Hairballs are a fact of life for cat owners. In owning a cat, you know that sometimes you’re just going to have to deal with a mess. But some cats vomit more than just hairballs, and they do it frequently.


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What causes a cat to have frequent vomiting or other digestive issues like diarrhea?

In many cases, digestive issues in cats are caused by a sensitive stomach. If your cat has trouble digesting certain ingredients or if he’s developed food allergies or sensitivities, it could cause digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea.

The first thing you need to do if your cat is suffering from digestive issues is to take him to the vet. Your vet will be able to rule out any underlying digestive disorders or, if he finds something, recommend a course of treatment for your cat. From there, you might also choose to switch to a highly digestible cat food or one designed to improve digestibility.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the signs and causes of sensitive stomach in cats. We’ll also talk about how to identify a good cat food for sensitive stomach and diarrhea and provide our top recommendations for the best cat food in this category.

What Are the Signs of Sensitive Stomach in Cats?

Just because hairballs are unpleasant doesn’t mean they’re not normal. Your cat spends a great deal of time grooming himself, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he ends up ingesting a lot of his own hair. If you don’t take the time to brush your cat, hairballs may be more of a frequent issue.

But what are the signs of sensitive stomach and other digestive issues in cats?

Here are some of the symptoms of digestive problems in cats:

  • Vomiting
  • Regurgitating undigested food
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Constipation
  • Changes in stool
  • Increase in thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor coat condition

Digestive issues in cats can be either acute or chronic.

Acute simply means that the problem either comes on suddenly or it is very short-lived. An example of an acute digestive issue might be if your cat accidentally consumes something dangerous and experiences vomiting or regurgitation, but the symptoms only last a day or two.

Chronic digestive issues in cats typically come on more slowly and may last for weeks or even months at a time. Different digestive issues can cause both acute and chronic symptoms, so you’ll need to pay close attention to your cat to identify them.

Keep reading to learn more about the potential causes for sensitive stomach, diarrhea, and other digestive issues in cats.

What Causes Sensitive Stomach and Digestive Problems?

When it comes to sensitive stomach and other digestive issues in cats, there are two primary causes. It is usually an issue with something the cat has consumed (either food or a harmful substance), or it is the result of a disease or digestive health problem.

Before getting into the details about what causes digestive issues in cats, we want to make one thing clear – digestive problems are always a cause for concern.

When you step in a wet hairball first thing in the morning or notice loose stools in the litter box, you might be tempted to write it off as a hazard of cat ownership. Things like these are simply an inconvenience you have to deal with. Or are they?

Changes in your cat’s digestion can be a sign of a serious issue, particularly if the symptoms have lasted for more than a few days or if they are getting worse. Never ignore changes in your cat’s appetite or stools and always consult your vet if you have any concerns.

Now, here are some of the most common causes of sensitive stomach and other digestive issues in cats:

  • Intestinal parasites
  • Food allergy or sensitivity
  • Stress
  • Intestinal disease
  • Digesting toxic or harmful substances
  • Sudden change in diet
  • Viral infection
  • Cancer or tumor

Intestinal parasites are a very common cause of gastrointestinal problems in cats. You may be surprised to learn just how common these parasites are. Many kittens inherit roundworms from their mother’s milk, though adults can become infected by eating food, dirt, or prey that has been contaminated. Parasite infections usually cause symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss which can worsen without treatment.

Food allergies and sensitivities are another common cause of digestive upset in cats. Cats can develop allergies or sensitivities to any food ingredient. There can also be a problem with the composition of the food. For example, if your cat’s diet is too low in fiber, it could cause problems with his digestion. Many cats are sensitive to grains or simply have trouble digesting certain ingredients.

In addition to dietary factors, digestive upset can be triggered by periods of stress, a sudden change in your cat’s diet, viral infections, or by ingesting toxic or harmful substances. In rare cases, digestive problems can also be the result of cancer or tumors.

In cases where a cat’s digestive issues are caused by a sensitivity or allergy to certain food ingredients, making changes to his diet could resolve the problem. Keep reading to learn more about shopping for a cat food for digestive problems and diarrhea.

What to Look for in a Sensitive Stomach Cat Food

Digestibility is key when it comes to the best cat food for digestive problems. Unfortunately, every cat’s digestive system is different, so you may need to try a few different recipes until you figure out exactly which one is right for your cat.

In many cases, sensitive stomach and diarrhea in cats is linked to a particular ingredient or to the quality of the food. If you’re already feeding your cat a diet made with animal protein and no artificial additives, it is more likely to be one of the ingredients.

