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Vital Essentials Cat Food Review

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Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Duck Mini Patties

Kate Barrington / Cats.com

It’s among the most popular raw food brands on the market, but is Vital Essentials a good choice for your cat? Get the facts in our Vital Essentials cat food review.

The Cats.com Standard—Rating Vital Essentials on What Matters

We’ve analyzed Vital Essentials 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.

Ratings

  • Species-Appropriateness – 10/10
  • Ingredient Quality – 9/10
  • Product Variety – 9/10
  • Price – 6/10
  • Customer Experience – 9/10
  • Recall History – 4/10

Overall Score: 7.8/10

We give Vital Essentials cat food a 47 out of 60 rating or a B+ grade.

About Vital Essentials

Vital Essentials is a brand of frozen and freeze-dried food for cats and dogs. It’s owned by the Carnivore Meat Company, which is the leading raw pet food private label company in the United States.

Sourcing and Manufacturing

Vital Essentials uses farm-raised, pasture-fed, free-run, and wild-caught ingredients from the United states. Raw ingredients are frozen or freeze-dried in the company’s own Wisconsin facility. They’re never exposed to high-heat processing, leaving nutrients intact while reducing the risk of spoilage and contamination.

Has Vital Essentials Cat Food Been Recalled?

Vital Essentials cat food has never been recalled, but their dog food has been pulled at least four times. All but one of those recalls was due to potential salmonella contamination.

What Kinds of Cat Food Does Vital Essentials Offer?

Vital Essentials food is made from frozen or freeze-dried meat, bones, and organs. They’re foods are formed into a variety of shapes, including mini patties, mini nibs, chubs, and food toppers.

Also Read: 10 Best Freeze Dried Cat Foods

Mimicking the nutrient-packed mix of tissues found in a prey-based diet, most Vital Essentials recipes are 45% muscle meat, 45% organs, and 10% bone.

All Vital Essentials cat food contains raw goat’s milk. The company says this ingredient adds texture and nutrients. Raw goat’s milk contains enzymes that help digest lactose, so it shouldn’t cause digestive distress, and according to the customer reviews, it doesn’t.

Vital Essentials Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed

#1 Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Cat Food

Vital Essentials Chicken Entree Cat Food Mini Nibs Grain-Free Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Chicken appears to be the primary protein source in this cat food.

Vital Essentials mini nibs are designed for eating straight out of the bag—no rehydration necessary. They’re a fresher alternative to traditional dry cat food.

The food includes finely ground chicken with bone, heart as a source of essential taurine, nutrient-dense liver, and chicken gizzard. It also contains fresh egg as an additional source of ultra-bioavailable protein and nutrients. Raw goat’s milk is added to improve the food’s texture and add nutrients.

The food contains herring oil as a species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to support skin and coat health, have anti-inflammatory properties, and help to support overall health.

Overall, this food has high protein content, moderate fat, and virtually zero carbohydrate content.

This Vital Essentials food has the macronutrient distribution we look for and prey-inspired ratios of muscle meat, organs, and bones. On the negative side, this product’s 8% water content is far from enough to keep your cat in top condition. You might be better off trying one of Vital Essentials’ frozen recipes or rehydrating their mini patties.

The food has 113 calories per ounce.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex.

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Herring Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 55%
Crude Fat: 18%
Crude Fiber: 5%
Moisture: 8%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 59.78%
Fat: 19.57%
Fiber: 5.43%
Carbs: 15.22%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 48.8%
Fat: 38.78%
Carbs: 12.42%

Pros

  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Contains herring oil as a species-appropriate source of omega-3s
  • Very low carbohydrate content
  • Follows a prey-inspired dietary model

Cons

  • Doesn’t contain enough moisture for cats
  • Potentially inadequate fiber content

#2 Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Patties Entree Cat Food

Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Patties Entree Cat Food

Chicken appears to be the primary protein source in this cat food.

This Vital Essentials recipe is almost identical to the last. While the first food we reviewed was formed into mini nibs, this one comes in mini patties. After a soak in some warm water, the patties rehydrate into a soft consistency similar to paté.

The food’s ingredient list features finely ground chicken with bone as the first ingredient, followed by chicken heart, liver, and gizzard. These organs are loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that your cat needs to thrive. Finally, the chicken muscle meat, bones, and organs are complemented by egg, a nourishing and easy-to-digest source of protein and other nutrients.

