Catster is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

6 Best Cat Foods for Outdoor Cats in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

fat nebelung cat eating outdoor

6 Best Cat Foods for Outdoor Cats in 2024 – Reviews & Top Picks

fat nebelung cat eating outdoor People love to joke that cats domesticated us and not the other way around, owing to their exceptionally independent nature. In fact, even though we have been companions for over 4,000 years, research shows that about 50% of these small felines still live outdoors.

Nonetheless, outdoor cats need feeding and care, albeit not as much as their indoor counterparts. Unsurprisingly, they are still incredibly picky about the kind of food they eat.

Being obligate carnivores, cats must eat primarily meat. Their digestive systems are not designed to digest plants or carbohydrates, and as such, they can get sick when they eat too many.

Additionally, cats do not make their own taurine like canines do. Taurine is an amino acid that supports nerve, brain, and heart functions. Unfortunately, taurine can only be derived from animal products.

Regrettably, quality cat food is not easy to come by. It is not unheard of for manufacturers to cut corners by utilizing non-essential ingredients to save money. Fortunately, we have done the legwork for you and compared different cat foods. The following are reviews of the best cat foods for outdoor cats.cat paw divider

A Glance at Our Favorites in 2024

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription
  • Better shelf-life than dehydrated foods
  • Free from fillers, grains, artificial additives, and by-products
  • Made from USDA-certified human-grade ingredients
  • Budget Buy
    Second place
    Purina Beyond Grain Free Purina Beyond Grain Free
  • No added flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • Great value proposition
  • Gluten and green-free
  • Third place
    Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein
  • Minimum of 38% protein content per serving
  • Cold-formed
  • Has no harmful ingredients or additives
  • Hill’s Science Diet Dry Hill’s Science Diet Dry
  • High-quality chicken protein
  • Enriched with prebiotic fibers
  • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Instinct Original Real Chicken Instinct Original Real Chicken
  • Does not contain filler ingredients
  • Freeze-dried
  • High-quality protein from free-range chicken
  • The 6 Best Cat Foods for Outdoor Cats

    1. Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription — Best Overall

    Smalls Fresh Cat Food

    Several wet cat foods are highly recommended, but feeding your outdoor cat a can of wet food can have its downfalls. Not only is wet food messy, but it will also spoil quickly, and the scent attracts other animals. Our overall best cat food for outdoor cats goes to Smalls Fresh Cat Food. This healthy, fresh, human-grade alternative to the typical dry kibble allows you to skip out on the wet mess.

    Each Smalls recipe is made from sustainably sourced ingredients in the United States or Canada. The food is derived from USDA-certified ingredients, rich in protein, and free from grains, fillers, and any artificial additives.

    This option may be a bit more on the expensive side but is a wonderful, healthy choice for outdoor cats that you won’t have to worry about spoiling too quickly!

    Pros
    • Better shelf-life than dehydrated foods
    • Free from fillers, grains, artificial additives, and by-products
    • Made from USDA-certified ingredients approved for human consumption
    • Retains more nutrients than dehydrated food
    Cons
    • Expensive

    2. Purina Beyond Grain Free Cat Food — Budget Buy

    Purina Beyond Grain-Free Natural Simply Wild Caught Whitefish & Cage Free Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food

    This cat food by Purina Beyond is a gluten-free product that ensures that outdoor cats meet all their nutritional requirements. It consists of a nourishing all-natural formula with recognizable ingredients so you can be sure about what you are feeding the cat.

    Chief among those ingredients is a combo of protein-rich hake fish, chicken meal, and eggs that provides your cat with adequate protein. This formula is also enriched with vitamins A, B-12, D-3,  and E,  as well as biotin, folic acid, and zinc to ensure the cat gets the balanced and complete meal they need for a full and healthy life.

    The formula also contains taurine, which helps boost heart, brain, and nerve function and improves eyesight. However, it does not contain carbohydrates from corn or soy, which some manufacturers are notorious for adding to their products. It also does not have any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

    Nonetheless, Purina Beyond contains starchy vegetables, which can cause bloating. With time, however, the kitty can learn to tolerate it, which is why the manufacturer suggests starting small and gradually increasing the servings as the animal becomes accustomed to the food. Despite being a superior product on the market for quality, it’s also one of the best cat foods for outdoor cats for the money.

