Hydrolyzed Protein Cat Food: Does Your Cat Need It?

Food allergies are quite common in cats. If your cat seems to be showing signs of a food allergy or intolerance, then hydrolyzed protein cat food may be the answer. However, with so many types of diets and foods available on the market, you might want to find out exactly what it is and whether it will be right for your cat. 

Hydrolyzed protein cat food

What is hydrolyzed protein cat food?

Hydrolyzed protein cat food is food in which the proteins have been broken down to parts that are so small that the body does not recognize them as a threat. 

Amino acids are linked together with a peptide or amide bond to create proteins. Some amino acid chains are long while others have only 2 links. 

Protein hydrolysis refers to the process in which the proteins are broken down to smaller peptide units or individual amino acids. 

Chemicals or enzymes can be used for this process. Although a higher level of hydrolysis can be achieved with chemicals, it can also cause the degradation of some amino acids. This results in the reduction of the nutritional value of the particular food. 

Enzymes, on the other hand, are better able to preserve important nutritional compounds as high temperatures and/or pressure is not needed during hydrolysis. 

Does your cat need hydrolyzed protein cat food?

Cats can develop food allergies or intolerances any time. Food allergies are reactions that occur when the cat’s body confuses dietary components as allergens or antigens even though they are not harmful. This triggers an immune response that results in an allergic reaction. For example, you may notice your cat overgrooming or scratching incessantly after eating a particular type of food. 

On the other hand, food intolerances do not result in allergic reactions. It occurs when your cat has a hard time digesting and absorbing certain foods. Food intolerances often cause cats to vomit the food that it has eaten. 

Because a large number of allergies in cats are caused by proteins, a hydrolyzed diet in which proteins are broken down to smaller units can help to reduce and manage allergies in cats. 

For example, your cat is less likely to have an allergic reaction to hydrolyzed beef compared to when it is eating a piece of beef. 

Hydrolyzed protein cat food, together with novel protein cat food, are hypoallergenic cat foods that can help allergic reactions in your cat to subside and heal as you find out the exact foods that it is allergic to. 

Benefits of hydrolyzed protein cat food 

If your cat has food allergies and sensitivities, giving it hydrolyzed protein cat food has quite a number of advantages. 

  • Since the protein is broken down, digestion and absorption is easier. 
  • As hydrolyzed diets are hypoallergenic and reduces food sensitivities, long term use will help to reduce the possibility of new allergies.
  • Most hydrolyzed protein cat food uses a single source of protein which further reduces the chances of an allergic reaction
  • Hydrolyzed diets can help cats with inflammatory bowel diseases 
  • Hydrolyzed diets are complete and balanced, providing all the nutrients that cats need. 

Hydrolyzed protein cat food side effects 

While hydrolyzed protein cat food gives your cat a chance to heal from allergies and sensitivities, there are also several disadvantages to take note of.

  • It does not heal sensitivities. The allergies will still be there and symptoms may flare up if you change the food. 
  • Food may not be as tasty because broken down proteins have smaller peptides which may make it more bitter
  • Hydrolyzed diets may increase osmolarity and draw more water to the intestines. This may cause diarrhea or loose stools. 
  • Hydrolyzed protein cat food sometimes contains soy and corn which are not suitable for cats.
  • Some argue that hydrolysis does not convert proteins as how it would be naturally converted in the body. As such, there is potential for long term side effects. However, more research is needed for concrete evidence of amino acid conversion. 

How to choose the best hydrolyzed protein cat food

It’s important to select the best hydrolyzed protein cat food for your pet to ensure that you do not make food allergies and intolerances worse than it already is. Here are some things that you should consider if you do decide on making the switch to a hydrolyzed diet. 

  • If you are purchasing the food over the counter, remember to check the label. Labels should include ingredients, manufacturer name, nutritional adequacy statement, calorie statements as well as a guaranteed analysis on the food content.
  • Be careful that the product only has a hydrolyzed protein and not soy, or other ingredients
  • Choose food that contains animal based protein and fat sources. An adequate amount of fats is needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are also an important requirement in your cat’s diet.
  • Avoid foods with preservatives, artificial flavours and coloring, meat byproducts or any other low quality fillers
  • Avoid foods with synthetic vitamins and minerals
  • Go for hydrolyzed foods that are balanced and have adequate nutrition levels
  • Be aware that even with hydrolyzed foods, you may need some trial and error before you find something that is suitable for your cat. 

Hydrolyzed protein cat food for IBD 

Hydrolyzed protein cat food is also used in food elimination trials for cats who are presenting with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD can be caused by infections as well as food allergies and intolerances. Cats with IBD often suffer from chronic vomiting and diarrhea. 

Because IBD is related to food, vets sometimes prescribe hydrolyzed protein cat food to prevent the immune system from being stimulated by foods that are eaten. Many cats with IBD improve when they are put on a hydrolyzed protein diet. However, switching back to regular cat food can cause symptoms to flare up again. 


Hydrolyzed proteins have been broken down into parts that are so small that it will not trigger any immune response in your cat’s body. As such, hydrolyzed protein cat food can help your cat if it is prone to food allergies. If you intend to put your cat on a hydrolyzed diet, do remember to check with your vet before you do so. 

Besides managing your kitty’s allergies, you should do your best in keeping to its natural diet with our complete nutrition guide to the best cat food in Singapore