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10 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

feline cat eating on a metal bowl_Krakenimages.com_shutterstockChoosing the right cat food can be pretty daunting, especially if your loved one has allergies or sensitivities to particular ingredients.

Fortunately, there are special formulas available for your feline friend known as limited ingredient cat foods. These are cat foods that have small ingredient lists that can help you to pinpoint particular allergies through the process of elimination.

But with limited ingredients and seemingly endless options, it can be tough to determine exactly which limited ingredient cat food is best for you. That’s why we’ve put together this handy list to help you find that out.

Cat ball divider 1A Glance of Our Favorites in 2021

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Feature iconGrain-free
  • Feature iconNo eggs or dairy
  • Feature iconNo filler ingredients
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconGrain-free
  • Feature iconSingle protein
  • Feature iconBudget friendly
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconVitamin boosted
  • Feature iconHigh protein percentage
  • Feature iconSingle source of poultry protein
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
  • Feature iconSingle animal protein source
  • Feature iconContains plenty of chicken
  • Feature iconOmega fatty acids
  • Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food
  • Feature iconHigh protein content
  • Feature iconSingle source animal protein
  • Feature iconBlue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits
  • The 10 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods

    1. Instinct Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food – Best Overall

    1Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Pate Real Turkey Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food

    Most cats just love canned cat food. It has a much higher moisture content, providing a pate-like texture that’s just irresistible to cats, and they’re normally jam-packed with flavor.

    Most canned wet foods have a veritable combination of proteins, vegetables, and other potential allergens.

    But that isn’t the case with Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food. Instinct’s limited ingredient diet (LID) only contains one protein and one vegetable. And in this case, it’s just turkey and peas. There’s no chicken, beef, fish, dairy, or eggs which are other common proteins found within cat food. It’s also grain-free, which means it’s without any corn, potatoes, or soy.

    However, this doesn’t mean that your cat won’t get their required nutrition. The food is packed with additional allergen-free vitamins and mineral supplements to make sure your cat stays strong and healthy.

    Another thing we like about the Instinct wet food is that it’s textured. Not every cat loves a completely smooth pate, so the texture is a nice change of pace. However, it’s very easily mashed if your cat prefers it that way. Not only is this the overall best limited ingredient cat food, but the best limited ingredient wet cat food as well.

    • One protein and one vegetable
    • Grain-free
    • No eggs or dairy
    • No filler ingredients
    • Added nutritional supplements
    • Textured, but easy to mash
    • Contains more liquid than your cat may be used to
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    2. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food – Best Value

    2Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Green Pea & Duck Formula

    There’s one harsh reality about limited ingredient cat foods — they’re expensive. It can be more costly to source a single, high-quality protein than to use several less-than-optimal meats. And those extra expenses get passed directly to the consumer.

    This can be a bit of a roadblock for cat owners whose feline friends need special diets. That’s why we’ve found the best limited ingredient cat food for the money in Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food. The formula only comes with a single protein—duck, in this case—and selected other vegetable and seed choices.

    However, the formula does include salmon oil. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your cat’s dietary needs. Salmon oil is a great source for omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy coat and skin. But if your kitty’s allergic to salmon, you’re probably going to want to avoid this food.

    But if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to other more expensive LID cat foods, Natural Balance Limited Ingredients can provide a great healthy crunch for your cat.

    • Grain-free
    • Single protein
    • Added Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
    • Vitamin-fortified
    • Budget friendly
    • Added salmon oil might not be great for your kitty
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    3. Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food – Premium Choice

    3Go! SENSITIVITIES Limited Ingredient Duck Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    If you’re looking for a premium choice for your kitten’s limited ingredient diet, check out Petcurean GO! SENSITIVITIES LID. In this grain-free formula, cage-free duck is the single source of poultry protein, and it’s made with as few ingredients as possible. This being said, there is added chicken fat to help preserve the food with mixed tocopherols. However, this formula has a very high protein content percentage (31%) for a limited ingredient diet.

    The food is also made with several different quality sources of carbohydrates and dietary fiber such as ground peas, chickpeas, and lentils. There aren’t any grain or filler byproducts such as corn, wheat, or soy. However, there is dried egg within the formula. And egg is a very common allergen for cats.

    The food is vitamin-boosted to ensure that your cat gets a full day’s worth of nutrition. But all of this comes at a much higher cost than other foods on this list.

