Although skin and coat issues can have many causes, diet is a high priority. If your cat has poor skin or coat, be sure to have a veterinarian check them for health issues such as skin infections, fleas, ear mites, or hyperthyroid. Once your cat has a clean bill of health, choosing the perfect cat food for skin and coat can help keep their coat beautiful and help repair any past damage.
Healthy skin craves fats. However, these cannot be just any kind of fats. Foods must have the correct omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. This ratio is ideally 6:1 or less in a cat food to promote healthy skin and coat. An absolute maximum for this ratio is 10:1.
Foods must also have enough of certain kinds of fats, such as arachidonic acid, in order to promote healthy cat skin. Cats have much more complex dietary fat requirements than humans, due to reliance on animal fats in their diet. The minimum legal requirements for essential fatty acids in cat food are behind the times, and unfortunately, many cat foods are simply inadequate. Choosing the best cat food for healthy skin and coat means it must have an adequate source of EPA, DHA, and arachidonic acid. Typically this means that fish oil and chicken fat must be on the ingredient list.
Hydration is also important for healthy cat skin, and it is recommended to feed all cats wet food in their diet. This will not only help with keeping hydrated but will help control fullness, calorie consumption, and aid in kidney health.
Grooming is also an essential part of keeping cats’ coats healthy. Many overweight cats have issues with grooming because they simply cannot reach. Weight loss should be the number one goal to help overweight cats’ skin and coat. Additionally, senior cats with arthritis may be hesitant to groom as well as they once did, so aiding with arthritis by feeding glucosamine will help the skin and coat of senior cats.
Best 9 Cat Foods for Dry Flaky Skin
Best All-Natural Wet Cat Food For Healthier Skin
Lotus Chicken Pate
Lotus is a family-owned company that makes top-notch food in their own micro-cannery. The majority of their canned cat foods have excellent omega-3 levels, and their chicken pate is no exception. Flaxseed, New Zealand Green Mussel, and salmon oil all bring the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio to an extremely low 0.4:1.
Overall, this food is 23% fat on a dry matter basis, which is a great amount when targeting healthy skin. In addition to the omega-3 rich fats added, chicken has a naturally high level of arachidonic acid, another fat essential for healthy skin.
This food is great for skin and coat health in all ages, but it especially stands out for senior cats. The New Zealand green mussel is a natural source of glucosamine and is thought to help with arthritis. Phosphorus is also well controlled, at 0.82% on a dry matter basis, which will help keep senior kidneys healthy.
Best All-Natural Dry
Nulo Freestyle Turkey and Duck
Menhaden Fish Meal, Deboned Cod and Ground Flaxseed all add a huge omega-3 punch to this cat food. The overall omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 2:1, with plenty of the essential EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Other ingredients contributing to the 20% dry matter fat content of this food are turkey, chicken fat, and duck. This ensures plenty of healthy fats for skin health, including arachidonic acid.
This food has many non-skin benefits too. The carbohydrate content is a well controlled 24% on a dry matter basis. This is very low for a dry cat food. The phosphorus content is also well controlled, at 1.0% on a dry matter basis, helping keep cat kidneys healthy.
Nulo was started as a pet food brand in 2009 and has never had a recall, despite outsourcing the manufacturing of their foods. Ingredients tend to be high-end and the company has a decent understanding of the nutrition of their foods.
Best Trusted Brand Wet Food For Skin and Coat Care – Purina Beyond Wild Salmon Pate Recipe
Best Trusted Brand Wet Food For Skin and Coat Care
Purina Beyond Wild Salmon Pate Recipe
This salmon pate offers an excellent source of omega-3s. Salmon is the main protein and fat source in the food, indicating an excellent amount of arachidonic acid, EPA, and DHA. The overall dry matter fat content is 22.7%. Unfortunately, Purina is not very transparent with the omega-3 and omega-6 content of their wet foods, and as of the time of this writing, we had not heard back with these values. However, based on the ingredient list, it can be deduced that this food would be great for a healthy skin and coat.
The ingredient list for this food is excellent as well. No by-products are listed, and the ingredients appear to be of high quality. This food is primarily meat, with some carrots added in. On a dry matter basis, the carbohydrate content is only 2.3%.
Best Trusted Brand Dry – Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin Salmon
Best Trusted Brand Dry
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach and Skin Salmon
Just as the name says, this cat food has been specially formulated for skin and coat health. Ingredients such as salmon and chicken fat have been included in this food to create the perfect balance of healthy fats. The overall fat content of this food is 18% on a dry matter basis, and the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 8.6:1, which is a little higher than ideal, but the overall content of omega-3s is 0.47%, which is relatively high.
A huge benefit of the Hill’ Science Diet is that they back up their formulas with extensive research. This food is great for skin and coat not only in nutritional theory but in studies the company has conducted as well. Additionally, this food does a great job of keeping phosphorus content low, at 0.8% on a dry matter basis, and has probiotics added to it, listed in the ingredients as fructooligosaccharides.
Best on a Budget Wet Cat Food For Healthy Skin and Coat – Purina One Ideal Weight Control Tender Salmon Recipe
Best on a Budget Wet Cat Food For Healthy Skin and Coat
Purina One Ideal Weight Control Tender Salmon Recipe
Although there are many cheaper canned cat foods available in pet stores, we believe this Purina One food is the best healthy skin and coat choice for the budget conscious cat owner.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get precise omega-3 and omega-6 numbers from Purina, but based on the ingredients, there should be a high level of both in a good ratio. Omega-3s come from the salmon and fish in the food, ensuring a high level of EPA and DHA. The food is 11% fat on a dry matter basis, which mostly comes from the corn oil and salmon. Ideally, there would be a higher level of healthy fat in the food, but fat is likely to be low as it can help cut costs.
