We’ve taken a close look at Natural Balance and graded it according to the Cats.com standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, product variety, price, ingredient quality, customer experience, and recall history.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Natural Balance On What Matters
We’ve rated the Natural Balance brand on six key criteria for quality. Here’s how it rates in each of these six crucial areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 4/10
- Ingredient Quality – 5/10
- Product Variety – 8/10
- Price – 8/10
- Customer Experience – 5/10
- Recall History – 4/10
Overall Score: 5.7/10
In total, we give Natural Balance cat food a 34 out of 60 rating or a C grade.
Read on to learn more about Natural Balance and how we reached this conclusion.
About Natural Balance
Natural Balance Pet Foods was created in 1989 by Dick Van Patten and Joey Herrick after a conversation about the two entertainers’ shared love of animals. Herrick, then a drummer for The John Davidson Show, was interested in animal rescue, while Van Patten had always wanted to open up a pet shop. By the end of the conversation, they were thinking about starting a pet food company.
The resulting company was called Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods and it became one of the first to take advantage of the growing demand for organic and filler-free pet food. Their food was marketed as “Food for a Lifetime” and “the finest food you can buy for your pet.”
After a brief dip in popularity, Natural Balance was picked up by Petco and came to be featured in over 600 stores. In 2013, the company merged with Del Monte, a conglomerate behind numerous other pet food brands, including Meow Mix and Milo’s Kitchen. Two years later, J.M. Smucker purchased Natural Balance as part of their Big Heart Pet Brands acquisition.
In 2021, the brand was sold to Nexus Capital Management LP which puts them in prime position to capitalize on their commitment to research, development, and product innovation. Consumers can expect new specialty products to be released under the Natural Balance brand in the coming years.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
Natural Balance sources ingredients from around the world, with suppliers in the United States, France, India, New Zealand, and Canada. They’re willing to disclose the origins of their protein sources but will not reveal specific sourcing information for their plant ingredients or additives.
Their foods are made in the United States by multiple manufacturers, including one company-owned facility in Topeka, Kansas.
Though Natural Balance doesn’t provide too many details about the sourcing of their ingredients, they are very transparent about the manufacturing standards they follow. This brand offers customers a “Feed With Confidence” promise and has their products tested by third party ISO 17025 accredited labs. In fact, customers can enter the UPC and lot number from their bag of pet food to view test results.
Natural Balance was one of the numerous companies involved in the melamine recalls of 2007.
In April of 2007, the company learned that dogs and cats were getting sick after eating Natural Balance venison-based foods. These reports prompted lab testing, which revealed that these foods contained trace amounts of melamine. Rice protein concentrate was identified as the probable source.
Shortly thereafter, the recall was expanded to include three more canned dog foods and one canned cat food. Again, the foods contained melamine from rice protein concentrate. In all cases, the rice protein concentrate was not listed on the ingredient list, nor did Natural Balance know that it was in the food.
Natural Balance maintains that their manufacturer, American Nutrition Inc., was responsible for adding the tainted rice protein without the company’s knowledge or consent. All told, the melamine fiasco resulted in recalls of over 60 trucks’ worth of cat and dog food and cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in customers’ medical bills.
The company updated their food safety lab with additional equipment and instituted the “Buy with Confidence” program, which allows customers to read lab results for their pet’s food.
Later in 2007, Natural Balance issued another recall. This time, it wasn’t related to the melamine scandal, but involved a potential botulism outbreak affecting Castleberry’s Food Company, which was one of the company’s manufacturing partners.
After 2007, Natural Balance hadn’t had another recall until 2010. In June 2010, and later in May 2012, the brand was involved in a recall of products manufactured at a Diamond Pet Foods facility. The reason for the recall was potential salmonella contamination.
Natural Balance had another long stretch of recall-free years until July 2020. In early July 2020, the J.M. Smucker Company issued a voluntary recall for a single lot of Natural Balance Ultra-Premium Chicken & Liver Pate Formula canned at food due to concerns related to elevated levels of choline chloride.
Choline chloride is a source of choline, an essential nutrient for pets. Due to high levels of this nutrient, however, some cats ingesting the recalled product reportedly experienced nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and poor vision as well as more serious symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, difficult breathing, cardiac or respiratory failure, and in some cases death.
What Kinds of Cat Food Does Natural Balance Offer?
Natural Balance has a wide selection of cat food, including wet products in pouches, tubs, and cans as well as dry food. These foods are segmented into what Natural Balance calls “special categories”, including grain-free, healthy weight, high protein, indoor, and limited ingredient foods.
