The 5 Best Cheap Cat Foods That Are Affordable and Healthy!

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If you’re worried that you can’t afford to feed your cat well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been there and I’m here to tell you that it is possible to feed your cat great food on a skinny budget.

At a Glance: Best Cheap Cat Food To Buy

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Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.

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Top Pick

WholeHearted All Life Stages Canned Cat Food
  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains nourishing chicken as the primary ingredient
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
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Runner Up

Simply Nourish Essentials Chicken Recipe Adult Pate
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • Contains highly-digestible protein
  • Contains a mix of chicken muscle meat and liver
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Budget Pick

Authority Chicken Entree Adult Pate Canned Cat Food
  • Good source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • Good Value for Money
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Best For Picky Eaters

Wellness Complete Health Pate Chicken Entree
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content
  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
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Best for Cats with Diabetes

Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast Canned Cat Food
  • Extremely low carbohydrate content
  • Free of carrageenan, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other potentially-harmful additives
  • Rich in nourishing animal protein
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Top Picks Explained

After years spent studying the cat food industry, identifying which brands are and aren’t worth the money and which economy brands are quietly turning out great products, I’ve identified a few affordable foods that are outperforming some of the priciest products you can buy.

Topping our list of the best cheap or affordable cat food is WholeHearted Chicken Recipe—Flaked in Gravy. For the price of a can of Fancy Feast, you get a simple, meat-based meal on par with those from spendy brands like Tiki Cat and Weruva.

Seriously. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to give your cat the best.

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How many times has someone advertised expensive food by telling you that it’s an investment in your cat’s health?

The implication is that by that paying top dollar now, you’ll save thousands in vet bills later. It’s true that buying low-quality cat food could lead to health conditions and expensive treatments, but it’s not true that all low-cost food is low-quality.

What Kind Of Food Is A Good Investment In Your Cat’s Health?

There’s no evidence that cheap ingredients directly translate to health problems. For example, you could easily feed your cat a food that’s loaded with by-products without ever seeing any health issues as a result.

Instead, the biggest dietary contributors to health problems are low moisture content and high carbohydrate content.

Look For Moisture-Rich Cat Food.

A dry diet, whether it costs four cents an ounce or eight dollars a day, will not provide the moisture your cat needs, increasing his chances of developing lower urinary tract disease. Urinary tract disease is painful and life-threatening.

It’s worth avoiding regardless of financial considerations, but let’s not ignore the fact that treating a urinary tract blockage could cost thousands of dollars.

Wet food is a little bit more expensive than dry food, but it’s worth the added cost. The cheapest wet food is better than the most expensive kibble.

Think Catkins—Steer Clear Of High-Carbohydrate Foods.

Though the causes of obesity and diabetes are convoluted and not completely understood, we do know that controlling carbohydrate content can help to reduce your cat’s chances of developing both. The value of controlling your cat’s carbohydrate intake is just another reason to opt for wet food instead of dry.

Also Read: The 10 Best Healthy Canned, Soft & Wet Cat Foods

A low-carbohydrate dry food is a rare thing and you’ll pay a pretty penny for it. Low-carbohydrate wet food, however, is the rule rather than the exception, particularly among the cheapest brands on the market.

If you want to save money while reducing your cat’s carbohydrate intake, buying wet food is the easiest and most economical way to do it.

Avoid Potentially-Harmful Additives.

Cheap cat food gets a lot of bad press because it tends to contain animal by-products, but these may not be these foods’ biggest flaw. Instead, their biggest shortcoming may be their tendency to contain potentially-harmful additives like artificial colors, dangerous preservatives, and carrageenan. Avoid these ingredients whenever you can.

Top 5 Best Affordable Cat Foods

The following are moisture-rich, low-carbohydrate foods that should support long-term health. They’re also some of the cheapest foods on the market. Win-win.

