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5 Best Cat Food for Cats with Diarrhea (Stop Sloppy Wet Poos)

5 Best Cat Food for Cats With Diarrhea (Stop Sloppy Wet Poos)

Disclaimer

As a Chewy and Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not impact our reviews and comparisons.

Cat food with grains and legumes can cause diarrhea due to their high carb and fiber content. These foods are also a source of food intolerances in some cats. Most cats will find relief eating low carb wet cat foods with fewer plant based ingredients.

Does your cat have a problem with diarrhea?

Many cat foods contain ingredients that can cause diarrhea by irritating digestion. If left unchecked, diarrhea can lead to dehydration.

Feeding your cat limited ingredient foods can help firm your cats stool.

In this article, I’ll help you find out more about what causes diarrhea and how to stop the problem. Check below to skip to my top 5 best food picks.

The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

Buying Guide: Best Cat Food For Cats With Diarrhea

What food is best for a cat with diarrhea?

Feed your cat with diarrhea a limited ingredient cat food high in animal protein. Foods like wheat, barley, and legumes can irritate a cats digestion and cause diarrhea.

Wet canned cat food is the best choice, as these foods tend to contain fewer irritating ingredients.

Diarrhea is a sign of food intolerance. A food intolerance is a reaction to food that isn’t related to the immune system.

Let’s take a look at some things that can cause food intolerances:

  • Histamines
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Colorings
  • Preservatives
  • Flavorings
  • Lectins

There are many possible foods that lead to intolerance for a variety of reasons. Food intolerance is a catch-all term for a variety of food-related sensitivities.

Food intolerance affects digestion in the following ways:

To put in simply, the more ingredients in the food, the more chance of a negative reaction (especially fillers and carbohydrate based foods).

For this reason it’s best to choose a cat food with simple ingredients to help relieve diarrhea. Cat’s are obligate carnivores and need meat, organs, bones with little need for anything else.

Learn more: 9 Tips to Feed Your Cat for Awesome Health

Cat's are obligate carnivores. They evolved to eat a diet high in animal based foods.

Is wet food or dry food better for cats with diarrhea?

Wet food is better for cats as it tend to contain fewer irritating ingredients. A limited ingredient canned cat food is a great option for cats with diarrhea.

A food intolerance can cause diarrhea. Grain and legume based ingredients tend to be suspects as they can irritate the gut.

Wet food tends to have fewer of these ingredients compared to dry food. Dry food tends to be high in carbohydrate from wheat, corn, oats, barley, peas, and lentils.

These ingredients aren’t needed in your cats diet, so are best minimized or avoided completely.

Can certain cat foods cause diarrhea in cats?

Yes. Cat food with grains, legumes, and/or fillers can irritate digestion and cause diarrhea. Dry kibble tends to contain more of these ingredients. A high carbohydrate diet may cause diarrhea in cats.

If a wet canned food with limited ingredients doesn’t help your cat with diarrhea, then it’s time to visit the vet. They will be able to help you find out what is causing the diarrhea.

Diarrhea is influenced by:

  • Dietary components (e.g. food intolerance)
  • Infectious and non-infectious diseases
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Environment

Cat’s have fewer digestive enzymes for digesting carbohydrates. Dry food that is too high in carbohydrate can result in diarrhea.

If nothing else works, a food elimination diet is an option.

This involves stripping down the diet to simple ingredients that are less likely to cause allergies and/or food intolerances.

Novel protein food sources are less likely to cause an allergic response. These are foods your cat hasn’t eaten before. Allergies develop with repeat exposure.

Chicken, gluten, lamb, fish, milk, and additives all had a 4% chance of food sensitivity response.

Novel protein foods includes the following:

  • Turkey
  • Venison
  • Duck
  • Lamb
  • Mussels

Introduction of new foods during the elimination diet helps to find your cat’s tolerance (e.g. chicken). This is called a food challenge.

The new food can stay in the diet if your cat tolerates it during the food challenge. Removal of that food occurs if your cat doesn’t tolerate it during the test.

This type of diet is a ‘last ditch’ approach if nothing else seems to help and your vet isn’t sure what is causing the problem.

A cat inspecting their food bowl.

What Ingredients Should I Avoid To Help My Cat With Diarrhea?

Any ingredients that have a chance to irritate your cat’s digestion are worth eliminating.

Let’s take a look at some things to avoid:

  • Histamines
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Colorings
  • Preservatives
  • Flavourings
  • Lectins

These foods are sources of food intolerance.

Food intolerance is a negative reaction to food that doesn’t involve allergies.  

There are many possible foods that lead to intolerance for a variety of reasons.  Food intolerance is a catch-all term for a variety of food-related sensitivities.

Either the food is poorly digested (e.g. lactose) or the food itself causes changes to the digestive system function (e.g. transit time, water absorption).

Cat’s have fewer digestive enzymes for digesting carbohydrates. Dry food that is too high in carbohydrate can result in diarrhea.

A cat eating.

Is Milk Good For Cats With Diarrhea?

