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Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food Review of 2023: Recalls, Pros & Cons

Review Summary

Our Final Verdict

We give Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food a rating of 4.7 out of 5.0 stars. 


Nature’s Variety is the brand behind Instinct cat foods, available as wet canned food, dry kibble, and toppers. Its inspiration is knowing that raw diets have the potential to provide your cat with many different health benefits. It’s taken that inspiration and created freeze-dried toppers and dry kibble coated with a freeze-dried coating.

This private company is based in midwest of the U.S.A. and has a wide range of grain- and gluten-free cat foods.

If you’re looking for a cat food brand that uses raw feeding principles but provides convenient and easy-to-feed traditional canned foods and kibbles, then you’re going to love Nature’s Variety! If you’re ready to find out everything you need to know about this brand, keep reading as we spill all the details.

cat face divider 2At a Glance: The Best Instinct Cat Food Recipes:

Image Product Details
Our Favorite
Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Pâté Recipe Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Pâté Recipe
  • Feature iconContains 10% protein
  • Feature iconLow in carbohydrates
  • Feature iconNo meat by-products
  • Second place
    Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken Nature’s Variety Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken
  • Feature iconContains 41% protein
  • Feature iconChicken as the first ingredient
  • Feature iconProbiotics and antioxidants
  • Third place
    Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Heal Nature’s Variety Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Heal
  • Feature iconEasy to feed
  • Feature iconContains 36% protein
  • Feature iconNo by-products
  • Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Pate Real Turkey R Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Pate Real Turkey R
  • Feature iconMade free of chicken, beef, fish
  • Feature iconProudly made in the USA
  • Feature iconFormulated with vitamins and minerals
  • Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken & Freez Nature’s Variety Raw Boost Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken & Freez
  • Feature iconBalanced mix of poultry, fish and meat
  • Feature iconFree from grains, potato, corn, wheat and soy
  • Feature iconMade in the USA
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    Instinct Cat Food Reviewed

    3Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Boost Mixers Grain-Free Digestive Health

    Who Makes Nature’s Variety and Where Is It Produced?

    Nature’s Variety has its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. It is now owned by the Spanish company Agrolimen.

    Its Instinct range is made in the U.S.A., using ingredients sourced from around the world. It sources some ingredients from France, Italy, New Zealand, and Australia. It doesn’t source any poultry or meat from China.

    All of Nature’s Variety dry recipes are manufactured in the United States. Wet recipes are produced by reputable co-packers located in Kansas and Thailand.

    Which Types of Pets Is Nature’s Variety Best Suited For?

    Nature’s Variety is perfect for cats on a grain-free or gluten-free diet. All of its recipes prioritize the use of whole-food ingredients without artificial ingredients or bulking out using fillers.

    The Nature’s Variety Instinct products that we’ve reviewed here contain high levels of protein and plenty of nutrients and are as close to a raw diet as you’ll find in a long-life cat food. If you like the idea of feeding raw, but don’t want to make it yourself or have to keep pre-packaged cat food in the refrigerator, then this is the best alternative.

    If your cat has allergies, Nature’s Variety also offers a limited-ingredient diet, using just one source of animal protein and one vegetable.

    Our Favorite Cat Bowl:
    Giving your cat the highest quality nutrition is a top priority as a pet parent, so why not give them a food and water dish to match? We think the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl is too good not to share.

    Made from food-safe stainless steel, you can ensure that your cat is consuming the best nutrition out of the finest bowls on the market. Click here to get yours.

    At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

    Which Types of Pets Might Do Better With a Different Brand?

    If you’d prefer to feed your cat a food with grains, then unfortunately, you’ll find that all of Nature’s Variety Instinct line is grain free. If you’d prefer a cat food with grain, then you might prefer to try something like the Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food.

    Discussion of the Primary Ingredients

    Let’s take a look at the main ingredients used in Nature’s Variety Instinct cat foods.

    Real meat

    All Nature’s Variety Instinct recipes include at least 70% animal-based protein. Sometimes this is a single source, and other times, it is from a variety of proteins. Nature’s Variety uses chicken, turkey, duck, salmon, and rabbit in its recipes.

    Wholesome fruits and vegetables

    Each Nature’s Variety Instinct recipe is supplemented by a blend of fruits and vegetables designed to add fiber, antioxidants, and other beneficial ingredients to your cat’s diet.

    Benefits of raw feeding

    Raw diets provide a high level of nutrition to your cat. But they can also use up a large amount of storage space and can be expensive. Nature’s Variety has bridged the gap between the convenience of kibble and canned food and the unrivaled nutritional benefits of raw feeding.

    Certain recipes include allergens

    While Nature’s Variety Instinct does offer a range of limited-ingredient diet recipes geared toward cats with allergies, a few of its other recipes do contain common allergens like peas, eggs, and chicken.

    Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!

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    A Quick Look at Nature’s Variety Instinct Cat Food

    • Uses real meat as the first ingredient in all its recipes
    • Offers kibble, canned food, and toppers
    • Grain-free
    • Some recipes are suitable for cats with allergies
    • Free from artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors
    • Easy to digest
    • High in protein
    • A few recipes contain allergens, like peas or egg
    • Expensive

    Instinct Cat Food Recall History

    Nature’s Variety has had a couple of recalls.

    • In 2015, it recalled a few chicken-based recipes after FDA testing showed that there was salmonella contamination. That same year, they also recalled a few recipes due to contamination with plastic.
    • In 2012, it issued another voluntary recall but this was for dog food.
    • In 2010, they recalled a few raw foods made with chicken, due to fears that it was contaminated with salmonella.

    If you want to keep an eye on future recalls, you can check for recalls and withdrawals on our recalls page

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    Reviews of the 3 Best Instinct Cat Food Recipes

    Let’s take a look at three popular Nature’s Variety Instinct recipes in a bit more detail.

    1. Instinct Original Grain-Free Real Chicken Pâté Recipe Canned Wet Food

    instinct cat food

    The first three ingredients in this wet canned food are chicken, turkey, and chicken liver, which give us a clue that this is a high-quality canned food containing plenty of animal protein. In fact, real meat makes up 95% of this recipe’s contents, with the remaining 5% being fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and other beneficial ingredients.

    This palatable pâté-style canned food also contains a high moisture content of 78%, helping your cat stay hydrated and healthy. It’s rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to keep your cat’s skin and coat looking and feeling in top condition. This doesn’t contain any meat by-products, grains, soy, potatoes, wheat, or corn.

    Calorie Breakdown:

    instinct real chicken

    • Contains 10% protein
    • Real meat as the first three ingredients
    • Contains no meat by-products
    • Low in carbohydrates
    • Above-average cost
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    2. Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe With Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

    2Instinct Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Coated

    With 81% of this dry kibble being made up of real animal protein, you can be sure this will provide plenty of high-quality nutrition, combined with the convenience of kibble. The remaining 19% of the ingredients are made up of wholesome fruits, vegetables, and beneficial nutrients.

    This kibble uses an innovative process, where raw ingredients are freeze-dried to remove moisture but lock in all the nutrients. This freeze-dried raw food is then crumbled to create a covering for the kibble, making sure your cat gets the benefit of raw food in every bite. This kibble promotes healthy digestion and helps your cat thrive from the inside out.

    Calorie Breakdown:

    instinct original grain free

    • Contains 41% protein
    • Chicken as the first ingredient
    • Contains probiotics and antioxidants
    • Includes a raw, freeze-dried coating
    • Contains meat meal
    • Contains peas, which can trigger allergies
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    3. Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Boost Mixers Digestive Health Cat Food Topper

    3Instinct Freeze-Dried Raw Boost Mixers Grain-Free Digestive Health

    This raw boost mixer allows you to top your cat’s kibble with the benefits of raw food. This particular recipe contains a blend of ingredients to help promote a healthy digestive system. As well as cage-free chicken as the first ingredient, this also contains healthy fiber from pumpkins and sweet potatoes, as well as apple cider vinegar and natural probiotics.

    This is super simple to feed, as there’s no need to add water or rehydrate this freeze-dried food, so you can simply feed it as is. It’s designed to be complementary rather than a complete feed, so make sure you feed it alongside a balanced wet food or kibble. You can feed between 1–3 tablespoons per day, depending on the weight of your cat. This also makes a great treat!

    Calorie Breakdown:

    instinct raw boost

    • Contains 36% protein
    • Contains no by-products
    • Easy to feed
    • Real chicken as the first ingredient
    • Contains coloring
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    What Other Users Are Saying

    • All About Cats: “Nature’s Variety maintains a good reputation among customers and appears to be a reliable choice. ”
    • Amazon: As pet owners, we always double-check with Amazon reviews from buyers before we buy something. You can read these by clicking here.

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    Nature’s Variety Instinct cat foods combine all the benefits of feeding a raw diet with the ease of feeding kibble or canned food. It uses high-quality ingredients, with a focus on real meat as the primary base for all its recipes.

    While Nature’s Variety did have a couple of recalls in the past, their recent record is squeaky-clean. All Nature’s Variety cat foods are made in the U.S.A., using a blend of ingredients sourced from around the world.

    As a company with a good reputation for using high-quality ingredients, as well as bringing the real nutrition of raw food to more of us cat owners than ever before, Nature’s Variety Instinct comes highly recommended both by us and thousands of happy customers. As we all know, if our cats are happy, then we’re happy!

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    Featured image credit: Nature’s Variety Instinct, Chewy