10 Best Wet & Canned Cat Foods for IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

You never want to see your cat in pain, but pets get sick just like we do. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a painful condition that affects your cat’s digestive system and can prevent him from absorbing nutrients properly.

While the exact cause for IBD remains a mystery, certain dietary factors are thought to play a role. This means that changing your cat’s diet could be a key component in treating the disease.

In this article, we’ll cover the subject of feline inflammatory bowel disease in depth, including what it is and how it is treated. We’ll also discuss dietary options for managing this condition and provide you with our top picks for the best food for cats with IBD.

What Do You Need to Know About IBD in Cats?

Inflammatory bowel disease or IBD is actually the name given to a group of gastrointestinal conditions, and there is no known cause. Though different conditions may be involved, IBD typically results in inflammation of the intestines which can then lead to a variety of symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, gas, and poor coat condition. Any cat can develop this problem, but some breeds seem to be predisposed to it like the Siamese cat breed, and it usually affects middle-aged cats 5 to 12 years old.

While there is no single known cause for IBD in cats, there are several possibilities. One of the major contributing factors for this condition is thought to be hypersensitivity to bacteria or food allergies – there is also the possibility that genetic factors may be involved. In cases where food allergies play a role, the most common culprits are meat proteins, artificial colors, food additives, preservatives, milk proteins, and gluten/wheat.

Here are 6 things you need to know about IBD in cats:

  1. The VCA classifies inflammatory bowel disease as a syndrome rather than a disease, citing that it is caused by a reaction to chronic irritation of the stomach or intestines.
  2. IBD triggers gastrointestinal inflammation which can lead to thickening of the gastrointestinal lining which may make it harder for your cat’s body to absorb nutrients.
  3. Possible causes for IBD in cats include bacterial infections, parasite infections, and allergy or intolerance to specific proteins or food additives in the diet.
  4. Though IBD can affect any part of the GI tract, it most commonly affects the stomach and/or intestines – chronic vomiting is the most common side effect.
  5. Other side effects of IBD include diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, depression, flatulence, abdominal pain, rumbling stomach, bloody stool, and poor coat condition.
  6. Diagnosis of IBD typically starts with a fecal exam, blood tests and imaging of the intestines via x-ray or ultrasound followed by tissue biopsies to identify the specific type of IBD.

Now that you have a better understanding of what inflammatory bowel disease is and how it affects your cat, you may be wondering how to treat it. Keep reading to learn about the options.

Treatment Options for Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Cats

Diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease in cats can be tricky because IBD is a group of conditions rather than a single disease. A fecal exam is the first step in diagnosing IBD, but your cat may require additional testing such as blood tests, imaging, and tissue biopsies. Once the specific condition has been identified, other tests may be taken to determine the underlying cause.

When it comes to treating IBD in cats, the best way is to treat the underlying disease. In cases where that underlying disease can’t be identified, it is known as idiopathic IBD.

Here are some of the options for treating IBD in cats:

  • Deworming Treatment – In cases where IBD is linked to intestinal parasites, a broad-spectrum deworming treatment is recommended. Fecal tests may reveal the presence of parasites but might not identify the specific type, in which case a broad-spectrum treatment may be used.
  • Dietary Changes – Many cats with IBD respond well to a change in diet that removes the ingredient the cat is reacting to. This usually involves switching to a recipe with a novel protein source or to a homemade diet – some cats also respond well to a high-fiber diet. In many cases, the cat must also complete a food trial.
  • B12 Supplementation – Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is an essential vitamin that many cats with IBD have trouble absorbing, so injecting this supplement may be a component of IBD treatment.
  • Anti-inflammatory Medications – In cases where dietary changes are not enough, administering anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary to suppress the cat’s inflammatory reaction for the mitigation of symptoms.
When it comes to inflammatory bowel disease in cats, natural treatment options like dietary changes are often the best long-term treatment. Deworming treatments are effective in cases where parasites are the underlying cause and medications may sometimes help to reduce inflammation. The primary goal of treatment, however, is to resolve the cause of the inflammation which, in many cases, is linked to something in the cat’s diet.

There are several ways to approach a diet for cats with IBD. Keep reading to learn what those options are and to learn what to look for in the best food for cats with IBD.

What to Look for in a Cat Food for IBD

When it comes to dietary changes for the management of IBD in cats, the key is to find a product that is free from the ingredient your cat is reacting to. In most cases, it is a dietary protein like chicken, beef, or fish but some cats react negatively to artificial food additives like colors, flavors, and preservatives or to common grains like wheat. The only surefire way to identify the ingredient to which your cat is reacting is to conduct a food trial for 6 to 12 weeks.

