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10 Best Dry Kitten Foods in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Nicole Cosgrove

July 27, 2021

cat eating dry food

There’s so much to think about when bringing home a new kitten, but the right nutrition is arguably the most important decision that you’ll make. This initial growth stage, from kitten to adult, is one of the most important parts of their development, and they need the right nutrients and vitamins to set them up for a healthy future. This requires a nutrient-dense diet that is free from filler ingredients.

It’s essential to remember that cats are obligate carnivores, so they need a diet that is high in protein, which should be sourced from animals and among the top three listed ingredients — ideally, the first. While protein is arguably the most critical ingredient to consider, there are other vital aspects to choosing the right food for your kitten, and the process can quickly become overwhelming.

We all want to provide the best possible nutrition for our pets, especially at such an important stage of growth, and it can be stressful to find the right food. Dry food is convenient, comparatively cheaper, and easy to find, so in this article, we give you our top 10 choices of dry kitten food — along with in-depth reviews — to help you find the perfect food for your new feline friend.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten
  • Omega fatty acids
  • Added LifeSource bits
  • Contains taurine
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Kitten Chow Nurture Muscle Kitten Chow Nurture Muscle
  • Inexpensive
  • Contains farm-raised chicken
  • Added antioxidants
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Hill's Science Diet Kitten Chicken Hill's Science Diet Kitten Chicken
  • Made with real chicken
  • Contains natural DHA
  • Free from artificial flavors
  • Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula
  • Included DHA
  • Added natural antioxidants
  • Real chicken as the first ingredient
  • American Journey American Journey
  • Contains DHA and ARA
  • Includes natural antioxidants
  • Packed with nutrient-rich fruits
  • The 10 Best Dry Kitten Foods — Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food — Best Overall

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 5 pounds
    Protein: 40%
    Fat: 20%

    The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten dry cat food is grain-free, contains chicken as the first ingredient, and is our top choice of dry kitten food overall. This high-protein kibble is ideal for growing kittens, with a 40% crude protein content that’s perfect for growing and developing muscles. The food also contains taurine to aid in healthy brain and heart function. It includes essential omega fatty acids to aid overall health and promote a healthy coat and skin. Also included are “LifeSource Bits,” a potent blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that will help support and establish a healthy immune system in your kitten. Lastly, the food is free from meat by-products and artificial flavors.

    This food is difficult to fault, although some customers reported that the food caused nausea and even vomiting in their kittens.

    Pros
    • Contains chicken as the first ingredient
    • Contains taurine
    • Includes essential omega fatty acids
    • Added LifeSource bits
    • Free from meat by-products and artificial flavors
    Cons
    • May cause nausea and vomiting

    2. Kitten Chow Nurture Muscle & Brain Development Dry Cat Food — Best Value

    Kitten Chow Nurture Muscle & Brain Development Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 14 pounds
    Protein: 40%
    Fat: 13.5%

    The best kitten food for the money is the Kitten Chow Nurture dry kitten food. The food contains real, farm-raised chicken and gives the food a protein content of 40% overall, aiding in the growth of your kitten’s developing muscles. The included DHA fatty acids and taurine will help support your kitten’s vision and aid in their brain development. The food also contains vital antioxidants that will aid in immune function. Best of all, the food is free from artificial colors and flavors.

    We noticed that this food has chicken by-products and corn both listed in the top three ingredients, as well as several other grains in the recipe.

    Pros
    • Inexpensive
    • Contains farm-raised chicken
    • Included DHA fatty acids and taurine
    • Added antioxidants
    • Free from artificial colors and flavors
    Cons
    • Contains chicken by-products
    • Corn in the top three ingredients

    3. Hill’s Science Diet Kitten Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food — Premium Choice

    Hill's Science Diet Kitten Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 15.5 pounds
    Protein: 33%
    Fat: 19%

    If you’re looking for a premium dry food for your growing kitten, the Hill’s Science Diet kitten recipe is an ideal choice. The food is made with real chicken (the first listed ingredient) for a healthy protein source to help the muscle development of your kitten. It also contains natural DHA from the included fish oil to support healthy eye and brain development, as well as a potent antioxidant and vitamin blend that will help develop and maintain your kitten’s immune system. The food is made in the U.S.A. and is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    This food is expensive, and the kibble is fairly large, which may make it difficult for some kittens to eat.

