Welcome to our complete guide to the best cheap cat food. Looking at how to you’re your cat a low cost diet, without compromising on quality.
Herbed duck confit and sweet potatoes. Blackwood chicken with field peas. Salmon and brown rice. Juicy pork stew.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Believe it or not, these are not entrees from a world-class new eatery. Rather, they describe just a handful of the new gourmet cuisine meal options being offered for pet cats!
But even better, many of these options are for high quality cat food that is delicious and also affordable.
With so many cheap cat food options that feature lots of tasty and nutritious variety, you no longer need to turn your wallet inside to afford the cost of cat food to feed your fur baby.
In this article, we are going to take a thorough tour of the many choices you have to purchase good cheap cat food that will give your kitty all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients she needs to live a long, happy, healthy life with you.
Categories and types of cheap cat food
If you are brand new to cat ownership, you are probably feeling pretty overwhelmed right now. There is a lot to learn!
But don’t worry – only some of it needs to be learned right away.
This post focuses on one of the most immediate and critical daily needs your cat has – cheap good cat food that offers a truly balanced, tasty diet.
Your cat is relying on you to pick out cat food cheap that you can afford and he will love, and we will guide you in how to do that here.
But first, we thought it might be helpful to offer a brief overview of the terminology used in the cat food industry today, including an explanation of what the most common terms mean so you will be able to identify the major categories and types of cat food.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association (PFMA), there are two main cat food categories: complete and complementary.
Complete Cat Food
This type of cat food offers a full complement of nutrients your pet cat needs daily. It does not need to be supplemented in any way.
Complementary Cat Food
This type of cat food is usually reserved for treats. It isn’t designed to meet your cat’s daily dietary needs in full.
Now, within these two main categories of “complete” and “complementary,” let’s next take a brief look at the three main types of cheap cat food.
Each of these types of cat food can be purchased in a number of ways – as cheap cat food bulk, cheap cat food online or cheap cat food in stores. (We will talk about the different ordering options later on in this post.)
Types Of Cat Food
The three main cat food types are as follows:
Wet cat food. (Category: Complete)
As the name suggests, this type of cat food contains more moisture than any other cat food type.
But it is not a soup – it is just cooked and prepared in such a way as to retain maximum moisture. Sort of like how most people prefer a steak to be prepared to taste juicy rather than tough.
Again, like with steak, the most common cooking method is to use high heat to sterilize the contents without cooking out all the flavor (hence the moisture).
Usually you will see wet cat food packaged in a small tin, bag, can, sachet or pouch and the description will include words like “gravy,” “chunky,” “jelly” and “meatloaf.”
Dry cat food. (Category: Complete OR Complementary)
Dry cat food, as you have probably already figured out, has hardly any moisture at all.
Some dry cat food is meant to be eaten completely dry, while other dry cat food can be pre-moistened before you serve it (usually the package will indicate which is which).
As well, if you have a kitten or a senior cat with sensitive teeth and gums, moistening any brand of dry cat food will make it both tastier and much easier to eat.
Sometimes dry cat food is called “kibble” and it can also be a popular choice for treats, teeth cleaning chews, training sessions and food-based puzzle toys.
But not all dry cat food is shaped into pellets. Some kinds may be flaky and other kinds may be designed to be used for baking cat biscuits or adding into other cat foods for extra nutrition.
Usually, dry cat food is packaged in bags that can be reclosed and stored in a cool, dark area such as your pantry. In most cases, dry food is a complete cat food unless the package specifically states it is to be given as a treat only.
Semi-moist cat food. (Category: Complementary)
Semi-moist food sits between wet and dry food on the moisture spectrum. Often it will look similar to pellets, but will be sold in smaller portion sizes than dry cat food.
Most semi-moist cat food is used as cat treats rather than as a dietary staple. Typically it is sold in small re-sealable bags.
Best cheap cat food
Now that you can identify the two main categories and the three main types of cheap cat food, let’s talk about a very common question new cat owners often ask: “How do you know what is the best value cat food? Is it based on cat food cost alone? Or are there other things you need to look for as well?”
This is a GREAT question!! Let’s tackle it in two parts: cat food cost and best value cat food.
Cat food cost
So first let’s talk about cat food cost.
Here, just like sometimes you go to a discount store and find name brands on sale for way less than major department stores charge, often the price you pay for a particular cat food brand will depend on where you buy your cat food.
How much you pay for cat food can also depend on how much of it you buy at one time. This is usually called “buying in bulk” or “buying wholesale” and is most often done online.