To conduct a food trial, you’ll need to switch your cat to a commercial cat food made with a source of protein new (novel) to the cat. The recipe should also be free from artificial additives and by-products and, ideally, made with a limited number of main ingredients to reduce the potential for a reaction to another ingredient. You’ll need to feed your cat that food for at least 6 to 12 weeks until all signs of the allergy disappear. At that point, you can reintroduce common proteins one at a time until you find the one your cat reacts to and then simply keep it out of your cat’s diet.

In addition to finding a protein your cat isn’t sensitive to, there are other things you should look for in a cat food for IBD. Here are some things to consider when shopping:

  • High-quality natural ingredients. The more natural the ingredients in your cat’s food, the better he will be able to digest it which means that he’ll be absorbing more nutrients. Raw or fresh food is best for IBD, but high-quality dry food, freeze-dried, and dehydrated food is good as well.
  • Single-source animal protein. Limiting your cat’s food to a single source of protein cuts down on the risk for negative reactions and makes the food more digestible – look for a novel protein.
  • Digestible carbohydrates. Your cat’s diet should contain a limited amount of carbohydrates and any included need to be highly digestible. Many cats with IBD have trouble digesting grains, so consider grain-free carbohydrate options like sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, and lentils.
  • Healthy fats. All cats require healthy fats in their diet for energy and to support their skin and coat. Look for a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, ideally from animal sources.
  • Limited number of ingredients. The fewer ingredients in your cat’s food, the lower the risk of triggering a negative reaction. Limited ingredient diets are also great for food trials.
  • Beneficial supplements. Your cat’s diet should include beneficial supplements such as vitamins and chelated minerals to ensure nutritional balance as well as probiotics for healthy digestion.
  • No artificial additives. Artificial colors and preservatives have a high risk of triggering a negative reaction in cats with IBD, so look for an all-natural cat food free from artificial additives.

All cats require moisture in their diet, but higher moisture content is beneficial for cats with digestive issues (especially diarrhea). Many cats with IBD respond well to canned food because it is higher in moisture and it is often lower in carbohydrates as well. Most canned foods contain a low number of main ingredients and offer a higher protein concentration than dry food. Keep reading to learn about the best wet cat food for IBD.

Now that you have a better understanding of your cat’s IBD and how to manage it through diet, you may be wondering where to find the best cat food for IBD. Keep reading to see our top picks for the best wet and canned cat foods for IBD.

The Top 10 Best Wet and Canned Cat Foods for IBD

The best cat food for cats with IBD is made with wholesome, natural ingredients in a protein-rich, limited ingredient diet. Look for a food made with a single source of novel animal protein and a limited number of main ingredients as well as beneficial supplements. Here are our top picks for the best cat foods for IBD:

NomNomNow Fresh Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food Overall for IBD: While raw food is one of the best options for cats with IBD, it is very expensive and inconvenient to store. If you’re looking for a good alternative, we heartily recommend NomNomNow Fresh Food. NomNomNow is a fresh pet food company that sends monthly deliveries of pre-portioned pet food right to your door. They offer two recipes for cats (chicken and fish), both of which are very high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and loaded with healthy nutrients. As fresh food, NomNomNow is also high in moisture which will benefit your cat’s digestive system and it is grain-free. You may pay more to feed your cat fresh food, but his digestive system will thank you and it will be reflected in his health.

  • Pros: Fresh food delivered to your door, high in protein low in carbs, grain-free ingredients, high in moisture, loaded with healthy nutrients, supports healthy digestion
  • Cons: Only two recipes to choose from (some cats may be sensitive), expensive to feed regularly

Tiki Cat Hanalei Luau Wild Salmon in Salmon Consomme Grain-Free Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Affordable Wet Cat Food for IBD: If your cat suffers from IBD, you’ll have to feed him a special diet for the majority of your life, so it’s important to find something you can afford. As a whole, the Tiki Cat brand is very affordable for the level of quality it delivers, and they offer a wide variety of choices when it comes to wet cat food. This Tiki Cat Hanalei Luau Wild Salmon in Salmon Consomme Grain-Free Canned Food is a great option because it features fresh salmon as a single source of premium animal protein with no carbohydrate ingredients. This formula contains salmon broth for moisture and flavor with sunflower seed oil as a supplemental source of omega-6 fatty acids to balance out the omega-3s. It contains chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption with vitamins for nutritional balance. Plus, it is loaded with natural salmon flavor that your cat won’t be able to get enough of.

  • Pros: Affordable for the quality, single source animal protein, no carbohydrate ingredients, balance of omega-3 and omega-6s, chelated minerals, rich in moisture
  • Cons: Contains no added fiber, some cats are sensitive to fish (choose another flavor)

Blue Buffalo Basics LID Indoor Duck & Potato Entrée Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Most Popular Wet Cat Food for IBD: Blue Buffalo is easily one of the most popular pet food brands on the market and they offer a variety of limited ingredient diets for cats with IBD. When it comes to the best wet cat food for IBD, we like this Blue Buffalo Basics LIDS Indoor Duck & Potato Entrée Canned Food. This formula features fresh duck as a novel source of protein in a 100% grain-free, limited ingredient recipe that supports healthy and regular digestion. This food features antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies as natural sources for key nutrients, including fresh pumpkin for gentle digestion and supplemental fiber. It contains a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption. Overall, it provides plenty of protein and healthy fats in a carbohydrate-limited, highly digestible recipe.

