Do Food Stamps Buy Cat Food with EBT? Exploring Eligibility Guidelines

Have you ever wondered if food stamps can be used to purchase cat food? It’s a question that many people have asked over the years, and the answer might surprise you. Yes, food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), can be used to buy cat food as well as other pet food, including dog food and birdseed.

Food stamps are designed to provide financial assistance for low-income families who struggle to provide healthy meals for themselves and their loved ones. The program is meant to alleviate hunger and promote healthy eating habits, and it’s widely used across the country. However, some people are still unsure whether SNAP benefits can be used to buy certain items, such as pet food. This topic has been widely debated, and there have been many misconceptions about it. Therefore, it’s important to clear the air and provide accurate information to those in need.

Overview of the SNAP Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a federal assistance program designed to provide food assistance to low-income families and individuals. This program provides a monthly allotment of funds that can be used to purchase eligible food items.

The SNAP program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and serves approximately 40 million individuals each year.

  • The program is available to U.S. citizens and certain lawfully present non-citizens with low income.
  • SNAP benefits are distributed via Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which function similarly to debit cards.
  • SNAP benefits can be used to purchase most food items, but cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, or pet food.
Household SizeMaximum Gross Monthly IncomeMaximum Net Monthly Income

To be eligible for SNAP benefits, an individual or household must meet certain income requirements. The maximum income limits for eligible households are based on the number of individuals in the household, with higher income limits for larger households.

In conclusion, the SNAP program provides essential assistance to low-income families and individuals, helping ensure they have access to nutritious food. While the program does not allow the purchase of pet food, it does offer a wide range of eligible food items that can be purchased with EBT cards.

Eligible food items for purchase with EBT

Food Stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a federal program that helps low-income households purchase food. SNAP benefits are provided monthly on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card. EBT cards can be used to purchase only certain items. It is important to understand the eligible food items for purchase with EBT before shopping using the card.

  • SNAP benefits can be used to buy bread, cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and seeds or plants to grow food for personal consumption.
  • SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy non-food items such as tobacco, alcohol, vitamins, medicines, hot foods, or any food that will be eaten in the store. Pet foods and supplies are also not eligible for purchase with EBT.
  • Food stamp recipients can also use EBT cards at farmers’ markets and grocery stores that participate in the SNAP program. Many farmers’ markets have booths that accept EBT cards for the purchase of fruits and vegetables.

Food items that cannot be purchased with EBT

As mentioned earlier, there are restrictions on the items that can be purchased with EBT cards. Some of the food items that cannot be purchased with EBT include:

Non-Food itemsFood items
Soap and Personal Care ItemsHot Foods
Household productsVitamins and Medicines
Pet foods and suppliesTobacco and Alcohol products

It is important to note that SNAP benefits can only be used to buy food for household consumption. Any attempt to use EBT cards fraudulently can result in disqualification from the program and legal action.

Pet food restrictions under SNAP

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or Food Stamps is a government-funded program that helps low-income households access nutritious food. While SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase pet food, there are some exceptions to this rule for households with pets. The Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, which governs the SNAP program, includes specific provisions for pet food purchases under certain circumstances. Here are some restrictions on pet food purchases with SNAP benefits:

  • Pet food cannot be paid for with SNAP benefits unless the food is meant for the household’s service animals, such as guide dogs for the blind or those assisting those with disabilities.
  • Pet food that has nutritional value for both humans and pets, such as canned tuna, is eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.
  • Any pet supplies, such as leashes, collars, and toys, cannot be bought with SNAP benefits.

It’s important to note that these restrictions are in place to ensure that SNAP benefits are used solely for their intended purpose of providing nutritious meals for individuals and families in need. The program is not intended to provide assistance for pet owners’ expenses.

In recent years, there have been some efforts to expand the list of eligible pet food purchases under SNAP, as many low-income households are unable to afford the high cost of pet food. However, as of now, the restrictions remain in place.

Below is an example of some of the pet food items that are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits:

Pet Food ItemsEligible for SNAP Purchase?
Canned tunaYes
Dry dog foodNo
Cat treatsNo
Specialty service animal foodYes

In conclusion, while pet food is not typically allowed as a purchase option under SNAP benefits, there are some exceptions for service animals and shared human-pet nutrition items. Pet owners in need may want to consider local charities and pet support organizations for assistance in meeting their pets’ nutritional needs.

