Dry food is a great option for your cats since it’s relatively inexpensive, convenient, and easy to store. That said, some cats have trouble chewing hard dry foods. Kittens with developing teeth, seniors that have lost a few teeth or have gum issues, or even just cats with dental issues in general can benefit greatly from dry food that is softer and more palatable than usual.
Cats are obligate carnivores and need a high percentage of animal-based protein in their diet. Soft dry foods need to have the usual balanced nutrient content, a slightly higher moisture content, and preferably, a soft, chewy center. Some dry foods are purposefully formulated to be softer and more tender, and other foods that are made to be easy to digest or formulated for seniors are also great options if you’re looking for a softer food for your feline.
We know how difficult it can be to sift through all the available dry food options for your cat, and we’re here to help! In this article, we put together our top 10 soft dry cat foods, complete with in-depth reviews, to help you choose the best option for your feline friend. Let’s dive in!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
The 10 Best Soft Dry Cat Foods
1. Meow Mix Tender Centers Dry Cat Food — Best Overall
The Meow Mix Tender Centers dry cat food features kibble with a hard, crunchy outside and a soft, chewy, meaty inside and is our top choice overall. The kibble has tasty chicken and tuna for a flavor that your cat will not be able to resist and is 100% complete and nutritionally balanced. The included tuna meal will give your feline a natural source of essential omega fatty acids that help with a healthy coat. It also contains essential vitamins E, A, and D3 and essential minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
This food is ideal for adult and senior cats and is made in the U.S.A. The main issue that we found with this food is the inclusion of artificial flavors and colors, along with filler ingredients like ground corn and wheat, which are not ideal for cats.
2. Friskies Tender & Crunchy Combo Dry Cat Food — Best Value
Friskies Tender and Crunchy Combo is the best soft dry cat food for the money. This kibble is both crunchy and tender, with irresistible chicken, beef, and turkey flavors that your cat will love. The food is loaded with antioxidants for healthy immune support and packed with essential omega fatty acids for skin and coat health. The added vitamin A and taurine helps support vision and cardiovascular health, and the formula is 100% balanced and complete and made in the U.S.A.
This food contains food coloring and other artificial additives, filler grains, and by-product meals, which is disappointing.
3. Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend Dry Cat Food — Premium Option
With chicken as the first-listed ingredient, no fillers, and no artificial flavors or preservatives, the Purina ONE Tender Selects dry cat food is an excellent premium option for your feline. The food contains both hard, crunchy kibble and tender meaty morsels that your cat will love. The included real chicken is a great source of lean protein for muscle building and sustained energy, and the added essential omega fatty acids are great for your cat’s coat and skin. This food is also packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and taurine to give your cat the balanced nutrition that they need in soft and tender dry food.
The only issues that we have with this food are the high price, and cats being cats, some may not enjoy it.
4. Kitten Chow Nurture Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens
If you’re looking for a soft, tender dry food for your kitten, the Purina Kitten Chow Nurture dry cat food is our favorite choice. The food contains real farm-raised chicken that provides a 40% protein content overall — ideal for developing kittens — and added DHA to support brain and vision development. The soft texture and delicious flavor of the kibble encourage a healthy appetite in your growing kitten.
The food is made with responsibly sourced ingredients and free from artificial flavors or colors. It is 100% balanced and perfect to give growing kittens the nutrition that they need. While this food is free from artificial ingredients for the most part, it does contain corn, soy, and wheat, which are unnecessary for growing and developing kittens.
5. American Journey Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food
The American Journey Turkey and Chicken Blend dry cat food contains real, deboned turkey as the first listed ingredient and deboned chicken, both great sources of protein to help build and sustain muscle and give your cat the energy that they need. It also contains added healthy fruits and vegetables, including peas, spinach, blueberries, and apples, and natural antioxidants to help in your cat’s immune health. The essential omega fatty acids will help promote healthy skin and coat, and the food is free from grains and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
The kibble size in this food is somewhat inconsistent, which can be difficult to chew for some cats, and this food is comparatively low in moisture content.
