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Limited ingredient cat food is similar to hypoallergenic cat food. These foods are usually fed to cats that have food allergies or food intolerances. They typically have a single protein source and a single carb source – ideally something that your cat hasn’t eaten previously. The idea is to change your cat’s diet to something that won’t trigger his allergy or food intolerance.
Common Cat Food Allergens
For cats, the most common allergens are:
- Dairy products
- Wheat gluten
These are also some of the most common proteins in typical cat foods, which is no accident. Cats, or any animals, have to be exposed to foods more than once before there can be an allergic response. It’s believed that the more common proteins are in foods, the more likely they are to lead to allergic reactions in the general population. So, if pet food companies suddenly begin using rabbit as a cat food ingredient, eventually a lot of cats will develop allergies to rabbit. These ingredients aren’t “bad” ingredients, they can simply be triggers for some cats. Some cats can have triggers to uncommon allergens.
Quick Look : Top 4 Best LID Cat Foods
Cats with a food allergy can have some typical signs of an allergic reaction such as itching, loss of hair, lots of scratching, and miliary dermatitis (featuring skin lesions). It can be difficult to tell if your cat has a food allergy or some other kind of allergy or skin problem, but food allergies can occur year-round, and their itchy skin probably won’t respond to steroids.
A food intolerance is a little different. A food intolerance usually affects the cat’s gastrointestinal tract instead of causing itching and scratching or hair loss. The cat may have vomiting or diarrhea because something in his food is irritating his G.I. tract. Even if he enjoys his food when eating it, the food may cause an irritation during digestion. It’s a little like someone with a sensitive stomach eating a spicy food or fried foods and paying the price afterwards.
Diagnosing food allergies
If your cat is showing signs of a food allergy, it’s best to have your vet confirm your suspicions. There are a number of illnesses that can exhibit the same signs such as other kinds of allergies, intestinal parasites, certain infections, and some skin problems. Before you spend a lot of money changing cat foods, it’s wise to have your vet check your cat first. Your vet can usually determine if your cat has a food allergy fairly quickly. However, it may take a little longer to figure out what your cat is allergic to.
The proven way to determine what your cat is allergic to is by putting him on an elimination diet and going through a food trial with him. This means that you will feed him a food that he has never eaten before for approximately 12 weeks. The food should consist of one protein and one carb. You and your vet can confer to choose the food for your cat. An example might be a food that contains venison and green peas. Several companies make these food in prescription formulas and there are some available commercially. These are “limited ingredient diets.” In some cases, if the cat is allergic to a lot of common foods, there are some prescription foods using hydrolyzed proteins. This means that the protein used in the food has been broken down into such small molecules that the cat’s body will not be able to recognize the protein source so there can’t be an allergic reaction. If the cat requires a very novel protein, some people make homemade diets for their cat during the food trials, under the veterinarian’s advice. The important thing is that the cat does not eat anything other than the single protein and carb that have been chosen for the food trial. The purpose is to rule out everything else in the cat’s diet that could be causing the allergy.
Once the cat has finished the 12 week elimination diet – and he has, hopefully, not had any allergic reactions – you and your vet can begin to add, one ingredient at a time, things to his diet that were previously in his food. When he has an allergic reaction to one of these ingredients, you will be able to isolate the item that your cat is allergic to and avoid that ingredient in the future. Your cat may be allergic to more than one ingredient, so it’s a good idea to continue testing ingredients until you have checked all of the possible allergens in your cat’s old food.
This is how you can really find out what your cat is allergic to. Many people do not go to this time and trouble to determine their cat’s allergies. If their cat has an allergic reaction while eating a food, they will simply make assumptions about some of the ingredients in the food and start buying different cat foods, hoping they are buying a food that won’t trigger a reaction. You can certainly follow this method but it’s not always successful. Many times you will end up buying a lot of expensive cat foods that will also cause your cat to have an allergic reaction. Or, you might feed a cat food that doesn’t produce a reaction and attribute the your cat’s allergy to the wrong ingredient. It can be a very expensive way of trying to figure out your cat’s allergy without getting a definite answer.
