Best Cat Food For Outdoor Cats

Outdoor cats are incredibly active due to the expanse of space they explore. This means that they require a higher calorie diet to stay fit and healthy. We will help you find the best cat food for outdoor cats here. 

You may have heard of people switching their pets to vegan diets, but this is not suitable for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need meat in their diet to survive. In fact, their diet should be meat-centric.

Good quality cat food should also contain EPA and DHA to help support your cat’s joints. Outdoor cats need a high energy diet to cope with the changing weather. Other things cat food should include are antioxidants and probiotics to support the immune and digestive systems.

Best cat food for outdoor cats

Cats cannot produce some of the amino acids they need to survive, such as taurine, arginine, methionine, and cysteine. Their diet must include these daily. Outdoor cats also need constant access to a clean water source to prevent dehydration.

In a hurry?

Our top pick for cat food for outdoor cats is the Iams Proactive Health High Protein Adult Cat Food with Chicken and Salmon. This has the highest protein content of any of our choices, with a minimum crude protein content of 38%. This is above the recommended 30% minimum for cats and this is why we like it the most.

Top 5 Best Cat Food for Outdoors Cats

OUR TOP PICK

At less than $25 for 13lb, this is one of our more reasonably priced cat foods. It is dried and gives a much better value for money. 

The flavor is chicken and salmon, and the first 5 ingredients are Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Grits, Ground Whole Grain Corn, and Salmon. Three of these are meat, which is what you should look out for.

The food contains Omega 3 and 6 to support the joints and calcium for teeth and bones. The food also includes prebiotics and beet pulp to help the cat’s digestion. It also contains taurine, niacin, and Vitamin A.

Pros

  • Minimum 38% protein content 
  • Chicken and salmon based
  • 13-pound bag
  • Less than $2 per pound

EDITORS CHOICE

At less than $40 for 12lb, this is one of our more expensive picks. 

The flavor is chicken and salmon, and the first 5 ingredients are: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Potato Starch, Fish Meal(source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids). 4 of these are meat, meaning that there is a high protein content. 

The food contains Omega 3 and 6 to support the joints and give your cat a shiny coat. It also contains essential vitamins and minerals to support your cat’s immune system.

The food is grain-free and does not contain poultry by-product meals.

Pros

  • Min 40% protein content 
  • Chicken based
  • 12-pound bag

Cons

  • $3+ per pound

BEST VALUE

This food is under $30 for 16 pounds, our cheapest pick.

The chicken flavor has not got the best ingredients, but they are still primarily meat-based: Chicken, rice flour, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal  (source of glucosamine), beef fat. 

The food contains Omegas, niacin, taurine, cysteine, and methionine. The kibble helps to keep your cat’s teeth strong and healthy.

Pros

  • Minimum 34% protein content 
  • Chicken based
  • 16-pound bag

RUNNER UP

This is wet food and works out much more expensive. For a pack of 12 5.5oz servings, you will be set back approximately $27. Not only is this pricier, but it also creates a lot of packaging waste. 

The ingredients for each flavor are relatively clean and all have a majority of meat derived ingredients at the start of the list. 

The food contains DHA and EPA, taurine, niacin, and Vitamin A. These will support your cat’s health and provide them with moisture in their diet.

Pros

  • Main ingredients are meat-based

Cons

  • $3.50+ per pound
  • 10% minimum protein content

RUNNER UP

This is by far the most expensive pick for 12 12.5oz packs of food. 

The chicken flavor has fantastic ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Carrots. While this is a more expensive option if you have the money to afford this we do recommend it. The protein content is low though, so ensure you mix it with dry food too. 

The food contains Omegas from flaxseeds to keep their coat healthy and cranberries to keep their urinary tract healthy. There is also a lot of fiber and beta-carotene from the carrots to support your cat’s health.

You can choose from 5 textures to give your cat a variety in their diet.

Pros

  • The first 4 ingredients are all meat

Cons

  • 11% minimum protein content

Best Cat Food For Outdoor Cats Buying Guide

Your cat’s age

At different stages of life, your cat will require different things from their diet.

Growing cats need a lot more energy than adult ones, and you should look for food that corresponds with your cat’s age.

Kittens need a higher protein diet due to their energetic lifestyle. Older cats will also need increased protein to help with the symptoms of aging. 

Cat age categories 

  • Kitten: 0-12 months
  • Adult cat: 1-7 years 
  • Senior cat: 7-11 years
  • Geriatric cat: 11+ years

Dry or wet food

Dry food is much cheaper than wet food and lasts a lot longer. Dry food also works to improve your cat’s teeth and jaw muscles. This is because the kibble offers more resistance to the biting motion than wet food does. 

There is much less nutrition in wet food than in dry food. This is due to the high water content and means they may need to eat more of it to get adequate nutrition. The increased moisture content helps to get water into your cat’s body, something they can be lacking in.

