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Top 5 Best Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

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What is the best dry cat food for sensitive stomachs?

Cats are carnivores and have a hard time digesting some foods. Poor digestion leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and food rejection.

Many dry foods contain grains or plant-based ingredients to save costs, at the expense of your cat’s digestive health.

In this article, I’ll help you find the best dry cat foods for sensitive stomachs to give your cat relief.

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 it.

Buying Guide: Best Dry Cat Food For Sensitive Stomachs

What should you buy to help your cat stop vomiting and having diarrhea?

Many commercial food choices aren’t the best for your cat’s digestive health. They contain a lot of carbohydrate ingredients from grains.

In this buying guide, I’ll help you with tips to find something to help your cat and avoid an unpleasant litter box mess.

A cat resting.

What Ingredients Should I Look For?

Protein

Cats prefer a high protein diet high in animal foods. This can help resolve digestive issues unless your cat has a food allergy.

Causes of food allergies include common proteins such as:

  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Beef

Allergies involve skin irritation as well as digestive symptoms. If you suspect a food allergy, contact a vet for help with food choices.

Otherwise, a diet high in animal-based foods is the best way to help your cat have easier digestion.

Bottom Line: Give your cat a dry cat food high in animal protein for optimal digestion.

A cat looking at dry kibble.

Carbohydrate

Dry cat food is higher in carbohydrate-based foods.

Some cats may be sensitive to grain-based ingredients including:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat gluten flour
  • Barley

Feeding cats wet canned food increases the chance of remission from diarrhea. This points to ingredients in dry food being negative to a cat’s digestive health.

Cats have fewer enzymes in their body for digesting carbohydrates. Although they can digest small amounts, a very high carbohydrate dry food can result in diarrhea.

When given the choice, cats prefer a food lower in carbohydrate (around 10% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis).

All this points to choosing a dry cat food lower in carbohydrates to help with sensitive stomachs.

Bottom Line: Choose a dry cat food low in carbohydrates (~10% dry matter basis) for better digestion.

A cat looking at a dry kibble food package.

Dairy

Cats can only tolerate a small amount of milk and too much can cause diarrhea.

Too much milk (over 85ml) leads to diarrhea due to a lack of lactase. 

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

Fortunately, dry cat food doesn’t tend to contain any dairy ingredients.

Learn more: Is Milk Bad for Cats? The Truth

Bottom Line: Too much milk may lead to diarrhea.

A cat drinking milk. Cats are lactose intolerant.

Moisture

A high moisture food helps hydrate a cat or kitten after diarrhea.

Most dry cat food is low in moisture (10%), unlike wet cat food which contains 75-85%. A healthy cat needs at least 30mls of water per pound of body weight.

There aren’t any dry cat food choices higher in moisture, unfortunately.

What you can do is add water to dry food to increase your cat’s water intake.

Bottom Line: Most dry cat food is low in moisture, compared to wet canned foods. Adding water to dry food helps increase your cat’s hydration.

A cat sipping water.

Fiber

A small amount of fiber may help stop vomiting.

Fiber including cellulose, beetroot pulp, and sugarcane fiber may help bind fur in the intestine and help pass it for digestion.

Look for cat food with a small amount of added fiber sources to help with digestion.

Bottom Line: A small amount of fiber may help stop vomiting from hairballs.

A cat eating dry kibble.

What Ingredients Should You Avoid?

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.  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).

Bottom Line: A range of ingredients cause food intolerances that include gluten and lactoseLook for fewer ingredients on the bag.

A cat at a food bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Signs of a Sensitive Stomach?

Signs of a sensitive stomach:

  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving
  • Hairballs
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing

Learn more: 4 Ways To Stop a Cat Dry Heaving

Bottom Line: The signs of a sensitive stomach include vomiting, dry heaving, hairballs, and diarrhea.

A cat looking in discomfort.

What Causes a Sensitive Stomach?

Hairballs

Too much hair in the digestive system causes hairballs.

A cat’s tongue contains papillae which extract dirt from fur. Your cat also ingests fur in the process.

Most of the fur passes through the digestive system without harm. Sometimes get hairballs once a month.

This results in your cat retching to remove the fur.

Learn more: Best Cat Food for Hairballs

Bottom Line: Cats may get the occasional hairball from grooming.

A cat grooming.
Excess grooming can occasionally lead to a hairball

Nausea

Cat’s get sick if they consume spoiled food.

Wet food or leftover scraps are prone to accumulating bacteria.  Leaving out wet food for too long will cause it to spoil

Cats are also intolerant to a wide range of foods.

Learn more: 17 Deadly Foods That Are Poisonous To Cats

Bottom Line: Spoiled foods cause sickness in cats.

A cat with nausea.

Parasites

Fleas may give your cat intestinal parasites.

Signs of infection include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Increased grooming
  • Pale gums
  • Distended abdomen
  • Vomiting

Learn more: How to Get Rid of Cat Fleas QUICKLY

Bottom Line: Fleas are a source of parasites in cats. Signs include coughing, diarrhea, and increased grooming.

