Although it's not quite as ideal as Halo canned cat food, Wellness is still pretty good in its own right and a touch less expensive. That makes Wellness canned cat food worth considering.
High-quality and grain-free -- but some critics knock it for high fat content and carrageenan. Like Halo cat food, Wellness uses only high-quality meats (no byproducts). Most flavors are grain-free -- important for cats, experts say, because they are strict carnivores that aren't designed to digest significant amounts of grain.
But veterinarian Lisa Pierson points out that Wellness puts a lot of fat into its food, which is cheaper than lean meat protein.
"Does this annoy me? You bet it does given how much some of these so-called 'premium' diets cost," Pierson says. Still, she says most cats do very well on high-fat diets. "For instance, I have had [about] 550 cats and kittens go through my foster room over the years that have grown and thrived on adult canned Wellness -- chicken or turkey."
Wellness cat food includes blueberries, zucchini, and other fruits and veggies. The company says they're included as a natural source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Pierson says they aren't necessary, though -- "cats have no dietary need for vegetables."
Wellness cat food also contains carrageenan, a thickener made from seaweed. It's a controversial ingredient in cat food, as some animal studies have linked it to intestinal problems. One top expert notes this as a "red flag" ingredient, but she gives Wellness canned cat food her highest rating anyway. She especially appreciates that it chelates necessary minerals like iron and zinc before adding them to the food, making them easier for the cat's system to absorb.
Wellness is also a favorite cat food of Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat," and About.com guide to cats Franny Syufy names Wellness Chicken Formula as one of the few foods she feeds her own cats.
One recall since 2007. One critic notes that Wellness' canned cat foods are manufactured by Menu Foods -- notorious for its role in the 2007 pet food recalls, in which animals were sickened or died after eating Menu Foods-produced food contaminated with the chemical melamine. However, no Wellness cat foods were involved in the recalls.
A search of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's online database, which lists pet food recalls back to 2007, shows one recall for Wellness cat food: a February 2011 recall of certain lots of canned cat food for possibly not containing enough thiamine (vitamin B1).
One top expert who closely scrutinizes pet food safety gives Wellness canned cat food her highest rating. She notes that the company sources more than 98 percent of its canned cat food ingredients from the U.S., Canada or New Zealand, and it packs its small cat food sizes (3 and 5.5 ounces) -- although not the bigger sizes -- in bisphenol A (BPA)-free cans, avoiding a chemical that studies have linked to reproductive problems, cancers and other diseases.
Wellness talks about its quality assurance program on its website, but not specifically. For example, Wellness says, "We scrutinize every supplier and test every ingredient," but it doesn't say exactly how, or how often.
Costs less than some premium foods -- but it's still not cheap. Compared to some of the best premium brands, such as Halo, Wellness canned cat food is slightly cheaper per ounce. Veterinarian Lisa Pierson appreciates that Wellness comes in economical 12.5-ounce cans (as well as smaller 3- and 5.5-ounce cans) -- it's one of the reasons this picky cat food critic has fed Wellness to hundreds of foster cats over the years. (Most other premium brands also offer big cans, while a few -- like Halo -- sell only small 3- and 5.5-ounce cans.)
But don't stock up until you've tried it, About.com's Syufy cautions. "Some cats love it and will dive right in, while others turn their noses up at it every time," says Syufy, who feeds Wellness to her own cats. "It's on the high end of the price range, so I'd suggest buying a can or two before investing in a whole case."
Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (Est. $1.20 for a 6-oz. can) is one highly rated cat food that costs noticeably less than Wellness and Halo foods -- such as Halo Spot's Stew Wholesome Chicken Recipe (Est. $1.60 for a 5.5-oz. can) . Unlike those two brands, though, Natural Balance contains grains.
Susan Thixton, author of the blog Truth About Pet Food, rates Wellness and other canned cat foods on a four-point scale. She rates each flavor individually, and her reviews are extremely thorough, examining ingredient quality, nutritional makeup and more.
Review: Wellness Cat Food, Susan Thixton, As of January 2014
While veterinarian Lisa Pierson is a strong proponent of feeding cats a raw diet, she includes Wellness in her short list of high-quality commercial cat foods. It's higher-fat than cats really need, she says, but adds that most cats do fine on a high-fat diet -- and she has fed Wellness to hundreds of foster cats herself. She does warn that Wellness now adds rice to some varieties, so "be sure to read the labels."
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, Updated February 2013
A search of the FDA's database shows only one recall for Wellness pet food: a February 2011 recall of certain lots of canned cat food for possibly not containing enough thiamine.
Review: Wellpet LLC Voluntarily Recalls Certain Lots of Canned Cat Food, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Feb. 28, 2011
About.com's guide to cats, Franny Syufy, calls Wellness Chicken Formula an enigma. She says that owners will appreciate the high-quality ingredients and some cats like the food. However, other cats reject it at every turn. Because of the cost, she recommends trying a few cans with your cats before placing a large order.
Review: Top Canned Cat Food, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat," lists her favorite cat food brands here -- including Wellness.
Review: The List of Cat Chat Approved Canned Foods, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
Wellness Chicken Formula (like other Wellness flavors) is suitable for cats that have feline inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to this website. That means it's free from low-quality grains, dairy, and certain spices and additives that can irritate cats' bowels.
Review: Wet Food, Editors of IBDKitties.net, Not Dated
Wellness canned cat food earns a rating of 4.7 out of 5, with about 150 user reviews posted -- making it one of the top-rated foods on this retail website. In fact, 98 percent say they'd recommend it. Owners appreciate its high-quality ingredients, and most say their cats love it. Only about 10 post complaints -- some that their cats started turning up their noses at the food and a couple who say their cats developed mouth sores after eating Wellness (the retailer responds that it sounds like the cats are allergic to an ingredient in the food).
Review: Wellness Canned Cat Food, Contributors to OnlyNaturalPet.com, As of January 2014