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Instinct Cat Food Reviewed: Pros, Cons, and Ingredient Analysis

Charles Grisham
By Charles Grisham
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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See our advertising disclosure.

Instinct Cat Food Summary

What is Instinct Cat Food?

Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food is a premium-quality food brand that makes cat formulas using raw food like real chicken, turkey, and chicken liver.

Instinct Cat Food is enriched with probiotics for digestive health and features vitamins and minerals from whole food sources. The brand uses minimally processed ingredients to retain a balanced and complete nutrient profile.

Where is Instinct Cat Food Made?

Instinct Cat Food is made in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

How is Instinct Cat Food Made?

Instinct Cat Food food uses science to guide its manufacturing process. The brand is partnered with the University of Nebraska and Ph.D.-level nutritionists to formulate safe and nutritious pet food that is made from either frozen raw or freeze-dried ingredients.

Is Instinct Cat Food Good for Cats?

Yes, Instinct Cat Food is good.

According to the website, Instinct is the “only raw pet food company in North America to achieve an “excellent” Safe Quality Food (SQF) Rating. SQF is a “rigorous and credible food safety quality auditing program that is recognized by retailers, brand owners, and food service providers.”

SQF is not a required certification in pet food manufacturing.

Instinct Cat Food Formulas Reviewed

There are many Instinct Cat Food formulas. Take a look at our reviews before choosing the right recipe for your cat.

Instinct Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, Original Natural High Protein Cat Food

Instinct Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, Original Natural High Protein Cat Food

Get it on Amazon      Get it on Chewy

Summary: This is their original grain-free recipe that uses raw ingredients for every piece of the formula. It is minimally processed to ensure the highest nutrient density and features 81% animal products and 19% fruits and vegetables. The kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw food. Free from grains, potatoes, by-products, and meals, the diet is fit for cats of all breeds and ages.

Type: Raw-coated kibble

Best for: Cats of all life stages

Price: $4.93/lb

Pros

  • Grain-free recipe made with real chicken
  • Raw coated kibble for natural nutrition
  • With probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Supports overall health and wellbeing
  • Suitable for cats of all breeds and ages

Cons

  • Often out of stock on Amazon and Chewy

Ingredient Analysis: The ingredients in this food are great. Real chicken, chicken meal, and turkey meal are used as a high-protein base. It is rounded out with healthy fruits and vegetables for fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. The addition of rosemary extract might put off some pickier cat owners, but we see no problem with it in this recipe.

Review: Over 4,000 people have reviewed this product on Amazon alone, and 80% of them gave this food 5-stars. Many pet owners were satisfied with the nutritional value, with multiple making claims that it had actually saved their cat’s life. They mention how the food was easy to digest for their adult cats and kittens, and it had given them energy and vitality.

Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Instinct Raw Boost Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food features high-protein kibble mixed with freeze-dried raw meat pieces. The unique combination results in an optimal nutrient profile and extremely palatability. It is grain-free and does not feature any artificial additives. The formula is fortified with essential fatty acids and probiotics.

Type: Dry kibble + freeze-dried

Best for: Cats of all life stages

Price: $4.18/lb

Pros

  • Grain-free, high-protein formula
  • Real duck, chicken, and salmon recipes
  • Minimally processed with wholesome ingredients
  • Without artificial preservatives or artificial colors
  • High in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Cons

  • Relatively high carbohydrate content

Ingredient Analysis: Freeze-dried chicken, chicken liver, and real chicken are the foundation of this formula, all of which are great sources of protein, amino acids, and micronutrients. A complete vitamin E supplement is added, and a menhaden fish meal for further micronutrient density.

Review: The majority of the reviews are 4 and 5-stars. Cat owners noted it had helped clear up skin conditions, and they were pleased with the use of real meat. Some customers are concerned about the high fiber content in the kibble of this food, and a noticeable number stated it had made their cats vomit, although the majority of those reviews seem to be from 2018.

Instinct Raw Boost Indoor Dry Cat Food

Instinct Raw Boost Indoor Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This is a mixed food made of dry bits and freeze-dried raw meat. It has raw boost mixers for added protein and amino acids and is formulated for an indoor cat’s needs. The formula helps with weight control and minimizes stool odors. It supports digestive health and strong immunity. It comes in two flavor and protein options – chicken recipe and rabbit recipe.

Type: Dry kibble + freeze-dried

Best for: Indoor cats of all life stages

Price: $7.15/lb

Pros

  • Real meat as the first ingredient
  • Supports benefits from raw nutrition
  • For stool odor control & weight management
  • Promotes digestive and immune health
  • Available in two animal protein sources

Cons

  • The chicken recipe is often out of stock on Amazon, and Chewy

Ingredient Analysis: About one-third of the ingredients in the formula are animal products. It also includes vitamin supplements for a balanced nutritional profile and is made with no obvious fillers. Overall, this is a good ingredient list providing complete nutrition without unnecessary additives.

