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Smalls Review 2024: Is Human-Grade Food Worth It?

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Author Jessica White
Jessica White
Updated on Apr 5th, 2024
Fact checked by Deborah Leigh

Overview

Finding high-quality cat food online can sometimes be difficult. My colleague tested Smalls with his cat, Alvy, and reported the food's exceptional quality. It crafts meals from fresh, human-grade ingredients, available in ground and smooth textures to cater to different feline preferences.

Cats, including the notoriously finicky Alvy, seem to instantly take a liking to Smalls' recipes. This cat food avoids preservatives and fillers, prioritizing your cat's health and palate. My colleague was pleased to find a product that not only Alvy enjoyed but also supported his well-being with wholesome ingredients.

While the quality and nutritional value of Smalls cat food stand out, it is important to note that it falls into a premium price bracket. My colleague observed that although Alvy benefited from the superior diet, the cost is noticeably above average. Find out all the details in this tried-and-tested Smalls review.

Pros

Cons

A good range of recipes
High prices
High-quality ingredients
Has had 2 recalls
Excellent nutrition
Meals aren't pre-portioned

Smalls Meals

Plans and Recipes

Photo of Smalls' recipes on a table in front of the Smalls delivery box and a pack of cat treats

Smalls offers 5 recipes, available in 2 textures – smooth and ground. All the recipes are made fresh with human-grade ingredients. Each formula was designed in collaboration with animal nutritionists, so all the meals are rich in protein and picky-cat-friendly. Alvy tried out the smooth and ground textured bird recipes as well as the complementary pack of treats.

The recipes on offer are Fish (salmon and cod), Bird (chicken), Pig (pork), Bird and Fish (chicken and salmon), and Other Bird (turkey). The Pig and Fish recipes are only available in smooth form, which is similar to a paté. The Bird and Other Bird varieties are available in smooth form as well as ground, which has a chunkier minced texture.

3 Smooth recipes from Smalls

Smalls doesn’t have any special plans for cats with allergies or seniors. The recipes are formulated to offer the necessary amount of protein and nutrients for cats of all ages. So whether your Ms. Whiskers is a sleep champion with years of experience or an energetic kitten, Smalls is for them.

Moreover, the recipes are low in carbs and high in protein. This makes Smalls a great option for cats of all shapes and sizes (even if you have a real chonk on your hands). However, if your cat has a specific health concern, you should still check with your vet to make sure the food is okay for him/her.
Smalls bird and other bird ground recipes

When placing your first order, Smalls will ask you a couple of questions. It doesn’t take long – you’ll only have to talk about your cat’s age, whether it’s neutered or not, and its general size (slender, average, or large). 

Your answers will determine the content of your Sampler box. So, if you want your fluff ball to try everything, choose All Proteins and All Textures when asked. Once you’ve ordered your Sampler box, you can access Smalls’ full menu options and edit your future orders in your account.

Smalls also offers a reward for all the good cats – Catnip N Chill Treats. These are crunchy, bite-sized treats that include chicken, sweet potatoes, and catnip. It doesn’t matter how picky, you can be sure that your cat(s) will go bonkers for them!

Smalls' Catnip N Chill treats

Confusingly, you won’t be able to see all the recipes that Smalls offers until you complete the questionnaire and have an active account. When my colleague signed up, he had the opportunity to add extras to his order. These included a tote bag, crochet cat toys, and there were also a couple of broth toppers (tuna and chicken).

Ingredients

All the ingredients come entirely from the U.S. and Canada. Also, all the ingredients are human-grade, meaning the proteins are the same as you’d buy at a grocery store for your own foods.

Each recipe contains meat and liver, except the fish recipe. Each recipe is made with at least 80% animal protein. You’ll also find veggies in each recipe, which include green beans, peas, kale, spinach, and pumpkin. Their role is to mimic what cats would eat in their natural environment and deliver important vitamins and minerals. However, the added quantity is small (under 10%).

The list of ingredients for each recipe is available on the packaging or on the Smalls website. Overall, the main things that differ from one recipe to another are the animal protein and the veggies. The rest of the ingredients are a mix of vitamins and minerals designed to keep your kitty happy and healthy.

Let’s take the chicken recipe as an example (since it’s the most popular). The formula includes chicken, chicken liver, and green beans, plus a range of supplements and vitamins. Smalls Fresh Ground Bird ingredient list

As you can see, the recipe offers a large number of critical nutrients for cats. For example, the ingredient list includes taurine (enough to exceed AAFCO standards), a nutrient that helps cats’ vision, digestion, and even heart muscle function. It’s also beneficial to pregnant and nursing cats.

Another critical ingredient you’ll find in the recipe is salt. Salt helps your cat stay healthy in a number of ways, including by helping move nutrients and waste about, as well as helping in the development of stomach acid. In the correct amount, it’s critical for your cat’s overall health.