Exceptions to the Pet Food Restriction

While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, does not allow recipients to purchase pet food with their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, there are some exceptions to this rule.

  • Assistance Animals: If a pet is trained to perform a specific task that assists their owner with a disability, then the pet food can be purchased with EBT. Examples of assistance animals include guide dogs for individuals with vision impairment or service animals for individuals with physical disabilities.
  • Meals on Wheels: Some Meals on Wheels programs offer pet food assistance to their clients using funding from private donations.
  • Pet Stores: Pet stores that accept EBT can sell live animals and pet food, as well as pet supplies and accessories. This means that a SNAP recipient can use their EBT card to buy pet food at a pet store, as long as the store meets the criteria of an authorized SNAP retailer.

It’s important to note that these exceptions vary by state and not all states allow pet food to be purchased with EBT in these circumstances.

In addition to exceptions, there are also some restrictions on the types of pet food that can be purchased with EBT. For example, only pet food that is intended for consumption by the pet can be purchased with EBT. This means that pet treats, toys, and non-food items cannot be purchased with EBT.

Pet FoodCan be purchased with EBT
Dry or wet food for dogs, cats, and other household petsYes
Feeder mice, rats, and other live prey for snakes and other reptilesYes
Pet treats and toysNo

While purchasing pet food with EBT may be limited, exceptions to the rule provide some assistance for low-income pet owners to provide food for their assistance animals or pets. For more information on the SNAP program, visit your state’s Department of Human Services website.

State-specific regulations on pet food purchases with EBT

When it comes to buying pet food with EBT, state-specific regulations apply. Some states allow it, while others restrict it. Below is a breakdown of state guidelines for purchasing pet food with EBT.

  • In California, pet food is considered a luxury item, and therefore does not qualify for EBT purchases.
  • In Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, and Wyoming, pet food is allowed for purchase with EBT.
  • In Florida, Minnesota, and Texas, pet food can only be purchased with EBT if it is considered necessary for a service animal.
  • In New York, only certain types of pet food, such as canned and dry dog and cat food, are allowed for EBT purchases.

It’s important to note that these regulations can change at any time, and it’s always best to check with your local EBT office for the latest information.

For those states that do allow pet food purchases with EBT, there are still restrictions on what types and brands of pet food are allowed. The following table outlines some of the restrictions:

StateAllowed Pet Food Purchases with EBTBrands/Types Not Allowed
ArizonaDry and canned dog and cat foodSpecialty pet food items, live animals, pet treats
IowaDry and canned dog and cat foodPet treats, toys, luxury pet food items
MichiganDry and canned dog and cat foodPet treats, toys, luxury pet food items
WyomingDry and canned dog and cat food, birdseed, and pet food for farm animalsPet treats, toys, luxury pet food items

Understanding the state-specific regulations on pet food purchases with EBT can help those in need make the best use of their benefits. It’s important to follow the guidelines set forth by your state to avoid any potential issues or complications.

Impact of Pet Food Allowance on SNAP Recipients

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, is a federal program that provides assistance to low-income households for purchasing nutritious food. The program was established in 1964 to improve the food security of poor families in the United States.

Since then, SNAP has undergone significant changes, including the allowance of purchasing pet food with EBT cards, in some states. The decision was based on the recognition that pets are an essential part of low-income families’ lives, lowering stress levels, providing companionship, and reducing depression. Furthermore, nutrition is essential for pets’ health and well-being, which may positively impact their owners’ mental and emotional health.

Benefits of Allowing Pet Food Purchases on SNAP Benefits

  • Reduces the need for families to abandon or surrender their pets to animal shelters due to financial constraints.
  • Improves the health and well-being of pets, reducing future medical costs for neglected animals.
  • Lowering stress levels and providing emotional support, which may lead to improved mental and emotional health of low-income families.

The Controversy Surrounding Pet Food Allowance on SNAP Benefits

Despite the benefits of allowing SNAP recipients to purchase pet food, the decision has faced backlash from some members of the community. Critics argue that pet food should not be considered a necessity and that SNAP benefits should strictly be limited to human consumption. Moreover, some believe that allowing pet food purchases may lead to fraud and abuse, particularly people selling pet food for cash.

However, several state SNAP programs have implemented measures to prevent fraud and abuse, including regulations on what types of pet food are allowed and limiting the amount of pet food purchases. Furthermore, many animal welfare advocates note the importance of considering pets as integral members of low-income families and supporting their upkeep.


Overall, pet food allowance on SNAP benefits has both advantages and drawbacks, but it is apparent that pets play a vital role in the lives of low-income families. Allowing SNAP recipients to purchase pet food is a compassionate and necessary consideration that promotes the overall well-being of both human and non-human members of the community.

Improves the health of petsPerceived misuse of benefits
Prevents animal abandonment/surrenderFraud and abuse concerns
Provides emotional support for ownersPet food not considered a necessity by some

Ultimately, allowing pet food purchases with SNAP benefits is a decision that prioritizes the welfare of the most vulnerable members of communities, including both humans and animals.

Criticisms of pet food allowance under SNAP

One of the most controversial aspects of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the allowance for recipients to purchase pet food with their benefits. While this provision was introduced to help low-income families feed their pets, it has faced significant criticism. Some of the most common criticisms include:

  • The use of government funds to purchase pet food is seen as a misuse of taxpayer money, particularly when there are human needs that still go unmet.
  • SNAP benefits are intended to support human nutrition, not the care of animals.
  • The pet food allowance diverts funds from other areas of the program, potentially limiting the amount of assistance available to low-income families.

But advocates say there are reasons to keep the pet food allowance. They argue that pets are often an important part of low-income families’ lives and that they provide emotional support and security. Some advocates also say that it’s more cost-effective to allow families to purchase pet food with SNAP benefits than to have to fund animal shelters and pet rescue programs.

Despite the criticisms, the pet food allowance remains a part of the SNAP program. The table below shows the maximum allowed amounts for pet food purchases in each state:

StateMaximum Monthly Allowance
Arizona$0 (not allowed)
Arkansas$0 (not allowed)
Delaware$0 (not allowed)
District of Columbia$0 (not allowed)

Overall, the pet food allowance under SNAP remains a contentious issue, with supporters and critics alike disagreeing on whether it’s an appropriate use of government funds. Despite the criticisms, it’s clear that many low-income families rely on this allowance to feed and care for their beloved pets.

Homeless individuals and pet food allowance under SNAP

Homelessness is a major problem in America, with around 554,000 homeless individuals on any given night, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Fortunately, those experiencing homelessness may still be able to care for their pets with the help of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

  • Under SNAP guidelines, homeless individuals are still eligible for benefits, even if they do not have a traditional mailing address.
  • SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food for household pets, including cats.
  • The pet food allowance is included in the overall SNAP benefits, meaning recipients can use their EBT card to purchase both human and pet food items at participating retailers.

However, it is important to note that SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase non-food items, like pet toys or other supplies. Additionally, some retailers may not accept EBT payments for pet food items, so it is always best to check before making purchases.

Additionally, there are some organizations that specifically provide pet food for those experiencing homelessness. For example, the nonprofit organization Pets of the Homeless has a national network of veterinary hospitals, pet supply stores, and other organizations that provide free pet food and basic veterinary care to homeless individuals and their pets.

RetailerAccepts EBT for Pet Food Items?
AmazonYes (SNAP EBT Purchases Only)

Overall, the pet food allowance under SNAP can be a lifeline for homeless individuals and their pets. With the ability to purchase cat food with EBT benefits, homeless individuals can ensure their pets are well-nourished and cared for, even during times of financial hardship.

Alternatives to pet food allowances under SNAP

While food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provide food assistance for low-income families, it does not allow the purchase of pet food. This means that pet owners who rely on SNAP benefits may struggle to provide adequate food for their pets. However, there are some alternatives pet owners can explore to ensure their pets get proper nutrition.

  • Shelters: Local animal shelters often provide food assistance for pets belonging to families in need. These organizations help reduce the burden and pressure on families who might not be able to afford buying appropriate food items for their beloved pets.
  • Pet food banks: Similar to food banks for humans, some organizations offer free pet food to low-income families with pets. They also donated food items so families have an adequate supply of food for their pets during difficult times.
  • Coupons and discounts: While pet stores may not accept food stamps, they often provide coupons or discounts for pet food items. Pet owners can search for these discounts online or in stores to reduce their expenses when buying pet food.

