We’ve taken a close look at Royal Canin 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.
Overall, we give Royal Canin a C grade.
It receives high marks for product variety, and some of its veterinary diets have a reputation for treating specific health conditions, but for regular feeding, you could find much more carnivore-appropriate foods at a lower price.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Royal Canin on What Matters
We’ve rated the brand on six key criteria for quality.
- Species-Appropriateness – 6/10
- Ingredient Quality – 5/10
- Product Variety – 8/10
- Price – 6/10
- Customer Experience – 8/10
- Recall History – 5/10
Overall Score: 6.3/10
In total, we give Royal Canin cat food a 6.3/10 rating or a C grade.
Royal Canin Cat Food Explained
As part of our review process, we’ve submitted samples to an independent lab. You can see the full report here.
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 Royal Canin
The story of Royal Canin starts all the way back in the 1960’s with a veterinary surgeon named Jean Cathary. At the time, Cathary was operating a veterinary practice in Aimargues, a village in the Gard region of southern France.
Troubled by the scourge of skin and coat conditions in local pets, Cathary started experimenting with homemade foods as a nutritional solution. After trying out several recipes and baking them in an oven in his garage, Cathary found that a cereal-based recipe consistently helped alleviate the skin and coat issues plaguing the village’s animals.
It was such a success that Cathary trademarked the food “Royal Canin” and shuttered his veterinary practice. It was time to go into the pet food business.
The newly branded Royal Canin imported an extruder from the United States and quickly became one of Europe’s pioneering pet food companies. They were the first manufacturer of dry pet food in France and the first European company to use an extruder.
In 1972, the brand was sold to the Guyomarc’h Group and immediately blasted through Europe, with subsidiaries popping up in Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and Denmark. After almost three decades of expansion, a bank buyout, and time on the Paris stock exchange, the company was sold to Mars, Incorporated in July of 2001.
Today, Royal Canin is a global company with distribution and production facilities all over the world, though its worldwide headquarters are still in Aimargues, France. This brand is easily one of the most commonly recommended brands by veterinarians for both general use and veterinary issues.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
Royal Canin sources ingredients from around the world and doesn’t release information about countries of origin or specific suppliers. Their products are manufactured in company-owned manufacturing facilities dotting the globe. Royal Canin factory locations include the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Russia, China, South Africa, Argentina, Poland, and the UK.
All of these manufacturing facilities are owned by Mars, Incorporated. Royal Canin also owns several research facilities located around the world where they employ full-time veterinary nutritionists to assist in the formulation of their foods.
Royal Canin has been recalled three times over the past 15 years or so.
The most recent recall took place in 2007 when the company announced a voluntary recall of eight Sensible Choice dry dog foods and seven Kasco dry dog and cat food products.
The recall was issued when Royal Canin learned that their foods contained trace amounts of a melamine derivative from tainted rice protein concentrate. Earlier that year, they recalled several other products due to melamine contamination, including Veterinary Diet feline hypoallergenic.
In 2006, the company issued a recall of several cat and dog food products due to excess levels of vitamin D3. This recall affected products that were sold exclusively by veterinary practices and resulted from reports of numerous dogs and cats becoming ill after consuming the product.
What Kinds of Cat Food Does Royal Canin Offer?
Royal Canin currently sells over 100 different varieties of cat food. While they do offer traditional cat food recipes, many of their products are formulated for specific health issues like urinary tract health or digestive care. Royal Canin is also one of a few cat food brands that offers recipes marketed for specific cat breeds like Persians and Maine Coons.
Royal Canin offers a number of recipes that are formulated, or at least marketed, for specific life stages, body sizes, as well lifestyles as well. Their foods are available in both wet and dry types. In terms of their wet foods, there are a number of different textures and consistencies to choose from.
Across the Royal Canin lineup, there is a common theme: nutrients over ingredients. They don’t provide a lot of information about where their ingredients are sourced, but Royal Canin does formulate and manufacture all of their own products.
