Whole Paws is the private-label pet food brand of Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods has a reputation as the go-to grocery for healthy products and specialty food items, but how does their pet food compare? We took a deep dive into Whole Paws cat food to find out.
The Cats.com Standard—Rating Whole Paws Cat Food On What Matters
We’ve rated the brand on six key criteria for quality. Here’s how it rates in each of these six crucial areas.
- Species-Appropriateness – 7/10
- Ingredient Quality – 8/10
- Product Variety – 7/10
- Price – 7/10
- Customer Experience – 8/10
- Recall History – 9/10
Overall Score: 7.6/10
In total, we give Whole Paws cat food a 46 out of 60 rating or a B+ grade.
Why Trust Cats.com
Before writing this review, I performed in-depth research on the Whole Paws pet food brand, including its history and product selection. My research spanned the Whole Foods Market website and social media accounts, as well as pages dedicated specifically to the Whole Paws product line.
I personally purchased three wet foods and one dry cat food recipe from Whole Paws and tested them with my three cats: Bagel, Munchkin, and Biscuit. During our testing, I observed my cats’ reactions and evaluated the products for palatability, texture, appearance, and general appeal. I also analyzed the product information on the label.
After performing this research and testing, I rated Whole Paws in six key categories according to the Cats.com Standard.
About Whole Paws
Whole Paws is the private label pet food brand for Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market was founded in 1980 and quickly grew from a single store in Austin, Texas to a chain of over 500 stores across North America and the UK. It’s the world’s leading natural and organic grocery store chain.
The Whole Paws pet food line was launched in 2013. In a press release published on PR Newswire in October of 2013, Mitch Madoff, the global exclusive brands coordinator for Whole Foods Market, described Whole Paws as “a new line of products with premium ingredients at a value price.”
Whole Paws pet foods made a splash as one of the earliest private store brands offering grain-free recipes. Today, all Whole Paws pet foods remain grain-free and feature animal-sourced protein as the first ingredient.
Sourcing and Manufacturing
As is true for other private label brands I’ve reviewed, I had some trouble finding specific information about manufacturing and ingredient sourcing for Whole Paws pet foods. The product labels only state that the foods are made in the USA with domestic and imported ingredients and distributed by Whole Foods Market IP, LP.
When Whole Paws was first launched, Truth About Pet Food sent questions to Whole Foods Market about the products. In response to queries about manufacturing, Whole Foods stated that they don’t share co-packer information for any of their private label brands. They also declined to share ingredient country of origin information for “proprietary reasons.”
Though I wasn’t able to find specific information about ingredient sourcing, Whole Paws foods appear to be largely animal-based. Like many grain-free foods, however, they contain high concentrations of peas and legumes. The wet foods also contain carrageenan, an ingredient that has sparked controversy within the pet food industry.
Whole Paws does not appear to have experienced any product recalls in its 10-year history. It’s worth noting, however, that Whole Foods Market doesn’t disclose the name of the manufacturer they use.
Given that Whole Foods Market is such a large chain, they likely use one of the main US pet food manufacturers. So, while Whole Paws foods have never been recalled, it’s possible that the manufacturer has previously been involved in other recalls.
What Kinds of Cat Food Does Whole Paws Offer?
Whole Paws offers a varied selection of dry and wet cat food products as well as treats and cat litter. Though availability may vary by location, the product line appears to include about a dozen products formulated for cats. All Whole Paws cat foods are grain-free.
The wet cat food recipes available from Whole Paws include:
- Salmon Pate Loaf
- Chicken Pate Loaf
- Whitefish Loaf Dinner
- Chicken and Giblets Loaf Dinner with Vegetables
- Tuna Dinner Shredded in a Savory Gravy
- Salmon Dinner Shredded in a Savory Gravy
- Turkey & Giblets Loaf Recipe
- Beef Loaf Dinner with Vegetables
Whole Paws dry cat foods feature either chicken or fish as the primary ingredient. There are four recipes to choose from:
- Grain-Free Chicken Recipe
- Indoor Cat Grain-Free Salmon Recipe
- Grain-Free Ocean-Caught Whitefish Recipe
- Grain-Free Chicken & Pea Recipe
All Whole Paws dry foods are sold in small 3.5-pound bags while their canned foods come in 3-ounce or 5.5-ounce cans.
What Did Our Test Cats Think?
