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Smalls Review 2023: Leveling Up Cat Food – Is It Worth It?

Written by: Matthew Ryan on Jan 22nd, 2023

Overview

Finding high-quality cat food online can sometimes be difficult. Many companies offer your basic kibble and canned wet food, but is that really good enough for your cat? Kibble is normally baked to near nutritional oblivion, and the wet food is, often, hardly any better.

However, there are some cat food companies that are on a mission to bring better, higher-quality food to cats of all types. Smalls is one such company that delivers on this promise. Smalls provides some of the best quality cat food on the market.

Smalls follows two different approaches for its cat food. First, it offers six different types of human-grade cat food. Basically, that’s food that, for all intents and purposes, is of the same quality as the stuff you and I eat.

Second, Smalls also offers freeze-dried raw cat food. This is, basically, a kibble-like (but truly NOT kibble) food that’s souped-up and far superior to normal kibble you might find in a store. The prep process retains the nutrients with a freeze-drying process instead of blasting them away with high-heat cooking.

So, let’s dig in and I’ll give you all the details on this excellent company.

Pros

Cons

  • High price

  • Has had two recalls

Smalls Meals

Plans and Recipes

Smalls offers two broad types of recipes for cats. First, it offers human-grade fresh recipes based on four different types of protein. The proteins offered are fish (cod with salmon), bird (chicken), cow, and other–bird (turkey). The bird and other-bird meals both come in smooth and ground forms.

In addition to the human-grade fresh recipes, Smalls also offers freeze-dried raw recipes based on three different kinds of protein. The proteins are bird (chicken), other-bird (turkey), and water-bird (duck).

Smalls Ground Other Bird (Turkey) meal

A meal of Ground Other Bird (Turkey) at Smalls

None of the plans or recipes at Smalls are designed for the specific needs of any particular cat. That is, there are no plans designed for allergies, particular health concerns, or particular life stages (kittens or old cats).

Because of the high quality of the ingredients and the way the recipes are prepared, Smalls believes that the recipes will provide positive health benefits for most cats regardless of age, allergies, and/or health conditions. Of course, 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 Freeze-Dried Raw Water Bird (Duck) meal

A meal of Freeze-Dried Raw Water Bird (Duck) from Smalls

The survey you take when you sign up asks about the age of your pet, whether it’s neutered or not, and its general size (slender, average, or large). But it doesn’t look like the answers really impact your choices much, if at all. Still, you can pick and choose from among its numerous recipes and add-ons.

The recipes were developed with the aid of expert animal nutritionists such as Dr. Richard Patton and Dr. Susan Lauten.

Ingredients

The ingredients for the food and supplements come entirely from the U.S. and Canada. Generally speaking, the ingredients are very high quality. You’re given a choice between human-grade fresh meals and freeze-dried raw.

The Smalls’ site lists the ingredients for each recipe. The following image lists all the ingredients for the company’s Fresh Smooth Bird recipe (5 oz).

Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird (Chicken) meal package

A meal package of Fresh Smooth Bird (Chicken) by Smalls

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

According to Smalls, the recipe contains sufficient taurine to exceed AAFCO standards. Additionally, the company uses ingredients such as chicken hearts that contain higher amounts of taurine naturally.

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.

Smalls Freeze-Dried Water Bird (Duck) meal with ingredient list

The ingredient list of a Freeze-Dried Water Bird (Duck) meal from Smalls

The Smalls Freeze-Dried Water Bird (Duck) recipe also has a list of the many ingredients it uses. Like the prior recipe, this recipe contains a variety of critical ingredients. For example, Herring Oil is great for brain development and blood pressure.

Similarly, Eggshell Membrane is good for joints and is an excellent source of a number of other nutrients like collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

Nutrition

The nutrition label on the Smalls’ site doesn’t just list the ingredients of each recipe and leave it at that. It also offers a number of types of analysis for the ingredients and nutrients in each recipe. One of the most important is the Guaranteed Nutrient Analysis.

In the case of the human-grade fresh smooth bird recipe, the guaranteed analysis is listed in the following image:

The Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird (Chicken) meal package guaranteed analysis

The guaranteed analysis on a meal package of Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird (Chicken).

In addition to the minimum Taurine percentage, you’ll see minimum amounts for Crude Protein and Crude Fat as well as the maximum amount of Crude Fiber – all of which are useful information to have in order to gauge the nutritional benefits of each recipe.