Cats are evolutionarily designed to acquire their water from their prey’s meat, and wet food helps them with this. If possible, we suggest feeding your cat a mix of wet and dry food for optimal health. 

How active your cat is

If your cat is inactive and appears to be putting on weight, try and look for a food with lower calories.

Do not forget outdoor cats are likely to hunt wildlife too and this will supplement their diet.

What your cat likes

Regardless of all the other factors, this is arguably the most important.

If your cat does not like the food you are feeding it, it will not eat. This can cause many serious issues and this is why it’s important to pick a food your cats love.

Meat content

As mentioned above, cats are obligate carnivores and need a meat-based diet.

You should look for cat foods with a high meat content and not much carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are metabolized into sugars, and some people believe this has the potential to harm your cat over time. 

A good measure is to look at the first 5 ingredients in the food. At least 3 of these should be meat protein derived if it is high-quality cat food. The protein content of the food should be at least 30%. 

Good meats to feed your cat are chicken, beef, and fish.

DHA, EPA, Amino Acids

There are many amino acids a cat needs in their diet because they cannot make them. These are known as essential amino acids and are taurine, arginine, methionine, and cysteine. They also need niacin, Vitamin A, and arachidonic acid.

DHA and EPA are Omega-3 fatty acids that help to keep your cat’s joints healthy. Experts recommend 40mg/kg of DHA and 25-30mg/kg of EPA for cats daily. 

Taurine is used in the cat’s body to produce bile, operate the heart, and helps with their eyesight. If they do not have enough in their diet, you can put them at risk of infertility or reproductive problems, cardiomyopathy (heart disease), and retinal degeneration. 

Arginine is used in the process of breaking down proteins. It is required to make ornithine and bind ammonia. If there is insufficient arginine in your cat’s diet they may salivate a lot, lose coordination, make them meow constantly, and, in some cases, can lead to death. 

Methionine helps to stop bladder stones, keep the urine at a normal pH, and control the smell of the urine. Lack of methionine in the diet can cause cataracts to form.

Cysteine is created through the use of methionine and plays a similar role in the cat’s body.

Niacin helps your cat to maintain a healthy weight and keep their appetite. They cannot make enough naturally to support their bodies and so it needs supplementing. 

Vitamin A is often associated with eyesight, and this is no exception in cats. They cannot produce retinol via the conversion of beta-carotene as they lack a necessary enzyme.

This is supplemented by Vitamin A in their diet, which can easily be found in animal protein. Vitamin A will also help your cat’s coat appear sleek and shiny and can aid growth.

Arachidonic acid helps cats cope with allergic reactions by suppressing their inflammatory response. This is easy to find in animal meat.

Origins of the ingredients

Good quality cat foods should indicate where their ingredients are sourced from.

Look for sustainable farms and suppliers, and try to buy as local as possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should you feed an outdoor cat?

We recommend feeding your outdoor cat at least once a  day, but ideally twice. Try to feed your cat at the same time of day. This is so they get used to a feeding time and you can notice quickly if they lose their appetite.

A rough guide to how much adult cats eat is around 5.5oz wet food or ½ cup dry food a day. This varies from animal to animal, much like humans. If you notice your cat losing weight increase their feedings and vice versa. 

A good way to judge the quantity of food is by seeing how much food remains in their bowl after 15 minutes. If it is all gone, you may not be feeding them enough. If after 30 minutes there is still food left, you may be feeding them too much.

When should you take your cat to the vet?

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but here are some indicators to look for when your cat is eating.

Some may be indicators that your cat is in pain or needs dental work.

  • Weight loss
  • Not eating 
  • Drooling 
  • Tongue sticking out all the time
  • Gulping food and not biting it 
  • Rubbing, scratching, and pawing at the sides of their face and ears while eating

What can I feed a stray if I have no cat food?

You can feed cats cooked chicken with all the bones removed or tuna. Tuna is not advised to feed to cats often, as the mercury levels can harm them. 

In a pinch, you can even feed a stray cat some softened dog food. We do not recommend doing this regularly, solely if it is your only option. 

Are there any foods I should never feed my cat?

As with humans, cats can have allergies to anything in their diet. Beef and pork can cause digestive problems in cats and should not be fed to them regularly. 

Most cats are lactose intolerant and therefore we advise against feeding your cats cow’s milk. 

How do I switch the food I am feeding my cat?

It is important not to change your cat’s diet too quickly, as this can cause stomach issues. As with children, they need time to adjust to the new smells and taste.

You should switch their food over slowly, mixing a little of the new food into their old one. Slowly increase the amount of new food every time you feed them over a period of 7-10 days. By the end of this, your cat should be on the new food completely and enjoying it.