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The 7 Best Cat Foods for IBD15 min read

April 1, 2020 11 min read
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The 7 Best Cat Foods for IBD15 min read

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It’s not easy living with a cat that has irritable bowel disease (IBD). Your cat may vomit frequently, have bouts of diarrhea, a rumbling stomach, and gas can be a problem.

Even if he seems to eat well, he may lose weight. He can also be depressed. Some of these symptoms are found with many feline health problems so it’s not always easy to tell what your cat’s problem might be.

At a Glance: Best Cat Food for IBD to Buy

ImageProductFeatures
aac-table__image

No prescription Required

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet
  • Made from a single animal source protein
  • Beneficial nutrients like chelated minerals and probiotics
  • Made in the USA
Check Price
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Premium Choice

Nom Nom Chicken Cuisine
  • 100% from fillers and artificial flavors
  • Made from premium ingredients
  • Rich in protein and fat, low in carbohydrates
Check Price
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Requires prescription approval

Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care
  • Formulated by nutritionists and veterinarians
  • Soft gel texturen
  • Promotes healthy digestion
Check Price

Requires prescription approval

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein Adult PR
  • Contains vitamins and minerals
  • Soft gel texture
  • Often recommended by vets
Check Price
aac-table__image

Requires prescription approval

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula
  • Especially formulated to help manage your cat's food sensitivity
  • Formulated and optimized for IBD
  • Made in the US
Check Price
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No prescription Required

Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Cat Food
  • High in protein
  • Minimally processed
  • No grains, fillers, gluten, added hormones or antibiotics
Check Price

For example, IBD can be easily mistaken for a food allergy or food sensitivity and in some cases, there is an allergy component to the illness.

Identifying irritable bowel disease and finding the best cat food for IBD usually takes a lot of patience.

Cats that have irritable bowel disease (IBD) have a gastrointestinal (GI) tract that is chronically irritated and inflamed. The inflammation means that their GI tract is unable to properly digest and absorb food.

IBD can appear in any cat but it occurs most often in cats that are middle-aged and older cats.

If your cat has IBD, one of the ways your veterinarian will try to manage it is by changing his diet. You will need to find the best cat food for IBD – something that can take some work.

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Dietary management and food trials with IBD cats

Your vet may recommend a food trial for your cat if s/he is trying to determine if your cat has a food allergy instead of IBD. Your vet could also recommend a food trial if your cat has already been diagnosed with IBD.

This is because food allergens can play a role in IBD. In either case, the best cat food for IBD, at least at the diagnostic stage, is often a hypoallergenic food.

Hypoallergenic cat foods contain protein and carbs that your cat hasn’t previously eaten. These proteins are usually meats such as venison, rabbit, or duck.

Strictly speaking, a hypoallergenic cat food should contain one meat protein and one kind of carbohydrate but it’s not always easy to find a cat food that works for your cat that meets that criteria. It’s best to follow your vet’s advice and start with a food that s/he recommends.

Editor’s note

Remember that when you are doing a food trial with your cat it’s vital that your cat doesn’t eat other sources of food that could ruin the trial. That means your cat can’t have table scraps, medications, or treats that contain non-approved ingredients.

A food trial will normally take up to 12 weeks unless you can tell sooner that your cat is having a negative reaction to the protein or carbohydrate in a food.

Once the food trial is over, if your cat doesn’t need to eat a prescription or veterinary diet, you may be able to find a limited ingredient diet (LID) that meets the requirements for a hypoallergenic cat food.

Also Read: The 5 Best Hypoallergenic Cat Foods

An LID commercial cat food can be a good choice for cats with IBD if you are careful about the ingredients.

If your cat’s IBD symptoms don’t get better while eating a hypoallergenic diet, she could do well eating a food that is easy to digest, high in fiber, and low in fat.

Keep in mind that any time you change cat foods, even when you make the change gradually, it can take a while for your cat to adjust.

It may take several weeks or longer before you see an improvement in your cat’s IBD.

IBD can be very idiosyncratic, especially if any food allergies are involved, so be patient while you and your vet try to figure out the best cat food for your cat’s IBD.

What to look for in the best cat food for IBD?

According to veterinary sources, hypoallergenic cat foods are normally started as part of the treatment plan for cats diagnosed with IBD.

These foods usually feature venison, rabbit, duck, lamb, or chicken as the lone meat protein. They should also have one kind of carbohydrate.

A slow change can later be made to a commercial diet that is low in additives. With the change, owners can attempt to feed a food that uses chicken or lamb as the primary ingredient.

This may not always work but most companies make foods with alternate meat proteins if your cat cannot eat the chicken or lamb.

In general, it’s a good idea to look for foods that have fewer ingredients, such as limited ingredient diets (LID), on the theory that foods with fewer ingredients have less chance of irritating your cat’s GI tract.

Cat foods that are easy to digest, with lower fat and lots of fiber are also recommended for cats with IBD.

Check with your veterinarian before adding any supplements to your cat’s diet that might cause irritation, including vitamins, minerals, and pro- or prebiotics.

Also ReadBest Probiotics for Cats

With cats that have this kind of sensitive GI tract, anything that you add to their diet, even if it sounds like something healthy, might be an irritant.

Best Cat Food for IBD Reviewed

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Real Duck Recipe Paté

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 8% Min
  • Fat – 4% Min
  • Fiber – 1.4% Max
  • Moisture– 78% Max
  • Caloric Content: 131 kcal/5 oz can

Pros:

  • Made from a single animal source protein
  • Beneficial nutrients like chelated minerals and probiotics
  • Made in the USA

Cons:

  • You’ll need a prescription

Ingredients:

Deboned Duck, Water for Processing, Natural Flavor, Pea Protein, Calcium Carbonate, Organic Alfalfa Meal, Sodium Phosphate, Guar Gum, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Flaxseed Oil, Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Glucoheptonate, Sodium Selenite), Taurine, Yucca Schidigera Extract.

Merrick has an entire line of limited ingredient cat foods. They come in both canned and kibble formulas. We like the Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Real Duck Recipe Pate but you could choose several of these foods to see how your cat with IBD responds to them. The first ingredient in this food is deboned duck.

It also contains pea protein, natural flavor, alfalfa meal, guar gum, and flaxseed oil so these foods aren’t perfect but many cats could eat them without a problem. The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals. It has 8 percent crude protein, 7 percent crude fat, 1.4 percent crude fiber, and 78 percent moisture. All of the Merrick LID recipes feature a single source of animal protein.

Nom Nom Chicken Cuisine

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 18% Min
  • Fat – 4% Min
  • Fiber – 0.8% Max
  • Moisture– 73% Max
  • Caloric Content:1194 kcal/kg

Pros:

  • 100% Free from fillers and artificial flavors
  • Made from premium ingredients
  • Rich in protein and fat, low in carbohydrates

Cons:

  • Cost is above market Avg.

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh, chicken breast, chicken liver, carrots, asparagus, cantaloupe, spinach, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, taurine, choline bitartrate, zinc gluconate, ferrous sulfate, vitamin E supplement, copper gluconate, manganese gluconate, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), selenium yeast, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 supplement, cholecalciferol (source of vitamin D3), potassium iodide.

If your cat enjoys fresh foods, she may be able to eat Nom Nom Chicken Cuisine. This food has one meat protein – chicken; and several vegetables (Including Pumpkin) as carbohydrate and fiber sources.

The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals. We would consider this food to be a limited ingredient diet and one that your cat would devour.

Chicken Cuisine has 18 percent crude protein, 4 percent crude fat, 0.8 percent crude fiber, and 73 percent moisture. So, it has lots of meat protein that cats need and love.

Hill's Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 7.5% Min
  • Fat – 4% Min
  • Fiber – 1% Max
  • Caloric Content: 161 kcal/5.5 oz can

Pros:

  • Formulated by nutritionists and veterinarians
  • Promotes healthy digestion
  • Often recommended by vets

Cons:

  • Not palatable for some cats

Ingredients:

Water, Pork Liver, Chicken, Rice, Potato Protein, Chicken Fat, Chicken Liver Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Beet Pulp, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Taurine, Dicalcium Phosphate, Iodized Salt, Fructooligosaccharides, vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), Niacin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Choline Chloride, Psyllium Seed Husk, DL-Methionine, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate), Magnesium Oxide, Beta-Carotene.

If your IBD cat is able to eat chicken, Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care with Chicken Canned Cat Food could be a good choice.

This food is often prescribed for cats that need help with digestive problems, including cats with IBD. This Hill’s Prescription Diet is highly digestible with a balance of soluble and insoluble natural fibers.

It supports good bowel health and the growth of beneficial bacteria in your cat’s gut. And, it replaces lost nutrients and ensures easy nutrient absorption. This food is a pate. Prescription.

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein Adult PR Canned Cat Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 8.5% Min
  • Fat – 4.5% Min
  • Fiber – 1% Max
  • Moisture-78% Max
  • Caloric Content: 167 kcal/5.9 oz can

Pros:

  • Contains vitamins and minerals
  • Soft gel texture
  • Often recommended by vets

Cons:

  • You’ll need a prescription

Ingredients:

Water Sufficient for Processing, Rabbit, Rabbit Liver, Pea Flour, Vegetable Oil, Pea Protein, Natural Flavors, Fish Oil, Calcium Carbonate, Carrageenan, Calcium Sulfate, Taurine, Dl-Methionine, Cysteine, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Glycine, Choline Chloride, Vitamins [Dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), Inositol, Niacin Supplement, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A Acetate, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement], Trace Minerals [Zinc Proteinate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Potassium Chloride, Marigold Extract (Tagetes Erecta L.).

Made with peas and rabbit as the protein sources, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein Adult PR Canned Cat Food is one of the foods often recommended by veterinarians for cats with IBD.

It has few other ingredients, besides vitamins and minerals, which reduces the chance that your cat will have a negative response to something in the food.

This canned food has 8.5 percent crude protein, 4.5 percent crude fat, and 1 percent crude fiber, with 78 percent moisture. The food is a loaf in gel texture. Also comes in other Selected Protein flavors and in kibble. Prescription.

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula Canned Cat Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 50% Min
  • Fat – 16% Min
  • Fiber – 3% Max
  • Moisture-12% Max
  • Caloric Content: 528 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • Especially formulated to help manage your cat’s food sensitivity
  • Formulated and optimized for IBD
  • Made in the US

Cons:

  • You’ll need a prescription

Ingredients:

Soy Protein Isolate, Poultry By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soy Flakes, Animal Fat Preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (Form of Vitamin E), Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Calcium Carbonate, Phosphoric Acid, Fish Oil, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Powdered Cellulose, Dl-Methionine, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Salt, Dried Colostrum, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Calcium Iodate, Biotin, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Sodium Selenite.

Designed for cats with gastrointestinal conditions, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula Canned Cat Food is high in total digestibility so your cat can digest more nutrients in his food.

The canned food has 9.5 percent crude protein, 4 percent crude fat, 2 percent crude fiber, and 78 percent moisture. Also available as a dry cat food Prescription.

Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Cat Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 45% Min
  • Fat – 25% Min
  • Fiber – 5% Max
  • Moisture– 5% Max
  • Caloric Content: 182 kcal/cup

Pros:

  • High in protein
  • No grains, fillers, gluten, added hormones or antibiotics
  • Minimally processed

Cons:

  • Expensive

Ingredients:

Chicken (Ground With Bone), Chicken Liver, Chicken Gizzard, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate, Choline Chloride, Fenugreek Seed, Dried Pediococcus Acidilactici Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium Longum Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus Coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Tocopherols (Preservative), Dandelion, Dried Kelp, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Riboflavin Supplement, Sodium Selenite, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Vitamin B12 Supplement.

This cat food is made from the facilities of one of the older raw pet food companies in the US. Based in Wisconsin, Stella & Chewy’s create their cat food with real protein to keep your Exotic Shorthair’s teeth and weight healthy and improve their vitality.

You can choose from two flavors for your cat–the Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner and the Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken Dinner. The Chick, Chick, Chicken Dinner is made from real dehydrated chicken which is a nutritionally complete treat for your Exotic Shorthair.

The Yummy Lickin’ Salmon & Chicken Dinner is made from wild-caught salmon and cage-free chicken with optimal quality and designed to satisfy your cat’s palatability.

Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Formula Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Nutritional info:

  • Protein – 10% Min
  • Fat – 8.5% Min
  • Fiber – 1% Max
  • Moisture– 78% Max
  • Caloric Content: 1,222 Kcal/kg

Ingredients:

Turkey, Turkey Broth, Turkey Liver, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride, Agar-Agar, Choline Chloride, Salmon Oil, Taurine, Salt, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Magnesium Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Calcium Iodate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid.

Protein should be the foundation of any cat’s diet and this lamb and lamb liver recipe delivers it in spades. This wet food contains 98% lamb & lamb liver in a 100% grain free recipe that is positively packed with protein and flavor.

It contains a limited number of primary ingredients with beneficial supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.

This recipe contains no corn, wheat, or soy and is completely free from by-products of any kinds. It is naturally thickened with agar-agar and doesn’t contain guar gum or carrageenan like many canned pet foods. Plus, it is considered complete and balanced for adult cats.

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Conclusion

If you have a cat with IBD, we know that it’s not easy finding diets that work. It can take time to find a food that’s suitable; that your cat likes; and that he’ll eat more than once or twice.

We hope that the foods mentioned here provide you with some options. There’s more than one kind of prescription diet.

A fresh food diet could work for some cats. And a limited ingredient diet can be a good choice for many cats. Good luck with your cat’s diet.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine DN Dog News. She's the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, a Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) award winner. In addition, she is an American Kennel Club Gazette breed columnist and is the author of several books about pets. She has been reviewing pet foods and writing about dog food for more than 10 years.
6 Comments
  1. Avatar

    Jan

    My cat has IBD, lower colon, as he has the diarrhea. He no longer has diarrhea, just soft stools, because of adding canned pumpkin to his canned food. 50/50 mixture. I feed him 4health canned cat food Sensitive stomache formulated for adult cats, which you can only purchase through Tractor Feed and Supply Store. He also eats 4health Grain Free Whitefish, Pea and Potato formula with real Turkey for adult cats dry food. The canned pumpkin 3 times a day mixed into his canned food is the only thing that has stopped his watery diarrhea and growling from tummy inflammation. I couldnt afford all the tests, but we ruled out parasites, and he has a good appetite, and has energy, and bright eyes. Wish I could do more for him. But for those who do not have tons of money, someone suggested this food and the pumpkin 50/50 mixture and it has really helped him to be comfortable and active. I also give him prescription vitamin supplement.

    • Avatar

      Joyce

      Thank you! My cat was just diagnosed with IBD and the vet recommended Royal Canin Rabbit and Pea at $60 for 8 pounds. I cannot afford this, as I have expensive medications to give him also. I am so glad to have an idea of something else to try.

    • Avatar

      Latoya

      Thank you for your feedback. I have a 6 month old kitten that has had wet stool since i got her 4 months ago. I love her so much but am tired of this poop situation. She is growing eating playing sleeping and drinking like normal but her poop is not consistently hard. I have been doing the same, that is adding pumkin to her diet. She was on hill science kitten formula now she is on royal canin kitten formula. The only thing that helps her poop is the pumkin. She has been on two antibiotics, Albon, and metradonazole. I want to just paycfor x-rays, blood work, or an ultrasound to see what going on to rule out IBD. She doesnt have any parasite. Just so frustrating.

  2. Avatar

    Andrea A Makridis

    After trying can food, several types of cereal food and meats I started feeding her raw organic chicken and her appetite has increased drastically! I'm now in the search of carbohydrates to add to this mix.

  3. Avatar

    Sienna

    Are you discussing IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)?

    • Carlotta Cooper

      Carlotta Cooper

      Hi Sienna, I was asked to write about IBD, which is generally considered to be a more serious chronic issue than IBS. Though the symptoms can be similar, there are differences. There are some good web sites online written by veterinarians that talk about the differences such as Ask The Cat Doctor https://www.askthecatdoctor.com/feline-irritable-bowel-syndrome.html

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