What Food Should I Give My Cat With a Sensitive Stomach?
Voracious Vomiter, Constant Constipator, or Diligent Diarrhea are all nicknames that could describe kitties with sensitive stomachs. Add to that a decreased appetite, and you have the full gamut of sensitive stomach symptoms. For kitties that chronically experience any digestive symptoms, switching to a cat food for sensitive stomachs can help relieve some of the G.I. discomfort.
Here are 5 excellent sensitive stomach cat foods to choose from.
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach – The Overall Best
Purina Pro Plan (say that 5 times fast!) makes a cat food for sensitive skin that is high in protein, yet easy for your kitty to digest. This cat food comes in a variety of flavors (wet and dry). Both of these novel proteins are a great choice for cats suffering from digestive upset related to food or protein allergies. Novel proteins are sourced from animals or plants that are not commonly found in most other pet foods. This can reduce the chance of your cat suffering an allergic reaction due to the overexposure of a particular food.
Purina Pro Plan also contains omega fatty acids to decrease inflammation in the digestive system and to keep their skin and coat healthy and shiny. There is also plenty of prebiotic fiber to promote digestive motility. It can also be a good choice for any kitties with digestive inflammation or motility issues as the omega fatty acids and fiber will help decrease both of those issues.
Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin and Stomach is very high in protein, which is what most cats crave. However, it can also cause a stinky litter box and weight gain in more sedentary cats. You may also need to adjust the amount you food you give your cat to keep them at a healthy weight.
- Novel protein
- Omega fatty acids
- High digestible
- Two flavors to choose from
- Stinky poop
- Weight gain if not careful with portions
Blue Buffalo Basics Grain Free Turkey and Potato – A Good Grain-Free Option
This limited ingredient diet from Blue Buffalo uses a single protein source, either turkey or duck (in the Duck and Potato recipe). It is also grain-free, with potato being the primary carbohydrate source. This recipe also includes peas and pumpkin for added fiber. Blue Buffalo also loads its foods with LifeSource Bits, which are little nuggets packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to promote overall health. There are additional omega fatty acids in there as well to help decrease gut inflammation.
BLUE Basics Grain Free would be an excellent choice for cats with food allergies. It uses a single source, novel protein, and no grains to eliminate most food allergens. The readily available fiber from peas and pumpkin will help keep your kitty regular, and the LifeSource Bits will cover the rest of your cat’s nutritional needs.
Some of those pickier eaters might turn up their nose at this food. This could partially be due to the limited ingredients, which impacts its flavor. Or it could be that the LifeSource Bits may add a little too much variation in texture that finicky cats don’t prefer.
- Novel protein
- No grain
- Easily utilizable fiber
- Omega fatty acids and antioxidants
- Limited ingredient diets may lack flavor
- Some cats won’t eat it
Instinct Limited Ingredient Cat Food-Good for Food Allergies
A very simple food recipe to promote healthy digestion is Instinct Limited Ingredient cat food. They use only a single source of meat and vegetable to cover your cat’s protein and carbohydrate needs without a lot of ingredients that can be potential allergens or contribute to their inflammation. Instinct cat food also touts itself as a minimally processed food, giving your cat more whole foods that their wild relatives thrive on. The kibble is coated with freeze-dried bits of raw meat to add a nutritional boost without the processing that can make it less nutritious. Flavors range from rabbit and turkey to duck.
Instinct Limited Ingredient can work well for cats with food allergies or cats with inflammatory diseases. It is highly digestible and has a few simple ingredients to promote digestibility and decrease inflammation and allergens.
Possibly because this food has some raw components or because it’s very high in protein, it can create a stinker litter box. It may also color the feces a little darker, which can be worrisome at first. While enticing to some kitties, the smell of the food may be overly aromatic for those in charge of feeding it.
- Highly digestible
- Minimal ingredients
- Minimal processing
- Stinky, dark-colored poop
- Strong smell
Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion – Good for Picky Eaters
Royal Canin is a highly researched brand. They put a lot of attention to every detail of their pet food products. One example of this is the use of L.I.P. (low indigestible proteins) in their sensitive digestion formulation. In order to be considered an L.I.P., products need to be over 90% digestible This food is also highly energy-dense, meaning you can feed less to your kitty, decreasing the workload on their digestive tract.
Royal Canin also pays attention to what revs a cat’s appetite and loaded this food with three different kibble shapes to give those picky eaters with texture issues something to choose from. Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion is made with chicken and grain products and includes prebiotics and probiotics to support the microbiome.
With easily digestible protein sources like L.I.P., Royal Canin Sensitive Digestion is a great choice for cats with inflammatory bowel disease or other digestive absorption issues. It allows them to get the nutrition they crave without making their gut work overtime. However, the use of chicken and grains, two common food allergens, in the recipe makes it a less likely choice for cats with food allergies.
- Highly digestible
- Variety of kibble shapes
- Contains pre and probiotics
- Contains chicken
- Contains grain
- Picky eaters might not like the taste
Wellness Natural Grain-Free Salmon & Turkey-A Canned Formulation
For a canned variety of sensitive stomach cat food, look into Wellness Natural Grain Free Salmon and Turkey. It doesn’t contain grains and uses turkey and salmon as the sources of proteins. It also provides omega fatty acids and antioxidants in a canned formulation that is lower in carbs, easily digestible, and loaded with flavor.
Canned food tends to be more digestible than dry kibble as it typically contains less fillers that are necessary to give dry kibble its shape. Canned food also provides more moisture, which is important for sensitive stomach issues as a cat may not be drinking enough fluids due to discomfort. Due to its high digestibility, Wellness Natural would be a good choice for cats with any digestive issues. The limited ingredients are especially great for those cats suffering from food allergies.
This canned food from Wellness comes in meat chunks with gravy, causing some cats to eat the gravy and leave the meat bits. The sauce may be tasty, but it doesn’t contain the necessary nutrients that a cat needs, which could be a problem for picky eaters. Keep in mind that with canned foods, you face issues like earlier spoilage and the inability to leave food out all day.
- Novel protein
- More moisture
- Lower carbohydrates
- Meaty chunks may not be appetizing for some cats
- Shorter duration of freshness
Sensitive Stomach Cat Food Guide
A sensitive stomach in cats is more than just a little indigestion. It’s a chronic condition that can lead to frequent vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation, not to mention weight loss and malnutrition. A sensitive stomach can be caused by food allergies, the inability to digest certain nutrients, or inflammatory diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. All of these issues result in inflammation in the gut. This inflammation can block nutrient absorption and cause the above symptoms as well as pain and discomfort.
Cat foods formulated for sensitive stomachs work to improve your cat’s digestive system by decreasing that inflammation and promoting digestibility. This can be done either by the avoidance of certain ingredients or through the supplementation of things like natural anti-inflammatories. With the right diet, many feline digestive issues can be reversed without medications that may have harmful side effects. Or they can be used in conjunction with medications like steroids to get a complete resolution of symptoms.
What to Look For In Sensitive Stomach Cat Foods
Here are important things to consider for when choosing a sensitive stomach cat food for your fur baby.
Most importantly, sensitive stomach cat foods need to be highly digestible. This means that a cat’s digestive system can easily extract nutrients without a lot of work to break down tough ingredients. Cats are carnivores and require a diet that’s very high in protein. Because of this, a feline digestive system has evolved to be very efficient at digesting protein from animal sources rather than plant sources. For cat food to be highly digestible, it needs to contain high-quality meat sources rather than plant ingredients. Whole meats are typically more easily digestible than meat by-products, so make sure the food you choose lists whole meat as at least the first ingredient.
Omega fatty acids are highly regarded as supplements that increase the shine and softness of your cat’s hair coat. They also help to reduce inflammation. Diets high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help reduce the inflammation found in your cat’s digestive tract, among other places. The addition of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, can also help reduce inflammation and prevent further problems in your cat’s gut.
Fiber is important in the regulation of your cat’s bowel. This magical substance helps to bulk up waste, helping to relieve both constipation and diarrhea. Fiber is often found in those lower digestibility foods like grains and plants. However, healthy fiber can also be found in potatoes, rice, pumpkin, and green beans.
Contrary to popular belief, kitties most often suffer allergies to the protein source in their diet rather than to grains or dairy. While there are some cats with grain allergies, the majority are allergic to commonly used protein sources like chicken or beef. The answer to this is a novel protein diet. This just means a new protein, something your kitty’s tummy hasn’t tasted before. Fortunately, cat food manufacturers have answered this need and produce many varieties of cat food using buffalo, venison, fish, turkey, wild game, duck, rabbit, kangaroo, and more, with great success.
The trick is to find a cat food formulation that doesn’t contain any chicken or beef products, including meals and by-products, so read your food labels carefully.
Once you’ve found some sensitive stomach cat foods that seem to cover all of the criteria listed above, the next thing to consider is your cat’s personal preferences. Maybe they don’t like fish or duck, and you’ve chosen a food that only comes in those flavors. Or perhaps the kibble shape isn’t easily accessible, or the smell isn’t appetizing. Maybe it’s too expensive or hard to find, or it comes in a bag that’s so big you’ll never use it all before it goes bad. All of these are essential factors when considering a new cat food brand.
On this same note, cats may prefer table food, but that should be a big no-no for any kitty, sensitive stomach, or otherwise. Table food can be very high in fat, something that can increase inflammation in the gut. If you want to feed your cat human food, stick with cooked lean meats or whole vegetables like green beans.
What Foods Are Good or Bad for Cats with Sensitive Stomachs?
Most of these are mentioned above, but let’s look at a concise recap of good and bad foods for cats with sensitive stomachs.
- Whole meats, preferably a novel protein like duck, salmon, or venison
- Fiber sources other than grains like potato, pumpkin, or beans
- Omega fatty acids and antioxidants
Bad Foods – Avoid
- Anything that they’re knowingly allergic to like chicken, wheat, or eggs
- Grains that are difficult to digest like wheat, corn, or barley
- Fatty human foods like meat scraps, hot dogs, ice cream, or cheese
Finding the perfect sensitive stomach cat food for your feline companion can sometimes feel like constant trial and error. Getting to the root of your cat’s digestive problems should be the first step in this journey. Knowing what issue you are dealing with will help you select the best food for your cat. After that, it may take a bit more trial to find a cat food that both you and your cat can agree on. Be sure to incorporate your veterinarian in this process as, after you and your family, they are the one who knows your cat the best and will be able to feed their needs with the right sensitive stomach cat food.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons, where they spend their free time exploring the great outdoors that is right in their backyard.