Special Kitty Cat Food

Important recall information appears below.

Special Kitty cat food recalls

Special Kitty cat food and treats are sold exclusively by Walmart. The products are available nationwide and offer a satisfaction guarantee.

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The brand name itself, “Special Kitty,” is genius marketing, because pet parents can reconcile the need to buy a budget cat food with the need to believe they are giving their cats special treatment.

Below, we share more information about the history of this cat food — including up-to-date Special Kitty recall information.

Special Kitty Quick Facts

Brand line includes: Special Kitty Complete Nutrition, Special Kitty Gourmet, Special Kitty Kitten, Special Kitty Outdoor, Special Kitty Indoor, Special Kitty Naturals, Special Kitty Pâté, Special Kitty Shreds Dinner, Special Kitty Cuts in Gravy, Special Kitty Crunchy & Creamy Cat Treats
Cost: $
Company: Walmart Stores Inc.
Headquarters: 702 SW 8th St., Bentonville, AR 72716
Contact info: 1-800-925-6278, website (chat feature)

Special Kitty History

In 1981, Walmart started selling its own low-cost dog food, Ol’ Roy, which quickly became a best seller.

The earliest mention we have found of Special Kitty was in 1983. Essentially, Special Kitty is the cat food equivalent of Ol’ Roy, a private-label brand sold exclusively by Walmart.

How did Walmart produce all that private label pet food?

In the early years, much of it was manufactured by Doane Pet Care, a company that quietly dominated the pet food market under the radar for years.

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Doane, based in Brentwood, Tennessee, was at one point the largest manufacturer of private label pet food and the second-largest manufacturer of dry pet food overall in the United States. It produced pet food for a number of national brands, as well as around 175 store brands.

In 2005, Doane’s own chief executive officer, Doug Cahill, described it as the “billion-dollar company that no one knows.”

Among the store brands in its portfolio were Walmart’s private label brands: Ol’ Roy and Special Kitty. In fact, Walmart was Doane’s biggest customer, accounting for roughly two-thirds of Doane’s revenue.

Vintage newspaper ad from 1983 with cans of Special Kitty cat food stacked up together, 5 for $1.
January 1983 newspaper ad for Special Kitty cat food, which sold for 20 cents per can.

Special Kitty Grabs a Huge Share of Cat Food Market

Private label pet foods grew more popular as consumer trust in generics grew. Market research shows that between 1997 and 2002, shoppers increased their purchase of store brands by 38%.

“We use private labels as a value-oriented alternative for our customers,” Wal-Mart spokesperson Karen Burk said in a 2003 interview. “Our private labels, including pet foods Ol’ Roy and Special Kitty, play a role by offering national brand quality at an everyday low-price value.”

In 2005, Special Kitty held a 19% share of the overall cat food market in the United States, beating out all other private brands combined, as well as even Purina Cat Chow. This was due in large part to Walmart’s 3,800 retail locations and unbeatable low prices.

“Private label [pet food] has come a long way,” Colette Dahl, a private label manager, said in 2009. “The average consumer isn’t always even aware that a particular brand is a private label.”

Who Manufactures Special Kitty?

In 2006, manufacturer Doane Pet Care’s U.S. business was acquired by Mars Inc., parent company behind Sheba, Temptations and Whiskas cat food brands.

After that, Special Kitty was manufactured for Walmart by both Mars Petcare US and Del Monte Foods’ pet division.

In 2014, following a sale of all of Del Monte Foods’ people-food assets, the Del Monte pet division got a new name: Big Heart Pet Brands. Just a year later, J.M. Smucker Company acquired all Big Heart properties in a $5.8 billion deal.

Which brings us to today. Special Kitty appears to be manufactured today by J.M. Smucker and its subsidiary Big Heart Pet Brands.

Has Special Kitty Ever Been Recalled?

Yes, there have been a few different Special Kitty cat food recalls over the years.

In December 2019, certain cans of Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner Pâté were recalled because they didn’t “meet the company’s quality and safety standards.” That wasn’t very specific, but the manufacturer, J.M. Smucker Company, did say the following:

“Ingesting impacted product may cause nausea with excessive salivation, diarrhea or vomiting to more severe symptoms, including difficulty walking, seizures and, in extreme situations, death.”

Wait, what? Did we read that last word correctly?

Yes, whatever was wrong with those specific lots of cat food could theoretically kill cats who eat it — yet no actual reason was provided for this recall other than it didn’t meet “quality and safety standards.” In the recall announcement, J.M. Smucker added that it was “continuing to investigate the situation to minimize the chance of future concerns.”

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Previously, in early January 2017, certain cans of Special Kitty cat food were recalled for insufficient levels of thiamine (Vitamin B1). Then, a few days later, the recall was expanded to include additional canned cat foods. “No illnesses related to this issue have been reported to date, and the product is being recalled out of an abundance of caution,” the company said.

A recall in October 2008 was expanded a few weeks later. The manufacturer, Mars Petcare US, had been alerted to potential salmonella contamination of dry pet food products, which included certain packages of Special Kitty cat food and Ol’ Roy dog food. This came right after a previous recall for salmonella, involving multiple brands of pet food, in September 2008. The products had all been produced at Mars facilities in Allentown and Everson, Pennsylvania.

