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11 Best Cat Foods for Sensitive Stomachs & Vomiting (2023) – Reviews & Top Picks

cat lying near bowl with food_Pixel-shot_shutterstock
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Catster Editorial Team
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We all know just how finicky kitties can be when it comes to eating. But aside from their pickiness, others can have quite sensitive bellies that don’t react well to certain ingredients. Since cats are obligate carnivores, eating diets full of grain, veggies, and other additives can trigger gastrointestinal problems. Other cats might be sensitive to specific protein sources.

In any case, if your kitty is reacting badly to their current diet, it’s time to explore alternative options. We took the liberty of compiling reviews of the best cat foods for sensitive stomachs we could find designed specifically to ease your feline’s tummy.

Disclaimer: The foods reviewed here were chosen because they have certain characteristics that might help with some of the causes or consequences of this medical condition. However, they are not a medical treatment or a substitute for medical treatment. Keep in mind that each medical case is different and what works for some pets may not work for others. Your veterinarian is the right person to advise you on the best diet for your pet’s individual case.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023

ImageProductDetails
Best Overall
Winner
Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription
  • Offers a refund after a two-week trial
  • Novel protein option (duck)
  • Ideal for sensitive stomachs
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Purina ONE Sensitive Stomach Purina ONE Sensitive Stomach
  • Turkey as the number one ingredient
  • Easy to digest
  • High protein
  • Third place
    Hill's Prescription Diet Sensitivities Hill's Prescription Diet Sensitivities
  • For severe food sensitivities
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Specialized diet
  • Merrick Sensitive Stomach Recipe Merrick Sensitive Stomach Recipe
  • High protein
  • Low calorie
  • Live probiotics
  • Halo Holistic Sensitive Cat Food Halo Holistic Sensitive Cat Food
  • Made with novel proteins
  • Non-GMO ingredients
  • All-natural
  • The 11 Best Cat Foods for Sensitive Stomachs

    1. Smalls Fresh Cat Food Subscription – Best Overall

    smalls freeze-dried raw and human-grade fresh cat food with tabby cat

    For some cats, the texture of food is as important as the taste. Smalls Cat Food comes in three consistencies: ground, smooth, and pulled—to satisfy even the pickiest feline. Smalls’ meals are grain-free, preservative-free, and high in protein. Most of the recipes contain chicken, but you can also try beef, turkey, and duck options.

    Serving new food to a picky cat is a financial risk if your cat has a sensitive stomach. You could be left with a bag of opened food that your kitty can’t eat. Smalls knows this is a problem for cat owners and offers a discounted trial box. After two weeks, the company will even refund your money if none of the samples appealed to your cat.

    Two cat lovers founded Smalls when their homemade food helped clear up a kitty’s ulcers. Since 2017, the independent company has grown and now ships its food throughout the continental U.S. Small produces its food in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois and we consider it the best cat food for sensitive stomachs.

    Pros
    • Offers a refund after a two-week trial
    • Novel protein option (duck)
    • Ideal for sensitive stomachs
    Cons
    • Wet food requires refrigeration
    • Can only be ordered online

    2. Purina ONE Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach – Best Value

    Purina ONE Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    Purina ONE Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food is an excellent pick if you have a sensitive kitty but you’re on a budget. It’s the best cat food for sensitive stomachs and vomiting for the money. Even though it’s budget-friendly, this recipe has your pet’s best interest at heart. One beneficial aspect of this cat food is that it uses turkey as the number one ingredient. Turkey is less likely to irritate a cat’s system than a common ingredient like chicken, turkey, or fish. It has no harmful fillers or harsh additives that usually upset the cat’s belly, using rice flour and oatmeal instead.

    This recipe has 34% crude protein, 13% crude fat, 4% crude fiber, and 12% moisture. Higher percentages of moisture ensure that your cat is getting enough hydration in their diet. There are 430 calories per cup. This cat food is loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that replenish the body. This food is not free of corn, wheat, or soy, so it won’t work for all cats.

    But, with all that being said, this is definitely our top best-value pick for the best dry cat food for sensitive stomachs.