    All in all, when it comes to premium options, we think this is the best limited ingredient cat food.

    • High protein percentage
    • Made with premium ingredients
    • Single source of poultry protein
    • Vitamin boosted
    • Contains egg
    • Contains chicken fat
    • Very expensive

    Related Read: Go! Solutions by Petcurean Cat Food Review: Recalls, Pros & Cons

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    4. Natural Balance Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Wet Cat Food

    4Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Chicken & Green Pea Formula

    The second Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets selection on our list is their canned cat food selection. And if it deserves to be near the top of our list as well. This canned wet cat food contains a single animal protein source just like the rest of our list except this time it’s chicken.

    It’s loaded down with it. The formula contains chicken meat, broth, liver, and processed meal. All of which is great, unless your furball is allergic to chicken. It also contains salmon oil as a way to add some omega fatty acids.

    However, a common issue for this particular cat food is that it’s just too dry for a pate. And we’ve also come across quite a few complaints that it’s too soupy. It seems that there is just too much inconsistency in this blend. Picky cats can nitpick everything, especially textures, so it’s hard to rank this wet food any higher.

    • Single animal protein source
    • Contains plenty of chicken
    • Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and nails
    • Inconsistent textures
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    5. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food

    5Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Formula Turkey & Potato Recipe

    When it comes to pet food, Blue Buffalo has become a name that we know and can trust to provide highly nutritious quality provisions for our loved ones. So, it only makes sense that they’d end up on our list of best limited ingredient cat foods. However, we’re used to seeing this brand perform just a little bit better.

    In this LID, there’s only one single animal protein source (turkey) and it provides a decent sized protein content at 30%. However, it’s everything else that’s involved with the food that’s the problem. For a LID, it’s got a pretty large ingredient list that includes some strange entries including barley grass, three variations of peas, and potatoes.

    All of the extra ingredients are all safe and nutritious though, with the exception of the potatoes which can irritate cats with IBS.

    • Single source animal protein
    • High protein content
    • Vitamin boosted with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits
    • Very long ingredient list
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    6. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    6Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Merrick’s entrant to the limited ingredient arena is a pretty solid choice. Its single animal-source protein is chicken with deboned chicken being the number one ingredient. It’s also got a relatively selective ingredient list with chicken, chickpeas, and peas being the main ingredients.

    The formula also comes with a 34% minimum protein content percentage and can provide your cat with what they need to live a happy, healthy life. And this food is very affordable for all families who need to opt for a limited ingredient diet.

    We wish that there were more focus on vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids, however. And this food has a tendency to make your cat’s feces smell even more than normal. But perhaps the biggest downside to this food is that it crumbles a bit faster than other foods.

    • Very high protein content
    • Single source animal protein
    • Affordable
    • Short list of ingredients
    • Low focus on vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids
    • Crumbles easy
    • Can make your cat’s feces smell worse
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    7. CANIDAE Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food

    7CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Elements with Chicken Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food

    CANIDAE Grain-Free LID isn’t quite like the rest of the selections on this list. CANIDAE’s LID doesn’t have a single-source animal protein. In fact, it contains four different animal proteins including poultry and fish. And while the formula boasts a 35% protein content, it doesn’t provide much in terms of vegetation, fiber, or carbohydrates.

    However, it does avoid many common allergens and fillers such as eggs, gluten, grains, corn, wheat, and soy. The food is also a little bit pricier per pound than most of our other selections.

    • High protein content
    • Avoids common allergens
    • No single source animal protein
    • Expensive
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    8. Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food

    8Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Duck Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food

    This is Merrick’s canned version of their LID formula. It’s produced with a single animal protein source without any grains, gluten, dairy, or eggs. And they’ve added a bunch of additional vitamins and minerals to help boost the existing nutrition content.

    So what makes this different from their wet food?  The texture for this wet food can be very assaulting. The pate is very thick and you may need to add hot water to make it more palatable for your cats.

    • Single source animal protein
    • No common allergens
    • Pate is way too thick
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    9. FirstMate Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    9FirstMate Chicken Meal with Blueberries Formula Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    When FirstMate decided to make a limited ingredient diet, they definitely took limited ingredients to heart. The food is essentially made out of three ingredients: chicken, potatoes, and blueberries. It’s grain-free, gluten-free, and allergen-free.

    It also contains little other substance. There are some supplemental vitamins, but FirstMate relies more on the nutritional value of the blueberries to carry the diet. It’s also rather expensive. We just don’t feel that this food is quite up to snuff compared to those mentioned above.