    Pros
    • Made with real chicken
    • Contains natural DHA
    • Added antioxidant and vitamin blend
    • Free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Large kibble size

    4. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 16 pounds
    Protein: 40%
    Fat: 18%

    This dry kitten food from Purina ONE contains real chicken as the first ingredient to help in the development of strong muscles in your kitten’s growth. The included DHA — a nutrient found in mother’s milk — will aid in brain and vision development, and the recipe contains healthy vegetables like carrots and peas to further enhance this development. With four different antioxidant sources, including vitamins A and E, your kitten’s immune system will get the support that it needs to function properly. The recipe also has added vitamins and minerals like calcium to aid in overall health and well-being. The food is produced in the United States and contains no artificial flavors or preservatives.

    Unfortunately, this food contains a few less-than-ideal ingredients, including corn, wheat, and by-products, none of which are ideal for developing kittens.

    Pros
    • Contains real chicken as the first ingredient
    • Included DHA
    • Packed with healthy vegetables
    • Added natural antioxidants
    • Free from artificial flavors or preservatives
    Cons
    • Contains corn, wheat, and meat by-products

    5. American Journey Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    American Journey Kitten Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 5 pounds
    Protein: 33%
    Fat: 15%

    The American Journey dry kitten food is specially crafted for growing kittens and contains real chicken as the first-listed ingredient, to give your kitten the animal-based protein that they need for optimal muscle development. The food contains DHA and ARA to aid in brain and eye development and essential omega fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin. It is also packed with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, including spinach, pumpkin, apples, and blueberries, with potent antioxidants that aid in immune support. You can rest easy knowing that the food is free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors.

    This food is comparatively expensive, though, almost double the price of other common dry kitten foods. Also, several customers reported that their kittens would not eat it because it had a pungent odor.

    Pros
    • Real chicken is the first listed ingredient
    • Contains DHA and ARA
    • Packed with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables
    • Includes natural antioxidants
    • Free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Strong-smelling

    6. Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

    Iams ProActive Health Kitten Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 16 pounds
    Protein: 33%
    Fat: 21%

    The ProActive Health dry kitten food from Iams is formulated especially for growing kittens and contains the balanced nutrition that they need to help grow into healthy adults. Chicken is the first listed ingredient, to give your kitten the animal protein power that they need to develop strong and healthy muscles, with an overall protein content of 33%. The food is also packed with essential nutrients and minerals and contains vitamin E for a healthy immune system, DHA for healthy brain development, and prebiotics to support digestive health.

    This food contains chicken by-product meal as the second listed ingredient, as well as corn and sorghum, which are both unnecessary in our opinion. Some customers also reported nausea and vomiting in their cats after eating.

    Pros
    • Chicken is the first listed ingredient
    • Packed with essential nutrients and minerals
    • Contains immune-boosting vitamin E
    • Added DHA
    • Contains prebiotics
    Cons
    • Contains chicken by-product
    • May cause nausea and vomiting

    7. Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth Kitten Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 6 pounds
    Protein: 36%
    Fat: 20%

    Give your kitten a healthy kickstart with the Blue Buffalo Healthy Growth dry kitten food. With real chicken as the first listed ingredient and a 36% protein content, your kitten will get the real protein that they need for optimum muscle development. The food also has nutritious fruits and vegetables, including carrots, blueberries, and cranberries, which are packed with antioxidants for optimum immune function and development. The included DHA and ARA will help with eye and brain health, and the added “LifeSource Bits” are packed with a blend of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. The food is free from poultry by-products and artificial flavors and preservatives.