Purina One is one of the lower end Purina brands, but the company still keeps a close eye on safety and quality. This food cuts costs by including wheat gluten as a protein source and using corn oil, which is a cheap source of fat.
Best on a Budget Dry – Iams Proactive Health Sensitive Digestion & Skin Turkey
Best on a Budget Dry
Iams Proactive Health Sensitive Digestion & Skin Turkey
This food has a much lower cost that the other dry cat foods on this list, and accordingly it is of much lower quality. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of this food is higher than our target, at a 10:1 ratio. However, this food has been specifically formulated for skin and coat health, so it is a reasonable choice for the budget-conscious cat owner.
Fish oil is used in this Iams formula in order to provide EPA and DHA omega-3s. Chicken fat is the ingredient which provides arachidonic acid. The overall fat content is only 16% on a dry matter basis, but this is certainly enough to help skin and coat.
The primary reason this food is more affordable than others is due to the high carbohydrate content. The 40% carbohydrate level on a dry matter basis is very high for a cat food and indicates that the food is primarily plant material. This promotes diabetes and obesity in cats and thus this food is only recommended if price is a major priority.
Best Wet Food for Skin/Coat Care in Overweight Cats – Nulo Freestyle Minced Salmon and Turkey
Best Wet Food for Skin/Coat Care in Overweight Cats
Nulo Freestyle Minced Salmon and Turkey
Wet food is the ideal choice to help cats lose weight. If your cat is overweight we recommend feeding an exclusively wet food diet, three times a day. Once in the morning, once in the evening and once before bed to help keep them full through the night.
Nulo Freestyle Minced Salmon and Turkey not only has a low calorie count, at 75 calories per a 3 oz can, it also has an excellent omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2:1. The omega-3s in this food come from salmon and ground flaxseed. Other fats come from turkey and chicken fat. The overall dry matter fat content is only 17%, which is much lower than the other canned foods we have chosen, but this is to help reduce calories and aid in weight loss.
To further help with weight loss this food has several sources of soluble fiber, including flaxseed, guar gum, pumpkin and inulin. This will help keep your cat feeling full between meals and helps prevent hunger during the weight loss process.
Best for Overweight Cats Dry – Natural Balance Fat Cats with Chicken Meal
Best for Overweight Cats Dry
Natural Balance Fat Cats with Chicken Meal
Many overweight cats have trouble grooming themselves, and losing weight is the best thing you can do for keeping a healthy coat. Although we recommend a 100% wet food diet for any cats trying to lose weight, we understand that this is not possible in some situations. At only 320 calories per cup, Natural Balance has made a cat food that is great for watching weight and for skin and coat health.
The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in this food is 6:1, with omega-3s coming from salmon meal and salmon oil. Chicken fat is included in the ingredients, to ensure ample arachidonic acid. The overall dry matter fat content of the food is 11%, which is low in order to keep the calorie count low. This unfortunately will reduce the fat to help keep the coat healthy, but the fats that are in this food are very well balanced in type.
As far as weight loss goes, this food has several ingredients that will help. L-carnitine is added, which helps the metabolism switch from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fat for energy. There is also a significant amount of soluble fiber in this food from the garbanzo beans, pea fiber, oat groats, and dried beet pulp, which will all help keep your cat feeling full.
Natural Balance was an independent pet food brand that outsourced its manufacturing. This has caused some quality issues in the past, but the brand has since been sold to Big Heart and then to JM Smucker. Since the sale of the brand, all manufacturing has been done in-house and there has not been a single recall. If you would like to learn more, see our review of Natural Balance.
Best Dry Skin/Coat Care Food for Seniors Cats – Purina Pro Plan Salmon & Rice Formula 7+ Senior
Best Dry Skin/Coat Care Food for Seniors Cats
Purina Pro Plan Salmon & Rice Formula 7+ Senior
If arthritis is one of the reasons your cat’s coat doesn’t look the way it used to, this is the food for you. With poultry by-product meal added as a natural source of glucosamine, your cat should be able to help maintain their flexibility to groom themselves. And as any senior food should, this food has a very well controlled phosphorus level of 0.9% on a dry matter basis.
This is ideal food for a healthy coat, including salmon, fish meal, and fish oil as omega-3 sources. This food also has beef fat to include healthy arachidonic acid. The overall fat content is 19% on a dry matter basis, with beef fat and soybean oil as the primary sources. Soybean oil can be an issue with raising omega-6 content, but this formula still has a well-balanced ratio of omega-3s. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of this food is 6.2:1.
Note that this food is high in calories, at 603 calories per cup, so a different choice should be made for overweight cats.
As a large multinational corporation, Nestle Purina puts significant research into their food formulations, especially the Pro Plan line.
- Better understanding fatty acids – Hagel. Essential Fatty Acids. Pet Connection.
- High Dose omega-3s manage “itchy” skin disease – Watson. 1998. Diet and Skin Disease in Dogs and Cats
- Omega-3 is anti inflammatory in cats – Bauer. 2011. Therapeutic Use of Fish Oils in Companion Animals
- Overall review of what works in managing skin and coat conditions in cats – Mueller, Nuttall, Prost, Schulz, and Bizikova. 2021. Treatment of the Feline Atopic Syndrome a Systematic Review