#1 Top Pick: WholeHearted All Life Stages Canned Cat Food – Grain Free Chicken Recipe Flaked in Gravy Review

WholeHearted All Life Stages Canned Cat Food - Grain Free Chicken Recipe

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Price: $0.18 per ounce

Some of the top-rated brands on the market follow the same recipe blueprint seen in this WholeHearted cat food recipe. Shredded chicken muscle meat sits in a thick broth. A mix of sunflower and tuna oil add essential fat, including key omega-3s responsible for supporting brain and eye development along with skin health.

The food’s lack of by-products, dyes, and artificial colors is rare at this price point. It’s relatively low in carbohydrates and delivers plenty of species-appropriate nutrition in each bite.

The food is on the watery side, so you may have to feed more of it each day. Feeding more food means paying more, but this food is still one of the cheapest you can buy. If your cat needs eight ounces each day, this WholeHearted recipe will cost about $1.44 per day.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Water Sufficient For Processing, Tapioca Starch, Sunflower Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Salt, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Xanthan Gum, Tuna Oil, Magnesium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Fructooligosaccharide, Taurine, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Vitamin E Supplement, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Sulfate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Glycine Complex, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source Of Vitamin K Activity).

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein10% min
Crude Fat2.0% min
Crude Fiber1.0% max
Moisture84% max
Ashn/a

What We Liked:

  • Low carbohydrate content
  • Contains nourishing chicken as the primary ingredient
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains tapioca starch

#2 Runner Up: Simply Nourish Essentials Chicken Recipe Adult Pate Canned Cat Food Review

Simply Nourish Essentials Chicken Recipe Adult Pate Canned Cat Food

Buy On Chewy

Price: $0.29 per ounce

This food is similar to the Authority recipe listed above. It features chicken, chicken broth, and chicken liver as primary ingredients.

Like so many foods that target a natural foods consumer, this recipe includes a few things it really doesn’t need, like ground flaxseed and cranberries. These ingredients may increase the food’s nutrient content, but they also drive up the carbohydrate percentage and aren’t exactly carnivore-appropriate.

Nevertheless, it’s a meat-based food that’s made without any of those artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives common in other foods at the same price point.

Ingredients

 Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Ground Flaxseed, Cranberries, Potassium Chloride, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Taurine, Dried Chicory Root, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Proteinate, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite), Choline Chloride, Salt.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein9% min
Crude Fat6.5% min
Crude Fiber1.0% max
Moisture78% max
Ash3.0% max

What We Liked:

  • Contains highly-digestible protein
  • Free of potentially-harmful additives
  • Contains a mix of chicken muscle meat and liver

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Has the highest carbohydrate content of the foods on this list

#3 Budget Pick: Authority Chicken Entree Adult Pate Canned Cat Food Review

Authority Chicken Entree Adult Pate Canned Cat Food

Buy On Chewy

Read Our Full Brand Review

Price: $0.16 per ounce

Authority is a PetSmart brand that claims to create high-quality, scientifically-formulated foods at an economy price. You can think of this as a slightly better alternative to Friskies.

Like many Friskies recipes, it contains a combination of chicken, ocean fish, and other protein sources. Despite being a meat-rich food, it contains a small amount of brewer’s rice. It’s made with menhaden fish oil, a good species-appropriate source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Though the food does contain brewer’s rice, it’s still low in carbohydrates. Overall, it’s not perfect, but still a respectable choice for your cat’s food bowl.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Ocean Fish, Brewers Rice, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Menhaden Fish Oil (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Taurine, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Brewers Dried Yeast, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Proteinate, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite).