If you scan the other Human-Grade Fresh recipes, you’ll find that, although not perfectly identical, the Guaranteed Analysis of each recipe is in a similar range. Fish, for example, had 14.5% Crude Protein, 7% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 74% Moisture, and 0.08% Taurine. Those numbers are pretty close to the ones listed above.

Lastly, it’s good to keep in mind that Smalls’ Human-Grade recipes are “Gently-Cooked.” This means that it isn’t extruded and cooked at super-high temperatures. Instead, it’s made in a way much similar to the meals you make in your own kitchen.

Every batch of food also 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.

Guaranteed analysis label of Freeze-dried Water bird recipe

The Freeze-Dried Water Bird Recipe contains 45% crude protein and 20% crude fat

The guaranteed nutrient analysis of the Freeze-Dried Raw food is also detailed on the site, as the above image shows for the Freeze-Dried Raw Water Bird (Duck) meal. The numbers here are significantly different from the Human-Grade meals largely because the drying process removes most of the moisture.

Of course, this boosts the corresponding percentages of the remaining nutrients. But, again, all of the nutrients of the different Freeze-Dried Raw recipes are in a similar range with each other. They may vary by a percentage point or two, but not much more.

Unboxing

When your cat food arrives at your door, it comes in a box with dry ice, insulators, and whatever other extras you ordered (toys, supplements, whatever). The food is frozen before transport and should, ideally, arrive frozen with a little bit of dry ice still present keeping the package cool.

If on occasion, the dry ice is gone when you open the package, the cat food should still be fine, provided it’s still frozen or at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. However, 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. They come in packages of approximately five oz. for human-grade food and 12 oz. for freeze-dried raw food. There’s a handy feeding guide in the FAQ under the question “How do I serve Smalls to my cat?” in the “Food” section. It details how much of each packet should be fed to your cat depending on the weight of the cat (0.4 packets for a 4 lb. cat, 1 packet for a 10 lb. cat, etc…).

An open, empty Smalls box with a cat inside.

A Smalls box that is open and empty with a cat playing inside.

When the food arrives, you’re instructed to immediately place the wet food in the freezer until 24 hours prior to being served. Basically, this means you’ll store one packet in your refrigerator at a time and all the rest in the freezer.

The Human-Grade Fresh food will last from 5-7 days in the refrigerator or up to 12 months in the freezer. The Freeze-Dried Raw food comes in bags that, if unopened, will keep the food fresh for up to 18 months. Once opened, however, the dry food should be used up within 30 days.

Like many companies today, Smalls also makes efforts to curb its environmental impact. Its packaging is 100% recyclable. The insulators, for example, are made from corn-based styrofoam. This means they’re completely biodegradable. The green bags that hold the insulators can be recycled with the cardboard in your usual recycling receptacle.

Finally, the food only needs to be thawed before being fed to your pet. It doesn’t need any other preparation at all.

Shipping & Delivery

Deliveries of Smalls’ cat food arrive every 2-8 weeks or so, based on the needs of your schedule. Orders are always processed on Fridays and are shipped on Tuesdays. Although you can’t change the days of the week it’s processed or shipped, you can, if needed, change how frequently the meals are shipped (i.e. once every 2 weeks versus every 4, etc…).

At the current time, Smalls only 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.

Ordering from Smalls

Obviously, the first thing you need to do, if you’re interested in Smalls, is navigate to the company’s website.

How to Sign Up

Signing up on the Smalls site isn’t particularly difficult. There’s a short questionnaire about your cat/s plus you’ll also need to provide info about your shipping address and payment method. When you are ready to begin, just follow these nine steps:

  1. Choose recipes: click Get Started

  2. Provide Info: Number of Cats and names

  3. Provide Info: Sex, Age, and whether cat is fixed or not

  4. Select build: Slender, Average, or Extra Cuddly

  5. Select foods your cat will NOT eat: fish, chicken, turkey, beef

  6. Click Checkout Now

  7. Select any Add-ons

  8. Provide Shipping Info

  9. Provide Payment Info

If you have any questions or difficulties, contact the Cat Concierge team.

Smalls beginning survey question

One of the first questions on the Smalls beginning survey.

Managing Your Subscription

Managing your subscription isn’t particularly difficult either. The company site has a fairly extensive FAQ section which can answer many common questions newcomers might have. Failing that, you can also contact the Cat Concierge team.

You can also contact the Cat Concierge team if you need to pause, edit, or change your subscription in any way. As orders are processed on Fridays, you must contact the company before Thursday at 8 pm EST.

