Monday, August 16, 2010

Ask the Internet: Feeding a Pet on a Budget?

Note #1: Hello, visitors from Lifehacker! Welcome to Cheap Healthy Good. If you’re new to the site, this post might be a solid way to start. (Or, y’know, just keep reading.) Hope you like the place.

Note #2: Today on Serious Eats: Raw Tomatillo Salsa, a.k.a. The Easiest Recipe in the World.

Sweet readers, I have to apologize in advance for what might be a spotty couple of weeks. The wedding is approaching at lightning speed, work has picked up, and to top it off, we adopted Tim Riggins four days ago.

No, not this Tim Riggins.

This Tim Riggins.

 Last week, Tim was the friendliest young stray cat Husband-Elect and I had ever met. This week, after searching for any sign of local ownership and coming up with zilch, he is our pet. We’ve already been to the vet for a checkup and several shots, and are scheduled for a de-cojone session on Friday.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know the first thing about felines. I’ve never owned one, and don’t even particularly like them. Tim, however, seems to be the exception. It could be his constant purring and general adorability, or the fact that he has not yet peed on my pillows. (Husband-Elect, having had a cat growing up, is slightly more knowledgeable.)

Subsequently, I will have a recipe for you tomorrow, but in the meantime, we’re kind of scrambling to feed this guy. Coincidentally, it leads to today’s normally-on-Tuesday Ask the Internet question:

Q: Do you own a pet? How do you budget for him/her? What do you feed your pet that allows you to optimize its health, but stay within your budget?

A: All suggestions are super welcome, though if you have a cat (or several cats), I’d really love your input. (Also – cats don’t drink milk? They’re lactose intolerant? Everything I know is wrong.)

Thanks, everybody!

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Anna said...

When we got our cat, we continued feeding her what they had been feeding her at the Humane Society, which was Purina One in our area. Given that he was a stray, I would do my best to follow whatever the vets recommendations are. Keep in mind too that although buying ridiculously expensive "designer" food (canned food, organic food, ect) is probably not essential, going with whatever is cheapest is probably going to be good either. Low quality food can cause a lot of problems for animals which ends up being more expensive to treat later on.

Anonymous said...

There are usually plenty of coupons available in your paper/online for cat food and cat litter. Helps to tote them around with you when you go grocery shopping. Found a bag of cat food in the clearance bin 50% off and had a $2 off coupon to go with it. Feed the cat for a month on less than $4. It helps if your cat isn't picky about food. Our was never given that option ;)

Good luck!

Annie Jones said...

We have three indoor cats and also some ferals outside that we feed. The indoor cats are currently eating Nutro brand dry food. They also get one can of wet food split between the three of them as a treat once a week. When we had four ferals, we simply fed them the cheapest food we could by and occasional table scraps. Now we are down to just one feral, so for simplicity sake, he gets Nutro also.

We budget for cat food, toys and vet visits based on what we spent the year before, then divide that amount weekly (which is how often my DH gets paid). Sometimes we have excess, other times we're a little short, but it usually works out fine in the end.

EJacks said...

Feeding a cat on a budget is pretty easy. I'd stay away from wet/canned foods, as the cost of those can add up. We feed our cats Purina Urinary Tract Formula. If you get the bigger bag, the cost per unit is cheaper than the smaller. Just be sure to keep it tightly closed so it doesn't get stale.

Cats only need about 1/2 cup of food throughout the day. So that bag will last for quite a while. They drink water, so that's easy as well.

Good luck!

Kristi said...

1. Don't feed him the cheapest food - it usually contains a lot of fillers and not enough protein/vitamins/whatever cats really least buy a brand name you've heard of although like Anna said, most expensive designer food is not necessary.

2. Coupons.

3. I've had good luck buying pet food at Sam's club.

4. We have a dog, not a cat, so it's a little different, but we don't usually buy dog treats. Our dog loves carrots, so we just give her those for treats. Might work for cats too? Also, our dog loves playing with empty water bottles and random stuff like that - no need to spend a lot on fancy toys. But if you do buy toys, go to Walgreens, they often have really cheap ones there. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

We're dog owners, not cat owners. Our adoption group put together resources regarding food brands/etc., with reviews of them and their ingredients along with what we know about our breed. We've found that to be really useful to get food that we feel good about feeding to our pups at a price we can afford. We read Whole Dog Journal, as well, and you may find that a resource like that for cats does a good job of providing you with good information so that you can make the best food choice. (For instance, Kirkland's dog food (costco brand) doesn't have corn in it and is high in protein and low in bi-products, and costs less than some name-brand foods that has corn (bad for dogs) and bi-products.)

Colleen said...

My advice - don't pay money for cat toys! (Except maybe a laser pointer...) Your cat will love paper towel rolls, old knotted up socks (esp w/ catnip inside), ribbons and bows from gift wrap, empty plastic easter eggs, and balled up pieces of paper. Chances are if you think it's trash, your kitty wants to play with it!

Do spend money on clumping cat litter! And find out what brand your cat likes (you may have to try more than one)! It's worth it to have your cat do his business in the box, rather than elsewhere in your house :)

gfpumpkins said...

