7 Best Cheap Cat Foods


Best Cheap Cat Food

Let’s talk about cheap cat food.

Or as I prefer to call it, affordable or budget-friendly cat food. That’s because cheap can sometimes have the connotations of being low quality.

Simply put, our feline friends deserve better than low-quality cat food…but that doesn’t mean we have to go broke feeding them!

Far from it.

With more and more people living with cats the race to produce quality cat food for a cheap price is heating up. That means we have more options than ever before for finding quality cat food at reasonable prices.

You don’t have to compromise and give your cat food that’s all filler! I’ll be covering everything you need to know about finding a cheap cat food that doesn’t compromise your cat’s health but if you want to skip ahead and see what made the list you can check it out here:

Best Cheap Wet Food Options:

  1. Best Overall: American Journey Wet Cat Food
  2. Runner Up: Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Recipe
  3. Best for Picky Eaters: Merrick Backcountry Pouches
  4. Best High Protein For Weight Loss: Weruva Mideast Feast

Best Cheap Dry Food Options:

  1. Best Overall: American Journey Dry Cat Food
  2. Runner Up: Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  3. Premium Pick for Picky Cats: Instinct Original Raw High Protein Cat Food

You may have already noticed that the common store brands aren’t on this list. Let’s talk about why before we dive deeper into the world of cheap cat food.

Why Brands Like Meow Mix Aren’t On This List

If price is the only variable that matters then grocery store brands or cheap options like Meow Mix are going to be the clear winner.  Heck, you can pick up a bag of Meow Mix for $0.73 per pound which is a price that will be almost impossible to beat.

But let’s look at the first five ingredients inside Meow Mix:

Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Beef Tallow

We’ll go into more detail on this later, but I can tell you that your cat’s ancient ancestors weren’t raiding any cornfields when they were hungry. Instead, they tracking down small game for a protein! And protein is one of several things that are missing from this and many other super-cheap cat foods.

As is often the case, going too cheap in one area can cause problems somewhere else.

It’s no different for your cat. Cheap cat food can have a cost that’s a lot greater than the price tag and it comes in the form of your cat’s health. Low-quality cat food can cause obesity, an increased chance of diabetes, and other health concerns.

That means more trips to the veterinarian which also means more money. In a roundabout way, you have the potential to actually save money by upping the quality of your cat food.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed especially when it comes to health. Just like you’ve probably heard stories of people who smoked their entire life and lived 100 years, many cats can do great on bottom-of-the-barrel and corn-filled cat food. I’m also not trying to judge anyone who can only afford super-cheap cat food but it’s not something that you’ll want to do for the long-term if you can help it.

The Math Behind Cheap Cat Food

Don’t worry, you’re not going to need any algebra!

But we do need to clear up some basic math that you’ll use to compare cat food brands since there are so many shapes and sizes available.

Most cat food cans come in either 3 oz or 5 oz cans but when you’re looking at a pack of 24 those two ounces of difference can result in a big gap in prices. Always make sure you’re comparing like to like here and if necessary even figuring out the cost per ounce.

You can find dry food in just about every size there is from large 22-pound bags to small 6 pound bags. I always recommend that you divide the price by the number of pounds to figure out the price per pound of food and compare from there.

Other Ways To Save Money On Cat Food

A great way to level up your cat food without breaking the bank is by picking up special deals. Make sure you’re aware of your options!

Save With Chewy Autoship

At the time of writing, Chewy is offering 35% off your first auto-ship and then 5% on every order after that. That’s a big chunk of change to start with and that recurring 5% can give you some room to pick out a higher-quality cat food while keeping the same price as cheaper options.

You’re never locked into your auto-ship and you can cancel anytime.

Chewy also has its own line of budget-friendly cat food that can only be found on its website. They call it American Journey it’s included on our list. You check out American Journey wet food and learn more about the 35% off deal by clicking here.