Finally, in March 2007, as part of the larger Menu Foods/melamine recall that shocked the country, various sizes and varieties of Special Kitty products were recalled because of potential melamine contamination.

Full details of all Special Kitty cat food recalls appear below.

Photo of a bag of Special Kitty dry cat food, showing a bowl of the kibble in front of it
Special Kitty cat food underwent a packaging redesign in 2020. The brand is sold exclusively by Walmart.

List of Special Kitty Cat Food Recalls

December 2019

Cause: “Products don’t meet … quality and safety standards.” Announcement: FDA report dated Dec. 5, 2019 (archived here). What was recalled: The following specific lots and dates of Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner Paté cat food, in individual small cans as well as in variety packs:

  • Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner Pâté, 5.5 oz. cans, UPC #681131078962, Lot #9263803, and best by Sept. 19, 2021
  • Special Kitty Surf & Turf Variety Pack, 5.5 oz. cans, UPC #681131079235, Lot #9266803, and best by July 17, 2021; Aug. 29, 2021; Sept. 11, 2021; or Sept. 12, 2021
  • Special Kitty Surf & Turf Variety Pack, 5.5 oz. cans, UPC #681131079235, Lot #9267803, and best by July 17, 2021; Aug. 29, 2021; Sept. 11, 2021; or Sept. 12, 2021
  • Special Kitty Surf & Turf Variety Pack, 5.5 oz. cans, UPC #681131079235, Lot #9287803, and best by Sept. 12, 2021; Sept. 19, 2021; or Oct. 7, 2021

January 2017

Cause: Low thiamine levels. Announcement: FDA report dated Jan. 6, 2017 (archived here); expanded from earlier FDA report dated Jan. 3, 2017 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Special Kitty canned cat foods:

  • Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner with printed wrap, 12-pack of 13 oz. cans, Lots #6355803 or #6356803, UPC #8113109609
  • Special Kitty Mixed Grill Dinner without printed wrap, 13 oz., Lot #6356803, UPC 8113112119
  • Special Kitty Super Supper, 13 oz., Lots #6354803 or #6355803, UPC 7910079041
  • Special Kitty Beef and Liver Dinner, 13 oz., Lot #6355803, UPC 8113112120
  • Special Kitty Classic Tuna Dinner, 13 oz., Lot #6358803, UPC 8113112157

October/November 2008

Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: Company announcement dated Nov. 25, 2008 (archived here); expanded from earlier FDA report dated Oct. 27, 2008. What was recalled: The following Special Kitty dry cat foods with “best by” dates between Aug. 11 and Oct. 3, 2009 and produced at Allentown, Pennsylvania (denoted by “50” as the first 2 digits in the line of coding directly under the best by date):

  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117557
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117562
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 18 lb., UPC #8113117559
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117546
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117547
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 18 lb., UPC #8113117548
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117553
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117554

September 2008

Cause: Potential for salmonella. Announcement: FDA report revised Sept. 17, 2008 (archived here). What was recalled: The following Special Kitty dry cat foods produced at Everson, Pennsylvania (denoted by “17” as the first 2 digits in the line of coding directly under the best by date):

  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117557
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 4 lb., UPC #7874204930
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117562
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 8 lb., UPC #7874205744
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 18 lb., UPC #8113117559
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 20 lb., UPC #7874205794
  • Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food, 25 lb., UPC #8113168869
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117546
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 4 lb., UPC #7874253199
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117547
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 8 lb., UPC #7874253200
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 18 lb., UPC #8113115748
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 20 lb., UPC #7874253201
  • Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food, 25 lb., UPC #7874254314
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 3.5 lb., UPC #8113117553
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 4 lb., UPC #7874253198
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 7 lb., UPC #8113117554
  • Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food, 8 lb., UPC #8113124739

March 2007

Cause: Melamine. Announcement: American Veterinary Medical Association website listing, updated Aug. 22, 2007 (archived here); Walmart announcement dated April 3, 2007; FDA 2007 archives; and Menu Foods webpage archived from late March 2007 (Canadian version here). What was recalled: 3 oz. pouches of the following Special Kitty cat foods:

  • Special Kitty Beef With Gravy, UPC #681131575416
  • Special Kitty Chicken and Liver, UPC #681131742443
  • Special Kitty Chicken Dinner, UPC #681131575423
  • Special Kitty Duck & Wild Rice, UPC #681131742429
  • Special Kitty Filet Mignon, UPC #681131742450
  • Special Kitty Mixed Grill, UPC #681131742436
  • Special Kitty Tuna in Sauce, UPC #681131575447
  • Special Kitty Turkey and Giblets in Gravy, UPC #681131575430

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References


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About Petful

This content was written by the lead research team at Petful®, led by publisher Dave Baker, a longtime advocate for pet food safety. Our team has been tracking pet food recalls for 10-plus years, and we spend countless hours combing through databases and news archives going back 40 years or more to bring you the most accurate pet food information possible. Tens of thousands of safety-conscious pet parents are subscribed to our free recall alerts, and Animal Radio has called Petful’s list of pet food recalls “the best, most complete list” online. Learn more about Petful, or explore our Pet Food Recall Center.
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