Editor's Note
  • March 9, 2018 - We've updated our review to provide a more comprehensive look at every single cat food on the market. After assessing more than 2,000 formulas, we're happy to recommend 18 of the best cat food brands, both wet and dry.

The best cat food will keep your cat healthy and happy, and will come in a flavor he or she loves. Any high-quality food needs to feature protein front-and-center, and won’t include any low-quality fillers, artificial additives, or ingredients that are toxic to cats over time. To find the most high-quality options available, we scoured the formulas of over 2,400 dry and wet cat foods on the market, read through research and regulations, and talked to veterinarians about what cats need to thrive.

In the end, we identified a shortlist of the best cat food brands and lines that you can count on. Now it’s up to you to figure out what flavors sit well with your cat’s preferences and to find the food that fits your budget. If you’re having trouble deciding between a wet or dry food diet, or you want more information about our top picks, check out our comparison tables and guide to cat food types, below.

The Best Cat Food

The Best Dry Cat Food Brands & Lines

  1. Acana Regionals
  2. Farmina N&D: Ancestral Grain
  3. Farmina N&D: Grain-Free
  4. Holistic Health Extension
  5. Merrick: Before Grain
  6. Orijen
  7. Tiki Cat

The Best Wet Cat Food Brands & Lines

  1. Best Feline Friend: Oh My Gravy
  2. Canada Fresh
  3. Evanger's: Signature Series
  4. Holistic Health Extension
  5. K9 Feline Natural
  6. Lotus: Just Juicy
  7. Nutrisca: Truly Flaked
  8. Nutrisca: Truly Shredded
  9. Petite Cuisine
  10. Tiki Cat
  11. Wholehearted: Grain-Free Flaked in Gravy
  12. Wholehearted: Grain-Free Flaked in Broth
  13. Ziwi Peak

The Best Cat Food Brands — And How to Make Your Final Pick

We’ve listed comparison charts below for all of our finalists. Every single option is great: heavy on the high-quality protein, limited filler ingredients, and with nothing known to harm your cat’s health. From here, you get to decide. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by options, we’d suggest considering the following:

  • Your budget. Among our finalists, you can spend anywhere from $0.20-$2.60 per ounce. Any of them will provide your cat with adequate nutrition, so spend what you can comfortably afford.

There’s science behind your cat’s picky eating. After studying cats’ behavior, WALTHAM found that cats seem to have inherited their ancestors’ drive to vary their diet depending on their needs and stage of life. What's tasty one month might be totally off the menu the next.

  • Your cat’s flavor preferences. Cats can be picky about the proteins they’ll deign to eat. Luckily, experts like veterinarian Dr. Sabrina Castro of in-home vet company, Vetted Petcare, confirm that there’s currently “no evidence to suggest that any particular meat-based protein source is 'superior', or preferable for cats in terms of bioavailability of nutrients over another.” If you already know your cat loves chicken and hates salmon, look for a brand that will accommodate.
  • Your cat’s texture preferences. “Some kitties will refuse to eat anything other than one particular brand, flavor, or consistency,” Dr. Trimble told us. One of our office cats hates pate but loves chunks in gravy. Again, feel free to take your pet’s preferences into account.
  • Health concerns. Our recommendations are high-quality; but if your cat has a particular need or health concern (e.g. kidney issues, obesity, or food allergies), your vet may have specific recommendations.
  • Local availability. All the brands and foods we feature are easily purchased online and nationwide, but if you prefer to shop in person, it might be easiest to go with whichever options are already in stock. You can bring in our printable cheat sheet as a buying guide.

None of the brands on our list have had recalls in the past year.

In fact, the FDA and American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), there have only been 4 recalls of cat food in the last 365 days, and all the recalled foods were raw. To track recalls and stay in the know, you can follow the AVMF on Twitter or Facebook, where they post all recalls as they happen.

