ExcitedCats is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

6 Best Cat Foods for Outdoor Cats of 2023 – Reviews & Top Picks

Outdoor CatsPeople love to joke that cats domesticated us and not the other way around, owing to their exceptionally independent nature. In fact, even though we have been companions for over 4,000 years, research shows that about 50% of these small felines still live outdoors.

Nonetheless, outdoor cats need feeding and care, albeit not as much as their indoor counterparts. Unsurprisingly, they are still incredibly picky about the kind of food they eat.

Being obligate carnivores, a cat must eat primarily meat. Their digestive systems are not designed to digest plants or carbohydrates, and as such, they can get horribly sick when they eat high amounts of those foods.

Additionally, cats do not make their own taurine, like canines do. Taurine is an amino acid that supports nerve, brain, and heart function. Unfortunately, taurine can only be derived from animal products.

Regrettably, quality cat food is not easy to come by. Cat food manufacturers are businesses, after all, which means that their main priority is to make profits. It is not unheard of for manufacturers to cut corners by utilizing non-essential ingredients to save coin.

Fortunately, we have done the legwork for you and have compared different types of cat foods.  The following are reviews of the best cat foods for outdoor cats.

A Glance at Our Favorites in 2023

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription
  • Feature iconBetter shelf-life than dehydrated foods
  • Feature iconFree from fillers, grains, artificial additives, and by-products
  • Feature iconMade from USDA-certified human-grade ingredients
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Purina Beyond Grain Free Purina Beyond Grain Free
  • Feature iconNo added flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Feature iconGreat value proposition
  • Feature iconGluten and green-free
  • Third place
    Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein
  • Feature iconMinimum of 38% protein content per serving
  • Feature iconCold-formed
  • Feature iconHas no harmful ingredients or additives
  • Hill’s Science Diet Dry Hill’s Science Diet Dry
  • Feature iconHigh-quality chicken protein
  • Feature iconEnriched with prebiotic fibers
  • Feature iconContains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Instinct Original Real Chicken Instinct Original Real Chicken
  • Feature iconDoes not contain filler ingredients
  • Feature iconFreeze-dried
  • Feature iconHigh-quality protein from free-range chicken
  • The 6 Best Cat Foods for Outdoor Cats

    1. Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription — Best Overall

    smalls freeze-dried raw and human-grade fresh cat food on a tray

    A lot of wet cat foods are highly recommended but feeding your outdoor cat a can of wet food can have its downfalls. Not only is wet food messy, but it will also spoil more quickly, and the scent attracts other animals. Our overall best cat food for outdoor cats goes to Smalls Fresh Cat Food. This is a healthy, fresh, human-grade alternative to the typical dry kibble that allows you to skip out on the wet mess.

    Each Smalls recipe is made from sustainably sourced ingredients in the United States or Canada. The food is derived from ingredients that are USDA-certified, rich in protein, and free from grains, fillers, and any artificial additives.

    This option may be a bit more on the expensive side but is a wonderful, healthy choice for outdoor cats that you won’t have to worry about spoiling too quickly!

    • Better shelf-life than dehydrated foods
    • Free from fillers, grains, artificial additives, and by-products
    • Made from USDA-certified ingredients approved for human consumption
    • Retains more nutrients than dehydrated food
    • Expensive
    thematic break

    2. Purina Beyond Grain Free Cat Food — Best Value

    Purina Beyond Grain Free

    This cat food by Purina Beyond is a gluten-free product that seeks to ensure that outdoor cats get all their nutritional requirements. It consists of a nourishing all-natural formula with recognizable ingredients so you can be sure about what you are feeding the cat.

    Chief among those ingredients is a combo of protein-rich hake fish, chicken meal, and eggs that provides your cat with adequate protein. This formula is also enriched with vitamins A, B-12, D-3,  and E,  as well as biotin, folic acid, and zinc to ensure that the cat is getting the balanced and complete meal they need for a full and healthy life.

    This formula also contains taurine, which helps in boosting heart, brain, and nerve function and improves eyesight.

