Best Cat Food: 5 Options for a Complete and Balanced Diet
You love your cat so much that you just want to give him the absolute best. And to get the most out of your years with your BFF, it’s so important to keep him happy and healthy. That’s why choosing the right cat food is such a big decision.
Is it possible to ensure that your cat is getting a complete and balanced diet from a food he actually enjoys eating?
Luckily, he can. But finding the perfect cat food can be a little tricky.
With hundreds of cat food brands and types available in stores and online, where does a responsible cat owner even begin? There are so many factors to consider — wet food vs. dry food, kitten food vs. adult cat food, food with grains vs. grain-free cat food — that you might not know which option is right for your pet.
Because it can be overwhelming to try and find the very best cat food in such a saturated market, we did the work for you. We’ve rounded up five cat foods that are delicious and nutritious, so you and your cat will both love what he’s eating.
Top 5 Cat Foods
- Best Overall Cat Food: Made by Nacho Chicken Cuts in Gravy and Chicken, Duck, & Quail Kibble
- Best Grain-Free Cat Food: JustFoodForDogs JustCats Fish & Chicken
- Best Human-Grade Cat Food: Smalls Human Grade Fresh
- Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin
- Best Flavors: Purina Pro Plan
To find the best cat food, we looked at a few different factors. We wanted to include both dry and wet food options, because some cats have a strong preference when it comes to the texture of their food. We also looked at flavors to see if these foods could appeal to even the pickiest cats.
But maybe most importantly, we examined cat food labels to make sure these foods offered enough protein for complete and balanced nutrition.
1. Best Overall Cat Food — Made by Nacho Chicken Cuts in Gravy and Chicken, Duck & Quail Kibble
- Top-notch wet food and dry food
- Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient in both options
- Signature bone broth infuses a taste most cats will adore
- Prebiotics included in both to bolster gut health
- Type of food: Wet, Dry
- Size: 3 ounces/can (wet), 2 pounds/bag (dry), 4 pounds/bag (dry)
- Flavor(s): Chicken Cuts In Gravy (wet), Chicken, Duck, & Quail (dry)
Chicken Cuts in Gravy — What we love
Chicken Cuts in Gravy is one of the best wet cat food options we’ve found. It’s Made by Nacho’s flagship wet food and it’s easy to see why it’s rated so highly.
High protein cat food
First off, a whopping seven protein sources lead the list of ingredients. This is important because cat food ingredient lists are shown in order of the items that are the most plentiful. That means you get a whole lot of natural protein power from this wet food.
In fact, a high protein content was something we were particularly prioritizing when we discovered Made by Nacho.
There’s so much goodness packed into this wet cat food that it would be a top-notch pick based on ingredients alone. Chicken leads the list, followed by chicken bone broth, turkey bone broth, and chicken liver. After dried egg whites, there’s also turkey and duck. We love that the first seven ingredients are all proteins.
Healthy, natural ingredients
Chicken Cuts in Gravy also includes fruits and vegetables for immune system health, and omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids to boost skin and coat health.
Another attribute that makes Made by Nacho’s Chicken Cuts in Gravy recipe so unique is the inclusion of bone broth. Bone broth is an excellent combination of delectable taste, solid hydration, and high protein content.
Prebiotics are included as well because Made by Nacho knows the importance of a balanced gut microbiome. There are no preservatives, artificial flavors or colors, soy, wheat, or corn in this recipe. Made by Nacho recipes are made in the US, as well.
Founded by a celebrity chef
You may not know it, but Nacho is the beloved cat of world famous chef Bobby Flay. So if you’re looking to spoil your cat, there’s no better way to do that than by giving him food that’s been crafted by one of the most famous (human) chefs in the world.
Chicken, Duck, & Quail Kibble — What we love
Bone broth is a triple-threat ingredient in all Made by Nacho cat foods, including the Chicken, Duck, & Quail Kibble dry cat food recipe.
Packed with protein
Also made in the USA, this dry cat food draws from multiple protein sources to form the perfect shape for kibble formulas.