Yes, too much milk can give cats diarrhea. Milk contains the sugar lactose which cats have a hard time digesting. This is due to having low amounts of lactase enzyme.

Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down the lactose sugar in milk.  Undigested lactose increases the risk of digestive upsets.

Small amounts of milk may be easier to digest, so you may still give your cat a small amount of milk without harm (up to 85ml per day or about 1/4 cup).  

Learn more: Is Milk Bad for cats?

A cat looking at milk.

What Foods Should I Avoid Giving A Cat With Diarrhea?

Many plant-based foods are toxic to cats and may cause diarrhea. This is because of problems with the liver in detoxifying plant compounds. 

Here is a list of plant-based problem foods may give cats diarrhea:

  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Apricots
  • Grapes
  • Sultanas
  • Green tomato
  • Green potato
  • Garlic
  • Yeast
  • Green vegetables
  • Citrus fruits
  • Nuts

The best way to avoid these foods is to not give your cat leftovers (as these contain a wide variety of foods not suitable for cats).  

Learn more: 17 Foods that are Poisonous to Cats

A cat seated next to an orange.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Cat Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a condition that causes more water is in the feces. This results in either a liquid or partial liquid consistency poo.

Other signs of diarrhea include:

  • Lack of straining
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Increased litter box usage

How Prevalent Is Cat Diarrhea?

Research data on 1,727 cats admitted to shelters find the prevalence of diarrhea is 11.9%. Kittens and multiple cats living in an enclosure have a higher risk of diarrhea based on this research. 

Cats living together may pass on infections for a variety of reasons (e.g. diet, infections).

Learn more: Best Kitten Food for Diarrhea 

Two cats. Infections can pass between cats in shelters.

Why Do Cats Get Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is caused by any one of following problems:

  • A physical problem with the digestive system itself (e.g. short bowel syndrome)
  • Metabolic problems (e.g. hyperthyroidism)
  • Infections
  • Food allergy
  • Food intolerance  

These problems affect the digestion of food and how much water is in the feces.

They affect the following areas of digestion:

  • Transit time (i.e. how fast food moves through digestion)
  • Water absorption 
  • Gut bacteria (affects transit time) 

Since there is a wide range of possible causes, a physical workup from a vet helps to diagnose the problem.  

A serious bout of diarrhea which includes weight loss, loss of appetite, vomiting needs fluid therapy and further diagnostic tests (e.g. ultrasound). 

In other words, if your cat is experiencing these symptoms don’t delay in seeking medical help. If diarrhea lasts more than two days, call a vet.   

A vet inspecting a cat.

When Should I Call A Vet If My cat Has Diarrhea?

If diarrhea lasts more than two days, call a vet.

According to VCA Hospitals, cats displaying more symptoms (e.g. vomiting, loss of appetite) need immediate medical attention.

How Do Vets Treat Diarrhea In Cats?

A vet will go through a variety of diagnostic tests to find out the cause of the problem, before providing a treatment plan.

This includes the following:

  • Physical workup
  • Ultrasound
  • Bloodwork

The treatment can involve dietary suggestions and/or medication.

If diarrhea lasts more than two days, call a vet.

Do Older Cats Have Diarrhea More Often?

Older cats are less likely to experience diarrhea. Senior cats are more likely to experience constipation. 

They do experience severe diarrhea more often than young cats, although the overall prevalence is low.

Learn more: Best Cat Food for Constipation

A senior cat.

How Should I Introduce New Food For Cats With Diarrhea?

Introduce the new food immediately. Your cat needs to go straight onto the new food to get started. This helps to rehydrate and recover electrolytes. 

Usually, your cat would need time to adjust to a new food by adding small amounts. However, for diarrhea you don’t have much choice.

You can help your cat to eat more food and accept new foods using the following strategies:

  • Warming up food before serving
  • Using a shallow bowl

Remember that older cats may need more time to adjust to new foods. Aging results in a loss of olfactory receptors which reduces the sense of smell. Some types of bowls may help make eating easier.

Learn more: Best Cat Food Bowls

A cat near their food bowl.

Does dry cat food help with diarrhea?

No. Dry food increases the risk of diarrhea due to more hard-to-digest ingredients.

Most dry kibble foods are high in grains, and legumes. These foods tend to result in digestive issues in high amounts in cats.

Cat’s have fewer digestive enzymes for digesting carbohydrates. Dry food that is too high in carbohydrate can result in diarrhea.

Cat’s have no need for carbohydrate based foods as they are obligate carnivores. Wet canned food high in animal meat, organs, and grinded bones is the best choice for health.

A cat with dry kibble.

What Is a Food Elimination Diet For Cats?

This is a diet that may help identify food allergies and intolerances to help with diarrhea.

In one study, 128 cats presented to a clinic with diarrhea, vomiting, and skin conditions. Researchers examined the cause of the problems.

