We love our cats like they were people. This love sometimes blinds us to the point that we want to feed them only the finest “premium” cat foods, and these are usually the expensive kinds that come in cans and appeal to our own human senses. The manufacturers and marketers woo us with the food so perfectly appealing we may almost be tempted to try it ourselves! Some present actors playing veterinarians, telling us their food is better for our cat's digestive tract, joints, or predatory psychology. Eventually, we look at our paychecks or bank accounts and wonder, “Hmm, what is the best cheap cat food?”
This review investigates that question, diving into what combinations of nutrition and taste can please both your kitty and your wallet. Let's start with some of the most common questions we hear about cats' nutritional needs and the foods designed and marketed to fulfill them.
The Best Cheap Cat Food: FAQ
How Can We Define Cheap Cat Food?
By “cheap”, we do not mean lesser in quality. To conduct our review of the best cheap cat food options out there for you, we strived first to eliminate two types of product. First, we set aside the “premium” brands that are presented with all kinds of appealing advertising and a hefty price, but which may nonetheless fail to offer more nutrition or feline appeal than other, cheaper choices. Second, we excluded cheaper brands and types that appeal on price alone but fall short on the nutritional side of the equation. We sought a nexus of price, nutrition, and one other critical factor: Will your cat be likely to eat it?
What Are the Most Important Nutritional Considerations?
If you surveyed 10 cat nutrition experts about the optimum cat diet, you might get 10 quite different answers if you take it down to particulars. However, those answers will all emphasize that, generally speaking, cats need lots of protein with minimal carbohydrates. (Some will state that cats do not need carbohydrates at all, and any significant amount can sometimes cause digestive issues.)
Ideally, the best cheap cat food contains protein from named sources such as chicken, fish, and beef. We also looked for little or no filler content such as that from carbohydrate-rich rice, corn, or other grains. Cats also need lots of water, but that does not have to come from their food. It is perfectly fine to always serve water in a separate dish next to dry food.
What Should I Consider Beyond Protein and Carbohydrate Content?
As you read deeper into the ingredients list of a specific food you are considering, remember that the most important ingredients are listed first. Once you move past protein and carbohydrate listings, you want to see items such as:
- A healthy fat source, typically in the form of chicken or animal fat, or from vegetable or plant-based oils
- Taurine, which is an amino acid that cats need in their diet, particularly for their vision and heart health
- Vitamins and minerals, often with an emphasis on vitamins C and E
What If My Vet Recommends a Specific Nutritional Approach?
This does not necessarily mean you have to avoid the best cheap cat food possibilities altogether. Instead, use your vet as an active guide by taking pictures of the ingredients list from any cat food you are considering. Share these with your vet to see which ones meet their requirements, and perhaps also what supplements you could add to the food. This extra effort could spare your budget as well as ensuring you can find the best cheap cat food available from your favorite stores or online.
How We Reviewed the Best Cheap Cat Food Options
Just as reading the nutrition labels on our own food is a great habit, learning how to read cat food ingredients intelligently tunes you in to the fact that the best food does not have to cost more. With this as our guide, we created a long list of best cheap cat food candidates. We then took into account expert opinions, consumer reviews, and more than a few staffers' kitty bowls to narrow down to just 10 candidates for the best cheap cat food overall.
We recommend this as a final test: Buy a single can or a small bag of the food you are considering. Then feed it to your cat. Does he or she eat it? If no remains the answer after one more try, move on to another brand. If yes, it is time to invest in the larger packages that are much cheaper by volume.
Overall Price Range
Every entry on our list of the best cheap cat foods comes in at under $20 for at least a 48-serving package. Many of the packages deliver significantly more servings than that. For one cat, this allows you to get more than a month's trial out of a single purchase. Many brands also have subscription options on Amazon, which will provide a significant discount if you commit to regular purchases.
What We Reviewed
SHEBA PERFECT PORTIONS Wet Cat Food
This wet cat food is packaged in convenient single-serving tear-off-the-top packets, and so there is no need to seal or refrigerate unused portions. The variety pack lets you try different flavors to see what your cat prefers. Each flavor's ingredients starts with real meat products, so you know you are getting protein first. The wet-pack nature of each version of this best cheap cat food selection makes the meal easy for your kitty to chew. All flavors are made without corn or artificial flavors or preservatives.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $$ for a 24-count of two-serving packets (48 servings total).
The full ingredients list is too long to present here, but we'll note that each flavor includes real meat products for protein, fish oils for moisture, and vitamins and minerals for added nutritional support.
Cat Chow Indoor
This dry cat food is formulated with a focus on adult indoor cats, which tend to be less active. This formulation helps with weight control and hairball management. Numerous cat owners remarked that even their fussy eaters preferred this cat food to others.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $ for a 16-lb. bag, which equates to about $0.80 per pound.
We found another lengthy list of ingredients on the Cat Chow package, but there was a clear focus on animal products for protein. This option does have cornmeal as an ingredient, but it also includes numerous vitamins and mineral additives.
Muse Natural Grain Free Adult Dry Cat Food
This dry cat food from Purina emphasizes natural ingredients with real meat as the protein ingredient and a grain-free (that means no corn, wheat, or soy) formulation. It is also made without artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
We found this product on Amazon for around $ for a 14 lb bag, which shakes out to about $ per pound.
Prominent components of this recipe include chicken, egg, and pumpkin, essential nutrient additives, and spinach accents.
Purina Fancy Feast Gourmet Naturals Cat Food
This wet cat food in cans provides 100% of the balanced nutrition your adult cat needs. It is made from white-meat chicken in chicken gravy, with no artificial colors, flavors, corn, soy, or preservatives.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $ for twelve 3-oz. cans. This is approximately 24 servings for an adult cat, so you will pay around $ per serving.
This Purina cat food contains primarily chicken and chicken by-products, with no corn or soy.
Nutro Max Indoor Cat Adult Dry Cat Food
This dry cat food formulated for indoor cats contains chicken but no chicken byproducts. It also packs Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for skin and fur health, taurine for vision and heart, and antioxidants to support your cat's immune system.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $ for a 6-lb. bag, which is $ per pound.
With this product, Nutro Max focuses on the use of real meat rather than meat byproducts. This food also contains additives carefully chosen for their specific health benefits, including heart health and immune system support.
Tiki Cat Grill
This low-carb, high-moisture, canned cat food is designed to provide complete nutrition for your cat at any age. The high moisture content is designed to boost your cat's water intake. Real tuna is the primary ingredient, delivering both sound nutrition and a taste most cats love.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $ for a 12-pack of 2-serving cans, so you will be paying about $ per standard serving.
This formulation lists tuna first, with pumpkin to provide needed fiber and water to boost your cat's daily, hydrating intake with each meal.
Beyond Grain Free Natural Recipe
This dry cat food emphasizes ocean whitefish as the primary ingredient in a grain-free formulation that specifically excludes corn, wheat, and soy products. This product is notable for its limited number of ingredients compared to many other products in this category.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $ for a 5-lb. bag, so you should expect to pay about $ per pound.
Whitefish and egg make up the bulk of this simple, nutritionally sound cat food formulation.
Meow Mix Pate Wet Cat Food
The classic Meow Mix brand is now available in a wet, canned format. This variety pack allows you to test flavors with your cat to see what he or she prefers. Each flavor is formulated from meat first for protein, including real beef, tuna, or chicken. Additionally, each flavor provides 100% of your cat's required nutrition.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $$ for a 24-pack (which amounts to 48 servings), so each serving will cost you about 35 cents.
Ingredients included in this Meow Mix food vary by flavor, but each flavor is made primarily from that flavor's named protein: beef, tuna, or chicken.
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Chicken is the namesake and primary ingredient in this dry cat food. The formulation uses a powdered cellulose fiber ingredient to help your cat's digestive system move hair and prevent hairballs.
We found this cat food on Amazon for around $$ for a 5-lb. bag.
Chicken comes a clear and strong first on this ingredient list, with powdered cellulose as a fiber element.
Weruva B.F.F. OMG – Best Feline Friend Oh My Gravy! Grain-Free Wet Cat Food Pouches
Individually sealed pouches for each serving make this cat food favorite easy to serve, with no re-packing or refrigerating required for an unused portion. This is also a flavor variety package, so you can test flavors with your cat before investing in a larger amount of any single flavor. Each formulation has a protein-first recipe with minimal processing used and no grains, artificial colors, or preservatives included.
This product can be found on Amazon for around $$ for a 12-pouch pack that delivers 24 standard servings. That equals about 58 cents per serving.
Your pet will be getting wild-caught tuna, beef, or chicken (depending on flavor) and no grain products at all.
This entire list is a variety pack. There is no certain, non-debatable top pick or lessor pick. The major decision you have to make is to choose between wet or dry foods. With our under-$20 trial guideline, and an emphasis on protein-first best cheap cat food picks, as well as a general stance against grain-heavy formulations, virtually any selection from the list is a good place to start and test what your cat likes.
Ultimately, of every cat food we researched and served up, we were delighted with the enthusiasm cats had for the Cat Chow indoor dry food and the all-natural formulations of the Weruva B.F.F. OMG wet versions. Additionally, we were impressed with the single-serving packet options provided by the Weruva B.F.F. OMG.
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