    This cat food by Purina also does not contain carbohydrates from corn or soy, which some manufacturers are notorious for adding to their products. It also does not have any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

    Nonetheless, this product contains starchy vegetables, which can cause bloating. With time, however, the kitty can learn to tolerate it, which is why the manufacturer suggests starting small and gradually increasing the servings as the animal becomes accustomed to the food.

    Despite being a superior product on the market for quality, it is also one of the best cat foods for outdoor cats for the money.

    • Gluten and green-free
    • High-quality protein from hake fish and chicken meal
    • Does not contain empty calories in the form of wheat, soy, or corn
    • No added flavors, colors, or preservatives
    • Enriched with minerals and vitamins
    • Great value proposition
    • Contains starchy ingredients that might cause bloating
    thematic break

    3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein

    Wilderness by Blue Buffalo is a tasty, grain-free, and protein-full meal which is why it is our third cat food option.

    This cat food is “cold-formed.” Cold formation is a process that limits the amount of heat utilized during the preparation of ingredients to prevent them from losing their nutritional value.

    Blue Wilderness contains a minimum of 38% protein per serving, which is more than enough to meet your feline’s nutritional needs.  This protein comes from natural, real chicken.

    The manufacturer also indicates all the sources of the other ingredients in Blue Wilderness, to ensure that you have peace of mind. In addition to being grain-free, this food does not contain soy, wheat, or any artificial colors or flavors. This ensures that your cat does not have any adverse reactions.

    If you are looking to give your outdoor cat a hearty meal, look no further than Blue Wilderness.

    • Cold-formed to retain nutrients
    • Minimum of 38% protein content per serving
    • High-quality protein
    • Has no harmful ingredients or additives
    • Pricey
    thematic break

    4. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food

    Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Science Diet is one of the most reputable companies in the pet supplies industry and for good reason: Their products never disappoint when it comes to quality. This cat food is not any different. First, it comes in a 13-pound bag to ensure that there is more than enough for your kitty to enjoy.

    This formula is specifically made to assist elderly cats with their digestive processes, as it is enriched with prebiotic fibers that encourage healthy gut function.

    The easily digestible kibbles are also grain-free, thus ensuring that your furry friend’s health is not put at risk.  Plant-based ingredients can be harmful to your cat.

    The protein in this cat food comes from chicken. Recently, however, Hill’s Science Diet changed the product’s packaging, as well as the size and taste of the kibbles. It seems as though some cats are having a difficult time adjusting to the new product, which means that you might want to purchase a smaller pack to see how well your kitty will love the repackaged version.

    Fortunately, the manufacturer provides detailed instructions on how to transition your cat to this food to prevent issues such as loss of appetite, constipation, or diarrhea.

    When it comes to quality, this cat food from Hill’s Science is one of the best options. However, it’s pretty pricey.

    • Chicken protein
    • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthier immune system, stronger vision, and a more luscious coat
    • Enriched with prebiotic fibers for better gut health
    • Requires adjusting to the new product
    • Pricey
    thematic break

    5. Instinct Original Real Chicken Natural Dry Cat Food

    Instinct Original Grain Free

    This dry cat food by Instinct Original is a delicious, nutritious formula consisting of 81% ingredients from real animals, as well as essential fats and 19% healthy fruits and vegetables. The meat utilized in this formula is derived from free-range chicken.

    Since this cat meal by Instinct Original has high protein levels, it is ideal for active felines, such as your outdoor kitty. It is also enriched with a host of other essential ingredients, such as probiotics, antioxidants, and natural omegas.

    Probiotics help in promoting gut health, while antioxidants work to eliminate dangerous free radicals in the body that weaken the immune system. Natural omegas, on the other hand, help promote healthier skin and coat.

    This product does not contain filler ingredients, such as grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, or soy. These are not only useless for a cat but may also negatively impact their health. This cat food also does not contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

    Additionally, every piece of kibble in Instinct Original’s Cat Food comes covered in freeze-dried material to maintain its nutritional value, as well as to enhance its taste. This material is natural and comes from real meat and minimally processed whole foods.

    The issue with this product, however, is that it contains peas, which have a small chance of causing bladder and kidney stones in some felines.

