Choosing 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.
A Glance of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service)||
||Click & save 33%|
|Best Value||Natural Balance Limited Ingredients||
|Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient||
|Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet||
|Natural Balance Limited Ingredients||
The 10 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods
1. Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service) – Best Overall
Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Bird is our pick as the best limited ingredient cat food. The raw food is easier to digest than dry kibble and even cooked wet cat food. It features chicken as the first ingredient, and there are no harmful chemical preservatives or artificial colors. Other ingredients include the chicken’s heart, liver, and gizzard, all healthy ingredients for the cat, goat’s milk, and fish oil that help provide additional nutrients, including helpful omega fats. The food also has crushed bone and eggshell that give it a satisfying crunch that helps scrape away plaque and tartar, slowing the progression of dental disease. In addition, it provides 45% protein per serving, and freeze-dried food has a surprisingly long shelf life.
The only real downside to Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Chicken that we experienced was that you couldn’t find it in pet stores or on Chewy, so you need to ensure you won’t run out as it’s a subscription order. It’s also a bit expensive, as you might expect with such high-quality ingredients.
2. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food – Best Value
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.
3. Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food
If you’re looking for another great 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 meat protein, plus chicken eggs 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 the best limited ingredient cat food, we rank this as our third choice.
4. Instinct Grain-Free Limited Ingredient 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. This is the best-limited ingredient wet cat food out there this year.
5. Natural Balance Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Wet Cat Food
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.
6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food
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 animal source as a 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.
7. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free 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.
8. Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient 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.
9. FirstMate 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.
10. I and Love and You Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
If at any point you feel your cat is having an allergic reaction to their food, consult your veterinarian immediately.
Want to see more cat food reviews? Check out our review page here!
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 Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Bird. It follows the key rules of a great LID in that it’s a singular novel protein and there’s no vegetables (or carbohydrates).
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.
Featured Image Credit: Krakenimages.com, Shutterstock
- A Glance of Our Favorites in 2023
- The 10 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods
- 1. Smalls Freeze-Dried Raw Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service) – Best Overall
- 2. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food – Best Value
- 3. Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food
- 4. Instinct Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food
- 5. Natural Balance Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Wet Cat Food
- 6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food
- 7. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 8. Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food
- 9. FirstMate Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
- 10. I and Love and You Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food
- Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food
- What Makes Up a Limited Ingredient Diet?
- How to Tell If Your Cat Needs a Limited Ingredient Diet
- Final Thoughts