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Dr. Elsey’s Cat Food Review

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Dr. Elsey’s has been long established in the litter market but since 2017 they’ve also been producing a high-quality and high-protein line of cat food. Today, we’re going to go through a detailed review of both wet and dry foods based on hours of research and real-world experience to see how Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ brand stacks up.

Here are the overall ratings:

Product Variety – 6/10
Species Appropriateness – 9/10
Ingredient Quality – 9/10
Price – 6/10
Marketing and Message Match – 9/10
Recall History 7.5/10
Overall rating 9/10

First, let’s learn a little more about the Dr. Elsey’s brand.

The Story Behind Dr. Elsey’s

As mentioned, Dr. Elsey’s started out as a litter brand on a mission to save cats. One of the most common reasons for a cat to be brought to a shelter is urinating outside of the litterbox. After 10 years working in the animal shelter world, it’s something I’ve sadly seen thousands of times. Often times cat owners are at a loss for how to fix but can’t have their cat urinating on everything in the house.

Dr. Elsey’s attempted to fix this problem by introducing cat litter that cat’s actually want to use along with supplemental products like cat attract. I’ve actually visited the folks at the Denver Cat Care Society where Dr. Elsey tested his product.

Eventually, Dr. Elsey decided that it was time to introduce a protein-focused, and thus species-appropriate, cat food to the market. In my opinion, their cleanprotein™ recipes are some of the best cat foods on the market in terms of ingredient quality and for being species-appropriate.

The passion for cats is obvious when you look closely at the Dr. Elsey brand and it shows not only when you listen to the brand’s namesake speak but also in the actions they take to help shelters. Shelters can request free litter kits so that cat owners can try Dr. Elsey’s litter in an attempt to prevent being brought to the shelter.

You can also listen to Dr. Elsey tell his own story in this video:


Product Variety – 6/10

Dr. Elsey’s does a solid job at introducing product variety within their cleanprotein™ brand. This is especially true for their line of wet foods which feature options for single-source proteins and more novel options like beef and pork. However, their dry kibble options are a little lacking with the only flavors being chicken and salmon.

Here’s the complete list of wet flavors for Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ recipes:

  • Chicken Paté
  • Turkey Paté
  • Beef Paté
  • Ocean Whitefish Paté
  • Rabbit & Turkey Paté
  • Single Source Slamon Paté
  • Single Source Pork Paté
  • Single Source Duck Paté
  • Duck & Turkey Paté

The other thing you’ll notice is that all the recipes on this list are based around patés. While you can usually mash it up to a form that cats like, I’ve heard from a lot of cat owners that their cat’s simply don’t like paté cat foods and prefer the shredded options.

Overall, Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ gets a solid score of 6 for product variety. While there are limited dry food options, there are at least several unique wet food recipes to choose from even if you are limited to the paté style.

Species Appropriateness – 9/10

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ is all about keeping your cat’s diet species-appropriate. For a quick refresher, species-appropriate means that the contents of the closely match what your cat would actually eat in the wild. Because your cat is a carnivore, species-appropriate diets are those with a large number of animal-based protein sources. Not only that but for a food to be truly species-appropriate, it should also avoid things like veggies, fruits, or nuts which your cat just wouldn’t eat in a wild setting.

Dr. Elsey’s major tagline even sums this up with the simple phrase, “Feed protein- not plants”.

And they aren’t kidding.

95% of the protein in the dry kibble recipe for chicken and 93% for the salmon flavor all comes from animal sources. That’s a BIG difference from even the more popular or premium foods that achieve higher protein content with the use of pea protein or other plant proteins. As a result, Dr Elsey can be found at the top of many “best of” lists including our list of the best dry cat foods.

Dr. Elsey also gets a well deserved 9/10 in this category because of their very limited use of plant ingredients across all their recipes with most diets completely seeing the carrots, peas, and other veggies that are making their way in most grain-free diets these days. In fact, most of Dr. Elsey’s foods come in at only 4% carbohydrates, which is exceptional.

Ingredient Quality – 9/10

Of course, it would be hard to score so high in the species appropriateness category without also having great ingredients. Like many other premium diets, Dr. Elsey’s avoids using soy, corn, wheat, or grain and focuses on animal-based protein sources instead.