    Pros
    • Gluten-free
    • High-quality protein from hake fish and chicken meal
    • Does not contain empty calories in the form of wheat, soy, or corn
    • No added flavors, colors, or preservatives
    • Enriched with minerals and vitamins
    • Great value proposition
    Cons
    • Contains starchy ingredients that might cause bloating

    3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free Cat Food

    Wilderness by Blue Buffalo is a tasty, grain-free, and protein-full meal that’s “cold-formed.” Cold formation is a process that limits the amount of heat utilized during the preparation of ingredients to prevent them from losing their nutritional value.

    Blue Wilderness contains a minimum of 38% protein per serving, which is more than enough to meet your feline’s nutritional needs. The manufacturer also indicates all the sources of the other ingredients in Blue Wilderness to ensure that you have peace of mind. In addition to being grain-free, it does not contain soy, wheat, or any artificial colors or flavors. This ensures that your cat does not have any adverse reactions.

    If you want to give your outdoor cat a hearty meal, look no further than Blue Wilderness.

    Pros
    • Cold-formed to retain nutrients
    • Minimum of 38% protein content per serving
    • High-quality protein
    • Has no harmful ingredients or additives
    Cons
    • Pricey

    4. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Science Diet is one of the most reputable companies in the pet supplies industry and for good reason. Their products never disappoint when it comes to quality. This cat food is not any different. First, it comes in a 13-pound bag to ensure more than enough for your kitty to enjoy.

    The formula is specifically made to assist elderly cats with their digestive processes, and it’s enriched with prebiotic fibers that encourage healthy gut function. The easily digestible kibbles are also grain-free, thus ensuring that your furry friend’s health is not put at risk.  Plant-based ingredients can be harmful to your cat.

    The protein in Hill’s food comes from chicken. Recently, however, Hill’s Science Diet changed the product’s packaging, as well as the size and taste of the kibbles. It seems that some cats are having difficulty adjusting to the new product, which means that you might want to purchase a smaller bag to see how well your kitty will love the repackaged version.

    Fortunately, the manufacturer provides detailed instructions on how to transition your cat to this food to prevent issues such as loss of appetite, constipation, or diarrhea.

    When it comes to quality, Hill’s Science Diet is one of the best options. However, it is pretty pricey.

    Pros
    • Chicken protein
    • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for a healthier immune system, stronger vision, and a more luscious coat
    • Enriched with prebiotic fibers for better gut health
    Cons
    • Requires adjusting to the new product
    • Pricey

    5. Instinct Original Real Chicken Natural Dry Cat Food

    Instinct Original Real Chicken Natural Dry Cat Food

    This dry cat food by Instinct Original is a delicious, nutritious formula consisting of 81% ingredients from real animals and 19% healthy fruits and vegetables. The meat utilized in the formula is derived from free-range chicken.

    Since it has high protein levels, Instinct Original is ideal for active felines, such as your outdoor kitty. It is also enriched with other essential ingredients, such as probiotics, antioxidants, and natural omegas.

    Probiotics help promote gut health, while antioxidants eliminate dangerous free radicals in the body that weaken the immune system. On the other hand, natural omegas help promote healthier skin and coats.

    Instinct Original does not contain filler ingredients like grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, or soy; it also does not contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

    Additionally, every piece of kibble in Instinct Original’s Cat Food comes covered in freeze-dried material to maintain its nutritional value and enhance its taste. However, the issue with Instinct Original is that it contains peas, which have a slight chance of causing bladder and kidney stones in some felines.

    Pros
    • High-quality protein from free-range chicken
    • High protein content
    • Enriched with probiotics, antioxidants, and natural omegas
    • Does not contain filler ingredients
    • Freeze-dried to maintain nutritional value and taste
    Cons
    • Contains peas

    6. Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food

    Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Cat Food

    Wellness Complete is a balanced cat food that is designed to satisfy the energy requirements of active outdoor cats. The main ingredient in this product is protein-rich salmon, which provides your pet with fuel for their adventures and helps them build lean muscle.

