Cats are obligate carnivores. As such, their food should be primarily meat-based, while supplementing proteins like chicken and turkey with additional ingredients to provide a fully balanced diet. While cheap cat foods have long relied on unnamed meat by-products combined with ingredients that are not considered species-appropriate, the modern cat owner is more discerning.
Premium cat foods are made from natural ingredients. They dispense with artificial ingredients, and they include life-stage diets as well as food that is formulated for felines with food sensitivities and allergies, sensitive stomachs, furball sufferers. There are even organic meals, as well as those that closely mimic the raw food diet that have become increasingly popular.
There is a huge selection of cat foods, so we have compiled a list of reviews of the 10 best premium cat foods for your cat. Choose according to the age of your cat, your preference for wet or dry food, and any special dietary requirements you need to meet.
A Quick Comparison of Our Winners (Updated in 2023)
|Best Overall||Smalls Fresh Bird Cat Food||
||Click to Save 40% Use code: Excitedcats2023|
|Best Value||Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Adult||
|Castor & Pollux Organix||
|Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain||
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||
The 10 Best Premium Cat Foods
1. Smalls Fresh Bird Cat Food Recipe – Best Overall
Our overall favorite premium cat food is Smalls fresh bird recipe. This recipe features human-grade raw chicken as the main and only source of protein. With 92% chicken breast, 6% chicken liver, and 2% chicken hearts, this raw food is a favorite of most kitties.
The other fresh ingredients featured in this fresh cat food are green beans, peas, kale, and vegetable oil. You may notice several plant-based ingredients in this fresh recipe, but the carbohydrate content is below 5%, which is excellent for kitties of all sizes.
Smalls’ fresh bird recipe is also high in moisture content. This helps your cat maintain hydration and promote a healthy digestive system. Overall, this formula is our favorite due to its high protein count and low carb value.
- Features high-quality human grade animal protein sourced from chicken
- Low carb formula
- High moisture content
- Good on kitty’s digestive system
- Added fat is from plants
2. Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Adult Dry Premium Cat Food – Best Value
Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Adult Dry Cat Food is targeted primarily at indoor cats. Blue Buffalo claims that this food helps combat obesity, which can become a major problem for cats that do not go outside and get exercise. It also helps to alleviate hairballs and urinary tract disease. It is high in fiber which makes your cat feel fuller without feeding too many calories. It contains cranberries to help combat urinary tract infection, and it has a relatively low calorific content.
The food is well priced, being one of the cheapest on our list, by the pound, and it contains 32% protein and 6% fiber. In fact, we think it’s the best premium cat food for the money. Its primary ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, and menhaden fish meal. Its other main ingredients are brown rice and barley. However, the food contains pea protein, pea fiber, and pea, as well as cheap fillers like alfalfa meal and potato starch. It is also high in carbohydrates, with more than 43% of the dry matter food being carbs.
- 6% fiber
- Primary ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, and fish meal
- Cats like the flavor
- Lots of plant protein
- High in carbohydrates
- History of recalls
3. Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Organic Chicken & Sweet Potato Recipe Dry Cat Food is another grain-free diet. Although it costs a lot more than the Taste of the Wild recipe, it is made from 95% organic ingredients. Its primary ingredients are chicken, chicken meal, pea protein, sweet potatoes, and peas, all of which are listed organic. The food does not contain any artificial ingredients and contains 32% crude protein.
Castor & Pollux Organix is expensive but, despite its high price, it still contains dried alfalfa meal, which is an inexpensive filler that is more commonly associated with horse feed than premium cat food. It does, however, contain probiotics and additional taurine, omega fatty acids, and vitamins B and D. Free from artificial flavoring, the food might be too bland for some picky felines, but it is high-grade food that is free from artificial ingredients and does not contain any synthetic or GMO ingredients.
- Organic ingredients
- Grain-free food
- 32% protein
- Contains probiotics
- First ingredients are chicken and chicken meal
- Contains alfalfa meal
- A bit bland for some cats
Related Read: Castor & Pollux Organix Cat Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons
4. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
Not only are cats obligate carnivores, but they would eat very little grain in the wild. Premium cat food should replicate this, using a meat-based protein source and combined with other natural ingredients that are free from grains like corn and barley.
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food’s primary ingredient is chicken meal. Its other main ingredients are listed as peas, sweet potatoes, chicken fat, and pea protein. It also contains venison, salmon, and ocean fish meal as other meat ingredients. Probiotics help fight bad gut flora, not only improving your cat’s gut health but helping maintain their immune system and more.
The formula includes fruit and vegetable ingredients like tomato, blueberries, and raspberries, as well as additional chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are bound to protein, making it easier to digest and offering improved bioavailability.
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a high-protein premium cat food, with 42% crude protein, and the only real criticism is that, while the main ingredient is a good meat source, the second most common ingredient is pea, which is a low-quality protein.
