Smalls Cat Food Subscription Review – December 2019
Smalls delivers nutritious, human-grade, high-protein cat food directly to your door. Start with a sampler pack to see which flavors and formulas your cat prefers, and then customize your deliveries according to your cat’s preferences and any goals (such as weight loss).
FYI: this box came closed properly. I didn’t have time to take pictures for a day or two after it arrived, and so I had to remove everything and put it in the freezer for a later photo session.
My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
About this Cat Food Subscription
The Subscription Box: Smalls
The Cost: $40.50 + tax (I live in Georgia and paid $42.93 total) for a two-week sampler of wet food only. Other samplers were available with slightly different costs. Prices after that vary from $7 to $30 per week depending on the plan.
The Products: Chicken, beef, and/or turkey cat food in several formulas.
Ships to: The continental US for free
Smalls Cat Food December 2019 Review
First, let’s meet our test subjects:
Sneaky is a normal-weight, 11- or 12-year-old calico (she barged in my back door in 2009, I really have no idea where she came from). She has asthma that is well-controlled with Flovent and prednisolone and a minor heart murmur (EKG is good) but no other issues. She is the household BEEF EXPERT and will typically eat most things at least once or twice. Originally she was going to be the only test subject, but the first day I put the food out, someone else seemed interested:
Madison is a normal-weight, 12.5-year-old, longhaired black cat. His mother was feral and I’ve had him since 2007, when he came to me as a tiny, 2-pound kitten. He also has a mild heart murmur (EKG is also fine) but no other problems. He tends to prefer dry food but sometimes will eat turkey wet food. He really seemed interested in what I was giving Sneaky the first day, so I figured he could be a second test subject. (I have two other cats. Monkey is not particularly interested in most foods, is underweight, and has a tendency to get loose stools from food changes, so I didn’t want to mess with that, and Angus has inflammatory bowel disease and can’t have beef, chicken, or turkey.)
There was a card with some suggestions for getting your cat to eat the food, since some cats are reluctant to try new foods, or are used to commercial foods with flavor and scent additives.
Before moving on, you may have noticed that the box says “dissolve our insulation.” The insulation is cornstarch foam covered by green plastic. I did try running it under water (after removing and recycling the plastic along with some plastic Target bags in the bin for such things outside the supermarket). And it does dissolve. However, it took a lot of water, which seemed kind of wasteful. This is probably something I’d just leave out in the rain instead and let nature do its thing as the dissolved matter is biodegradable and would be harmless to wildlife.
Diamond Dust and Gold Leaf
Moving on, these two items came in the package as well. These are food mix-ins or toppings that can be used to entice your cat to try the new food. The “diamond dust” is chicken liver powder and I know from experience that powdered, freeze-dried poultry liver is great for getting pets to eat, as I have used freeze-dried duck liver to get my IBD cats (the dearly departed Mr. Kitty and Angus, who is currently fine) to eat. The “gold leaf” is bonito flakes and they are quite smelly (bonito is a kind of fish related to tuna and mackerel).
We tried both of these on several different formulas. We found that if you only put it on top of a food the cat is otherwise not interested in, the cat will eat the food on top and not the rest. Mixing it in is a little better. Both were liked (especially by Sneaky) but I think the “Gold Leaf” was her favorite.
So the way this works is, you store the food in the freezer and thaw it 24 hours before feeding. You keep it in the refrigerator until it is finished off, which should be in a couple of days (i.e., don’t feed your cat wet food that’s been open more than 3-4 days, even refrigerated). I just grabbed random packages of food from the freezer. This is the first one we did and is the one that caught Madison’s attention.
Sneaky cleaned her plate at the first feeding. She ate a fair amount at the second feeding, as did Madison (it was his first experience with this food). After that, she would only eat the top off and only when I put the chicken liver powder on top.
As far as I can tell, this has similar (the same?) ingredients as the paté but is presented in a different way, with whole pieces of pea showing. This one was a little dry (actually, the beef was dry overall compared to the chicken and turkey). Sneaky was not really into this and neither was Madison, though I offered it several times. They seemed to like it better when they thought they were stealing from one another (like, Sneaky would eat from Madison’s plate and Madison would eat from Sneaky’s plate — all my cats eat in different rooms).
This had more moisture than the beef paté, but the cats preferred the beef paté to this one, which they really didn’t care for. To be fair, my cats are normally not into foods with uniform consistencies. The bonito flakes did make this more interesting to them. I think because these foods are less-processed, they don’t have a strong smell, and the bonito flakes help draw the cats in with additional scent and flavor.
Of the non-paté foods, I would say this was the second favorite — they liked it more than the beef but less than the turkey. The bonito flakes also made this one more appealing, and Sneaky liked eating it more from Madison’s feeding area. (So another strategy to get your cat to eat that is not mentioned on the card that came with the box is to just move the food dish or offer this in a different dish.)
This was, hands-down, the absolute winner. Both Sneaky and Madison cleaned their plates every time they ate this, and they did not require any food toppers. I knew Madison liked turkey, but I didn’t know that Sneaky did. (We did some trials way back when to see what Sneaky’s favorite protein was, and it was definitely beef.) I offered this on 3 separate occasions and they consistently ate it.
I’d say this was tied with the chicken paté in terms of how well it was liked. It required toppers and I saw a definite preference for beef, as far as the paté foods go. But again, my cats don’t seem to be fans of foods with uniform consistencies, and I do appreciate getting six different foods to try because the one they ended up liking the best was not what I would have predicted.
Verdict: I did not try to calculate a total value for this subscription since the foods are only available through Smalls and not elsewhere. The prices don’t seem out of line for premium foods. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot more on cat food than this, back when Mr. Kitty developed diabetes on top of his IBD and could only eat goat and kangaroo. I think the sampler pack was useful for several reasons. First, because there is enough in each package to offer to your cat (or cats) more than three times. I often find that a cat will eat something once or twice, so I order a whole case, only to find the cat won’t eat it after that. But there’s enough here to try multiple times. Second, because even though you think you know what your cat will like (I really thought it would be the beef recipe), you might be totally wrong (it was actually the turkey recipe) when it comes to the Smalls formulation. I also appreciated all the suggestions for getting your cat to eat and the food toppers, both of which definitely helped. (If the Smalls price for bonito flakes or chicken liver is too high for you, you can get freeze-dried duck liver and crumble it up, or buy bonito flakes separately.)
I know on the initial post about this subscription, people were questioning the science behind Smalls, so I did want to comment on that. This page gives the name of their nutritionist (there’s also an animal behaviorist, but it’s my understanding they offer litter as well, and I’m guessing she has more to do with that), Dr. Susan Lauten. She is not a veterinarian but has a master’s degree in agriculture (animal nutrition) and a PhD in biomedical sciences, again with a focus on animal nutrition. (As an aside, one of her mentors is Dr. Joe Bartges, currently of the University of Georgia Veterinary School, who we have consulted with about Angus’s obesity. The world of animal nutrition is a small one!) Anyway, after reading about her some more I feel like she is more than qualified to formulate cat food and I feel comfortable about feeding her recipes to my kitties. The foods are formulated without preservatives and do have the added vitamins and minerals and other things (like taurine) that are required for proper feline health.
I can’t comment on the energy level or quality of stool in the litterbox after this one sampler pack; it’s really not enough time to judge. I do note that the two cats who ate this are seniors and not super active to begin with. For financial reasons (we’ve taken a series of hits lately, starting with $5000+ in vet bills in October and November, mostly for my dog Nyx before she died, and continuing with some other things we don’t need to get into here) I can’t continue the service at this time. You do have to email to cancel or pause your subscription, but they are extremely responsive (I heard back within an hour) and sympathetic to my situation and they don’t put pressure on you at all to continue.
I did my best to cover everything here that you may want to know, but feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them.
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? This is the wet-food-only sampler pack so all you have to do is choose that as your sampler pack. This subscription is customizable based on your cat’s taste and nutritional needs.
Value Breakdown: At $42.93 for the sampler pack plus free shipping, you are paying approximately $7.16 per tray of wet food, with the toppers counted as bonuses.
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