best cat food for digestive issues

13 Best Cat Foods for Sensitive Stomach, Vomiting and Diarrhea 

Cats are known for being picky eaters. It is fairly common for a cat to snub his nose at a perfectly good bowl of cat food for no discernable reason. Finding a product your cat will eat can be a challenge, but it becomes even more challenging when your cat has chronic digestive issues like sensitive stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Most Popular

Taste Of The Wild Rocky Mountain

  • Rich in real animal protein
  • Blend of omega-3

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Overall Best

NomNomNow Cat Food

  • Natural sources of taurine
  • High in protein

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Most Affordable

American Journey Chicken

  • Affordable price
  • Rich in animal protein

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There are a variety of potential causes for digestive issues in cats. In some cases, it may be due to an underlying health problem but, for many cats, it has to do with the ingredients in the food. Cats can develop allergies and sensitivities to food ingredients in the same way that people can, though the symptoms may be a little different. If you suspect that your cat’s digestive issues are linked to his diet, it may be time to start shopping for a new cat food.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common causes of digestive issues in cats to help you determine the cause for your cat’s vomiting and diarrhea. We’ll also talk about how changing your cat’s diet could help relieve symptoms and provide you with a list of 13 products we recommend.

What Causes Digestive Issues in Cats?

When a cat has trouble keeping food down or exhibits symptoms of digestive upset after eating, sensitive stomach is often the issue. The term sensitive stomach doesn’t have a specific definition and it is not an official diagnosis. It is simply a term pet food manufacturers and vets use to suggest that a cat experiences digestive issues, often related to food.

Here are the most common signs of sensitive stomach in cats: 

  • Vomiting or regurgitating food
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in stool color or consistency
  • Increased level of thirst
  • Poor coat condition (dry and dull)
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Recurrent skin problems (itching, rashes, sores)

If you notice these symptoms in your cat, try to think back to when you first noticed them. If the issue has been happening for a while, your cat’s problem could be chronic and is most likely related to his food. If they arose suddenly, it could be an acute issue related to something other than your cat’s diet. Your vet will be able to help you determine the cause of your cat’s digestive issues.

Here are some of the most common causes of digestive issues in cats: 

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Ingestion of a foreign body
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Hairballs (vomiting hair)
  • Ingestion of toxic substances
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Bacterial overgrowth
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Hormonal disorders (like hyperthyroidism or diabetes)
  • Infection (bacterial, fungal, or viral)
  • Pain or stress
  • Food allergies or sensitivities

As you can see, there are many potential causes for digestive symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. In this article, however, we’re going to focus on the causes that involve the gastrointestinal tract, specifically food-related issues.

What to Look for in a Good Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach

If your cat suffers from symptoms of sensitive stomach, you should carefully consider what you’re feeding him. Though vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by underlying health problems, if it is a chronic issue you need to at least consider that your cat’s diet might be the problem. If it is, the best thing you can do is switch to another recipe that will be easier for your cat to digest.

Before you start shopping for a new cat food, you need to know what you’re looking for. Remember, your cat requires a healthy diet that is high in animal protein with moderate fat content and limited carbohydrate content. These three things are the most important to look for when shopping for cat food in general. When shopping for the best cat food for cats with digestive problems, however, there are a few additional things to consider.

Here’s what to look for in the best cat food for sensitive stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea:

  • High-quality source(s) of animal protein (meat, poultry, or fish)
  • A single source of animal protein (ideally)
  • Wholesome, natural ingredients (no by-products or unnamed ingredients)
  • Healthy sources of fat (ideally from animal sources)
  • Limited content of digestible carbohydrates (like whole grains or veggies)
  • Nutritionally complete and balanced (according to AAFCO standards)
  • Beneficial supplements such as prebiotics, probiotics, and digestive enzymes
  • No artificial additives like colors, flavors, and preservatives

By now you should have a much better understanding of your cat’s digestive system and how his diet plays a role in determining his overall health and wellness. The next step is putting that knowledge to work in choosing a new cat food. Before we provide you with our list of top picks, take a moment to learn how we make our product recommendations.

How Do We Make Our Recommendations?

No matter what health problems your cat has, you still need to choose a recipe that provides for your cat’s basic nutritional requirements. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they have a biological need for protein in their diets. Dogs, on the other hand, are scavenging carnivores so they can subsist on higher levels of carbohydrate for a time. When reviewing cat food recipes, we heavily favor recipes that start with a premium source of animal protein and those that have limited carbohydrate content. We encourage you to do some research to learn more about your cat’s nutritional needs but, in the meantime, take a look at our recommendations below.

