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Best Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach Cats in 2021

Cat’s have a hard time digesting some foods. The best dry cat food for sensitive stomach cats helps to improve digestion.

As obligate carnivores, many plant-based ingredients are hard on the stomach and lead to frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Dry food contains a lot of cheap ingredients that adult cats may have trouble with. In this article, I will review the best dry food you can give to a cat with a sensitive stomach to solve this problem.

Cat’s are carnivores and thrive off animal-based products. Dry food contains a range of ingredients that include animal-based foods (good) and plant-based foods (not good). Dry cat food has the advantage of convenience over wet cat food.

In this article I have set out to find a dry cat food product that has convenience, whilst also has the nutritional quality needed for cats with a sensitive stomach.

My name is Derrick and I am a writer for Simply Cat Care. This website provides easy-to-read helpful guides for your cat. Extensive analysis of essential dry food criteria guided the selection process in this article. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet before making a purchase.

To choose dry cat food, I used the following criteria.

  • Avoids allergenic proteins:  Turkey, lamb, rabbit, and duck products are less likely to cause an allergenic reaction.  Chicken, beef, and fish may lead to allergic reactions.  Speak with your vet for help.
  • Grain-free:  Avoid wheat and other grain-based products in dry cat food.  Easier to digest carbohydrate sources such as rice and potato are minimal.
  • Soy-free:  Cat’s are not able to digest legumes.
  • No/minimal fillers:  Fillers such as gums (e.g. carrageenan, xanthan gum) may lead to sensitive stomachs
  • No/minimal vegetables:  Cats are obligate carnivores and don’t require vegetables in the diet.  Some vegetables (e.g. onions, garlic) may lead to food intolerance.  

Our Top Pick for Best Dry Cat Food for a Sensitive Stomach

I chose the ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food – All Natural, High Protein formula. This product fits most of the criteria perfectly as a limited ingredient animal-based cat food.

The ZIKI Peak cat food does not contain any carbohydrates from grains, potatoes, corn, or peas. In addition, it is high in protein and comes in four single protein ingredient choices (lamb, beef, chicken, venison) and a two-ingredient option (mackerel and lamb).

There is a limited range of products to choose from but this is one that stood out above the rest.

Unfortunately, I have not included any budget options as none met the criteria. I have also included two freeze-dried choices which have some of the convenience of dry food options.

Read on to get a more in-depth review of each product selected as well as a product buying guide.

The Best Dry Cat Food for a Sensitive Stomach: Top Selections

Best Overall Dry Sensitive Stomach Cat Food

ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food – All Natural, High Protein

PRODUCT DETAILS

Flavor: Lamb

Other flavors: Beef, Chicken, Mackerel & Lamb, Venison

Product weight: 2.2 lbs

Manufacturer: ZIWI

INGREDIENTS

Lamb, Lamb Heart, Lamb Tripe, Lamb Liver, Lamb Kidney, Lamb Lung, New Zealand Green Mussel, Lamb Bone, Lecithin, Inulin from Chicory, Dried Kelp, Minerals (Dipotassium Phosphate, Magnesium Sulfate, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Preservative (Citric Acid, Mixed Tocopherols), Vitamins (Choline Chloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), DL-Methionine, Taurine.

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS
  • Crude Protein (min) 35%
  • Crude Fat (min) 33%
  • Crude Fiber (max) 2%
  • Moisture (max) 14%
  • Ash (max) 12%
  • CALORIE CONTENT: 5600 kcal ME/kg | 318 kcal ME/level scoop
PROS
  • 100% grain-free with no added potato, corn, or peas to promote digestion
  • 96% free-range lamb produce with added green mussels to provide essential nutrients to keep your cat healthy
  • Appropriate for all life stages
  • Limited animal food source product to minimize allergies
CONS
  • Expensive, however, may reduce cat food needs due to higher nutritional quality
  • Strong smell
VERDICT

It is difficult to come across the perfect dry cat food for a sensitive stomach. Ziwi peak air-dried high protein understands this problem and has come up with a compelling product.

Unlike many dry foods, Ziwi peak is grain-free but also does not use cheap fillers like corn or peas. Many cat foods promoted as grain-free still opt for cheap fillers, trying to sneakily get one past unsuspecting buyers. Ziwi says no and sticks with an authentic 96% animal-based food. Cheap carbohydrate products are tough for a cat to digest and like humans, can become addicted (to their detriment).

