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The 8 Best Cheap Cat Foods: Your Budget-Friendly Review

Anant Shastri
By Anant Shastri
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What are the Best Inexpensive Cat Foods?

Smalls Cat Food
  • Smalls Human-Grade Fresh is protein-rich and picky cat-friendly. 
  • Our ingredients are USDA-certified, humanely-harvested, and sustainably-sourced—no BPAs, preservatives, fillers, or mystery-ingredients, ever.Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw retains the nutritional benefits of a raw, high-protein diet.

What Should I Look for in Cheap Quality Cat Food?

There are four crucial ingredients that need to be in every cheap cat food. These include:

  • Animal Protein. The protein in your cat’s food should be from a recognizable source. These can include beef, venison, fish, or poultry. If the first ingredient simply states ‘meat’ or ‘meat by-product,’ cat owners should look for some other brand that contains chicken, turkey, lamb, or salmon.
  • Taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid that should be a crucial ingredient in your cat’s meals. It helps to improve vision, boost immunity, helps with digestion, and helps maintain normal pregnancy and fetal development.
  • Micronutrients. Depending on your cat’s needs, the food needs to contain supplements that like probiotics, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, carbs, animal protein, fish oil, and enzymes.
  • Water. Finally, your cat’s pet food should contain an adequate amount of water to ensure hydration. This helps control hairballs in your furry friend and ensures easy cat litter cleaning. Water in meals is also great in senior cats who tend to drink less water in general. Moisture-free dry cat food is generally not recommended.

What Ingredients Should Not be in Cheap Cat Food?

While most brands offer cat foods made using beneficial ingredients, there are some ingredients that should be avoided in general. Avoid cheap cat food formulas with these ingredients: 

  • Meat By-Products. Any meat by-products, chicken, or bone meal are not recommended by the FDA despite being a prominent source of protein and taurine.
  • Artificial Preservatives and Additives. BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate are some chemical additives that could have potential health risks to cats.
  • Fillers. Carbohydrate fillers, such as cornmeal, are not recommended for older cats and cats with diabetes. However, if the cheap cat food contains less than 50 percent fillers, it is considered safe.

The Best Cheap Cat Foods Reviewed

There are many affordable cat and kitten foods. To help owners find the best match for their pets, we have reviewed some of the best-selling cheap cat food formulas on the market.

Smalls Cat Food

Smalls Cat Food

Get it on Smalls

Summary: Smalls Cat Food is a human-grade cat food brands that delivers the meals right to the doorstep. It offers three recipe flavors (Bird, Other Bird & Cow) and three texture options (smooth, ground, and pulled). The recipes are complete, nutritionally balanced, AAFCO-approved, and suitable for cats of all ages. 

Type: Fresh & Freeze-dried cat food

Best for: Cats of all life stages

Price: $1.25-1.93/meal

Pros

  • Homemade, human-grade cat food
  • Protein-rich and nutrient-dense formulas
  • Three flavor and three texture options
  • Affordable price tag and discounts
  • No grains, fillers, or artificial additives

Cons

  • No significant cons

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken Recipe: Contains chicken, chicken liver, green beans, peas, chicken hearts, and kale. Plus, it is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and taurine.
  • Other Birds Recipe: Contains turkey thigh, turkey liver, green beans, peas, and kale. Plus, it is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and taurine.
  • Cow Recipe: Contains beef, beef liver, green beans, and spinach. Plus, it is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and taurine.

Review: Cat owners are noticing an improvement in their cats’ physical health and mood after using Smalls. They are also happy with the convenience of the brand and affordable subscription plans.

The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken and Whitefish Clusters

The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken and Whitefish Clusters

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Summary: A highly-affordable cat food, these grain-free clusters from The Honest Kitchen were developed in collaboration with a veterinary nutritionist utilizing a combination of natural foods, cage-free chicken, whitefish, and a probiotic boost to aid in digestion and bowel movement in cats.THK’s Grain-Free Chicken and Whitefish Clusters recipe is produced with premium components to support the general health and wellbeing of your cat. This mixture contains cranberries, probiotics, and flax seeds to help your cat’s urinary health, digestion, and maintenance of a healthy coat.

Type: Dry cat formula

Best for: Cats of all life stages

Price: $5.99/pound

Pros

  • All-natural, Non-GMO ingredients
  • Has higher protein and fiber content
  • No preservatives, artificial colors, fillers, and meat meals
  • Human-grade quality
  • Boosts energy levels and improves digestion

Cons

  • Rich in carbohydrates and calories
  • High fat content

Ingredient Analysis

  • Whitefish: Its essential fatty acids can aid in alleviating the symptoms of skin irritation and damage in cats.
  • Fenugreek Seed: Among other advantages, these seeds’ high antioxidant content may aid with the symptoms of feline asthma.
  • Taurine: This is essential for good immune function, appropriate gestation and fetal development, normal vision, digestion, and heart muscle function in cats. Taurine is a necessary amino acid for cats.
  • Dried Organic Kelp: This is a natural source of iodine and trace minerals, and it supports thyroid in cats, helps them manage their weight, strengthens their immune systems, and helps them keep good skin and coat.

Review: Satisfied customers who purchased The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken and Whitefish Clusters reported that their cats’ overall health and energy levels improved. Furthermore, the digestive, skin, and coat health of their cats have remained outstanding.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Premium Natural Dry Cat Food

Rachael Ray Nutrish Premium Natural Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food is made with simple and natural ingredients. Additionally, it also contains added vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that enhance your cat’s health. The food includes real salmon as the #1 ingredient in addition to brown rice, vegetables, and essential amino acids. This provides the required nutrition to your kitten and cat and promotes their growth. Additionally, it contains no added poultry by-product meal or fillers.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Kitten and Adult cats

Price: $1.7/pound

Pros

  • Made with real salmon
  • Includes beet pulp, a wholesome fiber
  • Contains brown rice, vegetables, and amino acids
  • No added poultry by-product
  • Easy to chew and swallow

Cons

  • Might cause digestive troubles in some cats
  • The flavor might not suit some cats

Ingredient Analysis

  • Salmon: This is the primary source of protein and also the main ingredient of this food. It helps build muscles and improves your cat’s immunity.
  • Fish Meal: This is a replacement for whole meat and therefore adds flavor to the meal.
  • Corn Gluten Meal: This is a great flavoring agent for your cat’s food, but it is not considered a healthy ingredient by many vets.
  • Brown Rice: This is a great source of antioxidants and fiber, which improves digestion. It also contains carbohydrates that provide energy to your cat.

Review: This cheap cat food is easy to chew and swallow. It offers a crisp, crunchy texture and wholesome flavor that is loved by most cats. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This dry cat food is available in a range of flavors and pack sizes, ensuring there will be the right fit for your cat. It is made with real salmon to cater to your cat’s natural instincts. This also helps your cat build and maintain muscle mass which makes them a lot more active and healthy. Additionally, it is also packed with omega-3 & omega-6 fatty acids that support skin and coat health. The food also contains a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which further improve your cat’s health.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Kitten and Adult

Price: $2.8/pound

Pros

  • High protein cat food
  • Helps build and maintain lean muscle mass
  • Contains healthy carbohydrates
  • Supports skin and coat health
  • Supports immune system health

Cons

  • Contains peas which might not suit some cats
  • The packaging could be better

Ingredient Analysis

  • Deboned Salmon: This is a great source of protein and helps build more muscles that promote an active lifestyle.
  • Chicken Meal: This is also a prominent protein source and a great flavoring agent that keeps your cat craving more food.
  • Pea Protein: This is another great source of protein and is used to add volume to the kibble to make it more filling.

Review: This cheap cat food is great for building immunity and contains no chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food Seafood Sensations

Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food Seafood Sensations

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Summary: This cat food offers an ocean flavor that cats love. It is also accented by a seaweed flavor for that added punch. It contains vitamins and minerals in each serving, ensuring your kitty gets a balanced diet. Additionally, the cat food is available in a crunchy texture that will keep your cat coming back for more. Just pour a serving into your cat’s bowl and watch them run towards you for every meal.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Kitten and Adult

Price: $1/pound

Pros

  • Offers a tempting texture
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition
  • Made with delicious seafood texture
  • Essential vitamins and minerals in every serving
  • Contains ocean fish, salmon, tuna, and crab flavors

Cons

  • Contains poultry by-product meal
  • Contains added colors

Ingredient Analysis

  • Corn Gluten Meal: This is a great flavoring agent for your cat’s food, but it is not considered a healthy ingredient by many vets.
  • Bone Meal: This is used to add flavor and density to the cat food. It also is a source of protein but is generally not considered very healthy.
  • Poultry By-Product Meal: This is a protein source but is not considered very healthy for cats in the long run.
  • Yellow 6: This is an added dye for coloring the cat food. It has been linked to cancer-causing properties.

Review: This cheap cat food contains various essential nutrients and supplements that improve your cat’s health. The flavors and textures are also loved by most cats. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food

Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food

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Summary: Available in a variety of sizes, this dry cat food offers a range of flavors, including Chicken, Salmon, Turkey & Ocean Fish blended together in one mix. It is available in the form of pellets and offers balanced nutrition to your cat, making it a great addition to their diet. It is also a great source of essential vitamins and minerals that boost your cat’s immunity and give them a shiny coat. The food is made in the USA.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Kittens and Adult cats

Price: $1/pound

Pros

  • Complete and balanced nutrition
  • Provides all essential vitamins and minerals
  • High-quality protein helps support strong, healthy muscles
  • Made in the USA
  • Fresh ingredients used to manufacture this product

Cons

  • Contains grains that might not suit some cats
  • Contains meat by-products that are not considered healthy

Ingredient Analysis

  • Whole Ground Corn: While corn is considered healthy for cats, in the long run, it might not be very favorable for felines.
  • Soybean Meal: This is a filler and a flavoring agent that is used to increase the density of the cat food to make it more filling.
  • Chicken By-Product Meal: This is an unhealthy replacement for meat in order to provide protein. It is not recommended by most vets.

Review: This cheap cat food contains high levels of proteins. However, it contains some ingredients that are not considered very healthy for cats. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Purina Fancy Feast Grain-Free Pate Wet Cat Food

Purina Fancy Feast Grain-Free Pate Wet Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food offers savory flavors that are adored by most cats. Additionally, it is available in a variety pack which will keep your cat more interested during every mealtime. It is made with a smooth, tender texture that your cat will be unable to resist and contains a formula blend that is free from grains. In addition to a great taste, your cat will also get the essential vitamins and minerals in every serving that are needed for improved health.

Type: Wet cat food

Best for: Adults

Price: $1/can

Pros

  • Made with turkey, chicken, and beef
  • Available in a variety pack
  • 100% complete and balanced nutrition
  • Pleasing pate texture
  • Offers large portion sizes

Cons

  • Contains meat by-products
  • Contains artificial flavors

Ingredient Analysis

  • Meat Broth: This is a great way to introduce flavor to the cat’s meal. It is also a great source of nutrients and forms the base of the meal.
  • Liver: This is a great source of iron and improves your cat’s immunity overall.
  • Fish: This not only adds flavor to the meal, but it is also a great source of antioxidants and offers anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Meat By-Products: This is used to increase the density of the meal and is not considered very healthy for cats by most vets.

Review: This is a protein-rich formula that is sure to be a hit with most cats. It is manufactured in the USA. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.7 out of 5 stars.

IAMS Proactive Health Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food

IAMS Proactive Health Adult Indoor Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This cat food offers Weight and Hairball care for your indoor adult cat. The brand offers nutrient-rich cat food that builds strong muscles and provides your cat with healthy energy to play all day. It also contains L-carnitine, which burns fat and maintains a healthy metabolism. Thanks to a fiber-rich formula, this cat food also reduces hairballs before they start. It contains a superior flavor that most cats will find inviting.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adults; Hairball and weight control

Price: $1.5/pound

Pros

  • Contains chicken as 1st ingredient
  • Helps burn fat and maintain a healthy metabolism
  • Offers diet and basic hairball care regimen
  • Contains optimal Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acid ratio
  • Contains a strong fiber blend with beet pulp

Cons

  • Contains by-products that are considered harmful
  • The flavor might not suit some cats

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken By-Product Meal: This is used to increase the density of the meal and is not considered very healthy for cats by most vets.
  • Corn Grits: While corn is considered healthy for cats, in the long run, it might not be very favorable for felines.
  • Dried Plain Beet Pulp: This is a great source of fiber and antioxidants. It also helps to increase the blood count in cats.

Review: This cheap cat food provides soft, shiny, and healthy coats to your cat. It also contains less fat content to prevent obesity. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Natural Adult Dry Cat Food

tasteful-adult-indoor

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Summary: This cat food is made using the finest natural ingredients that are enhanced with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. It uses real meat as the primary ingredient and supplements using grains, veggies, and fruit, plus the brand’s exclusive, antioxidant-rich LifeSource Bits. It is also great if your cat has a sensitive stomach and gets allergic reactions to various ingredients. It is manufactured in the USA.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adults; Hairball and weight control

Price: $2.5/pound

Pros

  • Contains high-quality protein from real chicken
  • Contains whole grains, garden veggies, and fruit
  • Formulated to support indoor cats
  • Contains omega 3 & 6 fatty acids
  • Contains a unique blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals

Cons

  • Contains chicken meal along with deboned chicken
  • Contains pea protein which is used as a filler

Ingredient Analysis

  • Chicken Meal: This is used to increase the density of the meal and is not considered very healthy for cats by most vets.
  • Brown Rice: This is a great source of antioxidants and fiber, which improves digestion. It also contains carbohydrates that provide energy to your cat.
  • Pea Protein: This is another great source of protein and is used to add volume to the kibble to make it more filling.

Review: This cheap cat food contains delicious and protein-rich deboned chicken as its first ingredients. It also offers two flavor varieties. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.8 out of 5 stars.

Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food

Instinct Original Grain-Free Recipe Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This high animal protein, grain-free, is a great cat food option. It is made using only premium ingredients that your cat will love. It contains raw meat, fruits, vegetables & other wholesome ingredients. Additionally, it is also minimally processed, ensuring that the constituent nutrients are not destroyed. This cheap cat food also has a long shelf life because it has been freeze-dried.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Kittens and Adult cats

Price: $4.5/pound

Pros

  • Made with 81% real animal ingredients
  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Contains no artificial colors or preservatives
  • No grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, and soy
  • Protein-packed and minimally processed

Cons

  • Expensive choice in contrast to some other products
  • The packaging could be better

Ingredient Analysis

  • Turkey Meal: This is an ingredient that is used to add density to the food. It also adds a turkey flavor that is loved by most cats.
  • Chicken Meal: This is also used to increase the density of the meal and is not considered very healthy for cats by most vets.
  • Peas: This is another great source of protein and is used to add volume to the kibble to make it more filling.

Review: This cheap cat food offers increased energy & vitality to your cat. It also improves your cat’s coat and makes it more shiny and healthy. Reviewers give this cheap cat food 4.6 out of 5 stars.

How Much Should I Spend on Cat Food?

There is no specific answer to this question. However, it is estimated that pet parents spend around $50 per month on pet food. However, this just includes their everyday meals. You can always add to this number by including treats, chews, and supplements.

It is a myth that only expensive cat food is great for cats. If you trust your brand and if your cat approves, even a budget cat food can sustain your furry friend and improve their quality of life.

Is it Cheaper to Feed Cats Wet or Dry Food?

Generally, dry food is cheaper for cats in contrast to wet food. This is because it takes more effort to package the wet food. Additionally, it is also more difficult to preserve wet food as it is more prone to developing bacteria and other pathogens.

Dry food is not only easy to store, but it is also easy to carry around and acts as a great way to fill your cat’s tummy.

One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that both wet and dry foods can also be used together for the best effect.