We all want to feed our cats the best food out there, but when they have irritable bowel disorder (IBD), finding the best food can be a bit of a challenge. Since simply switching their food can cause a flare-up, you want to get them on the right diet the first time.
That’s why we tracked down and created reviews of the best cat foods for cats with IBD. This way, your cat can get the nutrition that they need without the uncomfortable and often painful IBD flare-ups.
We also developed a comprehensive buyer’s guide to walk you through everything that you need to know to get the right food the first time. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money on a new diet!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Cow Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Delivery)||
||Click to Save 33%|
|Best Value||Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon||
|Purina Pro Plan Diets||
|Dr. Elsey's CleanProtein Chicken||
|Royal Canin Vete Diet Protein||
The 11 Best Food for Cats With IBD
1. Smalls Cow Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Delivery) — Best Overall
|Food type:||Fresh, wet|
|Crude protein percent:||33%|
Dietary management is one of the best and most conservative ways of treating cats with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One of the many causes of feline IBD has to do with food intolerances. That’s where Smalls Fresh Cow Recipe steps up to the plate. Veterinarians often recommend a diet from a single protein source, and this one fits the bill.
Smalls cat food contains lean ground beef, liver, and heart. These provide a healthy amount of the amino acid taurine. The food comes in either a smooth or ground texture that makes it highly digestible for pets that may have gastrointestinal issues. The diet contains a decent nutrient profile that meets the standards of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
On the downside, it has a relatively high fat content. While the protein percentage exceeds the AAFCO’s recommendations, it may be too high if your pet has kidney disease. Our biggest concern is the pea content, which has been associated with a spike in canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) cases. Although more common in dogs, it has been reported in cats.
IBD is a serious and often lifelong condition. Therefore, we strongly urge you to discuss any dietary changes with your vet. Regardless, many customers love that the ingredients list is so clean and gets delivered right to your doorstep, making it our choice for the overall best food for cats with IBD.
2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe — Best Value
|Crude protein percent:||40|
|Size:||5 or 11 pounds|
Not everyone can afford prescription cat foods, and not everyone wants to keep up with a prescription for their cat food. That’s when it’s worth trying out a product like Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe. Salmon is a great novel protein for IBD, and it might be all that your cat needs to get their IBD under control.
You don’t need a prescription, it’s affordably priced, and it has 40% crude protein. So, not only does it save your bank account (and you) some stress, but it also gives your cat everything that they need to thrive.
So, while Blue Buffalo didn’t specifically formulate for your cat’s gastrointestinal health, its food can often help get it under control for a fraction of the price of other cat foods. It easily earns its place as the best food for cats with IBD for the money.
3. Purina Pro Plan Vet Diet Gastroenteric Formula
|Crude protein percent:||50|
|Size:||6 or 10 pounds|
Prescription pet foods are notoriously expensive. But Purina’s Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric Formula bucks that trend. You still get all the benefits of a prescription pet food, but you don’t have to deal with the prescription pet food price!
It’s a phenomenal mix of price and nutrition, and it has a minimum of 50% crude protein, which is outstanding for your cat’s health. Moreover, it supports both their gastrointestinal and urinary health, which is a big deal for cats with IBD.
The only downside is that you will need a prescription, but if you reach out to your vet, they shouldn’t have any problem giving you one. With all these perks, it’s not hard to see why it is the choice for cats with IBD.
4. Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Chicken Formula — Best for Kittens
|Crude protein percent:||59|
|Size:||2 or 6.6 pounds|
Even kittens can have sensitive stomachs. That’s where a product like Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Chicken Formula comes in. It has the high protein amount that kittens need to grow and thrive, and it’s available without a prescription.
Additionally, it’s a good mix of price and nutrition and comes packed with tons of helpful nutrients. So, while chicken isn’t always the best choice for cats with IBD, if it’s not one of your kitten’s trigger foods, this might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Finally, while this might be our top choice for kittens, there’s no reason that you can’t feed them Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Chicken Formula as they get older too. Just ensure that they’re getting plenty of activity to burn off all that protein!