Importantly, the choices of products are appropriate for a limited ingredient diet and food allergies. Some cats may have issues with single animal sources such as chicken for example. By being able to buy a product limited to one meat (supplemented with green mussels), you can clearly identify the troubling ingredient.

There are 5 meat sources to try, which gives you a lot of choices to find the best cat protein source food for your individual cat. You have the option of buying small 14 ounce packs to try a variety of flavors out with your cat to see which limited ingredient option is highly digestible for your cat. I have recommended the lamb to try first as this may be the most tolerable protein source for cats with digestive troubles.

The bags themselves are on the pricier side of the cat food section. Understandably this is due to the high-quality nutrition used and the omission of cheap fillers such as wheat. The benefit is you’ll use less food to feed your cat (more bang for your buck), however, it is still an expenditure to consider. A lot of owners don’t put a price on the health of their precious pet, however, some may be in a tight financial situation. In that case, there might be other options on the table (e.g. offcuts of meats at the butcher).

Owners and cats alike may not be used to the smell of pure animal-based food. Cat’s need time to adjust to any dietary change regardless of the quality. Some cats may initially reject the first offerings and lead owners to conclude that natural healthy food isn’t what their cat wants. Similar to humans who are addicted to junk food, it takes time to adjust to balanced nutrition and healthy choices.

There is going to be some trial and error in this process which requires a hands-on approach to feeding and testing. If you’re more a set and forget type, then this might not be the brand for you. One thing owners have tried is microwaving their dry Ziwi food briefly (10-20 seconds) and adding a little moisture to increase palatability.

Overall, if you’re looking for natural dry cat food with a limited ingredient protein source then the ZIWI range of products is a great option to try.

Best Budget Dry Sensitive Stomach Cat Food

Could not find a suitable product

VERDICT

To say I’ve had a hard time trying to find great dry cat food products is an understatement. It is really hard to find a budget option sadly.

In the world of kibble, you get what you pay for.

More spend = more quality animal-based foods.

Many cat owners simply want to buy something they can put in the bowl that the cat eats and call it a day. Determined owners who note their cat’s digestive troubles may not share that sentiment.

I’d get excited about finding a new product with robust claims of being free of grains, but then my heart would sink when I saw all the peas and corn in the mix.

At this point, the bottom line is I have given up trying to find a budget dry sensitive stomach cat food. If you’re going to use dry cat food to treat a sensitive stomach, use something that is fit for your cat – or don’t use one at all.

That’s my final recommendation at this point in time.

Best Freeze-Dried Cat Food for a Sensitive Stomach

Nulo Freeze-Dried

PRODUCT DETAILS

Flavor: Turkey and Duck (Orange)

Other flavors: Chicken and Salmon (Yellow)

Product weight: 8 ounces

Manufacturer: NULO

INGREDIENTS

Turkey, Turkey Necks, Turkey Liver, Duck, Duck Liver, Ground Flaxseed, Spinach, Salmon Oil, Cranberries, Coconut Oil, Inulin, Dried Kelp, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Taurine, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Vitamin E Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Mixed Tocopherols (as preservative), Vitamin D3 Supplement.

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS:
  • Crude Protein (min) 42%
  • Crude Fat (min) 37%
  • Crude Fiber (max) 2%
  • Moisture (max) 5%
  • Ash (max) 12%
  • CALORIE CONTENT: 5214 kcal ME/kg | 235 kcal ME/level scoop
PROS
  • Highly digestive nutrition from turkey and duck (98% content)
  • No grains or carbohydrate-based foods for sensitive stomach cats
  • Highly nutritious organs with vitamins and minerals for healthy skin and coat
CONS
  • Contains ground flaxseed which is a poor source of omega 3 fatty acids for cats (although it does also contain salmon oil which contains some omega 3)
  • Expensive product for a small amount (one bag lasts one week)
  • Quality control issues with some textural changes between bags
  • Less convenient than dry kibble
VERDICT

An alternative to dry kibble is freeze-dried cat food. The benefit of this type of food is they typically contain fewer carbohydrate fillers to maintain the structure of the food. The food can be rehydrated and microwaved briefly before serving.

