Best Dry Food For Cats With Sensitive Stomachs - Buyers Guide
This content has been reviewed and approved by our in-house Veterinarian for accuracy
So, how many times have you picked up puke today?
You do the best you can, but with a sensitive stomach, your little one can struggle to get their required nutrients. Since you’re here, you know that already.
We’ll spell out the best dry food for cats with sensitive stomachs, so you can check diet change off of your treatment list.
A sensitive stomach can be tough to diagnose since it’s a symptom of so many different conditions. Hopefully by now you’ve seen your vet to rule out anything serious.
If your cat has a sensitive tummy but no underlying health conditions, don’t worry a bit. It’s very common. There are many adults, children, and other animals who suffer similarly, so complete to moderate relief is possible.
If this is a new but persistent problem for your cat, seek your vet’s advice before trying anything else. You might not always see the evidence of their tummy problems. Cats don’t vomit where you can see it 100% percent of the time.
Other symptoms of an upset cat tummy are quietness, a hunched position, general discomfort, or unusual behavior. If you notice any of these things happening over a period of time, it’s time to see your vet.
Most likely, the first thing they’ll advise you to do is change your cat’s diet to foods that are specially made for sensitive stomachs.
We’ve spent eight hours compiling a list of the best dry cat foods for just this situation. Through a combination of reviews, research, and personal recommendations, we’re now ready to give you the most comprehensive list for sensitive cat tummies out there.Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free Recipe is the top of the line right now, and you’ll see why a little further down. It’s the most bare-boned dry recipe we could possibly find. Instinct earned the #1 spot because of their impeccable purity.
Why You Should Trust Our Review
As I mentioned, we’ve dedicated eight hours over the course a few days compiling reliable information to form our recommendations.
Even though this list is of the best dry foods, four out of the five options also have a wet food version, so you don’t have to go hunt elsewhere just for a wet food compliment.
In addition to our research hours, we’ve spent four hours just writing this article. We like to double check our work while writing.
Now that you know you can trust our content, let’s get to what you really want—food.
What Features Did We Look For
There are loads of cat food companies out there that boast the label “sensitive.” Too many, really. Just like the term “organic,” we’ve learned that it doesn’t take much to legally add the word to the product’s label.
That being the case, we made sure our cat food recommendations passed multiple checkpoints in order to make the list.
Ingredients - Naturally, ingredients are the most important factor when deciding on a sensitive cat food. The general rule is less equals best. With processed cat food that holds an extended shelf life, scoring a product with only one or two ingredients is tough. You’d most likely have to make your own cat food to achieve those numbers, and we say good for you if you can make it work!
If you can’t, it’s cool. Most of us can’t either.
Considering the above, this is as close to DIY as it can get for dry cat food. I’m elated to report that some of the wet food compliments to this list actually do have under 5 ingredients!
Vet recommendations - It wouldn’t do well to ignore what the veterinarians have to say. Many of them love animals so much that they make information readily available to the public to help you best care for your fur baby(ies).
We found many vets in the nation selling or recommending one or more of these products in their clinic. For me personally, that put the cherry on top if it’s credibility.
Accessibility - When your cat is vomiting or is a ball of misery, you don’t always have time to wait for shipping. It’s just not that kind of situation. As long as you live in a moderately populated area, you should be able to find at least one of our recommendations in your local pet stores. It’s a good idea to call ahead of time or check their inventory online if you’re in a pinch.
Brand credibility - Since some of the brands we found weren’t super popular, we made sure they’re legit. They’re just not on billboards.
Price - As you’ll see, some of these foods can be costly. With some products, you don’t always get what you pay for when you purchase the larger price tags. With these kinds of foods, more often than not, you do get what you pay for.
Don’t get nervous if you can’t afford the expensive stuff. There are plenty of fabulous options that don’t break the bank. Plus, food for sensitive cat tummies is higher in nutrients than the average cat food.
