Vital Essentials Cat Food Review16 min read
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If you want your cat to have the best of the best, you might be considering raw food. Pet nutrition experts often agree that raw food is the most biologically appropriate for cats and, when done properly and safely, it can be very healthy. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the most practical option.
Enter Vital Essentials. This brand makes feeding your cat raw food easy with their freeze-dried mini nibs (kibble) and patties. They also offer an assortment of frozen raw foods.
Read on to see what we think of the brand and to see our reviews for their top products.
- How We Review Cat Food Brands
- Overview of the Vital Essentials Brand
- What Kind of Cat Food Products Do They Offer?
- Product Recall History
- What Do Customers Think of Vital Essentials Cat Food?
- How Much Does Vital Essentials Cat Food Cost?
- Where Can You Buy Vital Essentials Cat Food?
- Our Final Thoughts: Is Vital Essentials a Good Brand?
How We Review Cat Food Brands
Your cat has the heart of a lion and the instincts of a tiger. Though he may not look much like his wild ancestors, his nutritional needs are actually quite similar. Cats are obligate carnivores which means their bodies are evolved to hunt and eat prey – meat.
As a cat owner, it’s your responsibility to provide for your cat’s needs, including his needs for a healthy diet. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to decipher the information on pet food labels to determine whether a product is really any good. We know you want to do your duty as a cat owner, but we also know how tough it can be. That’s why we’re here to help.
It’s our goal to provide you with the information you need to understand your cat’s nutritional needs. We’ll also give you an in-depth look into some of the top brands on the market, so you can understand how their products provide for (or don’t) your cat’s needs.
We do our best not to play favorites, but there are a few things a brand can do that will prevent us from giving them our recommendation. First and foremost, if they don’t use animal protein as the main ingredient, we can’t give the thumbs-up. We also prefer recipes that are more animal-based than plant-based and we can’t abide by low-quality grains and fillers like corn, wheat, and soy.
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
In addition to making sure any cat food brand we recommend is made with high-quality ingredients, we evaluate several other factors as well. We prefer brands that offer a wide variety of recipes and those that provide plenty of information about their ingredients and products. We also consider pricing and recalls as well as the availability of the brand as a whole.
Overview of the Vital Essentials Brand
Vital Essentials is a family-owned company located in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are a self-named pioneer in the raw pet food industry, offering a selection of high-quality raw frozen and freeze-dried pet food, treats, and snacks. They use only USDA inspected animal protein and foods are made in the USA.
Here’s what they say about their mission:
“We believe that every dog and cat in the world; regardless of financial means, urban or rural, deserves the opportunity to have access to the finest food available. We also believe that, other than natural prey, we provide the most healthy, delicious, innovative, and biologically appropriate commercially available pet food in the world.”
To accomplish this mission, Vital Essentials uses their passion, talents, and resources to do what it takes to create and distribute “World Class” pet food and treats, in the United States and around the world.
Vital Essentials always uses farm-raised, pasture-fed, wild-caught, and free-run ingredients sourced from the United States. Their raw ingredients are freeze-dried or frozen right in the company’s Wisconsin facilities and are never exposed to high heat processing. This helps ensure the nutrients stay intact for your cat’s benefit (and for safety, of course).
What Kind of Cat Food Products Do They Offer?
When it comes to their cat food products, Vital Essentials offers both freeze-dried and frozen raw options. Their freeze-dried foods come in mini nibs (similar to kibble) as well as larger patties – they also have a powdered meal topper. Vital Essentials raw frozen food comes in tubs and patties.
Vital Essentials describes their raw food as “puuurfect for all life stages.” Their recipes are complete and balanced with all the nutrients your cat needs. With their slow, 48-hour freeze-drying process, your cat can enjoy the nutritional benefits of raw food without all the chopping, grinding, and mixing.
