Best Indoor Cat Food: 2021 Buyer’s Guide & Reviews
You know that old saying, “You are what you eat”?
Well, so is your cat.
And if you have an indoors-only kitty at home, the food she eats is particularly important. Compared to outdoor cats, indoor cats tend to live longer (typically up to 12 years or more!), so proper nutrition is essential for supporting them in every year of their life and preventing common age-related diseases.
So, if you want her to be healthy and happy for a long time, it's in your best interest to select the best indoor cat food to ensure that she's getting all the nutrients she needs (and none of the artificial fillers, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients she doesn't) on a daily basis.
- Comparison Of Our Top Choices
- Best Indoor Cat Food: Our Pick — Nulo
- Best Cat Food for Indoor Cats – Our Choices
- Best Canned Cat Food for Indoor Cats
- How Much to Feed an Indoor Cat & the Importance of Obesity Prevention
- Do indoor cats need indoor cat food?
- What is different about indoor cat food?
- How much should an indoor cat eat per day?
- What is the difference between indoor and outdoor dry cat food?
Comparison Of Our Top Choices
Nulo Grain Free Dry Cat Food
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Wellness CORE Natural
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Halo Grain Free Natural Dry Cat Food
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Wellness CORE Natural Wet Canned Cat Food
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Nulo Turkey and Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned
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Best Indoor Cat Food: Our Pick — Nulo
Before we get into the nitty gritty of an indoor cat diet, we're taking a moment to let the superlative shine: Nulo Grain Free Cat Food With BC30 Probiotic. This brand comes highly rated and at just over $35 for a 12 lb bag it's an affordable but quality product. You'll learn a bit more about it shortly.
Related article: Review For Nulo Cat Food 2021
Best Cat Food for Indoor Cats – Our Choices
- Nulo Grain Free Dry Cat Food
- Wellness CORE Natural
- Halo Grain Free Natural Dry Cat Food
- Wellness CORE Natural Wet Canned Cat Food
- Nulo Turkey and Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned
1. Nulo Grain Free Dry Cat Food with BC30 Probiotic
From the popular pet food brand Nulo, this product contains a patented probiotic blend that promotes healthy gut bacteria in your companion's digestive tract. This helps her with everything from digestion to skin health to immunity strength. It also contains “industry-leading meat levels” to support your indoor kitty's need for protein.
This product is specially blended for indoor feline and is made with real meat including deboned duck, chicken, and cod. You can opt to purchase a 5 lb or 12 lb bag.
- 83% of protein comes from high quality animal sources like duck, chicken, turkey, and salmon
- Grain-free and low-carb (with sources like lentils and yellow peas instead of potatoes)
- Small kibble size that's easy to eat
- Some users have noted their cats don't like the taste
2. Wellness CORE Natural
This US-based company has created a specially-based formula for indoor pets with less fat to avoid excessive calories, with a crude fat analysis of only around 12% (meanwhile, the crude protein content is an impressive 38%, which is essential for carnivorous felines!). Like the other top brands here, it contains no fillers, meat by-products, or artificial ingredients. It also contains up to 5% crude fiber to help your animal feel satisfied between meals.
Related Article: Wellness Cat Food Reviews 2021
- Specially designed for indoor kitties with 20% less fat than the original formula
- Good value
- Some users note the kibble size is a little larger than their pets prefer to eat
3. Halo Grain Free Natural Dry Cat Food
The Halo brand is known for using quality protein sources from animals that have not been factory farmed nor fed with antibiotics or growth hormones. This means they use wild caught fish, cage-free poultry, and pasture raised beef along with completely “meat-meal” free recipes. Not too bad for your feline friend!
You may have heard about this product before as Spot's Stew. The updated brand pledges that your cat will get more out of the food she eats thanks to their product's high digestibility, leaving you less to clean up in her litter box.
Related Article: Review of Halo Cat Food 2021
- Uses whole meat (no meals) with 32% crude protein
- Free of artificial colors, preservatives, and ingredients
- Highest digestibility compared to other pet food brands (the “Proof is in the PoopTM“)
- Contains potatoes and soy
- Some cats don't like it
- Sponsored by the Humane Society of the US which some users don't support
- Some users have noted very small kibble size is not helpful for keeping teeth clean
Best Canned Cat Food for Indoor Cats
4. Wellness CORE Natural Wet Canned Cat Food
As an indoor formula, this Wellness CORE wet food product contains less calories. This helps minimize the risk of overweight and obesity while still providing enough energy for your kitty to play. Like other Wellness products, it's made in the US and backed by their money-back guarantee.
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and omega fatty acids from ingredients like flaxseed and salmon oil
- Protein-rich to meet your pet's nutritional needs as a natural carnivore
- 65% of its protein content comes from high quality animal sources like chicken and chicken liver
- Many users note a recent change in formula has left their animals with GI upset
- Some users also note some cans appear to be missing food when first opened
5. Nulo Grain Free Canned Wet Food
The Nulo brand has really taken off in the past couple years in terms of popularity, and many pet users definitely see a direct benefit for their kitties. Nulo's “Freestyle™” blend for cats can also help reduce the risk of chronic health problems such as kidney disease, osteoarthritis, food allergies, and heart disease thanks to it's high content of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.This canned food can also provide necessary energy without leading to weight gain thanks to its high protein, low carb combo.
- Free of corn, wheat, soy, carrageenan, white potatoes, tapioca, artificial colors, flavorings, and preservatives
- Made in the US
- Many users note their cats love the taste
- Contains 78% moisture
How We Decided The Winners
As a pet parent, you have a virtually endless amount of options for pet food. The intent of this guide is to help you pare down your choices so you can make the right one for you and your feline.
Here are a few questions we considered when selecting our top choices among the available cat food brands:
- What is the quality of the ingredients used in the product?
- What is the brand's overall reputation?
- What do experienced consumers say about the product?
To help us make our decision, we've consulted with some of the best and most reliable resources available, including this comprehensive pet food guide from the Cornucopia Institute, a public interest group sharing economic, ecological, and agricultural information with consumers. So let's get started and dig in to what we've found.
What Your Indoor Cat Needs in Its Diet
Kitties are obligate carnivores, which means meat needs to be the essential component of their diet. This is because they evolved in the wild eating mostly small prey, such as rodents, birds, snakes, and insects.
Adult cats actually need upwards of 3 times more protein than dogs do!
A raw foods diet tends to be a great source of sufficient protein. But given the often prohibitive expense and inconvenience of this type of diet, quality canned cat food is also a good choice.
Dry kibble can also work well, although it's important to get a high quality brand. It's almost too easy to find a food loaded with artificial and synthetic junk which can harm your pet's health in the long run.
As a general rule, if you're going with dry kibble, stick with products that don't contain grain and offer at least 35% protein content.
Other important things your pet needs include:
The concept of “low-fat” as a healthy eating style is a myth for cats (let alone humans!). Cats need ample sources of quality fats in their diet to use for energy and to help with the development and function of skin, hair, muscle and joints, and even the immune system.
The important types of fats, including omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids (the first being the most essential) can be found in things like flax, sardines, krill, salmon, and other fish. A decent guideline is around 250 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per day, which are easy to supplement into your pet's diet in the form of fish oil.
We don't want the food we're giving our pets to cause dehydration, as this can be hard on the body. Plus, since domestic cats mostly evolved in hot climates (northern Africa and the Middle East), they typically don't have a strong sense of thirst and may not drink enough from their water bowl to sufficiently hydrate themselves.
Adding moisture to a feline's diet via canned or raw food (instead of providing kibble only) is essential for proper organ function and can help ensure your kitty stays well-hydrated.
As a macronutrient, carbs are actually considered non-essential for healthy indoor felines. Not only did cats not evolve eating plants, but the ingestion of modern carbs like wheat, corn, and soy can lead to significant health issues, ranging from arthritis to obesity. To protect your pet's health, it's best to stay away from any products containing grains.
How Much to Feed an Indoor Cat & the Importance of Obesity Prevention
Obesity is a serious health problem that can affect humans and cats alike. In felines, obesity is associated a variety of additional health problems including liver disease, skin issues, diabetes, lameness, and increased complications associated with surgeries.
To the extent that the risk of these health issues can be avoided then, preventing obesity is one of the main reasons why proper pet nutrition is so critical.
How Big Should My Indoor Cat Be?
The typical full grown domestic kitty should weigh around 10 lbs, although this can vary from as little as 5 lbs to 25+ pounds for certain breeds (e.g., Siamese vs. Maine Coon, respectively).
Your vet can help you determine whether your pet is at an ideal weight. A quick way to check at home is by gently running your fingers down her sides. You should be able to easily feel her ribs, although they shouldn't be easily visible.
Likewise, there should be a visible waist when looking at your animal from the top or the side.
How Much Should I Feed Her?
The amount you feed your furry friend will depend on a few factors, including her age, her breed, her overall health, her environment (including climate), and how active she is.
Generally, an adult cat of about 8-10 lbs should have around 4/5 of a cup of dry food or just shy of a full 6 oz can of wet food per day. This is based off the assumption that a typical 1 cup of kitty kibble contains about 300 calories, and 1 6 oz can (or 2 3 oz cans) contain around 250 calories. This can be adjusted accordingly depending on whether you decide to give your companion a mix of dry and wet food.
Treats should account for less than about 1/10th of your pet's daily caloric intake.
Fortunately, most pet food brands contain a guide right on the package. So, you can use this to help you determine the right amount for your animal.
When you feed your cat is also highly variable. Many pet owners choose a twice per day, portion control method (where they measure and dole out a certain amount of food to be eaten as one meal) as a way to help control a cat's weight. This is especially helpful if you have a kitty who tends to overeat if given the chance!
Indoor cats tend to live longer, healthier lives and avoid many of the issues their outdoor brethren face (like animal cruelty, wildlife, injury, and infection). But indoor cats have a few special needs to ensure they stay healthy and well-adjusted, and a proper diet is essential.
Help your indoor kitty thrive by giving her foods rich in moisture, quality protein, and essential nutrients while also having limited ingredients and being low in carbs and calories. A combo of no-grain, additive-free dry and canned foods is generally ideal.
And the good news? There are plenty of quality brands to choose from.
Got a fellow cat lover in your life? Be sure to share this guide, and let us know about your experience as a pet parent by writing in the comments below.
Do indoor cats need indoor cat food?
Indoor cats are less active, and therefore require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight than their outdoor counterparts. Foods that are formulated to contain an ideal calorie content for an indoor lifestyle can help indoor cats maintain a healthy weight.
What is different about indoor cat food?
There are other reduced-calorie cat foods that are almost identical to the indoor foods, but they are labeled as a light cat food. The higher fiber also helps lower the number of calories per cup. Indoor formulas may also have a nutrient profile designed for slightly lower calorie intake.
How much should an indoor cat eat per day?
Here's a general guideline that nutrition experts agree on: A healthy, active, 10-lb adult cat requires 270-320 calories per day.
What is the difference between indoor and outdoor dry cat food?
Indoor formula cat food is generally geared to have slightly less fat. The outdoor kitty should be just fine eating it. There's not really much difference. Indoor cats are usually less active than their outdoor counterparts, therefore requiring fewer calories.