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8 Best Cat Foods for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

calico cat eats cat food from a red bowl

Occasional diarrhea is common in housecats. However, if your cat keeps displaying symptoms of digestive distress, it should be cause for concern. On many occasions, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is to blame when a cat displays gastrointestinal distress symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, constipation, and pain when touched around the abdominal area.

IBS can result from numerous agents, including stress, neurological issues, and parasites. However, dietary intolerances and deficiencies are by far the most common causes of irritable bowel syndrome.

As such, if your cat is displaying symptoms of IBS, the first step to managing this problem should be to evaluate its diet.

Your cat is an obligate carnivore, meaning that its digestive system is designed to only process meat. Since a cat cannot digest plant matter properly, foods containing plant material are likely to trigger gastrointestinal distress symptoms.

Unfortunately, most commercial cat foods today are laden with plant-based ingredients, as well as other additives that upset the balance in your kitty’s digestive tract, resulting in IBS.

Luckily, a few cat food brands are actively solving this problem by manufacturing cat food that mimics your kitty’s natural diet in the wild, helping to relieve or prevent IBS symptoms.

Considering the vast number of cat food products on the market today, you might find it a little tricky to navigate the labyrinth. If you’re wondering what to feed a cat with irritable bowel syndrome, fortunately, we have done the heavy lifting for you. The following are eight reviews of the best cat foods for irritable bowel syndrome in 2021.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Winners in 2021

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Dr. Elsey's CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food Dr. Elsey's CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconGrain-free
  • Feature iconLow carb content
  • Feature iconHigh-quality ingredients
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconAids digestion
  • Feature iconNo filler ingredients
  • Feature iconDesigned for cats with sensitive stomachs
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food
  • Feature iconEnhances digestibility
  • Feature iconSuitable for cats of all ages
  • Feature iconSingle high-quality protein source
  • Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconNon-GMO ingredients
  • Feature iconNovel high-quality protein
  • Feature iconIt does not contain meat by-products
  • Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Feature iconHigh-quality protein source
  • Feature iconFortified with minerals and vitamins
  • Feature iconIt does not contain artificial additives
  • The 8 Best Cat Foods for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

    1. Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food – Best Overall

    Dr. Elsey's CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    One of the leading causes of IBS in cats is eating foods that contain questionable ingredients. Therefore, the ideal food for cats with IBS should contain a high-quality source of protein and as few other ingredients as possible to reduce the chances of upsetting your kitty’s tummy.

    Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food fits that bill perfectly. This cat food comes with a high-quality but straightforward ingredient list, with up to 90% of its protein content coming from real animals.

    Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein cat food has chicken, pork protein concentrate, dried eggs, and gelatin as some of its primary ingredients.

    For starters, we love that they consist of only real meat and fat, meaning they are unlikely to harm your kitty. Moreover, the breakdown by dry weight is 59% protein, 18% fat, and 4% fiber, making Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein one of few cat foods in the game that actually mimics a kitty’s natural diet.

    The low carb content makes this food ideal for diabetic kitties. What’s more, the rest of the ingredients are minerals, vitamins, and healthy seasonings such as rosemary and salt.

    Like any other good cat food, this product by Dr. Elsey is 100% gluten-free and grain-free. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids that nourish your cat’s skin and coat. The only drawback to this food is that the kibbles might be a little too hard for cats with missing or poor teeth.

    All in all, we think this is the overall best food for cats with IBS available this year.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • Mimics a cat’s natural diet
    • Low carb content
    • It does not contain filler ingredients
    • Grain-free
    • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
    Cons
    • Kibble might be too hard to chew for some kitties
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    2. Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food – Best Value

    Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    First off, we should admit that we are huge fans of the Blue Buffalo brand because it adheres to high-quality standards. Rarely does this company miss the mark. Blue Buffalo is also among the few brands with reasonable prices for healthy, wholesome recipes.

    As its name suggests, this cat food is designed for kitties with sensitive stomachs to ensure their digestive tracts run smoothly. This food is devoid of harmful ingredients and additives that are likely to trigger symptoms of IBS. Instead of harsh corn, soy, and wheat, this food contains oatmeal, barley, and rice for carbs, which are much easier to break down.

    Additionally, this Blue Buffalo recipe includes prebiotics and probiotics in its ingredients to ensure smooth digestion while keeping irritable bowel syndrome symptoms at bay.

    The protein source is also incredibly high quality, as it consists primarily of deboned chicken and chicken meal. In a bid to cut costs, some manufacturers source their protein from meat by-products. The issue with meat by-products is that you cannot tell their exact origin, meaning there is a chance they could be derived from something your cat is allergic to. Fortunately, Blue Buffalo states its sources explicitly to allow you to know what is in your cat’s meal.

    This Blue Buffalo recipe consists of 32% protein, 16% fat, 3.5% fiber, and 9% moisture, ensuring your cat receives an adequate amount of nutrients per serving. Moreover, it is fortified with magnesium and taurine for ultimate nutrition.

    The kibbles are soft to allow your adult cat an easier time chewing them.

    Unfortunately, some cats seem not to like this cat food. If your cat is a fussy eater, they might avoid it. However, it is worth trying out since, at its price, the Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food is arguably the best cat food for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for the money.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • No filler ingredients
    • Designed for cats with sensitive stomachs
    • Has probiotics and prebiotics to aid digestion
    • No harmful additives
    • Great value for money
    Cons
    • Picky eaters might avoid it
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    3. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food – Premium Choice

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food

    The symptoms of many gastrointestinal diseases in cats often overlap. Therefore, even though your cat might be displaying symptoms in line with IBS symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that they are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

    To solve this, have your cat evaluated by a vet to determine the exact issue afflicting it. If the vet does ascertain that your cat is indeed suffering from IBS, there is a good chance that they might recommend the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food.

    This cat food by Purina Pro has been designed specifically to address the needs of cats suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, and food allergies or intolerances. As such, it works to reduce the severity of IBS symptoms.

    The Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food contains only a single protein source (chicken). What’s more, it has been hydrolyzed to enhance its digestibility.

    This cat food for ibs formula is suitable for cats of all ages, making it ideal for homes with several felines.

    However, you will need authorization from your vet to purchase the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hydrolyzed Cat Food. It is also one of the pricier cat foods on the market.

    Pros
    • Designed for cats with IBS
    • Single high-quality protein source
    • Suitable for cats of all ages
    • Diminishes symptoms of gastrointestinal distress
    • Hydrolyzed to enhance digestibility
    Cons
    • Expensive
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    4. Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    The Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food is an excellent option for those looking for an all-natural alternative to the commercial kibble that might be contributing to your cat’s IBS.

    This cat food sources its protein from wild-caught salmon and whitefish, which is perhaps why it is such a great product for cats with IBS. As mentioned, cat foods that source protein from numerous sources have a greater chance of triggering IBS symptoms due to the increased number of variables.

    However, since the Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food sources protein from only two sources, that risk is dramatically reduced.

    We also love that Halo Holistic uses a novel protein source. Cats can develop an allergy or sensitivity to a particular food if they consume it regularly, which explains why so many cats today negatively react to chicken. However, salmon and whitefish are not staple inclusions in most cats’ diets, meaning most kitties are unlikely to be allergic to these fish.

    All the other ingredients used in this recipe are non-GMO and free of antibiotics, added hormones, or artificial additives. The carb content comes from sweet potatoes, which is not bad for cats in small quantities.

    This food includes refined grains such as pearled barley and oatmeal for their fiber content to ensure smooth digestion. Unfortunately, this cat food does contain soy, which is not suitable for most cats. The Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food consists of 34% protein, 16% fat, 5% fiber, and 10% moisture.

    Pros
    • Novel high-quality protein
    • It does not contain meat by-products
    • Non-GMO ingredients
    • Designed for cats with sensitive stomachs
    Cons
    • Contains soy
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    5. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    The Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is another great option for a cat IBS diet. Unlike most commercial foods that come with a boatload of ingredients, this canned cat food by Merrick uses very few ingredients to reduce the risk of including something that could trigger symptoms of IBS in your cat.

    You will also love that this cat food uses tender turkey as the only source of protein. Tender turkey is not only a high-quality source of protein but also incredibly tasty, ensuring that even the finickiest of eaters cannot avoid this meal.

    Additionally, the Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to boost your cat’s health. It is also grain-free and does not contain artificial additives.

    However, some cats might not like it.

    Pros
    • Uses few ingredients
    • High-quality protein source
    • Fortified with minerals and vitamins
    • Grain-free
    • It does not contain artificial additives
    Cons
    • Some cats do not like it
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    6. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food

    The Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food is great for your IBS-prone kitty for several reasons.

    For starters, Purina enlisted various professionals’ expertise, including veterinarians, nutritionists, and researchers, to create a food that meets the specific needs of cats with gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS. As such, you can be sure that this food will work proactively to subdue IBS symptoms in your cat.

    Additionally, the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food also improves urinary health, making it an excellent choice for cats with urinary tract disorders.

