This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
The best cat food for cats with chronic pancreatitis is low-residue, palatable, and easy to digest. On our list of the top 5 best foods for cats with pancreatitis, the number one spot goes to Ziwi Peak Lamb canned cat food, an ultra-digestible food that’s highly palatable and free from inflammatory ingredients.
Before reading our list of the best products, let’s learn about pancreatitis, how it’s connected to diet, and how to choose the best food for cats with this condition.
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What is pancreatitis?
The term pancreatitis refers to any inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas is a small, crucial organ that secretes insulin and digestive enzymes, helping your cat to digest their food.
Pancreatic inflammation is most common among cats over the age of 10 and is often comorbid with other inflammatory conditions, particularly inflammatory bowel disease and cholangitis.
The most common symptoms of pancreatitis are lethargy and a loss of appetite. Cats with pancreatitis might also vomit, have stomach pains, run a fever, or demonstrate other symptoms of illness.
Pancreatitis may be acute and appear with severe symptoms or it may be chronic, leading to periodic episodes of mild or moderate discomfort.
What causes pancreatitis?
The pancreas secretes insulin and digestive enzymes. Dr. Karen Becker argues that a carbohydrate-laden, highly-processed diet places undue stress on the pancreas. After all, it’s the pancreas’ job to produce digestive enzymes and release insulin.
A highly-processed diet doesn’t contain digestive enzymes and typically floods the body with carbohydrates, forcing the pancreas to work overtime in producing enzymes and insulin. Eventually, Dr. Becker and others argue, this diet wears out the pancreas over time.
As compelling as the argument sounds, there’s no proof that a processed diet causes pancreatitis. In fact, it’s extremely difficult to identify what causes pancreatitis in a given patient. The causes of pancreatitis are diverse.
A few causes of pancreatitis:
- Pancreas damage caused by intestinal inflammation
- Physical trauma to the abdomen
- Infectious diseases, including toxoplasmosis, FIP, and herpesvirus
- Parasitic infection
- Hepatic lipidosis
- Drug use, including phenobarbital, catabolic steroids, and diuretics
Qualities of the Best Cat Food for Pancreatitis
During a pancreatitis flare-up, your cat should eat a bland diet.
Cats with pancreatitis may not feel like eating, putting them at a risk for hepatic lipidosis. This condition occurs when a cat doesn’t eat enough and has to metabolize their own fat as energy. Without adequate protein intake, the fat isn’t properly sent into the bloodstream and gathers in the liver, disrupting healthy organ function.
Depending on the cat’s overall health and body condition, hepatic lipidosis can develop after two to ten days of not eating.
Some patients require a feeding tube and fluid therapy, while others suffering from a more mild case of chronic pancreatitis may be able to continue eating on their own. If your cat is vomiting during a flare up, they may need to go on GI rest for a couple of days. Otherwise, do your best to find a food that your cat is willing to eat. Cats with pancreatitis are often inappetent, so this can be a challenge.
Palatable foods that are easy on the GI tract:
- Meat-based, unseasoned baby food
- Cooked and unseasoned chicken meat
- Other unseasoned meats, baked or boiled
- Bone broth
Cats don’t need a low-fat diet.
If you’re familiar with pancreatitis in dogs or people, you’ll know that excessive dietary fat is a common contributor to the condition. Pancreatitis patients are usually encouraged to eat a low-fat diet. Cats are different. In cats, there’s no apparent connection between dietary fat and pancreatitis.
Small, frequent meals are better than big ones.
Forcing your cat to go without eating for long periods of time will trigger hormone spikes, which aren’t good for cats with pancreatitis. Cats with chronic pancreatitis should eat about six small meals a day.
Additional digestive enzymes may help.
Because the pancreas naturally produces digestive enzymes, adding enzymes to your cat’s diet may lighten the burden on their body. Cats naturally ingest digestive enzymes in the GI tracts of their prey.
Though the effects of these enzymes are not well-understood, it’s possible that they can support the pancreas. Digestive enzymes are available in powdered form or as part of your cat’s food. Green tripe is one natural source of digestive enzymes.
In addition to digestive enzymes, you may consider probiotic supplementation. These beneficial organisms may be able to minimize inflammation in the body.
It’s worth noting that one study in humans with pancreatitis indicated that people who took probiotics had an increased incidence of death compared to those taking a placebo. You may want to talk with your veterinarian before administering probiotics or digestive enzyme supplements.
Avoid inflammatory ingredients.