    Several customers reported that their kittens vomited after eating this food, and others simply would not eat it.

    Pros
    • Contains real chicken
    • Includes nutritious fruits and vegetables
    • Included DHA and ARA
    • Added LifeSource bits
    • Free from poultry by-products and artificial flavors and preservatives
    Cons
    • May cause nausea and vomiting
    • Some kittens will not eat it

    8. Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

    Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 4.5 pounds
    Protein: 42.5%
    Fat: 22.5%

    This grain-free dry kitten food from Instinct is packed with 42% protein, and 81% of this comes from animal sources, including chicken, turkey, and fish, giving your kitten the quality protein that they need for muscle development. It’s also packed with essential omega fatty acids to promote a healthy coat and skin in your kitten and contains naturally occurring DHA for optimal brain and vision development. There are also naturally occurring antioxidants, including vitamin E, and added probiotics that will support your kitten’s immune system. This formula is 100% grain-free.

    Several customers reported that this food has a pungent odor and their kittens would not eat it. Some reported nausea and vomiting from the kittens that did.

    Pros
    • High protein content from multiple animal sources
    • Packed with essential omega fatty acids
    • Contains naturally occurring DHA and antioxidants
    • Added probiotics
    • 100% grain-free
    Cons
    • Pungent odor
    • May cause nausea and vomiting

    9. ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food

    ACANA First Feast High-Protein Kitten Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 4 pounds
    Protein: 36%
    Fat: 18%

    The ACANA First Feast dry kitten food will give your kitten all the natural ingredients and protein that they need to thrive into adulthood. The food is made with 70% animal ingredients, including deboned chicken as the first ingredient, chicken meal, herring meal, and turkey meal, as well as healthy cranberries and kelp. It also contains taurine and DHA for healthy heart and brain function and essential omega fatty acids to keep your kitten’s coat smooth and healthy. Best of all, this food is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    Several users report that this food caused nausea and diarrhea in their kittens, and some said that their kittens simply would not eat it. The kibble also crumbles easily, leaving loads of dust at the bottom of the bag.

    Pros
    • Made with 70% animal ingredients
    • Added beneficial superfoods
    • Contains DHA and taurine
    • Free from artificial flavor, colors, and preservatives
    Cons
    • May be too large for some owners
    • Need an exotic animals vet
    • Less training potential

    10. Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Diamond Naturals Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

    Weight: 6 pounds
    Protein: 34%
    Fat: 22%

    The Diamond Naturals Dry Kitten food contains cage-free chicken as the first ingredient and has a 34% protein content overall. The kibble is enhanced with superfoods like chia seeds and antioxidant-rich blueberries to support your kitten’s immune development and overall health. The included salmon oil is a natural source of DHA and aids in vision and cognitive health, The included taurine is great for their heart and brain. The food also contains essential omega fatty acids for optimum skin and coat health and probiotics to aid in digestion. This food contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

    We felt that the kibble size is a bit too large for kittens, and many customers did too. Many also reported that the food has a pungent smell and their kittens would not eat it, and it caused nausea and vomiting in those that did.

    Pros
    • Contains cage-free chicken as the first ingredient
    • Enhanced with superfoods
    • Included salmon oil and taurine
    • Free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives
    Cons
    • Large kibble size
    • Pungent odor
    • May cause nausea and vomiting

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Dry kitten food has several benefits for your kitten, and although the debate of dry vs. wet food for cats still rages on, there are pros and cons of both. Dry food is generally cheaper than wet food and easier to store and can be bought in bulk, making it a convenient option for many cat and kitten owners. It is also perfectly healthy to feed your kitten daily, although we recommend adding in wet food occasionally too.

