WholeHearted Cat Food[Review]

WholeHearted cat food was conceived as a way to celebrate the bonds between pets and their pet parents while recognizing the importance nutrition plays in their daily lives.

The Petco-owned cat food company was founded with a promise to make cat food affordable, thoughtful, and wholesome. WholeHearted sells nutritionally balanced cat food that is appropriate for cats of all ages and life stages.

But does WholeHearted cat food deliver on those promises? Let’s see what WholeHearted is all about.

Our top picks for WholeHearted cat food:

  1. WholeHearted Grain Free Flaked Chicken Wet Cat Food 
  2. WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Easy Digestion Chicken and Egg Dry Cat Food
  3. WholeHearted Chicken Puree Squeezable Cat Treats 

The WholeHearted cat food story

WholeHearted began as a Petco-exclusive dog food company in 2016. The popular pet store chain wanted to throw their hat into the ring of simple, “natural” pet foods that have become top sellers.

WholeHearted was such a smash hit among dogs (and their owners) that in 2017, WholeHearted released a line of cat food.

Following the same blueprint, WholeHearted cat food has become a popular choice for cat parents who prefer “natural” cat food over bargain brands.

Is WholeHearted a Petco-exclusive brand?

WholeHearted is a Petco-exclusive brand. All of WholeHearted’s cat and dog food recipes are developed in-house by Petco’s own animal nutrition experts.

Select WholeHearted cat food products can be purchased from online retailers like Amazon, but WholeHearted’s line of cat food in its entirety is only available on Petco’s official website or in Petco brick-and-mortar stores.

Is WholeHearted made in the U.S. or abroad?

According to WholeHearted’s official Petco page, their cat food is manufactured in the U.S. with, “some select wet foods from Thailand”.

Cat parents who want a clear answer about where their cat’s foods are manufactured may prefer to opt for a more transparent company like Orijen or Blue Buffalo.

Where do WholeHearted’s ingredients come from?

WholeHearted isn’t clear about where they source their ingredients from. According to Petco Customer Service on WholeHearted official product pages “Some of the ingredients are globally sourced (Europe, Canada, Brazil, etc).”

The vague answer to that sensible question is a bit fishy. Especially considering one of WholeHearted’s promises is to be thoughtful. Whether that thoughtfulness truly does extend to the ingredients used in WholeHearted’s food is a mystery that perhaps Sherlock could tackle, but that we as cat parents shouldn’t have to.

Are WholeHearted’s ingredients non-GMO? US-grown? Sustainably or responsibly sourced? Wild-caught?

We don’t have a clue.

wholehearted cat food reviews

Did WholeHearted have any recalls?

Wholehearted cat food has not had any recalls to date.

What kind of cat food does WholeHearted make?

WholeHearted makes wet and dry cat food and treats for kittens, adult, and senior cats. These cat food lines include:

  1. WholeHearted Grain Free Wet Cat Food: Available in over six flavors the classic line of Wholehearted wet cat food is appropriate for cats all life stages and comes in three different textures: meaty morsels, pates, and flaked meat. There are also specific cans of this wet cat food for kittens and senior cats.
  2. WholeHearted Grain Free Wet Cat Food in Broth Pouches: Appropriate for cats of all life stages these pouches of wet cat food come in over six flavors. There are three varieties of this pouch cat food: meaty morsels, flaked meat, and flavor-enhancing broths/toppers for dry cat food.
  3. WholeHearted Limited Ingredient Diet Wet Cat Food: These peel and serve plastic cups of wet cat food cater to cats with allergies or sensitivities. There are four flavors including duck, salmon, and tuna.
  4. WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Wet Cat Food: This canned cat food comes in three varieties and is specially formulated to target three major health concerns for cats: weight management, digestion, and urinary tract health.
  5. WholeHearted Grain Free Dry Cat Food: This classic grain free kibble comes in four flavors along with specific formulas for kittens and senior cats.
  6. WholeHearted Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food: Just like its peel and serve limited ingredient wet cat food counterpart, this limited ingredient dry cat food comes in four flavors and is formulated to feed kitties who may have food allergies or sensitivities.
  7. WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Dry Cat Food: This specialized dry cat food is formulated to target three main health concerns for cats: weight management, digestion, and urinary health.
  8. WholeHearted Squeezable Puree Treats: These treats can also be used as a topper on dry cat food, for supplemental feeding in between meals, or simply as a treat for cats who love gravy or pureed food.
  9. WholHearted Soft-Filled Bites Cat Treats: These treats are appropriate for cats and kittens and come in one flavor.