Our lucky test cats loved that this kibble has pieces of freeze-dried raw chicken liver, because it means they’re getting even more protein in without sacrificing taste.
They ate it up and came back for more… which is about as high a point of praise as you’re likely to get from a cat.
This dry food from Made by Nacho also includes prebiotics, omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber and antioxidants like its wet food counterpart. These things can help with your cat’s overall health by:
- Improving the immune system
- Supporting digestive health
- Balancing healthy gut microbiome
- Boosting skin and coat health
The Bottom Line
Made by Nacho has name recognition to spare, as a brand started by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. But these wet and dry food options aren’t at the top of our list because of Bobby Flay alone.
Instead, Made by Nacho makes some of the best wet and best dry cat food on the market because it has high-quality pet food nutrients, responsibly sourced ingredients, high protein content (like those freeze dried bits of chicken liver), solid hydration content, and a commitment to a taste that will keep cats coming back.
Learn more about Made by Nacho Cat Food
2. Best Grain-Free Cat Food — JustFoodForDogs JustCats Fish & Chicken
- High protein wet cat food
- Excellent for cats with allergies or sensitive stomachs
- Grain-free and gluten-free
- Provides detailed ingredients breakdown
- Formulated for adult cats only
- Type of food: Wet
- Size: 18 ounces
- Flavor(s): Fish & Chicken
What we love
JustCats Fish & Chicken from JustFoodForDogs is tasty, made with good-quality ingredients, hydrating, and formulated for adult cats.
Contains a lot of protein
This pet food is such a great source of protein. It derives this key nutrient from several quality sources including:
- Wild-caught Alaska Pacific cod
- Chicken hearts
- Chicken liver
- Chicken thighs
- Whole Atlantic sardines
The cod and sardines are both high in omega 3 fatty acids, which can make your cat’s fur glossy and healthy. Meanwhile, the chicken ingredients are great sources of the vitamins and minerals he needs for complete and balanced nutrition.
Grain-free cat food
The JustCats Fish & Chicken formula is made with grain-free foods. In fact, there is only one source of carbohydrates in all of the ingredients, and that is tapioca starch.
Tapioca starch is known for its highly digestible traits and its inclusion of folate, B6, and other B vitamins. It also provides iron and calcium for bone strength. It also acts almost like fiber because it is a dense energy source that has a positive influence on your cat’s digestion.
This pet food is rounded out by the patented JustCats Nutrient Blend. It’s made exclusively from human-grade elements that are individually regulated by the FDA.
In fact, these nutrients round out the ingredients list so profoundly that this cat food meets all cat food regulations for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Our review team also loves that JustCats Fish & Chicken is moisture-rich. Some pets don’t drink enough water, so it helps when your cat’s food can give him a little extra hydration.
Some of our test cats were picky eaters, others had sensitive stomachs, and several were simply temperamental and prone to sheer pet food apathy. Yet nearly every single one was wild for this tasty grain-free and gluten-free wet food.
The Bottom Line
If you can get over the cheeky nomenclature of a cat food from a brand named so specifically for dog food, you will find the JustCats Fish & Chicken formula makes it one of the best wet cat food options around. Our panel of judges loved the nutritional and moisture values, the specialized focus on adult cats, and the added bonus of being a great choice for cats with tummy or sniffles issues. And our panel of feline judges loved the taste!
Learn more about JustFoodForDogs JustCats Chicken & Fish
3. Best Human-Grade Cat Food — Smalls Human Grade Fresh
- Fresh, human-grade cat food
- High protein formulations
- 100 percent money-back guarantee
- Some cat owners may object to the subscription model
- Type of food: Wet
- Size: 4.1 ounces/package (Cow), 5 ounces/package (Bird and Other Bird), 5.5 ounces/package (Fish)
- Flavor(s): Fresh Smooth Fish (salmon and cod), Fresh Ground Bird (chicken), Fresh Smooth Bird (chicken), Fresh Ground Other Bird (turkey), Fresh Smooth Other Bird (turkey), Fresh Ground Cow (beef), Fresh Smooth Cow (beef)
What we love
Smalls is one of the more unique brands on our list of the best cat food brands available today. It’s available through a subscription service, meaning you pay monthly to have it delivered to your door. How does that differ from other “auto-ship” services from other brands, you may wonder? In this case, it differs significantly.