Save With Amazon Subscribe and Save

Similar to Chewy, Amazon offers a Subscribe and Save option that can save up to 15% as long as you bundle a few other things with it. Even though this is less than Chewy’s opening 35%, the Subscribe and Save discount is on every order and you can bundle it with anything that Amazon sells…which is everything.

That means you can save up to 15% on toothpaste, cat litter, cat food, toilet paper, etc. You could even consider all that saving as your cat food fund!

We’ll have several Amazon links throughout this article and you can check the Subscribe & Save option once you get there.

Coupons

I honestly haven’t had much luck with coupons but they’re still an option. You can check newspapers and magazines but that’s pretty inefficient if you’re looking for a specific cat food brand. Instead, you can consider signing up for the mailing list of the specific brand you’ve chosen. They pretty much all have one and they’ll often send you a coupon as soon as you sign up.

But in general, I wouldn’t count on this strategy and the auto-ship options are a bit more reliable.

What To Look For In Cheap Cat Food?

I could write several articles just answering that one question but for the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on the basics. Starting with one of the most important facts about your cat.

Your Cat Is A Special Kind Of Carnivore

Your cat isn’t just any ole’ carnivore- they’re what’s called an obligate carnivore. That means they need meat in order to survive and in the wild your cat wouldn’t touch corn, carrots, or just about any other carbohydrate.

As the ASPCA elegantly puts it, “Feeding a cat a plant-based diet is a lot like feeding a cow a meat-based diet—their digestive system isn’t geared to handle it, and they will not thrive on it.”

For a specific example of this, we can look at vitamin A and beta-carotene. Humans can get vitamin A from carrots because we can convert beta-carotene to vitamin A.

Our cats, however, simply can’t do this. As obligate carnivores, they need to get their vitamin A directly from an animal source and the most common option is the liver. That doesn’t mean carrots are completely useless to our cats, and they can provide some antioxidants, but the fact is our cats are adapted to be meat-eaters.

That means cat food with more animal-based ingredients are typically better, especially if those ingredients are towards the top of the list. Every cheap and budget-friendly cat food on this list will have an animal-based protein source as the first ingredient, without exception.

Carbohydrates Aren’t Great

Notice I didn’t say grain-free here.

That’s because grain-free has become a bit of a buzzword and many manufacturers have simply replaced grains with some other carbohydrate like peas.

Instead of focusing on a specific type of carbohydrate, we’ll be looking closely at all carbohydrates and making sure that they aren’t dominating the food.

We’ll also need to accept some carbohydrates in order to keep price down.

By-Products Can Be Hit Or Miss

By-products can get a bad name but they’re not all bad.

I know, the word by-product just sounds bad.

But let’s look at the AAFCO’s definition of what by-product actually means for pet food: “Meat by-products are the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs.”

You still might be a little uncomfortable with all that but realize that when your cat’s wild ancestors caught a mouse for breakfast they didn’t only eat the parts they liked. Instead, they ate the entire mouse including organs like the liver and lungs which would now be considered by-products.

Dr. Jennifer Coates has a great article where she explains the nutritional value of organ meats for cats. She writes that “My point is not that organ meats are superior to skeletal muscle; simply that they are a natural way to provide cats with many essential nutrients that might otherwise have to be added as supplements to a balanced feline diet.”

Because organ meats and by-products are often less expensive than other options, they can make a great ingredient in our search for cheap cat food.

Quality Brands Are Best

The impact of low-quality cat food can be subtle and take time to really show up… except in the case of tainted ingredients.

We’ll be altogether avoiding brands with a history of several recalls but even that isn’t always enough.

Consider Meow Mix for example. While they were recall-free until recently, a 2015 study found a significant amount of mycotoxins in their dry food. Mycotoxins are produced by a type of mold that’s common in grains and can cause a long list of health problems in cats.

In other words, it’s not always just about the recall history but I’ve done the research to find quality options without breaking the bank.