Additionally,  Dr. Elsey dry food recipes avoid traditional thickening agents like guar gum or tapioca starch in favor or gelatin. This lets them avoid a common source of carbohydrates while adding a small amount of additional animal-based protein. It also means that their cat food has fewer fillers than many others on the market.

Their wet variety also avoids guar gum but this time in favor or agar-agar. Agar-agar often gets confused with the very undesirable carrageenan but the difference is very significant and most sources suggest that agar-agar is a safe option in wet cat food. If you want to learn more about carrageenan, you can check out my list of the best foods without carrageenan where I list Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ in the first position.

To really understand what’s inside Dr. Elsey’s recipes, let’s do a deep dive into the first 7 ingredients inside the chicken recipe wet food.

1. Chicken

As with all Dr. Elsey’s recipes (and any good cat food for that matter) the first ingredient should be animal-based and match the name of the recipe. The American Association of Feed Control Officers explains that when we named poultry on a list of ingredients it’s the “clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet and entrails.”

Overall, a high-quality ingredient.

2. Chicken Broth

Broth is a very common ingredient in most wet foods and it’s good to see that this is still animal-based.

3. Chicken Liver

Chicken liver is nutrient-dense and species-appropriate. While some wet foods will include multiple broths in the top 3, it’s good to see that Dr. Elsey’s only features one.

4. Dried Egg Product

Eggs are certainly species-appropriate and a good source of animal proteins (and fats).

5. Natural Flavor

Natural flavor is a non-nutritious but natural flavor additive. It typically has very little impact on the overall diet. You can read the complete definition on the FDA’s website here.

6. Salmon Oil

Salmon oil is a great source of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which have a long list of benefits for cats.

7. Agar-Agar

Agar-agar is a thickening agent and helps maintain the consistency of the food. There’s a lot of controversy around thickening agents in general and while some like carrageenan are clearly dangerous, I have not come across any study suggesting that agar-agar harmful to cats. Still, agar-agar is sourced from seaweed which makes a less than ideal ingredient when it comes to species-appropriateness.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients in the chicken recipe:

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil, Agar-Agar, Tricalcium Phosphate, Barley Grass, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Turmeric, Dried New Zealand Green Mussels, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide, Folic Acid.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis:

  • 11% Protein
  • 9% Fat
  • 1.5% Fiber
  • 78% Moisture

And here’s the guaranteed analysis by dry matter (with moisture removed):

  • 50% Protein
  • 40.9% Fat
  • 6.8% Fiber

Ingredient Summary

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ recipe earns a well deserved 9 out of 10 for ingredient quality. With a focus on animal-based proteins and extremely limited carbohydrates, this brand really does focus on clean protein. However, the inclusion of agar-agar in the wet food varieties prevents Dr. Elsey’s from getting a perfect score in this category.

Price 6/10

The tricky thing about price, for any product, is that it’s always relative. If we were to compare Dr. Elsey’s to something like Meow Mix then we’d have to give just about any premium cat food a zero in the price category.

So it’s important to note that Dr. Elsey is a premium product and you really get what you pay for. Still, the price of Dr. Elsey’s may be prohibitive for some cat owners, especially if you have multiple cats.

I’d argue that the price IS worth the quality of ingredients and when you consider how fundamental food is to the health of your cat, the value is clear. Prices have changed regularly over the years, so be to check the latest price check out the Dr. Elsey’s brand store on Amazon by clicking here.

Marketing and Message Match 9/10

How does Dr. Elsey’s marketing match up with the actual product?

Pretty darn well!

They really are focused on providing a clean protein diet and it lines up with the fact that their foods have some of the highest protein content you can get.

I also love that really is a Dr. Elsey behind the brand. Not only because it’s a real person but because it’s a veterinarian with decades of clinical experience working with cats. Like most cat food brands, Dr. Elsey’s promotes an ethos of caring and kindness towards cats.  When it can sometimes feel a little hollow when you hear about the acquisition of cat food brands by major companies like General Mills.

But with Dr. Elsey, it’s clear based on where he’s spent his life that really does care about cats specifically. Overall, I’d say there’s a great match between the marketing and the message.

Recall History 7.5/10

Dr. Elsey’s has had ZERO recalls since they’ve been producing cat food.

Which is great!

So you might be wondering why I didn’t give them a perfect 10 out of 10 for this category?

Because recalls are honestly a tough thing to judge. Even the best companies can be victims of deceit or just plain accidents so it’s sometimes hard to hold it against pet food companies that otherwise have excellent reputations.