So here, if you get savvy about where you shop for cat food, you can score cheap cat food for your furball that is also incredibly delicious and nutritious.
Best value cat food
The phrase “best value cat food” can mean different things to different cat owners. For our purposes here, it means the cat food that offers the most complete nutrition for your cat’s age, weight, gender, stage of life and activity level AND offers the most affordable price.
So let’s say you have five cheap cat food brands that your vet confirms are a perfect fit for your cat’s nutritional needs at this stage of her life.
Which one costs the least for the same amount of cat food?
This one is your best value cat food out of those five cheap cat food brands!
Most nutritious cheap cat food
What should your cat eat in order to get full daily nutrition? This is another very common question that new cat owners have.
The first thing to know about cats is that they are what is called “obligate carnivores.” This means they not only want to eat meat, but they need to eat meat (obligate = “by necessity”).
Here, it is also important to understand that the cat’s wild ancestors would have taken in some plant matter during the course of hunting wild herbivores as prey. Since these herbivores would have still likely had their lunch of plants in their digestive tract when they were caught and consumed by the cat.
But the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and nutrients in that plant matter would have been pre-digested by their prey, so the cat would take in those nutrients in that already altered state.
For this reason, over the centuries, cats’ digestive systems have evolved to get all the nutrients they need from meat.
This also means that cats have very high dietary protein needs.
The quality of the protein has also been shown to have an impact on the health of the cat.
So while it is totally fine if the cheap cat food you buy has some plant matter included (i.e. the “blackwood chicken with field peas” cat food dish mentioned earlier).
But the vast majority of your pet cat’s daily food intake needs to be meat-based or her system will actually begin to consume its own body muscles and organs to get what she needs – and no cat owner wants that to happen!
Wet or dry cheap cat food
Since ongoing controversy exists regarding the best type (wet, dry, semi-moist) of cat food to feed a cat on a daily basis, we want to encourage you to talk with your vet about the best type of cat food to offer your pet cat.
Generally speaking, cat owners are fairly equally divided in their opinions on this issue.
Some cat owners believe feeding wet cat food is the only route to go, while other cat owners believe dry cat food is the hands-down best choice. Especially since it can also be pre-moistened before being served.
But this is also not a question that can be answered in full on a general basis. Your cat may have “adopted you” when he was a stray who just showed up at your door one day, and you now know he has special health issues or dietary needs. Perhaps you just picked up your new young kitten from the breeder and he isn’t quite ready to eat dry kibble (even pre-moistened) yet.
Or maybe you have a newly rescued active adult cat who has eaten only wet cat food (or, conversely, dry cat food) all his life and he isn’t about to make the big switch now.
So please talk with your vet before buying any significant amount of cheap cat food, wet or dry.
Trying Out New Cat Food
If your vet tells you it is okay to feed either wet or dry food, then consider offering your cat small portions of each for a few days to see if he has a preference. You might even want to offer both types of cat food for some enjoyable variety.
By testing out small amounts of cat food first, when you go to buy cheap cat food in larger quantities, you will feel confident you are spending your money on a cheap cat food that will fully meet your cat’s enjoyment and daily nutrition needs.
Also, some brands of cat food cheap online may offer multiple types for different stages of the cat life cycle. So be sure to check the label before you order to see if it is formulated properly for your kitten, adult cat or senior cat’s dietary needs.
Pros and cons of wet versus dry cat food
At this point, you might be justified in wondering, “Why are there three different types of cat food? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have one type?”
It sure would be easier! But having only one type of food might not meet every cat’s needs at every stage of their life.
Here is a brief overview of some pros and cons for each type of complete cheap cat food.
Wet food – pros & cons
- Cats tend to love it and many will come in at a run when they hear a can opener.
- It is more hydrating for cats that don’t drink much water.
- Lower carbohydrate content on average
- It has a limited shelf life (usually one week or less).
- Nutritionally complete.
- It won’t help clean your cat’s teeth.
- The smaller portion sizes and higher cost can help keep your cat’s weight down.
- It is easier to tell how hungry your cat is.
Dry food – pros & cons
- Cats often don’t like it quite as much as wet food.
- It tends to be less expensive than the other types of cat food.
- Higher carbohydrate content on average.
- It has a much longer shelf life than other types of cat food.
- It is usually nutritionally complete (unless specifically marked otherwise).
- The dry pellets can help to remove excess tartar from your cat’s teeth.
- It is less easy to tell how hungry your cat is (especially if you have a bowl of dry food that remains available all day).
- Cats may overeat when dry food is made available all day.
- Has been associated with cystitis and other urological problems in cats.
