Special Kitty (Walmart) Cat Food Review

Special Kitty is Walmart’s house brand cat food. There is very little information about the food online. According to many cat lovers and comments on cat sites, the wet food is comparable to 9 Lives, Fancy Feast, and Friskies. Checking the Walmart site, we found wet food, dry food, pouches, and variety packs. Walmart, of course, is a giant big box store. They carry many pet foods, some for better prices than you can find at pet food specialty stores. Some Special Kitty products are only available in-store while others can be purchased online.

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Who Manufactures Special Kitty?

Special Kitty is made by The J.M. Smucker Company. This is the same company that makes 9Lives. We have previously reported that Walmart commissioned the Mars Corporation to create Special Kitty according to the standards for 9Lives and the two foods are virtually identical, except for the packaging. In 2015 The J.M. Smucker Company purchased Big Heart Pet Brands which owned 9Lives. J.M Smucker now manufactures both brands.

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Special Kitty Food Recalls 2018

  • Special Kitty has had a number of recalls in the past. The last one we found dates to 2008 and concerned Salmonella. Special Kitty also had products recalled during the melamine recalls in 2007. We did not find any recalls in the last several years.
  • Special Kitty canned cat food recalled in 2018. Read the details here.

Overall Special Kitty Cat Food Reviews and Analysis

From what we can tell on the Walmart web site, Special Kitty currently has four kinds of dry cat food and one dry kitten food. They have eight classic pate canned foods and several dinner in gravy foods – some of which seem to come only in packages of several cans. They also have Special Kitty Select Gourmet Variety Pouches and variety packs of some of their classic pates and dinners.

Special Kitty’s dry foods include Special Kitty Outdoor Dry Cat Food. This is an all life stage cat food. The first five ingredients are: Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, and Wheat Middlings. No guaranteed analysis provided on the Walmart site.

Special Kitty also has Special Kitty Gourmet Cat Food. This is an all life stage food. The first five ingredients in this food are: Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, and Animal Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols). No guaranteed analysis provided on the site that we found.

You can also buy Special Kitty Original Complete Nutrition. This is an all life stage food. The first five ingredients in this food are: Poultry By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Corn, Ground Whole Wheat, Meat and Bone Meal, and Soybean Meal. No guaranteed analysis provided on the site.

The fourth Special Kitty dry food is Special Kitty Seafood Catch. This is also an all life stage food. The first five ingredients in the food are: Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), and Natural Flavors (Source of Shrimp, Crab, Salmon And Tuna Flavors). No guaranteed analysis is provided on the site.

Special Kitty also makes For Kittens dry cat food. The first five ingredients in the food are: Chicken By‐Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Soybean Meal, and Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols. According to Walmart, “The bulk of the protein, approximately 95% of the total, comes from the first 4 ingredients, with the chicken by-product contributing about 50%, the corn gluten meal contributing about 24%, the brewers rice contributing about 3% and the soybean meal contributing about 18%.” We did not find any guaranteed analysis for the food on the site and this information comes from a response to a customer question.

Overall, it looks like many people buy these foods to feed feral cats, colonies of cats, or barn cats. They don’t want to spend a lot of money on cat food. Special Kitty Original Complete and For Kittens may have the best ingredients, just judging by the fact that they have meat protein as the first ingredient in the foods. However, it’s hard to judge without seeing the guaranteed analyses for the foods.

Special Kitty Select Variety Pouches includes four chicken and duck in gravy pouches, four chicken dinner in gravy pouches, and four rotisserie chicken flavor in gravy pouches. The ingredients and guaranteed analyses are provided on the web page but they are all jumbled together. We’ll use Rotisserie Chicken Flavor In Gravy as an example. The first five ingredients are: Sufficient Water For Processing, Chicken, Meat By-Products, Wheat Gluten, and Natural Flavors. The guaranteed analysis shows: Crude Protein (Min.) 10.0%; Crude Fat (Min.) 3.0%; Crude Fiber (Max.) 1.0%; Moisture (Max.) 82.0%; Ash (Max.) 3.0%; Taurine (Min.) 0.05%. This is a growth and maintenance food.

Special Kitty’s individual cans of food appear to be sold only in-store, though you can buy variety packs online and have them shipped. Here’s a look at just the wet foods. They include Mixed Grill Dinner, Meaty Turkey & Giblets Dinner, Turkey & Giblets Dinner (which seems to be different from Meaty Turkey & Giblets Dinner), Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Dinner, Savory Turkey & Cheese Dinner in Gravy, Chunky Chicken & Tuna Dinner, Savory Sliced Beef Dinner in Gravy, Super Supper Dinner, Savory Salmon Dinner, and Chicken & Tuna Dinner (which may or may not be different from Chunky Chicken & Tuna Dinner). Most of these canned foods appear to be available in different size cans.

We can take one food as an example, such as Savory Turkey & Cheese Dinner in Gravy. This is a maintenance cat food. The first five ingredients in the food are: Water Sufficient For Processing, Meat By-Products, Turkey, Chicken, and Soy Flour. Although it is described on the can as a “classic pate,” customers in the reviews report that the turkey is sliced or shredded with small round bits of cheese. No guaranteed analysis for the food is provided.

Based on the ingredients for the canned foods, these look like average, less expensive foods. It’s hard to draw conclusions or make recommendations without seeing guaranteed analyses.

Individual Recipe Review Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner

We randomly selected Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner to review. This food is listed as a “classic pate” and some of Special Kitty’s foods are pate/loaf-style foods. You should be aware that some customer reviews we read reported that foods that were listed as pate were actually sliced foods. My cats usually preferred sliced foods, but if you think are buying a pate, that’s what you should be getting.

The first five ingredients in this food are: Meat By-Products, Water Sufficient Enough For Processing, Poultry By-Products, Liver, and Chicken. As you can see, four out of the first five ingredients are meat proteins. It’s not unusual for canned cat food to have a lot of protein and cats may like this food. The customer comments are very positive. Many people seem to buy this food to feed multiple cats or stray cats, but the cats do seem to like it.

Meat by-products are “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed.” Lots of people dislike the idea of meat by-products in pet foods today but if you buy kidneys or brains at the butcher’s shop, they are perfectly acceptable for human consumption. Lots of people cook liver. Many cats and dogs like these organs. A lot depends on where these by-products come from and how they are handled. We won’t criticize Special Kitty for using meat by-products.

The second ingredient in the food is water sufficient for processing. This is not unusual in a wet cat food. One of the reasons people like to feed wet food is because of the high moisture content. It’s usually preferable to the much lower moisture content found in dry cat foods.

The third ingredient in this food is poultry by-products. Poultry by-products are “non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice…Similar to ‘meat by-products,’ it is most of the parts of the bird that would not be part of a raw, dressed whole carcass. That may include the giblets (heart, gizzard and liver) but also other internal organs, heads and feet.” Again, many cats will enjoy eating these organs even if some cat lovers may not consider them the most desirable parts of the bird.

The fourth ingredient in the food is liver. The kind of liver isn’t specified but it could be chicken or beef or even pork. Many cats like liver and it provides a lot of good nutrition. Chicken liver, for example, is 63 percent protein, 35 percent fat, and 2 percent carbs. It’s a good source of Thiamin, Zinc, Copper and Manganese, and a very good Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Iron, Phosphorus and Selenium.

The fifth ingredient in the food is chicken. Chicken is a good source of protein, Vitamin B6, Niacin, and Phosphorus. Many cats enjoy it.

Other ingredients of interest in the food include steamed bone meal – considered the most natural form of calcium and phosphorus available to animals. It is provided exclusively from bones. Hydrolyzed Yeast is a flavor enhancer that is somewhat related to MSG. The food also contains guar gum which is a common thickening agent in canned pet foods, along with carrageenan. And it contains caramel color.

We have no idea how many calories are in the food.

Guaranteed Analysis

No guaranteed analysis was provided for this food or for other Special Kitty canned foods. We searched all over the Internet. We found information from 2008 and 2012 that other people have compiled, but no percentages for the current foods.

Nutritional Statement

Special Kitty Mixed Grilled Dinner is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat food nutrients profiles for growth and maintenance.

Final Thoughts

From looking at lots of the Special Kitty foods – dry, pouches, and canned – and checking their ingredients, we think these foods are average compared to most other cat foods. They probably are comparable to 9 Lives and Fancy Feast as others have suggested. However, without seeing the guaranteed analyses for the foods it’s hard to make the kind of comparisons we would like to make. The foods might be better than we think. The canned foods seem to have a lot of meat protein. We do think the wet foods look better than most of the dry foods, just based on the ingredients.

We don’t agree with some sites that assume just because foods cost less or come from discount stores that they are awful. We try to keep an open mind about every brand.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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22 comments

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  • All my cats and kittens got very sick last month with walmarts special kitty g. food. One of our Maine coon kittens died!!! Very displeased!!!

  • I tired the outdoor special kitty to see if it put weight back on my animals since they been eating it my cats have lost weight and is causing them to poop blood, we have just lost a 10month old kitten and all he ate is the special kitty wet food

    • Did you have the cat autopsied? If so it should show a reason. With it being an outside cat, a variety of things are available to it. The cat could have eaten anything. I would be more inclined to think the cat and the others have parasites. Worms are highly common in outside cats. Parasites cause weightless, vomiting, bloody stools from intestinal upset. A good all around vet controlled worming should be a first step in nutrition concern.

    • We lost our cat january 2nd after she went from prefectly healthy to skin and bones within three weeks of feeding this food. Our other cat was fine but had refused to eat it. I have seen several people comment that they had purchased in december 2016 so i am curious if it was a contaminated lot of food because my sister has fed her cats this food for years without any problems

  • I got my kitties special kitty gourmet dry cat food and it made all of them sick they throwed up all over the place I went and bought another brand of catfood from tractor supply and it didn’t make them sick

  • I have had 2 of my outside cats and up sick before the recall. 1 is currently very I’ll and am not sure if he’s going to live. Are there any other reported illnesses and what should I do about this?