Quality, human-grade ingredients
Smalls makes a fresh, wet cat food brand from human-grade ingredients. That means this pet food is made with things you could eat yourself, if you really wanted to. (But you probably shouldn’t.)
Smalls is gently cooked in publicly-available kitchens, so you can go in and watch the process first-hand. Smalls is also made with all-natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any preservatives.
The flavor and texture options of this fresh cat food are truly second to none. Each flavor (outlined in funny phrasing such as “Bird” and “Other Bird”) comes in multiple textures because Smalls understands that cats are more than happy to be as picky as it comes. The right taste is often not enough, as a cat will also insist on a specific texture such as something more liquid-like, something pliable, something crunchy, and on and on.
You start out by filling in a fun quiz that helps determine the best elements to include in your cat’s initial shipment. Your first delivery will include a pet food sampler that lets your cat try different flavors and textures to see which one he likes best. This way, you’ll always know exactly what your cat wants.
And this fresh cat food isn’t just for healthy adult cats. Regardless of your cat’s life stage, Smalls is perfect because you can change your order to fit your growing cat’s dietary needs and taste preferences. So whether you’re looking for a new kitten food or something for senior cats, you can find the right fit through Smalls.
But it’s not just about taste preferences, as a full 90% of Smalls customers report improvement in their cat’s health after switching to this pet food. This is because of the high-quality ingredients and recipes, which are nutritionally complete and balanced according to AAFCO standards.
The Bottom Line
Smalls is an interesting and unique addition to our list of the best cat food available today. The subscription model for cat food is likely a bit of a hurdle to get past for those unaccustomed to paying a cadence of fixed pricing. But the rewards for feeding your cat a complete and balanced wet food diet that’s packed with vitamins and minerals can be life-long.
4. Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs — Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin
- Chicken is the first ingredient
- Gentle formula for food allergies and digestive issues
- Includes prebiotic fiber
- No prescription required
- Additional protein sources are lower down on the ingredients list
- Type of food: Dry
- Size: 3.5 pounds/bag, 7 pounds/bag, 15.5 pounds/bag
- Flavor(s): Chicken & Rice
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin dry cat food comes in 3.5-lb bags, 7-lb bags, and 15.5-lb bags, with bundles orders of two bags available in each size. In terms of discounts and promos, Chewy.com had a flat eight percent discount at the time of writing and you can grab an extra five percent discount on top of that by signing up for the auto-ship service.
In fact, if you are a first-time customer, you actually get a whopping 35 percent discount on your first auto-ship order and then a five percent discount for all subsequent deliveries. Definitely worth trying out, especially since no commitment is required!
What we love
If your cat has food allergies or tummy troubles, it can be tough to find him the right food that won’t cause these conditions to flare up. But Hill’s is a trusted brand known for making over-the-counter and prescription cat foods designed to help with all sorts of issues.
Helps with digestive issues
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin is the best dry cat food formula if you’re looking for help with tummy problems or skin issue flare-ups.
Adding this dry food into your cat’s diet can combat sensitive stomach issues, thanks to the added fructooligosaccharides (or FOS). FOS are a type of prebiotic fiber that nourishes and maintains healthy levels of bifidobacteria in your cat’s large intestine. This balance is important because bifidobacteria can fight off harmful bacteria that would otherwise overwhelm the microbiome and cause problems.
In addition to providing gut health solutions, this dry cat food is formulated to be highly digestible. Because it’s designed to be generally quite gentle on the stomach, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin can greatly improve your cat’s digestive health (especially since it’s working alongside prebiotics).
Reduces allergic reactions
Cats who suffer from allergies could develop skin and coat issues as a result of these reactions. The Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin formula helps guard against these issues.