Much like feeding yourself, what you feed the cat will depend on what you think of how a cat should eat. When I could feed my cat normal food, I bought Wellness brand food for him. I don't think cats should be eating grains and Wellness is a good quality grain free food. Unfortunately, my older cat has urinary crystal issues. The easiest way to treat it is with prescription food, of which there are only two options. I feed him the more expensive one because I think it has better ingredients. If I'm going to focus on eating whole foods for health and environmental reasons, why would I feed my cat crappy food?
That said, even feeding more expensive food, you can find ways to save. I buy the biggest bag of food I can find (16 lb), and when I buy wet food, I buy it by the case. Doing it this way saves quite a bit of money, plus I don't have to get to the vet to get it as often.

falnfenix said...

there are tons of GOOD food options out there. if you choose kibble, try to buy grain-free food. Taste of the Wild and Blue Buffalo Wilderness are two VERY good mid-priced dry foods. do keep in mind that male cats are more prone to UTIs, so wet food will help keep his water intake up to prevent this issue. unfortunately, wet food can be expensive, but this is where feeding a RAW diet can come in handy. consider researching RAW and see if it fits your budget and capabilities.

Luna said...

My 2 cats (and 1 dog) probably eat better than I do. Having had a diabetic cat, I am VERY particular about what I feed mine now. Cats are "obligate carnivores." They don't need carbs. I read the ingredients on the bag/can and buy the best I can afford. I usually buy the "Blue" brand of dry food. I stay away from by-products and "meal" and corn in any format. My two cats also split 1 can of Fancy Feast a day - I make sure to buy the cans that DO NOT have wheat gluten - the gravies, etc. as I have found that makes them puke (even more than normal). No milk for cats! Good luck!

Kris said...

Thanks, everybody! This is very helpful. I didn't know cats weren't carb eaters.

@falnfenix: Dumb question - is RAW a brand name, or does it refer to a raw foods diet?

@Ejacks: 1/2 CUP?! Oops. Already, we've been overfeeding. We will cut back.

Perovskia said...

Don't buy Nutro; they've had 4 recalls the past 3-4 years.

Wellness is good.

Cats are omnivores; IF you feed it table scraps, meat is good (cooked or not). Yes, raw is good for them.

Clean litter box is essential. Clean out once daily (I find is fine for my one cat, though you may want to do more).

No milk.

High end food (as stated, will cut back on health costs later).

My Babu is currently playing with a Q-Tip (cotton removed, of course). Talk about a money saver :)

Diane said...

My cat is now older and unfortunately has urinary track issues, so I have to give him the expensive food from the vet. But I just budget a monthly amount for food/vet/etc.

Litter - there are cheap and expensive options out there. Some reduce smell, some don't. For a while this year I was buying really cheap cat litter as a cost-saving measure, but my back room then smelled like cat pee. Finally I decided the incremental cost difference for a better brand was worth it to me so I could have a nice-smelling home. At my most exasperated I probably would have paid any price. So experiment and find what works for you. Many people say the pine stuff works great and is cheap, but I have not tried it as it is different in shape from what I am using now and I haven't wanted to freak the little guy out. Also - Coupons are your friend!

Kim said...

My cat is 11 years old and has been eating a third or a quarter (depending on the size) of a can of wet food twice a day her whole life. She prefers the fish flavours to the chicken/beef kinds. I usually get Fancy Feast or the higher end grocery store brands but she will also eat Whiskas. She's not too fussy about wet food. She also has open access to dry food all day and now I do splurge on this and get only brands where meat or fish is the first ingredient. That being said, she did eat cheaper dry food for much of her life with no issues. I usually stock up when the wet food is on sale. Joining a reward club at Pet Smart will also get you some discounts on food etc and it's free.

For treats she gets those vaccuum sealed bags of "cookies" which help keep her breath smelling better (it's still stinky though) when she comes inside and does her trick. Catnip is also a treat and a little goes a long way. You can even grow and dry your own.

She drinks water and it gets changed twice a day and there is always a bowl outside (she's an outside cat too) in hot weather although she prefers to drink from puddles or the bird bath.

Since she's an outdoor cat I usually get one 25 kg bag of litter which lasts much of the year. Scoop it out as soon as you notice the litter box has been "visited" and baking soda sprinkled on the bottom will help keep down the smell.

Baxter doesn't care much for manufactured toys and will play for quite some time with a rolled up post-it note, a foil ball or a small tape measure. When she was younger a laster pointer/flash light provided hours of entertainment (for both of us) and lots of exercise for her too. Please remember that some cats will eat string and yarn and elastics and tinsel etc and that can ring up HUGE vet bills as that stuff can get stuck in their intestines and do a lot of damage. I'm lucky that Bax could care less about yarn but it's a lot more dangerous than it looks.

Enjoy Tim Riggins. He's adorable and I think you'll love being a cat owner.

DMBY said...

What a handsome devil!
My two kitties get Science Diet (which is what they had at the shelter before adoption). It's a little more expensive than something like Friskies, but better for them, and doesn't seem to be a budget buster. As others have said, buy a big bag every couple of months, and yes, they only need 1/2 cup per day total (I learned that 'skinny' is really the look of a healthy cat. You want to run your hand from the shoulder to the tail pretty evenly, and should be able to feel the ribs [but not see them really]).
For treats, we do give Greenies to help with tartar control. Only a few every couple of days. Also, Benny tries to eat all kinds of people food. So sometimes for a treat he gets to lick my bowl for yogurt, or we give tiny bits of cheese, chicken, or fish.
Remember never give anything that has onions, garlic, alcohol, or chocolate.
Very best wishes to you and your new fur baby!

Kirby said...

We use Chicken Soup for the Cat Lovers soul - the first ingredient is chicken. We were using Iams, but our cats kept leaving us "presents" of undigested food because they were having problems with it. Once we switched to something that didn't use corn as a filler, the problem disappeared.

aryn said...

At our vet's recommendation, we give them a little bit of wet food every day. One of the small cans (3 oz) lasts two days with a quarter can morning and night. Our older cat, who wasn't accustomed to wet food, doesn't eat it often, while our younger cat has had it from kittenhood and loves it.

We also mix together MaxCat salmon flavor (the fun food) with Innova Evo (the healthy food the vet recommended). If we mix them, they're happy.

Sarah said...

I highly suggest reading Anitra Frazier's The Natural Cat ( She's a bit hippy for my tastes, but I find that I can leave the parts that don't work for me (how to communicate with your cat) and take the parts that do (pros and cons of different litters, feeding guidelines, etc). I use The World's Best Cat Litter (that's what it's called, which clumps great, can be flushed, is affordable, and is made entirely out of corn (as in, you could actually eat it!), which I like because I hate the chemical smells of most cat litter.

Good luck!

Rebecca said...

My cat is unusual in that she doesn't care for wet food. She only likes dry. So start small when figuring out what your guy likes, and when you land of "his brand" that's the time to buy bulk or bigger bags/packages. I buy Evo dry food, which is expensive. However, she gets 1/4 cup in the morning and 1/4 cup at night, so the big bag lasts a super long time. Everyone is right--cats are more carnivorous than dogs, so high protein and low carb is good for them. I figure feeding cats the food you can get from your supermarket with fillers and "mechanically separated chicken parts" is akin to feeding yourself fast food everyday. It gets the job done, and it's cheap enough, but it's definitely not great for you!

Also, I've found a brand of litter called (wait for it) World's Best Cat Litter. It's made entirely from corn, and is flushable, although the bag stipulates that Californians should not or may not (I forgot which) flush it. Whether you decide to flush it or not, it's the best litter I've found as far as clumping (the clumps don't crumble like the Tidy Cats I used before), and it's natural. Also important is that she doesn't seem to track it out of the box as badly as other brands. (My mother also uses it for her 2 cats and noticed the same thing.) I'm able to find both of these products at a small, local pet store in my town, but I'm not sure how widely available they are, but you can search that out on their websites.

Enjoy Tim Riggins! Just keep him away from chop shops and stolen cars so he's not sent to kitty cat jail...

falnfenix said...

RAW refers to the raw diet.

Perovskia said...

Oh, and if you feed dry food, water intake is a must. Always have fresh water handy (prevents crystals).

Carly S said...

I feed my cat Taste of the Wild that I buy at Tractor Supply (which I have no idea those are spread across the country - I live in the South so they're everywhere) but you can find it at a lot of places. It's really affordable at TS, but it might be more expensive elsewhere. A $22 bag feeds Sam for 3 months, and it's good food so it's cut back on vet visits (he had weird allergies so he would get red inflamed spots on his skin). If you have a TS near you, they always have affordable food and litter.

Speaking of litter, use the kind that uses corn, newspaper, etc. Avoid the clay, it's messy, worse for the environment than the others and the dust gets in your cat's lungs. I use the pine kind and it clumps well, covers smells, and is considerably easier to haul around than a 30 lb bag of clay.

Anna N said...

Congrats, what a cute cat!

To second a bunch of things: Yes, cats don't need many carbs - they're carnivores, so they eat mainly meat. Corn and other carbs are used as fillers in cat food, and too much of them is bad for cats. I avoid cat food that lists corn as the first ingredient. Don't bother with fancy-looking cat foods that list ingredients like spinach or rice that sound healthy for humans, but aren't necessarily good for cats.

You probably want to ask a vet about whether to feed your cat all dry food, some wet food, or whatever, because the vet will look at your cat's weight and teeth and all. Dry food is good for cats' teeth (crunchy!) and wet food has less carbs and is good for hydration because it includes water, from my limited understanding. (My cat eats 1/4 cup Iams chicken dry food and 1/2 can Friskies wet food per day.)

Ever since I read a NY Times editorial about overfishing and how we shouldn't use fish to feed our pets, I don't feed my cat any food made from fish.

You definitely don't need to buy your cat toys! Mine loves to bat around wine corks, or balls of newspaper tied to the end of strings.

Most cats are creatures of habit about their litterboxes. You probably want to use whatever litter he's used to, scoop regularly (once a day), and not move the litterbox around. It's best not to buy deodorizing or perfumed litter, or clean the litterbox with very harsh or perfumed chemicals (also good for you, because those chemicals are icky). All this will minimize the chances of your cat "missing" the litterbox.

Carly S said...

Oh and as far as toys go, a balled up piece of paper or a piece of yarn is often all a cat needs to be entertained for a long, long while.

Kris said...

These cat litter suggestions are excellent. We're using a Target brand we had to buy pretty quickly, and it's already all over the apartment. Would a covered box help, I wonder?

@Rebecca: I'll try, but if his irresponsible older brother has a baby, I'm not sure how this is gonna end.

Anna N said...

Also, you can absolutely try a covered litter box. Some cats prefer them. When I read that clumping clay litters are produced through strip mining, I started using Feline Pine litter (Stop&Shop makes a cheaper store brand of it, if you have one near you). It smells piney and my cat switched to it with no problem.

Rebecca said...

@Kris--Better keep said irresponsible older brother away from the Kitty Kat Club, then. Hey-o!

Paycheck Princess said...

Remember that the cat food you buy will make up 100% of your cat’s diet, so it is not ok to go cheap, you will end up paying for it in vet bills later on when Little Timmy isn't getting the nutrients he needs. The most important part of picking out a food for your animal is reading the label. Avoid foods that list fillers (corn, rice, etc) as primary ingredients. Never feed him anything that contains by-products or lists mystery meats in the ingredients; like human food, if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good for you. Try to avoid the big-box pet stores: not only will you get a higher-quality selection at your local store, lots of smaller stores even have frequent buyer programs where you can earn free bags of food for being a loyal customer. Stick with dry food – not only is it more cost effective, dry food is much better for your pet’s teeth because it acts as an abrasive to get rid of plaque. And finally, check out which not only gives you complete ingredient lists, but also quality and cost ratings for you to consider. Good luck!

