Our Review ProcessOur reviews are based on extensive research and, when possible, hands-on testing. Each time you make a purchase through one of our independently-chosen links, we’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds. Read more about how we’re supported here.
The Cats.com Standard – Rating Smalls On What Matters
We’ve analyzed Smalls 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 – 9/10
- Ingredient Quality – 10/10
- Product Variety – 9/10
- Price – 5/10
- Customer Experience – 6/10
- Recall History – 6/10
Overall Score: 8/10
We give Smalls fresh cat food a 45 out of 60 rating or a B grade.
In addition to reviewing Smalls according to the Cats.com Standard, we’ve shared our hands-on experience with this brand based on multiple orders over several years. Our team has tried Smalls numerous times since the brand’s launch in 2017, with multiple reviewers and multiple cats giving their impressions of the product.
Read on to find out what we think of the ordering process, how our test cats reacted, how easy it is to cancel, and more.
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.
Founded by two New York entrepreneurs in 2017, Smalls offers human-grade cat food in fresh (homemade-style) and freeze-dried varieties shipped to your door according to custom meal plans.
Instead of shopping in their store for the recipe you like, you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your cat to receive custom meal plan suggestions and start your subscription. Each month, the recipes in your meal plan are shipped ice-cold to your doorstep.
While there’s a lot to like about the idea of custom cat food meal plans, top-notch ingredients, and food that honors your cat’s needs as a carnivore, Smalls’ subscription model isn’t going to be for everyone.
In this review, we’ll go over the details to help you decide if this brand is the right choice for you and your cat.
Sourcing And Manufacturing
Smalls cat food is developed with the guidance of pet nutrition consultant Dr. Susan Lauten, Ph.D. Whether you choose fresh or freeze-dried raw recipes, all of them are nutritionally complete and balanced according to AAFCO guidelines.
All of Smalls’ recipes are human-grade, which means they are made in a human food facility from USDA-certified ingredients fit for human consumption. These ingredients are sustainably sourced from the United States and Canada.
Their wet food formulas are prepared in Chicago, Illinois, while their freeze-dried foods are prepared in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Smalls’ kibble is produced in Brainerd, Minnesota. Every batch is thoroughly tested for foodborne pathogens. The company also performs regular spot checks to make sure the nutritional content of their recipes is up to snuff.
Has Smalls Ever Been Recalled?
Yes. Smalls cat food products have been voluntarily recalled twice in the brand’s short lifetime.
The first recall was announced in 2019 and affected Smalls’ chicken liver powder—a product the company called Diamond Dust. According to a statement from the company, the recall was prompted by a customer complaint that the powder smelled like cocoa powder.
Following testing, Smalls found that the product had, indeed, been adulterated and was not 100% chicken liver powder. We’ve not yet seen a statement confirming whether or not the adulterant was cocoa powder.
Concerningly, the recall applied to batches of Diamond Dust sent out to customers between October 9th, 2018, and March 25th, 2019. That means that for over 5 months, customers were potentially exposing their cats to an adulterated product, and Smalls seemed to have no knowledge of it. Furthermore, Smalls’ statement indicated that they weren’t changing to a new supplier. Instead, they would “require that our supplier upgrade safety measures for the manufacturing of all our enticements.”
In June 2021, the founder of Smalls posted a statement on the company’s website explaining that several recipes had been voluntarily recalled. This recall affected select Fresh Chicken and Fresh Turkey products labeled as:
- Ground Bird, Chicken Recipe
- Smooth Bird, Chicken Recipe
- Ground Other Bird, Turkey Recipe
- Smooth Other Bird, Turkey Recipe
The recall was issued after Smalls received feedback from several customers who received products that looked spoiled and had an unusual odor.
The company has thoroughly investigated its inventory and sent out samples to an independent lab for testing. As of June 2021, we don’t have specific details on what happened or why—Smalls is still investigating.
