Cats are notoriously picky about their food. It’s also true that not all wet and dry foods are created equal. So, when looking for the best indoor cat food, you must balance your cat’s likes and dislikes against the health benefits different recipes offer.
So, what is the best cat food for indoor cats? Of the many cat foods for indoor cats we evaluated, our favorite overall is Smalls Human-Grade Wet Food.
However, the more we investigated the question, the more we found that the answer varies based on your cat’s needs.
Food For Indoor Cats Comparison Table
- Food type: Freeze-dried Raw
- Flavor: Chicken
- Food type: Bits in Broth, Shredded
- Flavor: Fish
- Food type: Dry
- Flavor: Chicken
- Food type: Wet
- Flavor: Chicken & Liver Entrée
- Food type: Dry food
- Flavor: Chicken
- Food type: Wet food
- Flavor: Chiken
- Food type: Raw
- Flavor: Rabbit
How We Picked Indoor Cat Food
When researching the best food for indoor cats, we used several criteria. These were:
- Cat breed/age and coat type
Cats are obligate carnivores, so they need a certain amount of protein and water content to keep healthy.
While all cat food looks the same on the surface, scrutinizing the ingredients can help you separate the goats from the sheep.
Many cat foods are full of filler content, like corn or grain. It helps hold dry food together, but it doesn’t do anything for your cat. Indeed, most cats can’t digest grains.
The best dry foods not only have lower carbohydrate levels, but they name their meat source. When deciding what the best indoor cat food is for your household, look for ingredients that get specific, including:
These are superior to the oblique ‘meat source’ you see on some dry foods.
Finally, the best indoor cat foods possess taurine. We know taurine as an acid produced by the human stomach. Cats, however, need taurine for good heart health. If they don’t get enough, they’re at risk for things like dilated cardiomyopathy.
Cat Breed and Age:
Different cat breeds and coat types also have different dietary needs. Age also plays a part. Kittens have access to enzymes senior cats don’t, just as senior cats need certain additives from food that younger cats can find ways to meet naturally.
The best indoor cat foods cater to as many of these diverse needs as possible. Typically that means segregating food types by age, and many brands offer different versions of their products for kittens, adults, and seniors.
However, the best cat foods for indoor cats can and do strive to meet the needs of cats, if not of all ages, then at least of all types.
Recalls happen. Indeed, most brands experience one during their career. However, some brands encounter more recalls than others. If they don’t get caught in time, the recalled product poses severe risks for your cat.
When compiling our list of what made the best indoor cat food, we favored brands with fewer recalls. We wanted brands that fostered trust and put your cat’s health first. We understand that it’s hard to accept a brand that has you returning the product every few months.
Reviews: Best Cat Food For Indoor Cats
1. Smalls Human Grade Food For Cats
This unfortunate fact is not true for Smalls Human-Grade Wet Food.
Of all the cat foods we’ve looked at, we’ve ranked it as the best overall cat food for indoor cats because:
- It uses recognizable ingredients
- It’s high in protein
- It’s grain-free
- It has high taurine levels
You can find all things you want in feline wet food with this food. So what does human-grade mean? At its most basic, this means all the ingredients should be digestible by humans.
It sounds extravagant, especially if you aren’t the sort to feed your cat from the table. But, there’s a lot to be said for the human-grade approach. That’s because it’s often hard to tell what part of the chicken went into the pate when looking at wet food recipes.
Depending on the brand, you’re as likely to find the company made it with organs or chicken bones as chicken breast.
Smalls’ wet food recipes rely primarily on the best parts of the animal. When they say a recipe is chicken-based, you know they mean mainly chicken breast. Since the whole recipe is human-grade, you avoid things like gelatine as binding agents.
This standard helps keep protein levels high and carbohydrates low. Even more critical, Smalls has various recipes that are all high in taurine, a dietary necessity for good feline heart health.
Much as we like it, however, nothing is perfect. One of the most significant drawbacks of Smalls is that it is subscription-based.
You won’t find this wet food at your local supermarket, and that can be inconvenient. On the other hand, the subscription service ensures you’ll never forget to stock up on cat food.
The only other con is that switching cats familiar with traditional wet food onto human-grade food can take time. However, once they switch, you won’t catch your cat eating anything else.
