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Nutro Cat Food Review – Why We Don’t Recommend It?

Nutro logo

Nutro Wet Food -

3.6/5

(3.6/5)

Nutro Dry Food -

2.6/5

(2.6/5)

Nutro uses good quality ingredients and well researched formulas to make their cat foods. The wet foods have a high meat content and the company has a good track record of safety. The dry foods overall are of a good standard, but heavily rely on plant proteins in the formulas in order to lower ingredient cost.

Is Nutro a good cat food brand?

Mars has a good track record of quality control in their pet foods with recalls being for issues that did not cause injury or illness to pets. Mars Petcare is one of the largest pet food companies in the world and uses their size to be able to have a pet nutrition center which humanely studies all of their diets. This means that cat owners can be confident that Nutro’s food has been optimized for issues such as urinary crystal prevention and long term health. Mars’ investment in research is a huge positive for this Nutro brand review.

Nutro’s wet foods have a high meat content and have ingredients to help prevent dental tartar. The phosphorus content is relatively well controlled, but is still higher than ideal. Additionally, Nutro uses tapioca starch in order to achieve the optimal texture for their wet cat foods. In the pate formulas this only requires a small amount of starch, but in the cuts in gravy formulas this requires much more. Therefore, the pate formulas are lower in carbohydrate content. Interestingly, Nutro only adds fish oil to the pate wet foods, further making them a better nutritional choice than the cuts in gravy wet cat foods.

The dry cat foods made by Nutro are of good quality, but the formulas rely heavily on potato protein and pea protein in order to keep the ingredient cost lower. Phosphorus levels are reasonably low in the dry cat food, but could be significantly lower to help promote kidney health. Carbohydrate content of the formulas are also reasonable, with the Wild Frontier line of foods being especially low. Additionally, the Wild Frontier line of foods has a much better omega-3 content than the Wholesome Essentials line.

Who Makes Nutro?

Mars Petcare currently makes Nutro pet foods. Nutro was founded in 1933 and remained a family-owned company until it was sold to a family-friend in 1975. By 1985 they had developed the Nutro Max line of foods and focused on making high quality food. In 2007 Nutro was sold to Mars, Incorporated.

About Mars Petcare

Nutrition
Knowledge

B+

Company's
Transparency

D

Company
Values

C

Production
Knowledge

B

Quality
Standards

B

Feeding
Trials

A

Mars Petcare makes a wide variety of cat foods as well as other pet products. These include Iams, Crave, Eukanuba, Pedigree and Royal Canin. Unlike some companies which operate brands semi-independently of each other, Mars consolidates its pet food brands. For more information on Mars Petcare please see our Iams Cat Food Review, which discusses the company in-depth. 

Nutro Recalls and Mars Recalls in the US Since 2008

We have chosen to list both Nutro recalls and recalls by Mars Petcare as a whole. Considering these foods are made by the same company, often in the same facilities, this brings a better picture for the company’s standards as a whole.

DateBrandReasonWho Discovered?Injury or Illness?
Aug. 2008Pedigree Dry Dog FoodSalmonellaFDA?None Reported
Sept. 2008Several Brands of Dry Dog Food (Excluding Nutro)SalmonellaConsumers/FDA2 Cases of Human Illness
Oct. 2008Special Kitty Dry Cat FoodSalmonellaFDA?None Reported
May 2009Nutro Dry Cat FoodIncorrect Zinc and PotassiumMars PetcareNone Reported
Sept. 2009Nutro Dry Dog FoodPlastic in Production LineMars PetcareNone Reported
Jun. 2012Pedigree Canned Dog FoodPlastic FragmentsPet Owners?None Reported
Aug. 2014Pedigree Dry Dog FoodMetal FragmentsPet Owners?None Reported
Dec. 2015Nutro Dog TreatsPotential MoldPet Owners?None Reported
Oct. 2016Cesar Dog FoodPlastic PiecesPet OwnersNone Reported

Quality

Overall Mars is one of the country’s largest pet food manufacturers and therefore a certain number of recalls is to be expected. Since 2008, there have been no reports of Mars’ foods causing illness in pets in the US.

