“The more expensive, the better.” “You get what you pay for.” I’m positive there are thousands of adages along that line. And, as always, the number of purported truths and wisdom doesn’t decrease, even though they are proven to be wrong time and time again. We live in an era of cheap stuff that all of us buy – even the wealthiest. But even though those cheap things serve us equally well if not better than the more expensive ones, many people refuse to change their attitude. Cheap means bad for them. Whether it’s cat food or a pair of boots.
And that is entirely understandable. We always want the best for ourselves and our family including the furry members, and we’re ready to pay the price. But cheap doesn’t necessarily translate to rubbish. In the overcrowded market, manufacturers try to compete by increasing the quality while reducing the price of their products. If you don’t mind eating a nice, inexpensive steak, why should you mind feeding it to your pet?
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to tell you that cheap food is always better than expensive. I just want to say that it’s possible to get a decent quality pet food that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It happened to me more than once to find identical ingredients in two brands of cat food, one of which costs twice as much as the other.
But first, for those of you who are new to cats, let’s see what types of best cheap cat food there are, how they differ from each other, and which ones are best for felines. Then we’ll consider what to look for when choosing cat food. And finally, I will present some of the best inexpensive cat food on the market.
Cat Food – Types
There are many ways to categorize cat food. One of the most common is by the amount moisture it contains – or the lack thereof. Whenever you go to a pet store to stock up on provisions for your feline friend, you will notice that there are three basic types of food:
- Wet foods. You know those juicy morsels of meat dipped in nice, mouthwatering gravy or jelly? That’s your average wet food. It usually comes in cans or pouches. Just like the name says, it’s high in moisture, even though you can’t exactly consider it soup. Meat, some fibers and water are the main ingredients. Cats tend to adore these foods. Mine won’t stop meowing each time she hears the clanking sound of a can that’s about to open.
- Dry foods. Commonly known as kibble, they are probably the most convenient option for you. They generally consist of meat mixed with grains and cereals. That’s what makes them crunchy. Some of these foods are okay to serve on their own, whereas others are best when mixed with some warm water or gravy of your own making. Generally, dry as well as wet food should satisfy your animals’ nutritional needs to the fullest.
- Raw foods. Your kitty sometimes needs a taste of raw meat. Of course, you can prepare it on your own by freezing it to kill any germs or bacteria that might be lurking about. But there are also industrial raw foods that you can find in your regular grocery store.
Apart from this categorization, there are also complete and complementary cat foods. The former are absolutely fine to feed on their own, while the latter won’t meet your cat’s nutritional needs. The math is simple here – it’s far easier to go for the so-called complete foods.
How to Choose the Best Food for Your Cat
It’s hard to tell which type of food is best for your cat. Most of the time, it boils down to personal preference – either on the part of the owner, or the cat herself. Of course, if your cat adores wet and despises dry food, that doesn’t mean you should act by his wishes. You should resist your urge to always please your cat and try to identify what is best for him.
And for that, we need a little bit of knowledge. Here’s a list of nutrients that are an absolute must for your cat, according to the ACPCA. (Spoiler alert: you will be surprised that meat does not come first.)
- Water. Yes, we are still talking food here. But cats can survive longer without food than without water. This doesn’t mean that water should be a necessary ingredient of your cat’s food. But she should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Of course, a moisturized meal won’t hurt either.
- Proteins. This one is absolutely expected. Anyone who has ever had a cat can tell you how they go bonkers when they sniff out a succulent chunk of meat. And it’s not for nothing. Simply put, meat satisfies the greatest percentage of your cat’s nutritional needs, mostly because it’s the richest source of essential amino acids. Make sure to never ever forget that felines are obligate carnivores. And nothing can change or replace that. So, forget about vegan meals, at least where your cat is concerned.
- Fats. Again, we are talking about fats of animal origin. Your cat can’t synthesize fatty acids on her own, so she needs to ingest them through her diet.
- Carbohydrates. Yes, your cat needs even carbs in order to fully function and develop. That doesn’t mean you should start feeding giant amounts of potatoes and rice on a daily basis. It only means that the key to perfect health is balance.
- Vitamins and minerals. Your cat needs very small amounts of those. But it’s worth noting that high-quality cat food already contains just enough of them. Don’t introduce any supplements unless a veterinarian prescribes them due to a health issue.
When choosing the best food for your cat, you should also keep in mind your cat’s general health, age, life habits, and yes, purrsonal preference.
Is Wet Food Better Than Dry?
I have witnessed many fierce debates about this matter, both in person and online. The advocates of wet food usually claim that feeding kibble to your cat is an equivalent of getting fast food for yourself just because it’s more convenient. Others always opt for dry food simply because there are more ways of serving it. You can offer it as is, so your kitty can enjoy nibbling one pellet at a time. Or you can mix it up with some water and other ingredients.