And more! You can find the entire line of WholeHearted cat food on their Petco page.

wholehearted cat food review

Is WholeHearted a good cat food?

One need only review the packaging and nutrition labels on any of WholeHearted’s products to see that, yes, WholeHearted is a good cat food in the most basic sense.

The top ingredients in WholeHearted’s cat foods are highly digestible meats. There are no artificial flavors or colors, and there’s no corn or wheat in any recipe. WholeHearted fortifies their cat food with taurine, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, and other essential vitamins and minerals.

So in short, yes, WholeHearted sells nutritionally balanced cat food that is appropriate for cats of all ages and life stages.

However, if we comb through the ingredients it quickly becomes obvious that there are a lot of fruit and vegetables in their dry and wet cat foods. They’re not species-appropriate either. Papaya, coconut, and oranges are three especially eyebrow-raising ingredients in many of WholeHearted’s cat food.

The ASPCA explicitly warns against feeding cats oranges and coconut and says they can cause “loose stool”, “upset stomach” and in some serious cases can affect kitties’ central nervous system. Multiple fruits and plant proteins, as wholesome as they are for humans aren’t species-appropriate for cats.

Many of WholeHearted’s cat food recipes also include vegetable byproducts which aren’t ideal. For example, powdered cellulose plays a supporting role in many of WholeHearted’s cat food offerings. While this isn’t a dangerous ingredient on its own, it has been linked to inflammation in cats.

Then there’s the matter of WholeHearted’s (mostly) grain free formulas that emphasize legumes and their byproducts, like whole peas and pea flour.

While these are a nutritious choice for humans, they can cause some complications in cats. While no long term studies have proven that peas, beans, and other legumes in cat food are entirely harmful, there have been real-life findings that quickly flag these ingredients as problematic.

For one, veterinarians like Dr. Karen Becker, say that biologically cats cannot properly break down, or digest them, which often results in ASPCA explicitly warns against feeding cats oranges and coconut and says they can cause “loose stool”.

whole hearted cat food reviews

WholeHearted wet cat food

WholeHearted Grain Free Flaked Chicken Wet Cat Food 

One of Wholehearted’s top-selling flavors is their Grain Free Flaked Chicken in Gravy wet cat food. This recipe features whole, flaked chicken in chicken broth to bring highly digestible protein and moisture to a cat’s diet. This is one of the more affordable meat-first, “natural” cat foods on the market.

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WholeHearted Grain Free Chicken Senior Formula Wet Cat Food 

WholeHearted’s Grain-Free Senior Formula Chicken wet cat food is made from chicken and chicken broth just like their original Grain Free Flaked Chicken in Gravy wet cat food. What sets this apart from the “appropriate for all ages” original chicken recipe is that this is a pate and not flaked or morsels. However, this contains significantly more “filler” ingredients.

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WholeHearted Maritime Delights Flaked Wet Cat Food Variety Pack 

WholeHearted’s Maritime Delights Variety Pack features three of their popular classic grain free wet cat foods: Flaked Tuna in Gravy, Flaked Tuna and Shrimp in Gravy, and Flaked Tuna and Salmon in Gravy. WholeHearted “appropriate for all ages” recipes start with highly digestible and omega-3 rich tuna and are fortified with extra vitamins and minerals to give cats healthier skin and fur.

Petco Brand - WholeHearted Grain Free Maritime Delights Flaked Wet Cat Food Variety Pack for All Life Stages, 2.8 oz.

Pros

  • Tuna is the first ingredient
  • Enhanced with vitamins for healthy skin and fur
  • The flaked texture of the meat is appealing to picky kitties
  • Contains no chicken or eggs, so it’s good for kitties with allergies to either

Cons

  • Contains thickeners: xanthan gum, tapioca starch, and sunflower oil
  • The cans may be difficult to open
  • The fish has a smelly, off-putting odor

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wholehearted grain free cat food

WholeHearted Flaked Tuna in Broth Wet Cat Food

WholeHearted’s Grain Free Flaked Tuna in Broth is packaged in a plastic pouch (much to the pleasure of cat parents who have struggled with WholeHearted’s notoriously tricky to open canned cat food) and is formulated for cats of all ages. This tuna-based flaked cat food has a soft and soupy texture and brings a nice little bump of protein, moisture, and omega-3 fatty acids to a kitty’s diet.

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WholeHearted dry cat food

WholeHearted Grain Free Chicken Dry Cat Food 

WholeHearted’s signature dry cat food is their Grain Free Chicken. This is appropriate for all ages. Fortified with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, taurine, and omega-3 fatty acids this is a complete, nutritionally balanced dry cat food. However, this is one of WholeHearted’s cat foods that contain species inappropriate fruits and vegetables, so it may in fact be very hard to digest for many cats.

