Even more important than shelter is food and water. Water is pretty easy for cats, they’re not picky and don’t need much.

But food is another story. During the winter, cats need food to keep a nice thick coat as well as produce extra heat.

Mamas who got caught with kittens in the cold will need to produce extra milk as well. The most heart-wrenching thing to me is seeing a starving mother whether pregnant or nursing. I will ALWAYS feed her if I have to cut up some lunch meat in the fridge.

The good thing about cats is that they’re very protein-heavy. They NEED meat so you can easily give them a bowl of meat from your fridge in a pinch.

But of course that’s not all they need and giving them the best cat foods might get a bit pricey also. At the same time, you don’t want to feed them crappy cat food. You’re wasting your money because a lot of the times they’re not going to eat it and their bodies are still not getting the nutrients it needs to survive in the cold.

Believe me, my dogs are forever vacuuming piles of cat food put out with good intention but the cats won’t touch anything that doesn’t contain a certain level of protein. So What’s The Best Dry Cat Food For Outdoor Cats?

For your convenience, we’ve listed our top 10 recommendations below but strongly encourage you to read this article so that you can have a solid understanding of why we chose these cat foods.

The Best Dry Cat Food For Outdoor Cats

  1. Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food
  2. Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium Dry Cat Food
  3. Diamond Naturals INDOOR Real Meat Recipe Dry Cat Food with Real Cage Free Chicken Protein
  4. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food
  5. Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Dry Cat Food
  6. Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Gravy Swirlers
  7. Purina 25 Lb Complete Cat Chow
  8. Purina Kit & Kaboodle Indoor Dry Cat Food
  9. Iams Proactive Health Adult Dry Cat Food
  10. Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food

Cat Nutritional Needs


Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they HAVE TO HAVE protein aka meat. Sorry animal lovers, there’s just no such thing as a vegan cat.

The proteins they need can only be found in meat, therefore the MUST have meat. Meat contains 10 amino acids that cats’ bodies need but can not produce on their own.

Even just missing out on one of these amino acids can have serious effects. For instance, if your cat doesn’t get any or enough Arginine, ammonia will build up in its bloodstream and become very toxic and fatal.

A lack of taurine in their food can cause a number of metabolic deficiencies, degenerative sight and hearing, heart failure and more!

How Much Protein Should Your Cat Have?

The amount of protein is critical for your cat’s survival. Of course, nursing and pregnant mothers need a lot more than your everyday Joe Blow cat which is why I tend to favor them in a pinch.

I (Marlinda) have only breastfed one baby in my life and that was rough. Could you imagine having to provide nutrients for 6??

Cat protein requirements are as follows:

  • Kittens need 10g of crude protein and 4g of fat (total)
  • Adult cats (9lbs and under) need 12.5g of crude protein and 5.5g of fat (total) from 250 calories worth of food
  • Nursing and Pregnant Mothers need 41g of crude protein and 12g of fat (total) for 4 kittens
    • And I’m not sure about you but the cats here can have big litters and some will nurse other kittens as well. Feed them mamas!!

What Is Crude Protein?

Crude protein (or crude fat, fiber, etc.) can sound legit and/or cause confusion depending on how you look at it but its actually pretty simple really. Crude protein just means that the protein has gone through a process in a laboratory that chemically measures the amount of protein present in the protein source, food, etc.

It doesn’t mean that the source is better or worse for your cat. It doesn’t really say anything about the quality of ingredients.

If you want to learn more about the crude protein, fat, or other ingredients in your cat’s food be sure to look for the ‘Guaranteed Analysis’ section that is usually on or near the nutritional facts label.

Other Nutrients Your Cat Needs

Of course, your cat does need more than just protein. It also needs:

  • carbohydrates which it can only get from its food and provide energy
  • fats that also provide energy and assist with other important metabolic functions like transporting nutrients around its body
    • Linoleic and arachidonic acids are cats essential fatty acids in addition to DHA which helps with better vision, reproductive health and a stronger immune system
  • minerals that create a host of vital reactions in your cat’s body that controls pH levels, nutrient utilization, enzyme formation, etc.
    • calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, sulfur, and zinc should be present in cat food
  • vitamins are very different than minerals (I used to think they are one and the same). They are responsible for normal growth and regulating your cat’s metabolism. They can be fat-soluble or water-soluble but below are the ones you need to be aware of.
    • Fat-soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. Water-soluble vitamins include C and the B complex.
  • water is essential for all life. It is true that cats need little water BUT that’s only because they usually get enough from raw meat they eat. Since they are eating dry cat food, you will need to put out a bowl of freshwater for them every day (or every other day just depends on the weather and other environmental factors. Bottom line, it needs to be clean)

Serving Cat Food To Outdoor Cats

One thing I want you to know before feeding your outdoor cat dry cat food is that it is much harder for cats to digest than wet cat food. In other words, it takes more energy.

