Vital Essentials Cat Food Review

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It’s among the most popular raw food brands on the market, but is Vital Essentials a good choice for your cat? Get the facts in our Vital Essentials cat food review.

The We’re All About Cats Standard—Rating Vital Essentials on What Matters

We’ve analyzed Vital Essentials 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 – 9/10
  • Price – 6/10
  • Customer Experience – 9/10
  • Recall History – 4/10

Overall Score: 7.8/10

We give Vital Essentials cat food a 47 out of 60 rating or a B+ grade.

About Vital Essentials

Vital Essentials is a brand of frozen and freeze-dried food for cats and dogs. It’s owned by the Carnivore Meat Company, which is the leading raw pet food private label company in the United States.

Sourcing and Manufacturing

Vital Essentials uses farm-raised, pasture-fed, free-run, and wild-caught ingredients from the United states. Raw ingredients are frozen or freeze-dried in the company’s own Wisconsin facility. They’re never exposed to high-heat processing, leaving nutrients intact while reducing the risk of spoilage and contamination.

Has Vital Essentials cat food been recalled?

Vital Essentials cat food has never been recalled, but their dog food has been pulled at least four times. All but one of those recalls was due to potential salmonella contamination.

What kinds of cat food does Vital Essentials offer?

Vital Essentials food is made from frozen or freeze-dried meat, bones, and organs. They’re foods are formed into a variety of shapes, including mini patties, mini nibs, chubs, and food toppers.

Mimicking the nutrient-packed mix of tissues found in a prey-based diet, most Vital Essentials recipes are 45% muscle meat, 45% organs, and 10% bone.

All Vital Essentials cat food contains raw goat’s milk. The company says this ingredient adds texture and nutrients. Raw goat’s milk contains enzymes that help digest lactose, so it shouldn’t cause digestive distress, and according to the customer reviews, it doesn’t.

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Vital Essentials Cat Food – Top 3 Recipes Reviewed

Product NameFood TypePrice per OunceOur Grade
Vital Essentials Chicken Entrée Mini NibsFreeze-Dried$1.82A-
Vital Essentials Chicken Entrée Mini PattiesFreeze-Dried$1.96A-
Vital Essentials Rabbit Entrée Mini PattiesFreeze-Dried$3.08A-

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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

Vital Essentials mini nibs are designed for eating straight out of the bag—no rehydration necessary. They’re a fresher alternative to traditional dry cat food.

The food includes finely ground chicken with bone, heart as a source of essential taurine, nutrient-dense liver, and chicken gizzard. It also contains fresh egg as an additional source of ultra-bioavailable protein and nutrients. Raw goat’s milk is added to improve the food’s texture and add nutrients.

The food contains herring oil as a species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to support skin and coat health, have anti-inflammatory properties, and help to support overall health.

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

This Vital Essentials food has the macronutrient distribution we look for and prey-inspired ratios of muscle meat, organs, and bones. On the negative side, this product’s 8% water content is far from enough to keep your cat in top condition. You might be better off trying one of Vital Essentials’ frozen recipes or rehydrating their mini patties.

The food has 113 calories per ounce.

Ingredients

Finely Ground Chicken With Bone, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Egg, Raw Goat’s Milk, Water, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein45% min
Crude Fat15% min
Fiber3.0% max
Moisture8% max
Ashn/a

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Nibs Entree Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Finely Ground Chicken with Bone, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Egg, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken, Egg

Pros

  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Contains herring oil as a species-appropriate source of omega-3s
  • Very low carbohydrate content
  • Follows a prey-inspired dietary model

Cons

  • Doesn’t contain enough moisture for cats
  • Potentially inadequate fiber content

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Patties Grain Free Limited Ingredient Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Patties Grain Free Limited Ingredient Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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

This Vital Essentials recipe is almost identical to the last. While the first food we reviewed was formed into mini nibs, this one comes in mini patties. After a soak in some warm water, the patties rehydrate into a soft consistency similar to paté.

The food’s ingredient list features finely ground chicken with bone as the first ingredient, followed by chicken heart, liver, and gizzard. These organs are loaded with amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that your cat needs to thrive. Finally, the chicken muscle meat, bones, and organs are complemented by egg, a nourishing and easy-to-digest source of protein and other nutrients.

The food contains raw goat’s milk. Raw, unpasteurized goat’s milk is easy-to-digest, loaded with nutrients, and cats like the way it tastes.

Eggshell membrane adds collagen, chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other nutrients. Herring oil provides nourishing omega-3 fatty acids in a highly bioavailable form. Finally, the food is preserved with mixed tocopherols.

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

Without any synthetic vitamins, and minerals, or amino acids, the food contains all the nutrition your cat needs.

The only thing it’s missing is fiber. A cat’s real prey would have fur, claws, and other indigestible tissues, along with any partially-fermented plant matter in its own gut. These indigestible components aren’t just waste. They play a crucial role in the digestive process, helping to prevent constipation and other digestive issues. Otherwise, these freeze-dried patties are nutritionally stellar.

Each patty has 64 calories.