    Pros
    • Turkey as the number one ingredient
    • Easy to digest
    • High protein
    Cons
    • Contains corn gluten meal

    3. Hill’s Prescription Diet Sensitivities Dry Food

    Hill's Prescription Diet Original Skin Food Sensitivities Dry Cat Food

    Hill’s Prescription Diet Original Skin/Food Sensitivities Dry Cat Food is an excellent selection that is unique and nutrient-rich. It may be a little more expensive than similar food brands, but it’s well worth it if your kitty needs an extra specific diet. This type of food covers a wide range of ailments, from sensitive stomachs to serious allergies. So, if you have a cat who suffers a little more severely, this is a great solution for most food-related issues.

    This recipe contains 29% crude protein, 10.5% crude fat, 4.5% crude fiber, and 9% moisture. There are 408 calories per cup. The first ingredient is a highly-digestible animal protein that is hydrolyzed, meaning it’s broken down into microscopic particles. Because this food is tailored to food sensitivities, it won’t be the best selection for every cat. You need approval from your veterinarian before ordering.

    Pros
    • For severe food sensitivities
    • Hydrolyzed protein
    • Specialized diet
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • Vet approval required

    4. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Dry Cat Food Sensitive Stomach Recipe

    Merrick Purrfect Bistro Sensitive Stomach Recipe Dry Cat Food

    Merrick Purrfect Bistro Complete Care Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Recipe Dry Cat Food helps with just about every nutritional aspect. It is a well-rounded, perfectly balanced diet that is specially tailored to ease stomach upset and vomiting issues. Deboned chicken is the number one ingredient, so you know your feline is getting a hardy protein source. This recipe is grain-free, using no irritating fillers like corn, wheat, or soy. Instead, it uses sweet potatoes for smooth, gentle digestion.

    This bag contains 34% crude protein, 16% crude fat, 2.5% crude fiber, and 11% moisture. There are 406 calories per cup. This recipe also has L-carnitine to boost metabolism. There are live probiotics in each bag to allow gut flora to flourish healthily. Each ingredient is picked for its nourishing properties, leaving out any harmful additives that can disrupt things’ natural flow. The low-calorie quality is a perk, too, if you have a more relaxed house cat. But an especially active cat may need more.

    Pros
    • High protein
    • Low calorie
    • Live probiotics
    • Grain-free
    Cons
    • More active cats need higher calories

    5. Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    Halo Holistic Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    Halo Holistic Seafood Medley Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food is a lovely option if you’re looking for an all-natural alternative to commercial kibble. The seafood medley is whole wild-caught whitefish and salmon. It’s made with a novel protein, meaning this recipe uses animal proteins your cat may not have been exposed to before. Refined grains like oatmeal and pearled barley help your cat’s GI tract smoothly digest their food. There is also sweet potato, providing healthy carbs.

    This recipe contains 34% crude protein, 16% crude fat, 5% crude fiber, and 10% moisture. There are 414 calories per cup. All ingredients are non-GMO and free of added hormones, antibiotics, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. There are no meat meals or animal by-products. However, it does contain soy, which some kitties don’t take kindly to.

    Pros
    • Made with novel proteins
    • Non-GMO ingredients
    • All-natural
    Cons
    • Contains soy

    6. Blue Buffalo Dry Cat Food for Sensitive StomachBlue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food is notorious for creating healthy, wholesome recipes for felines that keep them feeling their best. Blue is free of harmful additives that can damage your cat’s system or trigger allergies.

    This recipe is particularly tailored to cats with sensitive bellies to keep their digestive tracts running smoothly. Rather than harsh corn, wheat, or soy, there is brown rice, oatmeal, and barley. These alternative grains easily break down in their system. Deboned chicken and chicken meal are the first two ingredients, so you know your kitty is getting a whole protein source.

    In this bag, there is 32% crude protein, 16% crude fat, 3.5% crude fiber, and 9% moisture. There are 422 calories in a cup. There is also added taurine and magnesium for ultimate nutrition. This recipe is full of Blue’s signature LifeSource Bits, which are small pieces of nutrient, flavor-packed soft kibble in each bite. It also has a helping of probiotics and prebiotics to aid in digestion, keeping your kitty regular and symptom-free.

