Darwin’s Natural Cat Food Review

Darwin’s Natural

Our Review Process

Our reviews are based on extensive research and, when possible, hands-on testing. To stay objective and avoid biases, we don’t accept free products or write sponsored posts. Each time you make a purchase through one of our independently-chosen links, we’ll receive a percentage of the proceeds. Read More here.

It’s raw. Radically meaty. Rather controversial. Get the details on Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food in our unbiased review.

The We’re All About Cats Standard—Rating Darwin’s Natural on What Matters

We’ve analyzed Darwin’s Natural and graded it according to the We’re All About Cats standard, evaluating the brand on species-appropriateness, ingredient quality, product variety, price, customer experience, and recall history. Here’s how it rates in each of these six key areas.

Ratings

  • Species-Appropriateness – 10/10
  • Ingredient Quality – 9/10
  • Product Variety – 5/10
  • Price – 7/10
  • Customer Experience – 8/10
  • Recall History – 3/10

Overall Score: 7.0/10

We give Darwin’s Natural cat food a 42 out of 60 rating or a B grade.

About Darwin’s Natural Pet Products

Darwin’s Natural Pet Products isn’t like most cat food brands. It’s one of the few companies that sells fresh, frozen raw cat food and ships it straight to its customers’ doors.

And Darwin’s Natural foods aren’t just uncooked—they aren’t pasteurized, freeze-dried, or dehydrated. By making and selling fully raw, minimally-processed food, Darwin’s Natural earns itself respect, concerns, and questions that don’t come up with other brands.

In this review, we’ll address the important questions about Darwin’s Natural Pet Products. You’ll learn about its recall history, safety standards, nutritional adequacy, and who’ll get the most out of it.

Get 30% OFF + Free Shipping on Cat Food

Click for Details →

Sourcing and Manufacturing

Darwin’s Natural prepares its products in a company-owned facility located in the Seattle, Washington area.

The company doesn’t go into detail on where they obtain their ingredients but talks a bit about its quality standards. Darwin’s Natural meat ingredients are never treated with antibiotics or given hormones or steroids. The chicken and turkey are cage-free. The vegetables are organic.

In addition to these quality standards, Darwin’s Natural says that they visit all of their partnering farms to ensure that they employ good farming practices and “treat both their animals and employees with respect.”

Has Darwin’s Natural cat food been recalled?

While their cat food has never been recalled, Darwin’s Natural Pet Food has been recalled several times. In addition to these recalls, this company has had a few scrapes with the FDA.

Darwin’s Natural announced a recall in December of 2017 after finding salmonella and listeria in several samples of raw dog food.

The next year—in March of 2018—the company issued another recall of raw dog food due to potential salmonella and E.coli contamination.

In March of 2019, the FDA released a cautionary letter warning customers that three varieties Darwin’s Natural Pet dog food may be contaminated with salmonella.

So…Darwin’s has been recalled a few times and they’re on the FDA’s naughty list. Does this mean that Darwin’s Natural pet food is unsafe for cats? 

Not necessarily.

During its recalls and brushes with the FDA, Darwin’s Natural remained in contact with its customers and was transparent about the potential for contamination. The company never wavered in its insistence that the agency’s behavior was unreasonable.

In an interview with Dogs Naturally Magazine, Darwin’s Natural Pet founder Gary Tashjian notes that, though the FDA has slammed numerous other raw pet food companies with recalls and warnings over the presence of pathogens, there hasn’t been any evidence of pets or even humans getting sick in the wake of said recalls.

He concludes that “…with the best of intentions, the FDA’s standards for raw pet food are inappropriate and unnecessary.”

Raw meat, whether it’s prepared by a great company or at home, is prone to bacterial contamination. Most of those pathogens are harmless for healthy pets. Until the regulatory environment changes, even the best raw pet food companies are going to encounter recall after recall.

Yet bacterial contamination isn’t Darwin’s Natural Pet Products’ only problem.

In late winter of 2018, the FDA released a scathing report after investigating the Darwin’s Natural Pet manufacturing plant. The report revealed that after investigation, the agency had found a “pattern of contamination” in the raw food manufacturing facility. According to the report, FDA investigators touring the Darwin’s Natural facilities noted multiple instances of cross-contamination and sloppiness. The report includes a long list of problems, including employees handling the products with dirty hands and frozen products being defrosted under poorly-controlled conditions.

It appears that the original report is no longer available, but you can read a summary of it here and here.

In general, it appears that Darwin’s Natural Pet Products has failed to implement consistent, sanitary safety procedures.