The NULO recipe for each of its two flavors contains two animal-based ingredients in each bag. There is the turkey and duck, as well as the chicken and salmon recipe. Whilst this isn’t a single ingredient food, it is as close as possible. Turkey and duck were chosen because that has less likelihood of causing stomach complaints.

Like a lot of freeze-dried options, they are expensive. One bag will last a week on average depending on your use. If you are on a budget, then this will test your wallet.

Occasionally, there are texture inconsistencies between products. The freeze-dried chunks can turn into a powder and turn off cats who want something consistent to bite into.

Unlike kibble, you cannot leave fried dried food out for the day. If you are buying dry food for the convenience of leaving it out for your cat over the day to free feed – then this won’t be your best bet.

Overall, the NULO is worth considering if you have the budget for it and want something high quality you can pull out of the freezer to pop into your cat’s bowl for a sensitive stomach.

Best Freeze-Dried Alternative

Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Dinner Morsels for Cats

Guide to Choosing the Best Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

Let’s talk about which dry cat food works best for a sensitive stomach.

What you want to do is stick to a simple formula that contains mostly whole animal foods. Many dry food formulas include cheap fillers such as grains, legumes, and fillers. This can be tough for a cat’s stomach and lead to recurring vomiting and diarrhea.

Before selecting a food for your cat, check with your vet to rule out a serious health issue.

How do I know if my cat has a sensitive stomach?

If your cat vomits then it may have a sensitive stomach.  Dry heaving occasionally and ejecting a small hairball is normal.  See my article over here for more information about dry heaving.

However, if your cat is vomiting especially after eating, then your cat’s digestive system may have some issues.

Why does my cat have a sensitive stomach?

Cats can dry heave and/or vomit regularly due to a lot of reasons.

In my article on dry heaving, I went through a few possibilities.  I’ll touch on those here.

Hairballs

Cats groom themselves to maintain cleanliness.

Their tongue contains a rough sandpaper texture called papillae extracts dirt from the fur.  However, this can also lead to ingesting fur.

A lot of the fur a cat ingests will pass through the digestive system.  Excessive fur can lodge in the esophagus and stomach, causing the cat to retch.  This will usually eliminate the hair.

Excess grooming can occasionally lead to a hairball

Nausea

If a cat consumes spoiled food, it can get sick (like a human).

Wet food or leftover scraps are prone to accumulating bacteria.  If you have left out wet food for too long, it has the potential to spoil. 

Cats are also intolerant to a wide range of foods.  Check out my helpful guide on foods that are dangerous for cats over here.

Parasites

Fleas are a source of many feline parasites.  If your cat scratches itself often and appears to retch, it might be a sign of parasites.

There are many symptoms of a parasitic infection, including diarrhea, coughing, pale gums, a distended abdomen, and vomiting [4].

Check out my article on tips to control fleas to tackle a flea problem.

Stress

Stress is not good for a person and cats are no different.

If cats are not able to acclimate to their environment they may experience stress-related illness. Research has found that providing a cat a predictable routine that includes time for play can reduce the risk of feline interstitial cystitis [1].  This illness can lead to an increase in vomiting episodes.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (i.e. stomach, throat, colon) [6]. Cats with gastroenteritis have symptoms that include abdominal pain, dry heaving (with or without vomit), diarrhea, coughing, and lethargy [6].

Many things can cause gastroenteritis.  Vets are best equipped to diagnose this condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Some things are not designed for optimal feline digestion.

Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off an animal-based diet.  I discussed this in my helpful guide on cat nutrition over here.

Grains, legumes, fruit, junk food, and other ‘human’ foods are not digestible for a cat. Although these constituents make for cheap cat food, they don’t make for optimal cat nutrition.

There’s no easy answer for this.  Cats need quality nutrition for health.

Provide your cat foods that don’t have any (or very little) ingredients including grains, binders (e.g. guar gum, acacia gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan), potato, vegetables, and/or refined oils. 

If improving your cat’s dietary quality improves their digestion, then it’s a sign their previous feeding was leading to the sensitivity.

A simple elimination diet (i.e. basing your cat’s diet on simple meat products) can help with digestion.

Seek a vet for advice

As I mentioned, check in with a vet to get an idea of the best cat food for sensitive stomachs. A vet is equipped with the knowledge and experience to provide tips for you.

