10 Best Cat Foods for Healthy Skin & Coat in 2019

The most telltale sign of a healthy cat is a soft, shiny coat. Cats come in many colors, patterns, and coat lengths but no matter what type of coat your cat has, it should be soft, even, and full. If your cat has dry skin, itchy skin, or hair loss, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem.

From external parasites to internal health problems, there are many things that can affect the condition of your cat’s skin and coat – including his diet. A healthy diet is also a great tool for improving the condition of your cat’s skin and coat whether he has an underlying health problem or not.

But what nutrients does your cat need to maintain healthy skin and coat? And what else can you do to treat the symptoms of underlying skin and coat issues?

In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common skin and coat problems in cats. We’ll also provide tips for improving your cat’s skin and coat condition as well as for choosing a skin- and coat-supporting cat food. You’ll also see our top picks for the best cat food for healthy skin and coat.

10 Common Skin and Coat Problems in Cats

Just because your cat’s skin is covered by a layer of hair doesn’t mean it is protected from things like external parasites, bacterial infections, and allergies. Your cat’s skin is just as delicate as your own, and you need to make sure it is taken care of properly. Learning the basics about common skin and coat conditions in cats is the first step.

Here are 10 of the most common skin and coat problems in cats:

  1. Ear Mites – If you notice your cat tilting or shaking his head a lot, or if you find a waxy brown discharge in his ears, it’s likely that he has ear mites. Ear mites can cause serious itching and irritation which, if left untreated, can lead to a bacterial infection that may spread to the skin.
  2. Contact Allergies – Cats can be allergic to certain materials just like humans can. Contact allergies to things like rubber, plastic, or certain fabrics can cause your cat to develop red, itchy bumps and inflammation at the site of contact.
  3. Flea Allergy Dermatitis – This condition is more common in kittens than adult cats, but some cats develop an allergic reaction to flea saliva which may manifest in the form of itchy, acne-like bumps on the rear legs, inner thighs, and base of the tail.
  4. Feline Acne – Commonly caused by rubber or plastic food dishes, feline acne appears when comedones (blackheads) form on the underside of your cat’s chin and around the lips. Increasing the omega-3 and omega-6 content of the cat’s diet may help resolve the condition.
  5. Food Allergies – In cats, food allergies frequently present with skin rather than digestive symptoms. Signs of food allergies often include severe itching on the neck, head, and back as well as hair loss or open sores resulting from constant biting and scratching.
  6. Stress-Related Alopecia – If your cat becomes stressed, he may develop a compulsive grooming habit which can lead to thinning of the fur along the back or patches of hair loss (alopecia).
  7. Fungal Infections – Ringworm is the most common (and most contagious) fungal infection in cats, and it causes round patches of hair loss and skin irritation to form.
  8. Bacterial Infections – Pyoderma is the name typically given to bacterial skin infections in cats, and it is fairly uncommon and generally easy to treat with topical medication and antibiotics.
  9. Sunburn – If your cat spends a lot of time outdoors, he may be prone to sunburn – especially if you have a hairless breed or a light-colored cat. Sunburn affects cat skin just like human skin.
  10. Abscesses – An abscess generally forms at the site of a bite or puncture wound, so you’re more likely to see this issue in outdoor cats that are prone to fighting. An abscess is a collection of pus that swells and fills with pus, becoming soft and prone to rupture over time.

If you notice a change in the appearance or condition of your cat’s skin or coat, it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian. By the time you notice a skin problem, it’s likely that it has already become fairly severe due to the fact that it can no longer be hidden by your cat’s coat. If you notice a change in your cat’s coat, take a closer look at his skin to check for additional symptoms.

Taking your cat to the vet is the first step in treating skin and coat problems. Once your veterinarian diagnoses the underlying issue, you can talk about treatment options. Some conditions may require oral or topical medications while others may require a change in diet. Keep reading to learn some general tips for improving the condition of your cat’s skin and coat.

