Cat Food Reviews

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Cat Food Review15 min read

December 31, 2019 11 min read

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Cat Food Review15 min read

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

The Instinct brand is one of several that fall into the Nature’s Variety family. Nature’s Variety is a privately, held, natural pet food company with its home in the Midwestern United States.

This company’s sole purpose is to empower pet owners to transform the lives of their pets by leading the movement toward better pet health.

Instinct seeks to deliver wholesome, high-quality nutrition for pets through a raw-inspired diet free from fillers, by-products and artificial preservatives. Simply put, they want to put the pure, powerful nutrition of raw into more cat food bowls.

Read on to learn more about Nature’s Variety and the Instinct brand and to see what we think of both.

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Cat Food1 min read
Brand
Overall Score
Pros
    Cons
      Variety of Recipes
      10/10
      Ingredient Quality
      10/10
      Price Per Pound
      7/10
      Recall History
      8/10
      Availability
      10/10
      Customer Reviews
      9/10

      How We Review Cat Food Brands

      Cats are known as obligate carnivores which means that they have a biological requirement for meat in their diets.

      Dogs, on the other hand, are scavenging carnivores so while meat is best, they can digest some level of plant matter in their diet.

      When we are reviewing a cat food brand, we favor those that use high-quality, wholesome sources of real animal protein.

      Here Are Some Of The Other Things We Look For In A Good Cat Food Brand:

      • High-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
      • Rich in healthy animal fats (ex: chicken fat or salmon oil)
      • Few to no carbohydrate ingredients (especially within the top 5)
      • Limited number of main ingredients plus supplements
      • No low-quality fillers, grains, or by-products

      Some of the additional factors we consider when reviewing a cat food brand are the variety of recipes available, the price per pound, the recall history of the brand, the availability, and customer reviews.

      The brand’s recall history is a good way to gauge quality and safety as a whole while customer reviews provide insight into the brand’s quality and popularity.

      It is important for a cat food brand to offer a variety of products because cats tend to be picky and having variety gives you more to choose from.

      Overview Of The Instinct By Nature’s Variety Brand

      Nature’s Variety is a privately held, natural pet food company. It is their goal to empower pet owners to better the lives of their pets through the power of wholesome, natural nutrition.

      The Nature’s Variety name applies to two different brands at this time – Instinct and Prairie.

      Prairie is a line of wet and dry foods for cats and dogs utilizing meat as the first ingredient along with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Instinct is an entirely grain-free product line featuring high-protein recipes using real, wholesome ingredients like real meat.

      The Instinct brand was developed based on the idea that what we feed our pets should match their original, evolutionary diet.

      When the company was first founded, raw food for pets was in its infancy and the company itself was still a small, modest operation.

      The company knew then as it does now, however, that nutrition is key for health and vitality in pets and there is no more nutritious diet than a raw food diet.

      This being the case, they developed a wide variety of raw and raw-inspired diets to deliver premium-quality nutrition unmatched by other brands.

      Today, Instinct follows five rules; Lead with raw, Keep it real, Make it simple, Do it together, and Make it better.

      The company is rewriting the rules of pet food and championing raw nutrition by bringing its superior benefits into everything they do.

      They believe that pet food should be delicious and nutritious, featuring only real ingredients like meat, fruits, and vegetables.

      They also believe that raw feeding should be simple and accessible to all pet owners. More than that, they share their products with local shelters and have adopted an attitude of constant improvement.

      What Kind Of Cat Food Products Do They Offer?

      The Instinct brand is one with a purpose – the purpose of transforming the lives of pets through high-quality, raw-inspired nutrition.

      They offer a wide variety of products for dogs and cats, everything inspired by the pure, real nutrition of raw food.

      Within the Instinct family of products, you’ll find the following collections: Instinct Raw Signature, Instinct Raw, Instinct Raw Boost, Instinct Ultimate Protein, Instinct Original, Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet, and Instinct Wet.

      The first two of these are completely raw diets, carefully crafted to deliver pure, minimally processed nutrition. Instinct Raw Boost consists of high-protein kibble infused with freeze-dried raw pieces while both the Ultimate Protein and Original recipes feature grain-free kibbles made with high-quality animal-based proteins.

      The Limited Ingredient Diet line features novel proteins and carbohydrates to reduce the risk for triggering negative reactions and Instinct wet food comes in cans and pouches divided among the previously mentioned product lines.