Make sure you keep a record of your cat’s history to report. Present this information to the vet so that they can diagnose the cause of the problem.

The pattern of vomiting is important to consider as this can be a sign of different things.  If your cat is vomiting up to 8 hours post-meal, then it might be a sign of motility problems [3].  Blood can indicate ulceration of the digestive lining [3].

What food is best for cats with sensitive stomachs?

A diet based on animal products may resolve digestive issues.

Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off animal-based products.  Seek out the advice of a vet, but changing your cat’s diet might resolve some issues. Your vet might prescribe a diet elimination trial which can involve identifying individual foods that trigger sensitive stomachs [9].

Protein allergies might be the cause of food sensitivities [9]. 

Chicken and fish can sometimes be a problem for your cat’s tummy.  Your vet might suggest a hypoallergenic diet.  This involves foods with limited ingredients and hydrolyzed protein (pre-digested protein) [9].  

Formulated cat foods are available to help cats manage hairballs.

Feeding routines are also important.  Try to feed your cat regular meals to avoid having your cat overeat to compensate.  Check out this article here for help with cats feeding schedules.

Dry food is generally higher in grains and other carbohydrate-based foods. Although the labels can sound great, this means more possible ways of interfering with your cat’s digestion.

For this reason, we have to be a little more diligent when selecting good dry food. Most choices aren’t suitable right off the bat due to the added food items that aren’t appropriate for cat nutrition.

What dry cat food is best for cats with sensitive stomachs?

The best dry food has a limited ingredient profile that is high in animal protein.

This means you will pay extra to get a quality product. There is no way around that. However, since the quality of the food is better, you may feed your cat less (i.e. more bang for the buck) due to the better nutrition provided.

In this article, I’ve recommended a select few options that are appropriate.

Best dry cat food for sensitive stomach cats

Checklist for what to look for when choosing a cat food for a sensitive stomach

Here are some criteria to look for when selecting a dry cat food for sensitive stomachs.

  • Avoids allergenic proteins:  Ingredients including and limited to turkey, lamb, rabbit, and duck products are less likely to cause an allergenic reaction.  Chicken, beef, and fish may lead to allergic reactions.  Speak with your vet for help.
  • Grain-free:  Avoid wheat and other grain-based products in dry cat food.  Easier to digest carbohydrate sources such as rice and potato are minimal.
  • Soy-free:  Cat’s are not able to digest legumes.
  • No/minimal fillers:  Fillers such as gums (e.g. carrageenan, xanthan gum) may lead to sensitive stomachs
  • No/minimal vegetables:  Cats are obligate carnivores and don’t require vegetables in the diet.  Some vegetables (e.g. onions, garlic) may lead to food intolerance.  

Consult with your local veterinarian for more assistance in choosing a cat food product for a sensitive stomach.

Conclusion

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

There are a lot of reasons a cat will vomit or have diarrhea. This can be due to environmental or dietary factors. Examples include stress, parasites, hairballs, gastroenteritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

A cat is an obligate carnivore and thrives off high protein meat-based foods. Meat is highly digestible for cats and contains protein, minerals, and vitamins for good health. A limited range of ingredients in the food restricts the possible sources of food intolerances and sensitivities. Some dry food products may improve your cat’s health (e.g. improved skin, weight control, digestion, immune system function).

Many dry foods contain many grain and carbohydrate-based ingredients (e.g. wheat, corn, potato). These may not be the best cat foods for sensitive stomachs on the market. Whilst these choices are cheaper for owners, they may continue to trouble your cat’s digestive system.

When choosing cat food for sensitive stomachs, I recommend consulting with your local veterinarian and pet food store. You can have a conversation about the different options available to you and rule out any other health issues that lead to digestive sensitivity (e.g. parasites).

Our Verdict

I chose the ZIWI Peak Air-Dried Cat Food – All Natural, High Protein formula as the best cat food for sensitive stomachs. This product fits most of the criteria perfectly as a limited ingredient meat-based cat food.

The ZIKI Peak cat food does not contain any carbohydrates from grains, potatoes, corn, or peas. In addition, it is high in protein and comes in four single protein ingredient choices (lamb, beef, chicken, venison) and a two-ingredient option (mackerel and lamb).

There is a limited amount of products to choose from but this is one that stood out above the rest.

After more guides for cats?

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