Royal Canin Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Review
All nutritional information in this table and hereafter is 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. Royal Canin is the ultimate authority on their products, so please contact the company for more nutritional information.
|Product Name||Food Type||Price||Our Grade|
|Feline Urinary Care Adult Dry Cat Food||Dry||$6.44 per lb||B-|
|Digest Sensitive Chunks in Gravy||Wet||$0.58 per oz||B-|
|Feline Health Nutrition Adult Instinctive Thin Slices in Gravy||Wet||$0.60 per oz||B-|
What Do Customers Think of Royal Canin Cat Food?
Royal Canin is one of the world’s most popular and most well-respected pet food brands. Along with Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Royal Canin is the food most often recommended by veterinarians. Some say that Royal Canin veterinary diets save lives.
Generally, customers like Royal Canin, and their cats like it, too. Royal Canin doesn’t get a lot of negative reviews.
That said, a number of customers have recently reported that their cats became sick after eating Royal Canin’s Urinary SO recipe.
With no formal investigation and Royal Canin remaining adamant that there’s nothing wrong with the food, it’s hard to gauge the legitimacy of these complaints. That said, we do feel a responsibility to cover the issue. These reports appear on Consumer Affairs and have reached the comment section of this article, making them particularly hard to ignore.
So, what do the reports say?
Most complaints involve cats experiencing digestive distress—vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes lethargy and other symptoms—after eating the Royal Canin formula.
For example, Lia of Lachine, Quebec wrote on Consumer Affairs that two of their cats became sick after eating Royal Canin’s Urinary SO formula. A week after their first cat fell ill, Lisa says that “our other cat begins to vomit and have diarrhea after eating his food. Both cats were lethargic, vomiting and overall, not doing very well. After spending over $4000 bringing our cats in to try and figure out what was going on, we realized it must be from their food.”
Lia’s conclusion wasn’t confirmed by a vet or laboratory—again, all of this remains purely speculative—but their experience seems to align with that of other reviewers on Consumer Affairs.
Kat of Cornwall, Ontario said that her cat “was vomiting the RC food every time I fed him after feeding him the food for about 2 months which worried me.”
While some reports come from new Royal Canin customers, others are long-time Royal Canin buyers who’ve noticed a change.
Lori of Leominster, Massachusetts wrote on January 27th, 2020 that “My 12 to (sic) cat has been on Royal Canin urinary SO since he was 4. The past year he has been sick after eating it and now he wont eat the wet food at all from most recent case purchased. I don’t know what to do.”
While some claim that these issues coincided with a formula change around January of 2020, similar complaints date back to early 2019. Although these reports are unsettling and worth paying attention to, we haven’t been able to find any confirmation that Royal Canin’s Urinary SO food is making cats sick. Again, thousands of people feed their cats Royal Canin without complaint and the majority of customer reviews are positive on Chewy and other retail sites.
Overall, these reports are inconclusive and don’t provide any compelling evidence against the safety of Royal Canin cat food.
Royal Canin performs routine testing of their products and has not identified any quality or safety issues. Given the company’s history of quality control, there’s no reason to believe that there’s any reason for concern.
While it doesn’t appear that there’s any significant health risk, we advise caution and will continue to monitor the situation.
To get an idea of what customers are saying about Royal Canin, here are a few reviews selected from several popular recipes listed on Amazon and Chewy.
