Nutrition

9Lives Cat Food Review: Ingredients, Recipes, Cost & Personal Experience

Have you considered 9Lives cat food for your kitty's nutrition? Is this a good brand? We take a deeper look at the brand, their products, and ingredients in our 9Lives Cat Food review. We also share our personal experience with the brand.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: February 20, 2024 | 11 min read

Cat eating 9lives cat food next to bag of kibble and canned food

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Cat owners spend a lot of time looking for high-quality, tasty nutrition for their feline family members. When purchasing commercial cat food, there are many options. One well-known brand is 9Lives cat food. This is a widely available brand found on most grocery store chain shelves and in many pet stores. One way to get to know more about this brand is to jump into our 9Lives cat food review.

Besides being widely available in stores and online, 9Lives is a moderately priced product. Though many pet owners have seen this product, looking beyond the brand name, cute pictures, and price tag should happen more often. We have taken the time to do the research to look beyond the label and learn a little more about this brand.

Have you considered 9Lives for your pet’s nutrition? Are you wondering if this is a good, healthy choice? If you were considering trying this brand, you have landed in the right spot. We’ve done our research. Along with that, my cats tried out this brand, and I will share that experience. We take a look at company history, recall history, ingredient sourcing, and product variety.

Key Features

  1. Affordable
  2. Wide selection
  3. Wet and dry product lines
  4. The company has been in business since 1968
  5. Widely available

Brand History

9Lives Is a very recognizable cat food brand and is also one of the oldest. 9Lives was first available in retail stores in 1959. The company started with wet kitty food. Believe it or not, 9Lives was the very first wet cat food brand in the United States. The brand now offers both wet food and dry kibble.

The company has a long history of supporting shelter cats and adopted Morris, the cat, in 1968. Morris became the face of the brand as well as an advocate for other shelter kitties. He became quite famous for his orange tabby charm. In fact, he was sometimes referred to as the “Clark Gable of Cats.” The original Morris lived to be about 17 years old and died in 1978. The company has used other kitties since then to portray the Morris character. In recent years, a new rescue kitty named Li’l Mo has been prevalent in the company’s advertising.

The company strives to provide cats with a good life, which includes good food, a good home, and good health. They have remained committed to promoting and supporting shelter cat adoption throughout their long history.

The 9Lives brand has passed through several different hands when it comes to ownership. Originally 9Lives cat food was produced by tuna maker Star-Kist Food Inc. The company was sold to the HJ Heinz company in 1963 and remained under Heinz ownership until 2002. At that time 9Lives was held by Del Monte Foods, which also produced several other pet food brands. In 2014 Del Monte Foods rebranded itself under Big Heart Pet Brands. In 2015 Big Heart was sold to the J.M. Smucker company. In early 2023 9Lives was sold to Post Consumer Brands.

9Lives Cat Food Recall Information

9Lives products have been recalled on more than one occasion. The most recent one happened in December 2018. Two varieties of canned were recalled due to possible low levels of vitamin B1 (thiamine).

In 2017 several varieties of canned pate were under recall due to a potentially low level of thiamine. This recall was expanded a few days later to include more pates and some products from other brands owned by Big Heart Pet brands, Special Kitty and EverPet.

These are the two most well-documented recalls. Pet food guidelines were quite different when the company started, so recalls may not have existed throughout all of its history. This means there may have been other issues before today’s safety and quality requirements. Most guidelines have been updated more recently, certainly more so than in the 1960s.

Where Is It Made?

9Lives products are manufactured in the United States. Wet food production happens at U.S. facilities and with some international manufacturers. Because Post is such a large company with extensive manufacturing facilities, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where these foods are being made. Before its acquisition by Post, 9Lives products were manufactured in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Alabama. The company does not provide specific information about ingredient sourcing, though they state that most come from North America.