    This cat food contains complex carbohydrates that provide additional energy. Flaxseeds are a natural source of omega-6 fatty acids that promote healthier skin and fur. Wellness Complete’s Dry Cat Food is enriched with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and taurine to promote better overall health.

    You will also find prebiotics, probiotics, and healthy fibers in this product to ensure that your cat digests their food properly, and it prevents hairballs from being an issue. It does not contain any traces of corn, soy, wheat, or other filler products. Wellness Complete, however, recently changed its formula slightly, and the new kibble can be difficult to digest for some cats.

    Pros
    • High protein content
    • Contains omega-6 for healthy skin and coat
    • Enriched with numerous minerals and vitamins
    • Does not contain filler ingredients
    Cons
    • Kibbles in the new formula can be difficult to digest for some cats

    3 cat face divider

    Buyer’s Guide: How to Find the Best Cat Food for Outdoor Cats

    Cat food for outdoor cats differs in price, quality, and nutritional value. The following are the most important things to consider when buying food for your outdoor cat.

    Protein Type and Content

    Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need animal-based protein for survival. An outdoor cat needs at least 30% protein in their meal for optimal health. Additionally, felines of different ages require different amounts of protein.

    For instance, kittens typically need higher amounts, as they are still building muscles and other tissues. Healthy adult cats can do with average amounts, as they only need to maintain their tissues. Elderly felines, on the other hand, require above-average amounts of protein to combat the effects of aging, such as tissue degeneration.

    Ingredients

    Unlike dogs, cats do not do well with carbohydrates, though they can tolerate low amounts, even eating grass outdoors. Nonetheless, most of the ingredients in cat food should consist of animal-based products; ideally, the first five ingredients on the label. However, this can make the chow pricey, which is why some manufacturers include vegetables in the first five ingredients.

    If you can afford it, go for the food in which the first five ingredients are meat-based. Never buy cat chow with fewer than three meat-based products in its first five ingredients.

    Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
    • NO MESS - The 360° tray on this cat food and water bowl set has a raised design to catch and...
    • WHISKER FRIENDLY - Shallow and wide metal containers with flat bottoms ensure your kitty can enjoy...
    • CHEW-SAFE MATERIALS - Kittens and cats love chewing on silicone and soft rubber - but it's a choking...

    Feeding your cat a high-quality diet is important for keeping them healthy and happy. But it goes beyond the food you choose; the dishes they use also matter. The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite for its unique, five-star design that protects from whisker fatigue and promotes good posture which also aids in better digestion. As an added bonus, it’s beautifully crafted and offers a modern take on the traditional cat bowl that fits seamlessly with all home stylings. Learn more about the NomNom by clicking here.

    At Catster, 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!

     

     

    The Label

    The label contains all the information you need to help you determine whether the food is appropriate for your kitty. For starters, it lets you know whom the diet is designed for. Some cat foods are meant for kittens and some for adult cats, while others are for sick kitties. As such, when it comes to outdoor cats, ensure that the label states that the food is intended for active felines.

    The label also indicates the bag’s weight. Depending on the amount of food your furball typically consumes, you should be able to calculate the number of servings a bag can give you, thus allowing you to determine whether it is a cost-effective option.

    3 cat face divider

     

    Conclusion

    Outdoor cats have unique needs since they are active felines. Even though they might be out hunting, they come up short more often than not, and any unsuccessful hunt results in wasted energy. As such, it’s vital to give them food that is high in protein; they need it for fuel as well as for building and maintaining tissue.

    As you go through the various options, consider Smalls Cat Food as the best cat food for outdoor cats since it contains high-quality protein in addition to a host of other beneficial vitamins and minerals. If you’re on a budget, the Purina Beyond Grain Free is the most affordable high-quality cat food on the market today. We hope our reviews have helped you select the ideal food for your favorite feline!

    See also:


    Featured Image Credit by: Alesia Fes, Shutterstock

    Get Catster in your inbox!

    Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.
    Catster Editors Choice Badge
    Shopping Cart

    Pangolia

    © Pangolia Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved.