Best Cheap Cat Food For People On A Budget – Reviews of the Top Wet and Dry Brands

Finding the best cheap cat food is not for the faint of heart.

Typically at the bottom of the price range, you’ll find food that’s so full of useless, dangerous fillers that it’s a downright shocking that it’s even able to be sold legally as pet food.

Unlike most of the other sites out there that just pick the cheapest foods they can find and pretend like they’re the “best”, we have some criteria that ensures our list gives you the best quality cat food at an affordable price for those on a budget.

We’ll explain more about our criteria and assumptions below.

Quick-Find Best-In-Class Table

ImageProduct
  • Protein: 45.5%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 13.6%
  • Protein: 45.5%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 13.6%
VIEW BEST PRICE
  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 22.2%
  • Carbs: 27.2%
  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 22.2%
  • Carbs: 27.2%
VIEW BEST PRICE
  • Protein: 47.4%
  • Fat: 26.3%
  • Carbs: 15.8%
  • Protein: 47.4%
  • Fat: 26.3%
  • Carbs: 15.8%
VIEW BEST PRICE
  • Protein: 50%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 9.1%
  • Protein: 50%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 9.1%
VIEW BEST PRICE

What Do We Mean By Cheap, Good Food?

Cat food is the most fundamental, foundational part of your cat’s life.

It’s what keeps him alive, and what gives him the energy to run around, play, and give you his love.

And by the way, you’re the only one responsible for choosing his food if he’s an indoor cat…so it’s up to you to give him something that will help keep him happy and healthy and living a long life.

Bad pet food can be deadly to your cat.

It can cause kidney disease, chronic dehydration, constant pain, and even shorten his life.

But when you’re on a budget, you can’t exactly go out and find the absolute best cat food without considering the cost, since they’re all fairly expensive.

How We Rate Cat Food

Here at Catological, we have compiled a database of over 2000 cat foods, and have rated them based on a variety of factors.

We collected all the relevant information on each product, including:

  • AAFCO Rating
  • Ingredient list
  • Macronutrient profiles (Guaranteed Analysis, Dry-Matter Basis, and Caloric Basis)
  • Price and price per pound
  • Calories per 100 grams
  • Whether meat is the first ingredient
  • How each food compares to the average of all foods on a macronutrient basis
  • Whether the recipe uses more than 4 controversial ingredients

Each of these data points works together to form a star rating on a 1-5 star scale (including half points).

  1. If the food’s first ingredient is meat, it gets 1 point.
  2. If the food does not use unnamed meat ingredients (“meat by-products”), it gets 1 point.
  3. If the food has an above average protein level on a dry-matter basis, compared to all other foods in the database, it gets 1 point. If it has an average amount, it gets .5 points.
  4. If the recipe contains fewer than 4 controversial ingredients (not necessarily bad ingredients), it gets 1 point. If it contains exactly 4 it gets .5 points.
  5. The final available point is a discretionary point that we award based on things like carbohydrate content, inclusion of probiotics and vitamins, and other points, and is our judgement call on a food’s quality and biological appropriateness for your cat.

How We Chose The Best Affordable, But Healthy, Cat Food

Now that you’ve seen how we rate the foods in our database, you’re probably wondering how we put together the list below of foods that are both fairly healthy and fairly cheap.

First, although there are a variety of foods under $1/pound, they are ALL terrible, based on our data points.

  • Many do not have meat as the first ingredient (about the most important thing in cat food)
  • Many are full of unknown meats (this means they can literally include roadkill and euthanized pets), and
  • Most include at least one, if not more, of the 15 worst cat food ingredients.

So while you can find even cheaper cat foods than we list below, we cannot, in good conscience, recommend you buy them if you value your cat’s life.

Having said that, here’s our criteria for this list:

  • Scored at least 3 out of 5 stars in our rating
  • Cost under $2.50 per pound on Chewy.com at the time of our review
  • Do not include any major red flags

In our selection of the best overall foods, we only recommend 4.5 or 5 star foods. These foods have no byproducts, no bad ingredients, and have an ideal protein/fat/carb ratio.

You will not find those foods on this list, and so you must be alright with the fact that the foods listed below may have a few poor quality ingredients, may not have a great protein/fat/carb ratio, and may include a byproduct.

Even so, they still need to have received at least 3 stars, so they’re definitely better than most.

To put this into perspective, the average across our list is:

  • $2.00/pound
  • 2 out of 5 star rating

So what we’ve delivered here are fairly average (or cheaper) cat foods based on price, but are significantly better than average based on quality.

Is Cheap Cat Food Any Good?

By now you should see that the cheapest cat food is almost entirely junk.

If you’re OK feeding your cat the equivalent of Big Macs and candy bars every day for the rest of her life, then you can buy something cheaper.

But, assuming you think that’s just as bad as we do, we highly recommend choosing one of the foods on this list.

The Ideal Feline Diet

Studies on both indoor, commercially-fed cats, and feral and stray cats show that cats will self-select food sources that result in a macronutrient profile in this range (dry-matter basis used):

  • Protein: 52-63%
  • Fat: 22-36%
  • Carbohydrate: 2.8-12% (with “wild” cats on the very low end of this range)

What we believe this shows is that cats have evolved to thrive on a high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet.

We base our ratings and selections on this assumption.

The closer to these levels of macronutrients your cat food is, the better, as long as the ingredients that make up the food are of reasonable quality.

Therefore, finding the best cat food for the money is based on the ingredient list and the macronutrient profile, compared to the actual price per pound.

As you can see below in our ratings, it is possible to find a decent food in this range.

They won’t be the best of the best, but they should do more good than harm, and you can rest easy knowing your cat is as healthy as possible on your budget.

Is It Possible To Buy Cat Food In Bulk?

While buying cat food in bulk might seem like a good idea, there are some things to be aware of.

First, most places to get food in bulk will be pet stores or warehouses that typically carry lower quality foods to begin with.

Again, this all comes back to the actual quality of the food versus price.

If you can talk to the manufacturer of a high quality food and work out a deal where you buy a pallet for a discounted rate, it could be a great deal.

But if you just go to your local pet store and ask if they can get you a pallet of food, it’s likely they’ll just load it up with whatever cheap (and crappy) stuff they already have.

If you can get a good deal on a good food, fantastic! If you can get a good deal on bad food, don’t do it.

Reviews Of The Best Cheap Cat Food

The Best Quality Budget Wet Canned Cat Food

#1. Triumph Premium Chicken ‘N Liver

triumph chicken and liver cheap wet cat food

Price per pound: $1.62

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 45.5%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 13.6%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Water Sufficient for Processing, Pork Liver, Ocean Fish

First of all, Triumph has a fairly good macronutrient profile, providing a good bit of protein and fat, while keeping carbs relatively low.

With chicken, fish, and liver, it’s giving your cat a wide range of meats. Especially important is the liver in this, which is a super nutrient-dense organ, and something you won’t find in many cheap cat foods.

In terms of lower quality ingredients, there’s almost none…another huge victory for a food on this list.

It does contain carrageenan, rice flour, and guar gum, but none of these is particularly concerning. (Note that some people don’t like carrageenan, because one of it’s forms may be a carcinogen…but that form is not the one used in cat food.)

Overall, you’re getting a very well-rounded food with the bonus of organ meat, for a very good price.

It’s one of the cheapest good quality wet foods in our database.

Hard to do much better than this if you’re on a budget!

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#2. Evanger’s Grain-free (Supplemental)

evangers grain free cheap cat food

Price per pound: $2.26

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 45.5%
  • Fat: 22.7%
  • Carbs: 11.4%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Water Sufficient for Processing, Liver, Guar Gum

See those first four ingredients?

They’re also the four ONLY ingredients.

That means there’s literally nothing else in this…no fillers, no by-products, nothing.

That’s a VERY good list!

We should mention that this counts as a “supplemental” food, which means your cat may need to eat another food along with this to satisfy the AAFCO requirements of a “complete and balanced” meal.

However, this is a fantastic, and cost effective way of significantly improving your cat’s diet.

Even if you just add this to whatever affordable brand you’re currently feeding, your cat should see a huge improvement in health.

Liver, as noted, is a massively important organ meat for cats, and provides important vitamins and minerals not found in muscle meat.

If you’re looking to find something fairly cheap to add to your cat’s diet without breaking the bank, this limited ingredient, grain free food is the way to go.

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#3. Evanger’s Heritage Classic Chicken Lickin’

evangers chicken lickin dinner cheap wet cat food

Price per pound: $2.35

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 45.5%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 11.4%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Butternut Squash

Another winner from Evanger’s, coming in way below the normal price for wet food, and packed with excellent quality nutrition.

The Heritage Classic Chicken recipe includes not only chicken as the first ingredient, but chicken broth and chicken liver.

Broth is used instead of water to give your pet the extra nutrients that come from a broth (think of the popularity of bone broth these days for humans). It’s a small thing, but a nice additional benefit of the food.

