If you own a cat but are on a tight budget, you’ve probably considered feeding your pal a cheap formula like Friskies or 9Lives. Perhaps, you are attracted by their flashy branding and wonder if they are any good. In this post, you will find a comprehensive review of both brands. If you’d rather get the “yes” or “no” version, here is our answer: no, Friskies and 9Lives are not diets that you should feed to your cat.
Bottom Line Up Front: If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option go for Merrick, like their Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Real Chicken Recipe formula.
Table of Contents
Friskies’ six lines of kibble come at an avg. of 30% proteins, 11% fats, and 12% moisture; leaving 39% for carbs. Adjusted on a dry matter basis (DMB)* this comes at 38% proteins, 14% fat and 49% carbs. This leaves Friskies’ guaranteed analysis ratio far from the optimal 50:40:10 (proteins:fats:carbs) that cats would choose in the wild. Food spiked with carbs will satiate your cat quickly, but the sensation will disappear as soon, causing your pal to eat more and gain unhealthy weight.
The six kibble formulas come at an average of 3555 kcal/kg (35 oz). From our post on how to choose the right cat food, we know that a healthy 10 lbs cat needs about 250-300 kcal/day. So, when adjusted for optimal calorie intake, a daily serving of Friskies kibble is 2.7 oz (275 kcal). From one daily serving, a cat on this diet would get 0.8 oz of proteins, 0.3 oz of fats and 1 oz of carbs. This is a significant carb load and not enough proteins. However, increasing the portion size to meet the protein need will also increase the calorie and carb intake, leaving you with an overweight cat.
How about the wet formulas? The average protein ratio comes at 10%, fat content is about 3%, moisture comes at 80%, which leaves around 4% for carbs. Adjusted on a DMB, this converts to 59% proteins, 17% fats, and 26% carbs. The wet options come at an average of 990 kcal/kg. This equals to a daily serving size of 1 3/4 cans (around 10 oz) to get 275 calories. They come from 1 oz of proteins, 0.3 oz of fats and 0.4 oz of carbs. Pretty close to a natural diet, yet we advise against feeding Friskies to your cat. You’ll find why in a little bit.
*Traditional formulas for converting to DMB only exclude moisture. However, manufactured cat food contains ash which is a leftover from the cooking process. Because we’d like to compare the food in this post to the preferred cat macro ratio of 50:40:10, when converting to DMB we will also adjust for ash content. If the manufacturer has not indicated it, we’ll assume the industry average of 8% for dry cat food and 2.5% for wet food formulas.
Of course, you can’t get a formula that mimics 1:1 the 50:40:10 ratio unless you manage to extract from food pure protein, pure fat, and pure carbs. Even in the wild cats ingest a variation of this ratio, yet when judging the quality of food, this ideal ratio gives you an idea of how close the given formula resembles a natural diet.
What about Friskies’ ingredient list?
To put it mildly – it sucks. Open a bag of corn starch, mix in some chicken broth, and you’ve pretty much made a Friskies formula. All of their dry cat food formulas begin with corn, continue with corn gluten meal and list meat by-products and poultry by-product meal in the third position. There’s no whole meat in these formulas, and the added colors do not help Friskies’ case.
Things get worse with the wet formulas. They do list some meat far down the list, but they also contain corn starch, soy flour, and wheat gluten. These are all grain-sourced fillers that are non-essential to your cat and are hard on his digestion. What really puts us off, however, are the added colors, artificial flavors, and guar gum. These ingredients do not have a place in any healthy food – neither for felines nor humans.
So, what is our overall impression of Friskies?
It’s not something you want to give your cat. Provided, the company did a thorough job with branding. The flashy website that looks like a game and the pretty, colorful packaging grab attention in shop aisles. When you read the formula names such as “Seafood Sensations,” “Surfin’ n Turfin’ Favorites” and “Prime Filets” nobody will blame you for thinking “Oh my, so fancy.” Then comes the glance over the ingredient list, accompanied by “oh my, no way.”
Corn seems to have a prominent place in Friskies’ formulas, and corn is something that is far from a healthy and balanced nutrition diet for felines. They are obligate carnivores, which means that they need complete meat not only to thrive but also to survive. In other words, if a stray cat wanders at a city fair, she’ll choose the BBQ stand over a corn on the knob.
9Lives’ five dry food formulas come at an average of 31% protein, 9% fat, and 12% moisture.; this leaves 40% to carbs. This converts to 39% protein, 11% fat, and 50% carbs on a DMB. 9Lives’ macro ratio, too, is far from the ideal 50:40:10. This cheap line of cat food relies on shoving carbs down cat’s throats to make them feel satiated.
Regarding calorie intake, the five formulas come at an average of 3400 kcal/kg, thus packing fewer calories than Friskies. To get 275 kcal, you’d need 2.8 oz of 9Lives kibble. Using the guaranteed analysis, this comes at 0.9 oz of proteins, 0.3 oz of fats, and 1 oz of carbs. Quite a lot of carbs for such a little creature as a cat, especially a domesticated one with limited daily activity.