Tips for Improving Your Cat’s Skin and Coat Condition

The outward appearance of your cat’s skin and coat is a reflection of his inner health. This is why it is so important to seek veterinary care if your cat develops a skin or coat problem. Treating the underlying health problem is always the first step and most important step, but there are also some general things you can do to improve the health of your cat’s skin and to boost the condition of his coat.

Here are some simple tips for improving your cat’s skin and coat condition:

  • Improve the quality of your cat’s diet. Your cat’s skin and coat are an outward reflection of his inner health, so if you improve the quality and digestibility of his diet, it should improve his skin and coat condition as well.
  • Consider supplementing with essential fatty acids like safflower oil or sunflower oil – just keep in mind that these are high in calories, so don’t overuse them.
  • Make sure your cat is protected from fleas, ticks, and other external parasites. If you can’t remember to apply a monthly topical preventive, try a long-lasting flea collar instead.
  • Brush your cat’s coat on a regular basis using the right brush for his coat type. Your cat grooms himself a lot, but regular brushing will help with mats and will distribute the natural oils produced in his skin to give his coat a healthy shine.
  • Bathe your cat with a medicated shampoo to relieve certain skin conditions such as allergies, bacterial infections, and dry skin.
  • Keep an eye on your cat’s stress level and look for signs of excessive grooming (a common sign of stress). Many cats are stressed by changes in their environment such as the addition of a new cat, a change in schedule, or a move to another house.

Food allergies and dietary insufficiencies are a major contributing factor to skin and coat problems in cats. If your cat has dry skin, itchy skin, dull coat, or other skin and coat issues, you may want to take a closer look at his diet. Keep reading to learn what to look for in a cat food for skin and coat.

What to Look for in a Cat Food for Skin and Coat

The skin is the largest organ in your cat’s body, and those cells are constantly turning over and being replaced. For most cat breeds, the skin is covered by a layer of hair that is also turning over, shedding and being completely replaced several times per year. A balanced diet is the key to keeping that process going and keeping your cat’s skin and coat in good condition.

A healthy diet for skin and coat starts with high-quality, animal proteins as well as digestible carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, water, and, of course, calories. All cats have the same basic nutritional requirements, but certain things like the calorie and fat content of your cat’s diet may change depending on his life stage.

The biggest thing to remember about choosing a healthy cat food for skin and coat is that the quality and digestibility of the nutrients is extremely important. Remember that cats are obligate carnivores, so animal-based proteins (like meat, poultry, and fish) are much more digestible than plant proteins. This also means that the carbohydrate content of your cat’s diet should be limited and should consist only of digestible ingredients like whole grains (if your cat can tolerate them), fruits, and vegetables.

Here are 5 things to look for in the best cat food for healthy coat and skin:

  1. Rich in animal protein. Your cat requires a minimum of 26% protein in his diet, but experts recommend a much higher level. Most of your cat’s protein should come from animal sources.
  2. Balance of omega fatty acids. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play a role in supporting your cat’s skin and coat health, so look for a cat food that provides a balance of both.
  3. Digestible carbohydrates. The carbohydrate content of your cat’s food should be limited, but those ingredients it does include need to be highly digestible so your cat can absorb the nutrients and so they don’t trigger an allergic reaction.
  4. Essential vitamins and minerals. Nutritional balance is the key to overall health as well as healthy skin and coat, so look for a recipe that is complete and balanced for your cat’s life stage.
  5. High moisture content. Hydration is important for overall health but also affects the condition of your cat’s skin. If your cat has very dry skin, switching to wet food or adding some wet food to supplement his kibble might help.

Now that you understand your cat’s nutritional requirements and how they relate to the condition of his skin and coat, you’re ready to start shopping for cat food! Keep reading to see our top picks for the best cat food for shiny coat and healthy skin.

The Top 10 Best Cat Foods for Skin and Coat

The best cat food for skin and coat will be rich in high-quality animal proteins and healthy fats with limited carbohydrate content. Remember to look for a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as skin-supporting nutrients like Vitamin E, biotin, zinc, and Vitamin A. If you’re not sure where to start, here are our top picks for the best cat food for skin and coat:

NomNomNow Fresh Food Delivery

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food Overall for Skin and Coat: Our top overall pick for the best cat food for healthy skin and coat is NomNomNow. Pet nutrition experts agree that, when it comes to quality nutrition, fresh is best for pets. Fresh pet food is made with the finest quality ingredients and, because it is served fresh, has no need for the artificial preservatives that many pet foods are made with. NomNomNow is a monthly fresh food delivery service that sends pre-portioned packages of fresh cat food right to your door. You simply create a profile for your cat, providing information about his age and weight, then select from two recipes (chicken or fish). You will then receive a shipment of fresh food each month that you can keep fresh in the refrigerator or freezer. NomNomNow’s recipes are high in protein and low in carbohydrates, plus, because they are fresh and not cooked at high temperatures, they are rich in moisture, and the ingredients retain more of their nutritional integrity than for kibble. In addition to quality nutrition, NomNomNow’s fresh pet food will boost your cat’s digestion, improve his immunity, and support the health of his skin and coat.

  • Pros: Premium high-quality ingredients, high in protein low in carbs, rich in moisture, supports healthy digestion and immunity, boosts skin and coat condition, monthly shipments of pre-portioned food
  • Cons: Only two recipes to choose from (may not work for some cats), expensive to feed as a staple diet

American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Affordable Cat Food for Skin and Coat: Limited ingredient diets and cat foods made with single-source proteins can get expensive, so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, we recommend the American Journey brand from Chewy. This American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a particularly good choice if you’re looking for the best cat food for shiny coat and healthy skin. It is made with real salmon as the main ingredient which, as you may know, is a natural source of omega fatty acids. This recipe is also grain-free to reduce the risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities, plus it contains supplemental fiber and probiotics to ensure healthy and regular digestion. You’ll also be glad to know that this formula contains a whopping 40% protein with 15% fat to meet your cat’s needs for high-quality protein and energy-rich fat. It also contains chelated mineral supplements which help to ensure optimal nutrient absorption.

  • Pros: Omega-3-rich salmon as main ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, supplemental fiber and probiotics, fresh fruits and veggies, chelated minerals, contains 40% protein and 15% fat
  • Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), not a single-source protein recipe

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Most Popular Cat Food for Skin and Coat: With so many cat food options out there, it can be tough to make a decision – even tougher when your cat has issues like skin and coat problems. One option is to go with a popular recipe like this Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. Taste of the Wild is easily one of the most popular pet food brands, and for good reason. This recipe, in particular, is one of our top picks for the best cat food for dry, flaky skin because it is loaded with premium animal proteins and natural sources for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It features fresh trout, ocean fish meal, and smoked salmon as the primary proteins with digestible grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and potatoes. It also contains supplemental fiber and probiotics for healthy digestion as well as chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption. Fresh fruits and veggies provide natural sources for key nutrients with supplements added to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Plus, it is loaded with natural fish flavor.

  • Pros: Fresh trout as main ingredient, natural sources of omega fatty acids, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and veggies, supplemental fiber and probiotics, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Not a single-source protein recipe, contains plant proteins (pea protein and potato protein)

Go! Sensitivity + Shine LID Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Grain-Free Cat Food for Skin and Coat: Whether your cat has trouble digesting grains or is actually allergic, this grain-free, limited ingredient diet is a great choice to support his skin and coat health. This Go! Sensitivity + Shine LID Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food features fresh duck and duck meal as a single source of premium animal protein as well as digestible grain-free carbohydrates like peas, tapioca, lentils, and chickpeas. Overall, this formula provides over 30% protein with plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat health. It contains supplemental sources of fiber as well as probiotics to ensure healthy digestion, plus it contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. You’ll also be glad to know that it contains a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk for triggering food allergies and sensitivities.

  • Pros: Duck as single source of protein, grain-free digestible carbohydrates, rich in omega fatty acids, supplemental fiber and probiotics, chelated minerals, limited number of main ingredients
  • Cons: Could be higher in protein content, expensive to feed as a staple diet

AvoDerm Natural Wild by Nature Grain-Free Salmon Canned Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Wet Cat Food for Skin and Coat: If you’re looking for the best wet cat food for dry skin, this AvoDerm Natural Wild by Nature Grain-Free Salmon Canned Cat Food is a great option to consider. As a wet cat food, this formula is extremely rich in moisture and, because it is cooked in salmon consommé, it is also full of natural fish flavor. This formula features fresh salmon as the main ingredient and single source of protein in a low-carb, limited ingredient recipe that will boost your cat’s skin and coat condition. It contains plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from the salmon as well as supplemental fats like sunflower and avocado oils. It also contains vitamins E and A for skin and coat support as well as other essential vitamins and minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. All in all, it is a protein-packed, nutritionally balanced recipe that your cat simply won’t be able to get enough of.

  • Pros: Single source animal protein, rich in moisture, plenty of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, skin-supporting vitamins, complete and balanced nutrition, loaded with natural flavor
  • Cons: Mineral supplements are not chelated, texture is a little soupy

Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach, Skin and Coat: If your cat has a sensitive stomach or food allergies, you need to be particularly careful about what you feed him. A highly digestible, high-quality recipe made with premium ingredients is the way to go and this Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food is a great option. This formula features lean chicken as the primary ingredient with digestible whole-grain carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll also be glad to know that this formula is supplemented with plenty of omega fatty acids from sources like flaxseed and fish oil as well as other skin-supporting nutrients like vitamin E and biotin. Plus, it contains probiotics to boost your cat’s digestion so he can properly absorb all of the nutrients he eats.

  • Pros: Designed for sensitive stomachs (highly digestible), lean chicken as main ingredient, digestible whole-grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, omega fatty acid supplements, probiotics
  • Cons: Some cats may be sensitive to chicken ingredients, not a grain-free recipe

4 More Top-Rated Cat Foods for Skin and Coat

If the four cat foods reviewed above don’t seem like the perfect choice for your cat, don’t worry – there are still plenty of other options! Whether your cat suffers from dry skin, sensitive skin, or poor coat condition, here are four most top-rated options in the best cat food for healthy coat and skin:

Solid Gold Let’s Stay In Indoor Salmon, Lentil & Apple Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food

The quality of your cat’s diet is a major contributing factor to his skin and coat condition which is why this Solid Gold Let’s Stay In Indoor Salmon, Lentil & Apple Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food is a great option. Not only is it grain-free and formulated for indoor cats, but it features fresh salmon and salmon meal as premium sources of protein and omega fatty acids. This recipe is naturally grain-free, with digestible carbohydrates like lentils and peas to protein fiber and carbohydrate energy. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients with vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure nutritional balance. It contains a total of 36% protein and 16% fat with a whopping 8% fiber as well as dried fermentation products for probiotic support.

  • Pros: Fresh salmon as main ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and veggies, supplemental fiber and probiotics, rich in omega fatty acids, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), may be too high in fiber for some cats (8%)

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food

Indoor cats need a high-quality diet founded on lean protein and healthy fats. This Wellness CORE Grain-Free Indoor Formula Dry Cat Food is a great option that is not only formulated for indoor cats but also supplemented with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for skin and coat support. This recipe features fresh chicken and turkey meal as the primary proteins, so it may not be ideal for cats with chicken allergies, but it is grain-free and supplemented with fiber and probiotics for healthy digestion. You’ll find plenty of chelated minerals as well as skin-supporting vitamins in a complete and balanced formula that is also rich in protein, fiber, and natural flavor. This dry food contains 38% protein and 12% fat with an ideal balance of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones as well as L-carnitine for lean mass.

