Julia Ogden

Written by Julia Ogden

Georgia Jeremiah

Reviewed by Georgia Jeremiah

Updated: January 18, 2024

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dry Cat Food Review

Updated: January 18, 2024

Our Verdict

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Not Recommended

Nutro Wholesome Essentials cat food receives the Cat Food Advisor rating, 2.5 stars.

It is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for all life stages.

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

Pros
  • Natural ingredients
  • Does not use GMO foods
Cons
  • Some foods contain low-quality fillers
  • Contains preservatives

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

The Nutro Wholesome Essentials (dry) product line includes seven dry cat foods.

Product line Rating AAFCO
Adult Indoor Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 2.5 M
Adult Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 2.5 M
Adult Formula with Salmon & Brown Rice 2.5 M
Adult Hairball Control Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 2.5 M
Sensitive Adult Formula with Chicken, Rice & Pease 2.5 M
Senior Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 2.5 M
Kitten Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 2.5 G

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Recipe and Label Analysis

Nutro Adult Indoor Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice 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.

Nutro Adult Indoor Formula with Chicken & Brown Rice

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content

36.7%

Protein

15.6%

Fat

39.8%

CarbsCarbohydrates

Chicken, chicken meal, brewers rice, pea protein, whole grain brown rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), dehydrated alfalfa meal, potato protein, dried plain beet pulp, flaxseed, natural flavor, oat fiber, soybean oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potassium chloride, choline chloride, salt, taurine, DL-methionine, citric acid (preservative), mixed tocopherols (preservative), vitamin E supplement, zinc oxide, manganese sulfate, calcium carbonate, ferrous sulfate, niacin supplement, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), copper sulfate, D-calcium pantothenate, vitamin A supplement, biotin, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, sodium selenite, vitamin D3 supplement, riboflavin supplement (vitamin B2), folic acid, potassium iodide, rosemary extract


Fiber (estimated dry matter content) = 7%

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

The second ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken. Chicken is naturally rich in the eleven essential amino acids required by a cat to sustain life.

The third ingredient is brewers rice. Brewers rice is a cereal grain by-product consisting of the small fragments left over after milling whole rice. Aside from the caloric energy it contains, this item is of only modest nutritional value to a cat.

The fourth ingredient is pea protein, what remains of a pea after removing the starchy part of the vegetable. Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat. And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the meat content of this cat food.

The fifth 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 sixth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken 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 seventh ingredient is alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), it can be less common to find it in a cat food recipe.

The eighth ingredient is potato protein, the dry residue remaining after removing the starchy part of a potato. Even though it contains over 80% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat. And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this cat food.

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.

It also contains dried plain beet pulp. Beet pulp is a controversial ingredient, a high-fiber by-product of sugar beet processing.

Some denounce beet pulp as an inexpensive filler while others cite its outstanding intestinal health and blood sugar benefits.

We only call your attention here to the controversy and believe the inclusion of beet pulp in reasonable amounts in most cat foods is entirely acceptable.

This recipe receives a 2.5-star rating.

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Nutrient Analysis

Based on its ingredients alone, Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Formula with Chicken & Rice looks like an average dry product.

The dashboard displays a dry matter protein reading of 36.7%, a fat level of 15.6% and an estimated carbohydrate level of 39.8%.

As a group, the brand features an average protein content of 38.1% and a mean fat level of 18.3%. Together these figures suggest a carbohydrate content of 35.7% for the overall product line, alongside a fat-to-protein ratio of 48%.

This means the Nutro Wholesome Essentials product line contains average protein, average carbs and above-average fat when compared to typical dry cat food.

Final Word

Nutro Wholesome Essentials range uses natural ingredients where possible and the first ingredient is always poultry, this is reflected in the above-average market price. However, most products in the range contain sodium selenite.

Has Nutro cat food been recalled in the past?

Yes.

In September 2009 Mars Petcare issued a recall for select varieties of dry dog food and dry cat food. Here is an excerpt from the original press release:

Small pieces of melted plastic were recently found in the production line of select varieties of NUTRO® dry dog and cat food products. We immediately retrieved the affected pet food from our distributors, and only three SKUs reached retail stores. These were delivered to a small number of PetSmart and Petco stores.

In the same year Nutro issued a voluntary recall for select varieties of cat foods. The recall is due to incorrect levels of zinc and potassium in the cat food. According to Nutro, this error is due to a production error by a US-based premix supplier.

In 2007 Nutro pet foods were included in a nationwide recall initiated by Menu Foods. At the time, Menu Foods manufactured multiple varieties of Nutro products. The recalls were due to contaminated ingredients imported from China in 2006 and early 2007. These contaminated ingredients were used in the production of several Nutro pet food products.

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

Nutro cat food is owned by Mars along with food brands including Whiskas, Royal Canin, Sheba and IAMS.

All Nutro food is produced in the USA.

Sources

1: Association of American Feed Control Officials

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