    Cats with IBS tend to be picky eaters due to their bad experiences with most foods. Purina has made this cat food to be not only tasty but also energy-dense to circumvent that problem. This means that even a tiny portion of this cat food will be enough to meet your cat’s daily caloric needs.

    You will also appreciate that you can feed the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food to cats of all ages.

    Nonetheless, be prepared for stinky poop. This is probably due to the food’s high protein and fat content. It is also quite expensive. Moreover, you need authorization from your vet to purchase the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food.

    Pros
    • Created for cats with gastrointestinal conditions
    • Boosts urinary health
    • Great taste
    • Energy-dense
    • Premium quality
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • Results in stinky poop
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    7. Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Canned Cat Food

    Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Canned Cat Food

    If your cat doesn’t like dry cat food, consider the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Feline Formula Wet Cat Food.

    Like the Purina Pro Gastroenteric Dry Cat Food, this formula has also been designed to cater to the needs of kitties with gastrointestinal problems. It is energy-dense, easy to digest, and made from premium-quality ingredients to boost your kitty’s overall health.

    Nonetheless, you will need authorization from your vet to buy the Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Gastroenteric Canned Cat Food.

    Pros
    • Energy-dense to provide adequate nutrition in small portions
    • Crafted for cats with gastrointestinal problems
    • Easy to digest
    • Premium quality
    Cons
    • Requires vet’s approval to purchase
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    8. Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

    Using only one novel protein source, the Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is one of the best options for cats with IBS. In fact, the manufacturer says that pet parents with cats suffering from IBS and IBD are their largest customers.

    The Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Canned Cat Food consists of 98% duck, duck liver, and duck broth, spoiling your cat with a tasty and nutritious meal. Moreover, it also contains salmon oil for its omega-3 fatty acids.

    Here is the kicker; this food has no carbohydrate content. This means that the chances of this food aggravating your kitty’s gut are almost zero. The lack of carbohydrates also makes the Hound & Gatos Grain-Free Canned Cat Food an excellent choice for cats with diabetes.

    However, it also happens to be one of the priciest cat foods on the market today.

    Pros
    • Highly digestible
    • It contains a single high-quality protein source
    • Zero carb content
    • No additives
    Cons
    • Expensive

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    Buyer’s Guide: How to Pick the Best Food for Cats With IBS

    There are lots of options today when it comes to choosing the best food for cats with irritable bowel syndrome. So how do you pick the right one for your kitty? The following are some of the most important things to consider.

    1. Novel Protein Source

    The source of your cat food’s protein matters a lot. As mentioned, many cat food manufacturers source their protein from meat by-products in a bid to cut production costs. Unfortunately, most meat by-products can be harmful to cats with sensitive stomachs since most by-products are essentially slaughterhouse waste.

    Therefore, avoid cat foods with “meat by-products” in their ingredients, and opt for products that source their protein from named animal parts.

    However, that might not be enough since cats tend to develop sensitivities to foods they regularly have. This is why we suggest going for foods with a novel protein source (one that your cat has not had before), such as duck, venison, or fish.

    2. Few Ingredients

    The more ingredients a food has, the greater the chances it might contain something that can trigger IBS symptoms. As such, focus on cat foods with limited but high-quality ingredients.

    cat eating goldfish crackers
    Image Credit: Alexandr-Makarov, Shutterstock

    3. High-Quality Ingredients

    Talking of high-quality ingredients, avoid foods that contain ‘filler’ ingredients. Filler ingredients are those that offer zero nutritional value to cats. Some of the most common fillers are gluten and grain products, such as corn and wheat.

    Filler ingredients are among the leading causes of gastrointestinal distress since cats cannot digest them properly.

    4. No Artificial Additives

    Avoid foods with artificial additives, such as food colors, flavors, or preservatives. These additives do not offer nutritional value to your cat while increasing the risk of triggering IBS side effects.

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    Conclusion

    If you suspect your cat has irritable bowel syndrome, the first step should be to take it to the vet for an evaluation. If the vet’s diagnosis shows that your cat indeed has IBS, make sure that you get your furball the right food.

    If you are not sure about what is best, consider Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. It is made from high-quality ingredients, has an extremely high protein and fat content to mimic a cat’s natural diet, and does not contain ingredients that are likely to trigger IBS in cats. It also comes at a reasonable price.

    But if you are on a budget, the Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food will serve you well. It is wholesome and steers clear of harmful filler products that could hurt your cat’s stomach.

    Related Reads:

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    Featured Image Credit: Stamat Vitalii, Shutterstock