The Best Dry Cat Food Brands & Lines

Brand/Line
Number of Formulas
Main Protein Sources
Price per Ounce
Acana Regionals
4
Beef, chicken, lamb, mackerel
$0.33-0.48
Farmina N&D: Ancestral Grain
3
Chicken, cod, lamb
$0.25-34
Farmina N&D: Grain-Free
5
Boar, chicken, herring, lamb
$0.25-34
Holistic Health Extension
2
Chicken, salmon, turkey
$0.20-0.23
Merrick: Before Grain
2
Chicken, salmon
$0.15
Orijen
5
Bison, chicken, herring, lamb, mackerel, hake, pilchard,
turkey, boar
$0.44-0.74
Tiki Cat
3
Chicken, herring
$0.32

The Best Wet Cat Food Brands & Lines

Brand/Line
Number of Formulas
Main Protein Sources
Price per Ounce
Best Feline Friend: Oh My Gravy
12
Beef, chicken, duck, lamb
$0.40
Canada Fresh
6
Beef, chicken, duck, lamb, salmon
$0.36-0.54
Evanger's: Signature Series
3
Beef, chicken, turkey
$0.34
Holistic Health Extension
10
Beef, chicken, tilapia, tuna, turkey
$0.23-0.33
K9 Feline Natural
4
Beef, chicken, hoki, lamb
$0.70
Lotus: Just Juicy
5
Chicken, pollock, pork, salmon, turkey
$0.60-0.76
Nutrisca: Truly Flaked
7
Sardine, salmon, mackerel, tuna
$0.44-0.55
Nutrisca: Truly Shredded
3
Beef, chicken, turkey, turkey liver
$0.44-0.55
Petitie Cuisine
6
Chicken, tuna
$0.43-0.45
Tiki Cat
32
Beef, chicken, duck, herring, mackerel, pork, sardines, salmon, seabass, tilapia tuna
$0.30-0.58
Wholehearted: Grain-Free Flaked in Gravy
5
Chicken, tuna
$0.23-4.24
Wholehearted: Grain-Free Flaked in Broth
5
Chicken, tuna
$0.23-4.24
Ziwi Peak
5
Beef, lamb, mackerel, rabbit, venison
$.076-1.17

Wet or Dry Cat Food? Weigh the Pros and Cons.

Most of the experts we spoke to recommended wet food over dry food for the average cat. That’s because it has more moisture, and cats have a tendency not to drink enough water.

“Cats naturally have a very low thirst drive, so if their food is largely devoid of moisture, as in dry food, they are often taking in very little water. The resulting dehydration puts a strain on the kidneys and, in the long term, can contribute to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD)”

Dr. Aubrey TauerDVM MPH and Head Veterinarian at AnimalBiome

Manufacturers also have to meet slightly higher standards for canned food. As FDA regulations stand right now, only canned wet pet food is held to the same GMPs (good manufacturing standards) as its human counterpart. The regulations include everything from food handlers’ training and cleanliness to specific language about ensuring “raw materials and ingredients...are suitable for use in processing low-acid food.” For the sake of transparency, we wish every food was held to a similar standard, especially because some studies have found that the way an ingredient is handled by the supplier can impact its nutritional value.

In the future, the FDA has promised more regulation. The AAFCO website states, “The FDA has indicated it will now require GMPs for all animal feeds and pet foods. The FDA is in the process of finalizing regulations to put this requirement into effect.” For now, though, there’s no way to tell exactly what processing has been done to meat before it goes into a dry food. Despite that, most of the veterinarians we spoke with pointed to dry food as a convenient, affordable, and nutritionally adequate option for pet parents. If you’re looking for the most transparent type of food, our canned picks are as good as it gets; but we kept dry foods in the running. Together, you and your vet can decide what type or types of food will best fit your cat’s dietary needs and preferences, plus your schedule and budget. You can rest assured that our featured brands and lines are all solid options.

If you go with dry food, make sure your cat has plenty of fresh water to drink; if your cat has particular needs (if he’s a breed that’s particularly at-risk for kidney disease, for example), it's again best to talk to your vet for personalized recommendations.