    Pros
    • LifeSource Bits
    • Easily digestible grain
    • No harmful additives
    • Added prebiotics and probiotics
    Cons
    • Not for all sensitivities

    7. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey Wet Cat Food

    4Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Pate Real Turkey Recipe

    If you have a kitty who snubs its nose up to dry food, Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Turkey Pate wet cat food formula appeals to a cat’s taste palette so they can still have the same scrumptious wet food flavor without the unwanted side effects.

    This food is not specifically aimed at helping sensitive stomachs. However, being a limited ingredient recipe and alternative protein, it works very well for many kittens, as the sensitivity chances are reduced. The recipe is free from any other protein, fat, or flavor and is free of chicken, beef, fish, dairy, eggs, grain, potato, corn, wheat, and soy. Each can contain 11.5% crude protein, 7% crude fat, 2% crude fiber, and 76% moisture. This food is a wonderful option for cats who don’t get enough hydration in their diet, too.

    This recipe is enriched with vitamins and minerals and is excellent as a stand-alone diet or as a topper for dry kibble. If you have a cat who has trouble chewing, it can help with that as well. However, wet food may cause plaque, tartar, and buildup, so ensure proper dental care with your kitty.

    Pros
    • High moisture content
    • Limited ingredient – turkey protein only
    • Free of corn, wheat, soy, and potatoes
    Cons
    • Wet foods can cause dental issues

    8. Hill’s Science Diet Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

    Hill's Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food

    If you want a specialized diet that works wonders, consider Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin. This recipe uses gentle ingredients like rice, oatmeal, and eggs for easy digestion rather than having harsh fillers. This recipe is packed with immunity-boosting antioxidants and powerful vitamins and minerals. It’s specifically formalities to combat stomach issues and skin allergies so your cat won’t break out, itch, vomit, or exhibit other adverse effects.

    This cat food has 29% crude protein, 17% crude fat, 3% crude fiber, and 10% moisture. There are 524 calories per cup. If you have an overweight cat, this may not be the best food for them since it’s higher in caloric content. Hill’s Science Diet crafts every one of their recipes in the United States with trusted ingredients. While this kibble helps most kitties with a sensitive stomach, it contains corn, wheat, and soy. So, it’s not best for gluten-intolerant cats.

    Pros
    • Gentle ingredients
    • Made in the USA
    • Helps digestion and skin
    Cons
    • Not for gluten-intolerant cats

    9. Solid Gold Winged Tiger Adult Dry Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

    Solid Gold Winged Tiger Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food

    Solid Gold Winged Tiger with Quail & Pumpkin Grain-Free Sensitive Stomach Adult Dry Cat Food is a perfect choice for gluten-sensitive cats. If your cat can’t handle corn, wheat, or soy, it’s a wonderful solution to combat both stomach problems and allergies. Pumpkin is a notable ingredient for upset stomachs because its gentle properties are easy on the gut. There’s also added probiotic support for digestion. This recipe is free of any harmful dyes and artificial additives, reducing internal irritation.

    This cat food contains 30% crude protein, 13% crude fat, 3% crude fiber, and 10% moisture. Each cup has 385 calories. Quail is the first ingredient, a rare, wholesome protein, followed by a series of vitamin-packed deliciousness for your kitty to enjoy.

    Grain-free recipes aren’t necessary for every cat, so it works best for known gluten intolerances diagnosed by your veterinarian.

    Pros
    • Grain-free
    • Quail is the number one ingredient
    • Probiotics
    Cons
    • Grain-free isn’t for every cat

    10. Go! SENSITIVITIES Limited Ingredient Duck Grain-Free Dry

    Go! SENSITIVITIES Limited Ingredient Duck Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Another great dry cat food for sensitive tummies is Go! SENSITIVITIES Limited Ingredient Duck Grain-Free Dry Cat Food. This recipe is grain-free; there is no soy, wheat, gluten, or corn. It is also free of potatoes. Being a limited-ingredient cat food, it is based on animal protein from duck meat and eggs and has as few ingredients as possible, which makes it a fantastic option for cats with allergies and food sensitivities!

