The Best Cheap Cat Foods
The Puurrrfect Food at the Right Price
These days, demand for premium, specialized, and even organic pet foods has grown as pet lovers place more value on what they perceive to be most “healthy” for their furry family members. But conscientious cat owners really don’t need to spend top dollar for nutritious food that will keep their feline friends in top form. To identify the best budget cat food, Cheapism.com pored through expert recommendations and nutritional advice to better understand what to look for when considering different cat foods and recipe components. We also paid close attention to feedback from users to see how individual brands actually fared at feeding time. We landed on seven top picks — including wet cat foods and dry cat foods, grain-free and natural options, as well as a recipe for senior cats — that earn enthusiastic endorsements from both humans and cats alike. Most of our choices for best cheap cat food won’t cost consumers more than 30 cents an ounce, and even our pricier picks won’t take too large of a bite out of more indulgent owners’ wallets. As a bonus, we’ve also recommended an affordable cat food catering to cats with sensitive stomachs and a raw cat food with ingredients so prime users say the health benefits are worth the comparatively hefty price.
Our picks (and estimated costs) are representative of the wide assortment of flavors and formulas each brand offers. Cost per ounce for dry food is based on smallest bag size available. Prices may vary.
Our Top Pick
- Relatively inexpensive and easy to find in supermarkets.
- High in protein, with only a few meat by-products.
- Grain free and contains no wheat gluten, which some cats cannot digest easily.
- Contains artificial colors and flavors.
- A handful of owners report their pets suffered gas or stomach issues after eating.
- Not available in larger sizes, so costs can add up in multicat households.
Takeaway: The fact that some pet owners refer to Fancy Feast Classic as “kitty crack” should tell you something about how tasty it is to most cats (it’s a top seller at Amazon and Chewy.com, too). Unlike some other cheap canned cat foods you’ll find in the supermarket, despite its low price Fancy Feast contains protein from quality sources; meat by-products are used, but they’re lower down on the list of ingredients. There are a good range of flavors available in this classic paté mix, but some may want to consider other selections in Fancy Feast’s original “gourmet” line for cats that may be more finicky about texture — the options for gravy lovers are extremely popular, and there are also grilled, sliced, and shredded varieties. There’s even a broth with fish for cats who have trouble eating solid food. Just keep in mind that other recipes may contain ingredients like wheat gluten, corn starch, or potato starch which you won’t find in this paté. In recent years, Fancy Feast has branched out into limited-ingredient and special-diet cat foods, as well as dry cat foods that earn equally positive reviews from consumers.
- Contains both crunchy and soft morsels that make it easy for cats to chew.
- Protein source is the first ingredient.
- Appeals to just about every feline, according to product reviews.
- Very affordable, particularly in large-sized bags; good for households with multiple cats.
- Contains more carbohydrates than many cat foods.
- Relatively low in moisture, fat, and fiber.
- Larger kibble might be hard for older cats to manage.
Takeaway: Like Fancy Feast (another Purina product), pet owner feedback suggests that nearly any feline — no matter how finicky — will come running for Purina One Tender Selects dry cat food. In fact, upbeat reviewers with more than one furry mouth to feed say Purina One is the only brand of dry food that all of their cats will eat; and even a few dogs have been known to sneak a taste. This hard-and-soft-bite kibble comes in two flavors, chicken and salmon, with the respective proteins prominent in ingredient lists, and it’s relatively nutrient-rich compared to many cheap cat foods. While purists may find the brand’s claim to contain “0% fillers” questionable — ingredients like rice flour, wheat flour, corn and corn gluten meal, as well as meat by-product meal may raise a few eyebrows — we read scores of reviews from owners who swear this incredibly affordable cat food has dramatically improved their pets’ healths and kept cats thriving. The mix of textures is a real plus, and the presence of tender nuggets means that cat owners do not have to mix this dry cat food with water. Just keep in mind that overall moisture content is low with all dry foods, so cats will still need to stay properly hydrated.
- Low in carbohydrates and very high in moisture and protein.
- Good for cats with health issues like urinary tract infections, diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Several flavor combinations complement primary proteins (tuna or chicken) and add variety.
- Uses wild-caught tuna and contains no GMOs or glutens.
- Recipes contain more fish than some owners would prefer their cats to consume.
- Texture may be too smooth for some cats’ liking, according to reviews.
- Contains less protein than other Tiki Cat wet foods.
Takeaway: Tiki Cat earns praise from experts for its limited-ingredient recipes that give cats healthy, calorie-dense nutrition without fillers. The most budget-friendly wet cat food the brand offers, this Aloha Friends blend contains pumpkin for fiber, sunflower oil for fat and omegas, and plenty of broth for moisture — and all of the flavors are grain free and gluten free. If you’re looking for even higher protein percentages than are found in these recipes, you might also consider the brand’s Grill and Luau canned cat food lines. Although they cost slightly more (and cans are smaller at 2.8 ounces), user ratings are even higher for these varieties. In fact, Tiki Cat’s Succulent Chicken flavor from the Luau line is ranked fourth by CatFoodDB out of more than 1500 canned cat food products considered, and other top contenders are decidedly more expensive than this affordable natural cat food brand. Since most Tiki Cat formulas are fish-heavy in their ingredients, which may raise allergy issues or mercury concerns, many reviewers say it is good now and then but not for everyday feeding. Tiki Cats Aloha Friends cat food is available in both cans and convenient pouches.
- Carbohydrates come from sweet potatoes and legumes, not grains.
- Contains both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in healthy proportion.
- High in protein.
- Owners say it’s a convenient alternative to wet cat food that also serves well when fed as treats.
- First ingredient in Rocky Mountain blend is chicken meal, which is inferior to chicken meat as a protein source.
- Some owners question the need for fruits in this cat food’s mix.
Takeaway: Taste of the Wild Grain Free contains more protein (42% for the Rocky Mountain Blend) than most cheaper dry cat foods. Sweet potatoes add moisture, fiber, and nutrients that some vets say are good for a cat’s digestive health. This natural dry food also contains some unexpected ingredients, including blueberries and tomatoes, both for the vitamins and minerals they provide and their antioxidant value, although a handful of reviewers express skepticism at this claim. Still, we read a number of positive comments from owners who say switching to Taste of the Wild alleviated all kinds of health issues plaguing their cats, from diabetes to shedding to gastrointestinal problems. Taste of the Wild is available in three dry recipes — Canyon River (trout and salmon), Lowland Creek (quail and duck), and Rocky Mountain Blend (venison and salmon) — and users say cats like the flavors. If wet cat food is more to your pet’s taste than dry food, the Canyon River and Rocky Mountain blends are also available in canned versions.
- Brand is a top choice of veterinarians to feed their own pets, according to surveys.
- No artificial ingredients or preservatives.
- Lower-phosphorus formula is good for cats with kidney problems.
- Contains high-quality proteins for less renal stress.
- Users claim “Youthful Vitality” blends have, indeed, boosted energy levels in senior cats.
- Most recipes contain wheat or corn gluten.
- Some cats love the gravy but not the chunks in chunkier varieties, and some balk at the paté texture of the entrée recipes.
- A few owners say it doesn’t seem to fill up their pets.
Takeaway: Hill’s Science Diet pet food is a ubiquitous mainstay at many vets’ offices, and the brand is known for its wide variety of special formulas meant to address specific health issues. For cats, there are recipes geared towards everything from urinary tract health to hairball control and skin sensitivity, just to name a few. The brand’s Adult 7+ canned food recipes are customized to suit senior cats and their unique nutritional needs, starting with relatively high moisture contents as well as softer textures that make them easier to chew. Low sodium and lower phosphorus levels (just under 0.7%) also make them more healthy for cats that may have renal health struggles or heart disease. We did read a fair number of comments from reviewers who say their cats turned their noses up at this food, and some say that the added water makes it less filling, but on the whole owners praise Hill’s Science Diet for keeping their mature cats both satisfied and thriving. These Adult 7+ mixes are available in 10 canned varieties as well as five dry food recipes. There are also blends for senior cats aged 11 and above.
- Four of the first ingredients are animal-sourced proteins.
- Grain free; carbs from fruits and vegetables give it a low glycemic index.
- No corn, wheat, soy, or potato.
- Contains probiotics for intestinal health.
- Formulated for all life stages, from kitten to senior, making it good for multicat households.
- Some cat owners dislike the small kibble size.
- Larger bags can’t be resealed, which can result in staleness and some product waste.
Takeaway: Nulo, another cat food reviewer favorite, is very high in protein, with up to 84% of it coming from animals. Pet owners like that it can feed cats of many ages, and the low-glycemic, low-carb formulas help to guard against excess weight gain and feline diabetes. Even better, users say most cats seem to love it, too, and it fills them up in a good way — several claim their cats eat this food more slowly and seem satisfied longer. The food is also credited with reducing stomach troubles and vomiting and producing soft and shiny coats. The tiny kibble size is good for kittens and older cats with fewer teeth, but it is the one low spot in otherwise stellar reviews. A few owners complain that there is not enough crunch to keep feline teeth healthy, and others say cats may be prone to swallowing it whole, which can cause choking or other issues. Still, the majority of Nulo purchasers say they’re happy with this brand and consider it a good value despite the slightly higher price tag. Nulo Freestyle Cat and Kitten dry cat food is available in two varieties: chicken and cod and turkey and duck. The line also includes specialized formulas for senior cats and indoor cats. Nulo’s MedalSeries cat foods, carried exclusively by PetSmart, add limited-ingredient recipes to the mix.
- High in meat content/protein, low in carbohydrates.
- Quality meats include cage-free duck and chicken, wild-caught salmon, and grass-fed rabbit, venison, and lamb; USA-raised beef.
- Grain-free; carbohydrates come from fruit and vegetables as well as flaxseed (a good source of fiber).
- No corn, wheat, soy, or potato.
- High in moisture.
- Many varieties contain egg, which might be an allergen for some cats.
- Paté texture doesn’t appeal to every cat.
- Some users complain of suspected changes in formula or quality control issues.
Takeaway: While this certainly can’t be called cheap cat food, the top-shelf ingredients in this line of Instinct canned cat food make it a reviewer favorite and a best buy in many books. CatFoodDB gives the majority of wet recipes in this line a rating of 9 out of 10 for composition and nutritional value, while All About Cats calls it “a promising choice for cats with food sensitivities and allergies.” Pet owners claim that this food has alleviated all sorts of kitty ailments, including many gastrointestinal problems, diabetes, weight problems, skin and coat issues, and various allergies. They also say that transitioning from other pet foods to this one took less time than expected. On the downside, some cats don’t like the mushy texture, and a few reviewers complain about the prevalence of pork in the rabbit flavor. Instinct Original Grain-Free comes in seven canned cat food varieties and includes larger, 5.5-ounce cans for households with multiple cats. The brand also carries limited-ingredient and high-protein wet cat food options, dry food, pouches, and several flavors of raw food.
- Brand is frequently recommended by veterinarians; known for its commitment to research and test trials.
- Healthy ingredient balance between protein, carbs, and fats.
- Supports healthy weight regulation.
- Easy to digest for cats prone to vomiting or bowel issues, owners confirm.
- Good for older cats with dental issues, according to reviewers.
- Gluten and corn starch are among the ingredients.
- Contains pork products and by-products, including plasma, which some may find objectionable.
Takeaway: If you have a cat that is prone to vomiting after meals or whose stool is loose and smelly, your pet may have a digestive issue like inflammatory bowel disease. Reviewers say Royal Canin Digest Sensitive canned cat food helps their pets keep down food, making it a good budget alternative to more expensive, special-diet prescription cat foods (which Royal Canin also makes). The Digest Sensitive Thin Slices with Gravy formula is easy for older cats with bad teeth to chew, and owners claim that even cats who turn up their noses at anything heath seem to like this food. For pickier felines who might find the texture of the slices a bit gummy, Royal Canin sensitive digestion recipes also come in a gravy-free loaf version, chunks-in-gravy pouches, and as dry kibble.
- Meant to replicate “primal diet” cats would eat in the wild.
- Made from 98% animal protein; cage-free poultry, farm-raised rabbit, and wild-caught fish.
- Vitamins and minerals from organic fruits and vegetables.
- No grains or glutens; no potatoes, peas, or lentils.
- Simple to rehydrate by adding water, or can be eaten straight from the package.
- Easy to digest for cats with sensitive stomachs or bowel issues, according to owners.
- Much more expensive than many other cat foods.
- The fish flavor is extremely smelly, according to consumer feedback.
- Some of the nuggets may be too big for some cats to chew.
Takeaway: Stella and Chewy cat food is made primarily from raw animal protein, with ingredients like pumpkin seeds for additional protein, and fat and kelp for nutrients and prebiotic properties. This freeze-dried cat food can be served dry or rehydrated. Cats seem to adore it, according to consumer reviews, and users like being able to adjust the amount of water to the consistency that their cats prefer. Some people use the dried nuggets (which are still soft enough to chew) as a snack for their cats, or as a treat or a pill pocket; and others say they add it as a supplement to either wet or dry food. While many cat owners attribute more sparing use of this cat food to the far-from-budget price, the majority say the extra expense is worth it — particularly those who’d already run up vet bills trying to cure their cats of ailments that switching to this raw food seems to have alleviated. Many say also that the convenience and comparative low cost compared to fresh raw food (and even some other brands) makes Stella and Chewy’s freeze-dried cat food an attractive option. These “dinner morsels” come in six flavors: chicken, duck, turkey, salmon and chicken, salmon and cod, and rabbit.