Here are some things to look for in a sensitive stomach cat food:

  • Animal Protein – Cats are obligate carnivores which means that their bodies are designed to digest and derive nutrition from animal products. Plant proteins like pea protein and potato protein can be used as supplemental sources of protein but should not be a primary ingredient. Keep in mind that some cats are allergic to common proteins like beef, chicken, and fish, so you may want to consider a product made with a novel source of protein like turkey, duck, or rabbit.
  • Digestible Carbohydrates – Some cats have no problem digesting whole grains, though some do. The most important factor is that the carbohydrates be limited in quantity and highly digestible. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good option for most cats.
  • Supplemental Fiber – Increasing the fiber content of your cat’s diet is a good way to support his digestion – especially if he’s suffering from diarrhea. Adding more fiber to his diet will increase the bulk of his stools, helping solidify them for more regular digestion.
  • Prebiotics and Probiotics – Many high-quality cat foods already contain prebiotics and probiotics, but these supplements are particularly important for cats with sensitive stomach.
  • No Artificial Additives – Generally speaking, cat food made with high-quality ingredients is going to be more digestible than cat food made with fillers and artificial additives. Even if your cat isn’t allergic to one of these additives, it can still irritate his digestive system and cause diarrhea or other symptoms.
Remember, choosing the best cat food for cats with digestive problems is just one part of the equation. Once you’ve chosen the food, you need to take the time to slowly transition your cat onto the new diet to avoid making his digestive issues worse. See the FAQs below for more information.

The Top 10 Best Cat Foods for Sensitive Stomach and Diarrhea

Now that you know a little more about what causes digestive issues in cats, you can start shopping around for a sensitive stomach cat food. Remember, you should have your cat checked by a vet to make sure he doesn’t have an underlying digestive disease before you do anything. If your vet suspects that your cat’s issues are caused by a food allergy or sensitivity, or if he is simply having trouble digesting certain ingredients, you can start looking for a new cat food.

Here are some of our top picks for the best cat foods for sensitive stomach and digestive issues:

NomNomNow Fresh Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach Overall: When it comes to optimizing your cat’s digestion as well as his nutrition, fresh food is the way to go. NomNomNow is a fresh pet food delivery service that makes custom meals for your cat and delivers them to your door on a monthly basis. Choose from two high-protein, low-carbohydrate recipes featuring chicken or fish, both of which are high in moisture content for regular digestion. These recipes are extremely rich in protein with healthy fats for energy and coat support but low in carbohydrates and free from artificial additives. This company also offers a microbiome test kit that enables you to gain insights into your cat’s digestion to help determine what is causing his sensitive stomach.

  • Pros: Fresh food delivered to your door, very high in protein, high in moisture content, low-carbohydrate recipes, complete and nutritionally balanced
  • Cons: Only two recipes to choose from, expensive to feed as a staple diet

Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Dry Food

Our Top Pick for the Best Affordable Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: The Blue Buffalo brand is well-known for providing a wide variety of products, and this recipe is specifically designed for cats with digestive issues. This Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Dry Food offers the benefit of holistic nutrition and is made with only highly digestible ingredients. It features lean chicken as the main ingredient with whole grain carbohydrates and supplemental sources of fiber. It is also supplemented with prebiotics and probiotics to support healthy and regular digestion as well as fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional support. Aside from its digestive benefits, this recipe is also loaded with antioxidants for immune support and omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

  • Pros: Designed for easy digestibility, lean chicken as the first ingredient, no wheat or gluten, supplemented with prebiotics and probiotics, antioxidant-rich, omega-3 fatty acids for skin and coat
  • Cons: Not a grain-free recipe, some cats may be sensitive to chicken ingredients

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Cat Food

Our Top Pick for the Most Popular Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: If your cat has a sensitive stomach and you don’t know where to start in changing his diet, you might consider a popular option like this Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Chicken Recipe Cat Food. This formula features a limited number of main ingredients, made with real chicken at the top of the list. It is grain-free to further reduce the risk of digestive upset and is made with easily digestible carbohydrates like chickpeas for supplemental fiber. This recipe is rich in premium animal proteins with healthy fats for energy and skin and coat support. It also has probiotic supplements to improve the digestibility and to support your cat’s digestive system as a whole. If your cat is sensitive to chicken ingredients, there are several other protein options as well.