As of yet, Smalls hasn’t received any reports of illness related to the products affected by this recall.
What Kind of Food Does Smalls Offer?
Though Smalls started only a few years ago, the company has gone through a number of significant changes in terms of its product lineup. In the beginning, Smalls was primarily a fresh cat food company (and still is), but now they offer freeze-dried food and kibble.
Each of Smalls’ cat foods comes in several flavors. Their fresh, human-grade cat food comes in three proteins and textures. Choose from a smooth, ground, or pulled texture in chicken (Bird), turkey (Other Bird), fish, or beef (Cow).
Smalls’ freeze-dried raw food is a nutritious alternative to traditional extruded kibble. It comes in three protein options: chicken (Bird), turkey (Other Bird), and duck (Water Bird). These foods are freeze-dried to preserve their nutritional integrity and to give the foods a nice crunch.
Additionally, Smalls offers a small selection of kibble food as an add-on to your meal plan.
On top of those main meal plans, Smalls lets you add treats to your order. For a limited time, all new subscribers will receive free chicken giblets for the duration of their subscription.
Smalls Cat Food Reviews
|Product Name||Food Type||Price per Ounce||Our Grade|
|Smalls Fresh Bird Recipe||Fresh||$0.78||A-|
|Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Turkey Recipe||Freeze-Dried||$1.83||A+|
|Smalls Pulled Other Bird Recipe||Fresh||$0.78||A-|
#1 Smalls Fresh Bird Recipe
This fresh cat food formula features chicken as its primary ingredient and sole source of protein. It contains 80% chicken breast and thigh, 5% chicken liver, and 2% chicken heart.
With chicken as the main ingredient, this formula is packed with animal protein and poultry flavor. Aside from the chicken meat and organs, the food contains green beans, peas, kale, and vegetable oil. Though there are several plant-based ingredients in this formula, they aren’t included in significant amounts. The overall carbohydrate content is under 5%.
Overall, this fresh cat food recipe is a species-appropriate, meat-based recipe with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content.
Chicken, Chicken Liver, Green Beans, Peas, Water (Sufficient for Processing), Chicken Hearts, Kale, Tricalcium Phosphate, Canola Oil, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Magnesium Sulfate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Sulfate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3 Supplement.
Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Hearts, Green Beans
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Peas
Common Allergens: Chicken
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
- Rich in animal protein from chicken
- Very low in carbohydrate content
- Cats love the way this food tastes
- High in moisture, good for digestion
- Main source of added fat is plant-based
#2 Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Turkey Recipe
As an alternative to fresh food, Smalls offers an assortment of freeze-dried foods, including this turkey recipe. This formula features fresh turkey as the main ingredient. In addition to turkey meat, it includes ground bone and a variety of turkey organs, delivering a prey-inspired mix of animal-derived nutrients.
Another interesting ingredient in this formula is goat’s milk. Goat’s milk contains probiotics, which can help support your cat’s digestion. You’ll also see some turkey egg and herring oil in this formula.
One point worth noting about this recipe is that while freeze-dried foods are typically meant to be rehydrated, Smalls freeze-dried cat food is meant to be fed as-is. The food simply doesn’t absorb liquid very well, so it doesn’t provide the moisture your cat needs in his diet.
Overall, this freeze-dried recipe is species-appropriate, high-protein cat food with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content.
Finely Ground Turkey with Bone, Turkey Heart, Turkey Liver, Turkey Gizzard, Goat’s Milk, Turkey Egg, Water, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol
Ingredients We Liked: Turkey, Turkey Heart, Turkey Liver, Turkey Gizzard, Goat’s Milk, Egg, Herring Oil
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None
Common Allergens: None
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
- Packed with high-quality protein from turkey
- Made with an animal-based source of fat
- No by-products, fillers, or artificial additives
- May be a good option for cats with food sensitivities
- Low in moisture, doesn’t rehydrate well
- May be too high in phosphorus for cats with kidney disease
#3 Smalls Pulled Other Bird Recipe
This fresh cat food is a single-protein recipe featuring turkey. It differs from the other two turkey recipes in that the food has a shredded rather than a minced or pate texture.