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein10% min
Crude Fat6.5% min
Crude Fiber0.8% max
Moisture78% max
Ash2.5% max

What We Liked:

  • Low in carbohydrates
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Good source of omega-3 fatty acids

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains vaguely-named ocean fish
  • Contains brewers rice, a low-value by-product of rice processing

#4 Best for Picky Eaters: Wellness Complete Health Pate Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review

Wellness Complete Health Pate Chicken Entree Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Buy On Chewy Buy On Amazon

Read Our Full Brand Review

Price: $0.25 per ounce

This Wellness paté is made from a blend of chicken, chicken liver, and turkey meat. The recipe contains some ingredients that look good on the label but aren’t carnivore-appropriate additions to your cat’s bowl. Cranberries, carrots, and ground flaxseed add some nutrients and fiber, but they also increase the food’s carbohydrate content and aren’t a normal part of the feline diet.

Overall, this food is one of the cheapest on the market and, without any artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and an ingredient list centering around fresh muscle meat and organs, it’s a nourishing option for your cat.

Ingredients

Chicken, Chicken Liver, Turkey, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Cranberries, Ground Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Salt, Cassia Gum, Xanthan Gum, Choline Chloride, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Beta-Carotene, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein10.5% min
Crude Fat7.0% min
Crude Fiber1.0% max
Moisture78% max
Ash2.5% max

What We Liked:

  • Contains a mix of muscle meat and organs
  • Primarily made from nourishing animal ingredients
  • Relatively low carbohydrate content

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains some decorative plant ingredients

#5 Best for Cats with Diabetes: Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast Canned Cat Food Review

Fancy Feast Flaked Fish & Shrimp Feast Canned Cat Food

Buy On Chewy Buy On Amazon

Read Our Full Brand Review

Price: $0.30 per ounce

We recommend this food as one of the best options for cats with diabetes, which says a  lot about its carbohydrate content. It’s one of the lowest-carbohydrate foods on the market. Unlike a lot of other Fancy Feast foods, this flaked recipe doesn’t have any artificial colors or flavors.

It’s primarily made from ocean fish and shrimp. Ocean fish is a vague name assigned to a variety of fish species used in cat food. They’re often cheap fish not suitable for human consumption, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not nutritious ingredients in cat food.

The food is thickened with guar gum and fortified with synthetic vitamins and amino acids.

Ingredients

Ocean Fish, Fish Broth, Shrimp, Vegetable Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Vitamin K), Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement], Minerals [Ferric Pyrophosphate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide], Sodium Nitrite (To Promote Color Retention). 

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein17.5% min
Crude Fat2.0% min
Crude Fiber1.5% max
Moisture78% max
Ash3.0% max

What We Liked:

  • Extremely low carbohydrate content
  • Free of carrageenan, artificial colors, artificial flavors, and other potentially-harmful additives
  • Rich in nourishing animal protein

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Primarily made from vaguely-named ocean fish, which may include low-value fish parts

About the author


Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.

13 thoughts on “The 5 Best Cheap Cat Foods That Are Affordable and Healthy!

  1. AvatarNoel Colon Toledo

    I was once recommended by a vet to give my cat Royal Canin and I’ve tried to keep it like that afterwards for all of my cats, but it is expensive and hard to buy when the budget gets low. I see that you recommend wet food. Is it really worth the spending that extra money on the dry Royal Canin or would they be better off with a cheaper wet food like the ones mentioned here?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Noel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Based on my experience and research, I would say that yes—it’s better to feed your cats an economical wet food than a relatively expensive dry food like Royal Canin. The problem with almost every dry food, including Royal Canin, is that it has too much of something your cat doesn’t need and too little of something your cat does need.

      Those things are, respectively, carbohydrates and moisture.

      Dry food loads your cat with carbohydrates, which don’t play well with cats’ mildly insulin-resistant bodies. Eating dry food for a long time may increase a cat’s risk of diabetes. And while it’s spiking blood sugar, dry food is depriving your cat of moisture. For an animal with a limited thirst response and a body not well-made for drinking, a dry diet is a recipe for chronic mild dehydration.

      A decent budget-level wet food does neither of those things. It’s low in carbohydrates and, obviously, has plenty of water. Foods like the one on this list are the most convenient way to give your cat species-appropriate nutrition.

      As a side note, it’s okay to mix up your cats’ diets. If you can sneak in a few economical wet meals along with the Royal Canin kibble, you may be able to lower your expenses and improve your cats’ diets without making any radical changes.

      Hope this helps you to make a decision!

      Best,

      Mallory

      Reply
  2. Avatarpat

    One of my cats is a rescue with HIV. He is happy and doing well. But he had to have all his teeth removed. I need to give him food good for cats with HIV but since he has no teeth I would like to give him pate or as close to that as possible. Please recommend a low-cost food for Buster.

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your comment. There are quite a few decent low-cost paté-style foods on the market. In particular, WholeHearted has a wide selection of paté-style foods. These patés are comparable in quality and nutritional value to the shredded recipe on this list. I’m not sure how soft WholeHearted patés are, but you can always thin the food with a splash of warm water if it’s on the drier side. The Simply Nourish paté listed above is also a good option.

      Because cats don’t really chew their food anyway, eating without teeth isn’t usually a big problem. As long as Buster’s eating a high-moisture food that’s well-cooked, nutritionally balanced, and not too chunky, he should be comfortable and able to get his meals down easily.

      Hope this helps.

      Best,

      Mallory

      Reply
  3. AvatarRoberta

    Can you please explain/clarify the crude protein on the can label (i.e., 10%) with your YouTube video analysis of protein content (i.e.,50% protein)? How does that work?

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hi Roberta, that’s a great question. The larger values you’re seeing are calculated on a dry matter basis. That means that they represent the portion of the food made up of a given nutrient if it didn’t contain any water. So, for example, the guaranteed analysis of a typical wet cat food may say that the food is 10% protein, but that percentage takes water into consideration. If there was no water in the food, protein might make up 50% of the total. A nutritionally-identical dry food, however, would have 40% protein content on the label and, well, 50% protein on a dry matter basis. Taking water out of the equation just makes it easier to compare foods. Hope this explanation made sense!

      Reply
  4. AvatarEva O.

    I have 3 indoor cats and 2 outdoor cats. I am considering switching from Blue Buffalo Hairball to the Fancy Feast flaked. One of my indoor cats is a chunker and needs to lose weight. I think this may be more suitable for her since dry food is not ideal because of it’s carb content and lack of moisture. My question is how much to feed the cats since I have 5 and they eat twice a day. These cans are 5.5 ounces each. Is that supposed to be split between two cats? Whatever info you can give would be most appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Mallory CrustaMallory Crusta

      Hello Eva, thank you for your comment! I’d recommend using this calculator to find each of your cats’ calorie needs and then working with the calorie content printed on the foods’ labels to decide how much to give each of your cats. Your kitties will each have slightly different requirements, so I can’t say how many cans you’ll need for each of them.

      Reply
  5. AvatarQatgirl

    This is a great article, and a fantastic website! I’ve been gathering up all this catfood data on my own, and here you’ve gone and done it for me! AND taught me more about feline nutrition along the way!

    After spending $1,500 to save my Moca’s life, I know how important hydration, protein, and low-carb is for a cat. Moca developed crystals in his bladder, which his Vet said was due to the grain-y catfood. We had to make life-long changes to keep him healthy – and as a result, the rest of our Cat Crew has gotten healthier, shinier coats. (And reduced vomiting.)

    I don’t consider Moca “allergic” to grains, but SO. MANY. websites like to harp on “grain-free won’t help your cat with allergies.” No, but it will save my overweight kitty with the small bladder from becoming totally blocked. Even so-called “veterinarian” websites harp on how “grain-free is a fad.” Outrageous!!!

    But here you’ve explained it so much better than I was understanding it. And the part about the fat coming from animal sources, I wasn’t even on the lookout for that!

    So on behalf of Moca (and his brothers Caramel and Butterscotch and Venti)… thank you!

    Reply

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