Is Raw Cat Food Expensive?

Last Updated on

Is raw cat food expensive? We decided to find out just how much it costs to feed your cat raw.

The most expensive type of raw cat food is sold in the refrigerated or frozen section at pet specialty stores. Depending on where you buy it and which brands you choose, this food ranges from $1.57 to over $7 per day. On average, freeze-dried raw foods cost around $3.67 per day. Homemade raw food your most affordable option is at around $0.78 – $0.83/day.

Many people put off or dismiss raw feeding because “it’s too expensive”, but few could tell you exactly how much it costs to feed your cat a raw diet. We decided to sit down, do the math, and come up with a solid answer.

How much does homemade raw cat food cost?

According to our calculations, homemade raw food costs about $0.78 – $0.83/day. That’s comparable to the cost of other middle-of-the-road foods like Organix and considerably more affordable than most commercially-sold raw products like RadCat and even Vital Essentials freeze-dried raw food. Of course, you’ll need to invest in certain supplements and maybe some supplies. You’ll also need to account for the value of your time. Preparing batches of raw cat food will consume at least an hour of each month.

Of course, costs will vary based on ingredient availability, the products you buy and where you buy them, and how much your cats eat. We developed our cost analysis based on a simple raw food recipe from the Feline Nutrition Foundation. It’s a popular, well-balanced recipe and is our go-to when making raw cat food.

Let’s follow this basic recipe from the Feline Nutrition Foundation.

The Feline Nutrition Foundation website is an amazing resource for anyone looking into feeding a raw cat food diet. If you’re curious about feeding raw cat food, you should definitely take some time to explore the site.

This recipe is a simplified version of Feline Nutrition’s Easy Raw Cat Food Recipe. This recipe makes approximately 6 ½ pounds of food. It’s generally recommended to feed cats 2-4% of their body weight in raw food daily. For a 10 pound cat, that is approximately 3-6 oz of food per day.

We’ve found that our cats tend towards the higher end of that spectrum, so we’ll estimate costs per day based on 6 ounces of food daily. This means that the recipe will produce enough food for 17 days.

The recipe can be used with a variety of animal proteins and customized based on what supplies you have at home. It’s a good idea to feed your cat a varied diet and to mix up proteins in order to ensure balance.

I’ve decided to calculate costs based on a chicken-based interpretation of the recipe. Other protein sources will be more or less expensive.

Start with the foundation: meat and organs.

The muscle meat and organs you choose is raw cat food expensive? raw chicken thighs on a cutting boardare what determines the strength of your cat food foundation. The prices we came up with are averaged based on stores in our area — Northwest Montana. The price will vary depending on where you live and the quality of meat, going up as you move into free-range and organic meats.

  • 5 pounds chicken thighs with the bone: $6.25  at $1.25/lb
  • 7 ounces chicken liver: $0.84 at $1.99/lb
  • 14 ounces chicken heart: $2.38 at $2.68/lb

If the meat you’re using doesn’t include bone, you need to add a substitute.

If you don’t have a meat grinder which can handle bones at home, you’ll need to include a calcium supplement instead of the bones. Eggshell powder is recommended since it won’t throw off the phosphorus levels of your cat’s food — which is dangerous for cats with kidney disease.

  • 3 pounds boneless chicken thighs: $6.84 at $2.28/lb
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons eggshell powder: $.29 at $29.99/lb

(If you use eggs regularly, save the shells and dry them in the oven. You can grind these up and save on eggshell powder!)

Bring balance to the food with supplements.

  • 4 raw egg yolks: $1.00 at $2.96/dozen
  • 2000 mg taurine: $0.04 for 2000mg if you purchase the supplement in bulk
  • 4000 mg wild salmon oil: $0.40 for 4 capsules at $18.17/ 180 1000mg softgels
  • 200 mg vitamin B complex: $.34 at $14.20/ 90 capsules
  • 200 IU vitamin E:  $0.07 at $6.95/100 ct bottle
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lite iodized salt: $0.50 at $5.52/11oz 
  • 8 ounces of water: $0.06 at $0.99/gal

Adding it Up: Starting Costs and Cost Per Day

Assuming that you have to buy all new supplements, meat, and eggs, it will cost $81.67 to buy everything without eggshell powder. With eggshell powder and bone-in chicken, your first-batch investment will be higher at $112.25.

It’s important to remember that these bulk quantities of supplements will last for a long time. Some of the supplements will last for years, while others will need replacement every few months.

On a per-batch basis, the food costs $13.23 if you make it with bones intact and $14.11 if you use boneless chicken and eggshell powder.

Average cost per day to feed homemade raw cat food: $0.78-$0.83.

Do you need to make your raw cat food with premium organic ingredients?

Not really. If you can afford it and are inclined to do so, go for it. Otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing ingredients without an organic certification. Buying organic ingredients will drive your costs up considerably.

How much does commercially-sold raw cat food cost?

We did a study of several of the top raw cat food companies and determined the cost of feeding per day. Note that all of these prices are valid as of October 2018 and may not be accurate when you read this article.

All prices were calculated based on a 10-lb young adult cat and do not include any shipping costs.

Fegnion: $6.19 to $10.04/day

Rad Cat (ended operations in late October 2018): $3.48 to $5.22/day

Steve’s Real Foodapproximately $1.57/day

Average cost per day to feed commercial raw cat food: $5.30

How much does freeze-dried raw cat food cost?

Again, we gathered these prices in October of 2018. Prices may change at any time.

All prices were calculated based on a 10-lb young adult cat and do not include any shipping costs.

Stella & Chewy’s: about $4.20/day

Vital Essentialsabout $1.93/day

Primalabout $4.20/day

Feline Natural: about $5.72/day

Wysong Archetypeabout $2.30/day

Average cost per day to feed commercial freeze-dried raw cat food: $3.67.

Is raw cat food expensive compared to other types of cat food?

Depending on what type of raw food you give your cat, raw food may be more or less expensive than other canned or dry products. It’s almost always more expensive than grocery store foods like Purina Cat Chow, Friskies, and Fancy Feast. These foods are made from cheap ingredients, including plant and meat by-products.

Once you move into so-called premium dry and canned foods, you might encounter some that are more expensive than raw food, while others are cheaper. For instance, Weruva canned food costs about $2.91 per day, making it one of the most expensive options available. It’s more expensive than homemade raw food and even some commercial raw products AND it’s extremely water-rich and not an efficient source of nutrition.

An Investment in Your Cat’s Health

Remember that many people credit raw food with improved health and increased longevity. A species-appropriate raw diet, granted that it’s well-balanced and nutritionally complete, can help to ensure that your cat remains in peak condition for years.

You’re making an investment in your cat’s health. If more energy, a healthy skin and coat, and more years with your cat aren’t enough incentive for you to spend the extra bucks a month on raw food, consider the potential savings in vet bills.

Raw feeding doesn’t guarantee that your cat won’t ever get sick or injured, but it does promote a healthier body that’s less inclined to develop health conditions. Just like a human who maintains a healthy weight and good muscle tone will have better health throughout life, cats who eat healthfully are less likely to develop health problems. For example, cats who eat a fresh, nourishing raw diet are less likely to develop diabetes and lower urinary tract disease, both of which can rack up bills in the thousands.