    Chicory root provides fiber to support a healthy digestion, and the added flaxseed provides a second source of fiber. The omega fatty acids aid in healthy skin and a smooth coat, so your kitty will have a healthy tummy and look great too.

    Pros
    • Single-source duck meat protein and eggs
    • Grain-free
    • Enriched with Omega fatty acids
    Cons
    • Contains chicken eggs and chicken fats, so not 100% chicken free

    11. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Sensitive Chicken, Rice & Peas Dry 

    Nutro Sensitive Cat Food

    Nutro Wholesome Essentials Sensitive Cat Chicken, Rice & Peas Recipe is a fantastic selection for cats with sensitive digestion. Its first ingredient is real chicken meat, and it is free from corn, wheat, and soy protein, which are common allergens for cats with sensitive stomachs. The beet pulp adds some fiber to support healthy digestion. 

    This recipe contains natural antioxidants to support your cat’s immune system and omega-6 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and a beautiful coat.  

    Pros
    • High protein
    • Agreeable ingredients
    • Reduces vomiting
    Cons
    • Not for all allergy issues
    • Contains wheat, soy, corn, and by-products

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    Buyer’s Guide: How to Select the Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs

    Many factors can irritate a feline’s sensitive stomach. At first, it may be hard to pin down exactly what’s causing your kitty’s general upset. Once you work with your veterinarian to discuss the cause, you can then be on the lookout to tailor their diet accordingly.

    Here, we are going to look at potential reasons for GI upset and vomiting, so you know what to look for in your selection of the best cat food for sensitive stomachs. Of course, none of this information is a substitute for veterinary advice—but a guideline can help you narrow your search.

    Signs of Dietary Sensitivity in Cats

    Your cat may show both external and internal signs of a food allergy or irritant—or only one. Every cat will react differently. But the most common signs of intolerance or irritation include:

    Cat Skin Irritation

    • Excessive itching
    • Hair Loss
    • Redness

    Cat Gastrointestinal Upset

    • Gas
    • Bloating
    • Diarrhea
    • Stomach rumbling
    • Vomiting
    • Rectum redness or itching

    Recurring Infection in Cats

    • Ear infections
    • Yeast infections

    Cat Respiratory Issues

    • Coughing
    • Sneezing
    • Wheezing

    Cat Growth Interference

    • Slow growth
    • Stunted growth

    If your cat has to undergo food trials, it can take several weeks or months to determine the cause. It could be something as simple as a common ingredient that doesn’t work well in your cat’s system, or it could be a severe allergy.

    NomNom Grey Cat Bowl white cat eating

    Feeding your cat a high-quality diet is important for keeping them healthy and happy. But it goes beyond the food you choose; the dishes they use also matter. The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite for its unique, five-star design that protects from whisker fatigue and promotes good posture which also aids in better digestion. As an added bonus, it’s beautifully crafted and offers a modern take on the traditional cat bowl that fits seamlessly with all home stylings. Learn more about the NomNom by clicking here.

    At Excited Cats, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

     

     

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    Cat Vomiting vs Regurgitation

    If you have noticed your cat upchucking their meal, you may be concerned. But there is a difference between vomiting up food and regurgitating it. Vomiting is usually watery, foul-smelling, and full of partially digested food. Regurgitated food is typically semi-solid and takes place almost directly after eating.

    Regurgitation is usually caused by eating too quickly. If you have a cat that wolfs down their dinner, it’s common to see them spit it up. This type of expulsion is usually related to gorging and not necessarily having a sensitive stomach. If they are vomiting, it usually takes a little longer after meals. It’s accompanied by heaving, gagging, and salivating. Vomiting shortly after meals could be because of food, but it might also be the telltale sign of another problem.

    gray shorthair cat and food can
    Image Credit: WaitForLight, Shutterstock

    What Causes a Cat to Vomit?

    If your cat is vomiting more than once a month, it’s a cause for concern. It could absolutely be diet-related, but you will want to work closely with your vet to rule out any other issues. Your vet can run a few tests to rule out common causes and advise you based on the results.