Especially if you live in a particularly harsh environment, you might want to consider mixing wet cat food in with it. This way, their bodies can focus more energy on producing heat to stay warm outside in the cold since wet food is easier to digest than dry food.

Mix anywhere from half to three-quarters of dry food to half or a quarter of wet food. In other words either use a 1:1 ratio or a 3:1 ratio dry cat food to wet cat food.

For example, if you use 1 cup of dry cat food, mix in a cup of wet cat food. If you choose the latter ratio, mix a quarter cup of wet cat food per 1 cup of dry food.

If it doesn’t make sense, please feel free to engage with us in the comments 🙂

10 Best Dry Cat Foods For Outdoor Cats

1. Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food

purina_cat_chow_naturals_grain_free_13_pounds

I’ve seen many a cat food go untouched by outside cats. This cat food is LOVED by pets and what we personally use here at Outdoor Cat Houses to feed our outside cats.

I’ve come across many picky cats but they have never rejected this food. I’ve even had a cat with stomach issues that needed sensitive stomach foods eat this cat food.

It’s about the most affordable, grain-free cat food that you’re gonna find with well-balanced nutrition. Your outdoor cats will not go hungry anymore when you feed them this cat food.

Here’s the breakdown of the Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food:

Weight: available in 6.3 lbs, 13 lb, and 4 x 3.15 lb bags

Grain-Free: Yes

Meat Source: Chicken

Flavors: Chicken

Artificial Ingredients: No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives

Made In The USA? Yes

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon

What people are saying about the Purina Cat Chow Naturals Grain-Free With Real Chicken Adult Dry Cat Food:

My cats LOVE this food.. I have two cats.. one in particular if a finicky eater, meaning she throws up a LOT, lol. This cat food really agrees with her sensitive stomach. – Excerpt from JP’s Review on Amazon

 

My cat was vomiting every day. I did research and found this to be the best for the money. Its been 4 weeks and he hasn’t vomited once since i switched. He’s happy with a healthy coat. – Angela Tuck

Click Here To Learn More!

Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium Dry Cat Food

rachael_ray_nutrish_super_premium_dry_cat_food_salmon_and_brown_rice

It’s hard these days to go anywhere without seeing some famous person’s product on the shelves. You think to yourself is this crap or is this the real deal?

Well friend, when it comes to Rachael Ray’s cat food line it certainly is the best of the best. Of course, it is or it wouldn’t be on this list, haha!

Though it does not claim to be grain-free it is made with cats in mind by leaving out ingredients that are harmful or just not necessary for your cat like wheat, soy and animal by-product meal.

We also enjoy the fact that portions of every bag sold goes to the Racheal Ray Foundation which helps animals in need. Thank you Rachael for not only making this wonderful food but also helping animals in need! We love you!!!

Here’s the breakdown of the Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium Dry Cat Food:

Weight: available in 3 lbs, 6 lb, and 14 lb bags

Grain-Free: not marketed as such but does not contain:

  • Ground corn
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Poultry by-product meal or fillers
  • Artificial flavors or preservatives

Meat Source: Depends on the flavor. Salmon for salmon. Chicken for chicken

Flavors: Chicken & Brown Rice, Salmon & Brown Rice

Artificial Ingredients: No artificial flavors or preservatives

Made In The USA? Yes, ‘safely cooked’ in the US as per the bag

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Rachael Ray Nutrish Super Premium Dry Cat Food:

We have 3 cats and feed 4 strays so price is important, but not as important as feeding them decent food. One of my cats has digestive issues and most food upsets her stomach and fills the house with terrible smells. This does not. In fact my son sometimes forgets to clean the litter because it doesn’t stink much. – Carolyn Tingle

 

I’ve been feeding 2 stray cats for a year. When I changed to this food, I noticed that they filled out and looked healthier. – K. A. Hadley

Click Here To Learn More!