An inconsistent, unreliable safety system causes more than bacterial contamination. It might lead to foreign objects showing up in the food, leaky packages, or other issues that may affect both you and your cat.

What kinds of cat food does Darwin’s Natural offer?

The Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food lineup is broken into two lines.

    • The Natural Selections™ line includes three varieties of cat food. One features chicken, the second is made with turkey, and the third features lamb as its primary protein source.
  • The Intelligent Design™ line is Darwin’s raw answer to those seeking a prescription or veterinary diet for cats with health issues. Currently, the line includes just one recipe. Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support is formulated for cats with kidney disease. It’s only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.

All Darwin’s Natural cat food recipes are high-protein, moderate-fat, low-carbohydrate foods. They’re primarily made from meat, contain as few plant ingredients as possible, and emphasize a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids from species-appropriate animal sources.

All of their recipes are complete and balanced according to AAFCO’s nutritional profiles and the NRC’s guidelines for cat nutrition.

Darwin’s Natural Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed

Product NameFood TypePrice per OunceOur Grade
Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat FoodRaw$0.40A-
Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat FoodRaw$0.60A-
Darwin’s Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat FoodRaw$0.52A-

Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat Food Review

Darwin's Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat Food

Check Price

Chicken appears to be the primary protein source in this raw cat food. 

Meat comes first in this raw food, with a mix of muscle meat, bones, and organs making up the bulk of the recipe. Muscle meat constitutes 63% of the mix, with organs—Darwin’s includes heart in this category— representing the remaining 37%. That’s roughly in line with what your cat would get from his prey. Altogether, these ingredients represent 98.5% of the food.

The rest of the food consists of trace minerals, plus tomato pomace as a source of fiber.

Unlike some other raw foods, it’s not fortified with additional taurine or other amino acids, instead relying on the amino acids present in the meat. It’s also supplemented with a combination of fish oil and cod liver oil.

Overall, this food has high protein content, moderate fat, and low carbohydrate content. 

This recipe appears to be what cat food ought to be—an attempt to replicate your cat’s natural prey.  By using a mix of muscle meat, organs, and bones, it harnesses the nutritional integrity of raw meat to provide the macronutrients and micronutrients your cat needs.

Yet, like many raw foods, it seems to get a little out of line with phosphorus content.  At 2.51 grams of phosphorus per 1,000 calories, the food exceeds the AAFCO’s phosphorus recommendation for both kittens and adult cats. This may not be a problem for younger kitties, but older cats prone to kidney disease may want to stick with a lower-phosphorus food.

Ingredients

Free-Range Meat and Organs (98.5%): Chicken Meat, Chicken Necks (Including Bone), Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Livers, and Chicken Hearts.

Trace Minerals and vitamins (1%): Tomato Pomace, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Magnesium Proteinate, Choline Chloride, Inulin, Sea Salt, Zinc Proteinate, Vitamin E, Iron Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin B12, Iodine (EDDI), Folic Acid, Vitamin D3

Marine Oils (0.5%): Fish Oil 18/12 EPA/DHA (Derived from sea-harvested wild Sardines), Cod Liver Oil (Derived from sea-harvested wild Alaska Cod)

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein16% min
Crude Fat9% min
Fiber0.2% max
Moisture71% max
Ash2.0%

Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Darwin's Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Chicken Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken Meat, Chicken Necks, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Livers, Chicken Hearts, Fish Oil, Cod Liver Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken

Pros

  • A species-appropriate food made primarily from muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Minimally processed and rich in animal-sourced nutrients
  • Contains multiple sources of omega fatty acids
  • The most affordable food in the Darwin’s Natural cat food lineup

Cons

  • Relatively high phosphorus may not be ideal for senior cats and those with kidney issues

Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat Food Review

Darwin's Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat Food

Check Price

Lamb appears to be the primary protein source in this raw cat food. 

Intended for those who prefer alternatives to proteins like chicken and fish, this food features lamb as its primary ingredient. Lamb muscle meat, heart, and liver are the first three ingredients and constitute 98% of the total recipe.

Unlike the chicken and turkey formulas, Darwin’s Natural’s lamb formula doesn’t contain any ground bone. Instead, the meat is fortified with synthetic minerals that would normally be found in bone. It’s also supplemented with a variety of other vitamins and minerals, taurine, and tomato pomace as a source of fiber.

Finally, the food contains fish oil from sea-harvested wild sardines.

Overall, this food has high protein content with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content. 

