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9 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods (2024) – Reviews & Top Picks

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 20, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

feline cat eating on a metal bowl_Krakenimages.com_shutterstock

9 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods (2024) – Reviews & Top Picks


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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feline cat eating on a metal bowl_Krakenimages.com_shutterstock Choosing the right cat food can be pretty daunting, especially if your loved one has allergies or sensitivities to particular ingredients.

Fortunately, there are special formulas available for your feline friend known as limited-ingredient cat foods. They have small ingredient lists that can help you pinpoint particular allergies through the process of elimination.

With limited ingredients and seemingly endless options, it can be challenging to determine precisely which limited-ingredient cat food is best for you. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list with detailed reviews to help.

Cat ball divider 1A Glance of Our Favorites of 2024

Image Product Details
Best Overall
Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service) Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service)
  • Only healthy ingredients
  • No artificial colors or preservatives
  • Delivered right to your door
  • Budget Buy
    Second place
    Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Natural Balance Limited Ingredients
  • Grain-free
  • Single protein
  • Budget friendly
  • Third place
    Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient
  • Vitamin boosted
  • High protein percentage
  • Single source of poultry protein
  • Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
  • Grain-free
  • No eggs or dairy
  • No filler ingredients
  • Natural Balance Limited Ingredients Natural Balance Limited Ingredients
  • Single animal protein source
  • Contains plenty of chicken
  • Omega fatty acids
  • The 9 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods

    1. Smalls Cat Food Fresh Smooth Bird (Cat Food Subscription Service) – Best Overall

    Smalls Cat Food Fresh Smooth Bird

    We couldn’t find a better cat food than Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird. It only has a handful of components, all of which are natural, nourishing, and delicious. All Smalls recipes are 100% human-grade and fit for our dinner tables (though we don’t recommend human consumption).

    This protein-packed recipe contains up to 42% chicken thigh and other animal protein sources. The first ingredients include chicken, chicken liver, green beans, and peas. It’s also packed with vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids like phosphorus, calcium, and taurine. You can easily break down this formula to check for potentially irritating additives. However, your cat will not have much problem scarfing down this meal.

    You will notice a difference in your cat’s overall attitude, energy, and physical appearance. To top it off, Smalls is a delivery service. You can create a subscription box on a timed schedule.

    Smalls might be a bit pricey, but we think the convenience and health perks are worth it. So, if your kitty has a sensitivity of some kind, fresh food is undoubtedly the best way to go.

    • Only healthy ingredients
    • Fresh recipes
    • Delivered right to your door
    • Subscription-based
    • Pricey

    2. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food – Best Value

    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Duck & Green Pea Recipe Dry Cat Food

    There’s one harsh reality about limited-ingredient cat foods: they’re expensive. It can be more costly to source a single, high-quality protein than to use several less-than-optimal meats. And those extra expenses get passed directly to the consumer.

    This can be a roadblock for cat owners whose feline friends need special diets. That’s why we’ve found the best limited-ingredient cat food for the money in Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Cat Food. The formula only contains duck, vegetables, seeds, and salmon oil.

    Salmon oil can be good or bad, depending on your cat’s dietary needs. Salmon oil is an excellent source of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy coat and skin. But if your kitty’s allergic to salmon, you need to avoid Natural Balance.

    However, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to other more expensive LID cat foods, Natural Balance Limited Ingredients can provide a healthy meal for your cat.

    • Grain-free
    • Single protein
    • Added Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids
    • Vitamin-fortified
    • Budget-friendly
    • Added salmon oil might not be great for your kitty

    3. Petcurean Go! Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food

    Go! Solutions Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Duck Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    If you’re looking for another excellent choice for your kitten’s limited-ingredient diet, check out Petcurean GO! SENSITIVITIES LID. In this grain-free formula, cage-free duck is the primary protein, but it also has chicken eggs. However, there is added chicken fat to help preserve the food with mixed tocopherols. Petcurean has a very high protein content percentage (31%) for a limited-ingredient diet.

    It also contains carbohydrates and dietary fiber, such as ground peas, chickpeas, and lentils. There aren’t any grain or filler byproducts such as corn, wheat, or soy. However, dried egg is in the formula, which is a common cat allergen. Petcurean is vitamin-boosted to ensure your cat gets a full day’s nutrition, but it’s more expensive than other brands on this list.