Ingredients

Finely Ground Chicken With Bone, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Egg, Raw Goat’s Milk, Water, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein10% min
Crude Fat4.0% min
Fiber0.75% max
Moisture78% max
Ashn/a

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Vital Essentials Chicken Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Finely Ground Chicken with Bone, Chicken Heart, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Chicken Egg, Egg Shell Membrane, Herring Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: Chicken, Eggs

Pros

  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Ideal for cats with food sensitivities and allergies
  • Very low carbohydrate content
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients

Cons

  • Low fiber content

Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Patties Grain Free Limited Ingredient Freeze-Dried Cat Food Review

Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Patties Grain Free Limited Ingredient Freeze-Dried Cat Food

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

Like all Vital Essentials foods, this product is primarily made from muscle meat, organs, and bones. Each patty contains finely ground whole rabbit, rabbit heart, liver, lungs, kidney, trachea, and blood.

The food contains raw goat’s milk as an additional source of nourishment. Goat’s milk may be able to reduce inflammation and support immune health. Herring oil is a source of highly biologically available omega-3 fatty acids, helping to keep your cat’s skin and coat healthy while reducing inflammation.

The food is preserved with mixed tocopherols.

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

With rabbit its only protein source and a simple ingredient list, this food is an ideal option for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.

Though it’s one of the closest equivalents to the types of animals in a cat’s natural prey-based diet, the taste of rabbit is divisive. This food gets some of the most mixed reviews in the Vital Essentials family, with just over 20% of reviewers giving it a 1-star rating.

There are 61 calories in each freeze-dried rabbit patty.

Ingredients

Finely Ground Whole Rabbit, Rabbit Heart, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Lungs, Rabbit Kidney, Rabbit Trachea, Rabbit Blood, Raw Goat’s Milk, Water, Herring Oil, Mixed Tocopherols, D-Alpha Tocopherol.

Guaranteed Analysis

Crude Protein52% min
Crude Fat15% min
Fiber3.0% max
Moisture8.0% max
Ashn/a

Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Vital Essentials Rabbit Mini Patties Freeze-Dried Cat Food Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Breakdown

Ingredients We Liked: Finely Ground Rabbit with Bone, Rabbit Heart, Rabbit Liver, Rabbit Lungs, Rabbit Kidney, Rabbit Trachea, Rabbit Blood, Herring Oil

Ingredients We Didn’t Like: None

Common Allergens: None

Pros

  • Single-source novel protein is ideal for sensitive cats
  • Contains herring oil as a nourishing source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains a mix of muscle meat, organs, and bones
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives

Cons

  • Some cats don’t like this food
  • May not have enough fiber to support healthy digestion

What do customers think of Vital Essentials cat food?

In discussions of frozen and freeze-dried cat food brands, Vital Essentials is a crowd favorite. Customers seem to like the ingredient quality and their cats seem to like the way Vital Essentials food tastes.

Positive Reviews

“I prefer to make my own pet food, but ensuring that cat food is balanced is a job that feels impossible at times. With autoimmune diseases, I have been finding it difficult to manage my own issues and responsibilities while continuing to make my own pet food. It’s a huge process. So I went on a search for brands I could trust and I’ve been very happy with Vital Essentials brand. There’s no filler. My cat loves all of the variety available. The pellet form is easy to pour and hydrate. And the price is reasonable for high quality raw food.”Ctina, reviewing Vital Essentials Chicken Entrée Mini Nibs

“I love this product and so do my babies. Such a difference in their health. Lost hair growing back in, no more vomiting, ear issues clearing up. My cats love the patties the best but will eat the nibs as well. They have been on a raw food freeze-dried for 5 weeks. It is so expensive and I am struggling to find a way to fine a compromise between the this product and a high grade of grain free kibble. So much contradicting research out there makes it hard to decide what is the best path.”Mamacat, reviewing Vital Essentials Rabbit Entrée Mini Patties

Negative Reviews

“My cat will eat raw food no problem but this he wouldn’t touch. We tried both with water and dry, nope, not eating that Momma. It has a smell similar to play dough, which is why I think he wouldn’t eat.” Kelb, reviewing Vital Essentials Rabbit Entrée Mini Patties

“I was hoping/expecting these to be like many other brands of freeze dried raw foods I have used, but— they’re not. At all. They resemble “coco puffs” cereal and are hard. My cat isn’t interested at all. Back to Primal we go……..”Tree, reviewing Vital Essentials Chicken Entrée Mini Nibs

How much does Vital Essentials cat food cost?

Vital Essentials cat food isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive brands on the market. Let’s break it down in terms of cost per day. The following cost per day estimates are based on a typical 10-lb cat who needs about 200 calories per day.

Depending on which type of protein you choose, whether you want freeze-dried or frozen, and whether you opt for nibs or patties, Vital Essentials will cost you something between $3.64 and $10.16 per day.

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Overall, is Vital Essentials a good choice?

Vital Essentials is a good option if you’re looking for accessible, expertly-formulated raw food. Each meal is inspired by the natural feline diet, featuring a balanced combination of muscle meat, organs, and bones. It’s one of the only raw cat food brands that doesn’t use excessive bone.

Vital Essentials’ nutritional excellence comes at a steep price. With some recipes exceeding $10 per day, this brand may be out of reach for some multiple cat homes or people on a tight budget.

Where to Buy Vital Essentials Cat Food

Vital Essentials is relatively easy to find. It’s distributed in fifteen countries around the world and carried by over 5,000 independent pet specialty retailers in the United States alone—click here to find one near you. Online, you’ll find Vital Essentials cat food on Chewy, Amazon, Jet, PetFlow, and iHerb.

Click here to shop for Vital Essentials cat food on Chewy.

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.

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