Review: This “miracle cure,” as one reviewer called it, can help cats with irritable bowel syndrome and digestive issues. Even pet parents with picky cats have stated they love this food, with multiple claiming their cats “can’t get enough.” Lower star reviews often state their cat was not interested in the freeze-dried meat bits and complained the price was steep for the small bag they received.

Instinct Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food

Instinct Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This food uses real salmon, real rabbit, and real turkey in this limited ingredient recipe of one animal protein and one vegetable. Each kibble bit is coated with freeze-dried raw meat for added nutrition and taste. The formula is limited-ingredient, meaning it is best for cats with tummy issues – allergies, and sensitivities.

Type: Raw-coated kibble

Best for: Adult cats with sensitive stomachs

Price: $7.11/lb

Pros

  • Limited-ingredient formula
  • Healthy omega fatty acids profile
  • Made grain-free and gluten-free
  • No dairy, eggs, potato, or soy
  • Easily digestible ingredients

Cons

  • More expensive than other kibbles

Ingredient Analysis: Canola oil seems to be a questionable ingredient for a limited ingredient food, especially since it is the fourth ingredient. However, the rest of the ingredients are excellent. Namely, the use of real meats supports the cat’s needs. Plus, the formula is enriched with taurine, coconut oil, pumpkin seeds, and vitamin/mineral supplements.

Review: Many reviewers from 2018 noticed a formula change that seemed to be dangerous to their cat. However, some reviews from more recent years do not note this as much. Most of the 1,200+ five-star reviews are happy with the results they have seen in their older cat’s behavior and the fact the cat is excited to eat again.

Instinct Raw Meals Freeze-Dried Cat Food

Instinct Raw Meals Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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Summary: This cage-free chicken recipe is made of 85% chicken meat and organs and 15% fruits and veggies for complete and balanced cat food. The carefully selected ingredients are minimally processed and freeze-dried to retain most of the nutrients and natural flavor. The formula comes in two versions – for adults, cats, and kittens.

Type: Freeze-dried

Best for: Adult cats & kittens

Price: $43.00/lb

Pros

  • Three times more meat than regular kibble
  • Non-GMO fruits and vegetables
  • Made without legumes, artificial colors, or grains
  • Bite-sized pieces that are easy to scoop
  • Comes in a resealable package

Cons

  • Expensive, so accessibility may be limited

Ingredient Analysis: The ingredients in this raw food are clearly high-end, with a healthy amount of crude protein, crude fat, and animal products. Sweet potatoes are used as a carb source, and while they are fine for cats, they add quite a bit of fiber to the food that may be a bit much for some smaller cats to process, and the use of montmorillonite clay may cause constipation.

Review: Most of the reviews about this Instinct freeze-dried food are positive. However, there are reviews at every level, from one to five stars. The most common complaint is that the price is too high, with one buyer even saying, “I wish my cat didn’t love this so much.”

What Cat Food Formulas does Instinct Make?

  • Instinct Raw Longevity
      • Raw Longevity Adult Frozen Rabbit Bites Cat Food
      • Raw Longevity Kitten Frozen Chicken Bites Cat Food
      • Raw Longevity Adult Ages 7+ Freeze-Dried Beef Bites Cat Food
  • Instinct Raw
  • Instinct Raw Boost
  • Instinct Original
  • Instinct Ultimate Protein
  • Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
Instinct Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, Original Natural High Protein Cat Food
  • GRAIN FREE CAT FOOD WITH CAGE FREE CHICKEN: Instinct Original dry cat food is made with 81% real animal ingredients and nutritious oils, 19% vegetables, fruits and other wholesome ingredients. Responsibly sourced cage free chicken is the #1 ingredient.
  • THE FIRST RAW COATED KIBBLE: Our grain free cat food offers balanced nutrition for all cats, including indoor & kittens. Each piece of kibble is coated in freeze dried raw for nutrition & taste. Delicious, healthy flavor that even picky kitties will love.
  • THE FIRST RAW COATED KIBBLE: Our grain free cat food offers balanced nutrition for all cats, including indoor & kittens. Each piece of kibble is coated in freeze dried raw for nutrition & taste. Delicious, healthy flavor that even picky kitties will love.

Has Instinct Cat Food Been Recalled?

Yes, Instinct Cat Food has had four recalls – one in 2010, one in 2012, and two in 2015.

The 2010 recall was due to potential Salmonella contamination of several chicken recipes. The 2012 recall was voluntary and included several lines of dog food. Finally, the 2015 recalls were caused by potential contaminations with plastic and Salmonella.

Is Instinct Cat Food Worth it?

Yes, Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food is worth it. Their ingredients are clearly aimed at promoting healthy skin with omega fatty acids, a healthy digestive system with the addition of crude fiber, and the use of animal proteins as some of the first ingredients in the formula.

Some of their higher-end products, however, may be out of reach for some cat owners, and in such cases, it is better to opt for other, more affordable high-quality cat food options.