Here’s a list of the product lines Natural Balance has to offer:
- L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets
- Delectable Delights
- Original Ultra
- Fat Cats
A wide variety of protein sources are used in Natural Balance foods. Salmon, chicken, venison, lamb, bison, buffalo, and duck are all protein sources represented in the Natural Balance lineup.
To help customers choose the best formula for their cats, Natural Balance offers a cat food selection calculator. You can select your cat’s life stage, food type preference, and any special needs, and the calculator will serve up a selection of Natural Balance foods that satisfy those needs.
Natural Balance Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Main Protein Source||Calories||Price||Our Grade|
|L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food||Dry||Duck, Pea Protein||410 kcal/cup||$5.15 per lb||C|
|L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food||Wet||Duck, Pea Protein||34 kcal/oz.||$0.51 per oz||C|
|Ultra Premium Chicken & Liver Pate Formula Canned Cat Food||Wet||Chicken||33 kcal/oz.||$0.39 per oz||B|
All nutritional percentages in this table and hereafter are taken from the manufacturer’s guaranteed analysis. Exact nutritional percentages are not available. All calculated values are determined using these minimum and maximum published values and may differ from actual values.
Natural Balance is the ultimate authority on their products, so please contact the company for more nutritional information.
What Do Customers Think of Natural Balance Cat Food?
Natural Balance Pet Foods doesn’t list product reviews on their website but there are plenty of customer comments on Amazon and Chewy. This brand has primarily positive reviews on its product listings, including the three recipes reviewed above.
Because the brand has a large selection of limited ingredient diets, Natural Balance is popular among owners of cats with food allergies and sensitivities. That being said, there are always reviews from cat owners whose cats simply don’t like the product.
The following is a selection of positive and negative customer reviews from popular Natural Balance cat food listings.
“It’s still a little early to declare victory but… One of my cats developed an auto immune disorder. His paws were inflamed and bleeding and he was headed for the rainbow bridge. I have food allergies myself so I started researching food and saw a review about this LID. Long story short, he’s not out of the woods yet but he has improved greatly. I think he’s going to make a full recovery.” – Orion, reviewing Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Green Pea and Duck Formula
“I’ve been feeding my cat Natural Balance since I brought her home from the shelter 8 years ago. She absolutely loves the food and her vet gives her glowing check-ups every time. Glossy coat, bright eyes and healthy teeth. Just a happy, healthy kitty. Who could ask for anything more?” – Debb, reviewing Natural Balance Ultra-Premium Chicken and Liver Pate
“My cat has eaten this for years. Change in formula? The green peas are not green and have the consistency of a macadamia nut, same color, some 1/2” long. Anyway, my cat won’t eat it.” – Duck, reviewing Natural Balance LID Limited Ingredient Green Pea and Duck Canned Cat Food
“This food seemed OK. It was not terrible. However, my cat acted as if it had a stomach ache after eating, sitting in the bread-loaf posture. Then he threw up shortly after eating it two times. The food was from different cans. So, I would not buy it again.” – auspiciousbunny, reviewing Natural Balance Ultra-Premium Chicken and Liver Pate
How Much Does Natural Balance Cat Food Cost?
Natural Balance is a mid-range food in terms of quality and price. It will cost about $0.90 per day to feed your cat one of their Limited Ingredient dry diets and about $1.68 per day to feed Natural Balance wet food. Canned foods are sold in 3-ounce and 5.5-ounce cans while L.I.D. dry food comes in 5-pound and 10-pound bags. The Original Ultra line of dry food is sold in 6-pound and 15-pound bags.
Overall, Is Natural Balance a Good Choice?
With its broad selection of limited-ingredient foods, Natural Balance may be a good choice for some cats who struggle to digest almost everything they’re offered. The Buy With Confidence® promise provides a sense of security for those concerned with food safety, but no number of lab reports can change the fact that Natural Balance foods are plant-laden and not particularly species-appropriate.
This company tends to use large amounts of plant ingredients (including plant-based proteins), which means their foods are usually excessively high in carbohydrates and a significant portion of the protein content comes from plant sources. People who want to give their cat a carnivore-oriented diet might opt for a different brand.
Where Is Natural Balance Cat Food Sold?
Natural Balance is sold in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel. Use their store finder to locate a retailer near you. Natural Balance products are also available around the web on sites like Amazon, Chewy, and more.