    • High protein percentage
    • Made with high-quality ingredients
    • Single source of duck meat protein
    • Chicken eggs
    • Vitamin boosted
    • Contains egg
    • Contains chicken fat
    • Very expensive

    4. Instinct Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food

    Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Real Turkey Recipe Grain-Free Pate Wet Cat Food

    Most cats love canned cat food. It has a much higher moisture content and is usually jam-packed with flavor. Most canned wet foods have a combination of proteins, vegetables, and other potential allergens. But that isn’t true with Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Canned Cat Food.

    Instinct’s limited ingredient diet (LID) only contains one protein and one vegetable, just turkey and peas. There is no chicken, beef, fish, dairy, or eggs, which are other common proteins found in cat food. It’s also grain-free, which means it’s without any corn, potatoes, or soy.

    However, this doesn’t mean your cat won’t get their required nutrition. Instinct is packed with additional allergen-free vitamins and mineral supplements to ensure your cat stays strong and healthy.

    Another thing we like about the Instinct wet food is its texture. Not every cat loves a smooth pate, so the texture is a nice change of pace. However, it’s very easily mashed if your cat prefers it that way. Instinct is the best-limited ingredient of wet cat food out there this year.

    • One protein and one vegetable
    • Grain-free
    • No eggs or dairy
    • No filler ingredients
    • Added nutritional supplements
    • Textured, but easy to mash
    • Contains more liquid than your cat may be used to

    5. Natural Balance Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Wet Cat Food

    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Chicken & Green Pea Recipe Wet Cat Food

    The second Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diets selection on our list is their canned cat food. This canned wet cat food contains a single animal protein source, just like the rest of our list, except this time it’s chicken.

    It’s loaded with it. The formula contains chicken meat, broth, liver, and processed meal. All of which is great unless your furball is allergic to chicken. It also contains salmon oil to add omega fatty acids.

    However, a common issue with Natural Balance is that it’s too dry for a pate. And we’ve also come across quite a few complaints that it’s too soupy. It seems that there is just too much inconsistency in this blend. Picky cats can nitpick everything, especially textures, so it’s hard to rank this wet food any higher.

    • Single animal protein source
    • Contains plenty of chicken
    • Omega fatty acids for healthy skin and nails
    • Inconsistent textures

    6. Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Cat Food

    Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Grain-Free Turkey & Potato Recipe Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food

    When it comes to pet food, Blue Buffalo has become a name that we know and trust. So, it only makes sense that they’d end up on our list of best limited-ingredient cat foods. However, we’re used to seeing Blue Buffalo perform just a little bit better.

    In this LID, there’s only one animal source as a protein source (turkey), and it provides a decent-sized protein content of 30%. However, it’s everything else in the formula that’s the problem. For an LID, it has a large ingredient list that includes some strange entries, including barley grass, three variations of peas, and potatoes.

    All of the extra ingredients are safe and nutritious, except for the potatoes, which can irritate cats with IBS.

    • Single source of animal protein
    • High protein content
    • Vitamin boosted with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits
    • Very long ingredient list

    7. Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Cat Food

    Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Duck Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food

    This is Merrick’s canned version of their LID formula. It’s produced with a single animal protein source without grains, gluten, dairy, or eggs. Merrick added a bunch of additional vitamins and minerals to boost the existing nutrition content.

    So what makes this different from their wet food?  The texture of this wet food can be unappealing to some cats. The pate is very thick, and you may need to add hot water to make it more palatable for your cats.

    • Single-source animal protein
    • No common allergens
    • Pate is way too thick

    8. FirstMate Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    Firstmate Chicken Meal with Blueberries Formula Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

    When FirstMate decided to make a limited-ingredient diet, they took limited ingredients to heart. The food consists of three ingredients: chicken, potatoes, and blueberries. It’s grain-free, gluten-free, and allergen-free.

    There are some supplemental vitamins, but FirstMate relies more on the nutritional value of the blueberries to carry the diet. It’s also relatively expensive. We don’t feel First Mate appeals to picky cats compared to the brands mentioned above.