    Categories of Feline Vomiting

    • Feline Vomiting—normal behavior that happens roughly once per month. It doesn’t happen with all cats, but it is a frequent phenomenon in some.
    • Acute Vomiting—the sudden, extreme onset of vomiting. There is usually an underlying problem like eating something they shouldn’t have (not that cats would ever do that).
    • Chronic Vomiting—often occurs over a long period. It’s the main way to pinpoint that it’s likely diet, but you would have to explore all health areas to determine that it’s officially the cause.

    Other Reasons for Vomiting

    • Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections—certain infections, such as worms, can cause vomiting in cats.
    • Hairballs—this is generally happening more in longer-haired breeds and is an unfortunate part of cleanly grooming.
    • Eating inedible objects—some cats eat houseplants and other random things lying around the house. Since your cats can’t digest them, they will just expel them (probably on your carpet).
    • Gallbladder problems—issues with this tiny filter can cause abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and lethargy.
    • Food allergies—just like humans, some ingredients just don’t work in your cat’s system. For whatever reason, they can’t digest these additives properly. Reactions can manifest internally and externally.

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    Common Food Allergy Triggers

    According to VCA Hospital, cats can’t show allergies to something that they haven’t been exposed to before. Allergies are often genetic, passed down from either parent. But remember, cats won’t react until the allergen is present in their body. It could take months, or even years, for symptoms to present themselves.

    Allergies happen when the immune system misidentifies a source as a threat rather than food. While animal professionals are still researching potential causes of allergens in pets, a few additives have been proven to be triggers.

    • Animal Protein—many common animal proteins in commercial cat food can cause adverse reactions. Usually, it’s beef, chicken, or fish that are the culprits. Less typical proteins like quail, duck, salmon, or venison may work better for any cat that is sensitive to animal protein.
    • Fillers—fillers you see most often in recipes are corn, wheat, and soy. Unfortunately, although these ingredients can be beneficial to some, these are the top triggers for allergic reactions due to diet.
    • Dairy—cats are naturally lactose intolerant. Their bodies don’t have the appropriate enzymes to break the lactose down. Food that includes dairy in the ingredients might be the culprit to stomach upset in cats.

    Getting the most natural ingredients possible in your cat food can eliminate a lot of these issues.

    Cat eats homemade food
    Image Credit: Lia Kos, Shutterstock

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    Types of Ingredients that Aid in Digestion

    When cat food companies create commercial recipes for different dietary needs, they combine a series of ingredients to help certain diets. If your cat is suffering from a sensitive stomach, there are a few ingredients that soothe digestion and keep your cat from feeling crummy.

    Frequently You Will See One or More of These Ingredients:

    • Brewers rice
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Oatmeal
    • Barley
    • Pumpkin

    Also, whole or novel protein sources help the body properly compartmentalize the food, too.

    Novel and Hydrolyzed Proteins

    To combat irritation and soothe the stomach, many cat food manufacturers use novel, whole, and hydrolyzed proteins in their food rather than meat meals.

    Novel Protein – novel protein literally means “new” protein. So, if your cat has shown adverse reactions to common meat sources like chicken, turkey, or fish, you can try an animal protein they have never had before to eliminate this issue.

    Hydrolyzed Protein – hydrolyzed diets consist of breaking down a protein source into tiny molecular particles. Then, it can be absorbed into the cat’s digestive system without triggering an immune response.

    Many cats show improvement after switching diets when the protein has been identified as a trigger.

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    Conclusion

    With any luck, you’ve found the solution to your kitty’s stomach issues. Our pick for the best cat food for sensitive stomachs is Smalls Fresh Cat Food for its overall optimal nutrition and promising results. Plus, Blue is a trusted company that caters to different requirements of pet diets. If you’re looking to save but want results, consider Purina ONE Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food. Your cat will love the tasty, easy-to-digest recipe, and you’ll love the savings. If none of our top two cat food reviews caught your eye, hopefully, another selection fixes the sensitive stomach issues once and for all.

    Looking for more cat food reviews? 


    Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

    About the Author

    Christian Adams
    Christian Adams
    Christian is the Editor-in-Chief of Excited Cats and one of its original and primary contributors. A lifelong cat lover, now based in South East Asia, Christian and his wife are the proud parents of an 11-year-old son and four rescue cats: Trixie, Chloe, Sparky, and Chopper.

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