Is Wet Or Dry Cat Food More Affordable?

In most cases, dry cat food is going to be cheaper. That’s because the manufacturing process is a little easier and you’re a lot more likely to find carbohydrates and similar cheap ingredients in dry food.

Wet food is typically of higher quality, from a nutritional perspective, but will cost more.

Then there’s the question of health and most folks will argue strongly that wet food is the clear winner here..and in many cases it is. The primary benefit of wet food is the fact that’s wet! That extra moisture can be a huge benefit for cats who are notorious for not drinking enough water.

But the pros and cons of each are not always so cut and dry and the true answer to which is better will depend on your individual cat and their needs. Your veterinarian can help you make the best decision for your feline friend.

Best Cheap Wet Food

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at our favorite options.

Best Overall: American Journey Wet Cat Food

american journey cheap wet cat food on chewy

Buy on Chewy

As a Chewy-only brand, many folks haven’t actually heard of American Journey since you won’t find them on the shelf or with other online vendors. But they’re a clear winner for our best overall spot with high-quality ingredients and cheap pricing.

All five of the first ingredients are sourced from animals which means this cat food lines up really well with your cat’s carnivorous roots. At around a buck per can, it also lines up nicely with your budget! That already cheap price is before you throw in any auto-ship deals, too.

This food isn’t just about being cheap though and American Journey has made several of our lists including the best cat food without chicken (which can actually be hard to find).

American Journey also has zero recalls behind it but it’s also pointing out that they’ve only been around since 2017. So it’s not entirely fair to compare them to brands that have been around for decades. But I’m not going to complain about a history of zero recalls!

Overall, this Chewy-only brand offers cheap pricing, solid flavor variety, and an excellent brand history which makes this a clear winner for the best overall. You can check the latest price and grab your auto-ship discount on Chewy by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Before we move on to the runner-up, let’s take a closer look at the first 5 ingredients to learn more about what’s going on with the diet. We’ll look at the Turkey & Salmon recipe.

1. Turkey

As we’d expect, the first ingredient is a quality animal-based protein that matches up with the flavor of the recipe. According to the AAFCO, when we see a single meat ingredient like this it’s “primarily the muscle tissue of the animal, but may include the fat, gristle and other tissues normally accompanying the muscle, similar to what you might see in a portion of raw meat sold for human consumption.”

That’s a great start and light-years ahead of something like corn or other carbohydrates as a first ingredient.

2. Turkey Broth

The vast majority of wet foods will include broth or in some cases just water. I’m always happy to see an animal-based choice as many broths have a ton of benefits for cats.

3. Chicken Broth

A second broth isn’t ideal, but it does help keep this recipe cheap.

4. Turkey Liver

We’ve already discussed how organ meats can be a great addition to cat food, especially when we’re looking to stay affordable. Liver is typically going to be cheaper than premium muscle meat, which helps keep prices down, but it’s still a great source of vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, and phosphorous for our cats.

5. Dried Egg White

I’m always happy to see a quality source of protein further down the list of ingredients, as long as we’ve got the good stuff at the top of the list too. Eggs are a bit of a feline superfood and a great source of protein for cats.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Turkey & Salmon flavor:

Turkey, Turkey Broth, Chicken Broth, Turkey Liver, Dried Egg White, Peas, Natural Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Flaxseed, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Fish Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Taurine, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Cranberries, Blueberries, Choline Chloride, Inulin, DL-Methionine, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Niacin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Rosemary Extract.

Below is the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 50% Protein
  • 22% Fat
  • 5.5% Fiber

Runner Up: Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Recipe

Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Recipe with Salmon and Roasted Venison in Gravy Wet...
725 Reviews
Taste of the Wild Rocky Mountain Grain-Free Recipe with Salmon and Roasted Venison in Gravy Wet...
  • A Taste Of The Wild With Roasted Venison; Real Salmon Is #1 Ingredient In A Stew; Optimal Amino Acid...
  • Premium Ingredients With Added Vitamins & Minerals; Fruits And Vegetables As Superfoods For Hard-Working...

