Cat with Allergies

Best Cat Food for Cats with Allergies

If your cat has a problem with dry, itchy skin or if he suffers from chronic ear infections, it might be due to an underlying medical condition or it could be the result of a food allergy. What many pet parents do not realize is that food allergies in cats and dogs present in a different way than allergies in humans. For humans, the primary symptoms of food allergies are gastrointestinal – nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach. In cats, however, many of the main symptoms for food allergies overlap with the symptoms of other conditions.

Food allergies in cats are fairly common and they are not difficult to treat as long as you have a basic understanding of which food is causing the problem. As is true for food allergies in humans, the only way to deal with a food allergy in cats is to remove the allergen from the cat’s diet completely. If you feed your cat a commercial cat food diet, this may require you to switch to another formula or another brand entirely. You will need to know how to read a cat food label to make sure that the ingredients your cat is allergic to are not used and you will need to know how to identify a high-quality product to ensure that your cat’s nutritional needs are still being met.

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What Are Food Allergies in Cats?

It is estimated that approximately 10% of all allergies seen in dogs and cats are food allergies but they account for nearly 60% of all causes for excessive itching and scratching in cats. The most common allergies seen in cats are flea bite allergies (also known as flea allergy dermatitis) and atopy, or inhalant allergies. Food allergies are the third most common type of allergy seen in cats and they can develop at any point during the cat’s lifetime. In many cases, cats develop a food allergy to the foods that they are fed most frequently and they generally develop between 2 and 6 years of age.

Though there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that cats develop allergies to the foods they are fed most often, the actual process through which the body becomes allergic to a substance is still poorly understood. What researchers know is that animals with food allergies exhibit a complex antibody response that occurs within the gastrointestinal tract. Food allergies in pets seem to affect both males and females equally, as well as altered pets and unaltered pets. Some breeds do appear to experience food allergies more often than others, but there is no scientific proof to suggest a strong link between specific breeds and food allergies.

Another thing that many pet owners do not realize is that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Food allergies tend to cause problems with the skin while food intolerances are more likely to produce gastrointestinal symptoms. In comparison to humans, a food intolerance in a cat would be similar to a person who experiences digestive upset or diarrhea after eating fried foods or particularly spicy foods. Food allergies actually trigger an allergic response in the body, producing common symptoms such as itchy skin, patches of hair loss, and excessive scratching. One of the easiest ways to distinguish itching caused by food allergies and symptoms caused by other allergies is the fact that they may occur all year-round, not just when certain environmental allergens are present.

Treating Food Allergies in Cats

The key to diagnosing your cat’s food allergies is to keep a close eye on him and to report any and all symptoms to your veterinarian. In addition to reviewing your cat’s symptoms, your vet may perform certain tests to help rule out other potential causes for your cat’s problems. If it becomes apparent that food allergies are the culprit, you only have one option for treatment – removing the allergen from your cat’s diet permanently. Unfortunately, it is not always apparent which food is causing the cat’s allergy. Some of the most common culprits of food allergies in cats include chicken, fish, beef, eggs, pork, corn, wheat, soy, and dairy. It is possible for a cat to be allergic to more than one food as well.

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Once it has been determined that food allergies are the cause of your cat’s problems, your veterinarian will likely recommend an elimination diet and food trial. The way this treatment plan works is by eliminating all potential allergens from your cat’s diet for a period of 12 weeks until all traces of the allergen have been flushed from your cat’s body. After the 12 week elimination diet you then introduce potential allergens one at a time and gauge your cat’s response. If he experiences a negative reaction to the addition of any particular food, it is likely that this is the cause of his food allergies. After you have identified all of the allergens you can then just feed your cat a diet that is free from these foods.

Feeding Tips for Cats with Allergies

During the elimination phase of your cat’s treatment you will need to feed him a diet that is free from all common food allergens such as those listed in the previous section. Unfortunately, most commercial cat foods are made with these common allergens so you may need to switch to another formula or brand for the duration of your cat’s elimination diet. What you need to look for is something called a Limited Ingredient Diet (LID). These diets are made with novel sources of protein and carbohydrate – these are simply food sources that your cat has never eaten before and which is unlikely to trigger food allergies. Some examples of novel protein sources may include duck, venison, or rabbit while novel carbohydrate sources might include peas or potatoes.