With over 50% crude protein on a dry matter basis, this fresh food formula is ideal for carnivores like your cat. Fresh turkey thigh is supplemented with turkey liver as the only sources of animal protein. This makes the recipe a good pick for cats with allergies or sensitivities to other common proteins like chicken or beef.
The downside to this recipe is that it relies on plant-based fat from canola oil rather than a more biologically appropriate source like chicken fat or salmon oil. The food contains a few other plant ingredients as well, but the total carb content remains low under 10% on a dry matter basis.
Overall, this fresh recipe offers a turkey-based source of nutrition with high protein and high fat content but very low carbohydrate content.
Turkey Thigh, Turkey Liver, Water, Green Beans, Peas, Nutritional Yeast, Kale, Tricalcium Phosphate, Canola Oil, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Magnesium Sulfate, Niacinamide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Copper Sulfate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Manganese Sulfate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Potassium Iodide, Folic Acid, Biotin (Vitamin B7), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D13 Supplement.
Ingredients We Liked: Turkey Thigh, Turkey Liver
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Green Peas
Common Allergens: None
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
- Packed with fresh turkey meat and organs
- High in moisture to support hydration and digestion
- Made with a single source of animal protein
- Very low carbohydrate content under 10% dry matter
- Relies on plant-based fat
Now that we’ve learned about what Smalls has to offer, let’s talk about what it’s like to be a Smalls customer.
At Cats.com, our experience with Smalls dates back to 2017, when the brand had just launched. Over the years, as they’ve added and removed recipes, changed their branding, and updated the customer portal, our team has kept up with the changes in the Smalls customer experience, ordering and re-ordering for multiple cats in multiple households.
Like many other subscription services, the Smalls experience starts with a questionnaire.
You enter information about your cat, including their name, age, and protein preferences. Don’t be deceived, though— Smalls is not a custom food, nor is it custom-portioned. You’ll have to measure out your cat’s portions just as you would with food from another brand.
After filling out the questionnaire, Smalls directs you to a checkout page where you can purchase their two-week sampler pack, which gives you Smalls’ custom selection of recipes for your cat. At this stage, you’re not able to add or remove any recipes. If you want to customize your subscription, you’ll have to do it after you’ve signed up and started a subscription.
Remember that you’re not just getting the sampler pack—you’re signing up for routine deliveries of your cat’s food. You’ll automatically be billed and shipped a box every 3 weeks.
If you don’t want to receive more, you’ll have to contact their Cat Concierge to request a cancellation before the next box ships out.
Once the Smalls sample pack arrives at your home, you’ll open it up and find biodegradable corn-based insulation, dry ice, and packages of cat food.
Our experience with Smalls deliveries has been mixed. During the strained summer months of 2020, the company seemed to struggle with fulfillment. Multiple boxes arrived containing what seemed to be mispicks, and in the summer heat, more than one box of warm food showed up on the doorstep.
However, more recent deliveries have been better. The latest, purchased in September 2021, arrived very cold but not frozen, with dry ice still lining the bottom of the box.
In addition to the fresh food, the package contains a guide explaining the benefits of Smalls and how to transition your cat to their new diet.
After you’ve opened everything up, you’ll transfer the packages to your fridge or freezer, depending on how soon you’ll be able to use them.
Our team’s cats have consistently loved Smalls cat food.
Every time we’ve tried Smalls food, we’ve been impressed by how our cats scarf it down. The food has a soft, meaty consistency similar to the fresh chicken or beef you might serve in your own meals.
What Do Other Customers Think Of Smalls Cat Food?
While all of our test cats have loved Smalls cat food, the human experience is not as consistently positive.