Ingredients To Look For

Cats eating Purina wet and dry cat food in cat-shaped bowls

High-quality cat foods must contain wholesome ingredients and exclude artificial components or unnecessary fillers like corn or wheat gluten. Given that cats are obligate carnivores, a diet high in animal proteins is a must for them. Felines must consume a balanced diet of animal proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and other vital nutrients. Cat dietary needs include minerals and vitamins, especially taurine, to ensure good health. Preferred sources of animal proteins are chicken, turkey, fish, beef, and organ meats.

Felines also require essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 for maintaining healthy skin and coat. Minerals and vitamins, including Vitamins A and B, taurine, and potassium, are integral to their overall physical health. Carbohydrates provide energy and dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestion.

Protein

Cats primarily depend on animal protein to get essential amino acids, including taurine. Taurine is fundamental for proper heart function, sight, muscle strength, and reproductive health. A taurine deficiency may result in severe health complications like dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), central retinal deterioration, and reproductive impairment. Animal proteins like beef, chicken, fish, and turkey are good options.

Fats

Fats serve as an energy source and facilitate the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). They are also crucial for maintaining healthy skin and fur. Fats significantly contribute to brain development and functioning.

Vitamins & Minerals

Cats need a diverse range of vitamins and minerals for optimal health. These micronutrients support various bodily functions, such as bolstering the immune system, promoting bone health, and aiding blood clotting.

Water

Hydration is a crucial aspect of survival for all creatures, including felines. Even though our purr babies rarely exhibit thirst, they must consume enough water to maintain their body’s essential functions and prevent dehydration. Clean, fresh water must always be accessible as it is vital for your cat’s overall health.

9Lives Ingredients

Most 9Lives kitty products include meat and fish, which is a good sign. That said, their products contain meat by-products, which are less-desirable protein sources. Regarding carbohydrates, 9Lives uses cornmeal and other grains in their recipes. While these ingredients are common in many commercial pet foods, they are not ideal for feline’s dietary needs. Unlike humans and dogs, cats do not derive much nutritional benefit from grains or carbohydrates.

9Lives Cat Food Recipes

The brand makes dry and wet kitty chow. Currently, they make five kinds of dry kibble and 15 kinds of canned. We look closer at some top sellers.

Dry Food

The brand currently makes five kinds of dry kibble: Daily Essentials, Indoor Complete, PlusCare, ProteinPlus, and GentleCare.

Daily Essentials

9lives Daily Essentials cat food kibble
  • Dry kibble.
  • Chicken, beef, and salmon flavor.
  • 31% Crude protein (min).
  • 9% Crude fat (min).
  • 3% Crude fiber (max).
  • 306 kcal per 8 oz cup.

This dry kibble has chicken, beef, and salmon flavors. It is a high-protein recipe. The kibble is small and easy for felines of all sizes to eat. It includes omega fatty acids and is low in price.

Ingredient-wise, we do not love what this kibble includes. The first ingredient is whole ground corn, followed by chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, beef fat, whole wheat, meat, bone meal, animal digest, salmon meal, and a blend of added vitamins and minerals. This recipe also includes food dye and artificial preservatives like BHA.

Though the protein content is good, we are not huge fans of this kibble. It is full of lower-quality ingredients that many cats struggle to digest. For starters, the first ingredient is whole-ground corn. Cats are obligate carnivores and should not eat a lot of anything that uses plant material like this as filler. The second ingredient is chicken by-products. We would prefer to see a natural meat product listed as the first ingredient and preferably more than that.

Corn gluten meal and soybean meal are plant protein additives, which help explain the high protein content. We would prefer that protein content comes from animal meat, not plant additives. Though the recipe claims to be beef and salmon flavored, these ingredients are very far down on the list. Additionally, meat and bone meal are added, which is a very low-quality ingredient. This is essentially a mystery ingredient and could contain just about anything.

Along with that, this recipe contains something called an animal digest. This refers to a compound called a digest that has undergone an artificial digestion-like process. These materials include elements like teeth, hooves, hair, horns, and feathers. This can be done using enzymes, acids, or heat. This is a way that pet food companies can list nondescript protein sources and is a major red flag.