    • Very short ingredient list
    • Could do much better when it comes to vitamins, minerals, and other nutrition
    • Expensive

    9. I and Love and You Limited Ingredient Diet Dry Cat Food

    I and Love and You Lovingly Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Salmon and Sweet Potato Dry Cat Food

    At first glance,  I and Love and You seems like a pretty decent selection. It has a pretty good-looking ingredient list, with salmon providing the source of single animal protein and sweet potatoes as the source of complex carbohydrates.

    However, it just misses the mark. As a fish-based cat food, your cat will either love it or hate it. The smell of the food can cause many cats, especially picky eaters, to refuse to eat. If your cat isn’t already eating a fish-based diet, swapping over to this formula may be a waste of money.

    You can buy a small bag of I and Love and You, but the cost per pound analysis shows it is relatively expensive.

    • Single-source protein with sweet potatoes
    • Smelly food
    • Not good for picky eaters
    • Not cheap on a long-term basis

    cat paw divider

    Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food

    Knowing the best types of food available is only part of the battle when shopping for limited-ingredient cat food. You need to know why your cat needs a LID in the first place.

    Benefits of a Limited Ingredient Diet

    • LIDs can help reduce digestive issues and upset stomachs and improve overall gut health.
    • You’ll see your feline friend have an increase in their energy levels.
    • Switching to an LID can minimize allergies and skin problems such as itching and flaking.
    • You can ensure that your kitty receives natural nutrition over other ingredients.
    • Limited-ingredient diets usually have much easier-to-read ingredient lists, so you know exactly what your feline is eating.

    What Makes Up a Limited Ingredient Diet?

    Just because cat food has fewer ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good LID.

    Here are some of the circumstances that make up a quality LID:

    No Artificial Ingredients or Flavors

    While there aren’t any conclusive studies that your kitten will become allergic to artificial ingredients, you’re not likely to find them in LIDs. Filler or artificial ingredients generally don’t have the nutrition that all-natural ones do.

    Single Source of Protein

    This is a very important component of a LID. You want your cat’s limited ingredient diet only to have a single protein that you can use to prevent food sensitivities in your little one.

    Novel Source of Protein

    Novel proteins are proteins that your pet has never eaten before. If your cat’s never had the meat before, there’s a good chance they’re not allergic to it. That’s why good LIDs utilize meat that is not commonly found in most commercial cat food.

    grey domestic hungry cat_Valeri Vatel_shutterstock
    Image Credit By: Valeri Vatel, Shutterstock

    Single Source of Carbohydrates

    Many of the best limited-ingredient diets also have one source of carbohydrates along with a single protein. By limiting the sources of carbs, you’re minimizing the chance that your kitten’s going to have an allergic reaction.

    No Grains

    Making a grain-free diet serves two significant purposes when it comes to LIDs. It keeps the ingredient list limited by removing filler material with little to no nutritional value.

    Many grains can be directly linked to food-borne allergies in pets. These grains include wheat, corn, soy, alfalfa, and others.

    Hepper 360 Cat Feeder, Stainless Steel, Anti-Chew...
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    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 Catster, 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!



    How to Tell If Your Cat Needs a Limited Ingredient Diet

    Not every cat needs to be on a limited-ingredient diet. Most felines will do fine with a standard diet. However, some cats have distinct food allergies, which can be dangerous if left untreated.

    Signs of food-borne allergies include:
    • Itchy face, ears, and eyes
    • Overgrooming—often to the point of causing abrasion or hair loss
    • Skin and ear infections
    • Itchy rectum or scooting
    • Difficulty when defecating
    • Frequent bowel movements

    If at any point you feel your cat is having an allergic reaction to their food, consult your veterinarian immediately.

    3 cat face divider

    Final Thoughts

    Finding the right limited-ingredient diet for your cat can be a real bother. Hopefully, our guide and reviews have been able to shine a light on this difficult decision. Overall, we like the Smalls Fresh Cat Food Smooth Bird. It follows the fundamental rules of a great LID in that it has a singular novel protein.

    Our favorite limited-ingredient diet for the money has to be the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Dry Cat Food. It’s still a single protein—with the addition of salmon oil—and provides all the nutrition your cat will need to make it through the day. Not to mention, it’s affordable for a limited-ingredient diet.

    Featured Image Credit:, Shutterstock

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