There are lots of things to think about on both sides of the decision. Some factors, such as dry food having a higher carbohydrate content may seem like negatives. But can be red herrings when it comes to certain results.
For example, one study demonstrated that high carb diets weren’t linked to an increase in feline type 2 diabetes. Conversely another showed that canned cat food consumption may be related to an increase in feline hypothyroidism!
The jury really is still out when it comes to which is best.
Dry or Wet Cat Food?
For all of these reasons and more, some vets advocate for feeding both wet and dry food.
This way, you can tell if your cat is really hungry when you feed the wet food but you also get the tartar cleaning benefits of the dry food and you can save some money since the dry cat food tends to be less pricey.
Finally, your own schedule may dictate what type of cat food you feed when. Dry food can sit out all day long without risk of spoiling, while wet food has a very short shelf life. So you may want to feed wet food only when you can be home to monitor whether your kitty eats it all and then you can pick up the uneaten portions before it goes bad.
Ways to buy cheap cat food
There are two basic ways to buy cheap cat food: in stores or online.
And there are two basic quantities to choose from when buying cheap cat food: in bulk/wholesale (larger quantities) or retail (smaller quantities).
Generally speaking, you can buy cheap cat food either in retail sizes or in bulk/wholesale sizes in stores or online. However, since not all sellers may offer the same options, you may need to hunt around to find the greatest quantity of cheap cat food for the best overall price.
If you are buying cheap cat food online, it is ideal to find a store that offers free shipping costs. Otherwise, just the costs of shipping a larger quantity of heavy cat food may cancel out the cheapest cat food prices you are getting by buying in bulk.
Cheap canned cat food
Wet or canned cat food is a favorite for most pet cats. So it is always great to offer canned cat food to your cat occasionally, even if it is just as a special treat or for a special occasion such as a birthday or holiday.
Here are some of our favorite picks for best cheap canned cat food:
Purina Fancy Feast Grilled Gourmet Variety Pack Wet Cat Food
Cat owners rate this gourmet variety pack at 4.5 stars. You get 24 3-ounce cans in the pack. Each can features fish and seafood.
Purina Fancy Feast Classic Gourmet Variety Pack Wet Cat Food
Cat owners give this classic version of Fancy Feast 4.5 stars. You get 24 3-ounce cans in the pack. Each can features poultry and beef.
SHEBA Pate in Natural Juices Chicken Entrée Canned Cat Food
Cat owners give this cat food 4 stars. You get 24 3-ounce cans and each can features chicken. This food contains no grain (soy or wheat) so it is suitable for cats with sensitive stomachs.
Whiskas Cat Food Choice Cuts Poultry Pouches
Cat owners rate this a solid 5 stars. Featuring 12 easy-open pouches with three pouches each of chicken, turkey, turkey and giblets and mixed grill, these are also great for traveling with your cat!
Cheap dry cat food
Dry cat food is a pet cat dietary staple you should always have on hand. Luckily, you have lots of options when it comes to find high quality cat food online cheap.
Here are some of our top picks:
Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food
This top seller consistently generates 4.5 stars. You get 16 lbs. (7.26 kg) of kibble, which works out to about 30 cups or 60 half-cup servings.
Purina Cat Chow Naturals Indoor Dry Cat Food
Cat owners give this dry cat food 4.5 stars. You get 13 lbs. (5.9 kg) of food that is chicken and turkey-based with healthy fiber to help control hairballs.
9 Lives Daily Essentials Dry Cat Food
This cat food is rated 4.5 stars by cat owners. It has a special tuna and egg formula to reduce urinary tract infections and immune health.
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Dry Cat Food
Cat owners rate this food 4.5 stars. You get a 14 lbs. bag (6.4 kg) of chicken with brown rice kibble baked into a grain-free (no corn, wheat, soy) base.
Cheap grain free cat food
Over the last several years, an intense debate has raged regarding whether cats truly require a grain free diet.
Although one study showed that when comparing a diet of fish meal with corn meal, cats were less likely to develop constipation or struvite urolithiasis when given the fish option.
To date, no single definitive answer has emerged. However, some cats just seem to respond better to cheap grain-free cat food.
If this is the case for your cat, you still have plenty of options for finding the cheapest grain free wet cat food that saves you money and fully supports your cat’s health.
Here is a selection of our favorite cheap grain free cat food:
Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural Wet Cat Food Variety Pack – Ocean Lovers
Cat owners rate this cat food 3.5 stars. You get 12 2.8-ounce tubs full of grain-free fish in each pack.