Trisha said...

I'd also recommend a higher quality dry cat food. The food I buy is pricey, but my cat eats significantly less of it then she did less expensive cat food, so it has ended up saving me money. She gets canned food as an occasional treat, or tuna fish. I get the tuna in water, and put maybe a third of the can in a small bowl with the tuna water and she loves it. So much that she comes running to the kitchen mewing every time I use the (manual) can opener.

I use a clumping litter, and for tracking I've found that putting an old front door mat in front of the box helps to catch the litter.

The only toys she actually plays with are a refillable catnip mouse, little balls of real fur, and the laser pointer. The fur balls I got for less then a dollar at Pet Smart. If he's unsure about how to play, or seems un-inclined to, the laser pointer usually works wonders. My cat has gotten lazy in her old age, and it's the best thing for helping her get some exercise.

Congrats on the new addition to your home!

Lindsey said...

Congrats on the kitty! I use IAM's weight control dry food. My cat was on wet food for a while (it has less fillers so helps him lose weight quicker), but he became so annoying during feeding time that I had to switch back to dry food for my sanity. I invested in an automatic feeder, and it's been phenomenal. I know he's getting fed the same amount at the same time each day even if I need to work late. It also takes the attention away from me around feeding time. He REALLY likes his food.

I strongly recommend discussing proper feeding amounts with your vet. My cat was overweight when I adopted him and 5 years later we're still working to get his weight down. The recommended daily feeding amounts listed on commercial foods are typically too much food.

I use the Petco brand litter. It's a clay litter, but you can buy it in refillable containers. So once a month I bring my empty container to the store and refill. It's cheaper than the other clay litters and I haven't noticed a difference in smell or tracking. I've also seen large bags of litter at the warehouse stores if you have someplace to store that much.

chacha1 said...

My cats love their covered Booda Dome and totally rejected a larger box I offered them. They are both pretty big - over 10 lbs - not fat!! really!! - and I thought they'd like more space. Nope.

I put down a sisal rug in the litterbox raceway to help confine the tracked litter, which is inevitable.

As to litter, I only use unscented. If *we* can smell the perfume in scented, just imagine how strong it is to the more-sensitive nostrils of our pets.

Treats - very rarely. But most cats I've known have liked a bit of tomato or watermelon, especially if you hold it for them. :-)

Diane said...

Litter: I love EverClean as it's the only brand I've found that deals with smell REALLY well. But I haven't tried "World's Best Cat Litter" so that could be good too. Whatever you use, scoop it every day without fail. Cats are very fastidious and like a clean box. Sure, I can go two days, but it gets pretty gross and lets face it - would you want to go to the bathroom in two days worth of poop?

Invest in a good cat brush too. My cat loves to be brushed and it keeps the fuzziness of the house down to a dull roar.

I got a cat fountain when my guy had the urinary blockage, and it has been the best thing ever. He loves it, and drinks from it all the time. And sometimes will just sit and stare at it blissfully, like we would at a waterfall. He drinks much more water now that I have the fountain and hasn't had any followup urinary problems. It does need cleaning (have to clean inside pump parts too!), but is very worth it as he is healthier and vastly entertained by it. You could let the tub drip instead, but that drives up the water bill.

dragonlifter said...

As the owner of 7 cats (4 inside, 3 barn), 2 horses, and a dog a lot of the suggestions here are really good. On top of the good food purchased in large quantities (all 7 cats eat the same thing except for 1 who has urinary issues) I also recommend a separate "emergency Fund" for your animals. it's size can vary depending on your animals and their needs, but this lets your first thought be about your animals health and not your checkbook. I have found that if you treat issues early, rather than waiting, the overall cost is much lower. Think the difference between a Vet's office visit versus office visit, meds, and procedures.


Kris said...

I have to thank everyone again. The day Tim arrived, we bought a small bag of 9 Lives to feed him. The very first ingredient is corn filler, quite a few after that are wheat and corn byproducts. I'll definitely be on the lookout for straight meat food now.

Also, I am thrilled that flushable cat litter exists. This could be very good for our plastic bag situation.

@dragonlifter: That's really solid advice. I have to admit, I was kind of surprised at the start-up medical costs of treating a stray (especially in Brooklyn), but being prepared for checkups and such should become a priority of ours.

Cori R. said...

I have three cats and it's pretty easy to keep them in munchies without spending too much. I spend about $20 every 6 - 8 weeks for enough quality food to take care of them. Scoopable litter I buy in 30lb boxes from Walmart.

I buy alternating flavors of Iams dry cat food in 20 - 25 lb bags whenever I can find a sale and coupons. Often at PetsMart you can get bags with high-value Iams coupons inside, which subsidizes the next trip.

I also split one small 2.5 - 3 oz tin of wet food between them for breakfast. It's mostly for day-to-day variety to keep them from getting bored.

Anonymous said...

Cats are obligate carnivores and should not be eating any dry food, much less wet foods containing more than trace carbohydrates. The only carbs they would naturally consume would be the contents of their prey's stomach! Dry foods and the carbs set them up for a host of health issues later in life.

This site is a good place to start:

Dry food does not help clean a cats teeth (google 'dry cat food clean teeth myth'). A occasional chunk of raw chicken breast will do the trick nicely as your happily purring cat attempts to tear it into manageable bites. Yes, raw chicken (perhaps heated in a ziplock under warm water to room temp) - kitty doesn't have a stove or microwave handy to cook that rodent or bird he/she just caught!

Married With Kittens said...