2. Applaws Natural –Best Wet Food for Indoor Cats
Additionally and unhelpfully, cats are infamous for not drinking enough water, making hydration an ongoing concern for their owners.
Wet food is an ideal solution to the hydration problem. Finding the best wet food for indoor cats can be challenging.
After careful research, our favorite is Applaws Fish Selection. It comes in broth, ensuring your indoor cat gets the hydration they need.
Other pros include:
- High protein levels
- Low levels of fat
- Various flavors
One of the first things we noticed looking at the ingredient list was how few ingredients there were. There are several flavors of Applaws wet food for indoor cats. The tuna variety lists three components. Other flavors had four, but that was as long as the list got.
In other words, this is a wet food that quite literally does what it says on the tin. After hours of wading through complicated ingredients lists, we appreciate knowing what we’re buying.
In addition to a comprehensive ingredients list, the ingredients Applaws uses focus on keeping your cat healthy. The meals are high in taurine and digestible proteins. There’s also less fat and carbohydrates in Applaws than in other wet foods we’ve examined.
Whereas there’s 15% protein, there’s 5% fat content.
However, nothing’s perfect, and Applaws does have its drawbacks. Cons include:
- Not a complete meal
- Small portions
The biggest con we found was that Applaws isn’t a meal in itself.
It’s a complementary wet food for indoor cats. Your indoor cat will need to eat it alongside equally complimentary dry food for the best overall health. It’s worth noting because buying multiple types of cat food can get expensive quickly.
Ultimately, whether you look for wet food that acts as a complete meal or pair Applaws with something else is a personal choice. Years of cat ownership led us to favor gravy or broth-based wet foods over pate because they usually have a higher moisture level.
3. Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein –Best Dry Cat Food for Indoor Cats
The reasons included:
- No recalls
- Uses gelatine over other binding agents to keep carbohydrates low
- Tailored to promote feline health
When we started researching the best cat food for indoor cats, recalls were a significant consideration. There are many veterinary-recommended options out there that we found had been recalled once too often for us to feel comfortable recommending them.
It’s hard for brands to avoid recalls. They happen for things as basic as packaging errors. This isn’t the case with Dr. Elsey’s Cleanprotein cat food. As of writing, it has never been recalled.
Another reason we consider this one of the best dry foods for indoor cats is because the kibble uses ingredients suitable only for cats. Many people think of kibbles as interchangeable. Yet, what a dog can digest varies wildly from what a cat can digest, which is why vets discourage letting your multi-pet household share dry food.
Dr. Elsey’s Cleanproein understands this, and its ingredients cater to cats for better, longer-lasting health.
Finally, lots of grain-free dry foods replace corn or wheat with equally starchy alternatives like potatoes. But this dry food uses gelatine as a binding agent instead. The result is that the carbohydrate level is significantly lower than in other dry foods.
Moreover, it avoids many of the ingredients that can cause inflammatory reactions or digestive discomfort in cats.
However, some significant disadvantages were the:
- Fat content
The best cat foods for indoor cats never come cheaply, but when you’re still experimenting with new food for your cat, a high price can be discouraging.
There’s also a higher fat content than there could be. However, the majority of the calories and content in this dry food come almost exclusively from protein. That’s so unusual in cat food that we still think this is one of the best dry foods for your indoor cat you’re likely to find.
Related Article: Dry cat food reviews & comparison.
4. Pro Plan Wet Kitten Food
That’s why when it comes to the best indoor cat food for kittens, we prefer Purina Pro Plan Wet Food for kittens.
We like it because:
- It has veterinary approval
- Easy to find
Since kittens need so much protein, we appreciate that Purina’s veterinary-crafted pate is high in meat and proteins. It also avoids fillers, which helps ensure your kitten gains the weight he needs to stay healthy, but not more than that.
Additionally, it’s almost always available in your grocery store of choice, which makes it a convenient wet food for your kitten.
Our research also indicated introducing kittens to wet food early was important. It encourages them to eat it as adults, ensuring they get the moisture they need to keep hydrated.
Kittens often struggle to access a water dish and experience dehydration, so this is extremely important.
However, cons include:
It’s not the cheapest wet food for kittens on the market. While adult cats can get by with one or two meals a day, growing kittens need more than that.