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WholeHearted Grain Free Chicken Senior Formula Dry Cat Food

This WholeHearted dry cat food takes the original Grain Free Chicken kibble and aims to make it specifically for senior cats aged seven and older. While there are extra vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to “support the aging process” there are also a lot of the same problematic ingredients from the original formula. Namely, the heavy use of legumes and vegetables and hard to digest species inappropriate fruits.

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wholehearted wet cat food

WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Easy Digestion Chicken and Egg Dry Cat Food

WholeHearted’s Healthy Benefits line is tailored to cats with specific nutritional and health needs. On its packaging, WholeHearted’s Easy Digestion Chicken and Egg dry dry cat food boasts multiple fiber sources, gentle ingredients, and highly digestible high-quality proteins. Chicken is the top ingredient and there are fewer plant proteins and no fruit ingredients. This is one of WholeHearted’s most species-appropriate cat foods.

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WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Weight Control Chicken and Pea Dry Cat Food

WholeHearted’s Weight Control Chicken and Pea dry cat food include double the fiber, higher protein, and 25 percent less fat than their traditional Grain Free Chicken kibble. This formula includes the amino acid L-Carnitine to help cats metabolize fats and maintain lean muscle mass. However, it contains the same hard to digest heavy fruit and veggie content as WholeHearted’s other dry cat foods.

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WholeHearted kitten food

WholeHearted Grain Free Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food

WholeHearted’s Grain Free Chicken Recipe dry kitten food starts with chicken and chicken meal. The smaller size kibble is designed to be easy for kitten’s tiny teeth and mouths and is also fortified with extra essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that kittens need for proper growth and development. Some cat parents find a lengthy list of vegetable and fruit ingredients do more harm than good.

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wholehearted wet cat food kitten

WholeHearted Grain Free Tuna Kitten Formula Wet Food 

WholeHearted’s kitten wet food comes in three different flavors: tuna, turkey, and chicken and two textures: pate and flaked meat. This is one of WholeHearted’s most species-appropriate choices with tuna and tuna broth as the top ingredients. It’s fortified with extra essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to encourage healthy growth.

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WholeHearted cat treats

WholeHearted Chicken Puree Squeezeable Cat Treats 

WholeHearted’s Chicken Puree Squeezable Cat Treat contains just five ingredients, starting with chicken and chicken broth. This simple puree is one of WholeHearted’s most digestible and species-appropriate offerings for cats and can be fed alone as a treat, served in between meats, or mixed into dry kibble.

Petco Brand - WholeHearted Chicken Recipe Puree Squeezable Cat Treats, 0.5 oz., Count of 4

Pros

  • Chicken broth and chicken are the top ingredients
  • Contains no vegetable or fruit ingredients
  • Contains the antioxidant and Vitamin E
  • There are no fish ingredients

Cons

  • Contains the thickener tapioca starch

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WholeHearted Salmon Flavor Soft-filled Bites Cat Treats 

WholeHearted’s Salmon Flavored Soft-filled Bites cat treats contain many more ingredients than their squeezable pureed cat treats. These bites start with easy to digest, chicken meals, and contain omega-3 rich fish. However, they feature some fillers like dried brewer’s yeast, an ingredient many cats are allergic or sensitive to.

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wholehearted-cat-food-reviews

What are cat parents saying about WholeHearted cat food?

Now that we know all about WholeHearted’s philosophy and ingredients let’s take a minute to see what cat parents (and their feline friends) like and dislike about WholeHearted cat food.

Positive WholeHearted cat food reviews

“Good treats. My cat definitely knows the sound of this bag when I take it out of the drawer and they gobble up the treats as soon as they can. I’m happy knowing these are good quality for a price that is not too expensive.” Subie B. on Petco.com (WholeHearted Salmon Flavor Soft-Filled Bites Cat Treats)

“My cats have always been picky AND have notoriously loose stools, but this food has been a lifesaver. Finally, no more runny stools and worrying constantly about dehydration because of it! My only regret is how much money I spent on other foods before finding this one!” Moore Flowers Please on Petco.com (WholeHearted Healthy Benefits Easy Digestion Chicken and Egg Dry Cat Food)

