Can You Buy Cat Food with EBT? What You Need To Know

Many people depend on government assistance programs like SNAP, WIC, and TANF to feed their families. For those with pets, a common question is whether EBT can be used to buy cat food. The answer is not straightforward due to specific restrictions and rules.

Under SNAP regulations, only food items are eligible for purchase with an EBT card, and pet foods like cat food generally do not qualify. Moreover, not all retailers accept EBT for pet food, and there may be limits on what can be spent on such items. Additionally, treats or supplements for pets are usually not eligible.

Understanding these rules is crucial for those relying on government assistance. It’s also important to seek alternative resources for pet food, as not all retailers accept EBT. This way, pet owners can ensure their pets are well-fed and cared for within the guidelines of assistance programs.

Purchasing Cat Food with EBT

Yes, you can buy cat food with EBT, but there are limitations. According to the USDA, only wet and dry cat food marketed as a complete and balanced meal meeting FDA safety and nutrition standards can be purchased with EBT funds. Treats, supplements, and non-nutritious cat food are not eligible.

Keep in mind that EBT rules can vary by state, so it’s best to check with your local Department of Social Services for specific information.

Workarounds for Pet Food

While EBT benefits cannot be used to purchase pet food, there are some workarounds that can help low-income individuals provide for their pets.

One option is to look for local pet food banks or animal shelters that offer pet food assistance programs. These programs may provide free or low-cost pet food to those in need.

Another option is to consider applying for cash assistance programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs provide cash benefits that can be used to purchase pet food, as well as other necessities.

State-Specific EBT Rules

It is important to check the specific rules for your state before attempting to use EBT benefits to purchase cat food.

For example, in California, it is not allowed to purchase pet food with EBT benefits. However, if the cat food is intended for human consumption, such as “human-grade” or “organic” cat food, it may be considered a food item for human consumption and eligible for purchase with EBT funds.

In some states, individuals with disabilities who require a service animal may also use their EBT funds to purchase pet food specifically for their service animal. It is important to note that this exception only applies to service animals and not to pets in general.

Below is a table that summarizes the rules for purchasing pet food with EBT benefits in different states:

StateCan pet food be purchased with EBT benefits?
New YorkYes

It is important to check with your local EBT office or visit their website to find out the specific rules for your state.

Alternative Ways to Obtain Cat Food

Pet Food Banks

Pet food banks are a great resource for those who are struggling to afford cat food. These organizations provide free food to pet owners who are unable to afford it. Some pet food banks require proof of income or financial need, while others do not.

To find a pet food bank in your area, you can search online or contact local animal shelters or rescue groups. Some national organizations, such as the Humane Society, also maintain lists of pet food banks.

Discounts and Coupons

Another way to save money on cat food is by using discounts and coupons. Many pet food manufacturers offer coupons and discounts on their products, which can help you save money on your cat’s food. You can find these coupons online or in your local newspaper.

In addition, many pet stores offer loyalty programs or discounts for bulk purchases. By buying cat food in larger quantities, you may be able to save money in the long run.

It’s important to note that not all stores accept EBT for pet food purchases, so it’s important to check with your local store before attempting to use your benefits.

Advocacy and Future Changes

Pet Food Eligibility Movements

There has been a growing movement advocating for pet food to be included as an eligible item for purchase with EBT benefits. Supporters argue that pets are important members of many households, and that denying their basic needs can lead to negative consequences for both the pets and their owners.

Some organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States, have launched campaigns to raise awareness about this issue and to encourage policymakers to make changes. They argue that allowing EBT benefits to be used for pet food would help ensure that pets receive adequate nutrition and care, and would also reduce the number of pets surrendered to shelters due to financial hardship.

Legislative Efforts

Several states have already taken steps to allow EBT benefits to be used for pet food. As of 2023, California, Arizona, and Michigan are among the states that have passed legislation allowing pet food to be purchased with EBT benefits.

However, there is still a long way to go before pet food is universally recognized as an eligible item for EBT benefits. Advocates continue to push for legislative changes at the state and federal levels, and it remains to be seen whether these efforts will be successful.

Overall, while there are movements and legislative efforts to allow EBT benefits to be used for pet food, it is important for individuals to check with their local retailers and state regulations before attempting to purchase pet food with EBT benefits.

To learn more about the range of items you can purchase with an EBT card please refer to our comprehensive guide ‘What You Can Buy with EBT’. This guide offers valuable insights into the types of products eligible for EBT purchases,

Leave a Comment