Since pancreatitis is fundamentally an inflammatory disease, you should avoid any ingredients that might contribute to inflammation. These include carrageenan, added sweeteners, and some artificial colors.
Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Pancreatitis
Because so many cats with pancreatitis also suffer from diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease, the foods on this list are also appropriate for cats with these common comorbidities.
Ziwi Peak Lamb Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Broth, Lamb Liver, Lamb Lung, Lamb Kidney
This lamb-based food is made primarily from species-appropriate meat, providing the nutrition your cat needs in a easy-to-digest format. In addition to lamb muscle meat and organs, the food contains lamb tripe, a source of digestive enzymes that could help to support the pancreas.
It doesn’t contain carrageenan or other ingredients that may contribute to inflammation.
This food is known for digestibility and palatability. According to customer reviews, most cats like the way the food tastes.
Like all Ziwi Peak products, this canned food is expensive, so it isn’t right for every budget.
- Made from highly-digestible lamb
- Contains green tripe
- An easy-to-eat and palatable food
- Free from artificial ingredients
- Contains chickpeas
Lotus Just Juicy Venison Stew Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Venison, Venison Broth, Calcium Lactate, Carrots, Potato Starch
This food is primarily made from venison meat, which is a novel protein for most cats and therefore may help to soothe sensitive stomachs.
It’s a highly-digestible, low-residue food that places minimal strain on your cat’s system.
To help combat inflammation, the food contains omega-3 fatty acids and is free from potential inflammatory ingredients like carrageenan and other unnecessary additives.
On the negative side, the food is expensive and it’s inconsistent. Customers say that some cans contained finely shredded meat, while others contain chunks.
- Made from a single animal protein for sensitive cats
- Free from potentially inflammatory ingredients
- Highly digestible
- Cats love the flavor
- Inconsistent texture
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Rabbit With Ground Bone, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride, Sodium Phosphate Monobasic
Many suggest that pancreatitis patients benefit from a minimally-processed diet rich in the enzymes and nutrients found in raw meat. This freeze-dried food is a convenient alternative to raw meals. It’s made primarily from rabbit, which is a natural part of the feline diet and a highly-digestible source of nutrition.
It’s supplemented with probiotics, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body. The food is free from potentially inflammatory ingredients.
- Most cats love the taste of rabbit food
- Made with easy-to-digest rabbit
- Free from potentially inflammatory ingredients
- Takes a few minutes to rehydrate
Instinct by Nature’s Variety Grain-Free Real Duck Recipe Natural Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Duck, Turkey Liver, Duck Broth, Ground Flaxseed, Montmorillonite Clay
Duck and turkey constitute 95% of the entire recipe, meaning that it’s easy for cats to digest and utilize. Besides duck and turkey, this food also contains plant ingredients that aren’t necessary or beneficial for an obligate carnivore.
That said, it’s free from potentially inflammatory ingredients like carrageenan, artificial colors, and chemical preservatives. It contains menhaden fish oil, which is a species-appropriate source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
- 95% highly-digestible duck and turkey
- Free from potentially inflammatory ingredients
- Supplemented with anti-inflammatory menhaden fish oil
- Relatively affordable
- Several plant inclusions
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie Canned Cat Food Review
First 5 Ingredients: Water Sufficient for Processing, Pork By-Product, Chicken, Chicken Liver, Corn Flour
While there aren’t any prescription foods made specifically for pancreatitis, those suffering from the condition may benefit from a prescription GI diet like this one. Prescription diets are seldom made from premium ingredients and are often nutritionally imperfect, but some cats have great success with them.
This food contains some less-than-optimal ingredients like corn flour, modified cornstarch, and powdered cellulose. Despite these nutritional flaws, many reviewers say that it helped their cats with pancreatitis and other inflammatory conditions.
Chewy user “Twink” says that “My wonderful vet put my sweet boy, Bubba on this food, because he’s diabetic, hyperthyroid, and getting over his second bout of pancreatitis. He LOVES this food! I’m so very happy that he’s eating, and it’s agreeing with him! I do wish that it came in more flavors though. I’m worried that he will get sick of it.”
Notably, this is a very low-fat food with about 9.7% minimum protein on a dry matter basis.
- Formulated for cats with GI inflammation
- Customer reviews suggest that the food can help cats with pancreatitis
- Provides EPA and DHA
- Contains prebiotics to support healthy gut flora
- Contains meat by-products
- Made with low-value plant ingredients
- Only available with a prescription
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.