- Primary ingredient is chicken
- Contains probiotics
- Additional minerals are chelated
- Competitive price
- 42% protein
- Second ingredient is peas
5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Premium Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is premium grain-free food. It is high in protein, with a 40% crude protein ratio. The primary ingredients are deboned chicken and chicken meal followed by pea protein, tapioca starch, and peas. It also contains menhaden fish meal and chicken fat as its meat ingredients. Probiotics and chelated minerals enhance your cat’s diet while ensuring that they truly benefit from the minerals.
It is moderately priced and of decent quality, but it does feature pea protein, peas, and other plant-derived protein sources high in the list of ingredients. These have also caused the food’s 28% carbohydrate ratio, which is significantly higher than a cat’s diet needs to be. Also, some of the ingredients have been split. You will find peas, pea protein, and pea fiber, listed in the ingredients. These come from the same source, and if they had been listed as a single ingredient, they would have likely appeared higher up the ingredient list.
- Grain-free recipe
- Primary ingredients are deboned chicken and chicken meal
- Contains probiotics
- Minerals are chelated
- 40% protein
- Lots of plant-based proteins
- High in carbs
6. American Journey Grain-Free Premium Dry Cat Food
American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a grain-free food, and this salmon flavor is also completely free of chicken. Many salmon and fish recipes contain some form of chicken, which can be especially problematic for cats with allergies or that are sensitive to chicken ingredients. The food’s main ingredients are deboned salmon and salmon meal, followed by tapioca starch, menhaden fish meal, and dried egg product.
It is a high protein food, made up of 40% protein that comes primarily from meat sources. It also contains probiotics and is fortified with additional minerals and vitamins to ensure your cat gets a fully balanced diet. The diet incorporates taurine, which is good for the heart and eyes.
American Journey Grain-Free Dry Cat Food also incorporates plenty of antioxidants from the fruit and vegetables, while omega fatty acids are found in the fish and fish derivatives and help keep the skin and coat healthy. The ingredients do include peas, pea protein, and pea fiber, suggesting that if these ingredients were treated as one, they would appear higher up the list and be responsible for more of the protein. In terms of dry matter, the food is approximately 30% carbohydrates, which is higher than should be fed to cats.
- 40% protein
- Primary ingredients are deboned salmon and salmon meal
- Contains probiotics
- Competitive price
- Ingredient splitting of peas
- High carbs
7. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Indoor Premium Dry Cat Food
Unlike the prescription line, Hill’s Science Diet Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food does not require a prescription and is available to all cat owners. The brand describes the formula used in this range as offering “biology-based nutrition”.
This particular food is designed for indoor cats, which means that it should be low in calories, have decent protein content, and will usually be high in fiber, to ensure that your cat feels full. This is another cat food that is very high in carbohydrates (47.6%), which is not ideal for a carnivore. It is made up of 30% protein, which is lower than many, but when combined with the high carbs, it suggests that a lot of the protein is coming from plant sources.
However, its primary ingredient is chicken. After this, its most common ingredients are wheat, corn gluten meal, powdered cellulose, and then chicken fat. A lot of these ingredients are not considered species-specific and some owners look to avoid them.
Although the company has undergone several recalls, these have been concerned with dog food.
- May help alleviate urinary tract infections
- No artificial additives
- The primary ingredient is chicken
- High in carbs
- Lots of species-inappropriate ingredients
8. Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food is a high-protein food with chicken meal as its primary ingredient. Next in the list of ingredients is potatoes, followed by canola oil and then peas and chicken. Further down the list, you will also find ocean fish meal and salmon oil, as well as a host of fruit and vegetables. The ingredients are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to give your cat a full balanced diet.
The food is 42% protein and also has a modest 3% fiber. It has probiotics and incorporates omega fatty acids. The food is both grain and gluten-free, so is suitable for some sensitive stomachs. Although chicken meal, the primary ingredient, is considered a good quality ingredient, the rest of the top 5 ingredients are of lower quality. Potatoes are a source of carbohydrates that can lead to weight gain and should not feature so high in the ingredient list. Peas are another source of vegetable carbohydrates, and while chicken sounds like a good ingredient, the pure chicken form is more than 80% water, which is removed during cooking.
Canola oil, although considered a good source of fat and omega-3, is also seen as controversial because it is often derived from genetically modified rapeseed.
- Chicken meal is the primary ingredient
- 42% protein
- Contains probiotics
- Not the cheapest
- Contains a lot of vegetable proteins
- High in carbs
- Contains canola oil
9. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food
Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food is part of the company’s Original line, which is made from at least 70% animal ingredients. It is also grain-free. In fact, this particular formula is 81% animal ingredients and its first and most prominent ingredients are chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, and peas.
Peas are common in grain-free foods because they help bind the kibble and prevent it from falling apart in the bag. However, they are not a high-quality source of protein. They feature fifth in the list of ingredients for this food. Further down the list is dried tomato pomace, which is considered a relatively low-quality and low-cost filler. A meat-based alternative would be preferred, but this food does contain a lot of other meat sources.