Mars did have several recalls for melamine in 2007, but these were due to outsourcing manufacturing. Mars no longer uses outside manufacturers to make their products. In 2018, they decided to also stop manufacturing products for other companies. Now the only food made at Mars facilities is Mars foods and vice versa. This should greatly improve and uphold the safety of the food.

What Foods Does Nutro Make?

Until recently, Nutro had three lines of cat food, Nutro Max, Wild Frontier and Wholesome Essentials. However, in 2019 Nutro Max was discontinued. All of Nutro’s wet cat foods now come in plastic twin packs and they no longer sell cans. This has been to the dismay of Nutro Max fans, as the twin packs have much smaller portions.

Nutro’s Wet Food Offerings

Since the end of Nutro Max, Nutro only offers a handful of wet cat foods, all of which are for adult cats. They come in pate, and cuts in gravy textures. These foods are packaged in twin packs, with 1.3 oz of cat food on each side.

Flavor and
Texture Variety

B-

Ingredient
Quality

A-

Meat
Content

A-

Phosphorus
Content

D

Omega
3s

D

Nutro Wet Food Nutrition Review

Ingredients

Nutro’s wet cat foods have two basic formulas for their ingredients. The pate foods follow one style while the cuts in gravy follow slightly modified one.

For all of the foods, the first few ingredients are meat. Typically this includes chicken, but this depends on the flavor of the food. A broth is also included. In the cuts in gravy foods, pork plasma ends the meat ingredient list, likely added in order to help achieve a gravy texture to the food.

Nutro’s wet cat foods also include sodium acid pyrophosphate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate. There is a lot of misinformation about these ingredients online, but the truth is they are in cat foods to prevent struvite urine crystals and reduce dental tartar buildup. Seeing these ingredients shows that Nutro carefully formulated their food for optimal urine pH and feline health.

The starch source in Nutro’s wet cat foods is tapioca starch. Cats do not actually need carbohydrates, and there appears to be an extremely low amount of tapioca starch in the pate formulas. However, the cuts in gravy formulas have tapioca starch much higher on the ingredient list. It is likely that tapioca starch is only added as a texture enhancer in both formula types.

The cuts in gravy Nutro food have sunflower oil as an ingredient. Although small amounts of this oil are not unhealthy, it has a very high omega-6 fatty acid content. This can easily make the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio too high, which is likely the case considering that the cuts in gravy recipes do not have any omega-3 sources, such as fish oil, included in the ingredients.

Additionally, the cuts in gravy recipes have dried tomatoes in the ingredients. These are a natural source of antioxidants and can add some color and appeal to the food.

Nutrients

The dry matter protein content in Nutro’s wet cat foods ranges from roughly 47% to 57%. On average, the dry matter fat content is about 25%. These are relatively good numbers and indicate that there is a high meat content in the food.

The carbohydrate content is extremely variable, with ranges from 2.3% to 21% on a dry matter basis. The pate formulas have a much lower carbohydrate content, in the 3% range while the cuts in gravy foods have 12% to 21% carbohydrate content. It appears that Nutro formulates with tapioca starch to thicken the cat food and pate foods require very little. However, in the cuts in gravy recipes, carbohydrate content is somewhat elevated, but not terribly high either.

The dry matter phosphorus levels in Nutro’s wet cat foods ranges from 1.5% to 2.0%. This is a relatively high phosphorus content for an adult cat food. Typically, we look for phosphorus levels of around 1% in adult cat food due to the high prevalence of kidney disease in cats. However, for a healthy cat, these levels should be okay.

The pate foods include fish oil in the ingredients list, while the cuts in gravy do not. There is no source of omega-3 at all in the cuts in gravy foods.

Nutro’s Dry Food Offerings

Nutro has several dry food varieties  in chicken and fish flavors. Foods are targeted for specific health issues or life stages, such as hairball control, indoor adult, kitten or senior.

