While most cat owners are content feeding their cats with standard kibble or typical canned cat food, some are on the lookout for something better.
Custom and Ultra-Premium cat food is a rapidly growing market, fueled by demand from cat owners for the best and highest-quality recipes available.
Whether it’s fresh cat food, raw cat food, freeze-dried cat food, or dehydrated cat food, these premium recipe types still come in at an eye-watering price.
What Makes Cat Food Expensive?
The number one factor in the price of cat food is the ingredients used within the recipe. The more expensive the ingredients are, the more expensive the cat food recipe will be.
In particular, high-quality meat and fish ingredients can inflate the cost of a cat food recipe massively. Many lower-cost cat food recipes heavily utilize low-cost cuts of meat that wouldn’t be suitable to be consumed by Humans.
But there are some cat food brands out there using the same meat cuts we enjoy on a daily basis, if not better.
Moreover, there are a select number of brands using Organic ingredients. These Organic ingredients can often cost two or three times as much as their non-organic equivalent, which further drives up the price.
The type of cat food is a significant contributing factor in the price. Traditional dry cat food, also known as kibble, tends to come in quite cheap, but other types of cat food, such as fresh cat food, can be drastically more expensive.
This cost difference is especially true for brands taking advantage of the latest trend – fresh home-delivered cat food.
This variety of cat food is freshly prepared, frozen, and then shipped directly to consumers’ doors which some find extremely convenient.
While most of the brands in this space focus on dog food, there are a few that produce cat food, including Smalls.
Lastly, it is not just the quality of meat ingredients used but also precisely what meat is essential. The most prominent example of this is Venison.
There is currently a worldwide shortage of Venison meat, especially for use in pet food recipes, which has caused the price of Venison to skyrocket.
This increased cost is passed on to consumers who want to purchase Venison cat food recipes. As a consequence, a large bag of Venison kibble can easily cost more than 100 USD which is astronomical.
You can read more about this Venison shortage in our article Best Cat Foods With Venison.
Is Expensive Cat Food Worth It?
For the average cat owner, many of these recipes are simply out of reach and would put significant strain on their financial budget.
This budget constraint is especially true for cat owners with several cats or those who have cats with other costs like health issues.
However, for those with disposable income and who want to spare no expense, the recipes discussed below are sure to keep most cats in fantastic health, not to mention the happy thanks to these recipes’ delicious tastes.
Most cat foods use lower-quality cuts of meats than are used in food for human consumption, and many individuals aren’t willing to tolerate this.
These ultra-premium brands can offer more sustainable and ethical sources for their ingredients where the animals often have a noticeably improved quality of life. For many, this trait alone is worth every penny.
That being said, there are plenty of high-quality cat food brands and recipes that are only slightly inferior to these ultra-premium brands and come at a fraction of the cost.
Most Expensive Cat Food
Ziwi Peak Air Dried Lamb Recipe Review
Ziwi Peak is a pet food brand based in New Zealand and is a world leader in the freeze-dried/air-dried pet food market. The quality of their ingredients and the nutrition they provide to cats are second to none.
As we touched on earlier, there is a worldwide shortage of Venison meat, especially for pet food, which makes Ziwi Peak’s Venison formula the most expensive recipe from their range.
However, due to these shortages, acquiring Ziwi Peak’s Venison recipes is extremely difficult, so we have instead chosen to highlight their Lamb recipe.
A 2.2lb bag of Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb will cost around $50, which is a substantial sum for such a small portion.
The core advantage of air-dried cat food over traditional cat food is that its contents are almost entirely made up of meat or fish ingredients, and they often have no significant vegetable, grain, or fruit ingredients.
This kind of diet perfectly aligns with a cat’s natural diet, as they are obligate carnivores.
As you may have noticed, the weight of the packaging that these air-dried recipes are sold in is extremely low, which may confuse some cat owners.
But it is important to remember that air-dried cat food has had its moisture removed. If you re-introduce this moisture, then the total weight of the food is more reasonable.
Smalls Ground Cow Recipe Review
Smalls is one of several new “Fresh Home Delivered” pet food brands that have surged in popularity in the United States.
These brands aim to provide convenience and quality by producing high-quality fresh pet food, portioning it, and then shipping it directly to consumers’ doors.
While most of the brands in this emerging space are sticking to dog food, Smalls is unique as it has solely ventured into cat food.
You can learn more about how Smalls works in our Smalls Brand Review.
Many pet owners prefer the convenience of delivered pet food and the ease of pre-portioned food.