The food contains raw goat’s milk. Raw, unpasteurized goat’s milk is easy-to-digest, loaded with nutrients, and cats like the way it tastes.

Eggshell membrane adds collagen, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other nutrients. Herring oil provides nourishing omega-3 fatty acids in a highly bioavailable form. Finally, the food is preserved with mixed tocopherols.

Overall, this food has high protein content with moderate fat and virtually zero carbohydrate content.

Without any synthetic vitamins, and minerals, or amino acids, the food contains all the nutrition your cat needs.

The only thing it’s missing is fiber. A cat’s real prey would have fur, claws, and other indigestible tissues, along with any partially-fermented plant matter in its own gut. These indigestible components aren’t just waste. They play a crucial role in the digestive process, helping to prevent constipation and other digestive issues. Otherwise, these freeze-dried patties are nutritionally stellar.

Each patty has 64 calories.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex.

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Herring Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 53%
Crude Fat: 20%
Crude Fiber: 2%
Moisture: 8%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 57.61%
Fat: 21.74%
Fiber: 2.17%
Carbs: 18.48%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 44.7%
Fat: 40.96%
Carbs: 14.34%

Pros

  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Ideal for cats with food sensitivities and allergies
  • Very low carbohydrate content
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients

Cons

  • Low fiber content

#3 Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Rabbit Mini Patties Entree Cat Food

Vital Essentials Freeze Dried Cat Food, Raw Rabbit Mini Patties Entree

Rabbit appears to be the primary protein source in this cat food.

Like all Vital Essentials foods, this product is primarily made from muscle meat, organs, and bones. Each patty contains finely ground whole rabbit, rabbit heart, liver, lungs, kidney, trachea, and blood.

The food contains raw goat’s milk as an additional source of nourishment. Goat’s milk may be able to reduce inflammation and support immune health. Herring oil is a source of highly biologically available omega-3 fatty acids, helping to keep your cat’s skin and coat healthy while reducing inflammation.

The food is preserved with mixed tocopherols.

Overall, this food has high protein content with moderate fat and very low carbohydrate content.

With rabbit its only protein source and a simple ingredient list, this food is an ideal option for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.

Though it’s one of the closest equivalents to the types of animals in a cat’s natural prey-based diet, the taste of rabbit is divisive. This food gets some of the most mixed reviews in the Vital Essentials family, with just over 20% of reviewers giving it a 1-star rating.

There are 61 calories in each freeze-dried rabbit patty.

Ingredients

Rabbit, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Heart, Rabbit Kidney, Rabbit Lung, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex.

Ingredients We Liked: Rabbit, Rabbit Heart, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Lungs, Rabbit Kidney

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Guaranteed Analysis

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Crude Protein: 60%
Crude Fat: 17%
Crude Fiber: 3%
Moisture: 8%

Dry Matter Basis

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Protein: 65.22%
Fat: 18.48%
Fiber: 3.26%
Carbs: 13.04%

Caloric Weight Basis

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Protein: 52.96%
Fat: 36.44%
Carbs: 10.59%

Pros

  • Single-source novel protein is ideal for sensitive cats
  • Contains herring oil as a nourishing source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains a mix of muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives

Cons

  • Some cats don’t like this food
  • May not have enough fiber to support healthy digestion

What Do Customers Think of Vital Essentials Cat Food?

In discussions of frozen and freeze-dried cat food brands, Vital Essentials is a crowd favorite. Customers seem to like the ingredient quality and their cats seem to like the way Vital Essentials food tastes.

Positive Reviews

“I prefer to make my own pet food, but ensuring that cat food is balanced is a job that feels impossible at times. With autoimmune diseases, I have been finding it difficult to manage my own issues and responsibilities while continuing to make my own pet food. It’s a huge process. So I went on a search for brands I could trust and I’ve been very happy with Vital Essentials brand. There’s no filler. My cat loves all of the variety available. The pellet form is easy to pour and hydrate. And the price is reasonable for high quality raw food.” – Ctina, reviewing Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Cat Food

“I love this product and so do my babies. Such a difference in their health. Lost hair growing back in, no more vomiting, ear issues clearing up. My cats love the patties the best but will eat the nibs as well. They have been on a raw food freeze-dried for 5 weeks. It is so expensive and I am struggling to find a way to fine a compromise between the this product and a high grade of grain free kibble. So much contradicting research out there makes it hard to decide what is the best path.” – Mamacat, reviewing Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Patties Entree Cat Food

Negative Reviews

“My cat will eat raw food no problem but this he wouldn’t touch. We tried both with water and dry, nope, not eating that Momma. It has a smell similar to play dough, which is why I think he wouldn’t eat.” – Kelb, reviewing Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Patties Entree Cat Food

“I was hoping/expecting these to be like many other brands of freeze dried raw foods I have used, but— they’re not. At all. They resemble “coco puffs” cereal and are hard. My cat isn’t interested at all. Back to Primal we go……..” – Tree, reviewing Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Cat Food

How Much Does Vital Essentials Cat Food Cost?

Vital Essentials cat food isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive brands on the market. Let’s break it down in terms of cost per day. The following cost per day estimates are based on a typical 10-lb cat who needs about 200 calories per day.

Depending on which type of protein you choose, whether you want freeze-dried or frozen, and whether you opt for nibs or patties, Vital Essentials will cost you something between $3.64 and $10.16 per day.

Overall, Is Vital Essentials a Good Choice?

Vital Essentials is a good option if you’re looking for accessible, expertly-formulated raw food. Each meal is inspired by the natural feline diet, featuring a balanced combination of muscle meat, organs, and bones. It’s one of the only raw cat food brands that doesn’t use excessive bone.

Vital Essentials’ nutritional excellence comes at a steep price. With some recipes exceeding $10 per day, this brand may be out of reach for some multiple cat homes or people on a tight budget.

Where To Buy Vital Essentials Cat Food?

Vital Essentials is relatively easy to find. It’s distributed in fifteen countries around the world and carried by over 5,000 independent pet specialty retailers in the United States alone—click here to find one near you. Online, you’ll find Vital Essentials cat food on Chewy, Amazon, Jet, PetFlow, and iHerb.

Note: The values in our nutrient charts are automatically calculated based on the guaranteed analysis and may not represent typical nutrient values. This may lead to discrepancies between the charts and the values mentioned in the body of the review.
small mallory photo

About Mallory Crusta

Mallory is an NAVC-certified Pet Nutrition Coach. Having produced and managed multimedia content across several pet-related domains, Mallory is dedicated to ensuring that the information on Cats.com is accurate, clear, and engaging. When she’s not reviewing pet products or editing content, Mallory enjoys skiing, hiking, and trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She has two cats, Wessie and Forest.

24 thoughts on “Vital Essentials Cat Food Review”

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  1. Meow cat

    Hello,

    I really appreciate your reviews and find them very helpful! I am wondering, which freeze dried raw is the best / lowest in phosphorus? Thank you again

    Reply
  2. Kitten101

    Does higher phosphorus put 6 month old kittens at risk for kidney problems? Also, from your Stella and Chewy review you said that the phosphorus is 0.45% to 0.67% on an as fed basis, and that Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey has 0.61%. Vital essentials raw mini patties in duck see to have 1.3% phosphorus. Is that too much for a 6 month old kitten as I am planning to feed him 2 patties of this with a can Tiki after dark and some digestive boosters from instinct to make up for the fiber? Thank You for the reviews they have really helped me get my kitten on a good diet! That was a lot, thank you again.

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Hi there! None of these foods are formulated for kittens, so I would highly recommend opting for a diet formulated specifically with growing cats in mind. Other than that, it’s hard to say how this phosphorus content will affect your kitten. There currently aren’t well-established upper levels of phosphorus in non-prescription foods. You may want to consult your vet or a veterinary nutritionist. Thank you!

    2. Kitten101

      Thank you so much. I will continue feeding my kitten his kitten food and may also add in some recommendations from your kittens video. Thank you!

  3. MeowMeow

    Hello!
    Does this have less phosphorus than other brands because they seem to have the same? I have been trying to get my one year old cat to eat raw but have seen the high bone content. The feeding instructions also say that a 12 pound cat should have 2 patties which is 120 calories, which dosent seem like enough food or calories. Is that because it is raw? Me and my kitty thank you for the reviews!