Here are some of the requirements for a cat food to receive our recommendation:

  • A source of high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
  • At least 30% crude protein for kittens and at least 26% for adults
  • A minimum of 9% crude fat for kittens and adults
  • A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, primarily from animal sources
  • A rich blend of nutrients from natural sources and supplements, as needed
  • Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources (like whole grains and veggies)
  • No low-quality fillers, by-products, or artificial additives (preservatives, dyes, or flavors)
All of these recommendations are made based on AAFCO food nutrient profiles which outline the minimum nutritional requirements of cats in different life stages. To determine whether a cat food product meets these requirements, simply look for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. It should look something like this: [X Product] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages. Once you’ve determined that the formula you’re looking at is complete and balanced, you can go on to evaluating its quality.

13 Best Cat Foods for Sensitive Stomach, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s nutritional needs and how choosing the right diet can help with digestive issues, you’re ready to start shopping. Here are our top picks for the best cat foods for sensitive stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea:

NomNomNow Fresh Cat Food Delivery

best cat food for sensitive stomachs

Overall Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your cat has a sensitive stomach, the quality of his food matters greatly. High-quality, natural ingredients are easier to digest and rich in nutrition than by-products and fillers. If you want to give your cat the best of the best, consider NomNomNow Fresh Cat Food. This is a delivery service that sends pre-portioned packages of fresh cat food to your door on your schedule. Simply provide some basic information about your cat, choose from the two recipes available, and wait for your shipment to arrive. These recipes are produced in small batches to ensure quality and are customized according to your cat’s calorie needs. It costs more than traditional cat food, but the benefits are well worth it.

  • Pros: Fresh cat food delivered to your door, prepared in small batches, high-quality animal proteins, digestible natural ingredients, customized to your cat’s nutritional needs, pre-portioned packages
  • Cons: Significantly more expensive than traditional food, only two recipes to choose from

Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Most Popular Cat Food for Digestive Issues: Because there are so many different brands of cat food out there, it can be hard to choose just one. If you’re not particularly worried about food allergies but you want a highly digestible recipe to feed your cat and his sensitive stomach, consider this Taste of the Wild Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. It features an assortment of premium animal proteins as well as grain-free carbohydrates. The recipe starts with real trout as the first ingredient and contains numerous supplemental proteins like ocean fish meal and smoked salmon. Sweet potatoes and potatoes are the primary sources of carbohydrates, both digestible sources loaded with antioxidants and essential nutrients. This recipe also contains fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for vitamins and minerals, supplemented as needed for complete and balanced nutrition. You’ll also find plenty of sources of supplemental fiber as well as digestive enzymes and probiotics for healthy digestion. Overall, this recipe provides 32% protein and 16% fat with 3% dietary fiber at 350 calories per cup.

  • Pros: High-quality sources of animal protein, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, rich in antioxidants, fresh fruits and vegetables, supplemented with digestive enzymes and probiotics
  • Cons: Not a single-source protein recipe, contains some plant protein (pea and potato protein)

American Journey Minced Turkey Recipe in Gravy

Most Affordable Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: Good cat food isn’t cheap and cheap cat food isn’t good. While there are certain exceptions to the rule, price is typically equated with quality in the pet food industry. If you’re looking for an affordable cat food that won’t require you to compromise on quality, consider this American Journey Minced Turkey Recipe in Gravy. It features real turkey as the main ingredient and doesn’t contain common allergens that might upset your cat’s stomach like chicken or grains. It is loaded with natural poultry flavor from turkey, turkey broth, and turkey liver, plus it contains dried egg white as a supplemental source of protein. Measured as dry matter basis, this recipe contains 50% protein and 22% fat.

  • Pros: Affordable price, rich in animal protein, blend of omega fatty acids, supplemented with chelated minerals, fresh fruits and vegetables, naturally grain-free, highly digestible
  • Cons: Main source of fat is plant-based (sunflower oil)

Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Rabbit

Best Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach, Diarrhea, and Vomiting: If your cat has a sensitive stomach and you prefer to feed him dry food, we recommend this Instinct by Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Recipe with Real Rabbit. Not only does it contain a limited list of ingredients, but it includes a single source of premium animal protein – rabbit. The first ingredient is rabbit meal, a concentrated form of pasture-raised rabbit that is high in digestible animal protein. This recipe also contains grain-free carbohydrates like peas and tapioca with coconut oil and canola oil to provide a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Overall, this recipe provides 35% protein and 19% fat with 3.5% fiber and 457 calories per cup.