I have 2 cats, and we get 1 of the 25 lb bags of Science Diet Indoor Cat food (~$28) about once every 1.5-2.5 months. They each get 1/3 cup twice a day (breakfast and dinner), don't always finish the whole thing but sometimes they do. We also empty out their water and refill it with each meal, to keep it fresh.

For treats, they LOVE tuna (just straight from the can), they get about 1/4 can each for a serving. We also get them the milk for cats, called CatSip. It's like $1 for 1 juicebox sized container, but it takes them at least 6 meals to drink the whole thing and they don't get it too often.

Be concerned about their cat litter. We stopped using the traditional clay litter because it gets clay in their lungs from the dust, and can shorten their lives and render them ill. We now only use the pine type of litter (Feline Pine is one brand, there is another brand whose name escapes me at the moment, same product but cheaper - right next to Feline Pine).

Good luck with the cats and the wedding! I just got married 2 months ago and those last few weeks were all kinds of craziness.

carter @ the kitchenette said...

I knew you didn't mean THAT tim riggins. Because honestly, if you had adopted the cut-off-shirt-clad football-playing expert-at-smoldering-stares Tim Riggins...

You probably wouldn't be getting married. Just saying.

JB said...

Be sure to save up some gift boxes at Christmastime as well. My wife makes our cat a horizontal scratch box, by putting cut cardboard slats on their sides in a cat-sized box (it pays to find something your cat will like to scratch that isn't your sofa or anything else you want to look nice). Also, if a covered litterbox seems like too much, there are some boxes that have a clip-on rim. The cheap doormat in front helps stop tracking nicely, too.
Of course, you could go for the holy grail in cat waste-management:

Celia said...

We feed our [3] cats the Blue Buffalo brand food, mostly because it's free of a lot of the fillers found in much of the cheaper food. I'm willing to pay a little more for food that won't hurt them in the long run. For a while we bought cheap food out of necessity, but our cats' fur lost its luster and they were having some health problems such as UTIs. It's worth it in my book. I don't feed our cats canned food, so that cuts a lot of expense right there.

We use Swheat Scoop litter--again, fewer fillers and chemicals. Works for us, and seems to last longer with less smell than a lot of other litters we've tried. I don't find it costs me much more (if more at all) than cheap litter.

Finally--coupons! I shop at Petco because it's closest to us. With the store discount card I get a buy 10, get 1 free deal with our cat food. (The catch is that you have to buy the same kind each time, but that's not terrible either.)

Cliff Bowdish said...

To second, third....thirteenth? Spend a little extra on the food, especially the dry. The fillers are the killer. One thing I think nobody mentioned is that one HUGE benefit of more expensive food is less poo for you to clean up. Fillers just get passed right on through for the most part. As for soft/hard/mix, ask the vet and your cat will end up telling you a lot about himself with his eating habits.

Anonymous said...

I am not a cat person, but have had the good fortune to inherit 3 in the last couple years. I feed them Iams dry cat food, which I like because they all seem to enjoy it, my local supermarket always stocks it, and it is often on sale there as well as the larger chain stores. I agree with those who recommend choosing the litter carefully. I found that if they don't care for what I buy because it happens to be on sale, they send me a clear message by going outside the litter box.
As it relates to diet, I have to admit that I am limited by my budget. The way I see it, if it weren't for me these cats would have gone to the pound, and then very likely to kitty heaven (you know what I mean), so I feel ok about feeding them a manufactured dry food that seems to meet their nutritional needs without bankrupting me. Yes, I know wild cats don't eat dry kibble, but maybe they would if it meant not having to hunt around for food and having a nice safe window seat where they could bask in the sun all day! Do the best you can and enjoy your kitty- they definitely make life interesting!

Ruth said...

I have 4 cats, and strongly support the others who said only feed wet food with no carbs. I had 3 cats go into diabetes on dry food, and was able to 'cure' them by going to wet food only (the no-gravy kind)... Its not too expensive, you can buy Friskies Pate type, 9-Lives, etc. as long as it doesn't have carbs/gravy.

Rip said...

I've only had dogs, but they have all lived much longer than breed avg., so here's my $.02. Don't bother with all the "holistic" high end food and generally avoid any of the stuff designed to look like human food. Basically, all that stuff is intended to be attractive to people. Your pet doesn't care about looks. However, you should buy high quality or premium food, which pretty much has everything a pet needs. I pretty much use Nutro dry, though other brands at that level are just as good. Having said that, my sister does have a cat, and apparently it is exceptionally finicky. And unlike dogs, which should eat dry food (NOT wet, unless you want their teeth to rot and fall out), she claims that cats should have wet food. I'm doubtful, but again, I'm not a cat owner.

CJ said...

On the water issue- Our cat was not drinking out of his bowl but would use the dog's water bowl all the time. Then I learned that cats are very nearsighted and have trouble seeing the surface. I switched his smaller cat water dish for a big dog bowl approximately 10 inches across and viola. He now uses his bigger wider bowl.

I also put a rug in front of his litter box for those lovely little litter crumbles that stick to his paws. Now he wipes his feet when he gets out of the box.

He also loves an old rattan trunk for kneading his paws. It's a textural thing.

BTW- he's gorgeous. It's great when you have a social cat. Wait until he wants to lay in your arms while you try to type......
Check out this site for litter boxes from Ikea Hacks. Full of great ideas.

Delilah said...