While your cat is on an elimination diet, it is still important that he gets the nutrition his body needs to remain healthy. This being the case, you should be prepared to compare a number of different commercial cat food products to determine not only which option is the least likely to trigger food allergies but also which one is of the highest quality. Many major pet food brands like Blue Buffalo and Nature’s Variety offer Limited Ingredient Diets, so these options are a great place to start. You will still need to examine the ingredients list, however, and look for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy to ensure that the product will meet your cat’s nutritional needs.

In addition to choosing a high-quality product for your cat to eat during the elimination phase, you may also want to take the time to slowly transition your cat onto the new food. Making sudden changes to your cat’s diet could cause additional digestive upset but it is up to you whether you want to avoid that or if you want to get into the elimination diet as quickly as possible. If you do choose to transition your cat slowly you will need to start by mixing a small amount of the new food with your cat’s current food – start with about 25% of the new food added to 75% of the old food. Continue feeding this ratio for a few days then bump it up to 50% of the new food and 50% of the old food. After a few days, increase the ratio again and continue doing so over the next week or so until your cat is eating only the new food.

Top 5 Cat Food Brands for Cats with Allergies

Though many of the most serious symptoms caused by food allergies in cats are skin-related, intolerances and allergies can cause digestive problems as well. Depending on their severity, these digestive problems could compromise the quality of your cat’s nutrition and his body’s ability to absorb and utilize nutrients. This is another reason why it is incredibly important that you choose a high-quality cat food product to feed your cat during the elimination phase. Again, the ideal cat food for cats with allergies to eat during the elimination phase is a food that is made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate. It should still be made primarily from animal products with moderate amounts of animal fat and low levels of digestible carbohydrate.

Many different pet food manufacturer offer cat food products made with novel protein sources like duck and rabbit but they are not all good options to feed your cat. To help you get started in choosing a high-quality product for your cat, consider the top four cat food brands below which offer a selection of Limited Ingredient Diets.

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Food Price Nutrition Rating
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Cat Food KibbleSmalls for Smalls Fresh Chicken Pate
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Varies A+ 5 star
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Cat Food KibbleNature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Kibble
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$3.45/lb A+ 5 star
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient DietsNatural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Cat Food
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$2.40/lb A 5 star
Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient DietsMerrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diet Cat Food
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$1.46/5 oz can A 5 stars
Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient DietsBlue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Cat Food
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$3.09/lb A- 4.5 stars

Smalls for Smalls Fresh Chicken Pate


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Smalls for Smalls creates human grade recipes specially formulated based on a profile you fill out when you sign up. This choice would be great for cat with allergies, because you can provide information about your cat in the profile to be sure that the food your cat is getting is just what they need and nothing more. Smalls for Smalls is delivered to your doorstep, which is about as convenient as it gets. Among the benefits of fresh food are a shinier coat, more energy, and a less fragrant litter box. Cats are primarily carnivores, so they get most of their nutrition from the meat in their food. Smalls for Smalls recipes, such as the Fresh Turkey Pate, are all protein first, so you know your cat is getting optimal nutrition during every meal. Another thing to think about is the fact that cats actually get most of their hydration from their food, as well. Smalls for Smalls Fresh Turkey Pate has a high water content, which means your cat will stay hydrated and healthy. If the ingredients aren’t good enough for humans, they aren’t good enough for cats, either, according to Smalls for Smalls, so when you subscribe, you know you are giving your cat food you can feel good about from a company you can trust.

Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Kibble


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The Nature’s Variety pet food company is based in St. Louis, Missouri and the company is devoted to providing high-quality, holistic nutrition for both cats and dogs. The Nature’s Variety brand is comprised of two different lines of products for cats – the Instinct line of raw and grain-free formulas and the Prairie line of canned foods. Within the Instinct line of products there are a number of different products including raw recipes, kibbles with freeze-dried raw pieces, high-protein kibbles, healthy weight formulas, and a collection of Limited Ingredient Diets including kibbles, canned foods, and treats.

Within the Instinct line of Limited Ingredient Diets you will find two dry food formulas for cats as well as five canned food formulas. The two flavor options available in kibble form are made with turkey or rabbit as the primary protein source and they are completed and balanced for cats in all life stages. These formulas are grain-free, made with tapioca and peas as the main sources of digestible carbohydrates. The Instinct line of Limited Ingredient Diets also includes five different flavors of canned food: turkey, lamb, duck, rabbit, and pork. All of the wet food formulas are made with a minimal number of ingredients that are all gluten-free and grain-free for healthy, balanced nutrition.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets

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The Natural Balance Pet Food Company was founded in 1989 and it is a company that utilizes sound scientific principles and nutritional truths in formulating each and every one of their products. This pet food company aims to create high-quality diets for cats and dogs in a selective number of formulas made with quality meats, unique proteins, complex carbohydrates, and fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to their traditional products, the Natural Balance Pet Food Company also offers several Limited Ingredient Diets. In fact, Natural Balance was one of the first pet food companies to do so.