However, this high quality and convenience do come at a price and based on experimenting with their site, we found that Smalls would typically cost between $3-5 per day or roughly $20-35 per week.
This would put the annual cost of Smalls food at approximately $1000-$1800, which is a huge sum for cat food.
On the fresh side, Smalls has four recipes available to select from, including Fish, Chicken, Turkey, and Beef.
We’ve highlighted their Ground Cow recipe above, which includes Ground Beef, Beef Liver, and Beef Heart as its primary meat ingredients.
This mix of Beef and organ meat ingredients provides a plentiful supply of protein and fat, along with some beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Outside of this Beef content, Smalls includes a small portion of Green Beans, Peas, and Spinach.
These vegetable ingredients provide a modest proportion of carbohydrates and fiber that closely aligns with a cat’s natural diet.
When it comes to premium pet food, Orijen is known worldwide as a leader, and its dry pet food recipes contain huge proportions of meat and fish ingredients when compared to its competitors.
The brand, which is based in Canada, has seen huge growth over the last two decades along with its sister brand Acana, which is aimed at a slightly lower price point.
One of Orijen’s most pricey dry cat food recipes is the above Regional Red. A 12lb bag of Regional Red cat food often costs upwards of $70, which is huge compared to most dry cat food brands.
Regional Red mimics its dry dog food equivalent and has a strong focus on traditional red meat ingredients.
Examples of these red meat ingredients include Beef, Pork, Lamb, Goat, and more.
Many cats stick to a diet of lower-cost poultry ingredients like Chicken or Turkey or a diet of fish like Tuna and Salmon.
For this reason, this Regional Red recipe is more expensive and may interest cats as it will provide a vastly different flavor.
This huge range of red meat ingredients is combined with a large range of legume and vegetable ingredients. Each of these plant-based ingredients is only present in tiny proportions compared to most cat food recipes.
Feline Natural Chicken & Venison Feast Review
Feline Natural, which is also known as K9 Natural for its dog food products, is another New Zealand-based brand and could be easily compared or equated to Ziwi Peak.
Feline Natural uses extremely high-quality ingredients that are sourced from New Zealand and would be welcome additions to a human’s diet.
The brand also uses an in-house animal nutritionist to ensure that cats’ nutritional needs are met by their recipes which is an important trait for many.
With these high production and formulation standards, you can expect their recipes to come at an increased cost, but for some, it is still worth consideration.
You can learn more about K9 Natural and Feline Natural here.
Depending on your choice of recipe, Feline Natural wet cat food costs approximately $85 for a case of 24 6-oz cans. However, the above Chicken & Venison recipe stands apart at over $100 for that same case of 24 cans.
The primary ingredients of this extremely expensive recipe are Chicken and Venison, which are both high-quality sources of animal-based protein and fat. As we mentioned earlier, the cost of Venison can be eye-watering thanks to a shortage.
In addition to these two core meat ingredients, Feline Natural makes extensive use of organ meat ingredients like Kidney and Liver.
These Organ meat ingredients are welcome additions and are sure to enhance the flavor of the recipe and provide beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Farmina N&D Ocean Herring & Orange Adult Review
Farmina is a premium pet food brand based in Europe, and its N&D range contains some extremely high-quality and nutritious formulas.
Across the board, their recipes tend to come in towards the top of the price range thanks to their use of high-quality ingredients.
They make use of a select few meat and fish ingredients, including Chicken, Cod, Duck, and Lamb, and we’ve chosen to highlight the Herring recipe as it is an excellent choice for fish-based cat food.
In addition, the Herring recipe is one of Farmina’s most expensive recipes costing around $60 for an 11lb bag which is only slightly cheaper than Orijen.
The Herring formulas from Farmina use a mix of whole Herring and dehydrated Herring to ensure that the total proportion is significant. This Herring provides an ample portion of protein and fat that is significantly above average.
Farmina usually offers a range of choices for plant-based ingredients in their recipes, including legumes, starches, or grain ingredients. The recipe above includes a small portion of Sweet Potatoes as its primary plant-based content.
Almost all Farmina recipes also contain much smaller portions of a broad range of fruit and vegetables.
Examples include Blueberries, Carrots, Apples, and Pomegranates. These could give the kibble a unique flavor and provide some less abundant micronutrients.
The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Turkey Recipe Review
The Honest Kitchen is a well-known brand in the premium space, and fans of dehydrated pet food will be well-versed in its recipes.
Dehydrated cat food is similar to air-dried or freeze-dried cat food but is produced in a slightly different fashion. In addition, dehydrated recipes do not tend to be almost 100% meat or fish content and often contain plant-based content.