  • Pros: Limited number of ingredients, novel source of protein, rich in high-quality animal protein, naturally grain-free, highly digestible, chelated mineral supplements
  • Cons: Contains a plant protein as a main ingredient (pea protein), fairly expensive

Ziwi Peak New Zealand Lamb Recipe Canned Food

Best Wet Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach, Diarrhea, and Vomiting: Many cats with digestive issues tolerate wet food better than dry food. Not only is it higher in moisture which helps with digestion, but it is also higher in protein and contains a more limited list of main ingredients. One of our top picks for the best wet cat food for sensitive stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting is Ziwi Peak New Zealand Lamb Recipe Canned Food. This formula features 100% single-sourced New Zealand lamb as the main ingredient and primary protein. It also contains lamb lung, lamb kidney, lamb liver, lamb tripe, and lamb heart. It is safe to say that this formula is packed with real lamb flavor. It also contains chickpeas for digestible carbohydrates as well as vitamins and chelated mineral supplements. Measured as dry matter, this recipe contains 43% crude protein and 27% fat at 113 calories per 3-oz can.

  • Pros: Contains 92% meat and organs, real lamb as the first ingredient, rich in real meat flavor, naturally grain-free, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated mineral supplements
  • Cons: Fairly expensive compared to average wet food

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Chicken Recipe

Best Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Cat Food: If your cat has a sensitivity to grains, you may want to consider a grain-free recipe like this Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Real Chicken Recipe dry food. This formula features real chicken as the main ingredient with chicken meal as a concentrated source of premium animal protein. This recipe contains a limited number of ingredients including digestible grain-free carbohydrates and healthy sources of fat including chicken fat and ground flaxseed. It also contains vitamin supplements and chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption with probiotics for healthy digestion. Because it contains a limited list of ingredients, it has a lower risk of triggering food allergies or upsetting your cat’s sensitive stomach. Overall, it contains 34% protein and 14% fat with 4% fiber at 395 calories per cup.

  • Pros: Limited list of ingredients, single source of animal protein, naturally grain-free, highly digestible with probiotics, chelated mineral supplements, complete and balanced nutrition
  • Cons: May be too high in fiber for some cats, somewhat more expensive than average

7 More Picks for the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

If the recipes above don’t seem like the right fit for your cat, don’t worry! There are plenty of other options. Choosing a new diet is one of the best forms of cat vomiting treatment, assuming that your cat’s issues are caused by something in his food. If not, you may want to talk to your veterinarian about additional treatment options or do some research to find home remedies for cat vomiting.

In the meantime, here are 7 more picks for the best cat food for cats with digestive issues: 

Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed for Food Intolerance Dry Food

If your cat suffers from severe digestive issues and sensitive stomach, you may need to consider a veterinary diet. This Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet HF Hydrolyzed Food Intolerance Dry Food is formulated specifically for cats with food intolerance. It is made with highly digestible protein that your cat will be able to tolerate along with a variety of other natural ingredients. It also contains high levels of antioxidants for immune support, a rich blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat, and plenty of fiber to ensure healthy and regular digestion. Overall, this recipe provides 30% crude protein with 14% crude fat, 4% fiber, and 9% moisture.

Halo Rabbit & Garden Greens Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Canned Food

For some cats, canned food is easier to digest then dry food. If you’re looking for another great option in wet food for your cat’s sensitive stomach, consider this Halo Rabbit & Garden Greens Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Canned Food. It features pasture-raised rabbit as a single source of novel animal protein and the very first ingredient. This recipe also contains wholesome, non-GMO garden greens to provide a highly digestible source of carbohydrate energy and essential nutrients. You’ll find that this formula is complete and balanced, fortified with vitamin and chelated mineral supplements to ensure healthy nutrition. You’ll also be glad to know that it contains a fairly limited list of ingredients which further reduces the risk for triggering a negative reaction.

FirstMate Grain-Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal with Blueberries Formula Limited Ingredient Diet

For cats who suffer from food allergies or sensitive stomach, a limited ingredient diet is recommended. This FirstMate Grain-Free Pacific Ocean Fish Meal with Blueberries Formula Limited Ingredient Diet is a great choice because it features 95% protein from Pacific Ocean fish meal and just 5% protein from fruits and vegetables. Not only does that make this recipe highly digestible, but it offers excellent bioavailability as well. This formula contains a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk for triggering a negative reaction and it contains fresh blueberries as a natural source of immune-boosting antioxidants. Overall, this recipe provides 42% protein and 18% fat with 3% fiber and 574 calories per cup. Because it is so high in calories, you need to pay close attention to the feeding recommendations on the bag to avoid overfeeding your cat and causing him to gain an unhealthy amount of weight.

Blue Buffalo Basics LID Grain-Free Indoor Duck & Potato Canned Food

If your cat prefers wet food but you’re worried about triggering a negative reaction, consider this Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Indoor Duck & Potato Canned Food. Not only is it a limited ingredient diet, but it is formulated to meet the unique needs of indoor cats. This recipe features real duck as the first ingredient as well as a rich blend of fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of key nutrients, not to mention plenty of antioxidants. This formula provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support your cat’s skin and coat health, plus it is supplemented with pumpkin for healthy digestion and cranberries for urinary tract health. Overall, this formula provides 7.5% protein and 6% fat which translates to a dry matter calculation of 34% protein and 27% fat.

