Cats

The 10 Best Cheap Cat Foods

February 2, 2020

The 10 Best Cheap Cat Foods

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It’s hard to find food you trust at a price you like.

We’re here to make the search simple. Before writing this guide to the best cheap cat food, we spent hours studying dozens of the biggest brands on the market and analyzing the pet food industry.

We consulted blogs, forums, and reviews to find out which brands are most popular among health-conscious budget shoppers.

Based on this research, we’ve rounded up the 10 best cheap cat foods you can buy.

At the top of our list is Authority Chicken Entrée Adult Paté. This food earns its place with its ultra-low price and an ingredient list built around your cat’s carnivorous needs. But it’s not the right choice for every cat. In the following guide, you’ll find foods for cats of different life stages, flavor preferences, and key dietary needs.

At a Glance: The Best Cheap Cat Foods To Buy

IMAGEPRODUCT 
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
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  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
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  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains chicken as the primary ingredient—no animal by-products or vaguely-named ingredients
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
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  • Contains chicken and chicken meal instead of poultry or animal by-products
  • Guaranteed levels of probiotics
  • Free of artificial colors or preservatives
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  • Primarily made from minimally-processed raw meat
  • Rich in species-appropriate animal protein
  • Contains probiotics for digestive health and overall wellbeing
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  • Has a straightforward ingredient list featuring chicken muscle meat and liver
  • Doesn’t contain common irritants
  • Free of vaguely-named ingredients and by-products
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  • Primarily made from animal protein sources
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or inflammatory preservatives
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  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Doesn’t use any vaguely-named ingredients
  • Free of common irritants
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  • Made with generous doses of species-appropriate meat ingredients
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Gets almost universally positive customer reviews
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  • A relatively economical alternative to therapeutic renal diets
  • Primarily made from nourishing sources of animal protein
  • Low in carbohydrates
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How do you choose the best cheap cat food?

The best cheap cat food is just as nutritionally robust, species-appropriate, and delicious as any high-priced food. You might have to make some sacrifices in terms of ingredient quality and sourcing practices. But when it comes down to the meat of things, there’s no reason why cheap foods can’t have as much substance as expensive ones.

Remember—there’s no evidence that cheaper ingredients cause health problems.

The most affordable foods often contain cost-effective ingredients like plant and animal by-products or vaguely-named items like “fish” or “poultry”. These ingredients are usually feed-grade and aren’t handled according to the safety requirements to which human foods must adhere.

Because they’re less strictly regulated and there’s more leeway on sub-par materials, some suspect that these ingredients are unsafe for cats. In reality, there’s very little indication that feed-grade ingredients are dangerous. If you can avoid them, fantastic. But if your budget doesn’t allow for premium ingredients, don’t sweat the issue of feed versus food.

At the end of the day, nutrients are more important than ingredients.

Budget-focused shoppers should look for foods with plenty of protein, a mix of muscle meat and organs, animal-sourced fats, and as little plant matter as possible. Meanwhile, avoid the artificial colors, flavors, and potentially-harmful preservatives common among budget-tier diets.

Although wet food is more expensive than dry food, the benefits of hydration are worth it.

Cheap dry foods are often plant-based and loaded with carbohydrates. Furthermore, they’re moisture-depleted, failing to provide one of the most important nutrients on Earth.

For cats—who have low thirst drives and don’t drink much—a moisture-rich diet is essential. Feeding your cat a moisture-depleted diet may lead to chronic dehydration and, potentially, urinary tract issues like crystals and cystitis.

On top of the pain and stress it causes, urinary tract disease is expensive. Treatment often costs thousands of dollars. Combine that with the fact that high-carbohydrate diets contribute to diabetes, another of the most expensive illnesses your cat could have, and dry food no longer looks like such a good deal.

