Cat owners appreciate California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Formula's short list of high-quality ingredients -- which makes it good even for many allergic or irritable-bowel cats. It's fairly inexpensive for a premium food, too. However, some vets say any dry food is unhealthy for cats.
Quality ingredients -- but grains are high up on the list. California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Formula starts with USDA-approved chicken (that means it's fit for humans to eat), followed by chicken meal (rendered meat and bone, with no byproducts in this case). The ingredient list is short, with no "red flags" for one top reviewer.
But brown rice and plain rice are the third and fourth ingredients. That's too much grain for critics like veterinarian Lisa Pierson, who says too much carbohydrate can cause health problems for cats, which are strict carnivores.
Pierson and some other experts say cats shouldn't eat dry food anyway, because they evolved to get moisture from their food (their low thirst drive means they won't make up the difference by drinking). But other experts see no problem with dry food, and plenty of cat owners report that their pets are thriving on California Natural.
Recalled in 2013. In June 2013, all California Natural dry dog and cat food was recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. California Natural's parent company, Natura (owned by Procter & Gamble), makes several brands of pet food in its own Nebraska factory; one lot tested positive for salmonella during routine FDA testing. No pet or human illnesses were reported, but Natura recalled all of its dry food as a precaution.
One source notes that California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Formula gets its ingredients from the United States, except for vitamins from Europe. That's a point in its favor, as tainted pet food ingredients from China have sickened and killed pets in the past.
For this price, you could go grain-free. California Natural costs slightly more than Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula (Est. $13 for a 5-lb. bag) -- and Taste of the Wild is grain-free. Otherwise, both foods are of comparable quality, with no corn, soy or byproducts. Reviews recommend the less expensive, grain-free Taste of the Wild a bit more often.
Susan Thixton interviews dozens of cat food companies (including California Natural) to find out the quality of their ingredients, where their foods are made and more. She rates the companies, and their individual varieties of food, based on her findings.
Review: California Natural Cat Food, Susan Thixton, As of January 2014
This press release details the final expansion of Natura's 2013 salmonella recall, which wound up including all brands and varieties of dry food made at Natura's Nebraska plant -- including California Natural.
Review: Natura Pet Issues Voluntary Recall of Specialized Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, June 18, 2013
Franny Syufy, About.com's guide to cats, names California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Formula to her list of the top dry cat foods. In this short review, she gives it a perfect 5-star rating -- but elsewhere on the site, Syufy says she now feeds her cats only canned food, to avoid dry-food-related health problems.
Review: California Natural Chicken and Rice Dry Cat Food, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
This website selects foods that are suitable for cats with irritable bowel disease (IBD). California Natural -- which has a short ingredient list -- is one of the few dry foods on the list.
Review: Dry Food, Editors of IBDKitties.net, Not Dated
With almost two dozen owner reviews, California Natural Dry Cat Food earns nearly perfect ratings. A couple of owners wish it cost a little less, but every single reviewer recommends it.
Review: California Natural Chicken and Brown Rice Formula Dry Cat and Kitten Food, Contributors to Chewy.com, As of January 2014