I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Food

A limited ingredient diet is a great choice for cats with food sensitivities because the fewer ingredients in the food, the fewer things your cat could potentially react to. This I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Salmon & Sweet Potato Formula Dry Food is an excellent option because not only does it contain a relatively short list of ingredients, but it features a novel source of protein and carbohydrate. Fresh salmon is the first ingredient, followed by menhaden fish meal as a concentrated source of supplemental protein. The recipe also contains salmon meal with ground peas, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas as digestible sources of carbohydrate. Overall, this recipe provides a full 36% crude protein with 16% fat and 5.5% fiber at just 362 calories per cup.

Holistic Select Chicken Pate Recipe Grain-Free Canned Food

Another great option in canned food for cats with digestive issues is this Holistic Select Chicken Pate Recipe Grain-Free Canned Food. It is a holistic, natural recipe featuring high-quality ingredients like fresh chicken, fresh turkey, and ground flaxseed. It also contains apple, cranberry, pumpkin, and blueberry powders to provide natural sources for key nutrients, not to mention plenty of antioxidants. This recipe contains beneficial supplements like essential vitamins and chelated minerals, plus it has plenty of crude fiber to support healthy and regular digestion. Overall, this recipe provides a dry matter calculation of 45% protein and nearly 23% fat at 201 calories per 5.5-ounce can.

Canidae Grain-Free PURE Sea with Salmon Limited Ingredient Recipe Dry Food

When it comes to limited ingredient diets, it is hard to do better than this Canidae Grain-Free PURE Sea with Salmon LID Dry Food. It features just 7 main ingredients: salmon, salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, potatoes, peas, canola oil, and sweet potatoes. In addition to these ingredients, the recipe is fortified with essential vitamins and chelated mineral supplements as well as probiotics to support your cat’s healthy and regular digestion. Each of the primary ingredients come from natural, whole foods to ensure high nutritional value and optimal nutrient absorption. Overall, this recipe provides 32% protein and 17% fat with 3% fiber at 480 calories per cup.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why is my cat throwing up undigested food? – Many cats vomit undigested food once in a while and there can be a variety of reasons for it. In many cases, it is an issue with the cat eating too much too fast. When this happens, it triggers a stretch reflex in the stomach and the cat typically vomits the undigested food in a tubular shape immediately after eating. Other causes for cats throwing up undigested food include the cat eating something other than food, food allergies, constipation, or other concurrent health conditions.
  2. Does my cat have a food intolerance? – In the same way that people can have sensitivities to certain foods, so can cats. There is also something called a food intolerance which is less severe than an allergy in some cases, but can still cause digestive issues like upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. The primary difference is that a food allergy induces an immune system response while a food intolerance covers a wider array of adverse reactions to certain foods. If you want to determine whether your cat has a food intolerance, it is a good idea to try a food trial. This involves switching your cat to a limited ingredient diet containing a novel source of protein and carbohydrate for a period of at least 12 weeks. After all signs of digestive issues have gone away, you can then introduce foods one at a time to see if your cat has a reaction. If he does, you’ve identified at least one food he is sensitive to and can avoid it in the future.
  3. Is wet or dry cat food easier to digest? – If your cat suffers from sensitive stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea you might start to question how easy his cat food is to digest. Cats often develop sensitivities to carbohydrate ingredients like grains, though they can also be sensitive to food additives like artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. If you want to resolve your cat’s digestive issues, switching to a different, more digestible recipe is a good option. But is wet food or dry food easier for your cat to digest? There is no simple answer because it depends on the specific recipe. Generally speaking, however, wet food is higher in moisture content and lower in carbohydrate content which may be a good thing for your cat. If you’re not sure which type of food will be best for your cat, talk to your veterinarian.
  4. Should I feed my cat again after vomiting? – The answer to this question depends on several factors. If your cat vomits because he just ate too quickly, you might try giving your cat a small amount of food and then wait another 30 minutes to feed him a little more. If your cat’s vomiting is due to hairballs or some kind of health problem, withholding food until the vomiting resolves may be the better strategy. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian.
  5. What do you feed a cat with food allergies? – Feeding a cat with food allergies can be tricky unless you know what ingredient he is allergic to. If you’re not sure, you’ll need to do a 12-week food trial using a limited ingredient diet that features a novel source of protein and carbohydrate (something your cat hasn’t eaten before). The symptoms of your cat’s food allergy should resolve over time and then you can introduce potential allergens one at a time to see which ones trigger your cat’s reaction. From there, you can keep feeding your cat the limited ingredient diet or switch to a food that doesn’t contain the ingredients your cat is allergic to.

Take what you’ve learned about the best cat food for sensitive stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea to start shopping on your own, or simply choose one of our top picks reviewed above. We wish you and your cat all the health and happiness in the world!

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