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Budget-Friendly Cat Food Guide

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Read the Labels

The ingredients listed on the label can differ significantly from brand to brand. Generally speaking, your pet needs a food with high levels of protein, as well as some fat. The first ingredient listed on the bag should be an animal protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, or fish. Fat sources include oils, tallow, and lard. It is important to keep in mind that cats are strictly carnivorous and do not need carbohydrates or grains to be healthy. While a dog can not only subsist, but thrive on a food that is made with a high proportion of carbohydrates and grains, a cat can suffer significantly, even fatally, if fed the same formulas.

However, a lot of cat food makers will add a carbohydrate source, such as corn meal, sorghum or barley, rice, or berries. While experts agree that cats do not need these ingredients, there is some disagreement over whether these ingredients can be problematic. If the carbohydrate content is more than the protein content, your cat will be hungrier because he will need to eat more to get the needed animal protein content. This of course will result in more carbohydrates being ingested, and the possibility of excess weight gain as a result. In the end, the lower priced, carb-rich cat food is not an economical choice at all. The best thing is to do your research, know how to read a label, and make an informed decision.

Ideally, you should feed your cat a food that has been certified “complete and balanced” by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This certification means that the food has been tested by a board of veterinarians and has been shown to be a nutritionally complete food for your cat.

Image Credit: chloe delong via Flickr

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petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world's largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. For more information, visit


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3:17PM PST on Mar 6, 2014

It is March 7th and the arrows don't work. Hope you fix this soon.

2:56AM PST on Nov 24, 2013

Thanks for all this good information

11:12AM PDT on Aug 23, 2012

I’m a firm believer in you get what you pay for. I feed my cat a premium brand that is reasonably priced and he does great. I think a lot of the natural brands are a little over-priced and you have to be careful, but I did a lot of research and Natural Balance Ultra in my opinion has the best nutrition for the most affordable price.

8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

I try not to feed my cat dry food, it is convenient and is certainly not species specific-cats are obligate carnivores and there is too much wheat and other filler in dry foods. One constantly has to be on guard when buying wet food to ensure that the top ingredient is not meat by products because that often means hooves, beaks and other undesirable parts of the animal that a cat would not normally eat either-it is ground up and added to meat.

4:47PM PDT on Jun 22, 2012

thanks so much!

1:20PM PDT on May 22, 2012

I just feed my cat pure meat. It might be a little more expensive than canned cat food, but I don't think it is - it seems to work out the same or cheaper. Anyway, am I the only one that thinks it's odd we're bombarded by the dangers of HUMANS eating carbs and not meat/dairy while at the same time told we have to buy commercial cat food for vitamins they don't even need? When cats are carnivores and people aren't? And we even see on TV VETS promoting biscuits??? Turns out domestic cats should be living for 30 years. We're killing them with rubbish food

11:50PM PDT on May 11, 2012

Wow good post. Try from this site though, it offers pet food on the budget.
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pet food

4:04AM PDT on May 10, 2012

interesting article thanks for sharing :)

6:25PM PDT on May 9, 2012


10:28AM PDT on May 5, 2012

thank you

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