  • Pros: Limited number of main ingredients, real chicken as first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, chelated minerals, supplemental fiber sources, probiotic supplements
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, could be higher in fiber content

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Indoor Kitten Recipe

Our Top Pick for the Best Sensitive Stomach Cat Food for Kittens: If your kitten already has a sensitive stomach, you need to be extra careful about what you feed him. This Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Indoor Kitten Recipe is a great option because it comes from a trustworthy brand and you’ll easily be able to transition your kitten into a similar adult recipe. This formula features a limited number of ingredients with a single source of novel protein and grain-free carbohydrate to maximize its digestibility and reduce the risk for triggering a food allergy or sensitivity. It is gentle on your kitten’s stomach but still packed with protein and essential nutrients to help him grow and thrive. It is also rich in omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. This recipe also comes in an adult formula which is one of the best wet cat food for sensitive stomach in adult cats.

  • Pros: Limited number of main ingredients, novel source of protein, grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, supplemental fiber, rich in protein and healthy fat, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Contains unnamed source of fat (fish oil), somewhat expensive

Halo Holistic Chicken & Chicken Liver Grain-Free Senior Recipe

Our Top Pick for the Best Sensitive Stomach Cat Food for Seniors: If your aging cat starts to develop digestive issues, you might want to switch to a holistic, natural recipe that will be easier on his digestive tract. This Halo Holistic Chicken & Chicken Liver Grain-Free Senior Recipe is a great option because it is lower in calories and fat than the typical adult recipe, so it will help your senior cat maintain a healthy body weight, but it is also designed for easy digestibility. This recipe is only made with wholesome, natural ingredients, all of which are non-GMO, sustainably-raised, and cage-free to further limit the risk for allergies and sensitivities. As a whole, it features plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for nutritional balance with chelated minerals and probiotics for digestive support.

  • Pros: Real chicken as first ingredient, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, reduced calorie and fat, fresh fruits and vegetables, supplemental fiber, chelated minerals, probiotics for healthy digestion
  • Cons: Some cats are sensitive to chicken ingredients, contains some soy protein

Ziwi Peak Mackerel Recipe Canned Food Recipe

Our Top Pick for the Best Wet Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach and Diarrhea: If you’re looking for the best wet cat food for sensitive stomach, a high-quality diet made with a limited number of ingredients like this Ziwi Peak Mackerel Recipe Canned food. This recipe features 100% ethically sourced meat and seafood including fresh mackerel for a protein-rich, highly digestible diet. It contains no grains or artificial additives to upset your cat’s stomach but is supplemented with chelated minerals and essential vitamins. Though not made in the United States, this brand is highly trusted in the industry and uses only the freshest, most high-quality ingredients. Plus, it is made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate (mackerel and chickpeas) to minimize the risk of food allergies.

  • Pros: Novel source of protein and carbohydrate, protein-rich, limited number of main ingredients, grain-free carbohydrate, chelated minerals, highly digestible recipe
  • Cons: Not made in the United States, expensive to feed as a staple diet

4 More Top-Rated Cat Foods for Digestive Problems

If none of the easy to digest cat foods reviewed above seem like the right choice for your cat, don’t worry! There are plenty more options available. Here are four more options for the best cat food for digestive problems:

Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet GI Gastrointestinal Support Cat Food

If your cat suffers from frequent digestive issues and you can’t seem to find a diet that works, it may be time to try a veterinary diet like this Blue Buffalo Natural Veterinary Diet GI Gastrointestinal Support Cat Food. This recipe features all-natural ingredients including highly digestible proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to provide balanced nutrition that won’t upset your cat’s stomach. It also contains prebiotic fibers and probiotic supplements for healthy gut flora and essential vitamins and antioxidants for immune support. Overall, it provides 36% protein, 14% fat, and 5% fiber.

  • Pros: Designed specifically to support healthy digestion, all-natural ingredients, prebiotic and probiotic supplements, rich in quality protein, supplemental fibers, chelated minerals
  • Cons: Only available with a prescription, expensive to feed as a staple diet

Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Recipe

Easily some of the best cat food for cats with digestive problems, this limited ingredient recipe features a novel source of protein and digestible grain-free carbohydrates. Nature’s Variety Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Rabbit Recipe is a great option for any cat, particularly cats with sensitive stomach and diarrhea. It is loaded with premium animal protein and healthy fats, plus digestible grain-free carbohydrates. It Is supplemented with chelated minerals and vitamins to ensure complete and balanced nutrition and is completely free from artificial additives. Overall, it provides a whopping 35% protein with 19% fat and a 5.5% fiber.

  • Pros: Limited number of ingredients, real rabbit as a novel protein source, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, rich in protein and healthy fats, chelated minerals, freeze-dried rabbit coating
  • Cons: Main source of fat is plant-based (canola oil), no probiotic supplements, expensive to feed.