The Fresh Fish recipe also includes cod liver oil, which is great for joint health. Cod liver oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids (has anti-inflammatory properties) and Vitamins A and D, which are essential for maintaining healthy skin, coat, and bones and supporting immune function. Smalls Fresh Fish ingredient list

You’ll find a dash of nutritional yeast in all Smalls recipes. This gives them extra protein, vitamins (such as B12), and extra flavor. Nutritional yeast is also great for cats’ skin and can help to make their coats softer and shinier.

Nutrition

Smalls provides information on the nutritional content of each recipe. You’ll find a detailed view of the caloric content and a clear Guaranteed Analysis.

For instance, the fresh chicken recipe has 200 calories per 5 oz. package. Also, the Guaranteed Analysis shows the recipe contains a minimum of 13% protein, at least 8.5% fat, no more than 1.5% fiber, and 73% moisture (max).

The Guaranteed Analysis of each recipe is in a similar range. Fish, for example, has 15% Crude Protein, 5% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, and 76% Moisture. Those numbers are pretty close to the ones listed above.

Photo of the Smalls Smooth Bird recipe pack next to a bowl of the food

Every batch of food undergoes certain safety measures. It’s checked to make sure there’s no E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and/or mold in the food. Additionally, the company does spot checks on a regular basis to make sure the nutritional content is what it should be.

All the fresh recipes, regardless of texture, are gently cooked. No fillers or preservatives will ever make their way into these recipes. This way of cooking locks in the nutrients and prolongs the food’s shelf life. To keep them fresh for longer, the food is frozen right after cooking.

What Makes It Different

The fresh cat food market isn’t as developed as I’d like it to be. While there are plenty of brands that offer wet food and canned food recipes, the quality of ingredients is, at best, questionable.

This is why Smalls is truly a game-changer. It even has a veterinarian as its Director of Innovation. But facts are better than praise, so here are the 3 main reasons why Smalls stands out from the multitude of cat food brands out there:

Human-Grade Ingredients

The ingredients that go into your cat’s food meet the same safety and quality standards as the food on your plate. Since the quality of ingredients directly impacts the freshness, taste, and nutritional value of the meals, this is a crucial aspect when looking for what to feed your fur baby.

Good Recipe Variety

Even though they’re picky eaters, cats need variety in their diet. Smalls offers 5 different fresh food recipes, available in 2 distinct textures (smooth and ground). This variety also helps cater to different preferences and dietary needs, which makes it a convenient option if you have more than 1 Fluffy Master at home.

Gently Cooked Recipes

The way food is cooked can significantly affect its nutritional value. Smalls chose the safest way to ensure its fresh food is safe to eat and chock full of nutrients. All Smalls' fresh food recipes are gently cooked and then frozen. This method helps preserve the essential nutrients in the food, providing your cat with meals that are as close to their natural diet as possible.

Unboxing

Your cat food arrives at your door in a box with dry ice and insulators. The food is frozen before transport and should, ideally, arrive frozen with a little bit of dry ice still present, keeping the package cool.

Photo of an opened Smalls box revealing the pack of dry ice and insulation material next to a photo of the Smalls food packs and treats inside the delivery box

On occasion, the dry ice may be gone by the time you open the package. When this happens, the cat food should be fine, provided it’s still frozen or at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. 

If the package is warm or hot, it can’t be refrozen and is no longer safe to eat. You’re encouraged to dispose of the food and then contact Smalls’ Cat Concierge team by email or text.

The meals aren’t pre-portioned to fit you cat's daily needs. Each recipe comes in 5 oz. packages. But you do get a handy feeding guide on Smalls website, where you can get an idea of the serving size depending on your cat’s weight (0.4 packets for a 4 lb. cat, 1 packet for a 10 lb. cat, and so on). Photo of Smalls food piled on a freezer shelf

Smalls instructs you to place the wet food in the freezer immediately, where it can last for up to 12 months. Only get it out 24 hours prior to when you want to serve it to give it time to thaw. Also, keep in mind that the food will last around 5-7 days in the refrigerator if placed in a sealed container or bag.

Smalls makes efforts to curb its environmental impact. The packaging (excluding the food container) is 100% recyclable. The insulators are made from corn-based styrofoam, so they are biodegradable. The green bags that hold the insulators can be recycled with the cardboard in your usual recycling receptacle.

Lastly, Smalls’ meals don’t need any cooking or preparing. Just thaw and serve. If your cat can’t eat an entire package in one serving, place the leftovers in the fridge in a sealed container.

Alvy’s Testing Experience

My colleague reported Alvy's testing experience was great. Finding the correct portion for Alvy was straightforward, thanks to Smalls' approach of packaging each meal as a one-size-fits-all for the average 10-pound cat. Alvy, being a petite 8-pounder, received full servings without any adjustments. 