Consequently, you may find yourself having to buy more cans than planned, and that can quickly start to feel expensive.
5.Wellness Core Grain Free Food
It’s popular for a reason. Outdoor cats get a lot of their supplementary nutrients from hunting. While indoor cats can hunt, the health benefits of catnip mousie aren’t equal to those in the late, lamented Basil the Mouse Detective.
Grain-free food prioritizes the proteins found in Basil over empty carbohydrates like:
But not all grain-free food is created equal. If you’re looking for the best dry indoor cat food that’s grain-free, our favorite is Wellness Core’s grain-free dry food for indoor cats.
It has several pros to recommend it, including:
- The protein-rich ingredient list that prioritizes named meats
- Incorporates vitamins, antioxidants, and cranberries for long-lasting overall health
- Omega-acids that keep your indoor cat’s coat looking its best
As owners of a cat with chronic urinary tract problems, we appreciate the inclusion of cranberries. Once a cat has something like struvite crystals, they tend to get stuck with them.
Struvite crystals or not, when you’re trying to find the best dry food for indoor cats, it can be hard to find a brand that strikes a balance between being filling and giving your cat proteins it can digest.
An excellent way to tell if you’re looking at a brand that does this is by checking for named protein. Avoid nebulous mentions of ‘meat protein’ and look for something specific, like chicken or turkey.
Wellness Core meets this requirement. What’s even better is that it does it without packing the dry food with indigestible grains.
Customers recommend it for owners who want to clear bladder stones or blockages because the nutrients in this grain-free dry food help reduce urine pH levels.
It’s also high in vitamins and minerals that work to improve your cat’s coat. Since they aren’t eating as widely as they would outdoors, this is important. These vitamins do more than improve your cat’s overall appearance. They revitalize their system, giving them more energy to pursue interests other than sleeping the day away.
- Not for kittens or older cats
- It uses chicken meal, not real meat
Keep in mind that this dry food for indoor cats is for adults. If you need grain-free cat food for kittens or elderly cats, you may need to find a different product.
Another concern we have is that although Wellness Core does use named proteins, they aren’t from real meat. Instead, they come from the meal.
Chicken meal combines the protein-heavy part of the chicken with skin, bones, and other animal parts. Unless you’re adept at interpreting ratios, it can be hard to know how chicken meat versus chicken bone is mixed into the meal in your cat food.
That said, Wellness Core’s grain-free food does make a noticeable difference to your indoor cat’s overall health. You’ll see a sleeker, more alert cat within weeks of making the switch.
6.Blue Buffalo Tastefuls
It’s possible to keep an indoor cat active and stimulated, but sometimes they put on weight anyway. Sleeping is hard work, and indoor cats take that job seriously.
And the more weight your cat puts on, the harder it can be to coax them into being active. With that in mind, weight management foods can help.
When it comes to finding the best food for indoor cats who need to lose weight, our favorite is Blue Buffalo’s Chicken Pate.
It has various pros, including:
- Protein-rich, high-quality pate
- Discourages grazing
- Excellent moisture content to keep cat hydrated
First of all, we like Blue Buffalo’s wet food because it’s high quality. It’s self-described as lacking the usual filler additives you get in dry food, and a survey of the ingredients list backs this up.
The other thing that becomes apparent in the ingredients list is that there’s more protein than carbohydrates. This food is ideal for weight-loss formulas because indoor cats don’t digest carbohydrates as effectively as other nutrients.
While many high-quality dry cat foods do a similar job, often by expanding in the cat’s stomach, it’s easy for dry food to encourage grazing.
Since grazing is one of the primary reasons indoor cats gain weight, discouraging this habit is one of the best ways to help them regain healthy body weight.
Wet food options make grazing harder since they don’t last as long when left out. Despite the high quality of Blue Buffalo’s weight-loss options, this is as true of them as other brands.
Moreover, because of the emphasis Blue Buffalo’s formula puts on protein rather than carbohydrates, there’s ample moisture in this food to keep your cat hydrated.
What Blue Buffalo understands is that getting a cat to lose weight is about more than eating less. It’s about eating more of the right foods to keep your indoor cat healthy.
