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- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Feeding your cat well doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank. As a loving cat owner, you can meet your cat’s basic nutritional needs by shopping around to find the healthiest cat foods in a budget price range.
That’s where we come in. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of foods that combine quality with affordability. But before we get into that, let’s talk about a few things you’ll want to consider when looking for the healthiest cat food options.
What to Look for in Healthy Cat Food
It’s important to understand your cat’s nutritional needs before you begin shopping. Start by talking with your vet. They can recommend types of food that are best for your cat based on breed, age, and any health conditions.
All cats require a balance of animal protein and healthy fats in their diet, as well as essential nutrients. The quality and volume of ingredients largely determine the price of cat food, but a higher price doesn’t guarantee higher quality.
When you go to the store (or shop online), consult the ingredient lists of the cat foods you are considering. This PetMD guide, on choosing the best cat food, explains many of the terms you’ll see on the labels. As a rule, in dry foods you will be looking for:
- High-quality animal proteins (at least 30%)
- Healthy, animal-based fats (about 15%–20%)
- Digestible carbohydrates and fiber
- Essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids
Wet foods have a high percentage of water, but should also have a significant percentage of high-quality animal proteins and fats listed in their ingredients. (For instance, the wet foods on our list below contain between 8% and 10% animal proteins.)
Keep in mind that the term “natural” on a label isn’t well-defined by regulators. “Byproducts” can mean undesirable leftovers from human-grade food production, as well as organ meats. If you want to stick with cat food produced in the U.S., look for the words “made in the USA” on the can. If the food contains any ingredients sourced in other countries (such as New Zealand lamb), that will be listed on the packaging.
The percentage of animal protein in the food, along with the overall quality of the food, drive up the price you pay. That’s why dry foods are generally the least expensive foods, canned foods are more costly, and fresh, frozen, and freeze-dried cat foods are at the top of the price range.
Buying in bulk is tempting, but be careful. Dry food starts to lose its nutritional integrity as soon as you open the bag. If you want to stock up, skip investing in a giant bag of dry food and go for two smaller bags instead. Wet cat food, unopened, is shelf-stable for up to two years. It lasts only about five days in the refrigerator after you break the seal.
10 Healthiest Cat Food Options on a Budget
It’s up to you to strike the right balance between quality and affordability, but fortunately, there are many great choices available. Here are our top picks for some of the healthiest cat food for pet parents on a budget.
Purina Beyond Natural Cat Food’s wild-caught salmon, egg, and sweet potato recipe has fresh salmon as the main ingredient, with chicken meal as a supplemental source of concentrated protein. Designed for indoor cats, this dry food also contains grain-free carbohydrates and beneficial supplements. It’s available in 3-, 5-, or 11-pound bags.
If your cat prefers wet food, this grain-free chicken recipe is packed with protein to support strong muscles with plenty of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids for overall health. Choose from 3-ounce or 5.5-ounce cans.
Real chicken is the first ingredient in this Rachael Ray Nutrish dry food, making it a quality affordable dry food. U.S. farm-raised chicken is combined with wholesome brown rice, vegetables, essential vitamins, minerals, and taurine. Available in 3-, 6-, or 14-pound bags.
Chewy’s in-house brand, American Journey, is one of the healthiest cat food options for shoppers on a budget. It delivers wholesome natural nutrition with meat as the first ingredient and fresh fruits and vegetables to provide digestible sources of key nutrients.
Weruva’s products, which come in many flavorful options, are made with high-quality animal protein as the main ingredient and a balanced blend of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy taurine. In 3-ounce, 5.5-ounce, and 10-ounce cans.
This grain-free dry food is made in the U.S. with chicken, turkey, peas, and potatoes for a complete savory meal that’s nutritionally balanced.
Made with premium animal proteins, this dry food features roasted venison and smoked salmon in a recipe designed to provide balanced nutrition in the way nature intended. One of your healthiest cat food options, in 5-pound or 14-pound bags.
This protein-rich paté from Wellness has chicken as the first ingredient in a nutrient-dense, grain-free recipe that includes antioxidants, taurine, vitamins, and minerals. It comes in 3-ounce, 5.5-ounce, and 12.5-ounce cans.
Purina’s Beyond line offers several healthy, affordable cat foods featuring fish and poultry. This wild salmon recipe includes salmon, chicken, and carrots, along with additional vitamins and minerals. It’s available in cases of 12 3-ounce cans.
This grain-free wet food leads with salmon, chicken liver, chicken, roasted venison, and ocean fish, and includes fruits and vegetables. It’s made in the U.S., and available in 3-ounce or 5.5-ounce cans.
Looking for ways to stretch your cat food dollars? Online retailers such as Chewy and Amazon offer discounts for subscription purchasing. Manufacturers also often post coupons on their websites and some offer rebates and rewards.