If you want to learn more about dehydrated cat food and The Honest Kitchen, be sure to check out our The Honest Kitchen Review.
The Honest Kitchen dehydrated cat food does not come cheap with a 4lb box of the above Turkey recipe, usually setting a cat owner back almost $60.
For reference, if fully rehydrated, a 4lb box of dehydrated cat food should produce approximately 16 lbs of wet cat food.
As one would imagine, the above recipe uses Turkey as its primary ingredient. While Turkey may not be a traditionally costly ingredient, The Honest Kitchen uses cage-free Turkey, which contrasts with many lower-cost brands that care little for their sources.
The Honest Kitchen’s recipe contains a small variety of plant-based ingredients. The only significant contributors are Pumpkin and Potatoes.
The simple combination could make this recipe appealing to those cats whose stomach is easily upset or who have allergies or sensitivities.
Hound & Gatos Grain Free 98% Rabbit Recipe Review
Hound & Gatos is a notable brand for producing extremely high-quality canned pet food. The cost of their recipes might make some wince, but behind that price tag is some excellent cat food formulas.
Hound & Gatos comes into its own with the quality of its meat ingredients. This quality is, without a doubt, why their recipes are so costly.
The brand use cuts and sources that are very similar to the meat found in your local butchers or meat store, and in some cases, the ingredients used may be of an even higher quality than most of us are used to eating on a daily basis, which is unheard of in the cat food industry.
If you’d like to learn more about Hound & Gatos and its practices, take a read of our Hound & Gatos Brand Review.
Most of Hound & Gatos’ wet cat food recipes tend to cost around $60 for a case of 24 5-oz cans. However, the above Rabbit recipe is by far their most expensive, costing in excess of $80 for the same case.
As we mentioned earlier, unusual meat ingredients tend to be more costly than common inclusions like Chicken and Beef. Rabbit is a prime example of this, and there are many brands with Rabbit-themed recipes.
98% of Hound & Gatos’ recipe is made up of Rabbit, which is fantastic and ensures that the proportion of animal-based protein and fat is immense.
The only other ingredients present in the recipe are Agar-Agar, which is used to help maintain a consistent texture, and preservatives such as Salt.
Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Sensitive Skin & Stomach Turkey & Oatmeal Formula Review
Purina Pro Plan will be an unexpected inclusion to many who do not consider it to be an ultra-premium brand. However, some of Purina Pro Plan’s recipes can be extremely costly.
One of the reasons that Purina Pro Plan is expensive is that they invest thousands of hours into the research and development of their product lines and stand out in comparison to smaller brands that can’t justify such research.
To learn more about the research that is done by Purina Pro Plan, head on over to our Purina Pro Plan Review.
Their LiveClear cat food range is relatively new and has become their most expensive nonprescription range.
It focuses on cats with health issues such as sensitive stomachs and digestive systems, which could make it an ideal choice for older cats or those with regular health problems.
A 12.5lb or 16lb bag of LiverClear cat food from Purina Pro Plan often costs in excess of $65, which is substantial and a step above Purina Pro Plan’s other dry cat food recipes.
Chicken and Turkey are the recipe’s primary two ingredients and act as a stable base of animal-based protein and fat.
While many cat food recipes for health issues tend to provide poor nutrition, it is the opposite for this recipe from Purina Pro Plan, and it includes a minimum of 40% protein and 18% fat which is excellent.
Outside of this poultry content, the recipe utilizes a mix of Pea Protein, Rice, Oat Meal, and other plant-based ingredients to provide a portion of carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and fiber.
Now Fresh Grain Free Wild Salmon Pate Review
Now Fresh may be another unexpected addition to this discussion and isn’t known as a high-cost brand.
While Now Fresh’s dry cat food recipes certainly aren’t cheap, their wet recipes stand out as being very costly, with a case of 24 6.4 oz trays costing in excess of $80.
So what do you get for such a cost? A large portion of high-quality meat and fish ingredients.
The above Wild Salmon Pate recipe is a prime example of this and includes a large portion of Salmon as its primary ingredient.
Salmon is an excellent addition to a cat’s diet and can provide high-quality fish-based protein and fat as well as high levels of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Outside of this Salmon, there are minor portions of plant-based ingredients such as Potatoes, Carrots, Pesa, Tapioca, and more.
While the list of inclusions may be long, the portion size of each is minuscule and does not divert from the fact that the bulk of the recipe is Salmon-based.