But the bigger factor here is time. Dr. Elsey’s has only been producing cat food since 2017 which means they really have a limited track record compared to a company like Merrick that’s been producing food since 1988.

Dry Vs Wet

One of the most significant differences between the wet and dry varieties is the inclusion of agar-agar as a thickening agent in the wet food. Both types feature a focus on animal-based proteins that we’d expect from the brand.

The wet food lines are high in protein but don’t stand out in the regard as much as the dry food variety which has some of the highest protein content of any kibble I could find. The wet food is also high in fat, which one of the many reasons why it made it on my list of the best cat foods for shedding.

At the end of the day, most of the differences between the two foods are no different from what you’d expect with any wet and dry food.

Online Reviews Of Dr. Elsey’s 

I’ve searched just about every forum, blog, and vendor website I could find in search of what the people are saying about Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ and I’ve put together a brief snapshot of what I feel are the most important (and relevant) comments. These reviews will cover both wet and dry varieties.

It’s also worth noting that Dr. Elsey’s line of cat food doesn’t actually have that many reviews, especially when compared to other Dr. Elsey products or other more popular lines of cat food. For example, Dr. Elsey’s Premium Clumping Cat Litter has over 22,000 reviews on Amazon at the time of writing and Blue Buffalo Wilderness has more than 6,000!

So how many reviews does Dr. Elsey’s wet cat food have?

At the time of writing, there were 24 reviews for Dr. Elsey’s chicken flavored wet food on Amazon.

That means that ONE negative review can really have a big impact on the aggregate rating! So as you do your own research on Dr. Elsey’s cat food, make sure to check how many total reviews there because there’s not a single cat food on the market that doesn’t have a long list of 1-star rating because cats just didn’t like the food.

While it might be concerning if no cat liked the food, it’s pretty normal to see a variety of preferences out there.

With that out of the way, let’s start with the things that cat owners didn’t love about the brand.

What Customers Don’t Like

The biggest complaint from cat owners comes down to cats simply not wanting to eat the food, which does seem to be a bigger issue for the wet food varieties. But again, it’s worth noting that there simply aren’t that many reviews (at least compared to other products) so take everything with a grain of salt. Here’s one review from Amazon that pretty much sums that the general consensus from the “my cat hates it” crowd:

Wanted to buy my cats some really quality food, 4 cats, 4 days, we’ve got a major hunger strike going on, bought the canned and dry, went whole hog, not even the dogs will do more than sniff it and walk away, I may love the idea of it, but the cats (and dogs) say no.

Some cats are certainly picky, but it’s also likely that many cat parents don’t dedicate enough time and effort to properly switch their cat’s diet. PetMD suggests that this should be done gradually over one to two weeks.

This way, you’ll avoid causing gastrointestinal upset in your cat by a quick diet change. For the first two days, you should give it 75% of old food and 25% of new food. The next two days you should divide it into a 50%-50% mix.

Your cat should eat about 25% old food and 75% new food on days five and six. Most cats will accept to eat new food only on day number seven.

What Customers Love

There’s a lot of positive feedback for Dr. Elsey’s cat food! Most cat owners rave about the high-quality ingredients. Here’s one review that I think offers a nice summary of the price/quality balance:

 Because there’s more protein in this food, you have to feed 2x less of this food than any of the other foods out there, including the super ultra premium foods that are pretty much the same price.

While many of the positive reviews mention the premium price of the food, it’s typically to explain that you get what you pay for.

Interpreting Reviews

Overall, the reviews are what you’d expect from a premium cat food with a solid reputation behind it. There are always folks with picky cats who simply refuse to eat the food but when you’re dealing with a premium product, they tend to be a bit more vocal since they’re coming into it with higher expectations.

But there’s also plenty of people who have nothing but good things to say about this high-quality diet.

My Overall Rating 9/10

Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein™ line of cat food earns an excellent rating of 9/10 overall. While it the product variety may be a little lacking it get extra points for scoring high in terms of species-appropriateness, ingredient quality and excellent history with zero recalls. I also believe the people behind the brand, which isn’t hard to do when you consider Dr. Elsey’s decades of experience and dedication to feline medicine.

Overall, this food comes highly recommended and you can check the latest price for both wet and dry food varieties on Amazon by clicking here.