6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food
With a 40% minimum protein coming primarily from real, deboned chicken, the Wilderness Chicken Recipe dry food from Blue Buffalo is a great choice of soft dry food. This kibble is 100% grain-free and is free from poultry by-products and artificial flavors or preservatives. We love that this food is also packed with healthy carbohydrates like peas and potatoes, along with Blue Buffalo’s unique “LifeSource Bits,” a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help support immune function in your feline. The food is also packed with natural essential omega fatty acids that are great for keeping your cat’s skin and coat healthy and shiny.
This food is fairly expensive, though, and some customers reported it causing nausea and vomiting in their cats. Also, while this food is somewhat soft, it does have a slightly lower moisture content than we’d like.
7. Iams ProActive Health Healthy Senior Dry Cat Food
The ProActive Healthy Senior dry cat food from Iams contains real chicken as the first ingredient and is crafted with older, senior cats in mind. The food contains added essential minerals like phosphorus and calcium to aid in joint and bone health, with vitamin E and other antioxidants to help promote a healthy immune system. This food also contains L-carnitine, an essential vitamin that helps release energy and break down fat, ideal for helping older, less mobile felines maintain a healthy weight. Iams Proactive is also made without artificial preservatives or colors.
While this food is great for older cats, it does contain questionable ingredients, like by-product meals, corn, and corn grits. Also, this food is only suitable for cats 11 years and older.
- Related Read: 10 Best Senior Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks
8. Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Indoor Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food
Hill’s Science Diet dry cat food features real chicken as the first ingredient and is specially formulated to be highly digestible and palatable for older cats. The food contains a clinically proven antioxidant blend that includes vitamins C and A to promote a healthy immune system, along with essential nutrients like taurine and L-carnitine to promote healthy joints, cardiovascular health, and support vision in your aging kitty. The food contains a 10% crude fiber content to aid in digestion and reduce hairballs and is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.
This food contains wheat, rice, and corn, which is disappointing, and it has a fairly low protein content.
9. Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Mature Dry Cat Food
If you’re looking for a healthy choice of soft food for your mature cat (7+ years), Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging dry food is a great option. With real chicken as the first ingredient and natural ingredients like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and peas, this food gives your aging cat a great balanced diet.
The food is enhanced with essential minerals like calcium for bone and teeth health, flaxseeds and fish oil as natural sources of essential amino fatty acids for skin and coat health, and taurine to help support cardiovascular health and vision. It also includes Blue Buffalo’s “LifeSource Bits,” a combination of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants to support overall wellness and health in your feline. Lastly, this food is crafted without poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavors or preservatives.
This food is pricey, and many customers reported that their cats would not eat it. This could be due to the reported pungent odor, and the kibble is very small, which makes it difficult to chew.
10. Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food
Blue Buffalo’s Sensitive Stomach dry cat food contains real, deboned chicken as the first ingredient and prebiotics that aid in digestion and make the food ideal for cats with sensitive stomachs. The food is made with wholesome grains, like rice, barley, and oatmeal, to further add to digestibility and give your kitty the fiber that they need to reduce hairballs. It also contains Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits to support overall health and wellness and is free from poultry by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, and artificial flavors or preservatives.
While this food is great for sensitive stomachs, it may cause diarrhea and vomiting in some cats due to the high fiber content. It also has a comparatively low protein and moisture content and is high in calories, many of which come from grains.
- Related Read: 6 Best Cat Foods for Older Cats with Bad Teeth – Reviews & Top Picks
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Soft Dry Cat Foods
While wet food is a great option for cats with dental issues or older felines, it can get expensive and is certainly not as convenient as dry food. Dry foods that are specially formulated to be softer, have a higher moisture content, and be easier to chew are ideal for aging felines.