Once again, we see liver being offered high up on the ingredient list, which means your cat will be consuming important vitamins and minerals that she won’t need to get from artificial sources.

This does contain guar gum and brewer’s dried yeast, both of which are questionable ingredients, but considering they’re not close to being amongst the worst ingredients you can feed your cat, this is a very protein and fat rich food that will appeal to most cat parents and their kitties.

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The Best Quality Affordable Dry Cat Food

#1. Diamond Naturals Active

diamond naturals active cheap dry cat food

Price per pound: $1.44

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 22.2%
  • Carbs: 27.2%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Natural Flavor

While we don’t love dry cat food, Diamond Naturals Active is a decent one, especially since it’s less than $1.50/pound…coming in as one of the cheapest decent options.

The protein and fat amounts are pretty good, and even though the carbohydrate rating is higher than an “ideal diet”, it’s still much lower than many other dry foods.

Chicken meal allows for a high concentration of protein as the main ingredient. White rice, while not really biologically appropriate, is not the worst filler you can come up with, and chicken fat is actually a pretty useful ingredient for your kitty, since they need good quality fats to stay healthy.

While it does include a couple of suspect ingredients like cellulose, it also includes some real value-adds like probiotic strains to promote gut health.

For the price, this is a fairly well rounded cat food.

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Learn More: Find the best microbiome test to keep your cat’s gut healthy


#2. Purina Beyond Simply Chicken & Oatmeal

purina beyond simply cheap cat food

Price per pound: $2.18

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 40.9%
  • Fat: 17.1%
  • Carbs:27.2%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Dried Egg Product

The first four ingredients are all high in protein, which is great for any cat food.

We don’t love pea protein, since it’s not a “complete” protein, which carnivorous cats need, but it’s certainly better than a corn ingredient in it’s place.

Egg is actually a complete protein, so it’s fine being among the top ingredients.

Otherwise, two chicken ingredients to start things off is a great find.

The protein is a bit lower than some others, and the carbs are a bit higher, but again, for a budget dry food, both numbers are better than almost everything else out there.

There are a variety of grains here, but also a lot of vitamins and minerals to ensure your cat is getting all the micronutrients she needs to stay healthy.

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#3. Triumph Super Premium Chicken, Rice & Sweet Potato

triumph super premium cheap dry cat food

Price per pound: $1.36

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 35.6%
  • Fat: 16.7%
  • Carbs: 32.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Whole Ground Barley, Oatmeal

The reason we included this Triumph selection is because it is just so cheap, and still allows for the first couple of ingredients to be chicken.

There are too many grains in here, and the protein is too low to be a truly good cat food, but for the price, it will suit a lot of cat parents.

It even contains some useful probiotics.

There are whole-food vegetable and fruit options to provide good, useful micronutrients, and a variety of other meat ingredients to help round out the protein and taste preferences for many cats.

If you really just need the cheapest, this is about as good as you can do, but again, don’t expect it to perform miracles, as it’s still lacking in overall recipe.

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#4. Victor Mers Classic

victor mers classic feline cheap dry cat food

Price per pound: $1.81

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 35.2%
  • Fat: 17.6%
  • Carbs: 33.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Beef Meal, Whole Grain Brown Rice

There are actually a lot of different, good meat options in here, without too many fillers.

Of course we don’t love rice or other grains, but they don’t seem to be too heavily added here…though the carbohydrate levels tell us they’re certainly there.

With all the vitamins and minerals your cat needs, this is a strong overall food for having such a low price, and it even contains probiotic strains for tummy healthy.

The macronutrient levels are not great (low protein, high carbs), but the ingredients are solid, and at under $2/pound, this could help you save some money while keeping your cat relatively healthy.

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#5. American Journey Grain Free Turkey & Chicken

american journey grain free cheap dry cat food

Price per pound: $2.08

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 16.7%
  • Carbs: 25.6%

First 4 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch

I would almost go as far as calling this a good dry food, regardless of price.

With lots of meat (turkey, chicken, and fish), it has a decently high protein rating, and manages to keep a relatively low carb profile compared to many others in this price range.

We like the probiotics, the different meat cuts, the vitamins and minerals, and the protein-fat-carb ratio.

It does include a variety of pea ingredients, which we don’t love. Peas are usually just added as fillers for cheap grain free pet foods. If you added up all of the pea ingredients, we bet they would come out to be one of the top four ingredients. Since they’re broken down into specific parts of the pea, we think this is a bit dishonest from the manufacturer, and you should be aware of this before you purchase.

Overall, though, it’s one of the best ones on this list.

