Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach

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The best cat food for sensitive stomachs is easy to digest, contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, and doesn’t contain anything that will irritate your cat.

With its highly-digestible recipe, abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, and personalized customer experience, NomNomNow Flavorful Fish Feast is our pick for the number one best cat food for sensitive stomach.

At a Glance: Top Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach To Buy

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Top Pick

NomNomNow Flavorful Fish Feast Cat Food
  • Just 5% carbohydrates
  • Appropriate for cats who are sensitive to non-fish proteins
  • Primarily made with high-value animal protein
50% Off First Order
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Best Freeze-Dried

Stella & Chewy's Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsel
  • Rabbit is usually a novel protein - ideal for allergic cats
  • Contains probiotics for digestive health
  • Highly digestible
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Best for IBD

Hound & Gatos Turkey & Turkey Liver Canned Cat Food
  • Made from turkey, which is a good alternative to chicken
  • Free from commonly irritating ingredients
  • A limited ingredient food with just one animal protein source
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Best for Picky Cats

Instinct by Nature's Variety Original Grain-Free Real Duck Recipe
  • Highly digestible formula
  • Free from the most common cat allergens
  • Supplemented with menhaden fish oil
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Budget Pick

FirstMate Turkey Formula Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Contains a mix of nourishing turkey and chicken
  • Highly digestible with 96% animal protein
  • A limited ingredient diet for cats with allergies and food sensitivities
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Dry Food Pick

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Highly-digestible animal-sourced ingredients
  • Affordable
  • The inclusion of salmon oil introduces omega-3 fatty acids
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But food sensitivities vary from cat to cat, not everyone is on the same budget, and there’s no one food that will solve every cat’s digestive woes. In addition to our top pick, we’ve included five more of the best foods for sensitive stomachs, giving you plenty of options for every cat and every home.

Before we get into the reviews, let’s talk about what it means when we say that a cat has a “sensitive stomach”.

Cats with digestive issues are frequently misunderstood and their problems often dismissed. A cat who vomits multiple times a week is called “just a puker”.

When a cat can’t tolerate new foods, his problems are brushed off with the myth that domesticated cats should eat one food for the entirety of their lives.

The term “sensitive stomach” itself is a euphemism—no cat’s stomach is inexplicably fragile or fussy. There’s always a reason, always a systemic issue, always something with a cause and, usually, a solution.

In other words, a sensitive stomach isn’t a diagnosis in itself. Let’s take a look at a handful of the most common causes of sensitive stomachs in cats.

Acute Gastroenteritis

This is any condition involving acute inflammation of the GI tract. It could be caused by parasites, poisoning, eating something spoiled, or another disease. Acute gastroenteritis is typically short-lived.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are rare among cats, but the rare allergic cat may experience digestive issues.

While skin irritation and poor coat health are the most common symptoms, food allergies can occasionally manifest in vomiting and diarrhea.

Cats appear to develop allergies to the foods they eat the most. Feed your cat a beef food for five years and you might find that he’s suddenly having an allergic reaction to beef. Therefore, it appears to be a good idea to give your cat a rotational diet – constantly introducing new and varied protein sources.

If you suspect that your cat has an allergic sensitivity to a certain food ingredient, it’s time to put the theory to the test with an elimination diet.

Switch to a limited ingredient diet – that’s one with very few ingredients and, usually, a single novel protein. For at least a month, feed your cat this food exclusively. If symptoms subside, confirm the difference by reintroducing potential allergens one at a time.

Once you’ve identified the ingredients that your cat is allergic to, permanently eliminate them from your cat’s diet.

Click here for a list of the best hypoallergenic cat food. 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Although the pathology of inflammatory bowel disease is poorly understood, we can generally describe it as chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s a diagnosis of elimination; in other words, you arrive at the IBD diagnosis by ruling out any other issues, such as allergies.