  • Pros: Single source of novel animal protein, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Contains carrageenan as a thickener, first source of fat is not animal-based (flaxseed)

Hound and Gatos Duck Formula Grain-Free Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Grain-Free Wet Cat Food for IBD: When it comes to the best wet cat food for IBD, we love this Hound and Gatos Duck Formula Grain-Free Cat Food because it is made with a novel source of protein and very few other ingredients. This recipe features fresh duck as the primary ingredient and a novel source of premium animal protein. Aside from beneficial supplements, the only other ingredients are duck broth for moisture, duck liver, salmon oil, and agar-agar which acts as a thickening agent and source of fiber. This formula is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to support healthy skin and coat while also meeting your cat’s needs for healthy energy. It is a very limited-carbohydrate recipe and naturally grain-free to ensure digestibility and easy absorption of nutrients. For nutritional balance, this recipe contains vitamin supplements and chelated minerals, but there are no added colors, artificial flavors, or preservatives to worry about.

  • Pros: Single source of novel animal protein, very carbohydrate-limited, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, chelated minerals, rich in moisture and natural flavor, fiber for digestion
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, some controversy about agar ingredients in cat food

Go! Sensitivity + Shine Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Dry Cat Food for IBD: For those who prefer to feed their cats dry food, we recommend this Go! Sensitivity + Shine Limited Ingredient Diet Duck Recipe Grain-Free Dry Food. This formula features fresh duck as a novel source of animal protein with eggs for supplemental protein. It is a grain-free recipe, made with digestible carbohydrates like peas, tapioca, lentils, and chickpeas. This recipe contains chicken fat as the main source of fat with flaxseed to provide the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is supplemented with fiber for healthy digestion as well as dried fermentation products to provide probiotic support. This recipe offers 31% protein and 15% fat with 3.5% fiber. You’ll also be glad to know that it is made with a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk of triggering a negative reaction and it is formulated to support the health of your cat’s skin and coat as well.

  • Pros: Fresh duck as novel protein source, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, supplemental fiber and probiotics, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, lower in moisture than canned food

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Canned Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Wet Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach and IBD: If your cat has a sensitive stomach and IBD, you need to be particularly careful what you feed him. This Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Canned Food is a great choice because it is packed with nutrition but gentle on your cat’s stomach. It features fresh, deboned turkey as the main ingredient with turkey liver as a boost of supplemental protein and flavor. It is rich in moisture to support healthy digestion with the fiber your cat needs. This recipe is loaded with healthy fats, including a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It features chelated minerals as well which are mineral supplements that have been bound to protein molecules, increasing their absorption by your cat’s body to help rebuild and repair his health. Plus, it contains a limited number of main ingredients to further reduce the risk of triggering a negative reaction.

  • Pros: Single source of novel protein, rich in omega fatty acids, chelated minerals for nutrient absorption, high in moisture for digestion, limited number of main ingredients, loaded with natural flavor
  • Cons: Contains some plant protein (pea protein), doesn’t contain probiotics

4 More Top-Rated Wet and Canned Cat Foods for IBD

If the cat food options above don’t seem like the perfect fit for your cat, there are still other options worth considering. Here are four more top-rated wet and canned cat foods that we recommend for cats with inflammatory bowel disease:

The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dehydrated Cat Food

Feeding your cat fresh food is great for his nutrition as well as his digestive system, but it can be difficult to keep it fresh. This Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Turkey Recipe Dehydrated Cat Food offers an excellent alternative because it contains similar nutrition value to fresh food with the convenience of dry food. This food is made of high-quality, human-grade ingredients and dried to remove moisture instead of being cooked at high temperatures. It is grain-free, made with digestible carbohydrate options like pumpkin and potatoes. It also contains fresh fruits and veggies to provide natural sources for key nutrients with chelated minerals for balance. Overall, this dehydrated cat food may cost a little more and you’ll have to rehydrate it before feeding, but the benefits for your cat are well worth it.

