Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula costs less than other premium canned cat foods, but, 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. Product testing is in place to prevent future safety issues.
High-grade meats, but also some less-desirable ingredients. Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula 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), and you'll find brown rice seventh on the ingredient list. That's a no-no in some experts' eyes, though less of an issue to others. Most experts give high marks to the quality of the main ingredients -- chicken broth, chicken, chicken liver, duck and salmon. Carrageenan -- a seaweed-based thickener that's also commonly used in human food -- is the only controversial ingredient, but there's no consensus regarding whether it should be a concern at the low levels that the food contains.
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. It was also touched by the 2012 recall for possible salmonella contamination at a Diamond Pet Food plant where some of its varieties were made, though none of its food tested positive. 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 was acquired by Del Monte Foods in the summer of 2013, and sold again -- this time to J.M. Smucker -- in early 2015. However, the company's testing program remains unchanged.
Cheaper than other premium cat foods. Natural Balance includes more grains than other premium cat foods. However, grain-free premium cat foods -- such as Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe (Est. $1.65 for a 5.5-oz. can) and Nature's Logic Feline Canned Food -- Chicken (Est. $2.50 for a 5.5-oz. can) -- usually cost substantially more. You can spend less on a supermarket brand cat food, but with rare exceptions -- such as Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner (Est. 79 cents for a 5.5-oz. can), a quality supermarket food only available at Trader Joe's stores -- these foods use more undesirable ingredients, such as meat by-products. Some supermarket brands, such as Fancy Feast Classic Chicken Feast (Est. 55 cents for a 3-oz. can), can cost more per ounce than Natural Balance.
TruthAboutPetFood.com blogger Susan Thixton rates lots and lots 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, Not Dated
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 November 2014
About.com's guide to cats, Franny Syufy, names the best top-quality canned cat foods -- ranked by her own cats' preference. Natural Balance sits at the top, though a different variety, Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (Est. $1 for a 6 oz. can), is their very favorite.
Review: Top Canned Cat Food, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
Natural Balance Original Ultra Formula is rated here along with other sizes and varieties of Natural Balance canned cat foods. Overall satisfaction looks good, and the cat foods earn a rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 following 540 cat owner reviews. Some issues with dented cans or possibly receiving outdated inventory are noted, but, as is typically the case, the negative reviews seem to center on cats that were too finicky for the food.
Review: Natural Balance Ultra Canned Cat Formula, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2015
Here, there are just over 70 reviews for Natural Balance Original Ultra cat food, but all are for this variety only. Satisfaction is even a touch higher than at Amazon.com. It earns a 4.5-star rating, with 91 percent of those posting reviews adding that they would recommend the food.
Review: Natural Balance Original Ultra Premium Whole Body Health Chicken, Salmon & Duck Formula Canned Cat Food, Contributors to Chewy.com, As of April 2015