Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula costs less than other premium canned cat foods. Still, unlike many supermarket brands, you won't find any byproducts or artificial colors, flavors or preservatives in it. Natural Balance does contain grain -- not great for cats, some experts say -- but overall, reviewers say it's a good alternative to the super-pricey premium cat foods.
High-grade meats, but also some less-desirable ingredients. Natural Balance is higher in carbs than some experts like for cats (which are obligate carnivores that need to get most of their calories from protein and fat). Oat bran is the fifth ingredient, and brown rice flour is the sixth.
However, other experts see no problem with those ingredients. One doesn't like that Natural Balance includes carrageenan -- a seaweed-based thickener that some animal studies have linked to intestinal problems -- but gives Natural Balance the highest possible rating anyway. This expert points out that its main ingredients (chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver and salmon) are the same grade that humans would eat, and they're good for cats.
After recall, Natural Balance now tests every lot of its pet food. Natural Balance cat and dog foods were both involved in the notorious 2007 melamine recall, in which tainted ingredients from China made their way into hundreds of American pet foods, poisoning and killing many pets. Now, Natural Balance runs an in-house lab that tests every lot of every food before releasing it to stores. It tests for contaminants such as E. coli, salmonella and several mold toxins that can infect grain (aflatoxin, vomitoxin, fumonisin, ochratoxin and zearalenone).
Natural Balance now also gets all of the ingredients for its canned cat food from the United States, one expert source notes. And Natural Balance's cans are bisphenol A (BPA)-free, avoiding a chemical that studies have linked to reproductive problems, cancers and other diseases. Natural Balance merged with Del Monte Foods in the summer of 2013. However, ingredient quality and the company's testing program remain unchanged.
Cheaper than other premium cat foods. Natural Balance includes more grains than other premium cat foods, and it costs less. Grain-free premium cat foods -- designed to more closely mimic a cat's wild diet -- usually cost the most. Examples include Merrick Cowboy Cookout (Est. $1.40 for a 5.5-oz. can), Evo Cat and Kitten Food (Est. $1.35 for a 5.5-oz. can) and Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe (Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can).
Franny Syufy, About.com's guide to cats, has tried lots of expensive canned foods with her cats. Their very favorite? Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula. Several customers at Amazon.com agree that their cats adore it -- including one with a severely food-allergic cat so finicky that he lost more than 10 pounds while turning his nose up at food after food.
TruthAboutPetFood.com blogger Susan Thixton rates dozens of cat food brands here, including Natural Balance. She notes where the food is made, where the ingredients are sourced, and she digs through the ingredient lists of individual flavors to point out which ingredients are good for cats -- and which are bad.
Review: Natural Balance Cat Food, Susan Thixton, As of January 2014
Lisa Pierson, DVM, advocates feeding cats a raw meat diet with no grains or vegetables. That said, she names a small number of better-quality canned cat foods -- including Natural Balance -- on her site. Pierson also publishes a chart listing nutritional information for many cat foods.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, Updated February 2013
About.com's guide to cats, Franny Syufy, names the best top-quality canned cat foods -- ranked by her own cats' preference. Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula is their very favorite.
Review: Top Canned Cat Food, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
Two flavors of Natural Balance cat food make this list by Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat." Hotchner approves of the grain-free Duck and Pea flavor, and the Chicken and Liver Paté. The Indoor Cat Formula doesn't make the list, however.
Review: The List of Cat Crazy Approved Canned Foods, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
While other retail websites lump user reviews for all Natural Balance flavors together, Amazon.com sorts them by flavor -- but the Indoor Cat Formula gets only about 10 reviews. Still, there's a good balance of opinions here. Most say their cats love Natural Balance and it has been great for their health.
Review: Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula Cat Food, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2014