A cat scratching.

Stress

Stress may cause digestive issues in cats.

Giving a cat a routine that includes time for play reduces the risk of feline interstitial cystitis. This illness can lead to an increase in vomiting episodes.

Learn more: Best Cat Cave Choices For Comfort

Bottom Line: Stress may cause digestive issues. Cats need a chance to play, hide, and climb.

A stressed cat.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. stomach, throat, colon).

Symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry heaving (with or without vomit)
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy

Contact your vet if you note abnormal changes in your cat’s health.

Bottom Line: Gastroenteritis is an inflammatory condition that needs vet assistance.

A cat with nausea.

When Should I Call a Vet?

If you notice the following:

  • Blood in vomit
  • Blood in stool
  • Vomiting more than once a month
  • Diarrhea lasting more than 2 days

The pattern of vomiting is a sign of different things. 

Problems with motility may cause your cat to vomit up to 8 hours post-meal. Digestive system damage leads to blood in the stool or vomit.

Keep a record of your cats history to help your vet with diagnosis.

Bottom Line: Call a vet if you note abnormal behavior.

A cat being examined by a vet.

What Dry Cat Food is Best for Cats with Sensitive Stomachs?

Look for limited ingredients dry foods high in animal protein.

Some cats may be sensitive to grain-based ingredients including:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat gluten flour
  • Barley

Feeding cats wet canned food increases the chance of remission from diarrhea. This points to ingredients in dry food being negative to a cat’s digestive health.

Bottom Line: The best dry cat foods for sensitive stomachs are grain-free and high in animal protein.

Best dry cat food for sensitive stomach cats.

Why is my cat throwing up her dry food?

Cat’s have a smaller stomach size, which is about the size of a ping pong ball. Eating too much at once can result in vomiting.

Food intolerance is also a cause of vomiting in cats. Vomiting with pruritis (itchy skin) is a sign of a food intolerance.

Many grain-based ingredients may be culprits including:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat gluten flour
  • Barley

A dry food with lower amounts of these ingredients may help your cat find relief from vomiting.
Pruritis with diarrhea and/or vomiting is a strong sign of food intolerance.

In the wild, cat’s eat small frequent meals. Try feeding your cat smaller serves of food to help with digestion.

Learn more: How Often Should I Feed my Cat?

Bottom Line: A cat may vomit due to food intolerance or eating too much at once.

Best Dry Cat Food For sensitive Stomachs: Top Picks

BEST OVERALL

Dr. Elsey’s Chicken Formula Grain-Free

The best dry cat food brand for affordability, quality, and customer satisfaction. Ultra low in carbs and grain free for easy digestion. 95% animal protein.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for all life stages
  • 67% protein*
  • 0% carbs
  • Gluten-free
  • Legume-free
  • Low in oxalates for kidney health

*on a dry matter basis

BEST PREMIUM

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Lamb Cat Food

The best quality dry cat food brand overall. Air-dried whole animal food sources for optimal nutrition. Low carb and filler free to help give relief from sensitive stomachs.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for all life stages
  • 40.7% protein
  • 4.7% carbs
  • Gluten-free
  • Legume-free
  • Suitable for allergies

BEST AFFORDABLE

Nulo Freestyle Duck & Lentils

The most affordable dry cat food without grain and soy for easier digestion. High calcium to phosphate ratio for kidney health. Higher in animal protein than most budget choices. Easy to chew round shape.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for all life stages
  • 44.4% protein
  • 21.7% carbs
  • Grain-free
  • Soy-free
  • Easy to chew round disc shape

BEST FOR PICKY CATS

Orijen Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Grain and soy free for easier digestion. High in a range animal protein foods with a strong meaty cat-friendly smell for fussy eaters. A customer favorite.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for all life stages
  • 44.4% protein
  • 18.9% carbs
  • Grain-free
  • Soy-free
  • Made in the USA

BEST FOR KITTENS

Acana First Feast High Protein Kitten

Affordable grain-free choice for growing kittens with 70% whole animal ingredients. Designed to meet the needs of growing kittens. Omega 3 for cognitive development. Small and easy to bite kibble.

Key Features

  • AAFCO approved for all life stages
  • 40.0% protein
  • 22.2% carbs
  • Grain-free
  • Soy-free
  • Smaller size kibble for kittens

Conclusion

In this article, I have looked at the best dry cat food for sensitive stomach cats.

Cats are carnivores and have a hard time digesting some foods.

Poor digestion leads to vomiting, diarrhea, and food rejection. Other causes of digestive issues include stress, parasites, hairballs, and gastroenteritis.

Many dry cat foods contain a lot of grains and carbohydrate-based foods.

These foods may result in a sensitive stomach due to food intolerance. Giving your cat a grain-free dry cat food high in animal protein improves digestive health.

A cat reaching up.

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