“My vet prescribed this food for my Lucas after he was diagnosed with stones in his urinary track and was very sick. He has been eating this food since and has his issue has been under control. Food is expensive but worth it.” – Fmc008, reviewing Royal Canin Urinary SO Moderate Calorie
“…The switch to this food was nothing short of amazing. Sure, my geriatric cat did not suddenly turn into a kitten, but she’s no longer needing eye drops for the glaucoma, supplements for the arthritis, and her urine output is much reduced (better kidney function). We also have a 2 year old cat that also eats the same food. He LOVES it, too. A win all around.” – L.A.H, reviewing Royal Canin Feline Nutrition Indoor Cat Food
“I am absolutely shocked that this food is supposedly manufactured by a veterinarian. I would never take my cats to the person that designed this dry food. I bought the food since my cat is having urinary tract problems only to see that the food only has 6% crude protein and that the rest is pure filler and not even grain free filler but filled with Corn, Corn Meal and rice. So basically, this food will take the urinary crystals out of the cats pee but will provide the cat nutrition to the equivalent of a bag of Doritos. Cats CAN NOT DIGEST CORN; a cat eating corn is like a human being eating cardboard so why would a veterinary health formula be made of such garbage. Going to get my money back.” – Alexandra Lebron, reviewing Royal Canin Urinary SO Moderate Calorie
“Gave it two stars because my vet confirmed this was a great brand for cats and my guy loved it but it seemed to give him indigestion or gas. He threw up way more than I was comfortable with on this. I took him to the vet in a panic and had x-rays and bloodwork done only to find out he was perfectly healthy. As soon as I changed his food the problems went away.” – Amazon Customer, reviewing Royal Canin Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food
How Much Does Royal Canin Cat Food Cost?
Your expenses will vary depending which type of Royal Canin food you purchase. In general, however, Royal Canin foods are a bit pricier than others with similar ingredient lists.
For example, Royal Canin’s popular Urinary SO dry cat food costs about $0.30 per ounce, adding up to a daily feeding cost of around $0.60 per day for an average cat. That places it on the lower end of the premium price spectrum.
The wet version of the same recipe—Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Urinary SO Loaf in Sauce—costs $0.40 per ounce and would cost about $3.60 per day if feeding a 10-lb cat.
Moving away from prescription diets, Royal Canin’s Adult Instinctive Thin Slices in Gravy recipe is, oddly, more expensive than some of the recipes in the Veterinary Diet Line. At over $0.50 per ounce, this food would cost about $4.50 each day if feeding a typical cat.
Why Is Royal Canin Cat Food So Expensive?
Many Royal Canin foods are considerably higher-priced than other products with similar ingredient lists. After decades as one of the two brands that are recommended most often by veterinarians, Royal Canin has a reputation that justifies its price.
It’s one of the few brands that offer condition-specific products, which makes Royal Canin easy to recommend to frustrated patients and has earned it a place in veterinarian offices around the world. This lends the brand status and respect that goes beyond the veterinary line.
Overall, Is Royal Canin a Good Choice?
Some people think that humans don’t fully understand how whole foods nourish the body. It’s impossible to break down food into macronutrients and micronutrients and assume that a synthetic reproduction and reassembly of those components will have the same benefits as the natural composition of a freshly killed rabbit.
Another school of thought believes that foods are no more than the sum of the parts that humans understand. They are bundles of amino acids, fats, starches, minerals, trace metals. They can be broken down and recreated under controlled conditions. According to this thought system, an ingredient list isn’t where you get the important information about food. The nutrient analysis is what matters.
Royal Canin appeals to those in the second category, saying that “we need to focus on the nutrients our pets need for optimal health, not on the ingredients.”
So, let’s ignore the fact that Royal Canin foods contain bogeyman ingredients like corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, and cornmeal. Let’s focus on the nutrients instead. Royal Canin foods still aren’t ideal nutrition for most cats, who are metabolically adapted for higher metabolism of proteins and lower utilization of starches.
When other foods don’t provide the results you need, Royal Canin foods may be able to help your cat feel better. For general nutrition, however, Royal Canin cat food is overpriced and under-nourishing.
Royal Canin may be able to help sick cats, but it floods their bodies with carbohydrate-heavy plants, low-value proteins, and increases their chances of developing the chronic problems that necessitate Royal Canin’s big-ticket prescription diets. Too much plant protein may contribute to kidney disease. Dry diets may increase a cat’s chance of developing lower urinary tract disease.
In a Royal Canin world, developing these illnesses means that it’s time to switch to another specially formulated prescription diet. In reality, a simple meat-based, hydrating diet might have prevented the problems in the first place.
Where Is Royal Canin Cat Food Sold?
Royal Canin cat food is widely distributed in pet specialty retailers and veterinary hospitals around the world. Use Royal Canin’s store finder to find a retail location near you. You can also purchase it online through retailers like Chewy and Amazon.