The feeding process was really simple as Alvy just received the full pack to try. However, if you have a smaller cat, or are feeding Smalls as a topper, it will be necessary to measure your portions more accurately. 

This simplicity was a noticeable improvement over the canned food that Alvy previously ate. My colleague found the portion sizes appeared more generous compared to Alvy's usual mix of dry and wet food, but also stated that he rarely finishes his meals in one go, regardless of the quantity.

Photo of Alvy with his mouth open in a grin as a bowl of Smalls' food is offered to him next to a photo of Alvy eating the food from the bowl on the floor

Initially, Alvy approached the food with his typical caution, giving it a few investigative licks. He must have decided it was to his liking as he eventually finished the bowl. He definitely preferred the Smooth Bird over the Ground Bird but the transition to Smalls didn't seem to faze him much. 

My colleague said it was clear that the quality and presentation of Smalls matched, if not exceeded, the premium offerings they've tried in the past. So it fulfills its promise of a high-quality diet. Alvy wasn’t as impressed with the treats but he’s not generally a fan of dry cat treats.

Photo of Alvy investigating the pack of treats next to a photo of him turning away when the treats are offered to him

Overall, they found that feeding Alvy with Smalls was an enjoyable experience. It was better than traditional canned food, both in terms of smell and appeal. Despite the high quality, they felt that the premium price tag is a big consideration. As Alvy is currently on a prescription diet, the Smalls’ meals will be fed as a treat. 

Prices

Starting from

Minimum Order

Shipping Fee

$4 per 5 oz. package for all recipes

2 weeks' worth of food

Free for Sampler, then $10 or free for orders of 14+ meals

My colleague's initial Smalls order was a discounted sampler pack, priced at $32, which was reduced to $27 with our coupon code and included free shipping. This introductory offer is a prerequisite before placing a full-size order. 

After the sampler, you can choose from between 14 to 56 meals per shipment, with the cost per meal averaging out to $5 if opting for the recommended 28 meals every four weeks. The smallest subscription size of 14 meals incurs a $10 shipping fee, while other sizes ship free.

Alvy's previous diet of fancy prescription canned food cost $2.50 per meal. This makes Smalls more than double the cost. My colleague used our coupon code (32% off your first order + free treats for life. Code: DELIVERY5) which was straightforward to apply and made the final cost more affordable. Plus you’ll get the Catnip N Chill Treats free for life once you place your first order. 

screenshot of the add-ons available from Smalls including a tote bag and crocheted cat toys

Your trial package can include all the recipes in all the textures. However, if you want to test out only specific recipe(s), you do have the option to customize your Sampler box during the quiz.

Smalls has a 100% Money-Back Guarantee policy. This means that if your cat doesn’t like the food and/or isn’t transitioning to the new food at all, the company will give you a refund for the Sampler box.

To get the refund, you have to submit your request within a specific time span. It should be after 2 weeks of receiving the Sampler and within 30 days of the initial purchase. That gives you roughly a 2-week window in which you can get a refund. Note that the company doesn’t refund individual trial items if your cat doesn’t like a particular flavor for example.

Shipping & Delivery

Deliveries of Smalls’ cat food arrive every 2-8 weeks or so. You have the freedom to decide the delivery schedule based on your needs. Orders are always processed on Fridays and shipped the following week.

Moreover, the subscription is quite flexible. For instance, you can change how frequently the meals are shipped (i.e., once every 2 weeks versus every 4, etc.). However, you can’t choose the days of the week your order will be processed or shipped.

Photo of a Smalls delivery box on a doorstep next to a photo of Alvy the cat in front of the cardboard box looking at the camera

Smalls delivers to the contiguous 48 states of the United States. If needed, orders can easily be postponed for as many as 8 weeks at a time. Just send a text or email to the Cat Concierge team.

All deliveries are packed with 2 to 3 days' worth of dry ice. This is normally sufficient to get your food to you. If, for some unknown reason, your package arrives late and the ice has all sublimated, contact the Cat Concierge team for assistance.

How to Sign Up

Signing up on the Smalls site isn’t particularly difficult. There’s a short questionnaire about your cat(s). Your first order is for your Sample box and this will automatically set up a subscription. 

1. Click Get Started to begin the questionnaire that will help you select the right meals for your cat.

Screenshot of the Smalls homepage with Start Now highlighted

2. Complete the questions. You’ll need to answer questions about your cat’s name, age, weight, body condition, preferred proteins, and more.

Screenshot of one of the questions in the Smalls questionnaire

3. Complete the cat health question. If your cat has a health condition Smalls recommends that you check with your vet before placing your order. 

