Just like their owners, cats can be prone to a variety of food allergies. Some common allergies include corn, dairy, and – unfortunately for your feline friend – seafood! Luckily, since allergies like these are so common, experts from a holst of pet food manufacturers have put their minds to creating foods that will keep your friend healthy and full, without upsetting their stomach: these are hypoallergenic cat foods. We’ve searched for the best cat food for allergies out there, and have compiled this list of what we believe are the best on the market right now.
We’ve also addressed some of the most common questions about hypoallergenic food, to keep you in the know about your cat’s health. We hope this list will help you find the right option for you.
Best Hypoallergenic Cat Food Buying Guide & FAQ
That concludes our list of the best hypoallergenic cat foods available on the market today. We hope that these picks help you to find the formula that’s right for your pet. With so much variety, though, it can be difficult to know which blend is the right option for your cat. That’s why we’ve put together a quick guide to cat food allergies. Below we discuss how to spot them, what they can mean for your cat, and how to select a hypoallergenic food that meets your cat’s individual requirements. Like humans, all cats are different, so you might need to try a few different brands before you find one that works for your pet. Remember than your patience will pay off, though – it’s amazing what a difference a cat’s diet can make to their overall health, mood, and behavior.
Things to Consider When Buying Hypoallergenic Cat Food
With so many options about, making a choice can seem overwhelming. To help you make up your mind, here are a few important factors to bear in mind when choosing a hypoallergenic food for your cat:
This might seem like a fairly superficial consideration, but it can actually mean the difference between a successful diet and an unsuccessful one. If your cat is used to a certain type of food, it’s usually a good idea to stick to it. However, for cats with digestive issues, wet cat food can sometimes be the way to go. Unlike us, cats do not have flat molars for grinding up crunchy food, and must rely on their canines instead, which are actually designed for tearing into meat. Some cats struggle to chew dry food sufficiently, which can lead to it not being digested properly, making wet food the better option. Again, your cat’s individual comfort and preferences will dictate which type of food you choose.
- Protein Source
It might sound obvious, but if your cat is allergic to a certain type of protein, it is best avoided. Always check the ingredients of a hypoallergenic cat food thoroughly, as even if it’s not the main source of protein, a meat which your cat is sensitive to might still be found elsewhere in the food. Some foods also contain fish oils as a source of omega-3, which should be borne in mind if your cat is sensitive to seafood. For cats with sensitive stomachs rather than a specific allergy, choosing a protein source such as soy or whitefish is often the best option. If you’re unsure, consult with your vet.
Another option you have when choosing a cat food is whether or not to purchase one with hydrolyzed protein. This kind of protein, which has been partially broken down into its constituent amino acids, can be far easier to digest, so is often a good option for cats with sensitive digestive tracts. However, if your cat is suffering from a specific food allergy rather than general sensitivity, choosing a food with normal protein is typically the best option, as the extra processing required to hydrolyze protein usually makes it more expensive.
Ingredients to Avoid Feeding Your Hypoallergenic Cat
As any owner knows, each cat is an individual – this also extends to which foods their body can handle. Although the name ‘hypoallergenic’ implies that a food will not trigger any allergic reactions, it’s important to remember that a food which is ‘hypoallergenic’ for one cat could be allergy-inducing to another. There’s no such thing as a completely allergy free cat food.
Because of this, the list of foods you should avoid feeding your cat will vary greatly from case to case. For reference, some common allergies and intolerances among cats include:
- Grains – cats would not eat grains in the wild, and some cannot properly digest them. Corn is a particularly common trigger among cats
- Dairy – adult cats are not equipped with the proper enzyme for digesting lactose, which can make some individuals particularly sensitive to dairy products
- Meat byproducts – parts of the animal which humans won’t eat, such as fat tissue and certain organs, can make it into cat food. Some cats are sensitive to certain proteins found in these byproducts
- Seafood – unfortunately for cats, many are allergic to fish and other seafood. This allergy is becoming increasingly common
- Artificial colors and preservatives – as with humans, certain cats can be allergic to the colors and preservatives which are sometimes added to pet foods
Symptoms of a Food Allergy in Cats
Each cat is likely to exhibit a slightly different set of symptoms if they develop a food allergy, but some common symptoms are fairly easy to spot.
- More scratching than usual
- Runny nose or eyes
- Coughing, wheezing, or sneezing
- Dull fur and flaky skin
- Diarrhoea and/or vomiting
- Inflamed throat or paws
- Lasting ear infections
If you notice your cat exhibiting one or more of these symptoms over an extended time period, consult your vet. They will be able to help identify the trigger and give you dietary advice.
Q: What are food allergies in cats?
A: Food allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to certain proteins as if they were a threat. This immune response is what triggers the flu-like symptoms often associated with food allergies. The mechanism responsible for this sensitivity is, unfortunately, still poorly understood. Food intolerances are slightly different: they trigger similar symptoms, but these are not caused by the immune system.
Q: How can I determine the allergy of my cat?
A: If your cat exhibits one or more of the symptoms above, and you suspect they have a food allergy, seek advice from your vet. They will be able to carry out a skin test or endoscopy to help determine whether an allergic reaction has occurred, and what the allergen was. Your vet will then advise you about the best diet for your cat – likely a hypoallergenic food. You may need to try a few different hypoallergenic cat food brands before you find the one which works best for your cat.
Q: How should I treat food allergies in my cat?
A: If you suspect your cat has a food allergy, you should always consult your vet. Treatment will usually involve a carefully monitored diet, which may require frequent tweaking as you and your vet work together to figure out the food which has triggered your pet’s allergy. Once a diet has been established, you’ll need to monitor your cat carefully, and avoid giving them people food. You might also need to replace their treats with a hypoallergenic alternative.
Q: What are the consequences of an allergic reaction to the cats?
A: The extent of an allergic reaction will vary between cats, but is an uncomfortable experience in any case. In rare instances, just like humans, exposure to a large quantity of an allergen can result in a cat entering anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis in cats include:
- Pale gums
- Facial swelling
If you notice one of these symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible. Anaphylaxis is treatable, especially when identified quickly, and cats can recover in the course of a couple of days.
Less severe consequences of allergic reactions in cats include scratching, wheezing, swelling of the paws and throat, persistent ear infections, and vomiting or diarrhea. If the cat is exposed to their allergens frequently, over a long period of time, symptoms can sometimes worsen, so it’s important to contact your vet as soon as you suspect a food allergy.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick has to go to Blue’s Wilderness grain-free blend. The food balances proteins and carbohydrates in a formula that mimics what a cat would eat in the wild, without compromising on nutrition. It’s also very easy to digest, thanks to the combination of high quality meat and potatoes. With the blend’s LifeSource Bites, you’ll never have to worry about your cat developing a vitamin deficiency. Overall, Blue provide a great formula, for an affordable price, which cats love to eat.