“My two fur baby siblings have sensitive tummies. I’ve tried loads of things including very expensive prescription foods. I grabbed this as it checked the boxes for avoiding the ingredients they shouldn’t have and crossed my fingers! They love it! They eat it up and no bad bellies! Thank goodness for an affordable quality limited ingredient option!” Erika in Raleigh (WholeHearted Grain Free Limited Ingredient Duck Recipe Dry Cat Food)

Negative WholeHearted cat food reviews

“I appreciate the Petco effort to replace less healthy brands with an all-natural offering, but my cats won’t touch this. It looks and smells like chum. In addition to making me gag, they all turned their nose up at this. I think it is leftover fish parts run through a blender!” West TN Cat Lady on Petco.com (WholeHearted Grain Free Maritime Delights Flaked Wet Cat Food Variety Pack)

“I tried this food with my three kittens and it gave them really stinky, runny poop and gas. Seriously… I have NEVER experienced such a smell with any dog or cat food and I am a regular foster and have fed about every brand out there!” Nick’s Cats on Petco.com (WholeHearted Grain Free Chicken Kitten Formula Dry Cat Food)

“I normally buy the Easy Digestion version of this brand, but my local Petco was out of it. I bought this instead, and my younger cat threw up four times the night I bought it. It was really surprising to me since I have had this cat for a year or so and he has never once thrown up (weird, I know). I love this brand but I can’t wait to go back to the other kind.” Del Schmuck on Petco.com (WholeHearted Weight Control Chicken and Pea Dry Cat Food)

wholehearted cat food alternatives

Alternatives to WholeHearted cat food

If feeding your kitty WholeHearted cat food isn’t in the cards, or you disagree with the company’s reluctance to share information, there are many other natural cat food companies out there who are more transparent and who use more species-appropriate ingredients. Here are three we like:

1. Wellness CORE Cat Food

Wellness CORE debuted in 2007. Wellness CORE’s philosophy is to “make mealtime count” with foods that are holistic and protein-based.

Wellness CORE’s grain free and high protein cat food puts high quality and highly digestible meats at the forefront of all of their wet and dry cat food. Other nutrient-dense animal and plant proteins like eggs, turkey liver, and spinach, play supporting roles.

Wellness is very transparent and open. They explain the purpose of all of their ingredients on their website, go over their quality and safety standards, and include in-depth videos on their manufacturing process.

Wellness CORE’s dry cat food is manufactured in Indiana, U.S., and their wet cat food is manufactured in Thailand. Wellness sources most of its ingredients from the US, with some like lamb, sourced globally.

Wellness cat food has had two recalls.

2. Blackwood Cat Food

Blackwood is a holistic dog and cat food company now owned by the U.S.-based BrightPet Nutrition Group. Blackwood was initially founded in 1978 by the father-and-son team Robert and Jim Golladay.

Blackwood handcrafts all of their cat food recipes with high-quality proteins first, and vitamin and mineral-rich plant ingredients second. Considered nutritionally complete and balanced, Blackwood cat food never contains any artificial flavors or colors, corn, wheat, or soy. Blackwood currently sells wet and dry cat food for kittens, adult, and senior cats, as well as special grain-free options.

Blackwood’s “slow cook” method helps preserve nutrients and, according to some research on starch conversion, can actually lead to increased energy and stamina levels.

Blackwood cat food is handcrafted in small batches in family-operated facilities in Ohio with ingredients from the U.S. and New Zealand.

Blackwood appears to have had no recalls.

3. Orijen

Founded in 2005 by Reinhard Otto Mühlenfeld, Orijen focuses on creating biologically appropriate grain-free dry cat food.

The independently owned holistic cat and dog food company uses “whole prey” meat ratios designed to reflect what cats eat in the wild. Orijen’s high protein and highly digestible dry foods combine raw and cooked ingredients that not only feed cats appetites but helps them thrive.

All of Orijen’s cat foods are free from grains, gluten, corn, soy, wheat, meat by-products, and artificial colors and flavors. Orijen’s dry food is a balanced and complete nutritional choice for cats of all ages and life stages.

Orijen’s factories are located in Alberta, Canada, and Kentucky. Their ingredients are sustainably, and often locally sourced. Orijen has had no recalls.

Final thoughts on WholeHearted cat food

All of WholeHearted’s recipes start with high-quality meats and there are no artificial flavors or colors in any of their recipes. In our opinion, there are just too many species inappropriate ingredients in many of WholeHearted’s cat foods.

With the heavy use of problematic ingredients like tropical fruits and legumes, WholeHearted cat food may not be a digestible option for many cats and could cause problems like vomiting and loose stool.

We encourage cat parents to use their discretion and consult their vet before switching to any new food.

Victoria Tomis