Affordable Cat Food Options for Happy, Healthy Cats

Portrait of a fluffy cat near a bowl with food looking up on a gray background

Key Points

  • Healthy cat food can be affordable and tasty.

  • There are several reasons why your feline may be finicky, including the effects of aging.

  • Meat by-products are not necessarily “bad” for your cat

As any pet owner knows, feeding your kitty can be expensive. You want to give them healthy cat food without going broke. Can you have it both ways — inexpensive and healthy? The answer is “Yes!”

There are complete and nutritious cat foods that don’t cost a fortune. Consider your cat’s taste preferences and health condition in making your choice. This article looks at several affordable cat food options to have a happy, healthy cat.

Fancy Feast Chicken and Beef

by Purina 

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03/01/2024 06:56 pm GMT

Fancy Feast Classic Pate

If you have a cat who turns their nose up at cheaper cat foods containing a lot of fillers, you may find them changing their tune when they taste Fancy Feast Classic Pate.

It comes in a wide variety of flavors but chicken is quite popular. Try a can or two of different flavors to see if your cat prefers one over another.

Fancy Feast Classic Pate offers affordable, high-quality canned cat food, pleasing even the most discerning feline palates. This is also a grain-free option for cats with grain allergies or sensitivities.

Chicken is the first ingredient in Fancy Feast, and chicken broth replaces water used in many other canned foods. The added liquid content promotes more liquid intake, which helps fight UTIs. Fancy Feast comes in 3 oz. cans, compared to the 5.5 oz. of most other canned foods. However, with higher-quality protein, your cat doesn’t need to eat as much to get the nutrients they need.

Senior cats sometimes lose some sense of smell and taste as they age, making them “finicky eaters.” Multiple customers say Fancy Feast works well for their elderly cats. With no chunks to deal with, the pate variety is also easier to chew for senior cats with dental issues. For a grain-free wet food, this one isn’t a high-cost option either.

In a TikTok video posted on February 14, 2023, a creator from shows a review of Fancy Feast. All recommendations depend on your cat’s specific needs and preferences.

Friskies Wet Cat Food Pate
$30.00 ($0.14 / Ounce)

by Purina 

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03/03/2024 06:56 pm GMT

Key Highlights of Fancy Feast Classic Pate

Fancy Feast’s primary advantages include:

  • Real meat is the first ingredient of Fancy Feast Classic Pate, providing a good source of protein.

  • This pate cat food uses chicken broth, which provides your cat with additional liquid in their diet to prevent UTIs.

  • The 3 oz. cans are perfect serving sizes to prevent leftovers and wasted food.

  • The high-quality meat pate works well for seniors and other cats with dental sensitivity.

Top Budget Pick: Friskies Pate Wet Cat Food

Friskies Pate Wet Cat Food provides a budget-friendly option for wet cat food, offering a variety of flavors and textures to satisfy cats. If your cat prefers other textures, Friskies also comes in shreds and chunks — some with extra gravy. This is helpful if you mix medication into your cat’s food.

This is a top seller in canned cat food. Be aware that the first ingredient listed in this cat food is “meat by-products.” In response to a Cattitude Daily inquiry, a Purina service agent listed “non-rendered lungs, spleen, kidney, brain, bone, and intestine” among the specific ingredients of the by-products in the Friskies Pate. The food contains no horns, hair, feet, or hooves.

While this may be somewhat good news for cat owners, there’s still the issue of not knowing the ratio of each type of by-product ingredient. Even if you’re on a budget, it’s always best to know what’s in your cat’s food before they put it in their mouth.

Purina makes both Fancy Feast and Friskies, yet they are quite different. Fancy Feast is more premium while Friskies is their economic line.

© Cattitude Daily Testing Lab.

Bye-Bye By-Products?

More economical cat food brands usually use meat by-products in their ingredients. Many experts and writers advise avoiding this ingredient, but is it really bad for your cat? Author, cat expert, and Cat Writers’ Association member Franny Syufy says not necessarily.

“Meat byproducts can include clean and nutrient-rich organ meats such as lungs, spleen, liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines that are cleaned of their contents,” Syufy says. “They are not allowed to contain hide, hooves, horn, or teeth. Meat meal is further cooked (rendered) to kill any bacterial contaminants and then dried.”

Syufy notes these by-products are sometimes acceptable, but to avoid brands that list them as the first ingredient.

The saying “You get what you pay for” is often repeated for a reason. It’s true. As a cat owner, you face two competing interests — stick to a household budget and safeguard your pet’s health, including the possibility they may need supplements to make up for nutrients their cat food lacks.

There is a simple equation for cat food ingredients: More fillers equals more trips to the litter box. Consider this additional cost when comparing brands based on price. Chicken hearts and livers may be among the by-products. Too much of these can cause a vitamin A overdose, resulting in poor coat, dry skin, weakness, weight loss, constipation, and limited movement.

When you see by-products on the food label, you don’t know the proportions of the various ingredients. Ingredients are listed according to their presence in the food, so seeing by-products at the top is a cause for concern.

Learn how to pick the right cat food and stay on budget with these options.

Natural Dry Cat Food
$59.80 ($2.72 / lb)

by Purina ONE 

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03/01/2024 06:41 pm GMT

Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend

Purina ONE Tender Selects Blend offers affordable and nutritionally balanced dry cat food. It features a mixture of crunchy kibble and meaty morsels for cats who like the variety of textures.