That’s because it’s common for these cats to have smaller meals. It’s all some can handle. For this situation, a more expensive bag of cat food may even end up being cheaper in the long run because it can last quite a bit longer than the other adult food you’ve been using. Keep that in mind when deciding on your budget, and make sure it’s true for the cat food you choose.
Who is This Cat Food For?
This list is for cat parents whose babies have a generally sensitive stomach. What I mean by that is if your cat shows occasional symptoms of upset stomach when you give them different wet food, for example, this list is for you.
It’s also for the cats who love to sneak lizards and mice down the hatch occasionally. If your furry friend has this habit, you’re no stranger to vomit! You might be here because you want to maintain a simple diet for them. This list is for you.
If your cat has more serious issues diagnosed by a vet, you’re probably here to change their diet as recommended by that vet. Our list is for you, too!
Most importantly, this list isn’t for you if your cat hasn’t shown any symptoms of sensitivity, but you want to avoid any in the future. Like I said, these foods are specifically made to be higher in nutrients than other foods. That can be problematic for cats who don’t need it.
How We Choose Our Products
So, in order to come up with the above criteria, we first researched what needs to be in a cat food for sensitive stomachs.
We read ingredient labels like crazy. Sifted through thousands of reviews on every pet website possible, and dwindled the list down to those only with roughly an 85% approval rating.
By approval rating, I mean raving reviews, including social media sites for reference. People tend to be more honest on those sites than others.
At this point, our eyes were floating in ingredient labels and reviews. Totally worth it.
We then went into the chain stores like Petco and Petsmart. We usually do this because a vast majority of us have these stores in our area.
We can’t always guarantee every single item we recommend can be found there, but that’s when we look at local pet shops, which is exactly what we did.
Then we made sure at least one vet in America sells the product in their clinic. When it comes to sensitive tummies, taking risks can be dangerous. We wanted to limit that as much as possible, so we checked the vets.
Our Top Choice - Instinct Limited Ingredient
Instinct Limited Ingredient dry food has out performed all of the others by far. This cat food is loved by cats with such a wide array of gastrointestinal and allergy issues that it has easily become thousands of cat parents’ go-to.
It’s made with one protein and one veggie. It’s extra simple ingredients do well for a lot of cats. The food is coated and freeze-dried in raw turkey for extra nutrients. It apparently helps a lot with the taste, too.
The food has a total of six ingredients, which makes it easy to tell why it’s such a winner.
We can’t deny that the dry food does contain turkey meal, which can be a deal breaker for some. We don’t blame you. Just keep checking the rest of the list below if you’re not into it.
Unfortunately, as stated earlier, sometimes these types of ingredients are common when trying to formulate cat food with long shelf lives but also high nutrients. It’s up to you as to what your preferences are.
A few customers complained about their most recent formula change that has added synthesized vitamin K in it. If for some reason your cat is sensitive to vitamin K in a synthesized form, then don’t use this food.
Also, people reported very dark stools and tummy upset with this food. After further investigation, it seems the transition was the culprit. Make sure you introduce new food very slowly or there’s sure to be a tummy ache involved.
Each cat is different, and some can handle one protein better than another. If you’re noticing issues that are unrelated to health problems, try to change the flavor you’re buying.
This only applies if your cat does not have underlying issues. There is a difference between food transitioning issues and underlying problems.
Premium Pick - Solid Gold-Winged Tiger
Solid Gold-Winged Tiger Holistic Sensitive Stomach dry cat food is an extremely close second. As you may notice, our premium pick is actually more expensive by weight than this one. It just happened that way.
This formula is purely amazing. In addition to real quail, it’s packed with high nutrients like pumpkin, salmon oil, and peas to name a few. Just a few--there are numerous others. The company offers an array of other recipes. For example, indoor cat and kitten food.
If you want the cream of the crop and aren't afraid to pay for it, you really don’t need to look further than Solid Gold. This brand has the most comprehensive list of options we’ve seen in a while--all premium quality.