Best Cheap Cat Food: Our Top 10 Picks

Overall Best: Authority Chicken Entrée Adult Paté

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 6.5% Min
  • Fiber: 0.8% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.16

Pros:

  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • One of the most affordable foods you can buy
  • Contains menhaden fish oil as a species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids

Cons:

  • Contains vaguely-labeled ocean fish

This food is a lot like Friskies—a meat-based, bargain-priced food featuring a mix of poultry and fish with a dash of rice. But unlike Friskies, it doesn’t contain any animal or poultry by-products. It also doesn’t contain any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

It’s also different in what it does contain, like clearly-named muscle meat and liver and menhaden fish oil as a nourishing source of omega-3 fatty acids. Those things are rare among the cheapest cat foods.

Overall, this food is a low-carbohydrate, protein-rich product that breaks a lot of cheap cat food stereotypes.

It’s relatively calorie-dense, meaning that you can feed less at every meal. If you have a ten-pound cat, this food will cost you about $0.96 per day.

Upgrade Pick: Wellness Complete Health Pate Chicken Entree

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10.5% Min
  • Fat: 7.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.25

Pros:

  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content

Cons:

  • Contains a few unnecessary plant ingredients
  • Slightly more expensive than other budget-tier foods

This paté food from Wellness’ Complete Health line has a few things going for it. For one, it’s primarily made from chicken and chicken liver, a nice change from the animal and poultry by-products you’ll find in a lot of other relatively economical foods.

Unfortunately, the recipe contains a few things that we’d rather not see in cat food, like carrots and flaxseed. These appear to take up minimal space on the ingredient list and the food’s carbohydrate content remains low.

At about twenty-five cents per ounce, this food might add up to over $2 per day for an average cat. It’s not the cheapest food on the market, but given its popularity, reputation, and wealth of positive customer reviews, it may be a good option.

Best for Weight Loss: WholeHearted All Life Stages Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 2.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.18

Pros:

  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains chicken as the primary ingredient—no animal by-products or vaguely-named ingredients
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil

Cons:

  • Contains tapioca starch

If you like the idea—but not the price—of juicy, shredded, low-carbohydrate foods from brands like Tiki Cat and Weruva, this WholeHearted product might be a good option. The food is composed of shredded chicken muscle meat set in broth. The food contains a mix of sunflower seed oil and tuna oil, ensuring that your cat gets a good dose of nourishing omega-3 fatty acids.

For a budget-level food, this product’s lack of by-products, artificial colors, and artificial flavors are all exceptional.

With plenty of moisture and not too much fat, the food is satisfying and could help your cat to stay slim.

Best Dry: Kirkland Signature Maintenance Chicken & Rice Formula

Product Info:

  • Protein: 30% Min
  • Fat: 20% Min
  • Fiber: 3.0% Max
  • Life Stage: All Life Stages
  • Type: Dry
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.07

 

Pros:

  • Contains chicken and chicken meal instead of poultry or animal by-products
  • Guaranteed levels of probiotics
  • Free of artificial colors or preservatives
  • Extremely economical

Cons:

  • Like most dry foods, this Kirkland Signature food is high in carbohydrates
  • Low moisture content could contribute to chronic dehydration and potential urinary issues

This food from Kirkland Signature is an outstanding option for budget kibble buyers. It’s brimming with animal-sourced protein from chicken and chicken meal. No by-products or vaguely-named meats here. It has added probiotics to support digestive health. It doesn’t contain any of those preservatives, colors, and flavors you’ll find in similarly-priced dry foods.

You can buy Kirkland Signature dry food on Amazon, but you’ll find the best deals on the Costco pet food aisle. If there’s a Costco nearby and you have a membership, head to the warehouse to save.

Best Raw: Stella & Chewy’s Chick Chick Chicken Freeze-Dried Raw Morsels

Product Info:

  • Protein: 45% Min
  • Fat: 25% Min
  • Fiber: 5.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Freeze-Dried/Raw
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $2.21

Pros:

  • Primarily made from minimally-processed raw meat
  • Rich in species-appropriate animal protein
  • Contains probiotics for digestive health and overall wellbeing
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial additives that may harm your cat over time
  • Can be as moisture-rich as you want it to be
  • Low in carbohydrates

Cons:

  • It takes a few minutes to rehydrate the morsels

Raw cat food doesn’t have to be expensive. This freeze-dried food from Stella & Chewy’s costs about $0.80 per day for a 10-lb cat, putting it among the cheapest foods on the market. The morsels contain minimally-processed chicken, bone, liver, and gizzard as primary ingredients. The food is fortified with a variety of probiotic species to help support digestive health and overall wellbeing.

If you want to give your cat the rich, minimally-altered nutrition of raw meat, organs, and bones, buying Stella & Chewy’s food is one of the most affordable ways to do it.

Best for Sensitive Stomach: Simply Nourish Essentials Chicken Recipe Adult Pate

Product Info:

  • Protein: 9.0% Min
  • Fat: 6.5% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.29

Pros:

  • Has a straightforward ingredient list featuring chicken muscle meat and liver
  • Doesn’t contain common irritants
  • Free of vaguely-named ingredients and by-products

Cons:

  • Not a good option for cats with chicken sensitivities
  • Relatively expensive compared to the other foods on this list

If your cat has a sensitive stomach, single-protein foods featuring easy-to-digest ingredients may help. This food fits that description, featuring chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver as its primary ingredients. It’s free of carrageenan, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and potentially-harmful preservatives—all ingredients that could cause or worsen inflammation.

Between its slim ingredient list and soft, easy-to-eat consistency, this food is a good choice for sensitive cats of all kinds.

Best for Diabetic Cats: Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast

Product Info:

  • Protein: 17.5% Min
  • Fat: 2.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.22

Pros:

  • Primarily made from animal protein sources
  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or inflammatory preservatives

Cons:

  • Contains vaguely-named ocean fish, which is likely not the highest-quality fish
  • Relies on vegetable oil instead of nourishing animal fat

In addition to insulin injections and blood glucose monitoring, a low-carbohydrate diet is the most powerful way to treat diabetes.

Instead of buying expensive food marketed for diabetic cats, it’s more cost-effective to opt for low-carbohydrate food. Foods with less than 10% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis help to control blood sugar and may help your cat to go into diabetic remission, freeing you of the need to inject insulin at all.

This food from Fancy Feast has what diabetic cats need. It’s extraordinarily low in carbohydrates and, unlike some other budget foods, it doesn’t contain any artificial colors, flavors, or potentially harmful preservatives.

It’s also low in calories, which may help diabetic cats to lose weight.

Best for Seniors: Health Extension Chicken & Pumpkin Recipe

Product Info:

  • Protein: 10% Min
  • Fat: 2.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: Thailand
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.38

Pros:

  • Rich in animal-sourced protein
  • Doesn’t use any vaguely-named ingredients
  • Free of common irritants
  • One of the most high-calorie foods you can buy

Cons:

  • Contains pea protein and other non-essential plant ingredients
  • Doesn’t contain fish oil or other species-appropriate sources of omega-3 fatty acids

This food has a couple of qualities that set it apart as a good option for senior cats, especially those who have lost muscle mass with age. With 38 calories per ounce, the food is unusually calorie-dense, meaning that your cat gets more energy and nutrition in each bite.

The food features chicken as its primary protein source, along with pumpkin—which may help to prevent constipation common among senior cats—and a small amount of pea protein.

Though it costs a bit more per ounce, this food’s unusual calorie density means that you can get away with just about five to six ounces per day for a 10-lb cat, adding up to just around $2 per day. It’s not the cheapest on the market, but it’s decent for a food of this caliber.