Purina Beyond Natural Grain Free Wet Cat Food Pate Wet Cat Food – Quail and Carrot
Cat owners rate this cat food 4 stars. You get 12 3-ounce cans in each grain-free pack.
Fussie Cat Premium Grain Free Canned Cat Food 3 Flavor Variety Bundle
Cat owners rate this cat food a solid 4 stars. You get 12 2.82-ounce grain-free cans with 4 cans each of tuna with chicken, tuna with salmon and tuna with ocean fish.
Canidae Under the Sun Grain Free Canned Cat Food – Trout Pate
Cat owners rate this food as 4 stars. This cat food is both grain free and potato free and you get 12 3-ounce cans in a pack.
Cheap kitten food
If you have a kitten in your household, you are probably struggling to get anything else done right now – there is so much distracting cuteness!
Plus, kittens can require your time and attention on a whole different level than what an adult cat might need. For example, kittens have different dietary needs than adult cats, especially when they are less than 12 months old.
Typically, a kitten may need to eat several times per day to take in sufficient calories to keep growing. Kittens generally also need more protein and more of certain vitamins and minerals in each meal.
For this reason, most vets will recommend looking for cat food that is specifically formulated for a kitten’s needs. However, depending on how old your kitten is and how much longer she will need a kitten-specific daily diet, you may not want to buy cheap kitten food in bulk, since you won’t get full value out of the food before your kitten grows up and needs adult cat food instead.
Best Cheap Kitten Food
Here are some of our favorite possible choices for the best cheap kitten food, both wet and dry versions:
Purina Fancy Feast Kitten Gourmet Wet Cat Food – Ocean Whitefish
This food contains real milk and ocean whitefish with a texture that is softer for your kitten’s still-developing mouth and teeth. Kitten owners rate this food 4.5 stars. You get 24 3-ounce cans per pack.
IAMS Pate Wet Cat Food with Chicken for Kittens
This food contains chicken pate, beet pulp, prebiotics and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids to support your kitten’s healthy development. Kitten owners rate this food 4 stars. You get 24 3-ounce cans per pack.
Natural Balance Whole Body Health Dry Kitten Formula
This food contains chicken plus duck and salmon meal in a formula rich with vitamins, minerals and amino acids. The kibble is smaller to help a young kitten chew it more easily. Kitten owners rate this kitten food 4.5 stars. You get 6 pounds (2.72 kg) per bag.
Purina Pro Plan Focus Chicken & Rice Kitten Food
This kitten food is rated 4.5 stars by kitten owners. This food contains chicken, rice, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to give your kitten’s immune system a daily boost. You get 7 pounds (3.2 kg) per bag.
Choosing the best cheap cat food
Ultimately, you will never lack for choices when it comes to selecting a great cheap kitten food or cheap cat food that also delivers the full complement of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
But because it can be so difficult to choose one kitten or cat food out of so many options, it can also be helpful to ask your friends who have cats what their kitties prefer.
Also, checking with your vet can generate some great recommendations for affordable kitten and cat food that is very nutritious and tasty.
Finally, if you got your cat from a breeder or rescue shelter, the breeder or shelter staff may also have helpful insights to offer.
Whatever cheap cat food you choose, so long as it has balanced dietary levels for your cat’s life stage and your cat seems to enjoy it, you can trust you have made a great choice in cat food to support your cat’s lifelong health, happiness and wellbeing!
Further Reading and Resources
- Buffington, CA. et al. 1997. Clinical evaluation of cats with nonobstructive urinary tract diseases. Journal of the Armerican Veterinary Medical Association.
- Buffington CA. et al. 2006 Clinical evaluation of multimodal environmental modification (MEMO) in the management of cats with idiopathic cystitis. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery
- Edinboro, CH et al. 2004 Epidemiologic study of relationships between consumption of commercial canned food and risk of hyperthyroidism in cats. Jounral of the American Veterinary Medicine Association.
- Funaba, M. et al. 2001. Effect of Supplementation of Dry Cat Food with D,L-Methionine and Ammonium Chloride on Struvite Activity Product and Sediment in Urine. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science.
- Funaba, M et al. Evaluation of meat meal, chicken meal, and corn gluten meal as dietary sources of protein in dry cat food
- Funaba, M et al. 2002. Fish Meal vs. Corn Gluten Meal as a Protein Source for Dry Cat Food. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science
- Russell, K. 2000. Influence of feeding regimen on body condition in the cat. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- Slingerland, L et al. 2007. Indoor confinement and physical inactivity rather than the proportion of dry food are risk factors in the development of feline type 2 diabetes mellitus
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