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#6. Iams Proactive Health High Protein

iams proactive health high protein cheap dry cat food

Price per pound: $1.69

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 42.2%
  • Fat: 20%
  • Carbs: 24.4%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Grits, Ground Whole Grain Corn

We typically do not rate Iams very highly, because they use by-products and bad fillers.

However, considering the price and the decent metrics we see here, this is an OK option if you want something you’ll be able to find easily at the grocery store.

Chicken is a great ingredient.

Chicken by-product meal is not so good because it contains all the “not fit for human consumption” parts of a chicken. However, since it is a “named by-product” (i.e., not just “animal by-products”), we at least know it comes from one source and that that source is typically a good ingredient for kitties.

Corn is not a very good thing for cats to eat much of, but we also get salmon and another chicken ingredient further down the list.

It’s hard to recommend this one, but it certainly fits our rating system in this article, so if it’s what floats your boat, then give it a try.

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The Best Quality Inexpensive Freeze Dried Cat Food

#1. Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels

stella and chewys dinner morsels cheap freeze dried cat food

Price per pound: $2.11

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 47.4%
  • Fat: 26.3%
  • Carbs: 15.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken with Ground Bone, Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed

This is by far the best food on this list.

Raw chicken with ground bone (bone is hugely important for cats, as they eat some in the wild), two types of organ meat (liver and gizzard), and NO fillers.

What’s not to love?

Basically you add some water to this food, and feed it to your kitty.

The freeze drying process locks in important nutrients and provides a much healthier alternative to dry food.

The macronutrient levels are very good, and it even has added probiotics.

HOWEVER…

This isn’t actually all that cheap when it comes down to it, because you have to feed your cat more of it than a dry food, for example.

If you go by their feeding guidelines, a 10 pound cat needs one cup (they say it’s roughly 8 ounces) of food per day.

But this package contains only 18 ounces.

So after 2 days, you’d need another bag!

Not so cheap in the long run.

BUT…

As a meal-topper, or occasional treat, this is about the best you can do to show your love for your cat.

Give her just a little on top of her normal kibble, and you’ll be doing much better than most cat parents out there.

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The Best Quality Cheap Kitten Food

#1. Triumph Premium Kitten Turkey (Wet / Canned)

triumph premium cheap wet kitten food

Price per pound: $2.42

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 50%
  • Fat: 27.3%
  • Carbs: 9.1%

First 4 Ingredients: Turkey, Water Sufficient for Processing, Pork Liver, Chicken

It is really hard to beat this cheap kitten food.

Fantastic macronutrient profile with a lot of protein and very little carbs. Solid, minimal ingredient list. Good price. Very useful for a kitten’s nutrition needs.

It all adds up to one quality kitten food! It’s only a tiny bit away from being a solid 4/5 stars.

4 different types of meat give your baby cat plenty of protein, and there are hardly any ingredients to worry about. Rice flour isn’t great, but guar gum and carrageenan do not pose a huge threat to your kitten.

Otherwise, it has all the minerals and vitamins necessary for development, and is of course priced fairly well to boot.

 

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#2. Blackwood Kitten Chicken Meal & Rice (Dry)

blackwood cheap kitten food

Price per pound: $2.38

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

  • Protein: 36.7%
  • Fat: 23.3%
  • Carbs: 28.3%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Millet

As noted, we don’t love dry food, but this is a decent, fairly inexpensive option for kittens.

Rice and millet are much too high for our liking on the ingredient list, but carbs are under 30% which is a bit of an achievement.

Chicken meal, chicken fat, egg, and herring meal provide a fair bit of protein.

Otherwise there’s not much to worry about in the ingredients of this recipe.

They use proteinate versions of the minerals, too, which are potentially better able to be absorbed by your young kitty.

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Cat Food Coupons and Discounts

Just like bulk foods, coupon and discounts are only as good as the food you’re buying!

The best “all around” discount code we can offer is Chewy’s 30% off your first auto-ship order discount.

>> Get 30% Off Your First Auto-Ship Order from Chewy.com <<

Basically, when you buy from Chewy and choose the “auto-ship” option, they send out the same order every month (or however often you choose).

That way, you don’t have to run to the grocery store to find pet food, and you don’t have to remember to do it every month online.

Chewy is by far our favorite place to buy pet supplies. For your first auto-ship order, they’ll give you 30% off! You don’t even need to enter a promo code.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 1 comments
Jbooty - August 23, 2019

I learned alot from your website on ingredients in cat food. I have 20+ cats and will try the dry and wet brands you mentioned. I also feed stray cats and am hoping they will like it. Chewy is wonderful.

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