The third group of cat parents can’t decide between the two extremes, so they buy both types and feed them interchangeably. Wet lunch, dry dinner, or wet Tuesdays, dry Wednesdays. I also belong to this third group, which doesn’t mean I’m recommending it to any of you. Ten years ago, when my cat was just a toddler, I used to feed him cans for the main meals, while always leaving a few pellets of kibble on his tray so he could have a snack whenever he liked. Then he got obese and I realized the ever-accessible snacks were a mistake. Today, I always opt for one or the other – never both at the same time.
Generally, wet food is good because of the moisture it contains. Many a cat tends to forget about drinking water, and that’s a good way to help with that. On the other hand, dry food is good for the cat’s teeth since it acts like a dental floss. But you shouldn’t rely on food to either provide complete hydration or dental care.
So, the best thing to do would be to go to your vet and ask for their educated opinion, based on your cat’s health and a number of other factors.
Top 6 Best Cheap Cat Foods in 2019
Being frugal doesn’t just mean going out there and buying the cheapest stuff you can find. It also means buying foods that are on sale or stocking up in wholesale instead of buying small quantities. That’s a clear cut way to save some money while still providing your pet with high-quality food that will meet all of their needs.
Another consideration would be to always check for expiration dates. Note that canned food won’t last as long as dry food, and the last thing you want to do is jeopardize your purry friend’s tummy health.
Also, when choosing food for your furry friend, make sure to read the labels. Some foods are specifically made with kittens in mind, whereas others are best for adult cats. Cats have different lifestyles, which also reflects on the food. Indoor cats don’t need as many calories as the ones that live outdoors and have lots of physical activity and exercise.
So, here’s a list of the best and yet affordable food that you can get, whether in store or online.
Best Wet Cat Foods
If your kitty loves beef, chicken and liver, this food should delight her. It’s a variety pack that contains ten of each grilled chicken, liver & chicken, and beef, all of them with delicious gravy.
They offer 100% complete and balanced diet, with essential vitamins and minerals. So, if your cat likes them, there’s basically no need to introduce any other food to his menu. The meat comes in slices and shreds, so you may rest assured that your cat will love them if she’s the one to frown at pate.
If there’s one thing that cats prefer to seafood, it’s varied seafood. If you opt for this bulk, your cat will enjoy the diversity, since it contains 24 cans, each with different kind of fish or seafood, and all of them dipped in a nice gravy.
There is fish broth, tuna, liver, shrimp, salmon, to make sure that even the most finicky eater won’t get bored (as cats often tend to do). Over 2,500 cat parents have rated this food 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.
Chicken, turkey & giblets, beef, ocean whitefish & tuna – your kitty will get six of each, all of them mixed up in rich gravy. They come in three-ounce pouches that are easy to open and locked to preserve the flavors. It’s not the cheapest food there is, but the quality is fair, or at least that’s what my cat thinks.
This food is meant to be enjoyed by both adult cats and kittens. It contains 8% crude proteins, just enough to satiate your cat and fulfill her nutrient needs.
Best Dry Cat Foods
If your cat is into kibble, this might easily be the best choice on the budget. There are multiple options – for adult cats or kittens, with chicken or salmon. Proteins comprise the greatest percentage of this food, with fiber blend to help digestion and stimulate bowel movement.
There are even varieties that will help your cat reduce hairballs, thanks to the beat pulp. Other ingredients include probiotics and antioxidants to boost the cat’s immune system. Its crunchy texture doesn’t just make it yummier – it also helps reduce plaque build-up. It’s also worth saying that this food is filler-free, without any additives or other extras.
One of the most common prejudices of cat owners says that wet food generally has better quality than dry food. Well, it can be, but it’s not always the case. For example, the Rachael Ray Nutrish line has no ground corn, wheat or soy, meat by-products, filler ingredients, artificial flavor enhancers or preservatives.
Its number one ingredient is real meat, with wholesome brown rice, vegetables, added vitamins, minerals and taurine. (FYI: taurine is not an artificial chemical compound. It’s an amino acid that meat and fish are full of.)
Believe it or not, there are even foods specifically made for cats who spend most of their lives indoors. And it’s not a surprise: these cats don’t have enough physical activity and are generally more prone to obesity, which can lead to other health issues. Therefore, their diet needs even more balance. This dry food has just enough of proteins, fatty acids, fats, antioxidants, and carbohydrates to keep your cat slim and healthy.
It contains 33% more fibers than your regular cat food, in order to help digestion. Fat and other calories are reduced, since an indoor cat doesn’t need as many of those as its cousins on the street. This food also contains flaxseed that takes care of your kitty’s skin and coat.