      Products Included in This Review

      NameTypeProtein %Fat %Top 5 Ingredients
      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat FoodDry41%21%Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas
      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Rabbit RecipeWet10%3%Rabbit, water, pea protein, peas, rabbit liver
      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat FoodDry41%22%Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas

      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Food

      • Type of Food: Dry
      • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas
      • Guaranteed Analysis: 41% protein, 21% fat, 3% fiber, 9% moisture
      • Calories per Cup: 505 calories per cup
      • Price Per Pound/Ounce: $3.45/pound

      Ingredients:

      Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Natural Flavor, Dried Tomato Pomace, Montmorillonite Clay, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Choline Chloride, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Taurine, Freeze Dried Chicken, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Pumpkinseeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

      If you’re looking for a traditional kibble for your cat that is packed with protein, this Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Food is one to consider.

      Guided by the company’s belief in raw nutrition, this formula unlocks your cat’s capacity to thrive with real meat ingredients and other wholesome, natural foods.

      It also contains guaranteed levels of natural omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, probiotics for digestion, and antioxidants for immunity.

      Chicken and chicken meal are the top two ingredients, followed by two additional sources of premium animal protein – turkey meal and menhaden fish meal.

      Chicken fat provides a highly nutritious source of essential fats while fresh fruits and vegetables provide natural sources for key vitamins and minerals.

      Overall, this recipe provides 41% crude protein, 21% fat, and 3% fiber at 505 calories per cup. Because it is so high in calories, be sure to follow the feeding instructions on the package.

      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe Canned Food

      • Type of Food: Wet
      • First 5 Ingredients: Rabbit, water, pea protein, peas, rabbit liver
      • Guaranteed Analysis: 10% protein, 3% fat, 1.5% fiber, 76% moisture
      • Calories per Cup: 156 calories/5.5-ounce can
      • Price Per Pound/Ounce: $0.63/ounce

      Ingredients:

      Rabbit, Water, Pea Protein, Peas, Rabbit Liver, Montmorillonite Clay, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Minerals (Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate.

      Wet cat food typically has a higher concentration of animal ingredients than dry food, and this Instinct by Nature’s Variety LID Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe canned food is no exception.

      It features an extremely limited list of main ingredients including fresh rabbit, water, pea protein, peas, and rabbit liver.

      Aside from these, all that is included in this recipe are supplements to ensure that your cat gets the complete and balanced nutrition it needs.

      This formula is purposely simple to reduce the risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities, plus it features a novel source of protein.

      Measured as dry matter, it contains nearly 42% protein and 12.50% fat. It could be a little higher in fat, though it is already fairly high in calories, so be mindful of feeding instructions.

      Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

      • Type of Food: Dry
      • First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas
      • Guaranteed Analysis: 41% protein, 22% fat, 3.5% fiber, 9% moisture
      • Calories per Cup: 496 calories per cup
      • Price Per Pound/Ounce: $3.99/pound

      Ingredients:

      Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Peas, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Freeze Dried Chicken, Natural Flavor, Freeze Dried Chicken Liver, Dried Tomato Pomace, Pumpkinseeds, Freeze Dried Chicken Heart, Montmorillonite Clay, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Choline Chloride, Salt, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Taurine, Dried Kelp, Salmon Oil, Blueberries, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

      According to Instinct, this Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken is “a better way to feed kibble”.

      This product consists of high-protein kibble featuring real meat as the first ingredient and it is infused with freeze-dried pieces of raw chicken.

      This formula is positively packed with real animal protein to support your cat’s healthy lean muscle mass and it contains probiotics for healthy digestion, higher levels of omega fatty acids for beautiful skin and coat, and more antioxidants for strong immunity.

      Fresh chicken is, in fact, the first ingredient and it is followed by three more sources of premium animal protein – chicken meal, turkey meal, and menhaden fish meal.

      Peas are the next ingredient, a grain-free carbohydrate, followed by nutritious chicken fat and tapioca. Overall, this recipe provides 41% crude protein with 22% fat at 496 calories per cup.

      What Do Customers Think of Instinct by Nature’s Variety Cat Food?

      As a whole, customers are very pleased with Instinct by Nature’s Variety.

      The ingredients list for every recipe leaves very little to be desired, as every recipe features a premium source of animal protein as the first ingredient with other wholesome, natural recipes.

      There will always be picky eaters who don’t like certain recipes, but cat owners as a whole love this brand.

      Positive Customer Reviews

      “Yes, my cats are obsessed with this new food. Although, a little bit too obsessed. The other day one of my cats, Le Paw, was trying to rip the bag of food. Then the other days he would constantly meow and sniff where I put the bag of food.”

      Cyndi, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

      “It seems to really be working for my cat who has allergies. We have tried everything. Now I have her on this and the same thing in dry food, and she really seems to have improved. The scabs have all gone and she seems to be putting on a little weight. The one drawback is that this food is extremely expensive.”