I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe

When it comes to the best cat food for digestive problems, quality matters. This I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon & Sweet Potato Recipe is a great option because it is made with only the finest quality natural ingredients like fresh salmon and salmon meal as well as menhaden fish meal. Though it isn’t a single-source protein option, both salmon and menhaden fish meal are novel proteins for many cats. You’ll also be glad to know that it is entirely grain-free, supplemented with probiotics and fiber, and contains chelated minerals as well. Plus, it is positively packed with protein and healthy fats at 36% protein and 16% fat with 5.5% fiber.

  • Pros: Limited number of main ingredients, premium animal proteins, rich in healthy fat, grain-free carbohydrates, supplemental fiber, probiotics, and chelated mineral supplements
  • Cons: Expensive to feed as a staple diet, not a single-source protein recipe

Canidae Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diet PURE Sea with Salmon Cat Food

If you’re looking for a limited ingredient diet made with premium natural ingredients, try Canidae Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Diet PURE Sea with Salmon Cat Food. This recipe features just 7 main ingredients including fresh salmon, salmon meal, menhaden fish meal, and digestible grain-free carbohydrates like potatoes and peas. This recipe features a number of beneficial supplements including chelated minerals and probiotics to maximize your cat’s nutrition as well as his digestion. It is protein-rich and loaded with healthy fats for energy as well as skin and coat support. Generally speaking, it is made with whole-food ingredients to ensure healthy and optimal digestion.

  • Pros: Just 7 main ingredients, premium animal proteins, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, chelated minerals, probiotics for digestion, whole food ingredients for better digestion
  • Cons: Not a single-source protein recipe, expensive to feed as a staple diet, main source of fat is plant-based (canola oil)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is my cat throwing up undigested food? – There are many reasons why your cat might be throwing up undigested food. In some cases, it is simply an issue where the cat eats too quickly and ends up ingesting a lot of air along with the food. This causes bloating which than then trigger regurgitation. Another possibility is that your cat has some kind of digestive disease that needs to be checked out by a veterinarian.
  • How can I settle my cat’s stomach? – Switching your cat to a cat food for sensitive stomach and diarrhea is one step in the process, but there are other things you can do to help settle your cat’s stomach as well. Increasing your cat’s moisture intake by adding some wet food or encouraging him to drink more water can aid in healthy digestion. It might also help to slow down your cat’s eating at mealtime, so he doesn’t ingest a lot of air while eating. Finally, taking steps to reduce your cat’s stress can improve his digestion as well.
  • What can I feed my cat with a sensitive stomach? – If your cat has a sensitive stomach, you can either switch to a sensitive stomach cat food or take the time to identify the specific ingredient causing the problem. If you choose this second route, you’ll need to transition your cat onto a limited ingredient diet made with a novel source of protein and carbohydrate. After 10 to 12 weeks on the new diet, if all signs of digestive have disappeared, you can start introducing potential allergens one at a time until you identify the problem. From there, either keep feeding your cat the limited ingredient diet or switch to a food free from the offending ingredient.
  • How should I transition my cat onto a new cat food?  – If your cat is already having digestive issues, you need to be extra careful when switching to a sensitive stomach cat food. Any time you change your cat’s diet, it can trigger digestive upset, so you’ll need to mix some of the new food into his old food to slowly transition him onto the new food. Start with 25% of the new food mixed into his old food and stick with that ratio for a few days. If there are no signs of digestive upset, up it to 50% and wait another few days to increase is to 75% and then all new food.
  • Does sensitive stomach cat food really work? – Yes, sensitive stomach cat food can work, but it isn’t a 100% sure thing. Cats can develop sensitivities to a wide variety of things, so if the sensitive stomach cat food you choose contains one of those things, you might end up making your cat’s problems worse. You’ll also find that many prescription diets for sensitive stomach are made with low-quality grains and unnamed proteins, none of which are healthy for cats. The best thing you can do is have your cat checked out by your veterinarian to make sure there’s no underlying health problem at play then try different cat foods to eliminate the cause of your cat’s sensitivity.

Your cat relies on the food you give him for nutrition. If your cat is unable to properly digest the food you give him, his body won’t absorb the calories and nutrients which can lead to serious health problems down the line.

Digestive issues are serious, so you should have your cat checked out at the first sign of trouble. As long as your veterinarian confirms that no digestive diseases are at play, you can switch your cat to a sensitive stomach cat food to resolve his digestive issues.

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