  • I got special kitty dry and all my cat are throwing up and it seem like any thing I get my cats keep throwing up. So if these products are being recalled. Then why is WalMart selling it. If anything happens to any of my cats I will sue.

  • No way didn’t I think or know I was giving my cat the wrong food. I thought Special Kitty was a good brand now to look for this Blue Buffalo brand

    • Vets carry the best brands for dogs and cats. You pay more but I wish I had never given my male cat this food….thee vet food would have saved me the 1500.00 dollars it cost to get my cat better.

  • My dog suffers from a skin yeast infection due to diet and every dogfood i can find on the market has something in it that makes it worse i cant afford to cook her food but I dont know what is all in this cat food i get the dry grourmet one in the green bag but sence she started eating only this her hair has finally started growing back so this food got to be good for something

    • You should try to find a dog food that matches the ingredients. It sounds to me like your dog suffers from one or more food allergies. I have a similar problem in that mine is allergic to fowl, which is very common, lamb, and brewer’s yeast. I currently feed her a fish-based dog food. There are ‘odd’ foods you can get at pet stores, now, too, like kangaroo-based foods. The cat food might be working fine now, but because cats are carnivores and dogs are omnivores, the mismatch could cause health concerns in the future.

  • Went to Walmart on Sunday (7/30/2017) to buy Special Kitty Cat Litter and was told it was recalled but they couldn’t tell me why. Can you please tell me why it has been recalled.

  • I have a very healthy 2 1/2 year old cat that has been fed only Special Kitty since his rescue as a kitten. No health problems whatsoever. Started off with the dry kitten food and now eats the gourmet dry food. Vet always says he is healthy with no issues. Don’t understand why so many others have problems..

    • Bad food doesn’t show up immediately after giving it. It shows up years later….my cat ate this shifty food and got urinary tract infection so bad they considered killing him because of the high ash content in special kitty food….the long term affects are horrible for your pet. Anyway change to a vet food, because no vet would agree to buying this crap.

      • Urinary tract problems (crystals and stones) in male cats are not unusual, especially when they’ve been eating “high ash” dry food and not drinking sufficient water. The food may have been part of the problem, but don’t condemn it out of hand as any regular dry food can contribute to this condition. Also, urinary tract problems are fairly common among older cats.

  • I have 2 kittens that are now 4 months old. I have been feeding them canned Special Kitty for 3 months and haven’t had any problem. I don’t feed them the Special Kitty dry because I have found a better one that has more protein. These kittens are growing and in excellent health. They don’t like the pate so I only get the ones with meat pieces in gravy. They love it and as long as they are in good health, I will keep feeding it.

  • I bought several varieties of Special Kitty cans to try out on my three cats. With one exception, they were acceptable.
    The exception is “Chunky Chicken & Tuna Dinner.” (22 Oz cans) When I opened the can I was greeted not with “chunks” but a pink slime. There were no recognizable chunks of anything in the liquid slurry.
    As with other Special Kitty foods, the ingredient list starts with “sufficient water for processing.” In other words, water is the prime ingredient. Indeed “moisture (max) is listed at 78%.
    My cats wouldn’t eat this crap.

  • *PLEASE HELP*
    I’ve had my cat for a good 8ish years now. My mom always bought his food and she always got the science diet. When I moved out he came with me. I got the special Kitty wet food. I noticed his bottom lip is starting to swell up. :'( I am going to stop feeding him this even though he loves it. (I think he had an allergic reaction) Any one have advice how how to help his poor little lip?

  • I have read the comments…..please stop making this horrible food and horrible litter for sale…..People and customers have told you the truth…..it is MAKING ANIMALS DIE!!!!

  • To whom it may concern
    I lost yet another pet yesterday my cat,due to jaw cancer, my dog the very same tumor..he used to get into the a Special Kitty brand litter of my cats,which I’ve been using for yrs,,mike my dog past last year at this time..of a horrible tumor his teeth were literlally falling out,I think your special kitty brand is the culprit …both died,,same tumor..I need t hear back from someone in regards to this or I will take it further…

  • It’s good to see someone posting an honest review, and not just maligning a food because it doesn’t cost a fortune. I have fed my 8yo tomcat special kitty for his entire life, only recently changing the brand in an attempt to accommodate two older rescues I took in. (The change would have had no effect, as they have been diagnosed today with early kidney failure). He is perfectly healthy. Yes, some cats have trouble with the dry food, like my sister’s older cat, who needs a more expensive brand, but who still does quite well on their canned pate, but too many people, and vets, decide to blame the food when they don’t know what makes an animal sick. It is an unfortunate fact that sometimes things just go wrong, and organs stop working. There has been no proven connection between this food and illness that I have seen.

    And for the other readers, beware of people who insist you have to get your food right from the vet. Chances are they’re either trying to get money out of you or have been taken in by someone doing the same to them. If they insist, buy a small bag and take it to your favourite pet specialty store. You can match ingredients for half the price, usually.

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