5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein
|Crude protein percent:||30|
Royal Canin and Hill’s Prescription diet are two of the top names in the prescription pet food industry, and when we stacked them up here, Royal Canin came out just ahead. The 30% crude protein amount is enough to keep your cat healthy, and the 5.7% fiber keeps your cat feeling full while helping their digestion.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein is formulated to help with your cat’s gastrointestinal health, has tons of helpful nutrients, and has a limited-ingredient formula that is great for cats with sensitive stomachs. Moreover, the company uses rabbit as its protein source, and it’s a great novel protein for IBD.
It is a pricier option, and you will need a prescription to order it, but if your vet is asking you whether you want Royal Canin or Hill’s Prescription Diet, we give a slight edge to Royal Canin.
6. The Honest Kitchen Turkey Recipe
|Crude protein percent:||38.5|
|Size:||2 or 4 pounds|
If you’re not worried about how much your new cat food will cost, Honest Kitchen’s Turkey Recipe is exactly what you’ve been looking for. You don’t need a prescription, and it’s all extremely high-quality food.
It’s a freeze-dried food, which means it’s much higher quality than a typical dry food. However, that also means it’s far more expensive. The crude protein amount is just under 40%, but that’s still more than the 30% that your cat needs.
Overall, it’s a super high-quality cat food, but it has to be within your budget to feed it to your cat meal after meal. But with simple ingredients, it’s often exactly what your cat needs to get their IBD under control.
7. Hill’s Prescription Diet
|Primary protein:||Chicken liver|
|Crude protein percent:||29|
|Size:||4 or 8.5 pounds|
We don’t think that there’s a bigger name in the prescription pet food industry than Hill’s. While it’s certainly a trustworthy brand, it’s worth noting that bigger isn’t always better. First, you need a prescription for the Hill’s Prescription Diet.
While this gets you a food specifically tailored for gastrointestinal health, it also drives up the cost quite a bit. But the tradeoff is in the form of high-quality ingredients that are great for your cat’s health.
The crude protein amount is a bit low, but the chicken liver is far better for your cat’s IBD than regular chicken. Furthermore, there are tons of antioxidants, and the fiber percent is more than enough to help your cat’s digestion along.
So, while it’s extremely expensive, there’s a good chance that it’ll get your cat’s IBD under control.
8. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet
|Crude protein percent:||9|
|Size:||5-ounce case of 24|
Some cats simply do better with wet cat food. Fortunately for you, there’s a great wet cat food option for cats with IBD in Merrick’s Limited Ingredient Diet. It’s a simple ingredient recipe that can simplify your cat’s diet to help with IBD.
It uses a potato-free recipe with turkey as its novel protein, which most cats respond better to compared to chicken. Since Merrick’s uses a single source of protein in its cat food, that helps simplify everything even more for your cat’s digestive tract.
There are tons of antioxidants in the food, and it’s great for your cat’s coat. However, keeping your cat on a wet food diet is a little expensive. Most cats require multiple cans a day, which drives up the cost for this already expensive food.
9. Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels
|Crude protein percent:||44|
|Size:||3.5, 8, or 18 ounces|
If you’re trying to tackle your cat’s IBD, one of the best things that you can do is switch them to a simpler diet. That’s precisely what you can do with Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels. It’s a freeze-dried food option that has at least 44% protein in every serving!
It’s a simple-ingredient recipe that’s great for your cat, and there are multiple size options available. However, while it does a great job at getting your cat’s IBD under control, it’s also one of the most expensive options for feeding your cat.
That said, they’ll love every bite, and you’ll be feeding them food that actually looks like food.
10. Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties
|Crude protein percent:||60|
When you’re looking to get your cat’s IBD under control, you want to simplify their diet. Nothing is simpler than a freeze-dried rabbit recipe. Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties contains 60% protein, and you’ll struggle to find a recipe with fewer ingredients in it.
Since rabbit is a novel protein, it’s typically an excellent choice for cats with IBD. Vital Essentials only uses the best possible ingredients in this cat food, and that’s a win for both you and your cat.
However, it’s also expensive, beyond the price range for many owners. When you pair that with the low fiber amount of 3%, it’s not hard to see why such a nutritious and simple ingredient choice is not that popular.
11. Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Formula
|Crude protein percent:||10|
|Size:||5.5-ounce case of 24|
The Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Formula is a wet cat food option that can help get your cat’s IBD under control. It’s a simple-ingredient recipe that comes packed with all the nutrients that your cat needs to thrive.