Here is the nutritional information for some of the most popular cat food recipes:
Freeze-Dried Cat Food Recipes
|Recipe||Protein %||Fat %||Fiber %||Moisture %||Calories/Cup|
|Chicken Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||55||27||1||8||130 kcal/oz|
|Duck Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||51||27||3||8||124 kcal/oz|
|Rabbit Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||58||24||3||8||130 kcal/oz|
|Turkey Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||46||36||1||8||141 kcal/oz|
|Chicken Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||56||27||5.5||8||4,458 kcal/oz|
|Duck Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||45||20||3||8||105 kcal/oz|
|Rabbit Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||54||20||3||8||4,587 kcal/kg|
|Turkey Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||59||20||2||8||3,955 kcal/kg|
|Turkey Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Meal Boost Topper||49||22||2.2||7||61.5 kcal/tbsp|
|Chicken Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Meal Boost Topper||45||27||2.2||7||65 kcal/tbsp|
|Beef Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Meal Boost Topper||51||23||2.2||7||64 kcal/tbsp|
Frozen Raw Food Recipes
|Recipe||Protein %||Fat %||Fiber %||Moisture %||Calories/Kg|
|Chicken Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||13||4||0.7||77||38 kcal/oz|
|Chicken Patties Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||12||4||0.5||76||64 each|
|Duck Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||13||8||1||70||1,463 kcal/kg|
|Duck Patties Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||13||8||1||70||82 each|
|Rabbit Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||15||3||0.5||74||33 kcal/oz|
|Rabbit Patties Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||15||3||0.5||74||66 each|
|Turkey Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||12||5||0.5||75||35 kcal/oz|
|Turkey Patties Frozen Raw Grain-Free Cat Food||12||5||0.5||75||70 each|
Product Recall History
As you’re researching a new pet food brand, it’s important to look at the big picture. In addition to reading product labels, take a look at the website to see what information the company offers.
Look for information about the brand’s sourcing of their ingredients and how their products are manufactured. If you can’t find any information, it’s probably not a good sign. You may also want to look into the brand’s recall history.
Product recalls happen when there is an issue with a product, and it needs to be removed from sale for consumer safety. Recalls can happen for minor issues like labeling errors or for serious things like foreign material in the cans or contamination with food-borne pathogen.
A product recall can be issued voluntarily by the brand or by the FDA in response to consumer complaints or their own testing.
When it comes to their cat food products, Vital Essentials doesn’t seem to have had any recalls. Their dog foods, however, have been recalled several times in the past because they tested positive for salmonella. Take this with a grain of salt because you have to remember these are raw foods – even the raw poultry you purchase at the grocery store contains trace amounts of salmonella.
In the end, it’s your decision whether you trust the safety of raw food. If you’re not sure, you may want to go with Vital Essentials freeze-dried rather than their frozen raw food.
Products Included in This Review
|Name||Type||Protein %||Fat %||Top 5 Ingredients|
|Chicken Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||Dry||56||27||Finely ground chicken with bone, chicken heart, chicken liver, chicken gizzard, chicken egg|
|Rabbit Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||Dry||58||24||Finely ground whole rabbit, rabbit heart, rabbit liver, rabbit lungs, rabbit kidney|
|Beef Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Meal Boost Topper||Dry||51||23||Beef, beef tripe, beef lung, ground beef bone, beef liver|
|Turkey Mini Nibs Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||Wet||46||36||Finely ground turkey with bone, turkey heart, turkey liver, turkey gizzard, raw goat’s milk|
|Duck Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Grain-Free Cat Food||Wet||45||20||Finely ground duck with bone, duck heart, duck liver, duck gizzard, duck egg|
This Vital Essentials freeze-dried raw chicken recipe is shaped in small patties that contain about 64 calories each. For a 12-pound cat, you’ll need to feed about 2 patties per day, or 1 per meal. Though the feeding instructions say you can feed the patty as-is, we generally recommend rehydrating freeze-dried foods to improve the texture and to boost your cat’s moisture intake.
The first ingredient in this recipe is finely ground chicken with bone. This is significant because raw bone is a rich source of nutrients, particularly calcium and phosphorus. You’ll also find several chicken organs along with raw goat’s milk, water, eggshell membrane, and herring oil.
In reading the list of ingredients for this Vital Essentials food, you’ll notice something missing: a long list of synthetic vitamins and minerals. That means the main ingredients themselves provide the necessary nutrients to achieve complete and balanced nutrition. We always prefer cat foods that don’t rely heavily on synthetic supplements to provide for a cat’s nutritional needs.
Similar in formulation to the previous recipe, this rabbit freeze-dried food comes in mini nibs instead of patties – they look like small kibbles. This formula is very similar to the previous with rabbit ingredients replacing the chicken ingredients, including ground whole rabbit (which includes bone) as well as several different rabbit organs. You’ll also see rabbit blood included.
Though the idea of feeding your cat blood may sound strange, it can be a nutritious addition to his diet when properly sourced. One reason is because blood contains plasma which is rich in nutrients. It may also be used as a texture-modifying ingredient as an alternative to things like carrageenan.
Though this product is sold as a meal topper, it is still a complete and balanced recipe that you can feed to your cat exclusively. Because it is a little on the pricey side, however, we don’t recommend it.
