available and hence all calculated values, including carbohydrates, are determined using these minimum and maximum published values and may differ from actual values. Although a high score may be indicative of a higher-quality product it is not a guarantee. The best food for your cat is the one that meets their individual needs.