The freeze-dried food has a 41% protein level and an average of 3% fiber. The lack of starches, beyond peas, means that Instinct has managed to keep the carbohydrate content down to 17%, which is impressively and unusually low for a grain-free diet. However, Instinct’s food is expensive and the company has undergone several cat food recalls over their history, primarily for salmonella contamination.
- 81% meat ingredients
- Low carbs
- 41% protein
- Recall history
10. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate Canned Cat Food
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate Canned Cat Food is the company’s original cat food line. It is grain-free and has a pate consistency that will appeal to some, although not all, cats. Its main ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken broth, and chicken flavor as well as natural flavor to make it more palatable for your feline friend, and dried egg product to boost the protein content.
The protein content of this wet food is 10%. It has 25% carbohydrate content, which is high compared to other wet foods, and as well as guar gum, this food uses carrageenan as a thickening agent. Carrageenan is considered controversial because it is believed to be linked to inflammation and may be a carcinogen.
Merrick cat foods have undergone a few product recalls in the past several years, and recent changes to the food’s formula have not proven popular with cats or their owners.
- Primary ingredients are meat-based
- Merrick has had several product recalls
- Ingredients have changed and are less popular
- Contains carrageenan
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Premium Cat Food
Good quality cat food can prolong the life of your cat, ensure that they remain healthy, and it can increase their energy levels while giving them a shiny and beautiful looking coat. Poor quality food can shorten their life, cause itchy skin and poor quality fur, and it can leave your cat lackluster and lacking in energy. Below are some of the things you should look for when shopping for premium cat food.
Wet vs Dry
The first thing to consider, when buying any cat food, is whether to opt for wet food or dry food.
- Dry food is convenient, tends to be less expensive, and is easier to manage and store. It will last much longer than wet food. It can even help maintain your cat’s dental hygiene by removing plaque and tartar from their teeth. However, it is dry, so your cat will need a regular supply of fresh water to accompany it. Older cats, and cats with dental problems, may struggle with the hard kibble, and some cats do not like the taste and consistency of dry food when compared to that of wet food.
- Wet food is moist, and your cat will get most of his daily moisture intake from his food. It also tends to be more aesthetically appealing and has a more attractive However, it goes bad sooner, it shouldn’t be left in your cat’s bowl for too long, and tends to be more expensive.
- A combination of dry and wet food is a good compromise. Dry food can be fed over the day with one or two wet food meals also served. If you do combine both foods, you will have to provide some water, and you should calculate how much of each type of food to give your cat to avoid under or overfeeding.
Obligate Carnivores and Meat Protein
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they should get most of their daily protein from meat sources rather than plant-based sources. Whether you are buying wet or dry food, this means ensuring that the food gets most of its beneficial nutrients from meat. Most food manufacturers fail to tell you exactly how much protein in the food comes from meat sources and how much from plant sources, however, so you may have to do some ingredient investigation.
What To Look For
Try to ensure that the first ingredient listed on the food is a good meat-based protein. Common examples include chicken, turkey, or salmon.
Also, consider the quality of the meat ingredient. “Chicken” sounds like the best option, but is actually misleading. Ingredients are listed by volume before they are prepared and because chicken is approximately 80% moisture when it is cooked and dried out, it is a fraction of its dry weight.
Once cooked, chicken is likely to appear much further down the list of ingredients, promoting the second ingredient in the list to the top and typically meaning that the food’s primary protein source is plant-based.
Look, instead, for chicken meal or deboned chicken. Chicken meal, or fish meal for that matter, is a protein-dense variant and is considered a highly beneficial addition to cat food.
Premium cat food should be free from filler, packed with natural ingredients, and should get most of its protein from meat-based sources. In contrast, grocery store food uses vegetables and plant-based proteins. While these do provide protein, cats are obligate carnivores, so they would get most of the essential ingredients from meat.
While premium based food can cost more than lower quality food, it gives your cat a greater chance of a long and healthy life. It could prevent them from getting ill, and will leave them feeling fuller and more satisfied after mealtime.
There are a lot of premium cat foods to choose from. We have listed ten of the most popular and while compiling our reviews, we determined that the Smalls fresh human-grade bird cat food recipe was high in protein and contains all the vitamins and minerals your cat needs for a balanced diet. If you’re looking for a bang for your buck, try Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Adult Dry Cat Food.
Featured Image Credit: Smalls.com
- A Quick Comparison of Our Winners (Updated in 2023)
- The 10 Best Premium Cat Foods
- 1. Smalls Fresh Bird Cat Food Recipe – Best Overall
- 2. Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Adult Dry Premium Cat Food – Best Value
- 3. Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 4. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 5. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Premium Dry Cat Food
- 6. American Journey Grain-Free Premium Dry Cat Food
- 7. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Indoor Premium Dry Cat Food
- 8. Solid Gold Indigo Moon Grain-Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
- 9. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food
- 10. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Chicken Pate Canned Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Premium Cat Food