When you have determined the ingredient(s) that your cat is allergic to, you can choose the appropriate limited ingredient or hypoallergenic cat food for your cat. Depending on the allergens that trigger your cat’s allergy or food intolerance, you may need to buy a prescription cat food or you can buy a food that is commercially available. Prescription diets may sometimes seem to have ingredients that are not as popular today, including some grains or even by-products, but they are usually made under very exacting standards so you can be certain that these foods do not contain any ingredients (or allergens) that are not supposed to be in the food. Commercial limited ingredient diets may include very good quality ingredients but they may not be made to prescription standards. You may not be 100 percent certain that the food doesn’t contain a hint of some food that your cat should not eat, for example.
Dos and Don’ts
Whether you are following an elimination diet from your vet or trying to figure out your cat’s allergy on your own, there are some dos and don’ts you should keep in mind. You need to stick to the diet you have chosen for your cat and don’t feed him things that aren’t on the diet. Any of these other things could also cause an allergic reaction.
When your cat is on a food trial, do not give him:
- Flavored medications supplements
- Flavored plastic toys
- Any type of food when giving medications
Any of these things could cause an allergic reaction that might wrongly be attributed to your cat’s food.
Top 4 Commercial Limited Ingredient Cat Foods
Best L.I.D. Dry Cat Food
Natural Balance LID Green Pea and Salmon Recipe Dry Food
The Natural Balance Pet Food Company was founded in 1989 and it has since expanded into one of the largest brands of all-natural pet food. This company produces both dog food and cat food products that are divided into a number of different product lines. In addition to grain-free and high-protein recipes, Natural Balance also provides a line of Limited Ingredient Diets (LIDs). These are recipes made with a select number of choice ingredients to help reduce the risk for food allergies and sensitivities by limiting the number of ingredients cats are exposed to. Many of these recipes are also made with novel proteins like duck, salmon, and venison to further reduce the risk for a negative reaction. The Natural Balance LID Green Pea and Salmon Recipe Dry Food recipe is one of the products that belongs to this line.
The Natural Balance LID Green Pea and Salmon Dry Food Recipe is made with a low number of premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates to limit negative reactions and to ensure healthy digestion. This product is naturally grain-free and it is made without any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. The main ingredients in this cat food are green peas, salmon meal, and fresh salmon. Not only is salmon a high-quality protein, but it is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which help to support your cat’s healthy skin and coat. This recipe is supplemented with flaxseed as a source of healthy fats and dietary fiber to complement the green peas. Overall, this recipe provides 30% crude protein with 12% crude fat and just 4% fiber. This Natural Balance LID Green Pea and Salmon Recipe Dry Food also contains helpful supplements like chelated minerals and supplementary vitamins. What your cat will really appreciate, however, is its natural salmon flavor. – Buy It
Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Duck Recipe Dry Food
The Petcurean company currently offers four different product lines for cats and dogs, all of which include a wide variety of product choices. All of Petcurean’s recipes are formulated by a Senior Nutritionist who has a PhD in pet nutrition, plus each formula is carefully developed to meet the specific nutritional needs of cats in different life stages. Petcurean is a family-owned and -operated company which means that they have better control over the equality of their ingredients and the safety of their manufacturing processes – this is all good news for you as a cat owner. One of Petcurean’s top lines of products is the Go! Brand that is divided into three categories. The Fit + Free category includes gluten-free and grain-free recipes made with premium proteins while the Daily Defence category includes nutrient-packed recipes designed to boost your cat’s preventive care. The Sensitivity + Shine line is for cats with special dietary needs, including limited ingredient diets like the Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Duck Dry Food Recipe.
This Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Duck Dry Food Recipe is made with a limited number of ingredients including premium-quality duck as the single source of protein. This formula contains zero grains, gluten, or potatoes and it is supplemented with both prebiotics and probiotics to support your cat’s healthy and regular digestion. Not only does this recipe include fresh duck, but it also includes duck meal which is a highly-concentrated source of animal protein. For healthy fats, this recipe relies on chicken fat and flaxseed to provide a balance of omega fatty acids – the flaxseed also acts as a source of supplementary fiber. For carbohydrates, this recipe includes peas, pea flour, tapioca, lentils, and chickpeas – all ingredients that contain energy, fiber, and healthy nutrients. Still, this recipe needs some vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure complete and balanced nutrition but many of the minerals are chelated which helps to maximize absorption. – Buy It
Best L.I.D. Wet Cat Food
Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula Canned Food
The Nature’s Variety company is known primarily for the Instinct line of all-natural pet food products. Nature’s Variety Instinct is made from fresh, high-quality ingredients in carefully formulated recipes designed to deliver optimal nutrition and natural flavor. The Instinct brand includes a wide variety of products including traditional kibbles, raw-boost kibbles, freeze-dried raw foods, and various wet food products. The Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula Canned Food recipe is a great example of the quality and nutrition that Nature’s Variety has to offer. It is also a limited ingredient formula which means that it has a lower risk for triggering food allergies and sensitivities in cats than traditional cat food products. It is also worth noting that this formula features rabbit as a novel source of protein – this further reduces the risk for food allergies or sensitivities in cats.