It’s made with vitamin E and chicken fat, two ingredients that can give your cat’s food an edge in promoting skin health. Chicken fat is a good source of omega 6 fatty acids, which can create a strong, silky coat.
Tasty and protein-packed
This dry cat food contains chicken as the first ingredient, and features other protein sources like chicken meal, which contains additional pieces of chicken. Chicken meal is often mistaken for chicken by-product, but it’s basically just ground-up chicken. Chicken meal is processed in this manner usually in order to make it kibble-friendly.
The best part is that our test cats didn’t turn their nose up to the taste either. After all, a specialty diet isn’t going to be much help if your cat won’t eat his food.
The Bottom Line
Cats suffering from allergies or stomach issues will love the relief provided by this great-tasting cat food. It’s packed with fatty acids to improve skin health, and is made with easy-to-digest ingredients that will put any tummy troubles to rest.
Learn more about Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin
5. Best Flavors — Purina Pro Plan
- Complete and balanced nutrition for adult cats
- 16 different flavors
- Moisture-rich formula
- High-quality ingredients provide numerous health benefits
- Some ingredients sourced from China
- Type of food: Wet
- Size: 3 ounces/can, 5.5 ounces/can
- Flavor(s): Beef & Carrots, Beef & Cheese, Beef & Chicken, Beef, Carrots & Rice, Chicken, Chicken & Cheese, Chicken & Rice, Chicken & Tomato, Chicken, Pasta & Spinach, Chicken, Tomato & Pasta, Grilled Seafood, Turkey & Cheese, Turkey & Pasta, Turkey & Rice, Turkey & Vegetable, White Meat Chicken & Vegetable
What we love
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials is a widely available cat food brand that hits all the right notes: nutrition, taste, and variety.
Great for your picky cat
This canned food is available in 16 different flavors with four protein options:
This is helpful because even your super picky cat will be sure to find a recipe he can’t wait to scarf down.
Good for his health
In addition to being delicious, this canned food is made with great nutritional and health-boosting ingredients.
Beginning with protein content, each formula contains a real meat protein base. Purina Pro Plan knows how important it is for your cat’s food to have a high protein content and delivers in spades.
These recipes are also crafted with your cat’s immune health in mind, since they’re loaded with antioxidants and added vitamins. They also have taurine and vitamin A to support his vision. And omega 6 fatty acids will keep your cat’s skin and coat gleaming.
The Bottom Line
Purina Pro Plan Complete Essentials is an easy everyday canned food that has the perfect flavor for any cat. And thanks to the added vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients, it doesn’t come up short on nutritional value, either.
Learn more about Purina Pro Plan
How We Picked The Best Cat Food
Our list of the best cat food options available on the market today was put together with the combined might of a panel consisting of both human and feline expert researchers.
Ensured product quality
We humans busied ourselves by ranking brands based on everything from:
- Ingredient lists and sources
- Protein types and amounts
- Brand reputation
- User reviews
Determined if cats would actually eat it
Our test cats, in turn, were focused on testing whether these products were as tasty as they were nutritious.
What to Consider When Buying Cat Food
When it comes to cats, proper nutrition is essential for their overall health and wellness. Finding good cat food will depend on a few things. It is important to understand the different types of cat food available as well as your cat’s nutritional needs in order to make sure that they are getting the very best.
Types of cat food
The most common types of daily cat foods include wet food and dry food.
Canned cat food is usually higher in protein and moisture content than dry food, which makes it ideal for cats who need extra hydration.
In addition to the protein and moisture content, wet food also contains additional vitamins and minerals. This can be beneficial for cats with certain illnesses or medical conditions.
Canned cat food can be good for cats with sensitivities to grains or other ingredients, because there are a lot of allergen-free options. Additionally, wet food often has more protein than dry food.
Dry cat foods provide a crunchier texture that’s good for dental health while still providing essential nutrients like taurine and fatty acids. Premium formulas are also packed with a lot of protein.
Dry cat food is often a more affordable option than wet food. So pet parents who are on a budget may prefer buying pet foods that come in kibble form.
