9Lives Cat Food (Dry) Review And Nutritional Analysis

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  • Meat is the first ingredient – 0 Star
  • Uses some unnamed meats – 0.5 Star
  • Above average protein content – 0.5 Star
  • Less than 4 controversial ingredients – 0 Star
  • Catological Discretionary Rating – 0.5 Star

The 9Lives product line includes 5 dry cat foods.

Each recipe below includes its related AAFCO nutrient profile when available on the product’s official webpage or packaging: Growth (G), Maintenance (M), All Life Stages (A), Supplemental (S) or Unspecified (U).

  • 9Lives Daily Essentials Chicken, Beef & Salmon (A)
  • 9Lives Plus Care Tuna & Egg (M)
  • 9Lives Indoor Complete Chicken & Salmon (M)
  • 9Lives Protein Plus Chicken & Tuna (M)
  • 9LivesLean and Tasty Chicken & Salmon (M)
9lives dry cat food

9Lives Daily Essentials Chicken, Beef & Salmon was selected to represent the other products in the line for this review since they are all fairly similar, though if we found that one particular flavor or recipe was significantly different, we have marked it’s individual score next to it above, in parentheses.

9Lives Daily Essentials Chicken, Beef & Salmon

Dry Cat Food

Estimated Nutrient Content
Guaranteed Analysis30%9%NA
Dry Matter Basis34%10%47%
Calorie Weighted Basis32%24%44%

Estimated Dry Matter Nutrient Content







Fiber (guaranteed analysis)




Is real, named meat the first ingredient?



Whole Ground CornChicken By-Product MealCorn Gluten MealSoybean Meal, Whole Wheat, Beef Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Meat and Bone MealAnimal Digest, Salmon Meal, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Choline Chloride, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Red 40, Yellow 5Yellow 6BHA (Used As A Preservative)Blue 1Blue 2, Rosemary Extract.

Ingredients in red are controversial or of questionable quality.

Ingredient Breakdown

The first ingredient in this cat food is whole ground corn. Bad.

This is disappointing, because cats are obligate carnivores, which means they need meat, and the amino acids found in meat, to be healthy. To have the main ingredient of a cat food be a non-meat source is a major strike against it.

It’s not as digestible as other sources of proteins, and it’s basically an inexpensive filler. It is also not high in lysine or tryptophan, important amino acids for cats.

The second ingredient is chicken by-product meal. OK, but with reservations.

This is a named meat, which we like better than if it was simply called “animal by-product”, but it’s likely not the highest quality meat product.

Meat is labeled as a “meal” when it has been rendered to remove most of the moisture. The resulting product is roughly 65% protein and 10% moisture, compared to roughly 70% moisture and only 15% protein for raw chicken, for example. It can be a useful, quality way of increasing your cat’s protein intake.

However, meal is not appropriate for human consumption, since the rendering process heats the ingredients up enough to kill all harmful bacteria, which means it can include dead, diseased, dying, and disabled animals.

Chicken by-product meal is the “ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, viscera, and whole carcasses, exclusive of feathers, except unavoidably so”, but not including the primary meats, like those fit for human consumption (breast, things, wings, etc.).

AAFCO notes that they “may include the giblets (heart, gizzard and liver) or other internal organs, as well as heads and feet.”

Cats do indeed eat the internal organs of the prey they catch in the wild, and so some of these by-products are actually quite healthy for felines. However, you have to be the judge about whether you trust that the good parts outweigh the heads and chicken feet that are also in the product.

The third ingredient is corn gluten meal. Bad.

Like the corn ingredient above, it’s disheartening to see so much corn at the top of a recipe.

Corn gluten meal is “the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm. It may contain fermented corn extractives and/or corn germ meal.”

Basically, it’s a by-product of manufacturing corn syrup and similar products.

It’s a cheap filler that offers little in the way of nutrition, but is usually used to increase the protein content on a pet food label.

The fourth ingredient is soybean meal. Bad.

Another non-meat protein source that is often used to increase the crude protein content on the label, without being biologically appropriate for your cat.

While there is some debate on whether soy truly increases estrogen levels unacceptably, research has shown that soy can be particularly bad for cats, inhibiting the healthy birth of kittens, decreasing liver function, causing a rise of blood sugar, and potentially being linked to thyroid damage.

The fifth ingredient is whole wheat. OK, but with reservations. 

This is another non-meat filler ingredient. Though whole wheat looks good when compared to some other grains used in cat foods, it is not biologically appropriate, and does not compare well to most meat products.

The sixth ingredient is beef fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). OK, but with reservations. 

Added fat is usually a quality ingredient, if it is named, as this one is. However, beef fat is rarely used in cat food, so there is not much information available.

The seventh ingredient is meat and bone meal. Bad.

This is an unnamed meat product, and can contain almost anything.

This meal is a “rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents.”

While this likely contains a lower amount of digestible protein and fewer amino acids than a quality cut of meat, the worst part is that since it’s unnamed, it can be made of almost any animal, including euthanized cats, dogs, zoo animals, road kill, and more.

While some of what’s in this product might be biologically appropriate for your carnivorous cat, we do not recommend any cat food that uses this as an ingredient, due to the likely low quality and disgusting source of the meats.

The eighth ingredient is animal digest. Bad.

This is the product “which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves, and feathers.”

Digest is usually used to enhance the flavor of kibble.

This is another unnamed animal product, though, and so can come from nearly anything, even 4-D animals (dead, diseased, dying, or disabled).

The ninth ingredient is salmon meal. Good.

It is high in protein. Fish is a decent source of protein for cats, but it is also one that is much more likely to cause allergies than other meats. It also lacks enough taurine to make up your cat’s whole diet. Here, however, it is one of the few good ingredients listed on the label.

This recipe includes a number of other ingredients, but once you get down this far, none of them will be in large enough quantities to make a real difference, except for the added vitamins and minerals.

However, there are still a few things you should know about.

First, it’s disappointing to see any pet food company using artificial coloring.

This coloring is solely for pet parents’ benefit, and does nothing to make the food look or taste any better to the cat. It’s especially bad that this company uses ingredients like Red 40 and titanium dioxide, which have been linked from everything to hyperactivity in children to potentially containing a carcinogen, to being carcinogenic and cause genetic disorders, respectively.

The recipe also uses BHA as a preservative, rather than the more natural products many companies are using these days.

BHA is a potential carcinogen that has produced tumors in lab animals, and could easily be replaced by another, safer preservative.

To read a more in depth article about any of the ingredients listed here, check out our Cat Food Ingredient Wiki (currently under development).

The Catological Verdict on 9Lives Dry Cat Food

From top to bottom, this is a below average dry product.

From the abundance of corn in the recipe, to meat not being the first ingredient, to the use of artificial coloring, it just ticks none of the right boxes.

This is a perfect example of a very cheap food that is cheap for a reason.

Since meat only shows up a couple of times, and not that often at the top of the ingredient list, we can assume that this is a plant-based cat food, without enough meat to make it biologically appropriate for a cat’s dietary needs.

To review, on a dry matter basis, this food is 34% protein, 10% fat, and 47% carbs.

As a group, the brand has an average protein content of 35%, and average fat content of 10%, and an average carb content of 46%.

Compared to the other 2000+ foods in our database, this food has:

  • Below average protein.
  • Below average fat.
  • Above average carbs.

Because it is full of corn and lower quality meat products, our rating for this brand is 1 star.

Not recommended. 

To compare the 9Lives dry foods against their wet food options, see our review of the canned food here.

9Lives Cat Food Recall History

We do not believe that a recall indicates a low quality food or company, and we respect the fact that sometimes things happen that cause a manufacturer to recall a food.

Usually these things are non-life-threatening, and we think it’s important to take a moment to be thankful about just how few recalls there really are in the industry, considering the enormous volume of food produced.

However, we do believe that a history of recalls may point to a larger issue with a company, and that discerning consumers want to know who they’re buying from, especially when it comes to something as important as the food you feed your beloved cat.

Here is a list of recalls that have affected the 9Lives brand in the past:

  • Recall 1

If you want to stay up to date on the latest recall information affecting your cat’s food, sign up to our email list and receive an email every time a recall is announced. We’ll also let you know about any updated ratings, recipe changes, or new cat foods on the market.

Where To Buy 9Lives Cat Food

We recommend purchasing your pet products from Chewy.com. They continually prove that they walk the walk while talking the talk, and I’ve never dealt with a more dedicated pet-parent base of people than those who work at Chewy.

Plus, they offer 20% off and free shipping on lots of orders.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!