However, it’s not a perfect formula. The biggest con is the difficulty persuading your cats to eat food
This con is concerning if you’re spending money on the best indoor cat foods for your feline. If your cat doesn’t eat it, the benefits are irrelevant.
Many reviewers said despite Blue Buffalo’s claims of an irresistible formula. Their cats walked away from this food. However, while switching your cat to a new food can be difficult, it’s not impossible.
7.Stella & Chewy’s
Consequently, when looking for the best food for indoor cats, raw food is an excellent option.
At its simplest, raw food recreates the prey-heavy diet of your indoor cat’s ancestors. But it’s about more than tapping into Sylvester’s instinct to kill Tweety.
While there are many brands of raw cat food worth looking at, our favorite is Stella and Chewy’s Raw Cat Food.
We like it because it:
- Increases hydration
- Decreases food consumption
- It has a variety of flavors
As we’ve said, cats are infamous for never drinking enough water. Stella and Chewy’s raw food is full of sources of natural hydration, from rabbit to organs. So, don’t be surprised if it looks like your indoor cat is drinking less water. He’s just getting those nutrients elsewhere.
We also like Stella and Chewy as an alternative for indoor cats who need to lose weight. It might sound unlikely, but since raw food taps into inherited hunting instincts, that means it also triggers that part of Sylvester’s brain that remembers food isn’t an everyday thing.
That means one of the corollaries of switching an indoor cat to raw cat food is that they often skip the occasional meal. This is an effective way of helping manage your cat’s weight.
Finally, Stella and Chewy don’t need to be frozen.
Typically raw food needs to be stored in the freezer and defrosted before serving.
Stella and Chewy offer a freeze-dried option, which saves you this hassle. You can store your Stella and Chewy raw food in the pantry and serve it as usual, with no need to thaw anything out.
However, it’s not without drawbacks.
The biggest con is:
The best indoor cat foods are seldom cheap, but they’re rarely this expensive, either. Reviewers say that for the best value for money, it’s worth buying this food in bulk.
In our experience, though, the benefits of raw food outweigh the expense. Your cat eats better, looks healthier, and even his coat looks sleeker.
How Dry and Wet Indoor Cat Food Differ
The apparent difference between wet and dry food is the moisture content. Wet food has significantly higher moisture levels and is better at keeping your cat hydrated.
Consequently, there’s also a difference in the manufacturing process. Wet food relies on:
- Fresh/frozen meat
Whereas dry food combines:
Crucially, dry food cooks all its ingredients at once to make the resultant starches easier for your indoor cat to process. It also means that nutritionally speaking, dry food possesses more carbohydrates.
However, this carries recipe to recipe, and it’s worth checking the ingredients before passing judgment on a particularly wet or dry food offering.
Vets don’t recommend simply swapping your indoor cat’s food overnight. Unless you’ve made a habit of routinely changing up your cat’s food, a sudden switch can be upsetting.
Instead, experts recommend switching your indoor cat over gradually. Start by mixing some of the new cat food in with the old. With each meal, add a little more of the fresh food. As you do this, gradually decrease the proportion of old to new food until your indoor cat is only eating the new brand.
If you have trouble persuading your cat, we recommend burying a favorite treat in the new food. In our house, scraps of ham, tuna, or Temptations are effective choices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cats are notoriously picky, and there are various reasons they go off their food. Health is always a primary consideration, but it shouldn’t be the first one. Before panicking, make sure to rule out:
Don’t overlook boredom, either. Eating the same meal twice a day every day for years takes its toll. To keep your cat interested in food, try swapping up her wet food every week to provide variety. Doing this will also make switching food brands easier if it ever becomes necessary.
The party line on this is no. If your cat has, for instance, urinary care food, you don’t want to give them anything unprescribed in case it triggers struvites or UTIS.
That said, we belong to a cat with chronic struvite crystals and regularly succumb to her wish for Temptations and other foods. In our experience, provided they stay on the prescribed food for mealtimes, your cat will be fine.
Cats love to graze throughout the day. However, not all cats can do this and keep a healthy weight. The decision to encourage or discourage the grazing habit comes down to your cat. If they can graze without putting on weight, there’s no issue.
Equally, if restricting food starts fostering behavior like stealing from the table, then we recommend grazing. Sometimes the risk of a nervous, upset cat outweighs the other benefits.
More Cat Food Topics: