Cat food for sensitive stomachs can reduce diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. It can prevent vomiting and may even reduce furballs. It usually includes higher quality ingredients, minimizes the amount of grain and other ingredients that are common allergens or that trigger sensitivities. You should also look for those that have fewer preservatives, additives, and other artificial ingredients.
But that still leaves dozens of different foods, including a selection of dry and wet food, and with a hugely varied price range. Below, we have put together reviews of ten of the best cat foods for sensitive stomachs, as well as a guide to help you choose the best one.
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The 10 Best Cat Foods For Sensitive Stomachs – Reviews & Top Picks 2021
1. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Sensitive Cat Food– Best Overall
|Primary Ingredients:||Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice|
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Sensitive Cat Food features chicken as its main ingredient and is free from GMO ingredients as well as corn, soy, and other ingredients that might cause sensitivities in your cat. Food sensitivities are different from allergies.
They aren’t life-threatening but they can lead to a host of gastrointestinal complaints because it means that the body is unable to digest and process the food properly. This could mean that your cat does not have the right enzymes to digest an ingredient or they might have a sensitivity to certain compounds used in the creation of preservatives or additives. Intolerance might not be life-threatening, but it can be painful and unpleasant for your cat and it can cause a more pungent smell at the litter tray.
Nutro Wholesome Essential Sensitive Cat Food has a moderate price tag, will help avoid sensitivities to artificial ingredients, and cats do enjoy it, making it the best overall cat food for sensitive stomachs. However, not all ingredients are considered top-quality – brewer’s rice and pea protein, for example, provide protein but plant protein is not as bioavailable or as beneficial to cats as meat protein.
2. Cat Chow Sensitive Stomach Gentle Dry Cat Food – Best Value
|Primary Ingredients:||Turkey By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal|
When cats suffer from a sensitive stomach, one of the main symptoms, other than upset stomachs, is dry skin and poor coat condition. Cat Chow Sensitive Stomach Gentle Dry Cat Food, which contains turkey by-product meal as its main ingredient, contains prebiotics and probiotics. These not only help gut health but can encourage better coat condition, too. This is further supported by omega-6 fatty acids.
The ingredients do not include any artificial colors or flavors. The food is very well priced, making it our choice as the best cat food for sensitive stomachs for the price, but the manufacturers have had to compromise in some areas to keep the price down.
The primary ingredient of turkey by-product meal is the leftover carcass and other parts of the slaughtered turkey. This can include some parts that are not as rich in protein as the rest. The ingredients also contain some grains, but if your cat needs a probiotic boost and is not sensitive to grains, this is an inexpensive dry food that could help.
3. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin – Premium Choice
|Primary Ingredients:||Chicken, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal|
Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin is a dry cat food that features chicken as its primary ingredient, followed by brewers rice and corn gluten meal. It is fortified with vitamins and minerals, uses natural flavors, and contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOS are naturally occurring prebiotics that are found in ingredients like ginger and asparagus, among others. FOS is used by the good bacteria in your cat’s gut as a food source. This means that bacteria like lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, or good bacteria, are the dominant strains in your cat’s gut.
Prebiotics are an important component in cat food for sensitive stomachs and FOS is a natural source of prebiotics. It is a little more expensive than some of the alternatives on the list and does use corn and other grains.
4. Purina One Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Turkey, Chicken By-Product Meal, Rice Flour|
Purina One Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food has the main ingredients of turkey and chicken by-product meal. Turkey is a beneficial ingredient, although because this is the pure and untreated form of turkey, it is likely to be further down the ingredient list once it has been prepared and cooked ready for the food.
Chicken by-product meal is a concentrated form of turkey, which means that it has a high protein level, but it is a by-product. By-products are the bits that are left over after the meat has been slaughtered and processed for other foods. Although it may be perfectly safe, it is likely to have lower protein than other, more beneficial, named parts of the meat.
The ingredients do include omega-6 fatty acids to improve the health and quality of the coat, and the antioxidants will help dispose of unwanted toxins. The food is also reasonably priced.
5. Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice|
Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food lists deboned chicken and chicken meal as its two primary ingredients. These are both good quality ingredients to see at the top of the list and suggest that the food’s 32% protein is made up primarily of meat protein. Other beneficial ingredients include chicken fat, which might not sound appealing but is a good source of omega fatty acids.
Other sources of Omegas found in the Blue Buffalo food include flaxseed, menhaden fish meal, and fish oil. The ingredients also include prebiotics and probiotics to help promote good gut health. 32% protein and 9% moisture levels could both do with being a bit higher, but this is a reasonably priced cat food that will benefit even the most sensitive and picky of felines.
6. Iams Proactive Health Sensitive Digestion & Skin Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Turkey, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn|
Iams Proactive Health Sensitive Digestion & Skin Dry Cat Food contains turkey as its primary ingredient, followed by chicken by-product meal. Meat by-products are not considered the best quality as a primary ingredient because they are the leftover bits of meat after the slaughtering and preparation process, so they are not necessarily the most nutritionally beneficial parts of the chicken.
The first ingredient, turkey, is a good source of meat protein, but in its pure form it is 60% moisture so by the time it has been prepared for the food, it is likely to feature much lower on the list of ingredients.
Brewers rice is an inexpensive filler, found a little further down the ingredient list, while ground whole grain corn is somewhat controversial: some claim that it is a good source of vitamins and minerals while others claim there are better sources of vitamins and that it is used solely because it is cheap.
7. Royal Canin Digest Sensitive Thin Slices In Gravy Canned Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Water, Chicken By-Products, Pork By-Products|
Most of the foods on our list are dry foods. This is because wet food tends to be richer, which can exacerbate digestive problems. However, there are some benefits to wet food. It has a very high moisture content, which can be important to cats because many felines do not like to drink water from a dish so they need to get moisture from their food. It also tends to be more appealing to cats. While most cat food products for sensitive stomachs are dry foods, Royal Canin Digest Sensitive Thin Slices In Gravy is canned wet food.
As well as water as its primary ingredient, which is typical in wet foods, it also has chicken by-products and pork by-products. It then has pork liver, salmon, and chicken liver, all of which suggest that this food gets the majority of its protein from meat sources.
Although expensive compared to dry food, it is well priced for wet food. The food does contain gluten and corn, it is very watery even for wet food, and it can be too rich for cats with sensitive stomachs.
8. Solid Gold Winged Tiger Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Quail, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal|
Solid Gold Winged Tiger Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food is a dry kibble with the main ingredients of quail, turkey meal, and chicken meal. These are considered high-quality ingredients and show that the food’s protein is made up primarily of meat sources.
The food also contains chelated minerals, which are more bioavailable than standard minerals, and it contains prebiotics and probiotics to promote good gut health. It is an expensive food and while the 10% moisture level is to be expected with dry food, the 30% protein could do with being higher. It uses pumpkin for fiber, although this is not considered species-appropriate, and it is high in calories, so you need to avoid overfeeding your cat.
9. Halo Holistic Seafood Medley Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Whitefish, Salmon, Dried Egg Product|
Halo Holistic Seafood Medley Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food is a dry kibble that uses whitefish, salmon, and dried egg products as its main ingredients. Although the two main ingredients are considered good sources of protein, in their raw form they consist of 60% moisture.
Once the ingredients have been prepared and added to the finished food, they would likely feature lower in the list of ingredients and may not contribute as much to the protein of the food as it first appears. Soybean protein concentrate and potato protein are found in the ingredients.
These do contain protein but because plant protein is not considered as high a quality as meat protein, these ingredients would be better replaced with meat or a meat-based ingredient. Halo Holistic food is expensive and derives a lot of its protein from plant sources, rather than meat.
10. Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities Canned Cat Food
|Primary Ingredients:||Hydrolized Chicken Liver, Water, Corn Starch|
Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities Canned Cat Food is specialist wet cat food. Its primary ingredient is hydrolyzed chicken liver. This means that the protein in the chicken liver has undergone hydrolysis. This breaks the protein down into its constituent amino acids and peptides, therefore providing the goodness of the protein but in such small protein blocks that the immune system does not react to them.
If your cat suffers serious sensitivities or allergies to meat proteins, Hills Prescription z/d could provide you with a means of ensuring that they still get the meat-protein goodness but without the upset stomach and poor-quality coat and fur. The food is expensive and because it is aimed at cats that cannot tolerate meat proteins, its ingredients are filled with plant proteins and plant products.
Looking after our cat’s health is important and one way that we do that is by providing good food that contains decent protein and is free from ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction or a food sensitivity. This is especially true if your cat suffers from a sensitive stomach. Sensitive stomachs can be caused by serious medical conditions, so you should consult a vet if changing diet doesn’t help, but it could also simply be that your cat has a delicate digestive system.
Symptoms Of a Sensitive Stomach
Some of the symptoms of a sensitive stomach are self-explanatory. If your cat vomits or has bouts of diarrhea, their food should be your first port of call. Check for ingredients that might be causing the problem and try a different protein source. Other symptoms may be less obvious but just as telling. A cat will lick its lips more often if it is feeling nauseous and it may be inclined to reject food that it would normally wolf down. Excessive gas, smelly stools, and more frequent visits to the litter tray are other possible symptoms.
Sensitive stomachs can be caused by several factors. A change in diet is one obvious cause but cats can also suffer as a result of stress, anxiety, or because they are taking a medication that does not agree with them. They may be eating something when out of the house or getting into your kitchen cupboards at home. However, sensitive stomachs may also be caused by an underlying and potentially serious medical condition so you must take it seriously.
Foods To Avoid
Food choice is one of the biggest causes of a sensitive stomach. Even making relatively simple changes to your cat’s daily diet could be enough to remedy the situation and steady your cat’s stomach.
Avoid feeding table scraps, do not give your cat human processed food, and absolutely avoid foods that are considered toxic to cats: chocolate, grapes, garlic, and onions are just some of the ingredients that might be causing your cat to be sick. You should also avoid feeding raw fish. Although it is a food that we often associate with cats, they would rarely eat this in the wild and they contain a high level of thiaminase.
Other foods to avoid include raw eggs and members of the allium family, such as onions and garlic. Many cats are lactose intolerant, too, so you should avoid feeding any dairy products: this can help eliminate dietary problems in cats.
Sensitive Stomach Cat Food Features
When buying cat food for sensitive stomachs, there are certain factors to consider and several choices you have to make.
Cats are obligate carnivores, and unless there is a recognized medical reason to avoid it, meat should be the primary source of protein in your cat’s diet. Avoid foods that have too high a concentration of plant-based proteins because they are not as beneficial to your cat and feeding too many plant proteins could cause stomach problems. Common animal proteins come from beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and fish. If you believe any one of these might be causing an intolerance in your cat, try changing to a different meat source.
Whatever your primary concern when buying cat food, you need to choose between dry and wet food, or feed a combination of the two. Wet food is preferred because it tends to be more palatable and appealing to cats, and it has a high moisture content, which is important because a lot of cats simply won’t drink water straight from a bowl. Wet food does not keep as long, costs more, and can be richer. Rich foods are best avoided if your cat does have a sensitive stomach. Dry foods can be left down for several hours without degrading in quality. But you will need to provide a bowl of fresh water and ensure that your cat does drink from it.
Grain-Free or Grain Inclusive
Another common choice you have to make when buying cat food is whether to buy grain-free or grain-inclusive. Grains are not considered species-appropriate because cats would not eat grains in the wild, other than a potentially very small amount present in the stomachs of their prey. Grain is a common allergen and is also one ingredient that is more likely to cause food sensitivities. If you know that your cat cannot stomach grains, buy grain-free. If you are unsure, try to buy grain-free but you can try your cat on grain-inclusive food first.
Introducing Your Cat to a New Diet
One of the major causes of a sensitive stomach is changing cat foods. Cats do generally have sensitive stomachs and if you change their food too often or too quickly, this can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems. Change the food gradually, over at least a week, starting with 75% old food and 25% new food. Be aware that even this seemingly slow rate can be too quick for some sensitive cats.
Cats have quite sensitive stomachs, and they need decent quality food, filled with bioavailable meat protein, and packed with vitamins and minerals, to help ensure that they are healthy. The wrong food can lead to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. It can even cause dry skin and a poor-quality coat.
We believe that Nutro Wholesome Essentials Sensitive Cat Food is the best overall cat food for sensitive stomachs while, if you’re on a tight budget, Cat Chow Sensitive Stomach Gentle Dry Cat Food is an inexpensive dry food with decent moisture and protein levels.
We hope our reviews and guide have helped you find the best cat food for sensitive stomachs.
Featured Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.