Literally, the only con most places was that it made a very, very small amount of cats sick. This is always a complaint on nearly every food, but we thought this one is important to mention.
This food apparently expands way more in your cat’s stomach than other foods.
The thing is, it may be intended to. Coming back to a recurring theme, these foods are meant for cats who can’t eat huge meals. They still need to be full from eating though!
So, that may answer the issue with Solid Gold, as some of the complaints had been using their regular food for years before having trouble with the sensitive formula.
Budget Friendly - Purina Beyond Grain Free
I’m actually very proud of this recipe for being as great as it is for the price. Purina's Beyond Grain Free adult dry cat food is your go-to on a budget.
It has a surprisingly short list of ingredients for its price. You can pick from five different proteins such as chicken and four different types of fish. It doesn’t contain any corn, wheat, soy, grain, or gluten--all big allergy triggers.
You can buy the same kind of wet food to compliment your cat’s dry food.
There has been a price jump for this food in the recent past, and some long-time users are upset. We can’t really get mad as long as it was to make the recipe better.
On a few occasions, the food arrived stale. From what we saw, the company fixed it right away. Isn’t online shopping so bittersweet?
As usual, the food didn’t sit well with some kitties. This could be the food itself or the protein choice.
Other Choice: Halo Natural Dry Cat Food-Sensitive Stomach Seafood Medley
Halo dry cat food is a very worthy contender. It offers whole meat, and you won’t find the word “meal” in their ingredients. Their biggest claim to fame is the digestibility of the product. People go crazy over it.
They put special emphasis on where and how their livestock and plants are sourced.
None of their animal meat has been treated with any hormones, antibiotics, or preservatives. Not all GMO’s are terrible, but if you don’t want any in your cat’s diet, this is the food for you.
Sadly though, some people are very unhappy about Halo’s last formula change. Here’s why:
They’ve recently added soy protein to the ingredient list. As you learned earlier, that’s not particularly fabulous for cats with food allergies. If you need to stay away from soy, stay away from this one.
If you order your bag online, make sure to check the bag for damages before you feed it to your cat. There have been some reports of damaged bags and contaminated contents.
It’s always a good idea to check your cat’s food before you feed it to them anyway.
Other Choice: ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Recipe
ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food Recipe more than deserves its spot on the list. The air-dried method alone is a five-star attribute. By air drying their food over a very long period of time, it eliminates the need for artificial fillers. Picky eaters adore this stuff.
Fresh meat, organs, and bones sound like a horror movie, but your cat will be over the moon. They’ve included mussels, kelp, and green tripe to pack in the nutrients with limited ingredients.
It’s pretty much what we’d expect to come out of New Zealand, which is where the food comes from!
This is one of those products that seems to be marginally different depending on where you buy it, which can be extremely upsetting. The best thing to do is always check your food before you feed it to your cat.
Just like quality, price varies from store to store also with ZIWI. Reliability might be an issue since others complained of the food arriving as dust after being damaged in shipping. Other than those few minor complaints, this food is absolutely fawned over.
Care and Maintenance
To best care for your cat’s food, check your nutrient values and feeding instructions. If you combine or alternate wet and dry food, make sure the nutrient values add up to what your cat needs.
But, it’s important to make sure you’re not overdosing your cat with unnecessary calories and nutrients. There are problems that come with doing that, and one of them is weight gain.
It’s always good food hygiene to check your cat’s meal before you feed them each bowl regardless of how long you’ve been using the product/brand. It’s made in a factory, shipped by humans, and stored open inside your house. Mistakes can be made and things can happen.
Specifically in wet food, check for mold.
Answers to Common Questions
Q: What do I do if I notice symptoms of stomach sensitivity in my cat?
A: First off, you’ll need to figure out if this is a one-time thing or if it’s been a repetitive occurrence. If your cat eats crazy things or is just finicky with food, transition to one of these new foods slowly.