Within the Limited Ingredient Diets line of Natural Balance products there are four different flavors for dry food, four flavors for wet food, and three flavors for treats. The dry food products within this line are all made with green peas and the primary source of digestible carbohydrate and the protein options include chicken, duck, salmon, and venison. The four wet food products included in this line are also made with green peas and the same four protein options. In addition to using a limited number of ingredients, the formulas in this product line are supplemented with a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat as well as chelated minerals for maximum absorption.

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Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diets

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The Merrick Pet Care Company was founded in 1988 and this company offers handcrafted, all-natural pet foods for both dogs and cats. All of Merrick’s products are made with the freshest, highest quality ingredients available produced in small batches to ensure quality. The Limited Ingredient Diet line of grain-free formulas for cats is designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition for cats without triggering food allergies. These cat food formulas are made with a simple list of ingredients including high-quality proteins and digestible carbohydrates. Additionally, all of the formulas belonging to this product line are free from corn, grains, and gluten.
The Limited Ingredient Diet line of cat foods from Merrick includes three dry food formulas and four wet food formulas. The main sources of protein used in these formulas include salmon, turkey, and chicken for dry food and an additional duck flavor for wet food. These products are made with a single source of protein to provide your cat with the vitamins and minerals he needs. All of the formulas in this line of products are also made with gluten-free and grain-free carbohydrates like potatoes and peas, plus they contain dried fermentation products to help support healthy digestion. Like all of Merrick’s products, these cat foods are also free from artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diets

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Even if you have never tried Blue Buffalo food for your cats, you have probably heard of this pet food brand. The Blue Buffalo Pet Food Company has become a household name, and for good reason – they offer a wide selection of high-quality products made with fresh ingredients in nutritious formulas. Blue Buffalo offers four different product lines for both dog food and cat food: the BLUE line of natural foods, the Freedom line of grain-free foods, the Wilderness line of protein-rich foods, and the Basics line of limited ingredient diets. The products belonging to the Basics line of cat foods are formulated to minimize food sensitivities while also maximizing nutrition.

Within the Blue Buffalo Basics line of limited ingredient diets you will find four different dry food formulas, three for adult cats and one for senior cats. The three flavor options available in dry food form from this line include Grain-Free Duck and Potato, Grain-Free Fish and Potato, and Grain-Free Turkey and Potato. These flavors are also available in wet food with all three flavors formulated for adult cats and one grain-free turkey recipe formulated for kittens. All of the products belonging to the Blue Buffalo Basics line of limited ingredient diets are free from corn, wheat, dairy, soy, and eggs. Plus, like all of Blue Buffalo’s products, they are made without artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

In addition to the brands listed above there are a number of other cat food brands that offer specialized formulas for cats with food allergies. For example, the EVO pet food company offers their Herring & Salmon Formula Cat and Kitten Food which is made with fresh fish and fish meals as well as gluten-free carbohydrates like tapioca starch and fresh fruits and vegetables. Some other high-quality cat food brands to consider include Acana, Solid Gold, Holistic Select, Addiction, and others.

When you are shopping for a high-quality limited ingredient diet for your cat, be wary of so-called hypoallergenic or sensitive stomach formulas offered by low-quality cat food brands. For example, Purina and Royal Canin all offer formulas that are supposedly designed for cats with food allergies and intolerances. If you examine the ingredients list for these products, however, you may find a number of inexpensive fillers and unhealthy ingredients.

Even when evaluating high-quality cat food brands you always need to be careful about examining the ingredients list to make sure that the product is of high-quality and that the nutritional claims made on the package are actually founded in truth.

Now that you understand what cat food allergies are and how they can affect your cat you have the information you need to deal with the problem. Not only do you need to remove the allergens from your cat’s diet through an elimination diet but you also need to make sure that your cat still gets the quality nutrition he needs during this phase. If you can do both of these things your cat will likely make a full recovery from the problems caused by his allergies and he will continue to enjoy an allergy-free life.

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One Comment

  1. I just bought my kitty Instinct Originak kibble & Instinct limited ingrediant grain-free & original.

    This morning I fed it to her for the first time. Now, she is dashing furtively around the house, crying, examining our living room with anxious susciption.

    When I try to comfort her, she lashes out as tho in fear of her life.



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