Once you are aware of what’s available at the four basic types of businesses selling cat food, you will be equipped with all the knowledge you need to locate food that best meets your cat’s unique needs. Combine that with our smart tips on getting bargains, and you’ll be ready to go shopping.
Most cat owners will have access to the following four sources of cat food: veterinarian offices, pet supply shops, natural food stores, and your traditional grocery store. Let’s look at what’s available at each of these so you will be aware of all your options.
1. Veterinarian Offices
Your veterinarian carries a variety of food formulated to help pets with particular health problems such as kidney disease or arthritis. For example, the kidney diet food might be lower in protein and the arthritis food may contain minerals that benefit a cat’s joints. If your cat’s vet does prescribe one of these special cat foods, you will have to purchase it from them or another vet. These special products are sold exclusively through veterinarian practices.
If you do find yourself needing this special food, be sure to get on the phone and shop around for the best price from all the local veterinarian offices. You don’t need an actual prescription to buy it and are free to get it wherever it’s available. You may find a significantly better price at another local practice. Although this “prescription” food tends to be on the expensive side, the hope is that this diet will help your cat lead a long, healthy, happy life.
2. Pet Supply Shops
This is where you will find the greatest variety of foods for your cat. They will have the broadest range of prices and types. You will likely find some rather generic, and less expensive food, along with quite exotic and pricey options that almost sound appealing enough for your own dinner plate.
Just as people may have food sensitivities, so do some cats. Here you’ll find unique products that are grain-free, gluten-free, all meat, etc. They are formulated to meet these individual needs. If your cat is not thriving or seems to be having digestive issues, check with your vet and see if one of these special diets might be worth trying out.
Buying cans by the case or large bags of dry food will usually get you a decent discount and if they have a Customer Loyalty Card, you can eventually earn additional price breaks or even free items. In the unlikely event that you don’t spot the particular food you want, these stores will often be happy to handle your special order if it’s available from one of their many suppliers. This seems to be especially true of the smaller, non-chain store businesses.
As a side note, pet supply shops, brick and mortar or online, will be your best source for all the extra goodies you’ll want to spoil your cat with. Furry mice, cozy beds, litter boxes of all sizes, special treats and grooming tools will all be found here in abundance.
3. Natural Food Stores
Health food stores will usually carry a relatively small selection of cat food but it will nearly always be on the upper end of the quality scale. These manufacturers of cat food emphasize whole, natural, quality ingredients. Here’s an example from a popular brand: chicken, chicken broth, mackerel, ocean fish, chicken liver, and wheat germ. Overall, they avoid cheap filler ingredients, by-products, artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservativesand sugar. Some of the ingredients may even be organic, meaning they are grown without toxic chemicals.
If your want dry cat food, it is worth looking in both the pet food and the bulk sections of the store to see if they carry bulk dry cat food. It may be cheaper than the pre- packaged and you will only need to buy what you will use in a week or two, so it should keep nice and fresh. Check to see if you can order your cat food here by the case and get a savings this way. Some natural food coops even allow you to order by the case and pay just a small percentage over wholesale if you are a member.
Cat food from a natural foods store will be on the more expensive side, sometimes two or even three times the cost of others. Buying this level of quality may very well be worth it to you, but be sure to read the ingredients on the can or bag to ensure that you are in fact getting the quality ingredients you are expecting.
4. Traditional Grocery Stores
This is the cat food that is most familiar to everyone. The brand names are widely advertised and the food is found everywhere from quick-stop shops to supermarkets and the big warehouse stores. The bad news is, with few exceptions, this food is in the medium to lower end of the quality spectrum. The good news is, it’s the least expensive.
So, how does one handle this issue of wanting quality but needing affordability? Well you simply start reading labels and then buy the best the store has to offer in your price range.
a) Pick the products you want to compare.b) Read the first four or five ingredients of each.c) Is more than one of these ingredients by-products, cheap filler, or other questionable substances?d) Is the first or second ingredient a form of by-products?
If “yes” is the answer to either c or d above, forget that product and keep looking.
(Note: The order in which ingredients are listed reflects the relative amount present in that product. They are listed from greatest to least.)
Here’s a real world example comparing two varieties from a line of canned cat food that is the “house brand” at a major supermarket. All varieties in this line were on sale for about 45 cents each so a quality product, if found, would be worth stocking up on.
Variety #1, Country Style Chicken Dinner
Ingredients: meat by-products, water, chicken, poultry by-products, animal digest
Variety #2, Ocean Fish and Rice Entree
Ingredients: water, ocean fish, chicken, meat by-products, liver
We can see variety #1 has only one quality ingredient out of the first five! This is a particularly bad the other hand, variety #2 has only a single undesirable ingredient and that’s listed fourth, not first or second, making this the clear winner and worth buying. Once you do your research, make a note of the results and next time you’ll know exactly what to buy. Use this technique whenever you are choosing a new cat food, no matter where you shop and the process will be a breeze.
Now that you have a complete picture of your options when shopping for cat food, along with a simple method of evaluating quality of ingredients, it will be easier to support your cat’s health and still stay within your budget.