Wet food or dry food: The two main forms of cat food are wet and dry. Before choosing one form over the other, ask your vet what they recommend for your cat’s particular needs. Because cats naturally drink little water, some vets prefer wet food since its higher moisture content keeps cats hydrated, which may help prevent kidney disease. Other vets disagree, arguing that dry food encourages cats to drink more water and that there’s little scientific evidence to promote the link between wet food and healthier kidneys. Wet food is also lower in calories, so some vets may recommend it if your cat is struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Dry food, or kibble, has the advantage of staying fresh longer, which may make it a good option if your cat likes to graze at her meals over the course of the day. Some dry food is actually freeze-dried, a process manufacturers use to keep ingredients fresh (especially with raw food) without risking bacterial contamination. Within the wet-food category, you’ll find pâtés (loaf-style food with a homogenous texture), shredded meat formulas, and meat-in-gravies (a liquid-based food with chunks of meat). Picky cats tend to have a favorite style of food, so you may have to try a few different types.
Approximate cost per ounce: The cost of cat food varies depending on the brand and formula you choose, and more expensive food isn’t necessarily healthier. Since you’ll be buying a lot of food over the course of your cat’s lifetime, we’ve listed the approximate cost per ounce for each food based on the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (which may be different than the retailer price as those can change because of different promotions). As for how much food to feed, cats generally require 200 to 250 calories per day, but this number varies based on their size, activity level, and whether they need to lose or gain weight. (Calorie counts per ounce of food also vary, so you’ll need to check the feeding instructions on the packaging.) Megan Shepherd, a veterinary nutritionist at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, advises checking with your veterinarian for more specific guidance and consulting this body-condition score chart to see if your cat is under- or overweight.
Best food for purebred cats
If you have a purebred cat, Freyer recommends looking at Royal Canin’s breed-specific foods that are designed for the unique needs of cats like Persians, Maine coons, and Bengals. For example, in the brand’s dry food for Persian cats, the pieces of kibble are almond-shaped, which are easier for these cats to nibble with their shortened jaws.