Always make sure your cat has unlimited water as well. For cats with other medical conditions, you should see your vet with any significant changes in your cat’s health. We can’t tell you how to decide when it’s time to go to the vet, but we can help you with your search for the best foods for them once they’ve already been cleared of anything serious.
If your cat is eating fine but is lethargic or acting unusual, check around the house to make sure you have all of your household cleaners picked up. Cats get very curious.
Also, antifreeze tastes super sweet to cats. Make sure that stuff is completely inaccessible.
Q: This hasn’t ever happened before recently, could it be something in my house?
A: If you’ve already checked your house to make sure all cleaning products and other harmful chemicals are all picked up, it’s the time to think about any special treats your cat has received lately.
Have you or someone else fed them any onions, garlic, tomatoes, or chocolate? If you’ve fed them any of those foods either directly or had it in the ingredients of what you’ve fed them, you might’ve found your culprit. They’re poisonous to cats.
If you can’t find any other explanation for your cat’s random sensitivities, see your vet.
Q: Will milk help?
A: It will not. I’m sorry. Cats are lactose intolerant. It might actually make it worse.
Q: I don’t see vomit, but my cat hasn’t been eating. What’s that about?
A: If you don’t see evidence of vomiting, but you’re sure your cat’s stomach is upset, be on the lookout for any unusual behavior on their part.
If your cat gets extra quiet, remains somewhat hunched, or displays extreme lethargy, they could probably use some medical attention if it persists over an extended period of time.
Q: Do I need to switch food if my cat’s stomach only gets upset occasionally?
A: If you mean occasionally as in once or twice a year, then no. It’s not the best idea to switch your cat to one of these formulas because of the high nutrient content.
It could make your cat overweight very quickly. If you wanted to grab a bag for the few occasions this does happen, be our guest.
I, personally, would not do this because that would only make my cats’ tummies more upset, but I know of plenty of people who do. Particularly sticking to wet food for a day or so is their go-to. It can be more gentle on the digestive system depending on what you use.
Q: Can I use these foods if my cat doesn’t have a sensitive stomach?
A: No, please don’t for the same reasons cited above. They’re literally loaded with protein and fat. There’s no need and no benefit to it for healthy cats.
There are only a few situations when you would need to switch to a sensitive food without sensitivity issues. One might be if your cat needs the extra nutrients, which would be medical advice you’d need from your vet.
Again, check with them on this one because they might recommend kitten food over sensitive formulas in order to achieve weight gain and nutritional goals.
Generally, no, don’t use these foods if you don’t have a true need to do so.
You’re probably tired of hearing it, but this is the last time: Make sure you at least give your vet a phone call to make sure you don’t need to do more than just change your cat’s food, as in going to an appointment.
While you have them there, you might want to see how they feel about prebiotics and probiotics in your cat’s food. For sensitive cats, these are just life-savers in the diet. Others have qualms with them for their own personal reasons.
Just make sure your cat is getting enough pro- & prebiotics, whether it’s in their food or as a supplement, depending on your vet’s recommendation.
Lastly, make sure you transition your cat’s food in an almost excessively slow manner. It’s the best way to avoid tummy upset during the transition, and it’ll give you a good idea of how that specific food sits with them.
If any food makes your cat worse than before, stop feeding the food immediately and make sure the situation doesn’t call for more action. Definitely don’t give them that type of food again.
Hopefully you’ve gotten more than you need to make the most informed decision possible.Our #1 is Instinct Limited Ingredient dry food. Tell us which one you chose! Also, let us know of any other brands you love for your sensitive cat in the comments.
Tips to Soothe Your Cat’s Upset Stomach - https://www.zoetispetcare.com/blog/article/soothe-cats-upset-stomach
Whitney is a south Louisiana native who stopped fishing after she got her first pet fish. Her love of animals only grew stronger as her family began to have room for other friends like birds, cats, dogs, horses, and…a few more cats. She has experience handling a pet problem or two, and she spends her days either talking or typing about it. If you have any fun pet stories to tell, you can write to her at @WriteWhitney