Finding a cat food that is both affordable and healthy for your cat is more challenging than it may seem. Your cat’s palate, dietary needs, age, and what you can afford are often incompatible.
In this article, we’ll go over the things you need to look for and to avoid when finding an affordable cat food. We’ll also review five affordable cat foods so that you will have a few ideas about which brands are right for your cat.
Without further ado, let’s check out the features you need to look for in an affordable cat food.
What is the Best Affordable Cat Food?
- Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- Purina Beyond Grain-Free Ocean Whitefish & Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food
- Tiki Cat King Kamehameha Luau Variety Pack Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
- Wellness Complete Health Turkey Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
What To Look For In An Affordable Cat Food
Cat nutrition is very different from human nutrition in some surprising ways.
First, cats are not omnivores; they’re obligate carnivores. This means that while it’s possible to find vegetarian cat foods, cats are the healthiest when they are getting the majority of their nutrients from fresh meat.
Cats need meat because it contains protein. Meats give cats the protein that they need to maintain their muscles and the nutrients that they need to maintain their coats and organ function. Additionally, cats do best when their protein source is lean.
Though cats can digest fat perfectly fine, cat foods that are heavy in fats can potentially provide more energy than the cat can use, leading to gaining weight. The exact proportion of fats to proteins is a matter of your cat’s age and activity level.
A kitten will do much better with a diet that is a bit high in fat. No matter what, cats need protein—wet cat foods should have upwards of 12% protein by volume, and dry cat foods should have upwards of 30% protein by volume. Unfortunately, increasing the proportion of protein often entails increasing the cost of the food.
Cats are picky eaters and the source of their protein matters. Some cats prefer fish derived proteins like salmon, tuna, or whitefish, whereas others prefer poultry like chicken or turkey. Other cats prefer other animal meats like beef or crustaceans. You probably have a good idea about your cat’s flavor preference already, but there’s a bit more to the story.
Your cat may have a sensitive palate, but as the owner, you can choose to address their palate in two ways. The first way is to pick your cat’s food based on their strongest preference only, so if your cat likes fish, you will pick a food made from fish. The other way is to pick a cat food that contains multiple protein sources so that it’ll have at least some flavors your cat likes.
Going with the multiple protein option is usually cheaper, and for cats with eclectic palates it’ll work out just fine. The downside is that the multiple animal sourced cat foods also tend to be more highly processed, which reduces their nutrient content.
Water and Fiber Content
Aside from protein content and flavor, water and fiber content are relevant factors to look out for in your cat’s food. Dry cat foods usually have around 1.5% fiber by volume, which is enough to support your cat’s digestion. Wet cat foods have less fiber in comparison to dry cat foods and some have none at all.
Fiber is important in proportion to the water content of the food. Your cat needs fiber to bulk the things it can’t digest, but fiber content without enough water will lead to constipation. If a cat food has no fiber at all, you don’t need to worry about its fiber content, but you do need to worry about introducing another source of fiber into your cat’s diet.
Price is by definition important when seeking an affordable cat food. Wet cat food is always more expensive per meal than dry cat food. Likewise, organic and unprocessed cat foods are more expensive than heavily processed foods. Unfortunately, the less processed foods are typically better for your cat.
The exact definition of what is affordable is up to you but remember that if you buy cat food that doesn’t have enough nutrients, you’ll need to make up the difference with additional supplements, which can get expensive quickly.
Having a one-source solution is preferable for your convenience and probably also for your cat.
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What To Avoid In An Affordable Cat Food
Not all cat foods are created equal. Many cat foods are predominantly filler material, which can be hard for your cat to digest in addition to being unpalatable for them.
Grains And Fillers
Grains and fillers are troublesome for your cat because they cause gas and bloating. Fillers are carbohydrates, of which your cat needs very little.
Remember, cats are not supposed to eat any grains or fillers at all. In the wild, it’s unlikely that cats would ever eat stuff like root flour, berries, or common human-cultivated vegetables.
The cheaper a cat food is the more filler material that it will have. It can be hard to see how much filler by percentage because it won’t show on the cat food’s label. You’ll have to add the different percentages of content together and subtract them from 100 to see the percentage of filler.
It’s okay for your cat to be eating food with a low percentage of filler because they do need a few carbohydrates. If you find a cat food with a high percentage of filler, you should look elsewhere because it’s food that will make your cat have indigestion while also not providing enough nutrition.
Nutrient insufficiency is an issue with cheaper cat foods because they tend to be processed. When cat foods are processed—especially dry cat foods—several essential nutrients like taurine degrade. These nutrients have to be added back into the cat food after the primary processing step. Otherwise, your cat won’t be eating a nutrient complete food.
Many different nutrients are required for your cat to flourish, but the biggest ones to look out for are calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, omega fatty acids, B vitamins, and protein components that degrade during processing like taurine.
Cat foods rarely advertise when they are not nutrient complete, so be sure to check the label closely.
Aside from nutrient insufficiency in cheaper cat foods, tracing the origin of the ingredients in your cat’s food is critical. Cat food ingredient lists don’t follow the same standards as human ingredient lists, which means that manufacturers often lump processed combinations of ingredients into a single ingredient.
The biggest serial offending term that you’ll encounter are meals. Chicken meal, fish meal, beef meal, and vegetable meals are heavily processed medleys that are typically from the least desirable parts of their source. But you can’t tell either way because the manufacturer won’t tell you.
There’s a good chance that cat foods containing these meals are innocuous, but it’s impossible to tell. Rather than advertising certain ingredients as a meal, responsible cat food manufacturers list each of the parts that go into the protein source.
For instance, instead of listing chicken meal, they would list chicken liver, chicken feet, chicken thighs, and chicken fat. For fish, the ingredient list will typically describe de-boned fish meat and potentially a couple of fish organ meats.
Even if you balk at these ingredients and wouldn’t eat them yourself, remember that there is a huge amount of value in being able to know where your cat’s food came from originally—and your cat won’t be so picky when it comes to eating a chicken’s foot versus its breast or wing.
Affordable Cat Food Reviews : Our Top Choices for Cheap Cat Food
Quick Look : Best Cheap Cat Food in 2021
In this section, we’ll introduce you to five contenders for greatness on the market of affordable cat foods.
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Check Price
The Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a standard dry cat food that has a good chance of being palatable for your cat thanks to its many different ingredients. This cat food is healthy for most cats because of its good proportion of fiber, high protein content, and almost entirely traceable ingredients list.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this cat food, however. It is a bit pricey for affordable cat food, but it won’t break the bank. Additionally, despite its ingredient list, there’s no information about what goes into the chicken meal or ocean fish meal that make up the majority of the protein content in the food.
Finally, the Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain cat food has supplemental vitamin D. While vitamin D is an essential nutrient for your cat, eating too much vitamin D without eating enough calcium and magnesium at the same time can cause osteoporosis. Vitamin D content shouldn’t be an issue for most cats, but for sickly cats or young kittens with a lot of growing to do, it’s relevant.
- High protein content
- Many flavors
- Good fiber content
- Contains probiotics
- Package has feeding guide table
- Full ingredients list
- Probiotics may not be helpful for your cat
- Uses chicken meal of undefined composition
- Uses ocean fish meal of undefined composition
- Vitamin D supplement may be detrimental to bone health in rare instances
- Lots of sugars
American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Check Price
The American Journey Salmon Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is affordable and has the nutrient composition necessary for growing cats or adult cats. The American Journey Salmon cat food is made predominantly from salmon, which means that fish loving cats won’t be able to get enough of it.
This cat food doesn’t have any major issues, though it’d be better if there were more information about the salmon meal and fish meal ingredients. Other than that, if your cat doesn’t like fish, you should look for another type of food.
- Balanced omega fatty acid components
- Correct ratio of protein to fat
- Ingredients are mostly traceable to animal or plant source
- Contains difficult to digest tapioca starch
- Contains fish meal
- Contains many starches and sugars like pumpkin
Purina Beyond Grain-Free Ocean Whitefish & Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food Check Price
The Purina Beyond Grain-Free Ocean Whitefish & Egg Recipe Dry Cat Food is eminently affordable and produced by one of the biggest names in the cat food industry. It’s tough to beat Purina’s price point, and there’s no doubt that the majority of this food’s protein comes from a genuine animal source: ocean whitefish.
The Purina food does have some nebulous origin chicken meal, which could be of suspect quality. Other than that, there are a few odd inclusions in the ingredients list. Specifically, dried yeast and cassava root flour may not be the best choices for your cat to eat. Flour is starch, as is dried yeast.
Your cat can probably be healthy at all stages of its life with the Purina cat food. There’s also a decent chance of your cat enjoying the food if it’s a picky eater because of the combined chicken and fish flavor that the food offers.
- Ocean whitefish derived protein
- Good for all ages of cat
- Contains extra fiber
- Contains yeast and cassava root flour
- May contain other mediocre fillers
- Package marketing claims it contains no poultry meal, but ingredients list shows poultry meal
Tiki Cat King Kamehameha Luau Variety Pack Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Check Price
The Tiki Cat King Kamehameha Luau Variety Pack Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is wet cat food, unlike the others we’ve discussed so far. This means that it’s a bit more expensive per meal, but is less processed which may provide nutrients to your cat more effectively.
The Tiki Cat food line comes with half a dozen different flavor options, each of which has significantly different ingredients. This means that if you decide the Tiki Cat line of cat food is of suitable quality and price, you can experiment with the different flavors until you find one that your cat likes the most—in theory.
If your cat prefers poultry or land animal protein, the Tiki Cat food isn’t for them. All of the Tiki Cat food options are based on fish protein, though the fish or crustaceans used differ. If your cat loves fish but tends to get tired of the same old food, the Tiki Cat line could be an excellent way to introduce some variety for periods of time.
As far as the food’s nutrition, the protein content can vary from 11% to 17% depending on the flavor. 11% might be a bit low for a very active cat. All of the Tiki Cat foods have transparent ingredients lists, which makes it stand out.
- Many fish flavors
- Comprehensive ingredient list
- All flavors have sufficient taurine content
- Hypoallergenic ingredients
- No fiber
- Only fish flavors
- Many preservatives
- Protein content may be low for some cats
Wellness Complete Health Turkey Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Check Price
The Wellness Complete Health Turkey Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is a pricey cat food that’s short on protein and heavy on filler ingredients like ground flaxseed and carrots. Despite its low nutritional content, picky poultry eaters will almost certainly love the Wellness Complete Health Turkey Formula cat food.
With ingredients like chunk turkey, chicken liver, and chicken broth, this cat food will attract your cat from a mile away. Unlike other cat foods, this cat food also has additional iron content, which might be helpful for some sickly cats.
This cat food isn’t very nutrient dense, clocking in at 103 calories per 3 ounce can. Low nutrient density is a blessing for cats who are trying to lose weight because it’ll make them feel full without packing on more weight. For growing cats, it probably isn’t enough nutrition, however.
The final major strength of this cat food is that its ingredients list is unambiguous; every ingredient is minimally processed and easily traceable to its origin animal or plant. There’s no chicken meal or anything similar.
- Excellent for cats who need to lose weight
- No heavily processed ingredients
- Great poultry flavor
- Contains enough fiber for its protein content
- Contains added iron
- Not enough nutrition for growing cats or highly active cats
- At the high end of affordable prices
That ties up our roundup of affordable cat foods on the market. If the price is your primary metric, opt for the Purina cat food. If your cat is a picky eater, try out the American Journey Wild Rocky Mountain food because of its dual protein types.
Likewise, if your cat is a big fish fan, the Tiki Cat food has many options that your cat will love. Always remember to gradually phase in new foods when you’re switching your cat food and listen to your cat’s preferences to make sure that they don’t get sick.