On Trustpilot, Smalls currently has 559 reviews and carries a 3.9 out of 5-star rating. Though 60% of those reviews are 5-star reviews, a full 15% give the brand a 1-star rating.
And while there are only 12 reviews of the brand on Consumer Affairs, it’s concerning that most of those reviews give a 1-star rating.
What Are People Complaining About?
Most negative reviews talk about the company’s customer service and recurring payment system. Remember that Smalls automatically starts a subscription when you buy a sample pack, so unless you cancel the subscription before your renewal date, you will be automatically charged.
Many customers are frustrated with this, saying that they were surprised by a recurring shipment, unable to cancel their subscription, or had difficulty contacting the support team. Note that until May 2022, you could only contact Smalls by email or text, and there was no phone support or live chat option.
In May, Smalls introduced live chat support on their website, which allows users to contact Smalls and get support in real time.
While our 2021 test found that the ordering process had improved significantly and users now have more ways to customize their order, the process of canceling is still a little bit frustrating. I had to send an email to the company to have the recurring order canceled, which is an additional step we’re not seeing from many other similar services.
“I’ve switched to Smalls because I realized my pet deserves organic human-grade food. The most noticeable difference is my pet’s energy. After he eats Smalls he is ready for action and play. When he used to eat processed store-bought foods (high-end/top shelf), he used to nap afterwards, a long nap.” – Terrell
“I recently ran into some issues with Smalls. Although I was upset, their representatives are outstanding. I was assigned Mel, and this person did such a great job at resolving my problem. Thank you, Mel! My cat is a fan of Smalls, but now I am too because of how nice and accommodating their team is.” – Khoshnoor Paracha
“I have used this food for a very picky kitty and she lives all of it. We had a delivery problem and the minute I contacted Smalls they responded immediately and are reshipping replacement ASAP. Awesome products and really awesome service.” – Judith Wright
“Horrible customer service. Thought I was buying a trial run and they signed me up for repeat service of shipments of food that I didn’t authorize. Now they are charging me over $200.” – Cara
“I’d like to cancel my subscription asap. After eating an unusually watery ground turkey meal, two of my cats ended up in the ER. One had to stay overnight and receive IV fluids and assorted meds to get her eating again, she was diagnosed with gastroenteritis secondary to eating “something bad.” – KD
“At first customer service was ok but my cats hated the food. They tried to work with me and then confirmed the order was canceled. I was then charged and received an order. No phone support and getting no responses via text or email. Tried to go in and manually remove all the items in the reoccurring subscription. I also let my credit card company know. Save yourself the trouble and look elsewhere.” – SL
How Much Does Smalls Cat Food Cost?
Every customer gets a week sample pack containing 5 packages of fresh food – about 23 meals – discounted by 25%. This puts the total price at $33.75, or about $1.50 per meal.
Unlike some other fresh pet food companies, Smalls doesn’t portion out your cat’s meals according to his body weight. Instead, the company sends out a monthly shipment that they deem appropriate for your cat’s needs.
Depending on your cat’s size and calorie requirements, Smalls fresh food will cost between $1.00 and $3.50 per day. The most expensive plan contains freeze-dried and fresh food for about $4.90 per day.
Overall, Is Smalls A Good Choice?
Smalls offers an excellent variety of foods and meal plans that honor your cat’s needs as a carnivore.
We haven’t been able to find many other foods on the market that offer the same level of species-appropriate nutrition combined with outstanding ingredient quality and manufacturing standards.
And based on both our experience with multiple cats trying this food and reading hundreds of customer reviews, we know that cats like the food, too. The soft, succulent texture of their human-grade fresh foods will appeal to most cats—including picky eaters.
The key to getting the most out of Smalls, though, is remembering that this is a subscription service. When you place your order, you are automatically signed up for recurring shipments of the food. If you’d like to discontinue that recurring order, you must be conscientious about canceling before the next box is shipped.