Wet-Vs-Dry for Cat Food

How to Read Your Cat Food Label

The FDA, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and states all play a role in regulating the statements that must and can’t appear on pet food labels. The foods we’re recommending are distributed across several states, meaning that — according to the AAFCO — “it is highly unlikely” that they “aren’t in compliance with the AAFCO Models.” The AAFCO model regulations and the FDA’s federal requirements, with which the foods we recommend comply, are meant to fend off false advertising and deceptive claims, but reading a label can still feel like hacking a secret code.

Getting familiar with the parts of a label can help you understand what, exactly, is inside.

Make sure the food is suited to your cat's life stage.

On every food, there should be a simple sentence or phrase, called a “nutritional adequacy statement”, that explains what type of pet and stage of life it will nutritionally satisfy. There are four categories recognized by AAFCO:

  • Gestation/lactation
  • Growth (think "kitten food")
  • Maintenance
  • All life stages.

Pro tipIf a food is designated “for seniors”, that’s not a life stage recognized by the AAFCO.

Foods for kittens and nursing/pregnant cats have higher requirements for almost every nutrient, versus a “maintenance”-certified food for adult cats. They’re also subject to some additional requirements that don’t apply to adult cats at all. “All life stage” foods, meanwhile, have to satisfy the nutritional needs of a cat at any stage of her life, even when she’s nutritionally neediest (kittens, nursing, and pregnant cats).
If your cat gains too much weight on a food meant for all life stages, or if he’s at-risk for diabetes, obesity, or kidney issues, you may decide to narrow your search to “maintenance”-certified foods only. You’ll find, though, that most foods (including the vast majority of our finalists) are certified for all life stages.

“An active adult cat will be fine on an All Life Stage food. He’ll burn off the extra calories and eliminate whatever protein he doesn’t need. Unless he has or is at risk for kidney problems, he can handle the extra minerals.”

Never buy a food based on name alone.

Product names are a goldmine for baiting consumers, and a good place to be cautious. Though “Chicken for Cats” and “Chicken Dinner for Cats” sound like they’re similar products, they can actually contain vastly different ingredients.

If a label calls out two ingredients in one name, the two combined have to meet the required percentage, and there has to be more of whatever ingredient is listed first. But a cat food manufacturer isn’t required to name a product according to the protein that shows up first in its formula. It might choose to put a name like “Salmon Dinner” on a product that actually has more chicken than salmon, if it thinks that’s more likely to catch a shopper’s eye. That’s why giving the ingredients list a good read is important — especially if you have a picky cat, your cat has food allergies, or you just want to be extra-vigilant about what your cat’s eating.

If you're trying to be budget-conscious, compare feeding directions.

If you’re choosing between two dry foods or two wet foods, the one with a smaller serving size is more nutritionally dense. If they both come in the same sized package, this means that the one with the smaller serving size will last you longer.

One caveat: There are foods meant specifically for weight management that have larger serving sizes on purpose. It’s like a sleight of hand with good intentions. An overweight cat can fill up on the amount of food he’s used to, but get the right amount of nutrients to help him shed some pounds. Food for “all life stages” should have different feeding directions for each AAFCO-recognized life stage (gestation/lactation, growth, and maintenance)

Printable Cat Food Buying Guide

Looking for something you can print out and take to the store? Our downloadable PDF includes a list of all our favorite brands. We’ve also included a summary of ingredients to look for and avoid so that you can decode any regional brands or new formulas you might encounter.

Our Cat Food Review: Summed Up

The Best Cat Food Brands
Type
Price per Ounce
Acana Regionals
Dry
$0.33-0.48
Canada Fresh
Dry
$0.44-0.74
K9 Feline Natural
Wet
$0.36-0.54
Holistic Health Extension
Both
$0.20-0.33
Orijen
Wet
$0.70
Petitie Cuisine
Both
$0.43-0.45
Tiki Cat
Wet
$0.30-0.58
Ziwi Peak
Wet
$0.76-1.17