Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Georgia Jeremiah

Reviewed by Georgia Jeremiah

Updated: June 4, 2024

Instinct (Dry) Review

Updated: June 4, 2024

Our Verdict



Instinct dry cat food is made up of nine recipes with ratings which vary between 3 and 4 stars. The average rating of the range overall is 4 stars.

Protein levels vary across the range, as do carbohydrate levels and moisture content, so it is important to consider this when evaluating what recipe might best suit your cat’s diet.

  • Suitable for cats of all life stages
  • Grain-free recipe
  • Includes omega-3 fatty acids
  • Affordable
  • Relatively high carbohydrate content

The table below shows each recipe in the range including our rating and the AAFCO nutrient profile: Growth (kitten), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe for Kittens 4 G
Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe 4 A
Instinct Original Real Rabbit Recipe 3.5 A
Instinct Original Real Salmon Recipe 4 A
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Recipe 3.5 M
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Salmon Recipe 3.5 M
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey Recipe 3 M
Instinct Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Chicken Recipe 4 M
Instinct Ultimate Protein Cage-Free Duck Recipe 4 M

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Recipe and Label Analysis

Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe for Kittens recipe was selected to represent the other products in the line for a detailed recipe and nutrient analysis.

Label and nutrient data below are calculated using dry matter basis.

Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe for Kittens recipe

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content







Chicken, turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, peas, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), egg product, chicken meal, white fish meal, tapioca, natural flavor, lamb meal, dried tomato pomace, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate, niacin supplement, thiamine mononitrate, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, vitamin D3 supplement, biotin), apples, carrots, cranberries, minerals (zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, sodium selenite, ethylenediamine dihydriodide), choline chloride, montmorillonite clay, potassium chloride, salt, taurine, freeze dried chicken, freeze dried chicken liver, pumpkin seeds, freeze dried chicken heart, bacillus coagulans fermentation product, rosemary extract

Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 3%

Red denotes any controversial items

Ingredients Analysis

The first ingredient is chicken.  Chicken is considered “the clean combination of flesh and skin derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken”. 1

Chicken is naturally rich in the 11 essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

The second ingredient is turkey meal.  Turkey meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh turkey.

The third ingredient is menhaden fish mealBecause it is considered a meat concentrate, fish meal contains almost 300% more protein than fresh fish itself.

Menhaden are small ocean fish related to herring. They’re rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. What’s more, in their mid-depth habitat, menhaden are not exposed to mercury contamination as can be typical with deep water species.

This item is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations.2

The fourth ingredient is peas, which are a quality source of carbohydrates and like all legumes, they’re rich in natural fiber.

However, peas contain about 25% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this cat food.

The fifth ingredient is chicken fatChicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid.

Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life.  Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The sixth ingredient is egg product, an unspecified (wet or dry?) form of shell-free eggs. Quality can vary significantly.  Lower grade egg products can even come from commercial hatcheries – from eggs that have failed to hatch.  

In any case, eggs are easy to digest and have an exceptionally high biological value.

The seventh ingredient is chicken mealChicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

From here the list goes on to include a number of other items. But to be realistic, ingredients located this far down the list (other than nutritional supplements) are not likely to affect the overall rating of the product.

However this recipe contains dried tomato pomace.  

Dried tomato pomace is a by-product remaining after processing tomatoes into juice, soup and ketchup. Many praise tomato pomace for its high fiber and nutrient content, while others scorn it as an inexpensive pet food filler.

Just the same, there’s probably not enough tomato pomace here to make much of a difference.

Recipe star rating 4.

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Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Instinct Original Real Chicken Recipe for Kittens looks like an above-average dry product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 46.7%, a fat level of 24.7% and an estimated carbohydrate level of 20.6%.

As a group, the brand features an above-average protein content of 45.9% and an above-average fat level of 23.9%. Together these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 22.2% for the overall product line, alongside a fat to protein ratio of 52%.

This means this Instinct dry range contains higher than average protein, lower than average carbohydrate and higher than average fat, when compared to typical dry cat food.

Final Word

This range of food offers a balanced and nutritious diet for your cat and has options for all life stages. 

The recipes are packed with protein from high levels of real animal ingredients and responsibly sourced poultry or fish. Each piece of kibble is coated with freeze-dried raw for the added nutrition and taste of raw. It is grain-free and there are limited ingredient options to suit your pet’s needs.

Has Instinct cat food been recalled in the past?

No. Instinct has never had a product recall.

You can view a complete list of all cat food recalls since 2021 here.

To stay on top of any cat food product recalls, sign up for our free email alerts, here.


Instinct Pet Food was founded in 2002 and produces frozen and freeze-dried raw pet food from its facilities in Lincoln, Nebraska.


1, 2: Association of American Feed Control Officials

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Every piece of clinical content on the Cat Food Advisor is reviewed by our certified Veterinary Advisory Board, which consists of licensed veterinarians and medically certified specialists.

Our reviews are completely independent; we are not paid by any pet food company to promote their products favorably. We do not accept money, gifts, samples or other incentives in exchange for special consideration. For more information see our Disclaimer & Disclosure page.

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