Taste of the Wild is our runner-up pick and you really can’t go wrong with this option either. With all six of the first ingredients sourced from animals, the Rocky Mountain recipe is way ahead of other budget-friendly cat foods.

We’ve seen Taste of the Wild show up on many of our cat food lists from the best cat foods for managing shedding to our list of the best low-ash cat foods Taste of the Wild consistently checks a lot of boxes for quality cat food.

Unfortunately, Taste of the Wild and its parent company Diamond Pet Food doesn’t have the same perfect recall history as our best overall. Recalls are a part of pet food and while most don’t justify completely writing off the brand it does make Taste of the Wild our runner-up compared to the perfect history behind American Journey.

Overall, Taste of the Wild has budget-friendly pricing, a focus on animal-based proteins, and hundreds of happy reviews from other cat parents. You can check the latest price and read more reviews on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s dive deeper into the Rocky Mountain recipe, also called the Salmon and Roasted Venison recipe, by taking a closer look at the first five ingredients.

1. Salmon

When we see a single named ingredient, without additional qualifiers, we know that it can include the primary muscle tissue of the animal with some other parts, that cat would normally eat anyway. Overall, that’s a good thing! Salmon also provides cats healthy fatty acids which have a whole host of benefits and is an excellent first ingredient.

2. Fish Broth

As with any wet food, we’d expect to see something to add moisture and an animal-sourced broth is always a good option.

3. Chicken Broth

A second broth keeps the overall cost which is exactly what we’re looking for here.

4. Chicken Liver

Liver has plenty of benefits for our cats and when added in moderation organ meats are a great way to keep cat food nutritious but still cheap.

5. Chicken

Another animal-based source of protein is a great addition to this recipe.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Rocky Mountain flavor, again we can see that ingredient number 6 is another animal-sourced protein and we don’t see a carbohydrate until ingredient number 7:

Salmon, fish broth, chicken broth, chicken liver, chicken, dried egg whites, potato starch, pea flour, smoked salmon, roasted venison, peas, ocean fish, guar gum, natural flavor, sunflower oil, sodium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, inulin, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, taurine, DL-methionine, choline chloride, iron amino acid chelate, zinc amino acid chelate, thiamine mononitrate, yucca schidigera extract, vitamin E supplement, copper amino acid chelate, manganese amino acid chelate, sodium selenite, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, vitamin A supplement, biotin, potassium iodide, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 44% Protein
  • 37.5% Fat
  • 8.3% Fiber

 

Best for Picky Eaters: Merrick Backcountry Pouches

Backcountry Grain Free Real Beef Recipe Cuts Canned Wet Cat Food - (24) 3 oz. Cans
557 Reviews
Backcountry Grain Free Real Beef Recipe Cuts Canned Wet Cat Food - (24) 3 oz. Cans
  • #1 Ingredient Is Real Deboned Beef
  • Grain-Free Nutrition With No Gluten Ingredients For Easier Digestibility

Even though you might be on a budget, your cat may not care and there are plenty of picky felines with a taste for the finer things. That’s where Merrick Backcountry comes in.

Not only does it stay easy on the budget but with a wide range of unique flavors, you’re sure to find something that your cat likes. And when we say unique flavors, we aren’t just talking about the addition of turkey over chicken. Instead, you can choose from rabbit, duck, whitefish, and even beef.

The pouches also have a strong smell to humans, we might even call them stinky, but it makes this food extra appealing to our feline friends. That additional appeal can really help not only picky felines but it can make it easier to switch to Merrick Backcountry from another recipe.

But Merrick Backcountry isn’t all about tasting good…it’s also got a solid list of ingredients with all 6 of the first ingredients coming from animal-based proteins. That’s critical for your carnivorous kitty. At this point, it might seem like having all 5 of the first ingredients sourced from animals is pretty run of the mill but let me assure you that it isn’t!

Unlike the standard can, Merrick Backcountry comes in pouch form. I actually like these since I find it a bit easier to squeeze out the extra juices without making a mess but some folks may miss the can.

Overall, Merrick Backcountry is a great option. With 7 different flavors, many of which you and your cat will have never seen before, affordable pricing, and a quality list of ingredients it’s a great choice. Even more so for picky cats that are tired of the standard flavors.

You can read more reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients inside Merrick Backcountry. With 7 flavors to pick from it was tough to choose which one to review but we’ll be looking at the beef flavor.

1. Beef

We’d expect nothing less here and not only is beef a great source of protein for cats it’s also something they probably haven’t seen before. Beef is a relatively rare ingredient in most cat foods but even more so for cheap options.

2. Beef Broth

Moisture adding broth is a standard ingredient in most wet foods and it’s no different here.

3. Lamb Broth

As we’ve seen before, the addition of a second broth can really help bring the price down. I like seeing another novel protein source in the form of lamb since it can further increase the appeal for some picky cats.

4. Beef Liver

Liver is a great source for several vitamins and as long as it’s not overdone organ meat is an excellent addition.

5. Deboned Lamb

According to the AAFCO, deboned is exactly what it sounds like and this is simply lamb with the bones removed. It would have been easy to throw chicken in here which would reduce some of the overall novelty of the diet so I’m glad to see that Merrick added another unique protein source.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

As we’ve seen in the other wet food options, the sixth ingredient is dried eggs which is another animal-based ingredient and a great source of protein:

Beef, Beef Broth, Lamb Broth, Beef Liver, Deboned Lamb, Dried Egg Whites, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Calcium Carbonate, Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Sodium Selenite, Potassium Iodide), Sodium Carbonate, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid), Inulin, Rosemary Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 47.3% Protein
  • 15.8%% Fat
  • 6.3% Fiber

Best High Protein For Weight Loss: Weruva Mideast Feast

Weruva Classic Cat Food, Mideast Feast with Grilled Tilapia & Whole Meat Tuna in Gravy, 3oz Can...
2,560 Reviews
Weruva Classic Cat Food, Mideast Feast with Grilled Tilapia & Whole Meat Tuna in Gravy, 3oz Can...
  • Mideast Feast (3oz cans, pack of 24) Featuring chunks of hand-flaked off the bone Tilapia, in gravy. Our...
  • Weruva Classic Cat Food - The original lineup of our timeless, natural recipes inspired by the rescue...

We’ve already established that as committed carnivores protein should be a major part of your cat’s diet but there are plenty more tangible benefits to a high protein diet.

But one of the most popular is weight management.

According to veterinarian Jennifer Coates, “While cats can lose weight on almost any diet as long as we restrict their intake sufficiently, high protein diets help them maintain the muscle mass needed to keep them burning those calories.”

That’s where Weruva Mideast Feast comes in and this recipe has 75% protein by dry matter basis (that’s with moisture removed). That’s well above the typical 35 to 45% range that you see in most wet cat foods.  Not only does that make this a good budget-friendly option for hefty felines, but it can also increase the flavor appeal for some cats.

But protein can be expensive and there’s a reason so many cheap cat foods use corn, wheat, or grains as the first ingredient. Cheap carbohydrates cost less than quality protein. Weruva is still able to keep its product affordable while packing it full of species-appropriate protein.

A quick look at the ingredients and you might be surprised to see this much protein at all. After all, unlike some of the others on this list the first 6 ingredients aren’t all animal-based and we even see potato starch as ingredient number four.

So what’s going on here?

The concentration of the animal proteins is higher which is what allows them to hit those higher numbers. Explained another way, Weruva features a total of 25 ingredients while Taste of the Wild features 43 ingredients. Fewer overall ingredients mean each ingredient is more concentrated.