3. Diamond Naturals INDOOR Real Meat Recipe Dry Cat Food with Real Cage Free Chicken Protein

diamond_naturals_indoor_cat_chicken_and_rice_formula_food_for_outside_cats

If you are concerned about the source of protein in the cat food you are feeding to your outdoor cats, this is a good option for you! The source of the protein makes all the difference especially when every bit of nutrients count to your survival.

Diamonds Naturals cat food is made with cage-free chicken. That means the chickens are raised in a stress-free environment which, to make a long story short and get straight to the point, produces better quality meat.

It also contains superfoods, prebiotic fiber that makes it easy to digest and more!

Truth be told it is a little more than the lesser quality cat foods BUT not by much! Which is why we recommend this one. You just can’t beat that price for better quality because especially in these winter months, your cats need all of the extra nutrients they can get!

Here’s the breakdown of the Diamond Naturals INDOOR Real Meat Dry Cat Food:

Weight: available in 6 lb and 18 lb bags

Grain-Free: not marketed as such but does not contain:

  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Fillers
  • Artificial flavors, colors or preservatives

Essentially, this is grain-free.

Meat Source: Chicken

Flavors: Chicken

Artificial Ingredients: No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives

Made In The USA? Yes, and family-owned & operated! 😀

Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Diamond Naturals INDOOR Real Meat Dry Cat Food:

So happy I found this cat food... A stray cat claimed me about 18 months ago.. Bodhi came with all kinds of allergies and fungi… It took months to discover what would trigger his allergies, fish, most grains such as corn and soy, and chemicals are the culprits… Diamond Naturals and a little creme cheese is the only thing Bodhi can eat.

He loves it… He is big boned and 21 lbs yet only eats a little over a 1/2 cup a day...Since he eats less the price turns out to be more reasonable than the junk cat food with corn fillers and most important the quality is excellent and highly digestible. He does not throw the food up – sparrow

 

Been feeding it for years, cats stay healthy and we have a feral cat that’s 18 yrs old, not saying it’s the food but it sure don’t hurt! – GCRedfisher

Click Here To Learn More!

4. Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food

Purina_one_healthy_kitten_formula_for_outdoor_cats

If you can’t afford a good cat food, your secret weapon might be a good or decent kitten food. Often times, nursing mothers are normally put on kitten food for the same reason.

More bang for your bowl you could say. And when it comes to outside cats the same rule applies especially again for nursing mothers and kittens.

When I first started feeding stray dogs and cats (yes, I can’t stand to see any living thing hungry. Dogs, cats, people, PLANTS, you name it, I’ll feed’em) this is the exact kitten food I used.

No, it’s not grain-free (it claims 0% fillers) but it is decent. And decent does a lot for our furry friends in need. A LOT better than the cheap, crappy adult foods. Sometimes, decent is all you can do and that’s the best choice for their benefit as well.

I’m so proud and happy that you’re taking the time to care for the kitties in your area. You should feel amazing too!

Here’s the breakdown of the Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food:

Weight: available in 3.5 lbs, 7lb, and 16 lb bags

Grain-Free: they claim ‘0% fillers’ but to me, that doesn’t say grain-free. You can take it as you see fit.

Meat Source: Real chicken is #1 ingredient can also contain fish products or other meat

Flavors: Chicken

Artificial Ingredients: Yes

Made In The USA? Not stated

Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Purina ONE Healthy Kitten Formula Kitten Food:

I have taken in a stray kitten and I didn’t have any experience with cats so I did some research and decided on this brand. My kitten LOVES it! Even a 2nd stray cat has shown up and has been gobbling this food down. It seems like I’m on the fast track to being a crazy cat lady. Perhaps this food is partially to blame? – Les’s Amazon Review

 

My stray cat and the litter of kittens love this – Teresa

Click Here To Learn More!

5. Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Dry Cat Food

royal_canin_mother_and_babycat_immune_system_support_cat_food_for_outside_kittens_and_nursing_mamas

If you live in snowy areas or ones that are particularly cold where your cat will need the extra nutrients, this is one of the best choices you will find. It is packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals that are important to cat survival.

It is also easy to chew and digest which means your cat won’t have to use up extra energy processing it which means their body can use it to stay warmer instead. This one is a bit pricey but you do get your money’s worth.

If necessary, you can always ask neighbors for donations. Honestly, the last thing anyone wants in their backyard is a corpse. And a well-fed cat will also be less destructive to their properties. So it’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.