    Kitten food vs adult cat food

    Many new kitten owners may wonder why you can’t simply feed adult cat food to your kitten. The reason is simple: Kittens have different nutritional needs than adult cats. Kittens grow rapidly and need ultra-nutrient-dense food to aid in this rapid growth and development. This is why specially made kitten food is the best choice for your furry friend because you can be sure that they are getting all the nutrients that they need to grow and develop into adulthood.

    How to choose the best dry food for your kitten

    The early kittenhood stage of your cat’s life is vital to their growth and progression and will have a huge impact on their health. Good nutrition early on will set the foundation for a long and healthy life for your cat. For this reason, choosing the best food possible for your kitten is vital, and there are important factors to consider.

    The key decision-making factors when looking at kitten food are:
    • Protein
    • Fat
    • Vitamins
    • Minerals
    • Artificial ingredients and “fillers”

    Protein

    Protein is arguably the most important ingredient to look for in kitten food, as cats are obligate carnivores and need to eat the essential amino acids that they cannot make themselves, which are not found in sufficient amounts from plant sources. This protein needs to come from animal-based sources, and it should be the first-listed ingredient. You ideally want a protein content of around 35%-45%.

    Cat Food in cat size bowl
    Image Credit: COOLPIX P300, Pxhere

    Fat

    Fats, preferably animal fats, are essential ingredients in your kitten’s diet. These fats are among the primary sources of energy for felines, as they help absorb certain vitamins and minerals. Essential omega fatty acids aid in a healthy coat and skin. The dry food that you choose should ideally have a fat content of 15%-20%.

    Vitamins and minerals

    Kittens also have slightly different requirements than adults regarding minerals and vitamins. They need higher amounts of vitamins A and D, which are essential for vision and muscle development, respectively. Iron and magnesium are vital minerals found mostly in organ meats and are essential to the overall health and development of your kitten.

    Ingredients to avoid

    The foods to avoid giving your kitten are the same as in adult cats. You should avoid foods with too many grains like wheat and corn as they can be difficult to digest. Also, any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives should be avoided wherever possible.

    There is an ongoing debate about whether to give cats carbohydrates at all, but most experts agree that a small amount is healthy overall. Too many carbs can certainly be harmful and quickly cause them to become overweight, but this is not too much of an issue in kittens. Carbs get a bad rap because they are often used as filler ingredients to bulk up foods, but small amounts of healthy whole grains are ideal sources of digestible energy for kittens.

    Image Credit: fantom_rd, Shutterstock

    Guideline for feeding your new kitten

    In general, kittens will need three to four small meals per day, as they cannot eat much in one sitting. How much to give them per meal depends on their unique size, breed, and energy levels. Since they are growing so rapidly, you’ll need to keep adjusting. A good rule of thumb is around ½-1 cup spread throughout the day, but again, this is unique to your kitten. Try to mix in wet food for added moisture and variety, and adjust the dry food ratio accordingly.

    Most kittens reach adulthood at around 10-12 months of age, after which, their growth rate slows dramatically, and you can begin feeding them less frequently.

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    Conclusion

    Our top choice of dry kitten food overall is the Blue Buffalo Wilderness Kitten Grain-Free Dry Food. Besides being grain-free, it contains healthy chicken as the first ingredient, taurine, essential omega fatty acids, and included “LifeSource Bits,” a healthy blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

    The best kitten food for the money is the Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Kitten Food. It contains farm-raised chicken, DHA fatty acids, taurine, and vital antioxidants and is free from artificial colors and flavors.

    If you’re looking for a premium choice for your growing kitten, the Hill’s Science Diet kitten recipe is our favorite. The food is made with real chicken, contains natural DHA from fish oil and a potent antioxidant and vitamin blend, and is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

    Kittenhood is one of the most exciting yet stressful parts of owning a cat, and you’ll naturally want to give them the best foundation possible. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have narrowed down the myriad options somewhat and helped you find the best dry food for your new feline friend.


    Featured Image Credit: YoonJae Baik, Unsplash

    Nicole Cosgrove

    Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.


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