I worked at a pet store and vet clinic for years and I can tell you there is a huge difference in overall health long term depending on your food choice... and as someone who always told myself when I got a dog/cat I'd be buying something like Wellness or Blue Buffalo ($$$), yet now owner of an unplanned puppy (yes, unplanned puppy, lol but we love her) and hardly any moolah... I've decided to go with Nutro. They sell it at most pet stores (including petco and petsmart) and it's the cheapest of the quality food (or highest quality of the cheaper food, however you want to look at it). My brother owns my puppy's sister, and she's on Iams Healthy Naturals and that being a corn-based food (Nutro is protein source based--so first few ingredients are meat, NOT filler grains)and the differences between the two are unbelievable. The one on Iams is starving all the time, way chunkier, much more hyper, and just crazy in general. Long story short, especially for a cat, make sure it's chock full of meat... your first several ingredients should be chicken, fish, etc. Try to avoid by-products. Dry food is cheaper, and much better for dental health. As far as brands, I highly, highly recommend Nutro.

CJ said...

A really basic hack- Cheap, good.

CJ said...

One more thing- cat proof your home. They like to walk over high surfaces (tables, shelves) and don't value your knick knacks they way we do.

uncanny said...

We used to feed our cat Purina One, then we switched to Nutro, then he puked everywhere for several days, then we switched to "designer" Innova EVO.

Yes, a bag costs $60. It lasts 6 months. $10/month is pretty cheap for all the food the kitty requires.

Kaitlyn Baker Wessels said...

This is so strange--we adopted two older cats from a friend and I jumped on the opportunity though I had never had cats growing up or ever particularly cared for them. My husband grew up in a big cat household and knows lots more about them.

We have kept them on a Science Diet, older cat blend. We give them both a quarter of a can of wet food and a little less than 1/2 cup of dry food every day. It's expensive with food and vet visits, but we know it keeps them in good health and they're members of our family now!

Joel and Amy Haldeman said...

we have 1 adorable indoor cat and paid $12/month on her last year including litter, toys, food, & shots...we budgeted the same this year and have gone WAAAY under!

You can get all their basic shots at petco or petsmart vet clinics. they'd come to Chicago area stores about once a month. You have to wait in line for an hour, but it's worth it for super cheap shots!

I follow coupon blogs for food & litter...picked up a ton of cheap litter at walgreens earlier this year & got tons of almost free purina one cat food (reg $12 bag). The sun paper had a free bag coupon earlier this year, so i stocked up on sun papers that week & got cat food for a year for free! you just have to watch the deals and you really don't have to spend much.

as far as toys, petsmart has a nice clearance section and you can buy toys at 90% off.

vets i've talked to say only feed dry food. i've read books on how raw chicken is incredibly healthy for cats which makes sense since they eat raw meat in the wild. it is important to check percentages of carbs in food before buying it.

Enjoy your cat...they're the best!!

elwing said...

Currently, I've got two (older) kitties that have grown up on Iams hairball dry food. They both hate drinking stale/stagnant water, and we bought one of the nice fountains for them and they love it (they figured out how to flush the toilets and would do so just to get "running" water - the fountain ended up being better for our wallet...) They have several scratching posts scattered throughout the house because we care about our furniture, but they're mostly cardboard and relatively cheap. They don't use much in the way of purchased toys, they'd rather play with clothes, my hair, random string, etc..

On the food - we leave a bowl out for them at all times and they share the bowl. They don't have weight issues, but if your cat overeats, then you'll have to control how much food you give them - and expect to be woken up if you're 1 minute later than usual.

We have to have two litter boxes because otherwise we get accidents, but we use the Johnny Cat clay litter. It's $3 for 40lb bags at Petsmart, and then we just toss everything at the end of the week. Ours hate scoopable litter, so your mileage may vary.

To save money, Petsmart has a nice sale system that always gives us sales on the food and litter, and Iams has coupons in their bags (we buy the 40lb ones)

Kris said...

After emptying out his full litter box for the first time, we are Googling deals on pine litter and World's Best. Woof.

Kitter said...

Here's what we've come up with, I think it's pretty healthy, and the prices are reasonable.

Trader Joe's: 2 bags of the fancy holistic brand + 1 bag of TJ's brand (picky cats won't eat just TJ's). TJ's 'double wide' scratchers rock. For litter, our Costco carries this 'Litter Purrfect' stuff that I haven't seen anywhere else - in a green can. Works great, doesn't have a strong perfume odor (SO many do - gross!), and the price is great. Since changing to those "Rollaway" cat boxes, our litter usage went way down (plus they're easier to clean).

Dogs: Kirkland brand food from Costco. I did way too much research on dog food a couple years ago, and the Kirkland brand kept popping up as having decent/high quality, and the price is fantastic.

Happy pet ownership! It's NOT frugal, but it is fun. :)

Elizabeth said...

I have to agree with the recommendations for World's Best cat litter. I live in a small apartment, and the only place for my cat's litter box is my bedroom. The World's Best litter really is the best to minimize odors and tracking, yet it clumps better than any typical clay litter. Plus I hated the dust and chemical smell of clay litter.

As for food, I only feed my cat dry kibble, but it's because she's picky and won't eat wet food. Be sure to invest in an airtight container for the bulk size bag. Dry food will definitely go stale before your cat finishes a big bag. I feed my cat a blend of Iams and Purina One, but after reading all these comments, I'm going to gradually switch my cat to a food with less fillers.

For toys, cardboard boxes for hiding in and scratching, clearance bin fake fur mice, and a laser pointer. The best investment I made though was in a treat dispensing ball. I think the highlight of my cat's day is getting Trader Joe's cat treats in that egg shaped toy right before I leave for work.

Megan said...