Indoor Complete

9lives Indoor Complete cat food kibble
  • Chicken and salmon flavor.
  • For indoor cats.
  • 30% Crude protein (min).
  • 9% Crude fat (min).
  • 4% Crude fiber (max).
  • 305 kcal per 8 oz cup.

This recipe is designed to meet the needs of indoor cats. The company claims it helps maintain an ideal weight, digestive health, and hairball control. This dry kibble has chicken and salmon flavors. This kibble recipe lists its first ingredient as whole ground corn, followed by chicken byproduct meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, whole wheat, meat and bone meal, animal fat, animal digest, soybean wholes, salmon meal, dehydrated alfalfa pellets, salt, and added vitamins and minerals. This kibble also contains food dye.

There are several red-flag ingredients in this recipe as well. In particular, we do not like the high grain content or the use of meat and bone meal, animal fat, or animal digest. We would much prefer our cat’s chow to get animal protein from fresh cuts of healthy meat. Additionally, the higher fiber and carbohydrate content and plant materials may be hard for some cats to digest.

Wet Food

The company makes three lines of wet canned cat food: Hearty Cuts, Meaty Pate, and Tender Morsels.

Meaty Pate With Real Chicken & Tuna

  • Smooth pate with real meat..
  • Chicken and tuna flavor.
  • 9% Crude protein (min).
  • 4.5% Crude fat (min).
  • 1% Crude fiber (max).
  • 78% Moisture (max)

This is chicken and tuna flavored canned pate. It offers a meaty taste with a smooth, easy-to-eat moist texture. The ingredient list starts with meat by-products, followed by water sufficient for processing, chicken, poultry byproducts, fish, tuna, Brewer’s rice, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, and other vitamins and minerals. We would prefer that chicken, fish, and tuna were the first three ingredients rather than meat by-products, water, and poultry by-products. However, we appreciate that no grain fillers or artificial colors are here.

Hearty Cuts With Real Beef & Chicken In Gravy

9lives Hearty Cuts With Real Beef & Chicken In Gravy
  • Meaty chunks in thick gravy.
  • Real beef and chicken.
  • 8% Crude protein (min).
  • 2% Crude fat (min).
  • 1% Crude fiber (max).
  • 82% Moisture (max)

This recipe includes meaty chunks in a thick, savory gravy. It uses real beef and chicken and offers a big taste. The recipe starts with water sufficient for processing, meat by-products, beef, chicken, soy protein concentrate, wheat flour, modified cornstarch, steamed bone meal, as well as natural flavors, and other vitamins and minerals. We appreciate that the recipe includes real animal proteins but prefer that they are the first ingredients on the label, not the third and fourth. The addition of wheat flour and cornstarch as fillers are also red flags.

This recipe is high in moisture. It contains 82% max, which is helpful for cats who need a little extra hydration.

Tender Morsels With Real Chicken In Sauce

9lives Tender Morsels With Real Chicken In Sauce
  • Uses real chicken.
  • Meat in a tasty, creamy gravy.
  • 9% Crude protein (min).
  • 25.% Crude fat (min).
  • 1% Crude fiber (max).
  • 82% Moisture (max)

This recipe features morsels of meat in a savory, creamy sauce. This particular recipe uses chicken. The recipe does use chicken, but it is the second ingredient on the list after water. Then comes chicken, liver, meat byproducts, soy flour, wheat gluten, modified food starch, natural flavor, and other vitamin and mineral additives.

This recipe offers a soft texture, meaty flavor, and tasty gravy, which many cats appreciate. It is quite high in moisture, 82%.

Personal Experience

Cat eating 9lives cat food

I have purchased 9Lives cans on a few occasions for my indoor kitties. My pets have not tried the kibble but have tried all three lines of canned. This is generally a purchase I make when I am low on cat chow and can only make a quick trip to the grocery store. My cats do not like all the flavors. They like the tender chicken morsels, as well as the pate. However, they will not eat the tender cuts in gravy. One cat will only eat the chicken morsels, while the other will eat the paste.