    Reply
  4. Mrbigglesworth

    Meow! I just bought chicken patties, rabbit patties, and duck nibs. On the back of every bag it doesn’t have bone as an ingredient listed. My baby has been throwing up chunks (at least 5mm) of hard bone. It’s only the chicken and rabbit. I’ve bought these before a few times but I never noticed it. Has anyone else had this problem?

    Reply
    1. Jo Howard

      YES! My cats mouth is bleeding from this formula! My sister’s have also been injured. I sifted a horrifying amount of bone out of all my bags.

  5. Brian kitzman

    2 out of every 3 bags I buy of raw turkey patties for cats vital essentials the texture of it is slimy and the cats won’t touch it only when the texture is firm and you gotta pull it apart will they eat it, why is it slimy most of the time

    Reply
    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Vital Essentials, Brian. I’d encourage you to contact Vital Essentials to find out why some batches are slimy. Thanks!

  6. Hailey

    Because of the steep price and the fact that it’s freeze dried, I only give this to my cats as a twice weekly snack, and they adore it. They love it so much, they know what day Monday is now, because they always get them on Mondays. I just kind of crumble the patties up inside a plastic bag, feed them a half portion of their kibble, and pour the crumbled VitalCat patty over the top. They’re always extra soft and extra shiny the day after meat patty day. I highly recommend using this as a treat, as part of a wet food based diet. It’s far easier on the pocketbook, and you don’t have to worry too much about the low moisture content.

    Reply
  7. Havoc and Mayhem

    Hello. Thank you for your informative site. My cat Havoc has allergies. We (along with vet) are trying to use novel proteins to determine if they are food allergies. Currently Havoc, is on rabbit, duck, and pork. The pork formula is 40% fat is that an acceptable portion for a cat’s diet.

    Reply
  8. Johnette Williams

    Since this initial review, they changed a few of their recipes. So they nolonger contain the goats milk.

    I give the rabbit to my cat as a treat every so often. He loves it. But its definitely “new” for him

    Reply
  9. Jo Howard

    Yeti loves his vital cat but there is a major problem with it. There are large piece of very sharp bone and his mouth has been bleeding since starting him on it a few weeks ago. The company has assured me they’ve got a new grinder on line now but it will be months before it is available. H please check the patties carefully with your fingers and you will be horrified to find so many large pieces of bone in the cat food. It should be recalled.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Hey, on the second review on this page it says one of the pros is “very low carbohydrate content”. However, your chart says it has like 30% carbs?! Nothing on the ingredients list would suggest this, so is it a mistake? I’ve always thought something was fishy about Vital Essentials: where I live, they’re shockingly cheap, they recommend feeding half the calories a cat should be eating… What am I missing?

    Reply
  11. Kelly Williams

    I tried the Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Rabbit mini patties and my cats love them! I don’t feed it everyday but will mix in with other pour over broth or wet foods for more nutrients given limited fiber content. It is pricey too. Appreciate your reviews!! Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Jen

    Hello.

    Thank for your article. I recently started intermittent (due to cost and now concern) feeding of Vital rabbit entree patties to my three cats. All love this food and beg for it. I was recently concerned after reading reviews revealing the significant amount of gravel-like, and often sharp, bones within the patties that many users noticed. One reviewer mentioned their cat developed a health issue due to the bones and they had to stop feeding Vital. Curious if you have an opinion or have known of this concern? Initially I only roughly broke up the patties and hadn’t noticed the bones. Having confirmed the presence of the unsettling bones, I now use a food processor to chop the patties, then remove any sharp or rock hard bones by sifting with my fingers – a painstaking process, but one I feel is important. From what I understand from the pet store where purchased, these Vital patties have only been in production for less than a year so there would not be much practical evidence available for the effect on a cat’s health.

    I appreciate any insight into this issue.

    Reply
    1. kateKate Barrington

      Hi Jen, I understand your concern! Bone is a common component of freeze-dried foods like Vital Essentials but it should ideally be ground up very fine. I also feed my cats the Vital Essentials rabbit recipe and have been noticing some small bone fragments. I always crush the patties by hand before rehydrating, then check for big pieces as I stir in the water. Using the food processor sounds like a good idea too! I’m not aware of any recalls or response to complaints by Vital Essentials but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out.