There’s a common saying that good cat food isn’t cheap and cheap cat food isn’t good. While this may be an over-simplification, it does highlight the fact that some cat foods cost more than others. What makes some cat foods more expensive, and how do you tell if a higher price tag is justified by the quality of the product?
It’s your job as a cat owner to choose a nutritious diet for your cat, and you should always buy the highest quality product you can consistently afford.
Keep reading to learn more about why some cat foods cost more than others and how to choose a high-quality product that won’t break the bank. You’ll also see our top picks for the best affordable cat food.
Quick Look at Our Top 5 Picks
- Best Overall: Purina Beyond Grain-Free Indoor Formula Cat Food
- Best For Kittens: Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Healthy Kitten Recipe Dry Food
- Best Dry Cat Food: Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Chicken & Potato Recipe
- Best Wet Cat Food: Weruva Grain-Free Paw Lickin’ Chicken Canned Food
- Best For Allergies: Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Fish & Potato Recipe
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Why Do Some Cat Foods Cost More Than Others?
There are several things that factor into the cost of cat food. The biggest factor is, of course, the quality of the ingredients. Premium animal proteins like chicken, beef, and fish cost more than plant proteins, and low-quality grains like corn, wheat, and soy are much cheaper than whole grains.
Generally speaking, the higher the quality of the ingredients, the more digestible and nutritious the food will be.
Another thing that affects the cost of a cat food is the manufacturing process. Products that are dehydrated, freeze-dried, or sold fresh are going to be more expensive than traditional kibble – products that are extruded and cooked at high heat to make them shelf-stable.
Products made in small batches cost more than mass-produced cat foods, and companies that use locally-sourced ingredients or human-grade ingredients may charge more to recoup their costs.
Also Read: The 6 Best Wet & Dry Cat Food Brands
Keeping all of these things in mind, you’re now ready to learn how to choose the best affordable cat food. Here’s what you need to know:
How to Choose the Best Affordable Cat Food
When it comes to shopping for cat food, your cat’s nutritional needs are the most important thing to consider. Cats are obligate carnivores, so the majority of their nutrition should come from animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish.
Cats also need healthy fats (particularly a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) for healthy skin and coat. These and other nutrients can be found in cat foods at all price ranges, so it’s up to you to learn how to identify a good cat food that is also affordable.
Here are some things to look for in an affordable cat food:
- Real animal protein. Your cat requires a minimum of 26% protein in its diet, but higher protein content (especially from animal sources) is usually best.
- Healthy fats. Fat provides your cat with a concentrated source of energy and should make up at least 9% of his diet. Chicken fat and salmon oil are excellent examples of nutritious fats for cats.
- Whole-food ingredients. The higher the quality of the ingredients in your cat’s food, the more nutritious and digestible it will be. Make sure that at least the first five ingredients on the list are whole foods and not by-products or fillers.
- No fillers or by-products. Low-quality grains like corn and wheat are commonly used in cheap cat food to add bulk to the product without significantly increasing the price. These ingredients have little to no nutritional value, so avoid cat foods made with by-products and additives.
- Complete and balanced. As long as the cat food, you’re looking at carries an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy, you know it meets your cat’s minimum nutritional requirements. Keep in mind that this statement says nothing about the quality– that is still up to you to determine.
Also Read: The Best Kitten Food
The Top 5 Best Affordable Cat Foods
The best cat food for your cat is one that provides for its nutritional needs in a healthy and balanced way. As a cat owner, it’s your job to provide for your cat’s basic needs and a wholesome diet is part of that. You need to figure out how to walk the line between providing for your cat’s needs and sticking to your budget. To help, we’ve compiled a list of affordable cat foods that offer decent quality nutrition.
If you’ve ever set foot in a pet store, you’re almost certainly familiar with the Purina brand. Unfortunately, many of Purina’s products are loaded with fillers and by-products, but this Purina Beyond Grain-Free Indoor Formula dry food is an exception. It features real animal proteins like salmon, chicken, and eggs with grain-free carbohydrates to ensure digestibility. It contains plenty of supplemental fiber for healthy digestion as well, and it is supplemented with vitamins and minerals to ensure nutritional balance. Overall, it offers decent quality at a very affordable price.
To make sure your kitten grows up healthy and strong, you need to provide him with a wholesome, balanced diet. This Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Healthy Kitten recipe is a great choice because it features natural, whole-food ingredients like chicken and turkey meals, potatoes, and chicken fat. It is supplemented with fiber and probiotics for healthy digestion and contains chelated minerals to ensure balanced nutrition and optimal nutrient absorption. It offers a full 36% protein with 14% fat.
If your cat has trouble digesting grains, you might want to try a grain-free cat food. This Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Chicken & Potato Recipe is a great option because it features real, farm-raised chicken as the main ingredient in an affordable grain-free recipe. This formula contains no poultry by-products or fillers, and it is free from artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Simply put, if you want a decent grain-free cat food that won’t break the bank, this is one to try.
Wet cat food tends to be higher in protein and moisture than dry food and lower in carbohydrate content. If you’re looking for a good wet food that won’t empty your wallet every month, try this Weruva Grain-Free Paw Lickin’ Chicken Canned Food. It features real cage-free chicken as the main ingredient in a recipe that is grain-free, gluten-free, and carrageenan-free. It is made in a flavorful gravy your cat won’t be able to resist but also provides for its nutritional needs in a healthy, balanced way.
If your cat has trouble digesting certain ingredients or is allergic to something, a limited ingredient diet could be the way to go. This Blue Buffalo Basics dry food is an affordable option in LIDs, and it comes from a brand you can trust. It features deboned whitefish as the main ingredient with menhaden fish meal as a concentrated source of supplemental protein. It is highly digestible, rich in protein and healthy fats, plus it contains fresh fruits and vegetables to deliver natural sources for key nutrients.
Many cat owners make the mistake of shopping for cat food based on the price tag alone. While bottom-shelf cat foods may technically meet AAFCO requirements for nutritional balance, low-quality ingredients are much harder for your cat to digest, and they offer limited nutritional value. The better the ingredients, the better the product, and the better it will be for your cat’s long-term health and wellness.
The most important thing to remember is that you should buy the highest quality cat food you can consistently afford. If you’re not sure where to start, try one of our top 5 picks reviewed above!