Maybe the wet formulas will provide more natural nutrition for your cat? They come in three lines – Hearty Cuts, Meaty Pate, and Tender Morsels. The first two come at an average of 9% proteins, 4% fats, and 80% moisture, leaving 3.5% to carbs. Converting them to DMB yields 51% proteins, 24% fats, and 21% carbs. At an average of 950 kcal/kg, you’d need about a 1 3/4 cans (10 oz) for a healthy 10 lbs cat. This would serve 0.9 oz proteins, 0.4 oz fats, and 0.4 oz of carbs. Pretty adequate, but the caveat is in the ingredient list. More on that, in the next section.
The Tender Morsels line is much better than the rest. It comes at an average of 10% proteins (some formulas go as high as 16%), and 2.5 % fats, leaving 4.5% to carbs. On a DMB this comes at 59% proteins, 15% fats, and 26% carbs. The average energy density is 811 kcal/kg. So, two 5.5 oz cans of Tender Morsels will give your cat 254 kcal per day, which does meet the needs of a relatively inactive 10 lbs cat, though it might not be adequate for a feline that tends to move a lot throughout the day.
How about macros? Two cans will provide 1.1 oz of proteins, 0.3 oz of fats, and 0.5 oz of carbs. It turns out that the 9Lives Tender Morsels line is adequate for healthy cats. Yet, we advise against feeding it to your cat because of some ingredients issues that we’ll discuss below.
Regarding ingredients, 9Lives’ five kibble formulas are identical. Corn, wheat, soy, unidentified meat and animal digest seem to be the common primary ingredients in 9Lives’ dry diets. There are some meat and fish meals but no mention of whole meat. If you want a healthy and happy cat, these formulas don’t cut it.
Here, the wet formulas do get an edge over the dry stuff. The canned food does contain some meat in it, though meat-by-products still come at the top of the list, preceded in most cases by water. Another concern for us is the presence of colors, guar gum, brewers rice (a non-essential filler) and starch. These are all ingredients that are unnecessary for your cat and can cause an upset stomach and worse conditions in the long run.
The Tender Morsels line, though adequate in terms of nutritiousness, also contains concerning ingredients. Though some formulas do list tuna as the first ingredient, they also contain soy, starch, flour, colors, and artificial flavors.
Overall, 9Lives is not something that we’d feed to our cats, and we advise you to stay away from these formulas. The dry options are especially concerning, and even the more higher-end Tender Morsels wet line didn’t live up to our standards despite our initial excitement due to the guaranteed analysis.
9Lives does come in pretty packaging so it is likely to fool pet owners who don’t know how to choose the right cat food and would instead go for a cute bag. The substance inside, however, is not something that will make for a happy nor healthy pet.
Now, let’s put Friskies and 9Lives up against each other.
Friskies vs. 9Lives
To make it easier to compare the guaranteed analysis of all formulas, we’ve created a spreadsheet that will give the complete picture.
*A note on the difference between on “per fed basis” vs. “DMB.”
Dry matter basis only refers to the macro ratio of a formula without the added water and leftover ash. If you’d like to calculate macro intake regarding weight, you need to use the percentages provided by the manufacturer since your cat will get the food with the moisture and ash included.
We have only used DMB to make it easy to compare dry and wet formulas. Without accounting for water, comparing labels would be like the proverbial apples and oranges.
Example: say you need to compare Formula A which only contains 1 oz of protein and 1 oz of water (50% protein content) and Formula B which only contains 1 oz of protein and 2 of water (33% protein content). It seems as Formula B has less protein because it contains more water. In reality, both formulas contain the same amount of protein on DMB.
Regarding ingredients, there is no need for comparison. Both brands count mostly on the same low-quality ones – corn, wheat and soy fillers, meat meal, artificial colors and flavors, and by-products. Except for some fish in some of the wet formulas, there is no whole meat. As we’ve discussed many times over, cats need whole, complete meat to survive. They cannot thrive nor live on plant-based diets, and while they might ingest some carbs in the wild through their prey’s digest, these amounts are negligible.
Overall Impression: 9Lives or Friskies?
Friskies and 9Lives do not surprise with either ingredients or guaranteed analysis. Manufacturers need to cut many many corners to achieve such low prices. Unfortunately, the low price comes at a high cost – an unhealthy cat whose menu consists of unnatural foods, non-nutritious for felines.
Both brands seem to be very focused on branding to make their products more appealing. This is especially the case with Friskies whose package and website designs are quite entertaining. Yet, animations of a bright blue sea and Ferris wheel don’t improve the quality of the formulas. Why would a cat get on a Ferris wheel anyway? To reiterate, if a cat ends up at an amusement park, he’ll go straight for the meat, not for the corn, and certainly not for the attractions.
We understand that many owners are budget-conscious and cat food might not be high on the priority list when it comes to money. Yet, getting a pet means getting not only cuddly times but also a basket full of responsibilities. If you are about to get a cat, consider whether your budget allows you to buy decent food. If you already own a cat (or any pet), but are not well financially, opt for brands that are easy on the pocket, yet provide nutritious and healthy formulas like Merrick.