Free Dog Food and Cat Food

A cat and dog eating out of separate food bowls together
mashabuba / Getty Images

If you're having trouble affording dog food and cat food, you may have a variety of solutions to check out before re-homing your companion animal. Animal shelters increasingly recognize they can avoid contributing to shelter overpopulation by thinking outside the box. Food programs are popping up in many different venues to help you keep your cat or dog right at home.

Why Keeping a Pet Matters

When personal finances tank, putting food on the table is challenging enough without adding a few furry faces to feed. But it’s when things are at their lowest point that when the true value and worth of animals become crystal clear.

Writing for, Dr. Ian Cook, psychiatrist and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA, says:

Pets offer an unconditional love that can be very helpful to people with depression… Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance. It will remind you that you are capable -- that you can do more than you might think. A little boost in attitude and outlook could mean a lot to someone who is feeling pretty hopeless. Looking for an alternative to giving up your companion animal will not only give you a mission, it will remind you of the kindness of other humans; something of which we all need to be reminded from time to time, but especially in cases of misfortune.

Where to Find Free Pet Food

If you're in search of sources of free pet food, you're not alone. In fact, many organizations are aware of the issue and have created resources to help. For example:

  • Some animal shelters maintain a pet food bank. When a distraught companion animal guardians visit the shelter with the intent to surrender their animal, instead of signing a surrender form they are given an application for food subsistence.
  • Meals on Wheels found that pets are the only family that some seniors have and that some of their clients were sharing their meals with their pets when they couldn't afford pet food. In 2006, Meals on Wheels started the We All Love Our Pets (WALOP) initiative. Not all local Meals on Wheels programs offer pet food, so check with your local program.
  • The Humane Society of the United States maintains a list of national and local organizations that offer free pet food, low-cost spay/neuter services, and temporary foster care if you need help.
  • Feeding Pets of the Homeless offers resources for finding both food and veterinary care. You can use their website to search for help in your area.

How to Request Or Provide Help with Finding Pet Food

If you're not sure where to start looking for or providing free pet food, you may find these suggestions help to break the ice.

  • Ask your local shelter if they have a pet food bank. If you are not in need of one at the moment, offer to start one.
  • Use search engines to research “pet food banks and meals on wheels programs in (your city)." You may be surprised at all the good things that are happening in your own community.
  • Talk to your grocer about saving dented and newly out-of-date pet food items and donating them to a shelter where you may be able to avail yourself of same.
  • Use social media to let everyone you know you are taking up a collection to build a food bank and ask for donated food items once intended for a now-deceased animal.
  • Consider making an online wishlist with pet food and other pet essentials and sharing it with friends, family, or on social media. and have tools that let you make a public list.

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores, and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.