Like other Darwin’s Natural Pet Products cat foods, this is a prey-inspired food featuring a mix of muscle meat, organs, and fat. The use of lamb makes it a good choice for cats who are intolerant to or simply don’t like other protein sources like chicken and turkey.

At 2.28 grams per 1,000 calories, the food’s a little lower in phosphorus than the first one we reviewed, but still just over the general recommendation for both adult cats and kittens.

Ingredients

Free-Range Meat and Organs (98%): Lamb Meat, Lamb Heart, Lamb Livers

Trace Minerals and vitamins (2%): Dicalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Tomato Pomace, Taurine, Sea Salt, Magnesium Proteinate, Inulin, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate,Iodine, Folic Acid.

Marine Oils (Under 1%): Fish Oil 18/12 EPA/DHA (Derived from sea-harvested wild Sardines)

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein8.0% min
Crude Fat4.0% min
Fiber1.5% max
Moisture82% max
Ash2.08%

Darwin’s Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Darwin's Natural Pet Natural Selections™ Lamb Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Lamb Meat, Lamb Heart, Lamb Livers, Fish Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: None

Pros

  • Features a single novel protein, making it a good option for cats with food sensitivities and allergies
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Minimally-processed for maximum species-appropriate nutrition

Cons

  • May have a little bit more phosphorus than cats need
  • The most expensive Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food

Darwin’s Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat Food Review 

Darwin's Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat Food

Check Price

Chicken appears to be the primary protein source in this raw cat food.

This food is formulated for cats with kidney disease and is only available with a veterinarian’s prescription.

Most renal diets focus on protein restriction. By cutting back on protein, these foods reduce uremic toxins in the body. Those lower BUN levels are always good for cats with kidney disease, but severe protein restriction also contributes to muscle wasting and weakness.

Instead of cutting protein to a drastically low level, this food has a normal amount of protein and addresses kidney disease in other areas. It has significantly less phosphorus than other Darwin’s Natural Pet Products foods, with 0.9 grams of phosphorus per 1,000 calories. In addition to its inherently low phosphorus content, the food contains chitosan. It’s a salivary phosphate binder and helps to limit phosphorus absorption in the body. Increased calcium levels also help to reduce phosphorus absorption.

Elevated amounts of B-complex vitamins help to replace those lost in your cat’s urine, translating to more energy and overall better health, while omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and help your cat feel better.

Overall, this food has high protein content with moderate fat and low carbohydrate content.

With plenty of animal-sourced nutrition, low carbohydrate content, and appropriate levels of key vitamins and minerals, this food appears to take a refreshing species-appropriate approach to kidney disease.

Ingredients

Chicken Thigh Meat, Turkey Hearts, Chicken Hearts, Beets, Zucchini, Turkey Livers, Chicken

Livers, Celery, Fish Oil, Egg Whites, Parsley, Gelatin, Oyster Shell Powder, Cod Liver Oil, Dandelion Root Powder, lnulin, Turmeric, Potassium Chloride, Spirulina, Taurine, Tomato Pomace, Vitamin E, Cranberry Powder, Chitosan, Magnesium Proteinate, Choline Chloride, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Cinnamon, Sea Salt, Thiamine Mononitrate, Aloe Vera, Vitamin B2, Black Pepper, Selenium Proteinate, Folic Acid, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine), Iodine

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein9.0% min
Crude Fat6.0% min
Fiber1.0% max
Moisture78% max
Ashn/a

Darwin’s Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Darwin's Natural Intelligent Design™ KS Kidney Support Raw Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Chicken Thigh Meat, Turkey Hearts, Chicken Hearts, Turkey Livers, Chicken Livers, Fish Oil, Egg Whites, Oyster Shell Powder, Cod Liver Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken, Eggs

Pros

  • May be a good alternative to traditional foods for cats with kidney disease
  • Primarily made with nourishing animal ingredients
  • Controlled phosphorus and phosphorus binders help to keep your cat low on phosphorus consumption
  • Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation

Cons

  • Only available with a veterinarian’s prescription
  • Doesn’t have a large body of reviews backing up its ability to help cats with kidney disease

What do customers think of Darwin’s Natural cat food?

Darwin’s Natural cat food has a community of loyal customers. Most praise the food’s species-appropriateness and quality. On the flip side, some customers say that they received leaky packages or that the food had defrosted before it arrived at their house. Others claim that the food was discolored or otherwise inconsistent.