We feed our cat Nutro because it doesn't have a lot of the fillers that cheaper food usually does. Giving your pet food that starts with corn based ingredient is like giving kids a ton of sugar & letting them run around. Our cat never has had the wet food because it can get expensive but he doesn't seem to mind.
As for cat toys, etc. I Never spend too much money on things like that because, 1. they get lost/eaten/disgusting pretty quickly 2. my cat is just as happy with those plastic balls with a bell in them as anything else & they're like 6/$1. My best advice is to have your cat fixed as quickly as possible, it will help cut down on the peeing on things. I too was not a cat lover but my husband talked me into keeping a stray. He turned out to be a really loving kitty, even if I did lose all of my sheer window treatments. Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

I feed my 2 cats Wellness wet food and vet recommended dental food. Sometimes we make a puree of plain chicken and water as a treat.

While Wellness brand is more expensive, it is better for them in the long run and will save money in vet bills in the future. Also, when they eat the cheap stuff they aren't getting the nutrients they need and end up eating much more.

For 2 cats the cost of the wet food is only $1 per day. (The can costs $3.19 and lasts 3 days)

*there is the added benefit of less smelly cat litter with decent food.

Anonymous said...

I think it is worth it in the long run to feed pets a pricier natural food-feeding them the pet equivalent of lunchables will hurt their health. However, I have saved money by switching from a super boushy vet to basic-but very competent-vet. For litter, I use Swheat Scoop, it lasts a long time with minimal smell. Also, resist overpriced toys, beds, and other cute stuff.

Dee Seiffer said...

I've always had cats....and dogs, bunnies, hamsters. Down to two dogs and one cat right now. I agree with most posters - buy the best food you can afford. I find Petco has good sales + coupons on high quality food. I'm not brand loyal, but am quality loyal.

RE: vet bills - you might want to see if has VCA vet shops in your area. I'm getting $125 back from my cat's annual check-up for filling surveys about the vet's service. VCA is a national brand of vets.

Cute cat! Good luck w/ wedding prep.

Jennifer said...

I've read a lot of the comments, and I have a couple things to add. If you cat has a problem with corn in its food (which it a great thing to figure out), it might also have a problem with corn based litter. My cats use Dr. Elsey's Perfect Cat Litter and they and I both love it. For both food and litter, the thing is going to be a process of trial and error.

I have to say though, even though Tim Riggins is a stray, you shouldn't let him go outside. Indoor cats live twice as long as indoor/outdoor cats. If he wants to go outside now, that should subside after his neutering.

Anonymous said...

I'm a dog owner, not a cat owner, but as the daughter of a vet, I can tell you many of the same food rules apply. It's worth it to buy quality food, it will save you in vet bills down the line and your pet will live longer.

Basically, any pet food you can buy at a grocery store or Target or WalMart is crap. Skip it. I buy dog food at a local pet store, and the prices are really not that much higher, and are sometimes lower, than the junk you could pick up at the grocery store. Science Diet and Iams are NOT good foods, despite being advertised as "premium brands". There are way better foods at comparable prices if you do the research.

I often refer people to to research dog foods, I'm sure there's a similar site for cat food info. Or, look at the brands that have highly-rated dog foods and get cat food in those brands, it's a safe bet that the cat foods by those manufacturers are also quality foods.

Laura said...

I have two indoor only cats and they are my babies. I want the best for them, I also don't want to go broke giving it to them. That said,, here are my suggestions:

First, NO CORN. Find a food without it.

Second, try to find a dry food that has a whole meat (chicken is most common) rather than "meal" as the first ingredient. This may not be the most expensive food, but it won't be the cheapest either.

Third, if you switch brands a lot your cat may end up with digestive issues. Choose one and stick with it. If you have to switch start by mixing the new brand with the old one and increase the proportion of new food until you have completely transitioned.

Fourth, buy the biggest bag of your chosen brand that you can. It will cost more in one go but less in the long run.

Fifth, (YMMV here) wet food is a treat, not a staple. They get wet food once every week or so and I vary the flavor/brand to keep things interesting.

Sixth, kitties love grass. I buy bulk wheat berries from my local Co-op and plant them in a little terra cotta pot. It's way cheaper than the pre-sprouted stuff they sell at the pet store. Plus, if he has his own plant to chew he's less likely to bother yours.

Litter: Go with clumping. You'll thank yourself later.

Toys: Whether you make them or buy them, rotate. I keep a bunch of toys in a box with catnip. Every few weeks I switch them out. This keeps kitty from getting bored with having the same stuff all the time.

Love: Give him lots of it. :)

Jennifer I said...

Cheap food from the supermarket is not good, particularly for boys. Urinary crystals form from, i believe, the excessive amounts of potassium in cheap brands of kitty food. They will block up. We are pretty frugal, but buy your food from a pet store -- use store coupons and such. Avoid possible life threatening condition for your kitty and expensive vet bills.

Sara said...

I skimmed comments, so sorry if any of this is redundant.

Yes, apart from catnip and grass plants, buying cat toys is usually a waste of money. Spending real money on anything for a cat -- much like a kid-- usually means they will play with the box and then stare at you like, "And what did you want me to do with this other thing."

I buy my cat that Good Life stuff. It's supposedly a little better than the bargain stuff, but I don't have the bucks to spend on anything fancy. Our cat is only 7.5 pounds and is entirely indoor, so it might not work for all cats.

And yes, look for coupons!

Dee Seiffer said...

If you can stand one more comment...
There is a $3 coupon on for World's Best Cat Litter....