    • Very short ingredient list
    • Could do much better when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and other nutrition
    • Expensive
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    10. I and Love and You Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food

    10I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon & Sweet Potato

    At first glance, this choice from I and Love and You seems like a pretty decent selection. It’s got a pretty good-looking ingredient list, with salmon providing the source of single animal protein and sweet potatoes as the source of complex carbohydrates.

    However, it just misses the mark. Being a fish-based cat food, your cat will either love this or hate it. The smell that the food emits can cause many cats—especially picky eaters—to outright refuse to eat. If your cat isn’t already eating a fish-based diet, swapping over to this formula may just be a waste of money.

    You can also cheaply buy a single bag of this food; however, the cost per pound analysis makes this food relatively expensive.

    • Single source protein with sweet potatoes
    • Smelly food
    • Not good for picky eaters
    • Not cheap on a long-term basis
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    Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food

    Knowing the best types of food available is only part of the battle when it comes to shopping for limited ingredient cat food. You need to know why your cat needs a LID in the first place along with other factors.

    Benefits of a Limited Ingredient Diet

    • LIDs can help to reduce digestive issues, upset stomachs, and even improve overall gut health.
    • You’ll see your feline friend have an increase in their energy levels.
    • Swapping over to a LID can minimize allergies and skin problems such as itching and flaking.
    • You can ensure that your kitty receives natural nutrition over other ingredients.
    • Limited ingredient diets usually have much easier to read ingredient lists so you know exactly what your feline is eating.

    What Makes Up a Limited Ingredient Diet?

    Just because a cat food has fewer ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good LID.

    Here are some of the circumstances that make up a quality LID:

    No Artificial Ingredients or Flavors

    While there aren’t any conclusive studies that your kitten will become allergic to artificial ingredients, you’re not likely to find them in LIDs. And that’s because every ingredient counts when crafting a LID. Filler or artificial ingredients generally don’t have the nutrition that all-natural ones do.

    Single Source of Protein

    This is a very important component of a LID. You want your cat’s limited ingredient diet to only have a single protein that you can help to prevent food sensitivities in your little one.

    Novel Source of Protein

    Novel proteins are proteins that your pet has never eaten before. The reason for this is that if your cat’s never had this meat before, then there’s a good chance they’re not allergic to it. That’s why good LID’s utilize meat not commonly found in most commercial cat food like our top pick does with turkey.

    grey domestic hungry cat_Valeri Vatel_shutterstock
    Credit: Valeri Vatel, Shutterstock

    Single Source of Carbohydrates

    Many of the best limited ingredient diets also only have one source of carbohydrates along with a single protein. This follows the same principle that having only a single protein does. By limiting the sources of carbs, you’re minimizing the chance that your kitten’s going to have an allergic reaction.

    No Grains

    Making a grain-free diet serves two major purposes when it comes to LIDs.

    It keeps the ingredient list truly limited by removing filler material with little to no nutritional value.

    Many grains can be directly linked to food borne allergies in pets.

    These grains include wheat, corn, soy, alfalfa, and others.

    How to Tell If Your Cat Needs a Limited Ingredient Diet

    Not every cat needs to be on a limited ingredient diet. In fact, most felines will do just fine with a standard diet. However, some cats have distinct food allergies which can be dangerous if left untreated.

    Signs of food-borne allergies include:
    • Itchy face, ears, and eyes
    • Overgrooming—often to the point of causing abrasion or hair loss
    • Skin and ear infections
    • Itchy rectum or scooting
    • Difficulty when defecating
    • Frequent bowel movements

    If at any point you feel your cat is having an allergic reaction to their food, consult your veterinarian immediately.

    cat paw dividerConclusion

    Finding the right limited ingredient diet for your cat can be a real bother. Hopefully, our guide and reviews have been able to shine some light on this difficult decision.

    Overall, we really like the Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain Free Canned Food. It follows the key rules of a great LID in that it’s a singular novel protein and there’s only one vegetable (or carbohydrate).

    And our best limited ingredient diet for the money has to be the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food. It’s still a single protein—with the addition of salmon oil—and provides all the nutrition your cat will need to make it through the day. Not to mention, it’s extremely affordable for a limited ingredient diet.

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    Featured image credit: Krakenimages.com, Shutterstock