Not only can it help get their IBD under control, but it also is great for your cat’s coat. Cats love the food and it makes mealtime a breeze.
However, most cats will need multiple cans a day, and it’s already an expensive product. This means if you’re looking to switch your cat to a wet-food diet, you need to expect that you’re going to spend more in the long run.
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Food for Cats With IBD
With so many excellent cat food choices out there, it can be hard to narrow down the best possible choice for your cat. That’s why we created this comprehensive buyer’s guide to walk you through everything that you need to know.
Picking a Protein
While we’d love to recommend a specific protein for you to feed your cat and help with their IBD, the truth is that each cat will respond differently to different protein sources.
Since you’re already noticing symptoms, it’s generally a good idea to switch your cat to a novel protein like duck or rabbit. From there, ensure that the food you’re using is a single-source protein. This enables you to narrow down the cause of a flare-up if one does happen.
But also keep in mind that while the protein is often a major cause of the flare-up, there could be another ingredient in the food that’s causing the reaction too. Try to stick with foods with a limited number of ingredients to help narrow down potential problem foods.
Switching Your Cat Food
Anytime that your cat switches food, you can expect their stomach to react. This doesn’t mean that the new food is the problem, but it can be frustrating for both you and your cat. This is why you should always switch their foods slowly and give them time to adjust to their new food before jumping to any conclusions.
The last thing that you want to do is jump from food to food when the only problem is that their stomach hasn’t had time to adjust to their new diet!
How Much Protein Does Your Cat Need?
It depends on the age of your cat, but ideally, your cat should get anywhere between 28% and 45% crude protein in their food. While aging cats can get by with less, 30% is the recommended minimum amount for cats of all ages.
Moreover, kittens should get at least 40% crude protein. They’re growing and need the extra protein to do it! You can give your adult cat more than 45% crude protein in their diet, but you need to ensure that your cat is working it off. Protein that your cat isn’t using turns to fat, and you don’t want an overweight kitty just because you’re giving them the wrong type of food!
Finally, keep in mind that wet foods work differently. Cats can eat more of it because it’s mostly moisture, so if the food contains 7.5% to 12.5% protein, you’re in good shape.
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl. This is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl. At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!
Regardless of whether you feed your cat dry or wet food, you need a bowl that is sure to keep the mess contained—you can do just that with the Hepper Nom Nom Bowl.
This is designed with your cat’s comfort in mind. The whisker-friendly bowls are low and wide to prevent whisker fatigue, and the wide catch tray ensures that all food stays exactly where it should—inside the bowl.
At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!
Ordering a Prescription Food
There are a few cat foods that you’ll need a prescription for. While that can seem a little daunting, once you’ve talked to your vet about it, it’s quite simple. All you need to do through a site like Chewy is provide it with your vet’s contact information. Chewy’s support team will reach out and do the rest! You can speed up the process by uploading a copy of the prescription on the site. As long as the prescription is active, you won’t need to do anything else to order it again!
So, ordering a prescription cat food is easier than you might think, and you can get a specifically formulated food that can help keep your cat healthy.
If you’re still stressing out about what cat food to purchase to help with your cat’s IBD after reading these reviews, don’t overthink it. There’s a reason that Smalls Fresh Cat Food Cow Recipe is our top choice. It is sourced from a single protein and is created with all-natural ingredients and vitamins.
But if you don’t have a vet whom you can contact, you can always try Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Salmon Recipe. You don’t need a prescription, it’s extremely affordable, and it’s a simple-ingredient option with a protein that’s easy on the stomach.
But don’t wait and hope for the best — get your cat a food that will get their IBD in check!
Featured Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
- The 11 Best Food for Cats With IBD
- 1. Smalls Cow Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Delivery) — Best Overall
- 2. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Salmon Recipe — Best Value
- 3. Purina Pro Plan Vet Diet Gastroenteric Formula
- 4. Dr. Elsey’s CleanProtein Chicken Formula — Best for Kittens
- 5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Selected Protein
- 6. The Honest Kitchen Turkey Recipe
- 7. Hill’s Prescription Diet
- 8. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet
- 9. Stella & Chewy’s Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels
- 10. Vital Essentials Rabbit Dinner Patties
- 11. Hound & Gatos 98% Turkey & Liver Formula
- Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Food for Cats With IBD
- Final Verdict