Growing kittens need the right mix of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins to thrive, and the dry food you choose to feed these developing felines is an important choice. This stage of growth and development will set the stage for the rest of your cat’s adult life, and they will need more nutrient-dense food than even adult cats do.
Protein is the most essential ingredient, and it should be from a high-quality animal source, not a plant-based source, and ideally be the first listed ingredient. Cats are obligate carnivores, and protein will provide them with the necessary energy and muscle-building power that they need to grow into healthy adults.
This is such an important stage in your cat’s life, so it can be stressful to find the right dry food for your kitten. We’ve put together this list of in-depth kitten food reviews to help you choose the perfect food to help your kitten thrive and grow into adulthood.
A Quick Comparison of Our 2022 Favorites
The 10 Best Dry Foods for Kittens
1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Kitten Food — Best Overall
Our top choice of dry food for kittens is the Blue Buffalo Wilderness dry kitten food. This grain-free kitten food is packed with high-quality protein from real deboned chicken and chicken meal to ensure healthy growth and abundant energy, with a crude protein content of 40% overall. The kibble also contains taurine for cognitive health and eye health, with fatty acids DHA and ARA to further promote healthy development. It also includes Blue Buffalo’s unique “LifeSource Bits,” a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for beneficial immune support and development. This food is grain-free and free from any artificial colors or flavors, making it an ideal choice for your growing feline!
While this food is difficult to fault, some customers reported that this food caused vomiting and diarrhea in their kittens. But even still, overall, we think this is the best dry kitten food out there this year.
2. Purina Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Kitten Food — Best Value
The best dry kitten food for the money is the Purina Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food. The food is made with chicken to provide the essential animal-based protein that your growing kitten needs to thrive and a 40% crude protein content overall. It also contains DHA essential fatty acid for optimum vision and brain development, essential vitamins and nutrients like vitamin E and taurine, and added antioxidants for vital immune support. The food is also free from artificial colors and flavors and is a great choice for owners on a budget.
Unfortunately, this food contains grains like corn, soy, and wheat, none of which are ideal for cats or kittens, as well as chicken by-products. The inclusion of these ingredients keeps this food from the top position, but it is our best value pick for best kitten dry food.
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl.
This is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl.
At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!
3. Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Dry Cat & Kitten Food — Premium Choice
The grain-free dry kitten food from Nulo will provide your kitten with the essential protein that they need, without any additional empty calories from grains or potatoes. The first four ingredients consist of chicken and chicken meal, turkey meal, and deboned cod, and the food is formulated with 83% animal-based protein and has an overall crude protein content of 40%. The kibble has a specially made disc shape that is easy to chew and has a texture that your kitten will love. The included omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids will ensure that your kitten has a smooth healthy coat and skin, and the dried chicory root, dried kelp, and vitamin C and E antioxidants will help promote and sustain overall health. Taurine and vitamin A are also included to support vision and aid in healthy cardiovascular function.
This food is difficult to fault, and the only significant downside that we could find is the high price, keeping it from the top two spots on this list. All in all, this is our top pick for premium best dry food for kittens.
4. Purina ONE Healthy Formula Dry Food for Kittens
The ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Dry Cat food from Purina has chicken listed as the first ingredient for a healthy animal-based source of protein, with a crude protein content of 40% overall. The food also contains essential fatty acid DHA that aids vision and brain development, with an antioxidant-rich blend of vitamins that includes vitamins E and A for optimum immune support. With healthy fruits and vegetables, like carrots and peas, and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy coat and soft skin, this food from Purina has all the vital ingredients needed for a growing kitten.
This food contains grains, including corn and soy, which are not ideal for developing kittens, and several customers reported that the food caused nausea and vomiting in their kittens.
5. Iams ProActive Health Dry Kitten Food
Iams ProActive Health Dry Kitten Food features chicken as the first listed ingredient with a 33% crude protein content overall. The kibble is formulated with added vitamins E and B12 and omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, as well as fish oil to aid in your growing kitten’s brain and vision development. It also includes taurine for cardiovascular support and essential amino acids for a healthy immune system.
This food contains grains, including ground cornmeal and sorghum, which are not ideal for growing felines. Several customers report that their kittens simply would not touch this food, and it caused vomiting in some kittens. We were also slightly disappointed by the comparatively low protein content.
6. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Food for Kittens
The Science Diet Kitten Dry Cat food from Hill’s features high-quality chicken as the first listed ingredient, with a 33% crude protein content overall. The food contains fish oil, which is a natural source of DHA and will help aid in your kitten’s brain and eye development, and a potent antioxidant and vitamin blend for optimal immune support. It is made in the U.S.A. and is suitable for both kittens and pregnant and nursing cats, and it is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
This food contains rice, wheat, oats, and barley, which are all filler ingredients and of little nutritional value for kittens. The protein content is also low compared to some other foods listed here.
7. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Kitten Dry Food
This dry kitten food from Merrick has deboned chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal as the first three listed ingredients, with a crude protein content of 41% overall, 74% of which is animal-based. The kibble is grain-free and contains healthy alternatives like peas, sweet potatoes, and organic alfalfa. The food is packed with immune-supporting antioxidants, essential omega fatty acids for healthy coat and skin, and taurine for added heart and eye health. This kibble is also free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
Several customers report that this food gave their kittens gas and bloating and caused some kittens to vomit. Many also reported their kittens would not eat it.
8. Meow Mix Li’l Nibbles Dry Kitten Food
Specially formulated for growing kittens, Meow Mix Kitten Li’l Nibbles Dry Cat Food contains chicken meal as the first ingredient and a 38% crude protein content overall. The food includes essential fatty acids and DHA for optimum muscle, brain, and vision development and sources of healthy protein, including ocean fish meal, turkey, salmon, and beef. The food is specially balanced with the vitamins and nutrients that growing kittens need to thrive and is made in the U.S.A.