  • Pros: Formulated for indoor cats, rich in animal protein (chicken and turkey), blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, supplemental fiber and probiotics, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Some cats may be sensitive to chicken, contains some plant protein (potato protein)

I and Love and You Feed Meow Shine Mackerel Recipe in Gravy Food Topper

If you don’t want to change your cat’s entire diet, you have the option of adding a skin- and coat-supporting meal topper to his current food. This I and Love and You Feed Meow Shine Mackerel Recipe in Gravy Food Topper is an excellent choice because it features real mackerel as the number-1 ingredient. Mackerel is a rich source of protein as well as omega fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat health. This recipe is naturally grain-free for easy digestion and supplemented with plenty of fiber as well. It contains chicken and fish broth for flavorful moisture as well as chicken liver, fresh chicken, and egg whites as supplemental sources of protein. It also contains vitamin E for skin and coat support as well as chelated zinc supplement for optimal nutrient absorption.

  • Pros: Nutrient-rich food topper, rich in protein and omega fatty acids, high in moisture, naturally grain-free and gluten-free, chelated mineral supplement, supplemental fiber
  • Cons: Not a source of balanced nutrition, contains chicken ingredients (some cats may be sensitive)

Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance Cat Food

If your cat has extremely sensitive skin or severe food allergies, your best option might be a prescription diet. Unfortunately, many prescription cat foods are made with low-quality ingredients like plant proteins and fillers which won’t deliver the level of quality nutrition your cat really needs. This Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance Cat Food comes in both dry food and wet food form and is a safe, healthy alternative to most veterinary diets. In addition to being made with hydrolyzed protein to prevent food allergies, this recipe is supplemented with fish oil and flaxseed to provide the omega-3 fatty acids your cat needs for healthy skin and coat. It’s also supplemented with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immunity and balanced nutrition overall.

  • Pros: From a trustworthy brand, made with hydrolyzed protein to prevent allergies, supplemented with fish oil and flaxseed for healthy skin and coat, nutritionally balanced, grain-free recipe
  • Cons: Not available without a prescription, expensive to feed as a staple diet

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best cat food for sensitive skin? – If your cat has developed skin problems, you should take a closer look at the content of his diet because many food allergies and sensitivities manifest in the skin. Some of the most common food allergens for cats include beef, chicken, dairy, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy. Surprisingly, grain allergies are fairly uncommon in cats – your cat is more likely to be allergic to some form of protein. The best food for a cat with food allergies is either a limited ingredient diet made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrates or simply a high-quality cat food free from the ingredient your cat is allergic to.
  • Is there a cat food that helps with shedding? – Improving the moisture level of your cat’s skin may help with shedding, as can supplementing his intake of omega fatty acids. If your cat’s skin is too dry, it may contribute to excessive shedding, so sometimes using a hydrating shampoo can help as well. Make sure your cat drinks plenty of water as well.
  • What can I feed my cat for dry skin? – Dry skin is a common problem in older cats but can affect cats of any age. Increasing the moisture content of your cat’s diet may help, as can adding supplemental omega fatty acids. Adding more protein to your cat’s diet and addressing food allergies may also help. If your cat is currently eating a diet high in plant proteins, switch to one made with animal proteins like meat, poultry, and fish.
  • Is coconut oil good for cat’s skin? – Yes, in small amounts. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) and can be used orally or topically to help with skin problems in cats. You can give your cat ¼ to ½ teaspoon of coconut oil in food once or twice a day, starting with lesser amounts and working your way up. You can also apply a thin coat of coconut oil to dry areas of your cat’s skin to help hydrate and heal the skin for various issues including external parasite infections.
  • What can I give my cat for a shiny coat? – The best thing you can give your cat for a shiny coat is a healthy and balanced diet. A diet rich in high-quality animal proteins, digestible carbohydrates, and healthy fats is the best recipe. Look for essential fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s, especially EPA and DHA. If you want to supplement your cat’s diet, small amounts of sunflower or safflower oil may help.

If your cat is suffering from newly developed skin and coat issues, talk to your veterinarian to identify the underlying cause. Once you have a diagnosis, you can discuss treatment options and decide whether making changes to your cat’s diet might help. If you’re not sure where to start when looking for the best cat food for dry, flaky skin and other issues, try one of our top-rated picks reviewed above!

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