If fleas weren’t diagnosed, the cats started an elimination diet challenge which involved the following steps:

  1. Cats ate a commercial canned diet with venison and rice or chicken and rice (the latter is chicken not in the diet for 6 months).
  2. Cats trialed the elimination diet for four weeks
  3. Cats transitioned to their original diet if symptoms resolved
  4. If the cat’s symptoms came back on the original diet, the cats went on an elimination diet again for 2-4 weeks
  5. If the diet resolved symptoms the cat’s symptoms again, the cat has a food intolerance
  6. If the cat didn’t improve on their original diet the cat got an oral challenge test to identify the single cause/s of the problem

17% of cats (about 10% with digestive symptoms) had a diagnosis of food sensitivity after this study.

The majority of food sensitivities occurred with:

  • Dry food (24%)
  • Beef protein (20%).

Most of the protein sources leading to food sensitivity were ‘common’ sources. The elimination diet used venison which is a novel protein.

Although the study didn’t try other novel proteins (e.g. duck, turkey) the results support the concept of using novel proteins.

A cat sniffing olives.

Does canned pumpkin help cats with diarrhea?

No. Pumpkin is a source of soluble fiber which can increase water in the stool. Vets may suggest using pumpkin to help with constipation, but the food doesn’t help with diarrhea.

Some sources suggest pumpkin for vitamin A. Pumpkin is high in beta-carotene which converts to Vitamin A in humans and dogs.

However, cats aren’t able to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A. In other words, there’s no nutritional benefit for cats eating cooked pumpkin.

Should you withhold food from cats with diarrhea?

No. Wet cat food is a source of water and electrolytes which help replace losses from diarrhea.

I recommend cutting out dry food from the diet and sticking to wet foods. These options are easier to digest and less likely to result in further diarrhea episodes.

This is because wet foods contain fewer carbohydrates, grain, and legume ingredients. Cat’s lack the digestive enzymes for tolerating high carbohydrate diets.

Should I Give My Cat Prescription Cat Food For Diarrhea?

No. Cat’s with diarrhea need a wet canned food with simple animal based ingredients.

Foods high in carbohydrate can lead to diarrhea. This is because cat’s lack digestive enzymes for carbohydrate digestion.

Other ingredients like grains, and legumes are possible causes of food intolerances. It’s best to avoid foods high in these ingredients for best results.

What To Do If My Cat Has Diarrhea?

Here’s a step-by-step guide with actions to take if your cat has diarrhea.

What to do if my cat has diarrhea? Flow chart

Best Cat Food For Cats With Diarrhea: Top Picks

BEST OVERALL

Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast

Easy-to-digest animal based product to help with diarrhea relief. No added grains or legumes for easier digestion. AAFCO approved for all life stages.

Key Features

  • High protein from grass-fed animal sources
  • Low in carbs (2.3% dry matter basis) for easy digestion
  • Carrageenan and gum free
  • Grain-free
  • Soy-free
  • Pricey

BEST PREMIUM

Ziwi Peak Venison Recipe Cat Food

Novel protein animal sources to give relief from allergy related diarrhea. Gluten free for easy digestion. AAFCO approved for cats of all life stages.

Key Features

  • High protein from grass-fed animal sources
  • Lower in carbs (10.4% dry matter basis) for easier digestion
  • Carrageenan and gum free
  • Grain-free
  • Soy-free
  • Pricey!

BEST MID-RANGE

Instinct Original Grain Free Real Rabbit Recipe Natural Wet Canned Cat Food

95% rabbit to give relief from diarrhea problems. No corn, wheat, or soy by-products for easier digestion. Free of chicken.

Key Features

  • 95% animal food sources (no chicken)
  • Lower in carbs (3.4% dry matter basis) for easier digestion
  • Carrageenan and gum free
  • Gluten-free
  • Soy-free
  • Recent recipe changes. Confusing nutrient info.

BEST BUDGET

Sheba Perfect Portions Grain-Free Roasted Turkey Entree

Grain and legume free affordable cat food for diarrhea relief. No carrageenan. AAFCO approved for all life stages.

Key Features

  • 95% animal food sources (no chicken)
  • Lower in carbs (7.5% dry matter basis) for easier digestion
  • Carrageenan free
  • Grain-free
  • Soy and pea free
  • Inconsistent taste

BEST DRY CAT FOOD

Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein Chicken Formula

A dry food without gluten and grains to give cats relief from diarrhea. No fillers. AAFCO approved for all life stages.

Key Features

  • 67% protein on a dry matter basis
  • Lower in carbs (0.3% dry matter basis) for easier digestion
  • Pea-free
  • Gluten-free
  • Low in oxalates
  • Recent formula changes

Conclusion

In this article, I talked about the best cat food for cats with diarrhea.

Diarrhea is a problem involving watery feces (poo). This can be a serious problem caused by infections (e.g. bacteria), parasites, tumors, or eating substances that are toxic for cats.

Sometimes cats experience frequent diarrhea that may be due to diet. Eating too many carbohydrate based foods, food intolerances, and/or food allergies are possible causes.

Try feeding your cat a wet canned food with limited ingredients for relief from diarrhea. This type of food tends to be easier to digest.

Contact your vet for help if the problem persists.

A cat relaxing.

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