This condition leads to structural changes in the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Over time, it can lead to digestive dysfunction and changes your cat’s ability to digest nutrients. It can also lead to a leaky gut, allowing food particles, toxins, and bacteria to leach into the bloodstream.

If your cat is suffering from chronic digestive problems, consult your veterinarian. They can perform tests to determine whether or not your cat has IBD. Following an IBD diagnosis, your veterinarian may prescribe medications or dietary changes to suit your cat.

Click here to read our guide to the best cat food for IBD. 

What’s the best food for cats with a sensitive stomach?

Switch to a bland diet.

If your cat has acute gastroenteritis, start with a 12 hour fast to allow their GI tract to rest, then introduce a bland diet.

Think of it like the BRAT diet for humans recovering from a stomach illness. Like the BRAT diet, a bland diet is non-irritating and provides enough nourishment for a few days, but you shouldn’t feed it for any longer than necessary.

This type of diet comes in various forms. Some like pumpkin puree and boiled chicken. Some recommend boiled chicken and rice.

I prefer to keep it simple and carnivore-appropriate. Try cooked chicken thighs with fat and skin attached. After cooking, remove the bones – cooked bones may shatter and hurt your cat.

This cooked chicken is ideally served with bone broth, which is very nutrient-dense, gentle, and palatable.

Don’t feed this diet for more than a few days. Your cat needs complete and balanced nutrition, so switch to a nutritionally complete food as soon as possible.

Eliminate inflammatory or irritating ingredients.

This often means choosing a food made with novel proteins – meats that your cat hasn’t been exposed to before. For example, if your cat always eats a chicken-based food, opt for one made with rabbit meat instead. Other potentially irritating ingredients include carrageenan and dairy.

While you’re ridding your cat’s diet of inflammatory ingredients, don’t forget to incorporate anti-inflammatory ones. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish or krill oil are powerful and species-appropriate anti-inflammatories.

Choose foods featuring highly-digestible ingredients.

Plant protein, for example, tends to be less digestible than animal protein. Animal by-products, similarly, may have lower digestibility scores than properly proportioned muscle meat, organs, and bones.

Fat follows the same carnivorous logic. Animal fat is more digestible than plant fat.

The guaranteed analysis on the label only lists crude fat and crude protein, so you’ll need to probe deeper to find the digestibility values of these macronutrients. You can guess by looking at the ingredient list or you can contact the company for exact digestibility values.

Promote healthy gut flora by providing probiotics.

Supporting a healthy gut microbiome is a cornerstone of ensuring that your cat’s digestive system stays in top shape.

Dysbiosis, or imbalanced bacteria population, is associated with poor digestive health and IBD. Particularly if your cat has undergone antibiotic therapy – which kills both good and bad bacteria – it’s likely that dysbiosis plays a role in your cat’s tummy troubles.

There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting a connection between antibiotic treatment and subsequent inflammatory bowel disease in humans.

One of the simplest ways to promote healthy gut flora is adding a probiotic supplement to your cat’s meals. You can also consider the inclusion of prebiotics, which promote the growth and activity of beneficial gut bacteria.

Top 6 Best Foods for Cats with Sensitive Stomachs

 

#1 Top Pick: NomNomNow Flavorful Fish Feast Cat Food Review

NOMNOMNOW-1-065_Edited fish recipe thumb

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: NomNomNow
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 18% min
  • Age Range: All Life Stages
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2-$6/day

First 5 Ingredients: Tilapia, Salmon, Beef Fat, Yuca, Carrot

If your cat is sensitive to everything but seafood, this recipe from NomNomNow could be your fish-based solution. Unlike most fish-based cat foods, this recipe contains just two types of clearly-named, human-grade fish. No mystery fish here.

It’s a homemade-style food that looks and smells just like what it is—flaked tilapia and salmon, which lend each meal plenty of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Flecks of carrot and yuca add fiber and trace nutrients. Though these ingredients aren’t ideal, NomNomNow keeps them minimal and the food remains low in carbohydrates.

