Primal is a leader in meat-based raw food, but is it a safe, healthy choice for your cat? Find out in our Primal cat food review.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Primal on What Matters
We’ve analyzed Primal 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 – 10/10
- Product Variety – 9/10
- Price – 5/10
- Customer Experience – 7/10
- Recall History – 4/10
Overall Score: 7.2/10
We give Primal cat food a 43 out of 60 rating or a B grade.
In 2000, Matt Koss’ dog, Luna, was diagnosed with early stage renal failure. After experimenting with various treatment routes, Matt visited a holistic veterinarian, who recommended a diet of raw meat and bones. Inspired by Luna’s renewed vitality, Matt started developing a company that would bring fresh, raw food to other pets.
Primal Pet Food was founded in 2001. All Primal foods attempt to simulate the natural feline and canine diet. They’re made from fresh meat, bones, and organs, along with other ingredients intended to mimic a whole prey diet.
Sourcing And Manufacturing
Instead of feed-grade ingredients, Primal uses only USDA edible-grade meat, including wild-caught fish and cage-or-crate-free poultry and pork.
Primal’s proteins are sourced from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. Other ingredients, including supplements, are sourced from the United States, Iceland, New Zealand, and Northern European countries. The company refuses to source any ingredients from China.
Primal cat food is made in the United States in facilities certified by the USDA and State Department of Agriculture.
Has Primal Cat Food Been Recalled?
Primal cat food has been recalled at least three times.
In December of 2017, the company recalled several varieties of freeze-dried cat and dog food, explaining that the bone grind size had “deviated from the ideal”.
Two years prior, the company recalled a limited quantity of raw frozen cat food due to potentially low thiamine levels.
In 2011, potential salmonella contamination prompted the recall of a limited supply of Primal’s Feline Chicken & Salmon Formula food.
What Kinds Of Cat Food Does Primal Offer?
The Primal cat food lineup includes raw frozen nuggets, raw frozen nibbles, and freeze-dried nuggets. All of their recipes are meat-centric, featuring minimally-processed meat, bones, and organs alongside a smattering of fruits, vegetables, and supplements.
These products include a variety of mixed-protein and single-protein recipes. Primal’s protein sources include pork, rabbit, turkey, quail, venison, and other allergy-appropriate choices.
In addition to these complete formulas, Primal offers a variety of supplements and treats, including bone broth, raw goat milk, and slow-roasted or freeze-dried treats.
Primal Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Primal Chicken & Salmon Formula Freeze-Dried Nuggets
|$2.66 per oz
|Primal Turkey Formula Freeze-Dried Nuggets
|$2.66 per oz
|Primal Pork Formula Freeze-Dried Nuggets
|$2.66 per oz
What Do Customers Think of Primal Cat Food?
Primal is a generally well-received brand. Customers like that Primal cat food is made primarily from raw meat and aligns with a whole prey-inspired diet. Unhappy customers complain that the food is inconsistent, saying that some batches smell strange or have an odd texture.
“My cat did not eat in one sitting using dry kibble. I switched him to this stuff and he devours it in one sitting. He wasn’t eating enough and now I have to scale back on his intake!! We’ve tried the Turkey Formula, Chicken & Salmon Formula, and now we’re on the Pork Formula. The Turkey and Chick/Salmon nuggets were very easy to break apart and add water. He enjoyed the Turkey but he LOVED the Chicken & Salmon. The Pork formula was so dry it took extra effort to break apart and re-hydrate. My cat was not happy with the 40 extra minutes of waiting. Neither was I!! So this is our new go-to bag. It lasted a week. Most of these do.” – KristynRene, reviewing Primal Turkey Freeze-Dried Nuggets
“Needed a low carb option for my cat that was also missing many of the common fillers and proteins due to health reasons and food allergies. Since we have been using the Primal Freeze Dried Nuggets, he has trimmed down and grown a soft, shiny coat. He loves the 3 formulas we’ve tried so far (venison, rabbit, pork) and cleans his bowl every time. Rabbit is my favorite of the three because it is easiest to rehydrate. Personally, I don’t feel like the recommended 1 tablespoon of water per nugget is enough, so I use 3 tablespoons of water per nugget (mostly because of his urinary trouble) but besides that it’s been great. Thank you Primal!” – Richie, reviewing Primal Pork Freeze-Dried Nuggets
“I agree with the other reviewers regarding the odor of rancid oil that this food has. I have had this on occasion since I started feeding the turkey nuggets a few years ago. I have not noticed it with the chicken and salmon variety, but the turkey has always been a problem. What was an occasional instance of the foul odor has progressively become more regular to the point that now the rancid smell of the food has become the norm. Chewy has been great about handling the problem and making it right, but I am done with this and will be returning to Stella & Chewy where I have never encountered this issue. It’s a huge drag since my cats love the turkey variety when it is as it should be.” – 4SafeFood, reviewing Primal Turkey Formula Freeze-Dried Nuggets
“According to my research on the best food for cats was a prey diet, that being how cats eat in the wild. The majority of the raw freeze-dried foods contained raw meats but fell short in my opinion when they started adding fruits and vegetables which cats are incapable of processing. When the raw animal meat is ground whole, bones and all, plus the organ meats, such as heart and liver, there is not even the need to add any vitamins or minerals. Everything the cat needs in found within the donor body just as found in the wild prey. The only food on this website that I found that does this is Vital Essentials. There may be others but I give this one 5 stars.” – Mamacat, reviewing Primal Chicken & Salmon Freeze-Dried Nuggets
How Much Does Primal Cat Food Cost?
If you feed your 10-lb cat 1.5 ounces of Primal cat food per day—about 200 calories—it would cost about $3.18 per day.
This makes it one of the more expensive products on the market. It’s significantly more expensive than the average dry food, comparable to some high-end canned products, and a bit more expensive than Stella & Chewy’s, another popular raw cat food brand.
Overall, Is Primal a Good Choice?
Primal raw cat food is made from top-quality ingredients and provides a species-appropriate, whole prey-inspired diet rich in the muscle meat, organs, and bone your cat needs. Though their foods rely on plant ingredients rather than synthetic supplements, they’re relatively low in carbohydrates and provide a species-appropriate macronutrient distribution.
Though it’s one of the better brands on the market, Primal isn’t without its drawbacks.
Like many raw foods, Primal products tend to be relatively high in phosphorus, with typical phosphorus content around 1.0% or roughly 2 grams per 1,000 calories. That’s close to the recommended amount for growing kittens and certainly too high for a cat with kidney disease.
While most customers seem to love Primal cat food, some say that the food tends to be inconsistent. The company has issued several recalls over the years. Coupled with those customer complaints, this brings the company’s quality control into question.
Other than these concerns, Primal appears to be one of the best cat food brands you can buy.
Where To Buy Primal Cat Food?
Primal is exclusively sold by pet specialty retailers. Click here to find a Primal retailer near you. If you’d prefer to shop online, you’ll find Primal on Chewy and Amazon.