6 Best Cat Food for IBD
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The best cat food for IBD is easy to digest, helps to heal the gut lining, contains anti-inflammatory ingredients, and helps to restore a healthy balance of gut flora.
That’s why we recommend Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner as the best cat food for IBD. With rabbit as its only protein source, this minimally-processed food has the nutritional intensity that cats with IBD need.
At a Glance: Best Cat Food for IBD To Buy
We highly recommend looking at the comparison table we have below where we highlighted the features of each product. You’ll also find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
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What Is IBD And How Does It Relate To Your Cat’s Diet?
In humans, the consensus is that IBD develops when the gut mucosa has an immune response to intestinal microflora and/or food triggers. In other words, the gut starts fighting against itself. It appears that feline IBD occurs in much the same way.
Once immune dysregulation sets in, the gut health situation snowballs. Friendly bacteria die off. Tissues of the intestinal lining are damaged, flattened, and blunted. When the intricate structures of the intestinal lining are unable to do their job, the entire body suffers. Nutrient absorption is impaired while toxins and bacteria seep through the gut lumen and into the bloodstream. When all of this has gone wrong, the result is a cat who’s losing weight, not as active as he used to be, having diarrhea, and vomiting.
Why does this happen to some cats and not others? That’s a mystery. No one knows why cats develop IBD and no one agrees on how to correct it—or if it’s possible to cure it at all.
Here’s what we do know:
What goes in your cat’s bowl is the world’s most powerful tool for preventing and treating IBD.
Caring for a cat with IBD can make you feel helpless, but if you can choose what your cat eats, you have the most powerful treatment tool in the world.
In an article on Hills Pet Nutrition, Craig Ruaux, BVSc (Hons), Ph.D., MACVSc, DACVIM-SA says that 60% of cats with chronic GI disease improve with nutritional therapy alone and don’t require steroids.
According to some people—like Anne Jablonski of CatNutrition.org—eating the right food won’t just improve the situation. She and others say that diet can cure IBD, too. While there’s no agreement on just how much diet can help, there’s no doubt that it can and does affect IBD on every level.
Here’s What To Look For In The Best Cat Food For Ibd.
The best cat food for IBD is moisture-rich to prevent dehydration.
Between vomiting, having diarrhea, and potentially losing their appetite, cats with IBD can lose fluids and are prone to dehydration. Feeding a moisture-rich diet is the easiest way to replenish that moisture and to keep the body healthy. This is only the first of many reasons why canned, freshly-cooked, or raw foods are the best options for cats with IBD.
Digestibility is key—cats with IBD need foods that are easy to metabolize.
It’s recommended that cats with IBD have a diet with at least 87% protein digestibility. Though research on protein digestibility in cats is limited, this appears to rule out most animal by-products and rendered animal feed ingredients, along with most plant-sourced protein sources like corn gluten meal and pea protein. Instead, the best cat food for cats with IBD contains fresh, minimally-processed protein sources.
Simplicity is key for IBD.
Because IBD may stem from an immune response to dietary antigens, it helps to know exactly what your cat’s eating. Choose as simple a diet as possible. Ideally, cats with IBD should be on a single-protein food with two or three main ingredients on top of supplements.
Switching to a novel protein diet—one that contains a protein source your cat’s not eaten before—is a good idea. Cats develop sensitivities to the foods they eat most often.
You’ll also want to avoid vaguely-named meat or animal by-products. Since you can’t see the name of the species, it’s anyone’s guess which proteins you’re putting in your cat’s bowl.
The best cat food for IBD has anti-inflammatory components.
Given that IBD is fundamentally an inflammatory condition, the best cat food for IBD is one that fights inflammation. Look for foods that contain inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids from animal sources like fish oil and green-lipped mussels.
It also doesn’t contain any inflammatory ingredients. Additives that might stir up inflammation include artificial colors, sweeteners, and carrageenan.
Best Cat Food For IBD: Our Top 6 Picks
In the search for the best cat food for kitties with IBD, there’s one type of food that is praised more than any other. That type of food is raw. Nothing—including therapeutic foods formulated for gastrointestinal support—has a track record like raw food does.
This freeze-dried food from Stella & Chewy’s has all the nutritional complexity and digestibility of raw meat minus its pathogens and short shelf life. The food is made primarily from rabbit, a novel protein for many cats and one of the most readily-digestible proteins your cat can eat.
The recipe doesn’t contain any inflammatory ingredients. Instead, it relies on a species-appropriate mix of muscle meat, organs, bones, and supplements. It contains probiotics, which can help to support healthy digestion, control inflammation, and fortify the population of good bacteria in your cat’s gut.
Though the food comes out of the bag in crispy morsels, it can have as much moisture as you want it to. Stella & Chewy’s recommends adding ½ cup of water for every cup of food.
Second to raw or freeze-dried food, a limited-ingredient canned food like this one is the best thing you can give a cat with IBD. This Pure Vita recipe is 96% turkey. A less commonly allergenic alternative to chicken, this protein source is readily-digestible and a good option for cats with GI issues.
With agar-agar its only thickener and no artificial colors or flavors, this food is free of anything that might weigh your cat down or fan up inflammation.
Pure Vita foods contain the Good4Life supplement blend, which includes a variety of enzymes and other supplements that promise to support digestive health and increase the food’s bioavailability.
Cats with IBD require a simple and digestible diet. This recipe is packed with healthy, nutritious, and digestible ingredients. This simple formula contains a single source of protein with no fillers or artificial additives – just healthy nutrition, pure and simple.
This particular recipe features duck as the single source of protein, but you can also choose from a chicken or turkey recipe if your cat has food allergies or sensitivities. The carbohydrate content is very low, and the ingredients are all-natural which improves digestibility and nutrient uptake for your cat.
Just keep in mind that if your cat has IBD, you may need to increase the moisture content of his daily diet to ease digestion. This freeze-dried formula is low in moisture but can easily be supplemented with fresh or wet food.
Loss of appetite is common among cats with IBD, often because cats with the condition feel nauseous, even if they don’t vomit. Anti-emetics and anti-nausea medications can help. Other than that, you can help to stimulate your cat’s appetite with food toppers, bone broth, or Purina Fortiflora, an intensely-flavored probiotic powder.
You’ll also want to make sure your cat is on an ultra-appealing diet. Few cats want to refuse a chunk of chicken tableside and they’ll find Nom Nom Chicken Chow-Meow equally appealing. This freshly-cooked food looks, smells, and feels just like the kind of chicken you might eat for dinner. It’s also human-grade, which helps to ensure superior ingredient quality.
Primarily made from chicken muscle meat and liver, this is a straightforward, meat-based food that promises easy digestion and nutrient absorption. Though it does contain some fruits and vegetables, this is ultimately a meat-based food and doesn’t contain any inflammatory additives that might worsen your cat’s condition.
Nom Nom sits on a good nutritional foundation, but what sets it apart is its customer experience. When you buy Nom Nom, you get access to a team of animal nutrition experts willing to look at your cat’s latest bloodwork, give personalized advice, and even talk to your veterinarian.
Though Nom Nom is a cat food subscription, you can order a sample box and test it out before committing to regular shipments.
With lamb as its only protein source, this canned food is a novel protein diet and a great option for cats who are sensitive to more common proteins. In addition to muscle meat, the food contains lamb tripe, heart, kidney, spleen, liver, blood, and even some bone—all intensely-nourishing ingredients for your cat.
These ingredients are supplemented with New Zealand green-lipped mussel and fish oil, both outstanding sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids can have life-changing benefits for cats with IBD and other inflammatory conditions.
If you’re interested in the benefits of raw cat food for IBD, consider trying Feline Natural’s freeze-dried recipes.
Between its high carbohydrate content, potentially lower digestibility, and inadequate moisture content, dry cat food is seldom the right choice for cats with IBD.
But it is the right choice if your cat flat-out refuses to eat anything else. If your cat will only eat dry food, this product from Dr. Elsey’s is a great option to consider. It breaks the kibble mold with minimal plant inclusions, low carbohydrate content, and an emphasis on high-quality protein.
The food’s ingredient list includes readily-digestible ingredients, including chicken, dried egg product, and ultra-bioavailable pork protein isolate.
It doesn’t contain any inflammatory ingredients and features salmon oil as a source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Sometimes, A Great Diet Isn’t Enough.
In addition to a superb diet, cats with IBD can benefit from certain supplements.
Probiotics and Prebiotics
Adding a probiotic supplement can help cats with IBD in multiple ways. This beneficial bacteria can help to bring the gut flora back into balance while acting as an immunoregulatory agent, helping to control inflammation. The best probiotics for cats are well-researched, come from reputable brands, and guaranteed levels of trusted strains.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
Because IBD inhibits nutrient absorption, most cats with IBD are deficient in vitamin B12. A top-rated multivitamin can help to fill in any gaps. Your veterinarian will let you know if a subcutaneous B12 injection is necessary.
Bone broth, made by simmering whole animal bones and connective tissues for hours, is a nutrient-rich supplement with benefits for cats with IBD. It’s a good source of collagen, which is a source of the amino acids proline and glycine, which have healing, anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also an excellent source of the moisture your cat needs and may help encourage him to eat more. Be sure to make or buy unseasoned bone broth—some broths contain onion, salt, and other ingredients that could harm your cat.
IBD is frustrating, but with the right resources, you can make it better.
On top of finding the right food, treating IBD takes time, attention, and knowledge. Fortunately, you have access to a world of resources. Some of the most helpful sites for IBD cat guardians include IBDKitties, Raw Feeding for IBD Cats, and Cat Nutrition.