This food is only available as part of NomNomNow’s weekly or monthly meal delivery service, which allows you to receive food at your doorstep.

As a bonus, NomNomNow customers get access to a team of nutrition experts. If you have questions about your cat’s diet or even want recommendations based on your cat’s latest bloodwork, the NomNomNow team is willing to help. When you’re trying to accomodate a cat with a sensitive stomach, that support is invaluable.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein18.0% min
Crude Fat6.0% min
Crude Fiber0.5% min
Moisture72% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Appropriate for cats who are sensitive to non-fish proteins
  • Primarily made with high-value animal protein
  • Made from human-grade ingredients
  • Conveniently shipped to your door
  • Gives you access to a team of nutrition experts
  • Low carbohydrate content

What We Didn’t Like:

  • One of the most expensive foods on the market
  • Fish isn’t an ideal dietary mainstay, meaning you should rotate it with other protein sources

#2 Best Freeze-Dried: Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food Review

Stella & Chewy's Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: Stella & Chewy’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 44% min
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.53 per day

First 5 Ingredients: Rabbit With Ground Bone, Rabbit Liver, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seed, Potassium Chloride

While it’s unclear whether or not digestive enzymes naturally found in raw meat have any positive health effects, the body of anecdotal evidence pointing to a correlation between a raw diet and improved digestive health makes it worth a try.

Because it’s made from rabbit, which is usually a novel protein, this formula from Stella and Chewy’s is perfect for cats with food allergies. The food is supplemented with probiotics to encourage digestive and immune health. It’s freeze-dried, so you don’t have to worry about it spoiling on the shelf.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein44% min
Crude Fat30.0% min
Crude Fiber5.0% max
Moisture5% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Rabbit is usually a novel protein, making it ideal for allergic or sensitive cats
  • Freeze-dried food is safer than raw food, but retains all the nutritional benefits of raw meat
  • Contains probiotics for digestive health
  • Highly digestible

What We Didn’t Like:

  • This food takes a few minutes to rehydrate, so it may not be convenient for every schedule.

#3 Best for IBD: Hound & Gatos Turkey & Turkey Liver Canned Cat Food Review

Hound & Gatos Turkey & Turkey Liver Canned Cat Food Review

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: Hound & Gatos
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10% min
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.18/day

First 5 Ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Turkey Liver, Calcium Carbonate, Potassium Chloride

According to Hound & Gatos founder Will Post, the brand is most popular among cats with IBD. All Hound & Gatos formulas are extraordinarily simple, minimizing your cat’s exposure to potential irritants.

Turkey isn’t one of the most common cat food allergens and is a nourishing and highly digestible source of protein for your cat. With just one protein source and no grains or other ingredients that could aggravate your sensitive cat, this food is a great choice for ultra-sensitive tummies.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein10.0% min
Crude Fat8.5% min
Crude Fiber1.00% max
Moisture78.0% max
Ash2.50% max

What We Liked:

  • Made from turkey, which is a good alternative to chicken
  • Free from commonly irritating ingredients
  • A limited ingredient food with just one animal protein source
  • Contains salmon oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids

What We Didn’t Like:

  • One of the most expensive foods on the market
  • Doesn’t receive consistently positive reviews

#4 Best for Picky Cats: Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original Grain-Free Real Duck Recipe Review

Instinct Original Grain Free Real Duck Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food by

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: Instinct by Nature’s Variety
  • Made In: United States
  • Guaranteed Protein: 10% min
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.28/day

First 5 Ingredients: Duck, Turkey Liver, Duck Broth, Ground Flaxseed, Montmorillonite Clay

This recipe features highly-digestible duck and turkey liver as primary ingredients. These meat ingredients represent 95% of the total. The rest of the food is composed of a mix of supplemental fruits, vegetables, and other sources of micronutrients and fiber.