    • High-quality protein from free-range chicken
    • High protein content
    • Enriched with probiotics, antioxidants, and natural omegas
    • Does not contain filler ingredients
    • Freeze-dried to maintain nutritional value and taste
    • Contains peas
    thematic break

    6. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food

    Wellness Complete Health Natural

    This cat meal by Wellness Complete is a balanced cat food that is designed to satisfy the energy requirements of active outdoor cats. The main ingredient in this product is protein-rich salmon, which not only provides your pet with fuel for their adventures but also helps them build lean muscle.

    This cat food contains complex carbohydrates that provide additional energy. The flaxseeds in this product act as a natural source of omega-6 fatty acids that promote healthier skin and coat. Wellness Complete’s Dry Cat Food is enriched with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and taurine to promote better overall health.

    You will also find prebiotics, probiotics, and healthy fibers in this product to ensure that your cat digests their food properly, and it prevents hairballs from being an issue.

    It does not contain any traces of corn, soy, wheat, or any other filler products.

    Wellness Complete, however, recently changed their formula slightly, and the new kibbles can be difficult to digest for some cats.

    • High protein content
    • Contains omega-6 for healthy skin and coat
    • Enriched with numerous minerals and vitamins
    • Does not contain filler ingredients
    • Kibbles in the new formula can be difficult to digest for some cats

    cat paw divider

    Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Best Cat Food for Outdoor Cats

    Cat food for outdoor cats differs in price, quality, and nutritional value. The following are the most important things to consider when buying food for your outdoor cat.

    Protein Type and Content

    Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need animal-based protein for survival. For an outdoor cat, they need at least 30% protein in their meal for optimal health. Additionally, felines of different ages will require different amounts of protein.

    For instance, kittens typically need higher amounts, as they are still building muscles and other types of tissues. Healthy adult cats can do with average amounts, as they only need to maintain their tissues. Elderly felines, on the other hand, require above-average amounts of protein to combat the effects of aging, such as tissue degeneration.


    Unlike dogs, cats do not do well with carbohydrates, though they can tolerate low amounts, even eating grass while out and about. Nonetheless, most of the ingredients in cat food should consist of animal-based products, ideally, the first five ingredients on the label. However, this can make the chow pricey, which is why some manufacturers include vegetables in the first five ingredients.

    If you can afford it, go for the food in which the first five ingredients are meat-based. Never buy cat chow that has fewer than three meat-based products in its first five ingredients.

    Our Favorite Cat Bowl:
    Gone are the days when you have to mop up water spills after your cat goes to their bowl for a drink. With the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl, you’ll never have to worry about water spills again.

    Two stainless steel bowls sit inside a wide tray to catch every little dribble and drop that falls from your cat’s mouth. Your kitty might not be the cleanest drinker, but now they don’t have to be! Click here to purchase your own and say goodbye to water spills for good.

    At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

    The Label

    The label contains all the information you need to help you determine whether the food is appropriate for your kitty.

    For starters, it lets you know whom the chow is designed for. Some cat foods are meant for kittens and some for adult cats, while others are intended for sick kitties. As such, when it comes to outdoor cats, ensure that the label states that the chow is intended for active felines.

    The label also indicates the bag’s weight. Depending on the amount of food your furball typically consumes, you should be able to calculate the number of servings that a bag can give you, thus allowing you to determine whether it is a cost-effective option.

    cat paw divider


    Outdoor cats have unique needs, as they are active felines. Even though they might be out there hunting, they come up short more often than not, and any unsuccessful hunt results in wasted energy. As such, it is important to give them food that is high in protein content, as they need it for fuel as well as for building and maintaining tissue.

    As you go through the various options, consider Smalls Cat Food as the best cat food for outdoor cats, since it contains high amounts of high-quality protein, in addition to a host of other beneficial vitamins and minerals. If you are on a budget, the Purina Beyond Grain Free is the most affordable high-quality cat food on the market today. Always check out reviews on a product before purchasing it.

    SEE ALSO: 10 Best Cat Foods for Indoor Cats

    thematic break

    Featured Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay