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Cheap Cat Food: 11 Best Budget Wet, Can and Dry Foods

Posted in: Cat Food - Last Updated: February 8, 2022 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Food 
Last Updated: February 8, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
best cheap cat food

If you’re anything like me, most of the time your cat eats better than you do. From salmon and wholegrain rice to organic chicken and peas, there are meals in the cat food market that seem to belong on a fancy restaurant menu. But, if there's a squeeze on your finances, what are your options for keeping your kitty fed in the style they deserve without breaking the bank? That's where this roundup of the best cheap cat food comes in.

We've asked our experts, vets and nutritionists for their advice and from our research and testing with our cats, we've looked at hundreds of cat food brands. We've picked the best cheap wet cat food and the best cheap dry cat food and we've included other options you should consider.

We're looking at the whole range of budget cat food, but only recommending cat food that is still high in quality and good for your kitty. In short, the best affordable cat food.

We know that you're like us and want to do all you can to give your kitties the healthiest meals possible. After all, we want our furry friends to be happy and playful for years to come. 

So, how do you find the right balance between choosing the best cheap cat food option and something that’s going to give your feline pal the proper nutrition?

Best Cheap Cat Food - Our Overall Pick

This Iams Proactive Health is our choice as the best budget cat food because it provides great value for money. It's high in protein and fiber, so it's maintaining the nutritional needs of your cat. It's also available in a range of sizes so you can keep portion cost down if you pick up this dry cat food in bulk. It's not the most cheap dry cat food, but becuse it's still the best quality it makes it a great affordable choice.

Iams Proactive Health

Our choice is Iams Proactive Health.

IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Healthy Dry Cat Food with Chicken, 22 lb. Bag

Cheap Cat Food - What To Look Out For

The good news for today’s cat owners is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to give your kitty a great meal. There are many great cheap cat food options out there. 

However, you will need to make sure that you understand your cat’s nutritional needs before you start shopping. We recommend starting with a vet conversation if you can. Vets can recommend types of cat food that are better for your kitty based on their age, breed, any existing health conditions, and their current weight - whether that's more or less than it should be... 

It’s also worth ensuring that any cat food you purchase contains all the right things. Remember, a cat needs a good balance of animal protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients in their diet. Essential vitamins and minerals like omega 3 and 6 support healthy fur and skin. Carbohydrates and the right kinds of fiber help to provide energy and maintain gut health. 

When choosing the best budget cat food for your kitty, make sure to look for:

  • Animal protein as the main ingredient: Ingredients that contain a lot of moisture, such as poultry and budget
  • Minimal grains: Grains tend to act as a filler in cat food, rather than offering any genuine nutrition.
  • No by-products: By-products can cause issues with your cat’s digestion, and they may lead to further stomach problems.
  • Suitable nutrients (taurine, vitamin B, etc.): The exact nutrients your cat needs will vary depending on their background.
  • Ingredients for your cat’s specific life stage: Your cat’s age will also have an impact on the kind of food they need. Talk to your vet if you’re not sure.

Keep in mind that just because your cat food has the word “natural” on the label doesn’t mean that it’s as healthy as you think.

The Best Quality Affordable Cat Food - How Much Should I Spend?

When you’re trying to find a good quality budget cat food, we would encourage you to think about affordability and quality rather than a bottom line price, if that is at all possible on your budget.

best affordable cat food balance

Of course, you're wondering how much you should spend. But, you don’t want to necessarily buy the cheapest cat food on the market. It might be possible to get a better quality brand if you are able to buy cat food in bulk. That can make the cost of each portion more affordable, so if funds allow, do look into bulk buying food for your cat to get the best deal. We know that won't alwasy be possible if your cash on hand means you need to stick to your budget too. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer here. Some people will refuse to spend anything less than $50 per month on cat food and litter. Other pet owners stick to around $30-35 per month. It depends on the kind of ingredients that your kitty needs and how much money you have to work with. 

As we've just stated above, keep in mind that you’re looking for the best cheap cat food that’s high in value, not just cheap. In other words, you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of great ingredients and nutrition for a relatively low price.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while buying the cheapest cat food in bulk to save extra money is tempting, it’s not always the right idea. Dry food can lose its nutritional integrity over time if a large bag is left open, and, although it's less likely wet food can quickly go off if you're not getting through a whole can in a day or two. Stocking up on food also isn’t a good idea if you’re not sure whether your kitty will like the new food.

However, once you've tested out a budget cat food on your kitties and know that they're on board (!) then feel free to stock up.

We particulary recommed buying dry cat food in bulk and storing open bags in airtight containers to presevre it. Then you get the best deal and no waste.

We love to use Chewy.com for a whole host of reasons but especially because of the value they offer and their autoship feature.

cheap cat food in bowl

The Cheapest Cat Foods - What Kinds are Available?

According to the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers Association), there are two kinds of cat food that you can buy for your moggy. The first option is complete cat food. This contains everything your cat needs for a healthy diet. The alternative is complementary or supplementary food. Complementary food includes treats, but it can also apply to foods that add extra nutrients to your cat’s meals. 

Complementary foods aren’t always necessary for every cat diet, but they can be a helpful addition to your kitty’s routine in the right circumstances. 

Both complementary and complete cat foods also come in different forms. 

There’s wet cat food, which contains more of the moisture that your kitty needs. Wet food is often a great way to ensure that your moggy stays hydrated, plus a lot of cats enjoy the juicy flavors. You can also find complimentary wet foods like soups and milk that provide extra nutrients. 

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Dry cat food can contain just as many great ingredients as wet food – but it’s dehydrated. You can serve some dry cat food mixed with water or keep it completely dry. Biscuits and kibble are great for cleaning your cat’s teeth and giving them some crunch in their diet. 

However, remember that if you’re feeding your moggy dry food, you’ll need to ensure they’re getting plenty of water elsewhere.

That all applies to budget cat food. You can buy cheap wet cat food and cheap dry cat food - just because you're counting the pennies you aren't pushed to one or the other.

Our 11 Best Cheap Cat Food Picks

Often, the best way to purchase the best and cheapest cat food is online. 

There are plenty of marketplaces that sell cat food in bulk, which can save you a lot of cash. Plus, shopping online gives you the freedom to compare your options from different sellers and get the best deal (make sure to check shipping costs).

Here' our definitive list of the best cheap cat foods after we and our commuity have tested all the widely available options.

Let's pick some winners!

1. Iams Proactive Health - Best Overall Cheap Cat Food

We've highlighted this at the top of our guide because it's a great overall choice for the best inexpensive cat food. And that term ('inexpensive') is really important as one of the keys to why this is a great pick is because you can get a great deal if you buy this dry cat food in bulk online (Check prices at Amazon and Chewy to see who has the best offer each time you restock.)

Choose this if you’re looking for a complete dry best cat food that’s cheap, convenient, and available in a range of sizes. Iams has you covered with this Proactive Health formula. The number one ingredient in this food is chicken, which means that your fluffy friend gets plenty of protein to keep their muscles strong. You also benefit from zero fillers so that you can reduce the risk of obesity. 

The tailored fiber blend in this cat food is ideal for supporting digestive health. Plus, the essential nutrients include potassium and calcium for a healthy heart.

Just be warned that the parcel won’t always arrive in excellent condition because those big bags get bashed about in transit! But, the food won't be affected, so just have an airtight container ready.

One other small downside is that there are only two flavors to choose from, but you know that when your kitty finds a food they like there's often no need to switch flavors.

Along with our Iams number one pick, we recommed both of these affordable healthy cat food.

IAMS PROACTIVE HEALTH Adult Healthy Dry Cat Food with Chicken, 22 lb. Bag

Pros:

  • Protein is the main ingredient
  • Dry pellets (easy to store)
  • Range of size options to choose from
  • Great for healthy heart protection

Cons:

  • Only two flavors available
  • Might not arrive in excellent condition

2. 9Lives Dry Cat Food - A Good Dry Budget Cat Food Option

Our number one pick, Iams Health, is our best overall pick, but that also means it's our best cheap dry cat food choice.

But, since we like to give you options and because so many of our community tipped this from 9Lives, we rate it as a very close second. Again, our research showed that one of the key reasons people picked this is that it's easy to buy at a great price in the larger sizes. It's available in bags from 3lbs up to 28lbs.

And, when you buy that largest size, the price per pound drops by nearly 50% - and that's what makes it great discount cat food!

And it's still high quality and full of solid nutrition for your cat. This 9Lives food is one of the leading options for kibble fans because it’s packed full of 100% balanced nutrition for all life stages

There’s extra taurine to support vision and heart health for your kitty. On top of that, you also get omega 3 for and a healthy skin/coat and high-quality protein too.

One downside is that there seems to be a lot more grain in this product than in some of the other market leaders. We wouldn't let that be a deal breaker unless your cat is grain intolerant.

9Lives Daily Essentials Dry Cat Food, 12 Pound Bag

Pros:

  • Lots of protein and omega 3 acids
  • Taurine for heart and vision health
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Supports all life stages

Cons:

  • More grain than necessary
  • May cause some weight gain

3. Purina Friskies Wet Cat Food Variety Pack - Best Cheap Wet Cat Food

If your whiskered pal prefers wet food to dry, then Purina Friskies could be the best cheap can cat food option. This food comes with plenty of delicious ingredients to enjoy, including real meat, seafood, and poultry in the various recipes you get in this variety pack. There’s also gravy for extra moisture. 

Shredded chunks of meat offer a better texture for cats who prefer to spend less time chewing. Plus, this cheap wet cat food is 100% complete and balanced with high protein content for all the needs of an adult cat.

Of course, because you're buying a set you get better value with this Purina Friskies Variety Pack.

Our community pointed out that where this Friskies variety pack wins is that pretty much every cat likes it. No picky eater problems with this budget wet cat food! And, the quality is still high in terms of nutrition. Having different recipes in the selection you get in the pack means your cat gets variety and different textures so they don't get bored.

That said, some cat owners really don't like the smell. 

Another downside for some is that this wet food often comes with dents and problems with the tins when delivered from an online retailer.

That's perhaps to be expected as you're buying a pack that may well get thrown around. But, overall we've not experienced damage sufficient to harm the food in the cans.

On balance (and on a budget budget) Friskies is our pick for best cheap wet cat food.

Purina Friskies Wet Cat Food Variety Pack, Surfin' & Turfin' Prime Filets Favorites - (40) 5.5 oz. Cans

Pros:

  • 100% balanced and complete nutrition
  • Lots of extra moisture for hydration
  • Great for a variety of flavors

Cons:

  • Not the most reliable shipping and delivery
  • Consistency of the food varies drastically

4. Purina Friskies Canned Wet Cat Food - Best Cheap Can Cat Food

So, this might feel like we're repeating ourselves, but we're just suggesting that the number of recipes you can find from Friskies really gives you the chance to find a budget can cat food that your cat really takes to.

If you're buying as a first test to see if your cat will like it, then your best cheap wet cat food option is to try the same food from Purina as they have in the variety pack above - but get this Friskies canned wet food collection.

As with that variety pack, you get a bunch of different flavor options to experiment with here. That means you have a higher chance of finding something your kitty wants to eat. This best cheap cat food also contains real poultry and seafood, so there’s plenty of protein-packed in

Added taurine is another major bonus for this food, which will help to support a healthy heart and better vision. However, once again, many of the boxes here do end up getting delivered with dents. Some foods also include more moisture than others.

Purina Friskies Canned Cat Food Pate Variety Pack, Seafood & Chicken Pate Favorites, 5.5 Oz (Pack of 40)

Pros:

  • Lots of flavor options
  • Pate texture is ideal for older cats
  • Taurine for healthy heart and vision
  • Balanced and complete nutrition

Cons:

  • Not the best for delivery
  • Inconsistent texture

5. Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Dry Cat Food - Best Grain Free

If you’re looking for the best inexpensive cat food, but you don’t want to compromise on grain, then this Taste of the Wild product might be best for you. This delightful dry cat food comes in a variety of flavors, with an optimal amino acid profile, and has no grain whatsoever.

If grain in their diet doesn't agree with your cat, but you still need to choose a good value cat food, then this is what we recommend as the cheapest grain free cat food.

High-quality protein supports lean and strong muscles. At the same time, high-performance antioxidants and fatty acids are ideal for protecting your kitty’s skin and coat. 

You even get highly digestible probiotics for gut health. Just keep in mind that the smell is quite strong with this affordable grain free cat food.

Taste Of The Wild High Protein Real Meat Recipes Premium Dry Cat Food With Superfoods And Nutrients Like Probiotics, Vitamins And Antioxidants For Adult Cats And Kittens

Pros:

  • No grain
  • Excellent amino acid profile
  • Antioxidants and nutrients
  • Highly digestible with included probiotics

Cons:

  • Smell is extraordinarily strong

6. Purina Friskies Canned Pate Food - Best Cheap Pate Cat Food

Pate is a special kind of wet cat food that can be particularly appealing to cats that don’t like chunks of food. If you have a cat with teeth problems, or an older cat, then pate will be easier to digest.

This value pack of Purina canned pate comes with a texture that kitties love. Plus, the manufacturer promises a 100% complete meal for your moggy. 

Although this food says it contains essential vitamins and minerals, there aren’t a lot of details on the packaging, which might be a little worrying for some.

Additionally, this best cheap cat food pate is known for having a few additives which might not be ideal for cat health.

On the other hand, when you're looking for the best wet cat food on a budget, Friskies is pretty much the default choice because it's great value. If you need to stick with a pate style wet food that's cheap, then this is the one to pick.

Purina Friskies Pate Wet Cat Food, Liver & Chicken Dinner - (24) 5.5 oz. Cans

Pros:

  • Appealing pate texture
  • Lots of flavors to choose from
  • Ideal for balanced nutrition

Cons:

  • Includes additives

7. Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels for Cats - Best Freeze-Dried 

Here’s another excellent option if you’re looking for the best cheap cat food that doesn’t compromise on quality. Stella and Chewy’s freeze-dried food might be dry, but it also includes all of the incredible ingredients your cat needs, including 98% organic chicken, along with bone and organ meat. 

All the ingredients in this best cheap cat food option come from responsible sources, and there’s minimal processing in every batch.

On top of that, this complete and balanced meal comes with all the extra support you need to strengthen your cat’s digestion system and appetite. Although it’s totally grain-free, this product has a few downsides too, including being harder to break down for cats without the best teeth.

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner Morsels Cat Food, 18 oz. Bag

Pros:

  • Grain-free and natural
  • Freeze-dried raw food for extra nutrients
  • Everything your cat needs in one meal
  • Good for storage

Cons:

  • Chunkier pellets are tough for cats with teeth problems

8. Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food Swirlers

Purina’s Friskies Swirlers are an interesting approach to dry cat food. They come with the gravy you would usually expect from a wet cat food dried and baked into the biscuits.

Although there are only two flavours available for this food, they are two of the most popular options for cats whose owners are watching the pennies. Chicken and salmon flavors mean this food should appeal to most kitties.

Some of our community with older cats that don't like some harder kibbles liked the larger chunks and picked this as their favorite cheap dry cat food.

Some cats though do find it too chunky and don’t like the texture. We’d recommend starting with a small bag.

Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Gravy Swirlers - 22 lb. Bag

Pros:

  • Easier to store thanks to dry pellets
  • Complete all-in-one nutrition
  • Gravy baked in
  • Ideal for all life stages

Cons:

  • Not the best for cats who don’t like large chunks
  • Only two flavors

9. Meow Mix Original Dry Cat Food

One of the most popular options of best cheap cat food when we asked our community for their picks is this Meow Mix Original dry cat food. Despite being very affordable, this dry kibble is a 100% balanced meal for your kitty.

There’s plenty of high-quality protein included in the biscuits to support healthier muscles. Additionally, you get a handy dose of extra vitamins and minerals to support eye and heart health too

There aren’t many flavor choices available here, which can be a problem for some cat owners. Another significant issue is that some pet parents say this best cheap cat food option gives their kitty terrible wind. So be prepared!

Meow Mix Original Choice Dry Cat Food, 22 Pounds

Pros:

  • Excellent for bulk buying
  • 100% complete and balanced food
  • Essential vitamins and minerals included
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • Not many options
  • Can cause wind

10. Purina Friskies Tender & Crunchy Combo Adult Dry

This product might be one of the best cheap cat foods for you if your kitty likes to experiment with different textures.

There are chunks of tender and crunchy morsels in this food, which is great for getting your cat’s interest at mealtimes. The tender middles are also ideal for cats who have problems with their teeth. 

Unfortunately, the “beef and chicken flavors” don’t come from a high concentration of actual meat protein, which means that you’re not getting the best nutritional profile for your cat.

Purina Friskies Dry Cat Food, Tender & Crunchy Combo - 6.3 lb. Bag

Pros:

  • Affordable and available in large bags
  • Tender middle which is great for older cats
  • Combination of textures

Cons:

  • Not the best for protein and nutrition

11. Purina Beyond Grain-Free, Natural, Adult Dry Cat Food

Finally, if you’re looking for a cheaper product to feed your cat, but you don’t want the cheapest cat food option, Purina has this grain free option that our cats liked a lot.

The Beyond Grain dry cat food comes with real meat or ocean fish as the main ingredient. What’s more, there’s absolutely no grain in the ingredients at all.

An extra dose of probiotics helps to keep your cat’s digestive system healthy.

Plus, there’s plenty of different flavors to choose from too. The omne downside we've seen is that some customers have noticed that this food can make their cat’s waste a little darker and smellier.

Purina Beyond Grain Free, Natural Dry Cat Food, Simply Grain Free Wild Caught Whitefish & Cage Free Egg Recipe - 11 lb. Bag

Pros:

  • No grain whatsoever
  • Excellent range of flavors
  • Good for protein and nutrition
  • Ideal for dry food lovers

Cons:

  • Can cause smellier waste

Best Cheap Cat Food - Our Verdict

Buying the best cheap cat food for your furry friend can be a challenging process. You need to make sure that you’re sticking to your budget and living within your means. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, that could mean buying a food that doesn’t offer the right nutrition. 

Finding the right cheap cat food means balancing price with value and that's why we've reserached and tested affordable options in wet and dry food in this guide.

We think all the options we've looked at are a balance of good value for money (especially where you can get a good deal by buying cat food in bulk) and also nutritionally sound.

We recommend Iams proactive Health as the best overall option, as it provides the best balance of nutrients and vitamins for the lowest cost. This dry cat food also means that it’s much easier to store and buy in bulk as we recommend. 

Our cheap can cat food pick is from the Purina Fiskies range. Whilst some cat owners dismiss Friskies, we think it's a solid choice for a cheap wet cat food. It's nutritionally sound even though it's made to a budget. If your cat prefers wet food and you need to keep costs down, Friskies is your friend.

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About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.

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