One thing I have noticed after eating this brand is that my cats have far stinkier bowel movements for at least two weeks. I think this is due to the lower-quality ingredients and fillers, making it harder to digest. While my cats are okay with the taste, this is not their first choice, and as such, it is not a product I like to purchase very often.

My cats much prefer the taste of fresh or freeze-dried chow over this canned food. There are also other brands of canned meals that they like better. Unfortunately, due to the lower quality ingredients, unnamed meat byproducts, and high amount of fillers, I cannot recommend this as a top choice personally.

Is 9Lives Cat Food Good?

In terms of ingredient quality, 9Lives falls in the middle range. While it includes real meat and essential nutrients, it also contains many fillers and artificial ingredients. Therefore, there might be better choices for those looking for an all-natural option. Recipes meet nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat food nutrient profiles for adult maintenance.

Looking at consumer reviews and feedback, 9Lives generally receives mixed reviews. Many cat owners appreciate the brand’s affordability and the variety it offers. However, some users have raised concerns about the quality of ingredients, noting potential digestive issues in their cats after consuming 9Lives products.

Because this brand’s recipes do not use real meat as the first ingredients and often use corn, wheat gluten, and unnamed animal protein sources like meat byproducts, it raises a few red flags. There are better quality kitty chows than this one, though it is very affordable and easy to find. For owners on a budget, this is a suitable, short-term choice. However, there are healthier options available. When combined with high-quality kibble that uses meat as the first ingredient, this can make a tasty topper.

This is not a choice I make or recommend as a long-term option for my pets, but it can add flavor and moisture as an occasional treat or topper. I avoid kibbles with so much plant material and always opt for kibble with real meat as the first ingredient. My cats have experienced kidney issues, including struvite crystals, as a result of sneaking too much kibble and getting into the dog’s chow too. After a close call with one beloved kitty, I am very picky about the kibble I feed them, never to have that happen again.

How Much Is 9Lives? Is It Worth The Price?

This is a very affordable, budget brand of cat chow. It is widely available on retail store shelves and online. The price is low in comparison to many other options. The canned foods cost, on average, $0.13 per oz. Kibble costs approximately $0.95 per pound. A case of 24 5.5 oz cans costs around $16.80. A 12-pound bag of dry kibble costs around $12.00.

Overall, this is a very affordable brand. However, we must point out that you get what you pay for. The lower price reflects the inferior ingredients and the lack of high-quality, real meat as protein sources.

Pros & Cons Of 9Lives

ProsCons
Wide varietyRecalls
Wet and dry productsLow quality ingredients
Low-quality ingredientsUses animal meat by-products, including animal digest
AffordableIt can cause digestive upset
Easy to findSome cats do not like taste or smell

Final Thoughts

9Lives offers a balance between affordability and nutrition. While it might not be the top choice for cats with specific dietary needs, it remains a viable option for many pet owners due to the low price. Though I have tried this brand personally, it is not one I consider a top choice due to the lower quality ingredients, large amounts of carbohydrates and plant-based fillers, and low-quality meat protein sources.

While pet nutrition is costly, buying cheaper products can have a more expensive and serious long-term impact on a cat’s health. Personally, my cats have experienced digestive issues, as well as much smellier bowel movements after eating this brand. Additionally, they turn their nose up at several of the flavors. If this brand is a choice you make due to budget, I recommend mixing it in with a higher-quality dry kibble. Make sure to pick something that lists named real animal proteins as the first several ingredients. We review several different kinds of cat foods on LYC, including Fromm Family Pet Food, Smalls, Applaws, Orijen, Acana, and more. Always discuss any specific concerns about your pet’s nutrition with your veterinarian before making any significant dietary changes.

cat climbing up on a lady with cat hair all over her leg with a lint roller

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