Combining Wet and Dry Food
Most nutritionists recommend that cats have both dry cat food and wet cat food daily, as there are benefits involved in combining the two types of cat foods. Your cat will be getting the extra hydration from the canned cat food, while benefiting from the nutrient-dense formula of the dry food.
Some cats are picky eaters, but need a certain type of diet for health reasons. Combining both types of pet foods can be helpful in these situations, because your cat may be more likely to eat his specialty dry food if it’s smothered in a tasty wet food.
When finding the right cat food, you need to take into account your cat’s age and health conditions. Different life stages require different cat foods with different nutritional needs, so make sure to pick a formula that’s appropriate for your pet’s age.
For cats over a certain age, you may want a product that is specifically labeled for senior cats. For young cats, kitten food will be optimized to make sure they get all the essential nutrients they need to grow big and strong.
Some cat foods are labeled for all life stages, which means your kitten, adult cat, and senior cat could all eat it.
Look for cat food with high-quality ingredients from real protein sources, such as chicken, chicken meal, chicken liver, turkey, fish, or beef.
These are the kinds of proteins that cats need to stay healthy, as opposed to animal by-products. (Not to mention the fact that most cats enjoy the taste of things like chicken meal and chicken liver!)
In the end, when selecting the best cat food for your pet, it is important to consider their individual nutritional needs as well as any dietary restrictions they may have. If it is unclear, consult your veterinarian for further insights into your cat’s specific needs.
For cats who struggle with certain things, like urinary issues, obesity, tummy troubles, or skin irritation, you may want to look into a specialty diet cat food. Your vet can help you identify any special dietary needs your cat has, such as the need for sensitive stomach cat food.
Keep your budget in mind when choosing adult cat food, senior cat food, or kitten food. Prices can vary drastically between brands so it is important that you are able to afford a suitable option for your cat that won’t break the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some common questions you may have when it comes to cat food.
How often should I feed my cat?
There are a variety of factors to consider when figuring out how often to feed your cat (and how much food you should feed her), including:
In order to figure out what’s the best route for your cat, your best bet is to chat with your veterinarian.
Additionally, the package your cat’s food comes in typically will also have a handy chart that helps you determine how much food to give.
Does high-quality cat food make a difference?
Yes! Cats are known to be picky eaters, but the quality of their cat food makes a huge difference in their health. High-quality cat foods are formulated with the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that cats need to stay healthy. They also contain essential vitamins and minerals that help cats maintain strong bones and muscles.
The best cat food is made from natural ingredients that provide all the nutrients cats need for a balanced diet. It should also contain plenty of moisture to keep cats hydrated and help them digest their cat food properly.
By choosing high-quality cat food, pet owners can ensure that their cats get all the nutrition they require for optimal health and longevity.
What foods should I avoid giving my cat?
It’s important to know what type of cat food is best for your cat so that you can provide them with a balanced diet. There are many types of cat food available on the market today that meet most cats’ nutritional needs. It is important to read labels carefully to make sure that the cat food contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals they need while avoiding any potentially harmful ingredients.
Cats are carnivores and their diet should consist primarily of animal-based proteins for optimal health. Feeding your cat a diet rich in quality proteins will help ensure they remain healthy and happy for years to come.
Unfortunately, some foods can be dangerous for cats and should be avoided. These include:
- Macadamia nuts
At the end of the day, it is most important to ensure your kitty friend has the best, highest quality, most nutritious, and tastiest cat food around. That’s why we did such extensive research to find the best cat food options on the market. We’re sure you and your cat will love our five favorites.
Summary of the Best Cat Food Brands
1. Made by Nacho Chicken Cuts in Gravy and Chicken, Duck, & Quail Kibble – Best Overall Cat Food
2. JustFoodForDogs JustCats Fish & Chicken – Best Grain-Free Cat Food
3. Smalls Human Grade Fresh – Best Human-Grade Cat Food
4. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin – Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs
5. Purina Pro Plan – Best Flavors