Budget-Friendly Cat Food Guide

By PetMD

When considering the cost of feeding your cat along with all of your other expenses, it can be difficult to find that balance between what is best for your cat and what is best for your budget. Fitting everything into a tight budget can be a trial, and many families are having to make the very difficult decision of either giving up a member of the family — that is, the family pet — or switching to a low quality food.  Finding the best quality food that is available, at a reasonable price so that you do not have to consider giving your cat up, is possible if you follow some basic parameters.

Price is Only One Objective

Grabbing a bag of the cheapest food on the shelf is often not a good plan for the long term since it can lead to unintended consequences, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or unhealthy weight gain (for grown cats). These health consequences alone can lead to clinical health problems requiring medical care, and now is not a good time to be taking chances with your pet’s health. Before deciding on the most economically viable food brand, do your research to make sure you are choosing the best formula at the best price.

Hunt Down the Best Prices Before Buying

Discount stores are a great place to begin comparison shopping, but before you decide on a brand or store, make notes of the prices offered at the big discount/super-stores as well as at the bulk and warehouse stores. In many cases, the prices are comparable, or one choice may be more convenient in terms of travel and location.

There is also the web to take into consideration as you hunt down the best food at the best price. Some web-based companies will offer loyalty discounts, discounted or free shipping, and even coupons for free samples of products. It can be worth it to invest the time in searching for the best deals.

Reducing costs does not only mean looking for the cheapest price, though. You might find that something as simple as switching from a wet food to a dry food can save quite a bit of money, since wet foods cost considerably more due to the type of packaging. Some cats will not miss eating wet food, while others have to be patiently weaned from wet food to dry, and still others have to be fed a mix of the two.

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

Talk to Your Doctor

Changing the diet is not for everyone, and it may not be the solution that will best serve your family’s needs. If your cat is on a prescription diet or is being treated for a long-term medical condition, ask your veterinarian for advice on whether another brand can be substituted to reduce your household costs. It is possible that there is no other food that can be fed to your cat because of an underlying health condition, but in most cases, a way can be found so that you can feed your cat the food he needs while keeping him with the family.

Finally, while table scraps and leftovers of your family’s food is a good treat for your cat, they should not take the place of formulated animal food that has the added minerals and fats your pet specifically needs. Cats in particular need taurine, arginine, niacin, preformed vitamin A, and specific types of essential fatty acids. Cats that are deficient in any of these food ingredients can suffer severe health problems.

Do not be shy about asking your veterinarian what you can do to make your situation easier to handle. You are not alone, and veterinarians encourage families to stay together, even during the rough times. Your vet may know who you can contact for cat food assistance, if needed. Again, research is key. Call around and see if there are any pet charities or shelters that are having pet food fund raisers or food collection drives to help families in need.

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Making Ends Meet While Eating Healthy – You and Your Cat! originally appeared on petMD.com


natasha p
.10 days ago


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Maria-Luisa Ramos

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

Lis T.
Elisabeth T4 years ago

Thanks for all this good information

Jennifer S.
Jennifer S.5 years ago

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.

Dale Overall

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.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

thanks so much!

Phillipa W.
Phillipa W5 years ago

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

Kristin G.
Kristin G.5 years ago

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

interesting article thanks for sharing :)