For pet owners who prefer making their pets’ food at home, there are a few things to consider. One advantage is that homemade food for pets is tailored to the pet’s needs and preferences, and it can also be less expensive than store-bought pet food.

However, it is essential to prioritize the pet’s nutrition and ensure they get the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and vitamins. Pet owners should consult a veterinarian to get advice on the right recipe that suits their pet’s dietary needs.

Alternatively, pet owners can consider feeding their pets a balanced diet of table scraps. However, they should know which table scraps are safe for pets and avoid any that could be harmful to their pets.

Safe table scraps for petsUnsafe table scraps for pets
Lean meat (cooked): chicken, beef, turkeyChocolate
Fruits: blueberries, apples, bananas, strawberriesAvocado
Vegetables: cooked carrots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potatoGarlic and onions
Eggs (cooked)Macadamia nuts

In summary, while food stamps or SNAP benefits do not cover pet food items, pet owners can explore other options such as pet food banks, discounts or coupons in pet stores, and homemade pet food. It is also essential to ensure that pets are getting the necessary amount of nutrition from alternative food sources and that table scraps that are being fed to pets are safe for them.

Proposed changes to SNAP pet food regulations.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program that provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families in the United States. One question that arises regarding SNAP is whether recipients can use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to purchase pet food. Currently, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase pet food or supplies, but there are proposed changes to these regulations.

  • The Farm Bill – In 2018, the Farm Bill proposed a provision that would allow states to seek a waiver to allow SNAP recipients to purchase pet food with their benefits. The provision was not included in the final version of the bill, but the conversation about pet food assistance for low-income families continues.
  • The PAWS Act – The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which was introduced in Congress in 2017, would make it easier for survivors of domestic violence and their pets to access housing assistance and would also allow SNAP benefits to be used for pet food. The bill has not yet been passed.
  • Covid-19 Pandemic – During the Covid-19 pandemic, some states have allowed SNAP benefits to be used for online food purchases, including the purchase of pet food from participating retailers. This has helped low-income families who are struggling during the pandemic to feed themselves and their pets.

The debate about whether SNAP benefits should be able to be used to purchase pet food is ongoing. Supporters of allowing pet food purchases argue that pets are important members of families and should not be neglected due to financial difficulties. Opponents argue that the program is meant to support human nutrition and should not extend to pets.

Currently, the only way for low-income families to receive pet food assistance is through local pet food banks or charities. While these organizations do valuable work, they may not have the resources to provide for all the families in need.

As discussions about pet food assistance continue, it is important to remember the importance of pets in the lives of individuals and families. Pets provide companionship, emotional support, and can even help boost mental and physical health. Finding a solution that supports both human and animal welfare would be a step in the right direction.

Allows low-income families to provide for their pets.Could divert funding from human nutrition assistance.
Recognizes pets as important members of families.Could be difficult to regulate and enforce.
May help reduce pet surrender to shelters due to financial difficulties.Could perpetuate dependency on government assistance.

FAQs About Do Food Stamps Buy Cat Food with EBT

1. Can I use my food stamps to buy cat food with EBT?
Yes, you can use your EBT card to purchase cat food in states where it is allowed.

2. Is there any limit on the amount of cat food I can buy with my EBT card?
No, there are no restrictions on the amount of cat food you can buy with your EBT card.

3. What types of cat food can I buy with my EBT card?
You can buy any type of cat food that is eligible for purchase at the store.

4. Can I use my EBT card to buy cat litter?
No, unfortunately, you cannot buy cat litter with your EBT card.

5. Can I use my EBT card to buy dog food too?
Yes, you can use your EBT card to purchase eligible dog food as well.

6. Do all stores accept EBT for cat food and dog food purchases?
No, not all stores accept EBT for pet food purchases, you should call ahead to check.

7. What happens if I accidentally use my EBT card for ineligible items like pet food?
If you accidentally use your EBT card for ineligible items, you may have to pay back the amount that was incorrectly charged or your benefits may be reduced.

Thanks for Reading

We hope this article was helpful in answering your questions about using EBT to purchase cat food. Remember that you can use your EBT benefits to buy any eligible food items for you and your pets, so shop responsibly. Don’t forget to visit us again for more informative articles!