Customer Service

At the time of this writing, methods for contacting the company are somewhat limited: you can try text or email. The company’s stated goal is to respond to any inquiry within one business day. The text number is: 503-487-4303. The email is: meow@smalls.com.

Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 10 am to 7 pm EST, Friday from 10 am to 6 pm EST, and Saturday through Sunday from 1 pm to 6 pm EST. I tested the system by sending an email about the veterinary 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

An inquiry I sent to Smalls Cat Concierge team via email.

Here’s the reply I received:

The email response I got back from Smalls

The Smalls Concierge team replied in one day via email

To make sure your cat likes the food, the company offers a two-week trial package to get you started. If your cat doesn’t like it, it can be refunded (I detail the process below in Pricing). But with the high-quality ingredients the company uses, it’s confident most cats will find the food delicious.

In the event you want to cancel your subscription, it’s pretty simple: log in to your Account Portal. Select the Profile tab. Scroll to Cancel Subscription at the bottom and click. From there, follow the small number of steps provided to complete the process. If you have any difficulties, contact the Cat Concierge team.

Smalls Recalls

Since its inception, Smalls has had two 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.

Prices

Starting from

Minimum Order

Shipping Fee

<$2 per meal

Dry: 4 bags = $120

Wet: 28 bags = $112

Mixed: 28 wet, 1 Dry = $142

Free for Sampler, then $10

The starting lowest price available at Smalls is <$2 per meal. Smalls doesn’t collect numerical information regarding your cat’s weight. It does have three size categories: slender, average, and extra cuddly. Naturally, if your cat eats more, it’ll cost more to keep it fed.

Smalls offers a number of different add-ons available in its Pantry. The least expensive I saw was the $5 Bird Broth and the most expensive was a $30 Bag of Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food Supplements. I also saw a few items in between – Crochet Prey, Litter, and Giblet Niblets.

Shipping prices at Smalls are reasonable. There’s free shipping on the initial Sampler. Otherwise, depending on the box size, the shipping fee can be as much as $10. You can edit your cat’s plan should that be needed: just log in to your account, choose new recipes, adjust the quantity, or delay the shipment as required.

The Small initial sampler order with price and discount

The initial sampler order at Smalls with discounted price

Subscriptions typically start with a free Sampler trial for $40 (plus whatever discounts may be available) that usually lasts two weeks. At the time of this writing, there’s a special deal available on Smalls: 25% off your first order + free treats for life. Code: DELIVERY5.

Normally, your first order consists of a trial package. It consists of a variety of flavors for your cat to try over a course of two weeks. If, after two weeks, the 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 this trial package.

There are two stipulations: 1) you must request the refund after two weeks of receiving the trial package and 2) you must make your request within 30 days of the initial purchase. That gives you roughly a two-week window in which you can get a refund. Note, though, that the company doesn’t refund individual trial items (like this flavor or that flavor – that kind of thing).

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.

It does have two drawbacks. First, it’s a little pricey at <$2 per meal. But, that’s to be expected when dealing with human-grade and freeze-dried raw pet food. Additionally, it has had two recalls as I mentioned above. Of course, no company is perfect, and recalls do happen. Also, Smalls responded appropriately and took care of the issues in each case.

FAQ

Is Smalls Cat Food Raw?

Smalls offers one type of cat food that starts off raw and is then freeze-dried. The company also offers another type of cat food that’s human-grade and then gently cooked. If you’re looking for raw cat food, the first of these two options is probably closer to your needs. But, as I said, even in that case it’s freeze-dried, so it might not be exactly what you’re looking for.

What is Smalls Cat Concierge?

Smalls Cat Concierge is, basically, just a fun and fancy name for the company’s customer service department. The Cat Concierge at Smalls will answer whatever questions you have and provide whatever help you might need as a subscriber to the site’s service.

Are Cat Food and Dog Food the Same?

No, cat food and dog food aren’t the same thing. Although both cats and dogs are carnivores, they have different nutritional needs. As a result, foods designed for cats won’t be suitable for dogs, and vice versa. If you want more specific details as to why this is the case, I would recommend consulting a veterinarian.

About The Author

Matthew Ryan
Contributing Writer, Delivery Rank
Matt enjoys all sorts of cuisine from fast food to fine dining. He’s been writing professionally for about 10 years, starting in fantasy fiction and moving into on-line content writing in 2021. He lives in the Northeastern U.S. with his dog, Cicero (also a big fan of dining).
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