Positive Reviews

“Great food for my cat! My cat suffered from chronic diarrhea for over 18 months while my vet tried every test possible they could not figure out how to treat him. We tried numerous different prescription diet foods, none that helped him. Finally we found that a daily steroid pill was the only thing that helped his diarrhea. I was not comfortable giving him a daily steroid pill (which causes negative side effects) and so I finally tried Darwin’s raw pet food. I stopped giving him the pill the same day I gave him the raw food. His diarrhea went away IMMEDIATELY! He is now healthy and has gained weight and no longer has to take the doctor prescribed pills. I could not be happier with this cat food.”Amanda, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Trustpilot

“I was so pleased to have found another raw food company to replace Rad Cat when it was forcibly closed here in Portland. A raw food diet literally saved my 17 year old cat’s life.

Darwin’s raw cat food is high quality and packaged in packets that make it easy to store and use. It arrives when promised in reusable ice chests which I appreciate. Their customer service is great! They send out a reminder notice a week before your next delivery and work to make any changes you might require.”Claudia, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Trustpilot

Negative Reviews

“I used to love Darwins and ordered every few months.  I am now concerned and will never order from them again.  My package came with over a third of the food blocks unfrozen and warm.  No dry ice in the package and I saw a bit of blood in the package. Calling customer service the first person seemed unconcerned and ask me to measure the temp of the food and tried to blame it on the shipping company.  Called back and was told they would escalate the issue and no one called back. Not sure what happened, I would have forgiven the mistake if the person would have said “hey” this is an issue, dump that food and we will ship another one out.  We are sorry. But they didn’t. Poor customer service when things go wrong. Note to whoever responds to these reviews – I have called your customer service twice. The second time my issue was to be escalated with a call back…. no one called.  Why would I call in a third time?” Kare N, reviewing Darwin’s Natural pet food on Google

“My last 2 batches of kidney diet for my cat have had issues. The first one has been resolved… completely uneven coloring on batches. This latest order, the meat delivered is already 3 months old. They have never sent me old meat before. Id like a refund to be honest. I can make my own with the same 200$ I sent them and it would be fresh. When I called they said well its just for your Dog it doesnt have to be great. She literally said no one calls and complains but look at how many negative reviews are on here! Not to mention, she was looking directly at my account… I have a cat, not a dog! Their quality is dwindling, big time! They need to do better”Ali Star, reviewing Darwin’s Natural cat food on Google

How much does Darwin’s Natural cat food cost?

Darwin’s Natural cat food is more expensive than the average cat food, but it’s cheap compared to other raw food brands. If you order their lowest-priced variety and feed your 10-lb cat six ounces of it per day, Darwin’s Natural would add up to about $2.40 per day. Opt for lamb and your daily feeding cost will go up to $3.60.

That’s more than you’ll pay for Friskies, but it’s an incredible deal compared to raw cat food brands like Feline Natural and Vital Essentials.

To make it easier to get started, Darwin’s Natural Pet Products offers 50% off your first order. Shipping is always free.

Get 30% OFF + Free Shipping on Cat Food

Click for Details →

Overall, is Darwin’s Natural a good choice?

If you’re looking for an economical, species-appropriate frozen raw cat food that emphasizes meat over plants, Darwin’s Natural cat food may be the right choice for you.

The Darwin’s Natural site publishes full nutrient analyses, giving you rare insights into their foods’ micronutrient and macronutrient profiles. That’s an unprecedented level of transparency—some other companies lock this information away and guard it like a state secret.

Most reviewers agree that the company has outstanding customer service and appreciate the staff’s transparency and apparent interest in animal nutrition. With custom portion sizes and an adjustable delivery schedule, Darwin’s Natural Pet gives you a personalized experience that’s not equaled by many other companies in this business.

That said, Darwin’s Natural Pet misses the mark in a few areas. One is phosphorus content. Like some other raw foods—think Stella & Chewy’s—Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food has more phosphorus than most. While that’s not a problem for young, healthy cats, it might cause problems for senior cats and those with kidney disease.

The other problem is its recall history and reputation for quality control. While Darwin’s Natural maintains that the FDA’s warnings and recalls were unjustified, there’s no good reason to overlook them. Combined with the FDA’s report detailing the conditions in the Darwin’s facility, these events call the company’s safety standards into question.

Where to Buy Darwin’s Natural Cat Food

Darwin’s Natural sells and ships directly to customers, so you’ll have to purchase the food through the company’s website. When you start your order of Darwin’s Natural Pet cat food, you’ll enter your cat’s name, his weight, and your protein preferences. You’ll receive individually-portioned packages tailored to your cat’s needs.

Darwin’s Natural ships to customers in the contiguous United States.

Click here to shop for Darwin’s Natural cat food. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *