Does Nature’s Variety Instinct have what it takes to satisfy your cat’s carnivorous instincts? Find out in our unbiased Nature’s Variety Instinct cat food review.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Nature’s Variety Instinct on What Matters
We’ve analyzed Nature’s Variety and graded it according to the Cats.com standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, ingredient quality, product variety, price, customer experience, and recall history. Here’s how it rates in each of these six key areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 8/10
- Ingredient Quality – 7/10
- Product Variety – 10/10
- Price – 7/10
- Customer Experience – 8/10
- Recall History – 4/10
Overall Score: 7.3/10
We give Nature’s Variety Instinct cat food a 44 out of 60 rating or a B grade.
In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab.
We bought the products at full retail price, and the entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct input or influence from the companies involved.
Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us the exact macronutrient and micronutrient content of each recipe. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals, helping you ensure that you’re only putting the best in your cat’s bowl.
To access the lab reports for each food reviewed here, click the “view lab report” link in the product review.
About Nature’s Variety Instinct
Nature’s Variety began as a small pet food manufacturer in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s now owned by Agrilomen, a Barcelona-based firm. Agrolimen also owns Affinity Petcare, a leading European pet food supplier and holds 50% stake in Mogiana, a Brazilian pet food company.
Nature’s Variety continues to operate as an independent company with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. The company focuses on meat-centric recipes and emphasizes the value of fresh, freeze-dried, and raw ingredients.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
Nature’s Variety Instinct raw cat food is manufactured in company-owned facilities in the United States, while their kibble is made by a third-party manufacturer, also in the United States. Their wet food manufacturing is done both in Thailand and Kansas.
Nature’s Variety ingredients are primarily sourced from the United States, with some proteins sourced from New Zealand, Australia, France, and Italy. The company doesn’t source any meat or poultry from China, but doesn’t mention sourcing other ingredients from the country.
Has Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food Been Recalled?
Nature’s Variety appears to have been recalled four times since its creation in 2002.
In 2015, Nature’s Variety recalled several varieties of chicken-based food after FDA testing revealed that the food was contaminated with salmonella. Earlier that year, the company issued a recall due to pieces of plastic in their food.
In 2012, the company recalled four sizes of kibble for dogs after learning that the food had an “off-odor” smell before its expiration date. Nature’s Variety said the food wasn’t contaminated, but voluntarily withdrew the food to ensure a top-notch experience.
Back in 2010, the company issued a recall of chicken-based raw food due to potential salmonella contamination.
What Kinds Of Cat Food Does Nature’s Variety Instinct Offer?
The Nature’s Variety Instinct cat food lineup is broken into six lines.
- Instinct Original includes both dry and wet foods. All of the foods in this line are at least 70% animal ingredients and are made without any grains.
- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet foods are geared towards cats with food sensitivities and allergies. They’re made with one animal protein and a single primary vegetable ingredient. This line includes both wet and dry foods.
- Instinct Ultimate Protein wet and dry foods are at least 90% animal-derived protein and have up to 3 times more chicken or duck than other natural brands.
- Instinct Raw Boost is kibble with chunks of freeze-dried raw meat. The line also includes Raw Boost Mixers, which allow you to add those freeze-dried chunks to your kibble of choice.
- The Instinct Raw line includes one recipe. It’s a frozen raw product made primarily from chicken.
- Raw Signature includes raw frozen bites and medallions made from chicken and rabbit.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Price||Our Grade|
|Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe||Wet||$0.47 per oz||A-|
|Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Dry Cat Food||Dry||$4.55 per lb||B-|
|Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe||Wet||$0.69 per oz||A-|
What Do Customers Think Of Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food?
Nature’s Variety foods are well-loved by customers.
The company is one of few that receives largely positive reviews on Consumer Affairs, a customer advocacy site with a definite negativity bias.
However, since the company changed its wet food manufacturing locations and started reformulating many of its recipes, it’s started to receive many complaints about irregularities in the food.
Here’s what a few customers have to say about Nature’s Variety cat food:
“The Instinct Original canned cat food looks and smells good enough for human consumption! The food is juicy and moist without being watery or gravy-like–all food. My cats are loving it (as well as the Kitten version for my 7 mo old.) They had no problem transitioning from another brand.” – Suze, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe
“I have taken painful measures to find a food with no chicken or egg to help rule out allergies after trying another brand of skin sensitive food for 12 weeks to no avail. Was very happy to find this brand and all my feline friends who are indoor pets seem to love it. It is helping their coats improve and hopefully will improve their overall health. We have only been using Instinct for 4 weeks. We are just beginning. The only downside to novel protein foods is the $$$$$. Wish there were coupons. Not a big inventory at Pet Food stores either. Glad Chewy stocks so well.” – SmokeysMom, reviewing Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Rabbit Recipe
“The amount or inclusion at all of bone meal in pet food is another debate for another time but this is ridiculous. This is literally a choking hazard. Instinct is clearly going through something with their unannounced recipe changes, rabbit and venison are the only ones left with the old recipes. A lot of pet owners have relied on Instinct for chicken and fish free options which while more plentiful these days, are still hard to find. For the amount of money they’re charging I expect more than a potential surprise visit to the emergency vet for a lodged obstruction in their throat or a violent allergic reaction due to unannounced recipe changes. Do better Instinct.” – Beep, reviewing Instinct Original Grain-Free Pate Real Rabbit Recipe Wet Canned Cat Food
“I’ve done tons of research of which canned food is good for my cats (I have two precious exotic shorthairs). So many pet food reviews say Instinct is one of the best—it’s not as expressive as Ziwi, but it’s definitely on the more expensive side. Anyway, long story short. I have two reservations about it: 1) my cats are not super interested in it; 2) above all, I saw giant peas in it—I don’t think cats need it and in my opinion veggies are worse than meat byproduct, as they are simply NOT what cats eat or need. Final thought: Sometimes I feel I should just go with the cheaper Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Pate. My cats like Fancy Feast and there’s no veggie in Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Pate.” – Eleni, reviewing Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food
How Much Does Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food Cost?
Let’s break down how much it would cost per day to feed your cat’s Nature’s Variety. For the sake of this exercise, let’s say that your cat weighs 10 lbs and follows the feeding guidelines recommended by Nature’s Variety Instinct.
Nature’s Variety Instinct wet food would cost between $2.28 and $3.36 per day, depending on which variety you choose. Nature’s Variety dry food is significantly cheaper and would cost closer to $0.42 per day to feed the same cat. Their raw food is comparable to the canned recipes, adding up to roughly $2.30 to $3.35 per day.
All of their recipes, including their raw frozen formulas, are reasonably-priced and easy to find in stores. The brand is comparable in quality and price to Wellness CORE, except Nature’s Variety Instinct offers a wider selection of raw food.
Overall, Is Nature’s Variety Instinct A Good Choice?
Nature’s Variety cat food is a good option to consider if you’re looking for meat-centric, dye-free food. With a selection of limited-ingredient recipes and formulas focused on novel proteins, this brand is a promising choice for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.
Though the brand has been recalled a few times during a relatively short span of time, none of these recalls were associated with reports of illness. Nature’s Variety maintains a good reputation among customers and appears to be a reliable choice.
Where To Buy Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food?
Nature’s Variety cat food is sold by pet specialty retailers, including major chains like Petco and PetSmart. Click here to find a retailer near you. If you’d prefer to shop online, you’ll find Nature’s Variety cat food on Amazon, Chewy, Petco, and PetSmart.com.