Average Customer Review:
While some experts recommend against dry cat foods, others say that it is fine as long as you make sure your cat is getting plenty of moisture from other sources. However, it's important to pick a species-appropriate dry food. Most dry cat foods are made largely from grain, with little fresh meat (if any). Some experts say that can cause obesity, diabetes and other diseases in cats, which are strict carnivores that haven't evolved to eat much grain.
But a few companies make dry cat foods that are mostly high-grade meat -- and no grain. Among those, Orijen's dry cat food is easily the best you can buy, experts say. It's one of eight "all-star" brands that had all of its formulas meet the benchmarks set by Reviews.com (Ziwi Peak and Tiki Cat, covered in our section on the best canned cat foods are two others). It's also on the list of the top cat foods at FelineLiving.net and CatFoodDB.
This Canadian company now makes its dry cat food products in their own facility in Kentucky, using locally sourced meats and vegetables, and absolutely no grains. Orijen claims 90 percent meat content, and blends in organs and cartilage to mimic whole prey. The remaining 10 percent is made up of vegetables, fruits, and botanicals.
But while there's no grain in sight, Orijen dry cat foods can be pricey. Varieties include Orijen Cat and Kitten Formula (Est. $70 for a 12-lb. bag), Orijen 6 Fish (Est. $65 for a 12 lb. bag) and Orijen Regional Red (Est. $75 for a 12 lb. bag).
Other grain-free or otherwise good quality cat foods rate nearly as highly as Orijen, but at a lower price. Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula (Est. $40 for an 11-lb. bag) earns good feedback from experts and cat owners. Its top ingredients are all quality meat proteins (deboned turkey and chicken, followed by chicken, whitefish and herring meals). Wellness' meat meals contain no byproducts, and its fish meals use only natural preservatives. Wellness includes probiotics (friendly bacteria) to promote good digestion and immunity.
While grain-free, Wellness Core has higher carbs from other sources compared to Orijen. Wellness Core cat food has a clean recall record, but the company's wet food was recalled in 2011 over a deficiency in vitamin B1. In addition, one variety of Wellness dry dog food was recalled in 2012 over possible salmonella contamination at the Diamond Pet Food plant where it was made, and Wellness cut all ties with Diamond after that incident.
If you are on a budget, but still would like to feed your cat something notably better than typical supermarket kibble, Taste of the Wild cat foods deserve a look. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula (Est. $35 for a 15-lb. bag) is grain-free, but costs less than Wellness -- and less than half as much as Orijen. It's byproduct- and soy-free, too. "Chicken meal" is the main ingredient. That's ground meat and bone, and as long as it's high-quality, experts say it's a good protein source. Fruits and veggies add nutrients, and there are probiotics to promote good digestion -- just like the pricey cat foods. The company also offers Taste of the Wild Canyon River Trout (Est. $35 for a 15-lb. bag), which has trout and ocean fish meal as its two top ingredients.
But Taste of the Wild does cut some costs to get its low price. Potatoes and pea protein appear high on the ingredient list of Taste of the Wild dry cat foods. Some experts say these are quality ingredients, but others say cats simply don't need all those carbs.
Taste of the Wild also doesn't enjoy a spotless recall record and Taste of the Wild's dry cat food varieties were part of the 2012 Diamond Pet Food salmonella recall. Taste of the Wild hasn't been recalled since, but some pet owners wrote scathing reviews of the food at the time. However, plenty of others say their cats have been thriving on Taste of the Wild for years, and most give it rave reviews, including a 4.4 star rating at Amazon based on over 2,200 reviews of the two varieties.
In the wild, cats eat whole animals raw -- and that's pretty much all they eat. Many pet owners, and some veterinarians, say it's best to feed your cat raw food to mimic that wild diet.
The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Turkey Recipe (Est. $60 for a 4 lb. box) (formerly The Honest Kitchen Grace) isn't quite raw as the company steams its meats and fish to kill pathogens for better safety. It's sold as dehydrated granules, which you mix with water to make a moist cat food. It costs less per feeding than many other raw or near-raw foods, and also less than many premium canned or dry ones; a four-pound box will yield 12 pounds of food --enough to feed an 11 to 16 pound cat for between 21 and 32 days, The Honest Kitchen says.
This cat food is starchier than some raw foods, though, a factor that places it among the still excellent, but second tier choices at Natural Cat Care Blog. Turkey, eggs, pumpkin and potatoes lead the ingredient list, adding up to about 10 percent calories from carbs. The company also makes The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Chicken Recipe (Est. $50 for a 4 lb. box) (formerly The Honest Kitchen Prowl), but it's even higher in carbohydrates.
The food's safety record is strong. The Honest Kitchen steams its ingredients to kill pathogens before dehydrating them. It also tests ingredients -- and each batch of finished food -- for germs like salmonella and E. coli. Still, in 2013, The Honest Kitchen recalled some lots of its dehydrated dog food -- but not its cat food -- after its parsley supplier recalled a shipment due to possible salmonella contamination. Although The Honest Kitchen didn't spot any traces of salmonella in its product testing, it recalled the food anyway. It also dropped that parsley supplier.
The Honest Kitchen uses only high-quality ingredients and has signed the Pledge to Quality and Origin at Susan Thixton's website, Truth About Pet Food, disclosing every ingredient and its source. The Honest Kitchen is also one of the few pet food companies that is permitted to use the term "human grade" in its product labeling, having received a formal statement of No Objection from the FDA. The biggest drawback is that not all cats are all that keen on the texture of the food -- and that's reflected in both expert comments and user feedback, the latter of which is decidedly mixed.