If you just want the best dry cat food for indoor cats then we recommend you check out Purina One Indoor Advantage Adult Cat Food.
Indoor and outdoor cats lead very different lifestyles and have different needs when it comes to their food. In this article, I am going to look at why your indoor cat should get a special “indoor” food formulation, whether you should opt for a wet or dry food for your indoor cat, run through the ingredients you should be aware of in your cats indoor food and check out the best dry cat food options for your indoor cat.
Best Dry Cat Food For Indoor Cats
- Best Grain Free Dry Indoor Cat Food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Indoor Cat Food
- Best Senior Dry Cat Food For Indoor Cats: Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Natural Mature Dry Cat Food
- Best Hairball Control Dry Cat Food: Iams Proactive Health Adult Indoor Weight & Hairball Control Dry Cat Food
- Best Budget Indoor Dry Cat Food: Purina Cat Chow Hairball And Healthy Weight Dry Cat Food
- Best All-Rounder: Purina One Indoor Advantage Dry Cat Food
Do Indoor Cats Need A Different Type Of Food To Outdoor Cats?
Clearly indoor and outdoor cats are not hugely dissimilar – they are both cats and share the same basic requirements, they need food rich in protein with the correct balance of vitamins and minerals.
However, both their lifestyles are quite different and that means they need a dietary intake that is optimized for their lifestyle to get the most from life. Here are some of the key differences that have led to different food formulations for indoor cats :
Indoor Cats Burn Fewer Calories
Outdoor cats, male and female, simply move more than indoor cats. Male cats can have wide-ranging territories that they naturally patrol and even female cats will patrol territories, albeit smaller than males.
Then there is the fence jumping, wall walking, sprints from dogs/cars/other cats, catfights and other activities that outdoor cats get up to that burn calories. Add outdoor temperature variation into the mix and the calorie cost of keeping warm and it is easy to see how outdoor cats get through more calories than a cossetted, space-restricted indoor cat.
If you gave an indoor cat food formulated for an outdoor cat they would soon get a bit chubby and need a diet to get healthy. To avoid such issues indoor cat foods are usually specially formulated with fewer calories per portion but with all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your cat will need and with enough bulk to feel satisfied from eating whilst living the easy life…
Indoor Cats Generally Get More Hairballs
Indoor cats are more prone to hairballs than outdoor cats. The reason for this is that they don’t experience temperature variation through the seasons as an outdoor cat would experience. The result of this lack of exposure is that they continuously shed fur rather than having a seasonal shed as an outdoor cat would have. Because they are continuously shedding and grooming they naturally ingest more hair and are prone to developing more hairballs.
The problem is exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight. Cats with a sedentary lifestyle and weight problems tend to have less motile digestive systems. Basically, moving freely, gets your guts going and in cats, this means excess hair can pass through the system.
In indoor cats, lack of exercise and weight gain can slow things down leading to blockages and promoting the removal of excess hair from the system via hairballs rather than through defecation.
To counter these additional hairball issues that come from an indoor life, indoor cat foods are often formulated with extra fiber to get the digestive system active and moving and reduce the chances of hairball issues. Extra fiber can also help with weight management by moving food through the system before it is fully digested and by promoting feelings of satiety.
Indoor Cats Toilet Indoors
Because indoor cats toilet indoors, odor and volume of defecation become an issue for owners. To overcome odor issues, indoor food formulations often contain more fermentable fibers. Beet pulp, pectins, and guar gum are fermentable fibers that are often used in indoor cat foods to reduce odor issues and keep the guts moving efficiently.
When it comes to stool volume the only way to reduce output is to use food blends that are highly digestible. Digestible ingredients are the real meat products in the food rather than carbohydrate fillers or byproducts. Obviously, food formulations with the highest quality ingredients are often the most expensive – low priced foods might not reduce stool production to the same degree!
Dry vs Wet Cat Food
So your indoor cat needs fewer calories, more fiber and preferably, although not essential, higher quality digestible ingredients. Does this limit your choice to either wet or dry food? Well no. You can use either or. There are good choices that are suitable for indoor cats from both categories. Indeed, many owners use both wet and dry food with their indoor cat.
