Laura Ward

Written by Laura Ward

Georgia Jeremiah

Reviewed by Georgia Jeremiah

Updated: January 18, 2024

Natural Balance Original Ultra Wet Cat Food Review

Updated: January 18, 2024

Our Verdict

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Recommended

Natural Balance Original Ultra wet cat food range receives the Cat Food Advisor rating: 4.5 stars.

It is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for all adult and kitten maintenance.

Each recipe in the range is tailored to meet the nutritional needs of cats at different stages of life.

Pros
  • Contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Added taurine
  • Grain-free
  • Quality protein ingredients
Cons
  • Expensive

Each recipe includes its AAFCO nutrient profile: Growth (kitten), Maintenance (adult), All Life Stages, Supplemental or Unspecified.

The Natural Balance Original Ultra product line contains eight wet cat foods.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Chicken & Liver Recipe Paté 4.5 A
Tuna & Shrimp Recipe Paté 4.5 A
Ocean Fish Recipe Paté 4.5 A
Salmon Recipe Paté 4.5 A
Grain-Free Chicken Kitten Formula 4.5 G
Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Paté 4.5 M
Indoor Chicken Recipe Paté 4.5 M
Duck & Duck Liver Formula 4.5 A

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Recipe and Label Analysis

Natural Balance Original Ultra Wet Chicken & Liver Recipe Paté 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.

Natural Balance Original Ultra Wet Chicken & Liver Recipe Paté

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

40.9%

Protein

27.3%

Fat

23.8%

CarbsCarbohydrates

Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, brown rice, natural flavor, dried egg product, carrots, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, thiamine mononitrate, niacin, vitamin A supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, biotin), guar gum, choline chloride, potassium chloride, salt, minerals (zinc proteinate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese sulfate, manganese proteinate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, dicalcium phosphate, menhaden oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), cranberries, carrageenan, rosemary extract


Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 1.5%

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 chicken broth. Broths are of only modest nutritional value. Yet because they add both flavor and moisture to a cat food, they are a common component in many wet products.

The third ingredient is chicken liver. This is an organ meat sourced from a named animal and thus considered a beneficial component.

The fourth ingredient is brown rice, a complex carbohydrate that (once cooked) can be fairly easy to digest. However, aside from its natural energy content, rice is of only modest nutritional value to a cat.

The fifth ingredient is natural flavor, Natural flavors doesn’t give us much information about the particular ingredients included in this cat food for flavoring purposes. 

We’re pleased that the flavorings used are natural, but more details are required to give any further information about these natural flavoring ingredients. Flavorings are used to make the foods more appealing and tasty for our cats.

The sixth ingredient is dried egg product, a dehydrated 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 carrots. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, minerals and dietary fiber.

The eighth ingredient is vitamins, here the details of the added vitamin sources are listed, used to balance the recipe against AAFCO guidelines.

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 sodium selenite, a controversial form of the mineral selenium, sodium selenite appears to be nutritionally inferior to the more natural source of selenium found in selenium yeast. 

This recipe also contains carrageenan, a gelatin-like thickening agent extracted from seaweed. Although carrageenan has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years, there appears to be some recent controversy regarding its long-term biological safety. 

The article, The Carrageenan Controversy, published in Scientific American, does a good job of addressing this topic.

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Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Natural Balance Original Ultra Wet Chicken & Liver Recipe Paté looks like an above-average wet product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 40.9%, a fat level of 27.3% and an estimated carbohydrate level of 23.8%.

As a group, the brand features an average-protein content of 43.2% and a mean fat level of 25%. Together these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 23.8% for the overall product line, alongside a fat-to-protein ratio of 58%.

This means the Natural Balance Original Ultra wet product line contains above-average protein, below-average carbs and above-average fat when compared to typical wet cat food.

Final Word

Natural Balance Original Ultra Wet provides complete and balanced nutrition for cats and kittens.  Like most Natural Balance products it is grain-free and free from artificial colors and flavors.

Has Natural Balance cat food been recalled in the past?

Yes, there have been three recorded recalls for Natural Balance. For full details, please visit the Dog Food Advisor, but in summary:

In April 2007 the company informed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of complaints it had received about its Venison & Brown Rice Dry Dog Food and Venison & Green Pea Dry Cat Food. 

According to these complaints, some pets had experienced vomiting and kidney failure after consuming these products.

The company immediately issued a voluntary recall of all the affected products, and following laboratory tests, it was determined that some of them contained trace amounts of melamine, which is thought to have come from rice concentrate. 

Later that month, Natural Balance issued a second limited recall for four canned pet foods that were found to contain traces of melamine in rice protein concentrates.

In July 2007, the company recalled a small batch of canned pet food that it feared may have been contaminated in a large-scale botulism outbreak associated with one of its producers, Castleberry’s Food Company. 

In response to ongoing concerns following these recalls, Natural Balance built its own ISO-17025 accredited laboratory and commenced proactively testing every production run of the entire pet food range for nine different toxins before shipping their products to retailers.

On July 3, 2020, Natural Balance’s parent company, J.M. Smucker, issued a voluntary recall on a single batch of Natural Balance Ultra Premium Chicken & Chicken Liver Pâté Formula, after receiving complaints that several cats had become unwell after eating it. 

Subsequent tests revealed that the batch contained elevated levels of choline chloride.

All of the food recipes contain chicken or poultry by-product meal and are bulked out using plant-based ingredients. It also consists of controversial ingredients BHA as a preservative as well as artificial colors.

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.

About

Natural Balance Pet Foods was formed in 1989, and was picked up by Petco and sold in 625 stores across the United States. In May 2013, Natural Balance merged with Del Monte Foods and was then sold again in 2015 to J.M Smucker Company.

Natural Balance headquarters are in Pacoima, Los Angeles, California. Its products are produced at a variety of manufacturers across the United States from ingredients sourced from the United States, France, India, New Zealand, and Canada.

Sources

1: 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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