Just keep in mind that there can be a great deal of variety between Weruva flavors and with 14 options to choose from that means a lot of variety. I’ve selected the Mideast Feast since it has a good balance of ingredients that will work for most cats.

Another great option is the Marbella Paella flavor which features unique ingredients like squid and shrimp with even more protein than Mideast Feast. But I’d probably skip the Grandma’s Chicken Soup flavor since it heavily relies on ingredients like pumpkins and carrots that aren’t harmful to cats but also aren’t species-appropriate.

You can see all the flavors, read more reviews and check the latest price for the Weruva’s Mideast Feast on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at the first five ingredients inside the Mideast Feast flavor to get a better idea of what’s inside. It’s worth pointing out again that many Weruva recipes have fewer ingredients than other cat foods so the first few ingredients will look a little different.

1. Tuna Whole Meat 

Tuna is a start and even though we’re looking to stay affordable here, we also don’t want to feed our feline friends garbage! Whole tuna meat is not only tasty for cats but it’s also a solid source of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Water Sufficient for Processing

We’ll always see some kind of liquid in wet food and while I’d prefer to see an animal-based broth I’m also happy to make a compromise here to keep the food affordable.

3. Tilapia

Another animal-based protein is a solid addition to this recipe. Even though tilapia doesn’t have quite the same robust omega acid profile as other fish, it’s still a cheap but quality source of protein.

4. Potato Starch

As a carbohydrate that carnivorous cats wouldn’t normally eat, potato starch isn’t my first pick but it does help keep the food budget-friendly. Ingreidents like this are becoming more popular as the push for grain-free diets continues.

5. Sunflower Seed Oil

Even though it’s not a perfect substitute for fish oil, sunflower oil still has some benefits to cats and it’s typically much cheaper which is exactly what we’re looking for.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Mideast Feast recipe:

Tuna Whole Meat, Water Sufficient For Processing, Tilapia, Potato Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil, Dicalcium Phosphate, Xanthan Gum, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Nicotinic Acid (Vitamin B3), Ferrous Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Manganese Sulfate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K), Vitamin B12 Supplement.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 75% Protein
  • 9.3%% Fat
  • 8% Fiber

 

Best Cheap Dry Food

Now let’s take a look at some of the best affordable dry food options out there. You’ll see some of the same brands show up starting with our best overall pick!

Best Overall: American Journey Dry Cat Food

american journey cheap cat food

Buy On Chewy

American Journey shows up again as the best overall dry food with affordable pricing, great reviews, and an excellent list of ingredients. Again, many folks may not have ever heard of this brand because you won’t find it with other online vendors or on the shelves in your favorite store. It’s only available directly from Chewy.

Because of the way dry food is made, it can be a bit more difficult to find recipes with all animal-based proteins as the first several ingredients but American Journey still does a great job of catering to our carnivore kitties with four of the first five ingredients all coming from animal proteins.

The American Journey brand is also popular among picky felines which can really make or break things. Here’s what one reviewer had to say about her fussy felines:

I put out 5 different brands of dry cat food and my cats finished their bowl of American Journey to the bottom, and then waited for more, leaving all the other brands untouched. My cats are PICKY eaters. This brand is great. I’d love to try other flavors but I’m worried to try to “fix” it if it isn’t “broken.”

I’ve selected the Chicken recipe because it’s the cheapest available and you can pick it up for around $2.25 per pound. That’s before you grab an auto-ship discount which could be as much as 35% on your first order. You can click here to confirm the current price and learn more about the available deals.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a closer look inside the chicken flavor recipe to learn more.

1. Deboned Chicken

As always, we want to see an animal-based protein as the first ingredient and it’s no different here. Deboned chicken is a great option.

2. Chicken Meal

Meal is much more common in dry food varieties and the AAFCO explains that meat-based meals are “rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” That means the meal is coming from a quality source and these types of ingredients are typically very high in protein.

3. Tapioca Starch

Tapioca starch helps maintain the consistency of dry kibble and is also a source of carbohydrates. While that’s not ideal, according to veterinarian Jacqueline Dobranski, “It’s safe for healthy cats, but should be avoided in obese and diabetic cats.”

4. Turkey Meal

This is another meal just like we saw above but this time from turkey and also a great source of animal-based protein.

5. Dried Egg Product

Eggs are a great source of quality protein for cats and another quality ingredient that can still keep the price down.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Chicken recipe:

Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Turkey Meal, Dried Egg Product, Pea Protein, Peas, Natural Flavor, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Flaxseed, Menhaden Fish Meal, Pea Fiber, Potassium Chloride, Inulin, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Taurine, Salt, Spinach, Apples, Blueberries, Carrots, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Mixed Tocopherols (Preservative), Vitamin E Supplement, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Niacin Supplement, Copper Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, L-Carnitine, Manganese Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Proteinate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Rosemary Extract, Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma Longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 44.4% Protein
  • 16.6% Fat
  • 4.4% Fiber

Runner Up: Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Dry Cat Food

Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe with Real Salmon Dry Cat Food - 10 lb. Bag
2,260 Reviews
Whole Earth Farms Grain Free Recipe with Real Salmon Dry Cat Food - 10 lb. Bag
  • 100% All-Natural Ingredients Including High-Quality Proteins, Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
  • Made In The Usa

Our runner up is the Salmon recipe from Whole Earth Farms which is a lesser-known company that’s under the Merrick umbrella. The company is openly focused on staying budget-friendly and while they’ve joined the grain-free craze that doesn’t mean the food is without carbohydrates.

Still, it’s very difficult to leave carbs behind when you’re looking at dry food and while it’s not species-appropriate for your carnivorous cat the debate around the long-term impacts is still unclear.

The Salmon recipe features three animal-sourced protein ingredients within the first five. That’s not quite as good as our best overall, and explains why this is a runner-up, but it’s still solid when it comes to the world of affordable cat foods.

There are also more than 1,500 five-star reviews on Amazon from happy cat parents to back up this food. You can read some of those five-star reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s take a deeper look our runner-up pick by reviewing and analyzing the first five ingredients in the Salmon recipe.

1. Salmon Meal

While I’d prefer to see a muscle meat listed as the first ingredient, salmon meal does meet our requirement of being an animal-based protein. Because much of the fat is removed to form the meal, the usual fatty acids aren’t present but this is still a protein-dense ingredient.

2. Turkey Meal

Turkey meal is another protein-dense choice and it’s good to see another animal-based protein.

3. Dried Potatoes

All Whole Earth Farms cat foods are grain-free but that doesn’t mean they’re without carbohydrates and this is our first non-animal ingredient. Potatoes aren’t a great option for cats, but they do help keep prices cheap.

4. Peas

Peas are another ingredient that isn’t species-appropriate. It adds to the overall carbohydrate content but also helps reduce the price.

5. Salmon

Without the addition of another animal-based protein, Whole Earth Farms wouldn’t have made the list. We’ve got our first ingredient that isn’t in a meal form and while it would ideally but higher up the list of ingredients salmon still provides protein and fatty acids.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Here’s the complete list of ingredients for the Salmon recipe:

Salmon Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Potatoes, Peas, Salmon, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Pea Protein, Natural Flavor, Pea Fiber, Dried Yeast Culture, Salt, Organic Dried Alfalfa Meal, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Proteinate, Cobalt Carbonate), Taurine, Salmon Oil, Mixed Tocopherols (a preservative), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 39.3% Protein
  • 13.4% Fat
  • 4.5% Fiber

Premium Pick for Picky Cats: Instinct Original Raw High Protein Cat Food

Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Cat Food by Nature's Variety, 11...
2,825 Reviews
Instinct Original Grain Free Recipe with Real Chicken Natural Dry Cat Food by Nature's Variety, 11...
  • GRAIN FREE CAT FOOD WITH CAGE FREE CHICKEN: Instinct Original dry cat food is made with 81% real animal...
  • NATURAL CAT FOOD: Instinct Original dry cat food is high protein cat food made with probiotics to support...