Of course, you could always soften a dry food yourself with warm water in the form of broth or stock, but this can soften it a bit too much for some cats, so a purpose-made soft dry food is the best option. But how do you find a good option of soft dry food for your feline?
We are here to help! Here are a few things to look for when choosing a soft dry cat food for your feline.
Most dry cat kibble has a moisture content of around 10-12%, and even commercial “soft” dry cat foods have a similar moisture saturation. Looking at the moisture content and making sure it’s above 10% can help, but it will not ensure that the food is actually softer than usual.
The best bet is to purchase kibble that has a soft center and hard exterior, giving your cat a crunchy texture than they love with a soft center that makes chewing easier. The problem with this type of kibble is the ingredients. In order to make kibble with this soft center, there are often questionable ingredients used — notably, grains — which are not always great for your cat’s health.
- See also: The CatPet.Club Magazine is Now Part of Hepper
No matter what food you choose to feed your cat, looking at the ingredient list is vital. Cats are obligate carnivores, and as such, they need animal-based protein in their diet to stay healthy. An animal protein should always be the first ingredient, as this is what constitutes the majority of the food.
Soft dry foods often contain many grains, which may be fine for some cats, but be cautious of soft dry food that has grains listed as the first ingredient. You want the protein to be at around 30-40% ideally, and this should come primarily from animal-based proteins.
Soft dry foods often use meat by-products and meals too. This is to make the food more chewy and palatable, but since you don’t know exactly what a by-product or meat meal can contain, which could be anything from organ meats to bones, skin, and even hair, this is somewhat risky.
Besides protein, you also want to make sure your cat’s food contains all the other vital nutrients that they need. The food should be nutritionally balanced and age-appropriate for your feline. Check for essential nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, vitamins, taurine, and L-carnitine. Omega fatty acids should also be included for skin and coat health.
Make sure the food does not have too much fat content or too many filler ingredients, like grains, and ideally, is free from any artificial ingredients, like flavors or colors.
Why Not Just Give Your Cat Wet Food?
Wet food is a great option for cats that need softer food in their diet due to dental issues. It is easy to chew, has a high moisture content, and has a texture that most cats adore, making it a great option. That said, dry food has great benefits and many cats simply prefer it.
Dry cat foods are easy to store and last a long time, while wet food needs to be used directly after opening. Dry foods can also help with dental health, as the dry texture of kibble can help remove plaque and tartar build-up. Lastly, dry food is super convenient, especially if you have more than one cat, and is generally more affordable than wet food.
Regardless of the type of food your feline companion prefers, finding a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained can be tough. Our Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl features a wide tray designed to ensure that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl and off the floor. The whisker-friendly bowls fit securely into the PP plastic base and are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue. Its contemporary style will fit seamlessly into any home and it is completely dishwasher safe.
All the above soft dry foods are great options, and while we highly recommend all of them, the Meow Mix Tender Centers dry cat food is our favorite overall. It has delicious kibble with a hard, crunchy outside and a soft, chewy, meaty inside, and is loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients for a complete and balanced nutrition.
If you’re looking for soft dry food that is slightly more budget-friendly, the Friskies Tender and Crunchy Combo is the best soft dry cat food for the money. This kibble is crunchy yet tender, is loaded with antioxidants and essential omega fatty acids, and is 100% balanced and complete.
With chicken as the first-listed ingredient and no artificial flavors or preservatives, the Purina ONE Tender Selects dry cat food is an excellent premium option for your feline. The food contains both hard, crunchy kibble and tender meaty morsels that your cat will love, and it is packed with essential vitamins and minerals.
Proper nutrition is vital to the health and well-being of your feline, and it can be stressful to find the right food for them, especially if they need soft dry kibble. Hopefully, our in-depth reviews have helped you find the best soft dry cat food to suit your unique needs.
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Featured Image Credit: Skrypnykov Dmytro, Shutterstock