Anonymous said...

congratulations on your new companion! while i have lived with kitties my whole life, i'm by no means an expert, but here's my experience:
-kitties should be given a consistent diet. avoid switching food types if possible. if you do, mix the types together so the change is gradual.
-one or both of my cats is likely a little "irregular" and needs some digestive help. the vet recommended the purina one sensitive systems food, and both seem to thrive on it. the price is very reasonable (~$18-20 for a 16 pound bag at petsmart outside of boston) and coupons are often available.
-no tuna. give him canned cat food if you must feed him something that stinks.
-pine or corn cat litters are great and really not that much more expensive than the clay. the clumping pine variety, in particular, is also much easier to carry if you're shopping without a car or must ascend many flights of stairs to your home. it's also good to keep the type of cat litter consistent if you can. my kitties have been very good when i've tried different types or brands, but my parents have a cat that will refuse to use the litter box if they change anything about it. if you do change the litter type, put the new litter on the bottom of the pan and the old type on the top and gradually change over to the new type.
-get a furminator. it will help with shedding tremendously. but buy it on ebay and don't pay the $30-40 they charge in the store.

have fun with your new furry friend!

policyonrye said...

When I lived in South Africa, my housemate and I had two kittens we adopted from a shelter who were in very poor health. We fed them white rice mixed with chicken that we cooked off the bone each week, freezing a few portions in small plastic tubs. It was easy, very non-stinky and improved our kittens health immediately. Even better ... we always had a ton of delicious chicken stock on hand!

Kris said...

@Anna N: The wine cork is working like gangbusters! Thank you for that one!

Veliette said...

Make the food yourself. Read "The Natural Cat" by Anitra Frazier or visit her site Making the food is the best option for our three kitties to stay within budget. (And yes, my cats eat veggies with no qualms. Broccoli and green beans are their favorites, but egg plant is a big YUM too.)

Anonymous said...

Look into "Feline Pine" for cat litter. If you put about an inch into the box and scoop daily it is very economical. (bonus - I can find it at Walmart and Petsmart...of course the prices are different)

I love Feline Pine because when the cat pees on it, it turns to sawdust, basically. Easy to scoop out and it controls odor way better than any other litter I've ever used.

I've had cats my entire life. I've tried just about every brand out there and the chemical smell/dust from most other brands makes me gag. Also great - the litter chunks are too big to track everywhere, so unless you've got a digger the litter stays in the box.

For food...we do feed our older, fat cat the designer weight control stuff. It is $12/bag, but lasts almost a whole month because he only gets 1/2 day (1/4 in the AM, 1/4 in the PM). Cheap cat litter makes his poo smell horrible..but I've noticed it isn't as smelly with the more expensive stuff.

Anonymous said...

i have been personally pet free for the last 4 years (though i am auntie to a rescued rottie, shepherd/black lab mix and my personal favorites - a brother and sister black cat duo and now to a beagle/american staffordshire terrior). i am the bringer of little treats and christmas gifts.

before that we had cats for 25 years, sometimes multiples. check with your local shelters and/or vets. we used middle of the road food most of the time bought with coupons mixing a little bit of wet as a treat with mainly hard crunchies. the only thing was towards the end of each of our pets lives when their tastes, and consequently my buying habits, changed to anything from baby food to sardines that were made into purees.

enjoy the newest member of your family and scratch him under the chin for me.

MrsErinS said...

I don't own a cat, but I have the feeling the idea is generally the same. two suggestions...costco for food. We always found the best prices there. But perhaps even more attention to the serving size! Just like with humans, I think we're compelled to make things supersized now and your pet does NOT need a huge serving of food. Then you aren't flying through food like crazy.

Heather said...

Dog or cat, do not buy toys or food from China! I know that they are often the cheapest, but we've had enough problems in the past few years with human and pet products from there. I used to be a vet tech and what the drs. told us is that while they are lactose intolerant, if you feed them enough dairy, they will develop the necessary enzyme to digest it, over time. Of course, in the meantime you will have to deal with diarrhea, etc. There is a great article at the about making your own kitty litter, which is cheap and green. And as many people said, it's not necessary to buy the most expensive, but do some research. Look for the food with the least fillers and other unnecessary and potentially harmful ingredients. You'll be rewarded with lower vet bills and a longer living pet. Most foods in your average grocery store are terrible. The exception is Newman's Own, which I believe they do sell in grocery stores and is a great food. It's what I feed my dog. Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add, I fell into the trap of thinking Science Diet was a premium based food. But if you look at the ingredient list, it's no better than the cheap Walmart brands. Another recommendation here for Chicken Soup brand--even our finicky cat will scoff it down--which sits at a good price/ingredient ratio.

Lorin D said...

I don't know if this has been recommended yet or not because I'm WAY too lazy to read through all 70-some comments, but I buy my cat-friends the Whole Foods brand cat food. It's like, two bucks and change for three pounds or so and the first ingredient is chicken, which is supposed to be a pretty big deal from what I hear.

Also, one of my cats used to have really awful breath, and when we switched to that, his breath became only half as awful, so that's got to count for something.

Woodwife said...

If you decide to go with Feline Pine you can get the same thing for a fraction of the cost at a feed supply store like Tractor Supply.

Ask for pelletized horse bedding. Same thing as Feline pine, 25 pounds for $6.00.

One of the advantages that it can be composted after scooping out the solids.

I have 8 cats and to be honest they weren't crazy about the pine pellets. But I know other folks who use it with great success.

Kate @ the wooden spoon said...

Our best tip is for the vet. There are two essential questions: "What is this test going to prove?" and "How would the test outcome affect the treatment plan?" I wish we would have asked these last time we went to the vet. There's no reason to test for anything that you wouldn't be willing to treat. We ended up with a $300 bill and the knowledge that our cat doesn't have a heart disease.

Another budget tip is to buy the best cat food that you can afford. Counter intuitive, but as many people have mentioned, it's much less expensive to the urinary problems that arise so frequently from using inferior cat food. We used to feed our cat the stuff for about $15 per bag... however, now, after a boatload of vet bills and one unhappy cat, we buy the $50 bag.