Wait a second…

Why is there a “Premium Pick” on a list of cheap cat food?

This raw-infused recipe isn’t the cheapest option on the market but it’s still easy on the budget. So if you’re willing to spend a little more, but still not spend a fortune, then this could be a great option.

This recipe has relatively high-protein,  a strong list of ingredients and even some freeze-dried raw food added in which is usually something you only see in truly premium foods. Freeze-dried foods are becoming more popular and instead of adding chunks of freeze-dried protein to the diet, Instinct has coated each kibble in a thin layer of freeze dried raw food.

For some cats, this can increase the overall appeal of the diet and could help interest picky eaters. Another benefit for picky cats, is the additional flavor options. Instead of just chicken or fish like you see in most brands, Instinct also has duck and rabbit flavor which some cats will find more appealing.

It’s also one of the more species-appropriate dry foods with all five of the first ingredients in the duck and rabbit recipes representing animal-based proteins. That’s not only difficult to find in dry kibble but even more so at this price point.

Finally, this dry food has high-fat content which can not only increase the appeal of the food for your carnivorous kitty but higher fat diets can also help reduce cat shedding in some cases.

Overall, Instinct Original is an excellent choice that isn’t going to be the cheapest option but still won’t break the bank. You can read more reviews and check the latest price on Amazon by clicking here.

First 5 Ingredient Analysis

Let’s get a better feel for what’s going on inside the duck recipe from Instinct Original by looking closely at the first five ingredients.

1. Duck

Duck is a great first ingredient and we’d expect nothing less from our premium pick. It’s also good to see that it’s not meal form which means less processing and more fats.

2. Turkey Meal

This is turkey meat that’s been processed under heat into order to eventually produce a meal. These ingredients are common in dry kibble and while it is protein-dense and mostly species-appropriate I’m glad that it’s in the number two spot instead of the first position.

3. Chicken Meal

Another meal, but this time from chicken. As we’ve seen before, protein-dense meals can be a good ingredient that also keeps the price down.

4. Menhaden Fish Meal

Another meal keeps protein high while keeping the price down.

5. Chicken Fat

We’re five ingredients in and there’s still no carbohydrates which great! Chicken fat can be a great addition to most recipes but can also be over done. I like seeing this as the 5th ingredient and it not only increases the fat content but can also improve the flavor-appeal for your carnivorous cat.

Complete Ingredients and Guaranteed Analysis

Duck, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Peas, Duck Meal, Tapioca, Dried Tomato Pomace, Natural Flavor, Suncured Alfalfa Meal, Montmorillonite Clay, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate, Niacin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin), Salt, Carrots, Apples, Cranberries, Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide), Potassium Chloride, Taurine, Freeze Dried Duck (including Freeze Dried Ground Duck Bone), DL-Methionine, Pumpkinseeds, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.

Here’s the guaranteed analysis with moisture removed:

  • 44% Protein
  • 25.2% Fat
  • 3.2% Fiber

Closing Thoughts

You can find quality cat food without the breaking the bank! However, there is a point where going for the absolute cheapest option just doesn’t make sense anymore and the drop in quality is just too signifant.

But you also have plenty of cheap options that still find a balance between price and quality. In most cases, the American Journey line of cat foods does this the best but that’s far from your only choice.

When you consider auto-ship discounts which are offered by the major vendors you can bring the price of cat food down even further. Over time,  those autoship discounts can also really add up!

What do you think? Did you find the cheap cat food you were looking for?

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

Recent Posts