3 Best Budget Cat Foods Your Cat Will Love

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Dry cat food is cheaper than wet.

The problem dry cat food is much higher in carbs. Not best for long term health.

Our 3 best budget cat foods strike a balance between health and affordability.

  1. Fancy Feast | Best Overall
  2. Friskies Pate | Best Bulk Buy
  3. Tiki Cat Born Carnivore | Best Dry

Finding affordable cat food that your cat likes is hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

Most budget cat foods are carb packed to save costs at the expense of your cats health.

I’ll offer some quick buying tips on what to look for with budget cat food, then offer my top picks.

Finally, I’ll go through any frequently asked questions on the topic.

Let’s go.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.

Buying Guide

How do you choose healthy cheap cat food?

Here’s what to do:

Choose a Sole Feeding Option

Cats need complete meals.

First, choose a sole feeding cat food option per AAFCO’s nutrition guidelines. That means cats get all the nutrients they need.

If the label says it’s only for supplemental feeding, it isn’t complete nutrition. Check the back label for this statement.

Quick notes:

  • Choose complete food
  • AAFCO nutrient profile
  • Check back label

Learn more:

AAFCO label on a cat food
Look for what life stage the cat food is intended for and whether it’s a sole or supplemental feeding food

Dry or wet cat food?

Wet is best.

Whilst dry is cheaper, it’s higher in carbs and designed to imitate meat flavor. Dry cat food contains more grains, legumes, and potatoes.

This isn’t optimal for the long term health of your cat. Cats are carnivores, and wet food reflects their dietary preference.

Quick notes:

  • Dry food cheaper
  • Worse quality though
  • Wet for health

Learn more:

A cat eating dry cat food
Whilst cheaper, dry cat food is a lower quality choice and not worth it for your cats health

Choose Low Carb Cat Food for Health

Low carb is best.

As carnivores, cats have no need for carbs. Cheaper cat foods load up on carb rich foods like grains to save on cost.

High carb diets cause digestive issues, and may increase diabetes risk. Use an online calculator to find the dry matter basis (experts suggest limiting to under 12%).

Quick notes:

  • Choose low carb (~12% dry matter)
  • Increases diabetes risk
  • Use online calculator

Learn more:

A cat vomiting
High carb foods may cause digestive upset in cats

Check the Ingredients

Meat is best.

As discussed, cheaper cat foods load up on grains and high carb ingredients. Things cats don’t want or need.

Ingredients list by weight. Steer clear if you see things like wheat gluten, corn, potatoes or cereals first.

Quick notes:

  • Check the ingredients
  • Listed by weight
  • Look for meat first
A cat food ingredient list
A budget cat food ingredient list (note that cereal are first – not great)

3 Best Budget Cat Foods

1. Fancy Feast Creamy Delights

Best Wet Cat Food

Fancy Feast cat food
Fancy Feast Creamy Delights

Pros and Cons

  • High protein
  • Low carb
  • Lots of variety
  • Not pretty
  • Mixed quality


Fancy Feast is the best cat food on a budget. Fussy cat friendly.

Their wet cat foods are low carb and high in animal protein. Meets AAFCO’s nutrition guidelines as a complete meal for all life stages.

They offer variety packs to save.

The main downside is the use of meat by-products. That leads to mixed quality from tin to tin.

Best for:

  • Value for money
  • Picky eaters
  • Easy digestion

Where to find Fancy Feast Creamy Delights?

Read more:

Fancy Feast Creamy Delights dry matter nutrition
Fancy Feast Creamy Delights dry matter nutrition
Fancy Feast Creamy Delights cat food review score
Fancy Feast Creamy Delights cat food review score

2. Friskies Pate

Best Bulk Buy

Friskies pate wet cat food

Pros and Cons

  • High meat
  • Picky cat friendly
  • Complete for adults (1-7 yrs)
  • High carb
  • Meat by-products


Friskies are a popular bulk buy wet cat food. Fussy cats will love it.

Whilst the carb content is borderline high (hovers around 15% dry matter), it is still higher in animal based ingredients than dry cat food.

For picky cats that just won’t budge, Friskies is worth a look.

Best for:

  • Budget buy
  • Multiple cat houses
  • Fussy eaters

Where to find Friskies Pate?

Read more:

Friskies Pate dry matter nutrition analysis
Friskies Pate dry matter nutrition analysis
Friskies wet cat food review
Friskies wet cat food review

3. Tiki Cat Born Carnivore

Best Quality Affordable Dry Cat Food

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Pros and Cons

  • High in meats
  • Low carb
  • All life stages
  • Not much variety
  • A tad pricey


Tiki Cat Born Carnivore falls under 15% carbs on a dry matter basis.

That’s far better than, well 99% of what’s out there! It’s the only cheaper dry cat food I can recommend without hating myself.

Whilst it’s a little pricier than the ultra budget cat foods, it’s worth it for your cats health.

Best for:

  • Easy digestion
  • Diabetic cats
  • All life stages

Where to find Tiki Cat Born Carnivore?

Read more:

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore dry matter nutrition analysis
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore cat food review score
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore cat food review score

How Did I Choose These Cat Foods?

Using a database.

I sorted cat foods based on a price per ounce basis for the purpose of this article. I filtered supplemental cat foods and high carb foods (highest is Friskies Pate).

Finally, I looked at overall quality based on ingredients, nutrition, and taste.

Full list of the budget cat foods:

Best budget cat foodsPriceTypeTextureCarb*LifestageNote
Friskies Pate$WetPate16%AdultBest value, although slightly high carb
Halo Chicken Recipe$WetStew8%AdultMixed taste results
Dave’s Naturally$WetPate4%AdultMixed taste results
Fancy Feast Creamy Delights$WetPate1%AllGreat taste and quality
Nulo Freestyle$WetPate6%All Great choice (untested)
Tiki Cat Born Carnivore$DryKibble14%AllBest dry cat food
Natural Balance Duck & Pea$WetPate8%AdultLimited ingredient choice
Avo Derm Tuna & Crab$$WetGravy11%All Chicken free
Sheba Perfect Portions Roasted$$WetPate7%AllHandy single serve tubs
Hound & Gatos$$WetPate0%All98% protein & low carb
Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein$$DryKibble0%AllBest low carb, at a slightly higher cost
Full list of the budget cat foods for comparison *carbs on a dry matter basis

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Feed My Cat Cheaply?

Don’t overfeed.

Free-feeding is one of the main causes of obesity in cats. It’s also a waste of cash.

Other tips:

  • Bulk buy
  • Taste test first
  • Look for sales

Learn more:

A box of cat food
Bulk buy to help save (cat not included)

Which Budget Cat Food Is Best?

Fancy Feast.

It’s great for fussy eaters, and low carb for top health. Meat rich to keep your cat strong.

Other great reasons:

  • Urinary health
  • Complete meal
  • Great variety

Learn more:

Our cat eating Fancy Feast
Fancy Feast is a top budget cat food choice

Are Canned Sardines Good for Cats?


Sardines are high protein, but also high in polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). AAFCO suggest balancing PUFA and Vitamin E.

Eating high amounts of PUFA changes the ratio of PUFA to other fats in fatty tissue. High PUFA intakes may increase the risk of renal failure due to inflammation.

Quick notes:

  • High protein
  • High PUFA
  • Occasional meal only
Sardines are best as an occasional treat for cats

What Ingredients Should Not Be in Cat Food?

Avoid or limit:

  • Corn gluten meal
  • Wheat gluten
  • Pea protein
  • Potatoes
  • Lentils
  • Brewers rice
  • Carrageenan

Brewers rice impairs the absorption of taurine, an essential amino acid crucial for healthy eyesight and heart function.

Carrageenan is a seaweed-based thickener used in wet cat food. It’s linked to increased immune response and digestive-related issues.

Learn More:

Bag of rice
Rice is a high carbohydrate grain that doesn’t provide any benefit to cats


Wet cat food is the best choice on a budget. It’s lower in carbs and helps keep your cat hydrated.

Look for cheap cat food that meets AAFCO’s nutrition targets for your cats life stage. This makes sure your cat gets a balanced diet.

Try giving your cat a taste test before committing to a cat food. Then look at bulk buy packs to save long term.

Top picks:

  1. Fancy Feast | Best Overall
  2. Friskies Pate | Best Bulk Buy
  3. Tiki Cat Born Carnivore | Best Dry
Photo of author


I'm qualified dietitian that's turned their attention to cat nutrition. My goal is to help tease out the science on how best to feed your cat.