As you may have already guessed, the first ingredient in this Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula Canned Food recipe is fresh rabbit. This rabbit is not only the main ingredient – it is also the sole source of protein and a complete source of protein at that (this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids your cat needs). The second ingredient is water which provides the moisture needed for processing as well as some natural flavor. The rabbit liver that comes next also provides flavor as well as healthy fat and supplementary protein. This recipe contains just 7 main ingredients besides the supplements that are added to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Several of the mineral supplements are chelated which means that they have been chemically bound to protein molecules, making them easier to digest and absorb. Overall, this Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Rabbit Formula Canned Food is loaded with high-quality protein, healthy nutrients, and plenty of natural flavor. – Buy It
Blue Buffalo Basics Grain-Free Indoor Fish & Potato Recipe
The Blue Buffalo Company offers a wide variety of cat food products, both dry and wet, which are divided into four product lines. The Basics line of products features grain-free recipes made with a limited number of ingredients to help reduce food allergies and sensitivities. Many of the recipes included in the Basics line are also made with novel proteins – proteins your cat probably hasn’t eaten before which also reduces the risk for an allergic reaction. The Blue Buffalo Basics Grain-Free Indoor Fish & Potato Recipe is an example of a product from this line that is made with a short list of main ingredients plus a precise blend of fruits and veggies as well as an optimal blend of omega fatty acids and necessary supplements. This recipe is free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
This Blue Buffalo Basics Grain-Free Indoor Fish & Potato Recipe features protein-rich fish as the first ingredient – whitefish to be specific. In addition to being rich in protein, whitefish is also a complete protein which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids your cat needs. After the fish comes fish broth (a source of moisture and natural flavor) which is followed by carrots and potatoes. Both of these carbohydrates are naturally gluten-free and grain-free, plus they are considered highly digestible for cats. The main sources of fat used in this recipe are sunflower oil (a source of omega-6 fatty acids), flaxseed (both omega-3 and omega-6), and fish oil (a source of omega-3s). Together, these ingredients help to support your cat’s healthy skin and coat. The remaining ingredients in this recipe consist mainly of thickeners, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nutrient supplements. Many of the minerals are chelated which helps to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. – Buy It
Best Prescription Limited Ingredient Cat Foods
Some of the prescription cat foods that would be considered “limited ingredient diets” include:
- z/d® Feline Low Sensitivity – Dry – Hill’s Pet Nutrition
- z/d® Feline ULTRA – Canned – Hill’s Pet Nutrition
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hypoallergenic Hydrolyzed Protein HP (dry)
- Royal Canin Selected Protein (dry and canned)
- Purina® Pro Plan® Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed™ Feline Formula
If your cat needs one of these diets, you will have to talk to your vet about getting a prescription. They are pricey but they are usually very good. We know that the ingredient lists look awful. In this case you just can’t worry about it. These are prescription diets and when you need them, you really need them.
These are just a sample of the limited ingredient foods available. Although many brands claim to have “limited ingredient” foods, it’s important to read the label to see what’s really in the food. The cat food may have a single source of animal protein, for example, but it may use peas and other plant proteins that would not agree with your cat’s digestion, especially if he has a sensitive stomach. Some limited ingredient foods use added natural flavors which, in pet food terms, can mean monosodium glutamate (MSG) or other other additives. (The FDA considers a lot of things “natural.”) Although the main ingredients of the food may look good, such as turkey and tapioca, it’s important to consider all of the ingredients and how they might affect your cat’s digestive system. Sometimes you just have to keep looking at foods until you find one that is safe for your cat’s sensitive system.