Experts say Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula is an excellent dry cat food -- but it costs as much as some cat foods that rate even better -- such as Orijen Cat and Kitten Formula (Est. $25 for a 5-lb. bag) -- and much more than some foods that are almost as well-regarded.
Grain-free and meat-rich. Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula earns a perfect rating from one top expert. Its ingredients are all human-grade, this expert points out -- and its top ingredients are all quality meat proteins (deboned turkey and chicken, followed by chicken, whitefish and herring meals). Wellness' meat meals contain no byproducts, and its fish meals use only natural preservatives. Wellness includes proteinated minerals (for better absorption) and probiotics (friendly bacteria) to promote good digestion and immunity.
Wellness Core is grain-free. Experts say that's good for cats, which are strict carnivores that haven't evolved to digest much grain. It does contain quite a few vegetables and fruits, which some critics -- including veterinarian Lisa Pierson -- say are unnecessary for strict carnivores.
Some vets -- again, Pierson included -- say cats shouldn't eat dry food at all. They say cats evolved to get their moisture from food, and their thirst drive is so low that they won't make up the difference by drinking water. Too little moisture can lead to painful, potentially life-threatening urinary problems.
Franny Syufy, About.com's guide to cats, ranks Wellness Core and Evo (Est. $22 for a 6.6-lb. bag) , a similar and similarly well-regarded dry cat food, at the top of her list of the best dry cat foods. "In my opinion, Wellness Core is neck-and-neck with Innova Evo in providing a dry food closely aligned to a raw diet, and my cats enjoyed both equally," she writes. Still, she switched her cats to an all-canned diet to avoid dry-food-related health problems.
No recalls for Wellness dry cat food. Wellness dry cat food hasn't been recalled, a search of the Food and Drug Administration's online pet food recall database shows (it goes back to 2007).
But Wellness did recall some canned cat food in 2011 for containing too little vitamin B1. In 2012, Wellness recalled one variety of dry dog food after a salmonella outbreak in the Diamond Pet Foods plant where it was made. The food tested negative for salmonella, but Wellness pulled it anyway, as a precaution -- and the company cut its ties with Diamond.
Wellness makes its dry cat food in its own Indiana factory, with 99 percent of ingredients from the U.S., Canada or New Zealand and less than 2 percent from other countries, an expert review source says.
Some other quality choices cost less. Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula and Evo Turkey and Chicken Formula (Est. $22 for a 6.6-lb. bag) have ingredient lists that are very similar -- but Evo costs less per pound. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Feline Formula (Est. $13 for a 5-lb. bag) is also grain-free and substantially less expensive, though it does include more carbs from sources such as peas and potatoes.
Susan Thixton researches and rates most cat food brands -- including Wellness -- based on the quality of their ingredients, safety measures and more. She reviews the Grain Free Original Formula dry cat food under its previous name, Fish and Fowl.
Review: Wellness Cat Food, Susan Thixton, As of January 2014
Wellness Core lands high up on Franny Syufy's list of the best dry cat foods. Syufy, About.com's guide to cats, says it's "neck-and-neck" with Evo as far as nutrition is concerned, and her cats enjoyed them both. However, on a different page, Syufy says she has switched to canned food to avoid dry-food-related health problems with her cats.
Review: Premium Dry Cat Foods for Adult Cats, Franny Syufy, Not Dated
Some veterinarians, including Lisa Pierson, argue that cats shouldn't eat dry food because they need to get moisture from their food (their low thirst drive prevents them from drinking enough). She doesn't discuss Wellness Core dry cat food specifically, but she provides good information about the potential dangers of dry cat food.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, Updated February 2013
This reviewer fed Wellness Core Grain Free Original Formula (formerly Fish and Fowl) to his own cats at one time, but has stopped, following some issues with his cats developing urinary crystals. He adds that he continues to see a lot of positive feedback for the food, however.
Review: Cat Food Listings & Reviews, Christopher Eng, Not Dated
About 30 cat owners have reviewed Wellness Core dry cat food here, awarding it an average score of 4.4 out of 5. A few say their cats have a hard time chewing the tiny, round kibbles, but most say their cats love it and are healthier for it.
Review: Wellness Core Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, Contributors to OnlyNaturalPet.com, As of January 2014