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Best Food For Cats With IBD

When was the last time you stepped in a wet, gooey kitty surprise on your carpet at 2 a.m.? Most cat owners know that feeling all too well.
It seems to be a sort of accepted reality that if you have a cat, you’ll be cleaning up hairballs and piles of semi-digested kibble regularly.

But is it normal for cats to vomit once a week or more? No! Inflammatory bowel disease in cats is a common cause of frequent vomiting as well as other GI symptoms.

What is IBD in Cats?

IBD stands for inflammatory bowel disease. When inflammatory cells take up residence in the walls of a cat’s stomach and/or intestines, they crowd out normal cells. Intestines with IBD can’t absorb nutrients very well.

The exact cause of feline IBD is not known, but experts believe it’s probably caused by multiple factors. One theory holds that the body starts recognizing normal food and bacteria as foreign invaders.

The classic symptoms of IBD in cats include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Finicky or Decreased Appetite (or occasionally increased appetite)
  • Weight Loss

Diagnosing IBD in Cats 

Feline IBD is not easy to diagnose and can be confused with more serious diseases like lymphoma. Although there are blood tests that may help narrow down the possibilities, a biopsy of the affected tissue is the best way to confirm a cat's IBD.

Since there is a spectrum of gastrointestinal diseases that can cause similar symptoms, getting the right diagnosis is the fastest way to decide on the best treatment.

Treatment for Cats with IBD


 Appropriate dietary therapy can decrease inflammation in the GI tract of cats with IBD (Washabau, 2005). When it comes to inflammatory bowel disease in cats, diet may be enough to heal mild cases.

Cats with moderate to severe IBD often require steroids and possibly immunosuppressive drug treatment before they feel better.

The Best Food for Cats with IBD

Best Food for Cats with IBDWhen dealing with IBD in cats, food is the first place you should start to look at. While there is no one ideal food for all cases of inflammatory bowel disease in cats, here are some diet characteristics veterinarians recommend…

  • Minimal Ingredients

Since we don’t know which ingredients cats with IBD are reacting to, it’s best to choose a food that is free from any fillers, such as peas and potatoes. Preservatives and additives can also cause an immune reaction and should be avoided.

  • Highly digestible, low residue diets

Veterinary nutritionists recommend a moderate to high protein level, lower fat levels and low carbohydrate content. Food for cats with IBD should be highly digestible, which means more meat and less plant material. High moisture food is easier for many cats to digest than dry kibble, too.

  • Novel protein diet

IBD may be an immune system reaction to food. Scientific research tells us beef, fish, and chicken are the most common foods to cause reactions in cats (Mueller, Olivry, & Prélaud, 2016).


Typically, the best food for cats with IBD are novel proteins. Novel proteins may include rabbit, duck, or pork, depending on what the cat has been exposed to in their lifetime. When a cat eats a protein they have never had before, their immune system is less likely to have a negative reaction (i.e. vomiting, diarrhea, constipation).

When choosing a diet for cats with IBD, use a limited ingredient food with one novel protein source so you'll know what your cat is reacting to if symptoms flare up.

KOHA Limited Ingredient Diet recipes can be a great option for IBD cats. Our patés are all single meat with minimal ingredients, and include novel protein options like rabbit cat food.Healthy limited ingredient cat food for IBD

References

Mueller, R. S., Olivry, T., & Prélaud, P. (2016). Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC veterinary research, 12(1), 9.

Washabau RJ: Diseases of the Intestine. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 6 ed. Elsevier Saunders 2005 pp. 1378-1408.