If you’re worried that you can’t afford to feed your cat well, you’ve come to the right place. It IS possible to feed your cat great food on a skinny budget.
After years spent studying the cat food industry, identifying which brands are and aren’t worth the money, and which economy brands are quietly turning out great products, we’ve identified a few affordable foods that are outperforming their pricier competitors.
At a Glance: Best Cheap Cat Food To Buy
Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
- First five ingredients are all animal-based
- Rich in hydrating moisture
- Menhaden fish oil provides plenty of omega-3s
- Contains over 45% dry matter protein from animal sources
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Affordably priced around $0.25/ounce
- Very economical, costs under $0.25 per day
- Relies primarily on animal-sourced protein and fat
- Free from potatoes, peas, and plant proteins
- All five main ingredients are animal-based
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Affordably priced and easy to find in stores and online
- Extremely low carbohydrate content
- Free of carrageenan, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other potentially-harmful additives
- Rich in nourishing animal protein
- Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
- Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
- Relatively low carbohydrate content
Why Should You Trust Us?
We’ve reviewed over 200 of the world’s most popular cat food brands and hundreds of different formulas. We’ve spent hours researching, contacting pet food companies, analyzing labels, and reading customer reviews. With the help of our cats, we also got hands-on experience with most of these foods.
Finally, we consulted 7 veterinarians to get their professional opinion on what makes a great cat food.
Our Veterinary Advisors
- Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
- Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH
- Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM
- Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
- Dr. Albert Ahn, DVM
- Dr. Elizabeth Youens, DVM
How We Tested
We personally purchased and tested the products on this list. The entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct input or influence from the companies involved.
When researching cat food, we analyze the information on the label including the guaranteed analysis, list of ingredients, and life stage designation. We also consult customer reviews for insight regarding reformulations or issues with product quality and check for product recalls.
During our in-depth testing, we make observations about the product’s appearance, texture, consistency, smell, and packaging. We also feed the food to our cats to get their opinion regarding palatability and general appeal.
In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples of several recipes for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab.
Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us the exact macronutrient and micronutrient content of each recipe. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals, helping you ensure that you’re only putting the best in your cat’s bowl.
Top Picks Explained
We’ve updated our recommendations since its release, but the video below provides an in-depth look at some of the brands on this list.
Topping our list of the best cheap or affordable cat food is Nulo Freestyle Turkey & Chicken Grain-Free Canned Cat and Kitten Food. For the price of a can of Fancy Feast, you get a simple, meat-based meal on par with those from spendy brands like Tiki Cat and Weruva.
Seriously. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your cat the best.
How many times has someone advertised expensive food by telling you that it’s an investment in your cat’s health?
The implication is that by paying top dollar now, you’ll save thousands in vet bills later. It’s true that buying low-quality cat food could lead to health conditions and expensive treatments, but it’s not true that all low-cost food is low-quality.
Also Read: How Much Does It Cost To Own A Cat
Top 7 Best Affordable Cat Foods
The following are moisture-rich, low-carbohydrate foods that should support long-term health. They’re also some of the cheapest foods on the market. Win-win.
What Kind Of Food Is A Good Investment In Your Cat’s Health?
There’s no evidence that cheap ingredients directly translate to health problems. For example, you could easily feed your cat food that’s loaded with by-products without ever seeing any health issues as a result.
Instead, the biggest dietary contributors to health problems are low moisture content and high carbohydrate content.
Look For Moisture-Rich Cat Food.
A dry diet, whether it costs four cents an ounce or eight dollars a day, will not provide the moisture your cat needs, increasing his chances of developing lower urinary tract disease. Urinary tract disease is painful and life-threatening.
It’s worth avoiding regardless of financial considerations, but let’s not ignore the fact that treating a urinary tract blockage could cost thousands of dollars.
Think Catkins—Steer Clear Of High-Carbohydrate Foods.
Though the causes of obesity and diabetes are convoluted and not completely understood, we do know that controlling carbohydrate content can help to reduce your cat’s chances of developing both. The value of controlling your cat’s carbohydrate intake is just another reason to opt for wet food instead of dry.
A low-carbohydrate dry food is a rare thing and you’ll pay a pretty penny for it. Low-carbohydrate wet food, however, is the rule rather than the exception, particularly among the cheapest brands on the market.
If you want to save money while reducing your cat’s carbohydrate intake, buying wet food is the easiest and most economical way to do it.
Avoid Potentially-Harmful Additives.
Cheap cat food gets a lot of bad press because it tends to contain animal by-products, but these may not be these foods’ biggest flaw. Instead, their biggest shortcoming may be their tendency to contain potentially-harmful additives like artificial colors, dangerous preservatives, and carrageenan. Avoid these ingredients whenever you can.