Although it may seem easy to distinguish the best cat food brands, it can be difficult in practice. It’s important to ensure that the pet food you choose meets industry and veterinary standards. This can be done by looking at your cat’s life stage, their activity level and overall health. You should also ensure that the food you choose is something your cat enjoys eating. Aimee Simpson, VMD is the medical director at the VCA Cat Hospital in Philadelphia. She tells SELF that cat foods don’t come in one size. But with a bit of research and expert guidance, you can find the best brand for your feline friend.

Cat food is similar to dog food in that it has its own set of parameters. These parameters are established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They determine whether a brand or formula is nutritionally complete. SELF previously reported that the AAFCO does not regulate. It is a body that sets industry guidelines to ensure a balanced and healthy diet. A good place to start when looking for high-quality cat foods is the AAFCO statement. This will also help you determine if the food has adequate protein. Dr. Simpson states that commercial cat food should contain at least 30% protein (dry matter basis) for kittens, and 26% for adults.

She also mentions that taurine, an amino acid, is an essential nutrient for cats. Some foods have higher amounts of protein and nutrients than recommended. This can cause chronic kidney disease. Too much calcium can lead to urinary tract stones and crystals.

Dr. Simpson cites the AAFCO and global nutritional guidelines of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, (WSAVA), that specifically address the quality of pet food producers. These guidelines contain key questions that you need to ask about your cat’s food.

These are only general guidelines, but they can be useful in determining the line between cat food that is high-quality and cat food that meets all of its requirements. You can always contact the customer service team to find out more about a brand or ask your veterinarian about it.

Dr. Simpson said that it can be difficult to read pet food labels. She also pointed out that it is possible for the list order to be misleading. She gives an example: “Ingredients such as chicken meat (which is more moist) are listed first before dehydrated ingredients like chicken meal, which may provide more nutrients.”

You may also find high-quality protein sources or nutritious animal protein byproducts like liver, which is perfectly fine for your cat’s food. Dr. Simpson agrees. Dr. Simpson says, “Grains or corn are often misrepresented to be pet food fillers; however these ingredients are good sources of vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acid acids, and fiber.” She also explains that even though cats are obligate carnivores they can still digest conventional cat foods.

Dr. Simpson states that factors like age, breed, health, and personal preference can all play a part in choosing the right food for your cat. Dry cat food is similar to kibble and comes in a variety of textures and shapes. It can also help with dental issues like tartar control. Pet owners with limited time and budget may find dry cat food more convenient than wet food.

Dr. Simpson says that wet food is more moist, which can be beneficial to cats with higher hydration needs, such as those who have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or lower urinary tract disease. Wet food is also easier to digest for cats with smaller teeth. If your cat doesn’t like one type of food, you can mix it all.

Dr. Simpson warns cat owners not to feed their cats raw or homemade cat food, other than the standard dry, moist and wet cat food. She explains that the former is not better than regular commercial cat food for nutritional requirements and can lead to food-borne diseases and nutritional deficiencies. The latter puts cats at greater risk for nutritional deficiencies. Dr. Simpson suggests that you contact a veterinary nutritionist through American College of Veterinary Nutrition if you are interested in making cat food at home.

If you are unsure about what dry cat food or canned food is best for your cat, it’s worth speaking with an expert. Dr. Simpson says that choosing the right diet for your cat can be difficult because of the sheer number of brands available and misleading information on the internet. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations to help you choose the right diet.

With this in mind, we can’t feature every healthy, protein-rich catfood brand currently on the market. However, Dr. Simpson’s guidelines (and the help of some of the most passionate reviewers on the internet) have helped us highlight some of our favorite cat food brands.

It is no accident that Hill’s Science Diet and Hill’s Prescription Diet foods, which address health concerns such as sensitive stomachs, urinary tract issues and maintaining a healthy body weight, regularly appear on vets’ shelves. This brand is a leader in AAFCO-and WSAVA-compliant food products. It has over 200 scientists working at its Global Pet Nutrition Centre.

Royal Canin’s inhouse team of veterinarians & nutritionists is another favorite among veterinarians. They meticulously develop all meals before they are presented to customers. You can also find special kitten food and senior cat meals, as well as recipes high in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to give your pet shinier hair.

Purina Pro Plan offers science-backed recipes that are high in healthy carbs and proteins, but won’t break the bank. This brand offers a variety of options to keep your cat happy and healthy, from senior cats to indoor cats to cats with hairball problems. Purina One is a cheaper alternative, which offers a balanced diet for your cat, although it doesn’t have as many health-specific recipes.

Merrick is a top-rated pet food brand for its team, canneries, and factories that are run by the company. It also has a longstanding commitment to making foods without artificial flavors, preservatives or fillers. The Purrfect Bistro cat food line contains all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that your cat needs to be happy and healthy. The line includes salmon, beef, chicken, and other recipes that promote hairball control, healthy skin, and coats.

Although this brand doesn’t have the same name recognition as Purina, its nutritional skills put it on the map. Farmina’s Vet Research team collaborates with independent vets in order to create its recipes. These recipes are made from ingredients that have been carefully vetted by producers and farms so your cat can enjoy high-quality, healthy meals.

VetDiet is a premium food company that uses only the best ingredients and has an expanding in-house Health and Nutrition Advisory Board. Their mission is to provide meals that are healthy and well for your cat. The family-owned, 25-year-old company offers delicious meals for all life stages. Healthy cat treats are also available. These can be used for cats who have been a good boy or girl (or both).

Nature’s Logic was founded around whole-food nutrition. This means that its products do not contain any added synthetic ingredients. All the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your cat requires come from healthy carbs and meats. The brand direct purchases and approves all ingredients and tests all food coming from its U.S.-based manufacturing facilities to ensure quality control.

Earthborn Holistic’s cat food is made in the U.S. from its own factories and kitchens. The brand has been family-run since its founding. You can choose from whole-grain or grain-free dry cat food as well as a grain- and gluten free wet food with hearty proteins such as chicken liver. Its foods are made with animal protein sources such as salmon, chicken and duck, as their first ingredients.