However, each type of food has its benefits and drawbacks. Here are some benefits and issues of using dry food for your indoor cat :
Dry Food Doesn’t Spoil Quickly
Wet food tends to dry up and go crusty if left out for a few hours. Cats can be pretty picky when it comes to flavor and texture, so stale wet cat food is often rejected by kitty. Dry food kibble can be left out without problems for days at a time which can work well for some owners who are out all day. If you like to let your cat graze through the day then dry food is a good choice.
Better For Portion Control
For indoor cats who might be prone to weight gain, portion control is imperative. Dry kibble is often much easier, cleaner and straightforward to measure out on scales or in a cup than wet food. This lends itself very well to weight management in your cat and makes it easy if you have an overweight cat to gradually introduce them to a smaller diet.
Easy To Use With Puzzle Feeders
Your indoor cat is likely to be understimulated mentally compared to outdoor cats that are dodging cars, other cats and making their way in a dangerous world. You can try all sorts of things as an owner to keep them occupied and mentally active – you can use regular play sessions, get cat trees that stand near to windows to provide viewing platforms and various toys.
Problem is that indoor cats can be so bored that they compensate by eating to relieve boredom. This leads to issues with weight gain. A good way to mentally stimulate a cat and slow down their eating is to get a cat puzzle feeder bowl. These bowls work best with dry food that often needs to be pawed out of the feeder. The majority of slow feed bowls just don’t work cleanly or well with wet food.
Dry Food Is Usually Cheaper Per Calorie
Maybe you think I am going to slam dry food as consisting of cheap, low-quality ingredients? Nope, the reason dry food is cheaper is the packaging. Less canning, fewer labels, bigger single bags. This is why, generally speaking, dry cat food is cheaper than wet food. That 8kg sack is just lighter on packaging costs that a 24 can tray of 3oz cans. However, that is not to say that some inexpensive dry foods are not packed with cheap, low-quality ingredients!
Beware, Large Bags Of Dry Food Spoil
As an owner, when you use dry food you just assume it will last as long as needed – surely that was the point of drying the food out? We would be wrong. Once you have opened a bag of dry cat food the clock is ticking – you have about 6 weeks before the nutrients in the food begin to degrade and your cat loses the benefits. With this in mind doing go buying a bumper-sized sack unless you are feeding a ravenous mob of kitties! Although you might get special deals on bigger packs it might not be the best option in a one cat home!
Dry Is Not Good For Hydration
Clearly, dry food is not great for hydration. Your cat has a rubbish thirst response. They simply don’t pick up on how thirsty their body is until it is nearly too late – this is a useless throwback to their desert living origins that does more harm than good in the modern world.
In the natural environment, a cat would get most of their moisture from food rather than drinking liquid water. If you feed your cat dry food you need to make sure they are making up for the moisture loss elsewhere. You could try damping down the dry food or encouraging more water drinking using something like a cat fountain. Either way, a cat on a dry diet can easily suffer from hydration issues that a cat on a wet diet would not.
Most owners do a mix of both types of food to get benefits of both, for example, they feed their cats dry food during the day when the owner is out and then wet in the evening to balance out and make sure hydration is good.
Ingredients To Look Out For In Dry Cat Food
If you are going to go ahead and feed your indoor cat dry food it can be useful to understand what the food is made up of so you can identify food with cheap ingredients from high-quality food. These are some of the higher quality ingredients you should be looking out for and some you should avoid :
Highly Digestible Proteins
Your cat needs a diet rich in protein to maintain muscle mass and stay healthy. But not all proteins are equal. Cat food often contains animal and plant proteins. Animal proteins are usually the best for your cat as they break down into usable amino acids more readily, however, animal protein is usually more expensive than plant protein.
Even if your choice of cat food contains animal protein it may not be that useful if it is not in the form of digestible protein. Digestible protein is a protein that comes from good cuts of meat like chicken breast or animal muscle. Non-digestible animal protein such as animal byproduct or derivatives are unlikely to be bad or dangerous for your cat but they are not likely to be digestible enough to provide the amino acids your cat needs. Beware this stuff can bulk out the protein numbers on the packet and therefore the price without really helping your cat.
Then there are meat meal products that come under the banner of animal protein. These meal products often contain crushed bone content that bulks up ash content numbers and reduces the amount of total digestible protein.
All in all, the more digestible protein, the better for your cat’s health. Additionally, your indoor cat will have a smaller stool volume as they are digesting more of the nutrients from the food.
Fats in cat food will make the food taste better to your cat as well as providing energy, lubricating the digestive system helping with hairball issues and a pathway for fat-soluble vitamins that your cat needs in its diet (vitamin K, A, D, E). Additionally, fats are a source of fatty acids in the form of omega 3 and 6. These fatty acids are required to manage inflammation, fight infection, maintain heart health and boost skin and coat condition.
Your cat/kitten needs the fat content of dry food to be a minimum of 9% to provide for its basic needs. High-quality fat is preferred – herring oil, salmon oil, flaxseed oil, canola oil, pork fat, poultry fat, egg yolks, sunflower oil and soybean oils. Low-quality fats such as beef tallow or lard are to be avoided if possible.
As there is very little moisture in dry food compared to a cat’s natural diet, dry indoor cat food will often contain a quantity of fiber within its ingredients. This fiber is not really a natural component in a wild cat’s diet. A wild, hunting cat would eat a very moist diet that also featured fur, feathers, ligaments, and bones which would be indigestible material that would help keep the cat’s digestive tract motile along with the moisture – fiber in dry cat food aims to replace this natural stuff.
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate – this means it is going to pass through the digestive system without being absorbed by the cat. Fiber is really useful for indoor cats who don’t get to hunt or eat wet cat food. Plant fiber will keep their digestive tract moving healthy which helps prevent hairballs and it also helps prevent the absorption of some glucose material which is generally bad for cats and can lead to diabetes and weight management issues.
Many owners see fiber listed in cat food and just assume it is a bulking agent or some cheapo ingredient. In indoor cats, fiber helps their quality of life by keeping them regular, reducing hairballs and helping with weight maintenance issues.
The best sources of fiber are usually non-grain for hairballs (pectin, guar gum, pea, cellulose powder)
You want to avoid digestible carbs where possible. These carbs give rise to diabetes and weight management issues in indoor cats. They are also really unnatural in a cat’s diet and can end up giving your cat sensitivities either at first contact or after a pattern of use. Unfortunately, these carbs are often used in dry cat food to bulk, bind and fill the food out at low cost.
What we are talking about here is anything like wheat, corn, soy, or fruit and the like. Some manufacturers spin the “it’s good for your cat’s vitamin and mineral intake” bullshit, but honestly, no one ever saw a cat eating an apple, carrot or cob of corn out of choice – it is cheap fill that is unnatural to your cat’s digestive system. Avoid if possible, minimize at all opportunities.
Best Dry Cat Food For Indoor Cats
Best Grain Free Dry Indoor Cat Food: Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Indoor Cat Food
If your cat suffers from sensitivities or has some allergies then your best bet is to feed them a grain-free food and go as natural as possible. This dry cat food formulated for indoor cats by Blue Buffalo is the best choice if you need grain-free dry cat food.
It is formulated with real meat cuts to ensure your cat gets all the digestible protein they need. Fat comes from higher quality chicken fat and flaxseed oils meaning your cat gets all the fatty acids they need and some useful lubrication to contribute to helping with hairball issues.
This food contains a good dose of fiber to help with hairballs and to keep your cat from suffering from constipation. The fiber might also help keep you cats weight in check – so long as you control their portion size. Fiber is from pea and powdered cellulose so it shouldn’t contribute to sensitivity issues.
Other owners who have tried this food find even picky cats seem to get on with this food. Cats that have suffered from allergies in the past seem to benefit from this grain-free formulation.
- Highly digestible proteins – good for stool volume
- Grain free – alleviates sensitivities and allergies
- High quality fats
- Fiber for hairball control, weight management
- Flavor enjoyed by cats
- Premium price
Best Senior Dry Cat Food For Indoor Cats : Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Natural Mature Dry Cat Food
If your cat is over seven years of age they are going to want to be on a senior adult formula food. At this stage of life, their digestive systems are not as efficient as in earlier life and the best way to ensure they get enough nutrients, minerals, and vitamins is to ensure they have a specially formulated food loaded with the ingredients they need.
This senior formulation from Blue Buffalo is the best we found for the more mature indoor cat. Its has got the high-quality digestible proteins they need to maintain muscle mass and keep stool volume down, it has got the quality fats and fish oils for energy and fatty acids, and fiber for hairball control. It is not grain-free so it might not be suitable for cats with allergies – but the price is usually better value than grain-free versions.
You can trust the protein figures on this food as being of mainly highly digestible protein as no meat by-product is included that might skew figures.
Other owners really like this food and find that even picky cats seem to get on with the flavor choice. If you want a high quality, everyday dry food for your older indoor cat this is a top choice.
- Highly digestible ingredients – stool reduction
- Quality fats and fish oils for enregy and fatty acids
- Fiber for hairball control
- Specific blend of vitamins and minerals for mature cats
- Liked by cats
- Good price for quality food
- Lots of choice of bag size
- No grain free option for vats with sensitivities or allergies.
Best Hairball Control Dry Cat Food : Iams Proactive Health Adult Indoor Weight & Hairball Control Dry Cat Food
If you have an indoor cat that seems to suffer from too many hairballs but you don’t want to be spending top dollar this is the food for your cat. Other owners can’t believe how effective this stuff is! They report that cats seem to love the flavor and it really does cut down or cut out hairball issues.
Sometimes indoor cats can develop weight problems simply through lack of exercise and poor portion control on their food. This Iams indoor dry cat food is formulated with 10% less fat content than the original formula to make it easier to control your cat’s weight and to help with weight loss if necessary.
You might be thinking this food is cheap and that is because the ingredients are probably cheap fillers. Whilst this is not grain-free or free from meat by-product it does contain highly digestible animal protein, fish oils for fatty acids and purports to be totally free from fillers.
Hairball control seems to be down to the fiber content which comes from beet pulp and cellulose. Overall a good choice for affordable dry cat food for indoor cats with hairball issues.
- Very effective at controlling hairball and vomiting issues
- Well liked by cats
- Reduced fat content to help with weight management
- Affordable price
- Contains quality proteins and fish oils
- Not grain free
Best Budget Indoor Dry Cat Food : Purina Cat Chow Hairball And Healthy Weight Dry Cat Food
If your cat is in good shape, doesn’t have any issues with sensitivities or hairball and price matters, then the best choice for your cat could be this offering from Purina.
This is a low cost cat food for indoor cats. The low cost is because the ingredients are cheaper than you will find in other foods. The food does include grains, does include meat by products and cheaper fats – but lots of cats like the flavor and happily get on with this food. There is no point being snobby about it – this is a cheap but enjoyable cat food for indoor cats.
The food if formulated with fiber to help control hairball that indoor cats suffer from. The calorie count per portion is also reduced to make sure your indoor cat doesn’t get weight issues.
If you have a home full of cats this is a good choice for you. If you are on a restricted budget this is a good option. If your cat just needs feeding and seems to get by happily enough then why not give this a go?
- Flavor – Cats love it!
- Includes fiber for hairball control
- Reduced calories for weight management
- Contains grains
Best All-Rounder : Purina One Indoor Advantage Dry Cat Food
If you are just looking for a good all round dry food for your indoor cat that is not overly expensive, contains some decent ingredients and will help avoid common problems that indoor cats are prone to then you can’t go far wrong with this Purina One Indoor Advantage Dry Cat Food.
This food brings the best of all worlds – it doesn’t promise to be grain free but then it doesn’t cost as much as grain free food. It isn’t as cheap as some foods but then it contains some of the more expensive digestible proteins whilst shying away from byproduct and cheap carb filler. It has enough fiber to help prevent hairball and few enough calories to ensure your cat doesn’t put on weight too easily.
This is a good all-rounder that is made in the USA. Most importantly cats seem to actually like this stuff and that is half the battle!
- Not a premium cost
- Decent protein ingredients
- Fiber to help with hairball
- Cats enjoy the flavor
- Comes in various pack sizes
- Is not grain free for more sensitive cats (and owners)