If you’re not the type of person to go around asking for funds, which is totally understandable, you can mix it with another cat food. Remember, this stuff is packed with nutrients. Adding it to another cat food won’t hurt.

Here’s the breakdown of the Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Dry Cat Food:

Weight: available in 3.5 lbs and 7lbs

Grain-Free: no

Meat Source: Chicken

Flavors: Chicken

Artificial Ingredients: Not specified

Made In The USA? Not specified

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Mother & Babycat Dry Cat Food:

Expensive But Preferred Family of stray cats and kittens LOVE this. – Angela

 

…the feral mama cat who had her babies in my yard can’t seem to eat enough of this stuff. Hopefully the kittens like it too as they start weaning… – DB

Click Here To Learn More!

6. Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Gravy Swirlers

Purina_friskies_gravy_swirlers_with_essential_vitamins_for_feral_cats

Realistically speaking, cat populations can be pretty big or/and they can get there rather quickly. When you are feeding a large number of cats, the cost of the food really does matter.

But I will tell you that I’ve seen many piles of cat food go uneaten because the cat food is complete garbage. Cats will not eat anything low in protein.

This is why I love the Purina brand in general. They give you the best quality possible in all of their cat food ranges.

This Friskies brand is a favorite of mine when things get tough and I know your cats will love it too. It will still provide your cats with the nutrients they need to survive in outdoor climates while keeping things comfortable for your capabilities as well.

I will also caution you about salmon flavor. Contrary to popular belief, cats are not adapted to eating fish. They don’t even like water! Therefore many cats will not eat fish-flavored cat foods.

From my personal experience, I have had indoor cats who refuse to eat fish but have had no problems with outdoor cats. I just thought I would mention it so that you can be best informed to make your decision.

Here’s the breakdown of the Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Gravy Swirlers:

Weight: picture says 22lbs but the listing says 27lbs. Personally, I can’t say I’ve ever seen a 27 lbs bag of cat food. Also, if you prepare for less but get more its a pleasant surprise, however, if you expect more and get less its a disappointment. So I would go with 22 lbs to heir on the side of caution 🙂

Grain-Free: no

Meat Source: Chicken, fish and other meats

Flavors: Chicken and salmon

Artificial Ingredients: Yes

Made In The USA? Yes

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Gravy Swirlers:

We have cats in our neighborhood who visit a feeder we installed on the side of our fence, and we use this food to supplement their home feeds and to have available for any strays. The bowls are usually empty each day so I know they enjoy it. Pricing is comparable with Walmart and delivery from Amazon makes it easier. – Kel T.’s Amazon Review

 

Got this to feed the outside strays. They seem to like it. Good value for the price. Even my own cats try to get into the bag so it must smell and taste pretty good. – A. Drewes

Click Here To Learn More!

7. Purina 25 Lb Complete Cat Chow

purina_cat_chow_complete_25_lb_club_size_bag

A bag full of goodness is what you should call this cat food. It will provide your strays with 25 essential vitamins and minerals at a very reasonable price.

I used to use this for my cats but they did not eat it, however, that does not omit the fact that it is good cat food. Outdoor cats are much less picky than indoor cats.

The most important part is that they get in the right nutrients. Animals are more instinctual driven and in tune with their bodies needs. This means that they will eat food as long as it is good for them!

Here’s the breakdown of the Purina 25 Lb Complete Cat Chow:

Weight: 25 lbs

Grain-Free: no0

Meat Source: Unsure

Flavors: Great taste? haha!

Artificial Ingredients: Likely

Made In The USA? Yes

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Purina 25 Lb Complete Cat Chow:

I’m definitely not a cat lover by any perception, but I was finally “coerced” into going against my vow of “(I’m) never feeding those @#$% cats!” by a pregnant feral that wouldn’t stop sitting in front of my home @ dinner time staring at the front door…I’m glad I selected this especially for the claims of helping their coat because the three kittens have grown into very healthy looking “puff balls” that appear to have coats that keep them warm through the 40 degree and lower, FLA. winter nights. – Excerpt from Frankly Speaking’s Amazon Review

 

my outside cats love this food. – Ron B.

Click Here To Learn More!

8. Purina Kit & Kaboodle Indoor Dry Cat Food

Purina_kit_and_kaboodle_cat_food

As far as cheap price goes, this is about as low as I will recommend. I honestly don’t buy or use this brand and have never had a good experience with cats when I tried it.

However, what is affordable for you is affordable for you and this is an option that many other cat saviors use. Just be aware that if you live in a harsher part of the country, it will not give your cat nearly enough nutrients as it will need to survive.

Also, be aware that you have to feed ONE cat double and up to triple what some of the other brands recommend. Cats can only eat so much at one time.

If you’re on a tight budget or a pinch this will work temporarily but on a permanent basis, you might want to consider something more beneficial to your cats.

Here’s the breakdown of the Purina Kit & Kaboodle Indoor Dry Cat Food:

Weight: 16 lbs

Grain-Free: no

Meat Source: chicken and other animal product

Flavors: Great taste? haha!

Artificial Ingredients: Likely

Made In The USA? Yes

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Purina Kit & Kaboodle Indoor Dry Cat Food:

I’m always buying bags of cat food to feed the stray cats in my neighborhood. My stray‘s just love Kit and Kaboodle and eat all of it up in no time flat. I used to buy Meow Mix, but I was just wasting my money. If you feed a lot of cats or have picky eaters, then give Kit and Kaboodle a try, you’ll be amazed. It’s also a great value for the price. – The Texas Reviewer’s Amazon Review

 

Bought for my feral cats. They love it – Beverly G.

Click Here To Learn More!

9. Iams Proactive Health Adult Dry Cat Food

Iams_healthy_adult_with_salmon_and_tuna

Do you struggle to cat your cat to eat anything? Then you might want to switch brands altogether.

This cat food is formulated with salmon and tuna. Most of the others only have chicken.

I also like this one because it is ‘Healthy Adult’ not to be confused with ‘Healthy Weight’. No, we don’t want these cats to go on a diet.

We need them to put on and keep on weight. Not unhealthy amounts, but be just right.

Here’s the breakdown of the Iams Proactive Health Adult Dry Cat Food:

Weight: 7 lbs and 16 lbs

Grain-Free: no

Meat Source: 

Flavors: chicken and salmon & tuna

Artificial Ingredients: No artificial preservatives, synthetic dyes, and no wheat

Made In The USA? Not sure

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Iams Proactive Health Adult Dry Cat Food:

I bought this to feed outside stray cats and the raccoons that come around. I try not to buy the cheapest food for them. There are about 5 cats that can come around and there is a family of coons; 2 adults and 4 kids that are so darn cute. They get hungry too. – Nancy

 

my stray ferreal cat loves iams 🙂 its MR WADDLES approved lol. – MCAS EL TORO JARHEAD

Click Here To Learn More!

10. Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food

meow_mix_original_choice

Ok…ok. I know I said Kit and Kaboodle is the cheapest I would recommend but if you reeeaaallllyyy need to, then this cat food might be an option for you.

In a tight pinch…a VERY TIGHT PINCH!

I’ve seen piles of this cat food go uneaten and it has very little nutritional value or substance. Remember I told you how cats won’t touch food that isn’t nutritious for them.

This is one. However, not all cats are picky. Hungry cats WILL eat this but I just need you to understand that it is not very nutrient-rich or good for them. So even though you may mean well by feeding it to them, you should really see this cat chow as a temporal option.

Thanks for caring and hopefully you understand what I’m saying. Please do not thin I’m trying to be harsh on you because I TOTALLY understand.

Here’s the breakdown of the Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food:

Weight: 3.15 lbs, 6.3 lbs, 16 lbs, 22 lbs, 30 lb, 3 x 3.15 lbs, 4 x 3.15 lbs, and 6 x 18 oz

Grain-Free: no

Meat Source: variety of meats

Flavors: variety of meats

Artificial Ingredients: Yes

Made In The USA? Yes

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon

How others are helping strays with Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food:

I have several strays that creep around my place, which I am okay with as they keep any vermin or rabbits out of my yard and garden. I feed them this as it is $7 cheaper on Amazon than at my local store for the same size bag! They seem to really prefer this to the other off brand cat or dog foods i have left out for them before. – Brian Alpine

 

Got this for the strays around my shop. Massive bag lasts about a dozen cats (and one rogue raccoon)for 2 or 3 weeks – Justin

Click Here To Learn More!

I hope this has given you a good idea of the many options you have to feed the outdoor cats in your area. If you have any questions, comments or anything to add to this, please feel free to engage in the comments below!

See you next time 🙂

Marlinda

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