Flavor and
Texture Variety

B

Ingredient
Quality

B+

Meat
Content

C-

Phosphorus
Content

C

Omega
3s

D

Nutro Dry Food Nutrition Review

Ingredients

The first ingredient in Nutro’s dry cat foods is chicken, whitefish or salmon, depending on the flavor of the food. This looks great, but the ingredient is listed including its moisture content. If the ingredient was “dehydrated salmon” or “salmon meal” for example, it would appear much lower on the ingredient list. The “real” first ingredient in all of Nutro’s foods is chicken meal, which is listed second on the ingredient list on all of their dry cat foods.

After the meat, Nutro’s Wholesome Essentials line has brewers rice as the second ingredient. High levels of carbohydrates are required in dry cat food in order to give the kibbles structure, so it is expected to see rice so high on the ingredient list. However, rice has been split into two types of rice in order to appear lower in the ingredients. Further down the list we also find whole brown rice. This is somewhat deceptive and gives the impression that the food has a higher meat content than it does in actuality. 

The Wild Frontier line of dry foods is grain-free, so they use a combination of other carbohydrate sources which are found lower on the ingredient list. These include split peas and tapioca.

Unfortunately, all of Nutro’s dry cat foods contain plant proteins. They include both pea protein and potato protein in their ingredients list. Plant proteins are less effectively used by cats due to their different amino acid composition from animal proteins. Plant proteins are typically added to simply lower the ingredient cost of the food.

Nutro’s cat foods include several fiber sources, including alfalfa meal and beet pulp. Some foods also include oatmeal and oat fiber. Together, these ingredients provide an excellent amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Foods also have flaxseed as an ingredient. Flaxseed provides both fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. However, cats cannot make EPA and DHA from the plant-based omega-3 ALA, so flaxseed only has limited omega-3 benefits in cats.

The Wild Frontier cat foods include soybean oil, which is very high in omega-6 fatty acids. This can quickly throw off the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and is a point of concern in the ingredient list in any cat food.

The mineral mix that Nutro uses for their cat foods includes mostly chelated minerals. Chelated minerals are considered the gold standard in pet food, as they can be more easily absorbed compared to other mineral supplements. Ingredients like Manganese Amino Acid Chelate are in Nutro’s cat foods.

Nutrients

Among Nutro’s Wholesome Essentials formulas the dry matter protein content sits at roughly 38%. The Wild Frontier formulas have a higher protein content, at about 45% on a dry matter basis. This is a decent amount of protein for a dry cat food, but keep in mind that much of the protein in Nutro’s foods comes from potatoes and peas.

Wholesome essentials has a dry matter fat content in the 18% range, while Wild Frontier has a dry matter fat content in the 19% range. This is a typical fat content for a dry cat food.

The dry matter carbohydrate content of Wholesome Essentials ranges from 27% to 33%. This is except for the grain-free formula, which for some reason has a higher carbohydrate content at 37% on a dry matter basis. Overall 27% to 33% is on the low-average end for dry cat foods.

Wild Frontier does have a lower carbohydrate content at roughly 22% on a dry matter basis. This is in fact pretty low for a dry cat food and should be applauded. Nutro has done a good job of controlling carbohydrate levels in their Wild Frontier line of foods.

The caloric content in Nutro’s dry cat foods ranges from 376 calories per a cup to 442 calories per a cup. This is a typical caloric content of a dry cat food and does not stand out as especially high or especially low.

The phosphorus content of Nutro’s dry cat food formulas ranges from 1.2% to 1.5% on a dry matter basis. This is slightly higher than ideal, but is still a well controlled phosphorus level for a dry cat food.

The Wholesome Essentials and Wild Frontier lines of food are very different when it comes to omega-3 content. The only source of omega-3s in Wholesome Essentials is from flaxseed, or in salmon flavored formulas. This means that in chicken formulas, there is essentially no source of the necessary EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that cats need.

Wild Frontier adds both flaxseed and menhaden fish meal as omega-3 sources. This covers all three types of omega-3s that cats require. Nutro even publishes their omega-3 and omega-6 content on their Wild Frontier foods. The foods have a omega-6 to omega-3 ratio ranging from 8:1 to 10:1. Typically, this ratio should be below 6:1, but these are still relatively good ratios all things considered.

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