Screenshot of the health question with Urinary Disease selected and a popup suggesting you contact your vet before feeding Smalls

4. Smalls will recommend the best recipes. You can edit these if you want to make any changes.

Screenshot of chosen recipes during the Smalls signup process

5. Enter your address and payment details. Don’t forget to add a password in the settings section of your account so you can access your account easily to adjust your plan.

Screenshot of the Checkout page on Smalls

If you have any questions or difficulties, contact the Cat Concierge team. Smalls pledges to answer all requests within 1 business day, so you won’t have to wait long.

Managing Your Subscription

Managing your subscription isn’t particularly difficult either. In your account, you can see your order history and the status of your current order. You can use the account to make changes, like pause, edit, cancel, or edit your subscription in any way. If you encounter any difficulties, the Cat Concierge team is at your disposal.

The cut-off date is Thursday at 8 p.m. EST. Smalls processes all orders on Fridays, so you must contact the company before that.

Screenshot of Smalls' account page with options to edit the amount and frequency of your cat food

Canceling your Smalls account is straightforward, requiring just a few clicks without needing to contact customer service. The process for pausing or canceling is essentially the same, allowing easy account reactivation. During cancellation, my colleague was asked to complete a quick survey and was offered a 25% discount to stay. Confirmation came quickly through both the account page and an email.

Customer Service

The methods for contacting the company are somewhat limited. You can try texting or emailing and wait for a reply (it should arrive in 1 business day maximum). There’s no live chat feature and you are asked to text rather than call for assistance. The hours of operation are not stated but customer agents work 7 days a week.

There is also a comprehensive FAQ section you can consult. Plus, Smalls is active on several social media channels, so you can always try reaching out this way. When my colleague sent a text, it was responded to within the hour and the agent was very friendly.

To test the system, I sent an email asking for the credentials of some of the staff. The message went out on a Friday and, as promised, was answered on Saturday. An email inquiry I sent to Smalls

Here’s the reply I received: The email response I got back from Smalls

Overall, the Cat Concierge team was quick to reply and friendly. I also noticed that other customers had the same pleasant experience. So whether you want information or have some difficulty related to their product, just reach out.

Smalls Recalls

Since it started, Smalls has had 2 recalls:

  1. 2019: The “Diamond Dust” chicken liver powder shipped to customers between October 9, 2018, and March 25, 2019.

  2. 2021: The following human-grade fresh cat food recipes were recalled in June 2021: smooth bird, ground bird, smooth other-bird, and ground other-bird.

How Smalls Compares to Other Pet Food Services

  • Smalls vs. Raised Right: Raised Right offers gently-cooked, fresh food made with human-grade, US-based ingredients for cats and dogs. Smalls offers one more recipe than Raised Right but both have 2 textures (smooth and ground) and use ingredients mainly sourced from the US.
  • Smalls vs. We Feed Raw: We Feed Raw specializes in fresh, human-grade, raw meals for dogs. Its protein-rich recipes also suit the dietary needs of cats. Moreover, We Feed Raw features 6 types of protein, while Smalls only has 5 on the menu. So, if you want to give raw food a try, We Feed Raw is a great starter. However, the price is a bit higher.
  • Smalls vs. JustFoodForDogs: Just like Smalls, JustFoodForDogs offers gently-cooked, human-grade meals. However, unlike Smalls, JFFD’s meals are designed for dogs. The company tries to branch out into cat food territory, but for now, it only has 1 fresh cat food recipe and 1 treat on the menu.

The Bottom Line: Is Smalls Worth It?

By my estimation, Smalls is a good service that’s worth taking a look at. It uses high-quality ingredients to make nutritious cat meals that should help the health of most cats. It also has a lot of options in terms of flavors to satisfy the pickiest of eaters.

However, the human-grade ingredients do come at a premium cost. Additionally, it has had 2 recalls, as I mentioned above. Of course, no company is perfect and recalls do happen. Smalls can be commended for responding appropriately and taking care of the issues in each case.

My colleague was impressed with the quality of the recipes. Alvy enjoyed eating his premium cat food, although, due to his prescription diet, he will be eating any future Smalls recipes as treats. Overall, if budget isn’t an issue, Smalls is one of the best options out there for premium cat food delivered to your door.

FAQ

Is Smalls Cat food raw?

No, Smalls only offers gently cooked, human-grade, fresh recipes. The recipes are available in 5 different proteins (chicken, turkey, pig, fish, and a chicken and fish mix) and in 2 textures (smooth and ground).

What is Smalls Cat Concierge?

Smalls Cat Concierge is the company’s customer service department. The Cat Concierge name is just a fun and fancy way of addressing the support team.  

Are cat food and dog food the same?

Cats and dogs have different nutritional needs. Therefore, cat food and dog food aren’t the same thing. Although both cats and dogs are carnivores, foods designed for cats won’t be suitable for dogs, and vice versa.
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