Best for Kittens: Fancy Feast Kitten Tender Turkey Feast

Product Info:

  • Protein: 11% Min
  • Fat: 5.0% Min
  • Fiber: 1.5% Max
  • Life Stage: Kitten
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.22

Pros:

  • Made with generous doses of species-appropriate meat ingredients
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Gets almost universally positive customer reviews

Cons:

  • Contains artificial colors and flavors
  • Contains meat by-products and vaguely-named ingredients

Kittens need calorie-dense, protein-rich food with a unique balance of calcium and phosphorus to support early bone development. This food from Fancy Feast delivers all of that in a species-appropriate and affordable way.

The food is made from a mix of turkey, liver, fish, and meat by-products, so it’s one of the few foods on this list that contains nameless meats, including by-products. It also contains added colors and flavors, which may have negative health effects.

Altogether, this food’s ingredient quality isn’t on par with the best foods on the market, but it’s a tasty, affordable choice that kittens seem to love. On Chewy, 95% of almost 300 customers say that they’d recommend this food to a friend. For kittens, this is one of the best cheap cat foods you can buy.

Best Low Phosphorus: HI-TOR Veterinary Select Neo Diet Canned Cat Food

Product Info:

  • Protein: 8.0% Min
  • Fat: 10% Min
  • Fiber: 1.0% Max
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Type: Wet/Canned
  • Made In: United States
  • Price Per Ounce: $0.24

Pros:

  • A relatively economical alternative to therapeutic renal diets
  • Primarily made from nourishing sources of animal protein
  • Doesn’t contain artificial colors, flavors, or potentially-harmful preservatives
  • Low in carbohydrates

Cons:

  • Contains vaguely-named ingredients and animal by-products
  • Contains carrageenan

Low-phosphorus foods can help to manage symptoms among cats with kidney disease. Whether prescription or not, these foods are hard to find at a budget-friendly price point, adding more expenses to an already stressful situation.

While this food isn’t a prescription product and is not formally recommended for cats with kidney disease, it is phosphorus-restricted with limited protein and sodium, promising to address some of the issues CKD patients face.

This food is primarily made from a blend of meat by-products, chicken, animal liver, beef, and ocean fish. The food is thickened with a mix of rice flour, guar gum, and carrageenan. The latter is an additive we’d usually try to avoid—carrageenan may worsen or cause inflammation.

Altogether, this food isn’t perfect, but it could be a good option for cats who need a specially-formulated low-phosphorus diet.

Smart cat food budgeting involves more than buying the best cheap cat food on the market.

Don’t be afraid to vary your cat’s diet and try what’s on sale.

Mixing up your cat’s diet allows you to feed a combination of cheap, mid-priced, and expensive foods. A diverse diet also helps to reduce the impact of potential manufacturer slip-ups—a nutritional imbalance or bad batch won’t hit as hard if your cat only relies on a given food for a few meals a week.

So when you see a good product on sale—whether that’s a Black Friday blowout or dented cans at the grocery—grab it. Take advantage of every opportunity you can get to save.

If you’ve got a lot of time, consider making your own cat food.

If you’re low on money but have plenty of time, homemade food may be the smartest option. It takes time to get things right, but the result is a nutritionally excellent food for less than many budget-tier canned foods. Learn more in this guide to homemade and raw cat food diets.

Expand your cat food budget by saving elsewhere.

You might have more money to spend on cat food than you think. By reducing the amount of money you spend on other cat care essentials like cat litter, treats, and other supplies, you could radically expand your cat food budget.

Saving money on cat litter is one of the best places to start. By switching to an outstanding economy litter, you could free up an extra hundred or so dollars a year.

Read our guide to the best cheap cat litter on the market.

Mallory Crusta

Mallory Crusta is a blogger and adventurecat enthusiast who brings you the facts about cat products, wellness, and care. She's the co-founder of Wildernesscat, a resource for savvy cat guardians who want to give their felines richer, healthier lives. Visit Wildernesscat for product reviews, radically natural nutrition tips, and lifestyle inspiration
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