It’s one of the few foods that contains montmorillonite clay, which contains a range of trace minerals. Menhaden fish oil serves as a source of omega-3 fatty acids.

While this food has one of the busier recipes on this list, it’s a hit among cats with digestive issues and sensitivities.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein9% min
Crude Fat7.0% min
Crude Fiber3.0% max
Moisture78% max
Ash1.0%

What We Liked:

  • Highly digestible formula is 95% duck and turkey liver
  • Free from the most common cat allergens
  • Supplemented with menhaden fish oil, a great source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains some plant ingredients

#5 Best for Senior Cats: FirstMate Turkey Formula Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Review

FirstMate Turkey Formula Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: FirstMate
  • Made In: United States
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Guaranteed Protein: 59% min
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.4 per day

First 5 Ingredients: Boneless Turkey, Water Sufficient for Processing, Potato, Chicken Liver, Calcium Carbonate

This limited ingredient recipe is made with turkey, which is a great alternative for cats accustomed to the poultry flavor of chicken. The food’s protein content is 96% animal-derived, making it a digestible choice for your cat.

With no carrageenan, guar gum, or other gums, this food has a relatively loose consistency and is a good option for cats with dental problems. One reviewer quipped that, after two days on this food, their senior cat might lose the nickname “Barf-o-matic 3000”—this was the first food to apparently reduce the cat’s chronic vomiting.

Unfortunately, this food contains potato, which is high in carbohydrates and minimally nutritious for your cat. It also doesn’t have any salmon oil or other anti-inflammatories, so you may want to add an omega-3 supplement to your cat’s diet.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein11% min
Crude Fat4.0% min
Crude Fiber0.4% max
Moisture78% max
Ash1.5%

What We Liked:

  • Contains a mix of nourishing turkey and chicken
  • A limited ingredient diet for cats with allergies and food sensitivities
  • Free from common irritating ingredients
  • Highly digestible with 96% animal protein

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Contains high-carbohydrate potato
  • Doesn’t contain any concentrated sources of omega-3 fatty acids

#6 Best Dry: Dr. Elsey’s cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Review

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Overview:

  • Brand Name: Dr. Elsey’s
  • Made In: United States
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Guaranteed Protein: 59% min
  • Typical Cost Per Day: $2.24/day

First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Dried Egg Product, Pork Protein Isolate, Gelatin, Chicken Fat

Most dry foods contain potentially-inflammatory additives and high-carbohydrate ingredients that can irritate sensitive stomachs. This dry food is a refreshing exception to that rule. While it still doesn’t have the moisture your cat needs, this Dr. Elsey’s kibble emphasizes ultra-digestible protein sources and cuts back on carbohydrates, giving you a readily-digestible food that honors your cat’s carnivorous needs.

The recipe contains some of the most easily-digested protein sources on the planet, including pork protein isolate, which is extraordinarily bioavailable and won’t trigger food sensitivity reactions.

The inclusion of salmon oil helps to soothe inflammation and may ease digestive distress.

Overall, dry food is never our first recommendation for cats, whether they have digestive issues or not. But if you want to feed dry food, this is the type of product you should try.

Guaranteed Analysis:

Crude Protein59.0% min
Crude Fat18.0% min
Crude Fiber4.0% min
Moisture12.0% max
AshN/A

What We Liked:

  • Primarily composed of highly-digestible animal-sourced ingredients
  • Doesn’t contain any of the most commonly irritating ingredients
  • The inclusion of salmon oil introduces omega-3 fatty acids

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Doesn’t have all of the moisture cats need
  • One of the most expensive dry cat foods you can buy

If you can’t find the right food for your cat, consider homemade cat food.

Making your cat’s food at home allows you to introduce novel proteins and create a rotational diet. It’s the best way to control what goes into your cat’s body and it makes it easy to track the relationship between dietary changes and symptom changes. Both cooked and raw homemade diets are perfect for cats with sensitive stomachs.

Read our complete guide to homemade and raw cat food diets.