  • Pros: All-natural human-grade ingredients, real turkey as novel protein source, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and veggies, rich in fiber, chelated mineral supplements
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, needs to be rehydrated before feeding, some cats dislike the texture

Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Dinner Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food

Another convenient alternative to fresh food for cats is this Stella & Chewy’s Duck Duck Goose Dinner Freeze-Dried Raw Cat Food. This formula features fresh duck with ground bone as the main ingredient which is a novel protein source and is packed with nutrition. It also contains fresh turkey and goose for supplemental sources of premium animal protein. This recipe is naturally grain-free and low in carbohydrates, relying on sources like pumpkin seed to provide fiber as well as omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Because this food is freeze-dried and not cooked at high temperatures, the raw ingredients retain more of their original nutritional integrity. You have the option of feeding the food as-is or rehydrating it with water or broth. Either way, you can count on this recipe to deliver quality nutrition as well as a hefty dose of natural flavor.

  • Pros: Novel animal proteins, low in carbohydrates, blend of omega fatty acids, rich in nutrients, chelated minerals for nutrient absorption, freeze-dried instead of cooked, natural flavor
  • Cons: Some cats dislike the texture of freeze-dried food, not a single source protein recipe

Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe

Raw food is one of the best options for cats with IBD and this Nature’s Variety Instinct Frozen Raw Bites Grain-Free Cage-Free Chicken Recipe is definitely one to consider. These frozen morsels contain 85% meat and organs with 15% non-GMO fruits, vegetables, and supplements. They are all-natural and free from corn, wheat, and soy as well as other common allergens. This frozen food recipe is positively packed with protein to promote lean muscle mass with plenty of healthy fats for energy as well as skin and coat support. The formula contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources for key nutrients with chelated minerals to ensure balanced and optimal nutrient absorption.

  • Pros: Frozen instead of cooked, 85% animal ingredients, rich in protein and healthy fat, fresh fruits and vegetables, blend of omega fatty acids, chelated minerals, antioxidant-rich
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken, expensive to feed as a staple diet

I and Love and You Feed Meow Tummy Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Food Topper

If you prefer to feed your cat dry food but want to boost his protein and moisture intake while managing his IBD, try this I and Love and You Feed Meow Tummy Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Food Topper. This food topper features real chicken as the main ingredient in a savory, flavorful recipe your cat will love. This particular recipe is formulated to support your cat’s healthy digestion so he can better absorb nutrients. It contains added fiber as well as a blend of omega fatty acids, not to mention plenty of high-quality animal protein. This recipe is free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients and is low in carbohydrates as a whole. Plus, it contains no artificial additives to upset your cat’s stomach.

  • Pros: Boost of protein and moisture, real chicken as main ingredient, supplemental fiber for digestion, savory flavor, free from grains and artificial additives
  • Cons: Not a nutritionally complete product, some cats may be sensitive to chicken ingredients

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What food is best for cats with IBD? – Pet nutrition experts agree that raw food is best for cats with IBD because it is the closest to a cat’s natural diet and therefore the easiest to digest and absorb nutrition from. If you can’t afford raw food, a high-quality commercial food made with a single source of premium animal protein and a limited number of other natural ingredients is a good option. Fresh food, freeze-dried food, and dehydrated food offers many of the same nutritional benefits as fresh food in a more shelf-stable and convenient form. You could also try a homemade cat food diet.
  • What cat food is best for diarrhea? – Cats with IBD often suffer from recurrent bouts of diarrhea which, if left untreated, can lead to dehydration and other health problems. After talking to your vet about your concerns, you may want to withhold food from your cat for 12 to 24 hours and then feed him small amounts of bland food such as steamed rice or boiled chicken breast. You should keep offering your cat small amounts of fresh water even as you withhold food.
  • Can a cat die from IBD? – Generally speaking, cats with IBD have a good prognosis as long as the condition is diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, chronic IBD issues can lead to digestive problems and malabsorption of nutrients over time. This can contribute to malnutrition which may then spark a whole host of other health problems. As long as IBD is treated, it is manageable, but there is no cure.
  • Is IBD in cats painful? – Inflammatory bowel disease is a syndrome, not a disease, so the symptoms vary. Some of the symptoms you are likely to see, however, can be painful for cats. Examples include cramping and muscle spasms. Some cats also develop diarrhea or constipation which can be painful in its own way.
  • Do probiotics help cats with IBD? – Probiotics can be beneficial for any cat, not just cats with IBD because they help support healthy gut flora for regular digestion. Some cases of IBD are linked to bacterial infections which are often treated with antibiotics. Those antibiotics kill the bad bacteria but may also kill some of the beneficial bacteria as well – in these cases, probiotics can help reseed the digestive tract. Cats with IBD linked to food issues can benefit from probiotics as well because they support healthy digestion which will improve the cat’s ability to properly absorb nutrients.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a distressing and sometimes painful condition that, unfortunately, cannot be cured. If your cat develops digestive issues, you may want to have him tested for this condition and consider the various options for treatment. In most cases, IBD treatment involves dietary changes.

If you find yourself needing to change your cat’s diet to manage his IBD symptoms, take what you’ve learned here and put it to work or try one of the top-rated best wet and canned cat foods for IBS we’ve reviewed above.

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