At first glance, Whole Paws cat food seemed just like any other grocery store brand. The dry food kibbles were very small and crunchy while all the wet foods were very moist and soft. My cats seemed to really enjoy the canned foods but didn’t seem particularly interested in the dry food.
Whole Paws Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed
|Product Name||Food Type||Main Protein Source||Calories||Price||Our Grade|
|Whole Paws Grain-Free Beef Loaf Dinner with Vegetables Wet Cat Food||Wet||Beef||34 kcal/oz.||$0.30 per oz||B-|
|Whole Paws Grain-Free Salmon Pate Loaf Recipe Wet Cat Food||Wet||Salmon||34 kcal/oz.||$0.20 per oz||B|
|Whole Paws Grain-Free Chicken & Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food||Dry||Chicken||118 kcal/oz.||$0.21 per oz||C|
#1 Whole Paws Grain-Free Beef Loaf Dinner with Vegetables Wet Cat Food
With beef and chicken muscle meat as the top two ingredients, this recipe starts off strong. Chicken liver provides supplemental protein as well as animal-sourced nutrients, including vitamin A. Cooked in beef broth, this recipe has a meaty flavor that seems to appeal to many cats. Measured as dry matter, this food contains about 41% protein and 27% fat.
The carbohydrate content of this food is over 10% and, unfortunately, appears to come largely from starchy potatoes and hard-to-digest peas. The limited digestibility of these ingredients limits their nutritional value for cats. Peas also contain phytic acid which may inhibit the absorption of essential minerals like iron and calcium. It’s also thickened with carrageenan, an ingredient that has sparked controversy in the pet food industry.
This loaf-style canned cat food has a very soft, moist texture. My cats seemed to enjoy the flavor and they had no digestive issues after eating it. With 34 calories per ounce, it’s fairly energy dense. It’s only sold in 3-ounce cans, however, which makes it a little more expensive than the next recipe.
Beef, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Beef Broth, Carrots, Potatoes, Peas, Salt, Tricalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Cranberries, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, Carrageenan, Magnesium Sulfate, Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols).
Ingredients We Liked: Beef, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Fish Oil
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Potatoes, Peas, Guar Gum, Carrageenan
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Top three ingredients are animal-sourced
- Rich in moisture with a soft texture
- Fish oil provides animal-sourced omega-3 fatty acids
What We Didn’t Like:
- Thickened with carrageenan
- Contains starchy potatoes and hard-to-digest peas
- Guar gum may trigger loose stools in some cats
#2 Whole Paws Grain-Free Salmon Pate Loaf Recipe Wet Cat Food
With animal-sourced ingredients in the top three slots, this Whole Paws canned food appears to be primarily meat-based. Fresh salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may explain why the food doesn’t contain the fish oil found in the previous recipe. Again, chicken liver provides protein to supplement the salmon and chicken, as well as essential nutrients from a biologically valuable animal source.
Measured as dry matter, this food is a little higher in protein at around 45%—the dry matter fat content remains at about 27%. This food omits the starchy potatoes but still contains peas, guar gum, and carrageenan. The latter two ingredients aren’t necessarily harmful to your cat, but pet owners have raised concerns about these ingredients in the past.
Though also marketed as a loaf-style food, this recipe had an even softer texture than the previous one. My cats seemed to like the flavor and high moisture content of the food and it was very easy to mix with both water and dry cat food.
Salmon, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Salmon Broth, Carrots, Peas, Natural Flavor, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Potassium Chloride, Guar Gum, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Choline Chloride, Vitamin (Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine, Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, Carrageenan, Dl-Methionine.
Ingredients We Liked: Salmon, Chicken, Chicken Liver
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Peas, Sunflower Oil, Guar Gum, Carrageenan
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Made with two sources of animal protein
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Very soft texture, easy to chew
- Contains over 45% protein, measured as dry matter
What We Didn’t Like:
- Contains carrageenan
- Peas can be hard to digest
- Some cats experience loose stools with guar gum
#3 Whole Paws Grain-Free Chicken & Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food
Like any dry cat food, this recipe is low in moisture. It comes in very small, round kibbles that measure about ¼-inch in diameter. My cats eat some dry food every day, but they didn’t seem to find this recipe particularly appealing.
The food features chicken as the primary source of, supplemented with turkey meal. Chicken fat and salmon oil are the only added fats—both being species-appropriate sources of energy and essential fatty acids for cats. Salmon oil, in particular, is a good source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
The main downside of this recipe is its high carbohydrate content. The dry matter protein content is only around 33%, and it’s hard to know how much of that protein comes from plant sources like peas and garbanzo beans. These two ingredients contribute significantly to the food’s carb content, and they can be difficult for cats to digest.
Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Turkey Meal, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Dried Plain Beet Pulp, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Salt, Choline Chloride, Dried Cranberries, Fructooligosaccharides, Pumpkin, Apples, Dried Carrots, Taurine, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, D-calcium Pantothenate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid), Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate), Dl-methionine, Rosemary Extract.
Ingredients We Liked: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Chicken Fat, Salmon Oil
Ingredients We Didn’t Like: Peas, Garbanzo Beans
Dry Matter Basis
Caloric Weight Basis
What We Liked:
- Contains three animal sources of protein
- Two species-appropriate sources of fat
- Doesn’t contain gums or carrageenan
- No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
What We Didn’t Like:
- Very high carbohydrate content
- Contains hard-to-digest peas and beans
What Do Customers Think of Whole Paws Cat Food?
Whole Foods Market doesn’t allow customer ratings and reviews on its website, but there are plenty of reviews for Whole Paws pet foods on Amazon.com. The brand seems to be well-liked, with most cat food products having an average rating of at least 4 stars out of 5. That said, relatively few of the reviews were left within the past year.
Kitty Loves This
Bought this on a whim instead of kitty’s regular dry food and she really eats it up.
—Nats Lady, Reviewing Whole Paws Indoor Cat Chicken Recipe Dry Food, on April 25th, 2023
Lots Of Gravy!
My senior kitty is super picky. This is one of two canned foods she’ll eat! She loves to lick all of the gravy first and then comes back later to nibble on the moist pieces of tuna.
—Susan Hall, Reviewing Whole Paws Grain-Free Tuna Dinner Wet Cat Food, on August 1st, 2023
Several cat owners reported that even their picky cats like Whole Paws cat food—some refuse anything else. Cats who like one Whole Paws recipe seem to enjoy other flavors as well. There are numerous positive comments about cats enjoying the gravy-like consistency of Whole Paws wet foods.
My Cat Didn’t Enjoy This
I’m sure it’s great for other cats, but my cat turned her nose up at it and didn’t eat it at all.
—Aidan, Reviewing Whole Paws Grain-Free Tuna Dinner, on August 18th, 2022
Smells vile, Cats Wouldn’t Touch It
I know cat food is stinky, my cats love stinky food. This smells like a serious untreated infection, it’s relatively subtle for cat food but still smells very much like a large quantity of pus.
—Nix, Reviewing Whole Paws Grain-Free Tuna Dinner, on May 30th, 2023
Negative reviews for Whole Paws cat food are largely centered around individual cat preferences—no pet food is going to be universally well-liked. There are a few comments about the wet food smelling awful or kibbles being too small, but recent reviews don’t raise any major red flags.
How Much Does Whole Paws Cat Food Cost?
When the product line was first launched, Whole Paws was introduced as a value-focused brand. The foods seem to be moderately priced when compared to the pet food market as a whole, but it’s a little more expensive than other private label brands like Aldi’s Heart to Tail and Petco’s WholeHearted.
Customers may appreciate that Whole Paws prices don’t vary based on ingredients. You’ll pay the same amount for a fish-based wet food as for a chicken-based recipe. The 3-ounce wet cat food cans cost $0.89 each, and the larger 5.5-ounce cans are $1.09. This averages out to $0.30 and $0.20 per ounce, respectively.
Whole Paws dry cat foods are available in standard and organic versions, all sold in 3.5-pound bags. The regular adult dry cat food costs $11.79 per bag ($0.21/ounce) while the organic recipes are $20.99 ($0.37). The cost to feed a 10-pound cat Whole Paws food ranges from about $0.35 to $1.75 per day, depending on which product you choose.
Where Is Whole Paws Cat Food Sold?
Because Whole Paws is a private-label brand specifically made for Whole Foods Market, its availability is limited. The best place to buy it is in Whole Foods stores or online at WholeFoodsMarket.com. You may also be able to place an order through grocery delivery services like Instacart. Availability of certain recipes may vary by location.
In addition to being sold in Whole Foods stores and on their website, you can order Whole Paws pet food on Amazon. Keep in mind that the Whole Foods Market store is a separate section of Amazon, so a delivery fee may apply even if you’re an Amazon Prime member.