      GrannyM, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe

      “After doing some research, I switched my cats to this food from a food that I thought was top of the line and I am amazed at the noticeable difference. My cats coats are shinier, silkier, and they seem to scratch less. My cat with sinus issues seems a little better as well. My black cat is black again, rather than dull gray/brown. The only problem is my black cat eats all the chicken pieces before the other has a chance.”

      Krissy, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

      Negative Customer Reviews

      “As much as I want to love it, Chestnut hated it. He pushed almost all of the kibbles out of his bowl. I insisted that he should try since it was so expensive, so I quickly scooped the food back to his bowl. Before I knew it, all of the kibbles were out of the bowl again. I guess no means no also for cat food.”

      CatStaff, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

      “My cat used to like this, but it seems the other reviews are right when they said the food is different or the recipe changed. It’s much darker now but has a lot more gravy! I can barely get it off the spoon, which is weird, like it’s pasty? My girl just doesn’t want to eat it as much and I’m just wasting my money cause I’m throwing it out as it’s spoiling quicker too.”

      Angelica, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe

      “I got this because my kids like variety and I liked the idea of freeze-dried chicken bits. I opened the bag. Nothing. I shook it all around. Not one single piece of chicken. So far no one seems to love the kibble, so I won’t be buying it again.”

      Attysmom, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken

      Product Recall History

      A product recall occurs when there is a problem with a product. These recalls can be issued by the FDA due to a concern with the product or they can be issued voluntarily by the company. Nature’s Variety has had four product recalls in the last decade, two of which were voluntary.

      Here Are The Details About These Four Recalls:

      • February 2010 (Potential salmonella contamination) – The FDA issued a recall for Nature’s Variety Chicken Formula Raw Frozen dog and cat foods due to concerns about salmonella contamination. The recall was expanded in March 2010.
      • July 2012 (Unusual odor) – Prairie by Nature’s Variety Beef Meal and Barley Medley kibble for dogs were recalled due to an unusual odor.
      • February 2013 (Foreign bodies) – The FDA issued a recall for Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Organic Chicken Formula medallions due to choking hazards involving foreign bodies.
      • July 2015 (Potential salmonella contamination) – The company issued a voluntary recall for Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Chicken Formula dog foods due to potential contamination with salmonella.

      As you can see, only two of the products recalled were from the Instinct product line and one was a voluntary recall. To learn more about these recalls, check out Kitty Catter’s review of Instinct.

      How Much Does Instinct By Nature’s Variety Cat Food Cost?

      As you start shopping for cat food, you may come to realize that price is often correlated with quality. The Instinct brand of cat food is a good example because they use high-quality, natural ingredients and all of their recipes are rich in protein and nutritionally balanced. The downside is the cost. Both of the dry food ingredients reviewed above cost nearly $4.00 per pound and the wet food recipe (albeit this is a limited ingredient diet) costs over $0.60 per ounce.

      To give you a better idea how Instinct by Nature’s Variety stacks up against other cat food brands, here is a quick chart to show you some average prices:

      Where Can You Buy Instinct By Nature’s Variety Cat Food?

      The Instinct product line from Nature’s Variety has been redesigned in recent years and has become even more readily available as well. Not only can you find this brand in most major pet stores and specialty pet food shops, but you can find it easily online as well. Shop from major pet stores like Petco or PetSmart online or from primary online retailers like Chewy and Amazon.

      Unfortunately, you can’t buy direction from the Nature’s Variety site, but you can find a store near you using the website’s store locator to see where you can get cat food from this brand.

      Our Final Thoughts: Is Instinct By Nature’s Variety A Good Brand?

      Overall, we are extremely pleased with the Instinct by Nature’s Variety brand. We’ve been following the progress of Nature’s Variety for several years and have been pleased with the direction it’s gone.

      Though they have gotten rid of some of their products, it seems to only be because they are trying to keep to a certain standard – one that is much higher than the standard set by other brands. Instinct truly is committed to delivering premium-quality, natural nutrition for pets.

      Though we love the Nature’s Variety family of brands as a whole, the Instinct brand is clearly the best.

      Whether you’re looking for a high-protein dry food, a true raw food diet, or a nutritious canned food for your cat, you can find what you’re looking for with this brand. Good luck!

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      Kate Barrington is avid dog lover and adoring owner of three cats, Kate’s love for animals has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in pet care and nutrition. Kate is also a blogger for a number of organic and natural food companies as well as a columnist for several pet magazines
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