The Purina ONE line is a step above their Cat Chow brand, containing fewer fillers and using meat as the number one ingredient. It is a complete cat food, so your cat needs no supplements unless they have a specific deficiency. It contains carrots, peas, and prebiotic fiber to promote gut health and a strong immune system.

Customer reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and this cat food is a top seller. Cat owners appreciate the high protein content, and it’s a taste their cats love.

Tender Centers Basted Bites

by Meow Mix 

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03/02/2024 06:46 pm GMT

Meow Mix Tender Centers

Meow Mix Tender Centers is a cost-effective choice for cat food, featuring a crunchy outside and meaty inside that cats enjoy. It’s also a blend of chicken and tuna flavors, two feline favorites. These combinations add variety to your cat’s meals.

Whole ground corn, chicken by-product meal, and corn gluten meal are the first three ingredients in this cat food. Although this is a relatively inexpensive option that your cat may enjoy, it contains many fillers.

As previously noted, by-products aren’t always bad, but you don’t know if they provide the protein your cat needs. This means they must eat more of the food to get the required nutrients, resulting in more trips to the litter box. If you feed outdoor or feral cats, this may not be a bad option.

Meaty Paté With Real Chicken
$16.80 ($0.13 / Ounce)

by 9Lives 

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03/03/2024 07:06 pm GMT

9Lives Meaty Pate Wet Cat Food

9Lives Meaty Pate Wet Cat Food offers affordable chewy cat food with a smooth texture and a range of flavors to please cats’ individual tastes. Wet food also aids in the proper intake of liquids.

Meat by-products, water, and chicken are the top three ingredients listed for 9Lives. It also contains carrageenan, which may cause an adverse reaction in some cats. Consult your vet before feeding to see if it’s safe for your cat.

© Cattitude Daily Testing Lab.

Many cat owners say their cats like this food, but many others complain of finding pieces of bone in the cans — a distinct possibility when dealing with meat by-products. If you feed this cat food, pick through the contents with a fork before serving. Although cats in the wild eat the bones of mice and birds, those bones are much smaller and less dense than those of animals used in food processing.

$24.99 ($1.04 / Count)


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02/29/2024 06:51 pm GMT

Sheba Perfect Portions Paté

Sheba Perfect Portions Paté provides convenient and affordable wet cat food in pre-portioned servings, ensuring freshness and easy feeding. The portions prevent waste and save you from storing leftover cat food in the refrigerator.

Chicken, water, and salmon are the first ingredients listed in Sheba. The individual pouches are smaller than most cans, but your cat may not need to eat as much during a meal due to the higher-quality ingredients. Feed three to four servings per five pounds of body weight.

If your cat is more of a “grazer,” eating a few times throughout the day, these portions are the perfect size. Customers like the easy-to-peel tops, as they don’t have to deal with metal can lids.

$33.12 ($0.53 / Ounce)

by IAMS 

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03/02/2024 07:01 pm GMT

Iams Perfect Portions Paté

Iams Perfect Portions Paté offers budget-friendly wet cat food with a balanced formula and individual servings for easy portion control. This is a grain-free option if your cat needs a special diet due to allergies or sensitivities to grains.

Chicken is the number one ingredient, and it contains no by-product. Each 1.3-oz. tray contains 9.5 percent protein. Compared to 9Lives, which has 9 percent protein per 5.5-oz. can, your cat gets more protein-rich food in a smaller amount with Iams.

Iams has higher-quality ingredients, which is why it’s veterinarian-recommended. Customers also recommend it, saying they like the small packaging with less waste and leftovers.

Paté Toppers Wet Cat Food
$7.98 ($0.24 / Ounce)

by Meow Mix 

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03/02/2024 06:51 pm GMT

Meow Mix Pate Toppers

Meow Mix Pate Toppers is an economical choice for wet cat food, providing tasty toppings to enhance the flavor and texture of dry cat food. If your cat can’t decide between pate or chunky food, the Pate Toppers are for them. Add these toppers to dry cat food to give a variety or to stretch your budget.

These toppers are a mixture of smooth pate and meaty shreds. Mackerel and water are the first two ingredients, so you know your cat receives a good source of protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from the fish. The seafood and poultry variety pack works well for some cats, but others may have upset stomachs when switching flavors.

PURRFECTLY Best Cats Food Chicken
$89.00 ($47.47 / lb)


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02/29/2024 06:41 pm GMT

Whiskas Purrfectly Wet Cat Food

Whiskas Purrfectly Wet Cat Food provides affordable cat food with delicious flavors and a soft, meaty texture that cats love. Duck, chicken, and beef are not flavor combinations usually found in most cat food. If you have a picky eater, this flavor blend may suit them more than others.

Like Fancy Feast, these pouches are 3 oz. each, but each container has 9 percent protein. Chicken is in all three flavor combinations, so be sure your cat isn’t allergic to this protein.

Some customers say this is the only food their finicky eaters accept. The recommendation is to feed adult cats one pouch per five pounds of body weight twice daily.

© Cattitude Daily Testing Lab.

Lower Cost Without Lowering Quality

Higher-quality ingredients usually come at a higher cost. Choosing more affordable options doesn’t mean feeding your cat unhealthy food. Look at the ingredients and determine what your cat needs and what you can afford. Conscientious shoppers pick out cat food that provides necessary nutrients while staying within budget.

If you look at the ingredient label and are still unsure, take a picture of it and discuss the options with your vet.

No one can tell you what to do or not do for your cat. The decision is ultimately yours. If you care about your cat, you choose the healthiest food you can afford.

Keep your cat from frequenting the vet while keeping yourself out of debt.

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