Experts say Merrick makes extremely high-quality canned cat food, with several grain-free flavors (including Cowboy Cookout) that closely mimic what cats would eat in the wild. It does contain carrageenan -- a controversial thickener you won't find in the well-regarded Halo brand of canned cat food -- but overall, top professionals say Merrick is an excellent choice.
High quality, and many flavors are grain-free -- but some experts wish it didn't include carrageenan. Like Halo and other top-rated canned cat foods, Merrick uses only "butcher-quality meats (same quality meats as what you would eat)," note the veterinarians and nutritionists who rate cat foods at 1800PetMeds.com.
Many flavors are grain-free -- important for cats, experts say, because they are obligate carnivores that aren't designed to digest much grain. That helps make Merrick a favorite of top experts, including Tracie Hotchner (author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat") and About.com guide to cats Franny Syufy, who has fed Merrick to her own cats. Another respected expert praises Merrick for adding necessary minerals like iron and zinc to its cat food in an easy-to-absorb form. Veterinarian Lisa Pierson includes Merrick on her list of top canned foods and backs that with nutritional information in an accompanying chart.
A couple of top sources don't like that it contains thickening gums -- including carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickener that has been linked to intestinal problems in some animal studies. Still, they all rate Merrick canned cat food as a very good choice.
No ingredients from China. Merrick makes its cat food in its own Texas plant, and it sources all meats and fish from government-inspected plants in the U.S. and New Zealand. Merrick uses no ingredients from China whatsoever, its website states -- a concern for many pet owners, after contaminated pet food ingredients from China sickened and killed pets in 2007.
A search of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's online database (which lists pet food recalls back to 2007) shows no recalls for Merrick cat food.
Merrick packs its cat food in bisphenol A (BPA)-free cans. BPA is a chemical that studies have linked to reproductive problems, cancers and other diseases.
A lower-calorie food, so you might need to feed more. Merrick cat food has about 160 calories per 5.5-ounce can -- less than others with 200 to 220 calories per can like Wellness Chicken Formula (*Est. $1.50 for a 5.5-oz. can) and Evo Cat and Kitten Food (*Est. $1.40 for a 5.5-oz. can), so you might have to feed more Merrick food to maintain your cat's weight.
Customers at OnlyNaturalPet.com give Merrick canned cat food great reviews, but one owner does note that his kitten "needs a lot of it in a day to be satisfied ... It is not as economical given that I have to feed more to give him enough daily calories versus other good foods."
Merrick canned cat food comes only in small cans. Other premium cat foods offer big economy-size cans (10 to 14 ounces).
Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (*Est. $1.20 for a 6-oz. can) is also well regarded by some experts, and it costs less than Merrick, Halo and other super-premium brands. However, Natural Balance includes grains, and it isn't low-carb like some Merrick varieties, including Cowboy Cookout.
Even hard-to-please experts are impressed with the quality of Merrick canned cat food -- especially its grain-free flavors. Unlike the well-rated Halo cat food, Merrick does contain the controversial ingredient carrageenan, but it's still an excellent runner-up choice.
Excellent Susan Thixton, author of the blog Truth About Pet Food, thoroughly evaluates many cat food brands (including Merrick), as well as their individual flavors of food. She rates each canned cat food on a scale of 1 to 4, based on the quality of its ingredients, added minerals and more.
Review: Merrick Cat Food, Susan Thixton, Updated February 2011
Excellent Veterinarian Lisa Pierson approves of only a few canned cat foods -- and Merrick is one of them. Elsewhere on her website, she points out that Merrick's nutritional profile mimics a cat's natural prey.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, As of October 2012
Very Good Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat," is another expert who recommends Merrick canned cat food. It makes her list of the show's approved foods.
Review: Cat Chat Approved Foods, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
Very Good Merrick canned cat food earns a rating of 3.5 stars, or "Good," from an expert panel of "veterinarians, nutritionists and the knowledgeable staff" of this pet supply website. It earns high marks for using meats sourced from the U.S. and Canada and no chemicals, but it loses points for containing carrageenan and cassia gum. The panel also says Merrick "may contain vitamins from China," but that appears to be incorrect -- Merrick's website states that it uses no ingredients, vitamins or minerals from China.
Review: Comparison Center: Compare Your Pet's Food, Editors of 1800PetMeds.com, Not Dated
Very Good Franny Syufy, About.com's guide to cats, lists the canned cat foods she feeds her own cats -- including Merrick. She doesn't discuss the food much, although she does note that Merrick contains "wholesome ingredients" and comes in several gourmet flavors. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Top Canned Cat Food, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
Good Merrick canned cat food is suitable for cats with feline inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to this website. Editors list only cat foods that exclude low-quality grains, dairy and certain bowel-irritating spices and additives.
Review: Wet Food, Editors of IBDKitties.net, Not Dated
Fair Nearly 70 cat owners have reviewed Merrick canned cat food here, awarding it an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5. Only four give it ratings of 3 stars or lower -- two because their cats don't like it, and two because their cats' hunger wasn't fully satisfied after a can of this food (which has fewer calories per ounce than some others).
Review: Merrick Gourmet Canned Cat Food, Contributors to OnlyNaturalPet.com, As of October 2012