This food contains grains, including rice, corn, and soy, and has a relevantly low crude protein content. Some users report that their kittens would not eat it due to the strong fish odor.
9. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food
This freeze-dried dry food from Instincts has a 42% crude protein content that is made up of 81% animal sources, including cage-free chicken, turkey, and fish. The food contains naturally occurring DHA for healthy vision and brain development, omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and live, natural probiotics and antioxidants for enhanced immune support. This kibble is grain-free and made in the U.S.A. These are all reasons it gains its spot on our list for best kitten dry food.
Several customers report that their kittens would not eat this food due to the pungent smell. Some also reported loose stool and diarrhea and even vomiting in their kittens.
10. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Kitten Dry Cat Food
Nutro Wholesome Essential Dry Kitten Food has chicken and chicken meal as the first two listed ingredients, with a 38% crude protein content overall. It is loaded with essential omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat, antioxidants for immune support, and calcium to aid in building strong bones and joints as your kitten grows. It is free from corn, wheat, and soy and contains no artificial colors, preservatives, or flavors, and is one of the best foods for kittens out there.
This food is reported to turn even the least fussy kittens away, and the kibble size is surprisingly small and may be a potential choking hazard. It also has a comparatively low protein content for a growing kitten, and it contains plant-based proteins, like potato and pea proteins.
Buyers Guide: Choosing the Best Dry Kitten Food
Choosing the best dry food for kittens can be challenging, especially since kittens have different nutritional needs than adult cats. Your kitten is at an important stage of growth and the balance of nutrients in their diet is crucial to a healthy development into adulthood. Before choosing food for your new kitten, here are a few points to consider.
Kitten food vs. Cat food
Many new kitten owners are confused about the differences between kitten and cat food, and why you cannot just feed your kitten the same food that you’ve been feeding your cat. The reason is simple: Kittens have different nutritional needs than adult cats, and they require ultra-nutrient-dense food to aid in their rapid growth and development. For example, protein content is vital in any feline foods, but kittens in particular need as much as they can get.
Remember that you are building a foundation of health for your kitten, and the first year of their development is crucial for a lifetime of good health and an illness-free life. While homemade foods and “all-stage” commercial foods are great, the best way to ensure that your kittens are getting all that they need nutritionally is to give them a specially made kitten food.
There are many ingredients universally important to all life stages of cats, but some are vital to a kitten’s development, and you need to make sure your kitten is getting sufficient amounts of these nutrients.
How much food to give your kitten is a difficult question to answer, as it will depend on their unique size and breed. Additionally, your kitten is rapidly growing and changing, so you’ll need to adjust the amounts accordingly.
One thing for certain is that kittens cannot eat a large amount of food in one sitting, and you’ll need to give them multiple meals throughout the day. This should begin with at least four small meals, which you can slowly reduce as they grow older. This can vary, though, depending on the ratio of dry food vs. wet food that you give them and the quality of the food and its ingredients. If you are away for extended periods, you may consider getting an automatic cat feeder that will time meals with pre-set amounts. Kittens cat be free-fed at a young age, but as they grow older, free-feeding can swiftly lead to obesity.
What to avoid
You should avoid giving your kittens the same foods that are harmful to adult cats. These include raisins, grapes, sugar and chocolate, and onions, to name a few. Because kittens and cats are obligate carnivores, you should avoid giving them foods with too many grains, like wheat, corn, and soy, as these can be difficult to digest.
What about carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are not traditionally seen as essential food for felines due to their carnivorous nature. Too many carbs from grains or vegetables in your cat or kitten’s diet can definitely be harmful, and they should be kept to a minimum. These ingredients are often used as filler and binder ingredients in most commercial dry foods and can be difficult to entirely avoid.
That said, high-quality carbohydrates can be a good source of digestible and readily available energy, hence their inclusion in almost all commercial foods. They typically come in the form of grains, rice, and vegetables and are usually pretreated to aid in their digestibility and absorption. Some cats do fine on a diet with some grains, while others don’t do well at all. This may take experimentation on your side.
See also: a list of the best kitten foods overall (including wet kitten food)
Benefits of dry foods for kittens
Dry food is convenient and easy to find, making it a popular choice for new kitten owners. Dry food is easy to store and has all the essential nutrients and vitamins that your kitten needs to thrive so you can rest easy knowing that they are getting everything they need. Dry food also has dental advantages, as the kibble helps scrape off plaque and tartar to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
Conclusion: What’s the Best Dry Food for Kittens?
Our top choice overall for the best dry kitten food is the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Dry Kitten Food. This grain-free kitten food is packed with high-quality protein from real chicken, contains taurine for cognitive health and eye health and fatty acids DHA and ARA to promote healthy development, and includes Blue Buffalo’s unique “LifeSource Bits,” a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for beneficial immune support and development.
The best dry kitten food for the money is the Purina Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food. It is made with real chicken and contains DHA for optimum vision and brain development, as well as essential vitamins and nutrients and added antioxidants for vital immune support.
Bringing home a new kitten is an exciting experience, but it can be a stressful time too. Choosing what to feed your new kitty is difficult and can add to the anxiety. Hopefully, our in-depth kitten food reviews have added some clarity and helped you choose the best kitten food for your feline friend.
See also our list of the 10 best wet kitten foods and our overall best kitten foods this year!
Featured image credit: MaraZe, shutterstock
For more information please see the list of Best kitten dry food 2021