If you live near a Trader Joe's, you're in luck: Reviews say this quirky grocery store sells its own brand of canned cat food with surprisingly high-quality ingredients -- at a surprisingly low price.
No byproducts, and nothing artificial. Unlike most supermarket brands, Trader Joe's cat food contains no byproducts, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or genetically modified ingredients. Trader Joe's also contains chelated minerals, which are easier for cats to absorb.
In some ways, though, it can't match the priciest premium brands. The fourth and fifth ingredients in Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner are "ocean fish" and "animal liver," and the eighth is "fish protein concentrate" -- vaguer descriptions than what you'll see in the ingredients lists of premium foods.
Unlike the highest-rated cat foods, Trader Joe's contains grain (not the best for cats, which are strict carnivores) and carrageenan (a seaweed-based thickener that has been linked to intestinal problems in some animal studies). Still, a lot of cat foods do -- even many premium cat foods.
Going above and beyond. We found plenty of reviews by cat owners who say they trust Trader Joe's, which behaved so responsibly during the deadly pet food recalls of 2007.
Trader Joe's pet foods were made in the Menu Foods factory that added contaminated Chinese ingredients to nearly 100 brands of pet food, sickening and killing many pets. Trader Joe's food wasn't contaminated -- but Trader Joe's pulled all of its food off store shelves anyway, until it could run its own tests to make sure it was safe. Pet owners were impressed. "THIS is how to handle a pet food recall," a Dogster.com blogger wrote. A search of the Food and Drug Administration's online recall database (which goes back to 2007) shows no recalls for Trader Joe's pet food.
Close-to-premium quality -- at half the price. Trader Joe's cat food costs about half as much as Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (Est. $1.20 for a 6-oz. can) , the cheapest premium pet food that experts recommend. Granted, Natural Balance uses more whole, specific foods in its formula (chicken liver and salmon, instead of Trader Joe's "animal liver" and "fish protein concentrate") -- but label-scrutinizing cat owners say Trader Joe's is a far better choice than similarly priced supermarket cat foods, which are full of byproducts and cheap fillers.
Susan Thixton doesn't cover Trader Joe's canned cat food in her extensive pet food reviews. However, subscribers to her PetsumerReport.com website do have access to her ingredient glossary, which lists just about any ingredient you'll find in pet food, its definition, and whether it's good or bad for pets, to help readers size up pet foods for themselves.
Review: Pet Food Ingredients, Susan Thixton, Not Dated
Veterinarian Lisa Pierson recommends Trader Joe's as a high-quality commercial canned cat food. This page links to a chart showing the nutrition profiles (how much protein, fat, carbohydrate, etc.) of Trader Joe's and many other cat foods.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, Updated February 2013
Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat," includes Trader Joe's on her list of approved canned cat foods. Hotchner advocates high-protein, low-carb diets for cats (who are strict carnivores).
Review: The List of Cat Crazy Approved Canned Foods, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
Although she recommends Trader Joe's canned cat food, Tracie Hotchner cautions against one flavor -- the Tuna for Cats. "Tuna is NOT a safe daily food for cats ... too much mercury, not a healthy protein source," she writes. Stick to the poultry-based foods, she advises.
Review: Tuna Is a No-No, Tracie Hotchner, Nov. 28, 2008
Trader Joe's Ocean Fish, Salmon and Rice Dinner earns 4.4 stars out of 5, with more than 30 reviews by cat owners. Owners like the high-quality ingredients, and their cats like the taste.
Review: Trader Joe's Ocean Fish, Salmon & Rice Dinner, Contributors to ZooToo.com, As of January 2014
Cat owners here discuss the pros and cons of Trader Joe's cat food. Some say they could do without the brewers rice and oat bran as fillers, but cat owners here agree that it's not a bad food overall, especially considering the price.
Review: Ever Tried Trader Joe's Wet Food?, Contributors to CatForum.com, October 2008
Three cat owners have reviewed Trader Joe's Turkey and Giblets Dinner here. All give it high marks -- saying that it's high-quality at a low price, and their cats like it.
Review: Trader Joe's Turkey and Giblets Dinner Canned Cat Food Reviews, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of January 2014
Trader Joe's enthusiasts submit product reviews on this website. This user -- a frequent reviewer -- praises Trader Joe's Turkey and Giblets canned cat food. Meats are high up on the ingredient list, grains are low (and there's no wheat), and the reviewer's cat loves it.
Review: Turkey and Giblets Canned Cat Food, "Rollo", April 5, 2006
Trader Joe's doesn't list any information about its cat food on its website, but a cat owner here helpfully posts the ingredients and nutritional breakdown for Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner.
Review: Which Food Is Best?, Contributors to Catster.com, June 2011
This blogger posts Trader Joe's press release from the 2007 pet food recall, in which it announced that it would pull all Menu Foods-manufactured foods from its store shelves -- even if they hadn't tested positive for contaminants -- until Trader Joe's could test them and be sure that they were safe. Pet owners on various Internet forums were impressed with the company's ethics.
Review: THIS Is How to Handle a Pet Food Recall -- Trader Joe's, "Joy", March 23, 2007