In terms of the recipe itself, it contains plenty of animal-based ingredients including fresh beef, beef organs, ground beef bone, beef blood, and beef fat. This is one of the only Vital Essentials recipes where we’ve noticed the addition of fat other than herring oil and the crude fat content is nearly double what some recipes contain. It may have something to do with the flaked nature of the food.
Another kibble-like recipe, this turkey formula features finely ground turkey with bone as the first ingredient. You’ll also find several turkey organs including heart, liver, and gizzard as well as turkey egg and eggshell membrane. There’s no turkey blood added, but this recipe still contains raw goat’s milk, water, and herring oil.
Perhaps what we appreciate most about these freeze-dried raw foods is that they are almost entirely meat-based. Vital Essentials doesn’t rely on plant protein concentrates or carbohydrates to bulk up their foods. In fact, they say on the FAQ portion of their website that their foods contain 1% carbs or less.
Similar to the previous recipes, this formula features all-duck ingredients. Vital Essentials recipes are a great choice for cats with food allergies because you don’t have to worry about hidden allergens. If your cat is allergic to common proteins like beef or chicken, this duck recipe could be a good choice.
By now you’re probably wondering about the use of raw goat’s milk in these cat food recipes. Raw goat’s milk is a highly digestible ingredient for pets, and it is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and enzymes. These enzymes help aid the digestive process which can be a benefit for your cat as well.
What Do Customers Think of Vital Essentials Cat Food?
You can only do so much research about a pet food brand. It’s important to learn the basics about where the company sources their ingredients and how they manufacture their products, but all that doesn’t tell you whether your cat will actually eat it. That’s where customer reviews come in.
Because Vital Essentials is so widely available online, we were able to find plenty of reviews to get a feel for how customers like the brand.
Of nearly twenty products available on Chewy, the majority had a 4-star average rating. The products with slightly lower ratings seemed to be the cat treats versus the food products. Vital Essentials cat food seemed to be popular among pet owners who liked the quality and the ingredients, but there were a significantly number of cat owners who reported their cats didn’t like the texture and wouldn’t eat it.
How Much Does Vital Essentials Cat Food Cost?
Cat food can be expensive, especially when you use high-quality ingredients. Raw food is one of the most expensive categories for pet food out there, even freeze-dried raw food like Vital Essentials.
When shopping for pet food, it’s important to keep a balance between quality and affordability. You want to buy the best cat food you can consistently afford for your cat’s sake, but you don’t necessarily need to empty your bank account every month when a similar product might be cheaper.
Vital Essentials freeze-dried cat food ranges from $2.06 to $3.25 per ounce. Keep in mind this is freeze-dried food, so it doesn’t have any water weight. That being said, the daily feeding recommendations for a 12-pound cat are two patties, and it looks like there are about 12 to 15 patties in each bag.
To give you a better idea how Vital Essentials stacks up against other cat food brands, here is a quick chart to show you some average prices:
|Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Food||Dry||Low||X||$0.90/pound|
|Friskies Classic Pate Mixed Grill Canned Food||Wet||Low||$0.07/ounce||$1.16/pound|
|Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Chicken & Brown Rice Adult Dry Cat Food||Dry||Moderate||X||$2.53/pound|
|Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Real Chicken Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food||Wet||Moderate||$0.36/ounce||X|
|Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken||Dry||High||X||$3.45/pound|
|Ziwi Peak New Zealand Venison Recipe Canned Cat Food||Wet||High||$1.21/ounce||X|
Where Can You Buy Vital Essentials Cat Food?
If you’re looking for Vital Essentials cat food, the best place to look is your neighborhood pet store. This brand sells in nearly 5,000 pet specialty stores around the country. To shop online, you can find Vital Essentials at major retailers like Amazon and Chewy as well as PetFlow. Use the brand’s Store Locator on their website to find a brick-and-mortar store near you.
Our Final Thoughts: Is Vital Essentials a Good Brand?
Overall, we have only good things to say about Vital Essentials as a brand. It’s clear that the company has taken optimal feline and canine nutrition into account when formulating their products and quality is clearly more important than their own bottom line. That being said, their products are pretty pricey, but you can’t put a price on your cat’s long-term health and wellbeing.
If you’re looking for an entry point into the world of raw food for cats, Vital Essentials freeze-dried patties or mini nibs could be the perfect choice. If you simply like the idea of incorporation higher quality nutrition into your cat’s diet and you’re not ready to make a financial commitment, one of the meal toppers could be a good option.