Limited Ingredient Cat Food - Should You Make The Switch?

Does your cat frequently suffer from an upset stomach or seems to be allergic to certain foods? If your answer is yes, then perhaps limited ingredient cat food can help you solve your cat’s diarrhea, vomiting and other issues connected with food allergies and intolerances. Read on to find out what a limited ingredient diet is and how it can help with your cat’s health. 

What is limited ingredient cat food? 

Limited ingredient cat food refers to food with a restricted number of ingredients. It is often high in protein and contains a natural blend of vitamins and minerals that are suitable for cats with allergies and intolerances. 

Limited ingredient cat food usually has a single source of protein, and a single source of carbohydrate. The protein and carbohydrate source should preferably be something that your cat does not typically eat. 

Because only a single source of protein and carbohydrate is used, you will be able to cut down on your cat’s exposure to food that might cause allergies. A limited ingredient diet is one of the best ways to regulate gut health while providing all the nutrients your cat needs. 

A limited ingredient diet is quite similar to a hypoallergenic diet, where the food is free from food that are known to be cat allergens. 

hypoallergenic diet
Photo Credit: Daria Shatova on Unsplash

Common food allergies in cats 

Cats cannot develop an allergy to foods that it has not been exposed to. Thus, if you are wondering which food your cat is allergic to, it is definitely something that it has eaten before. 

Common foods that cats can develop an allergy to include fish, beef, chicken and dairy products. 

The foods most commonly associated with allergies in cats include beef, fish, chicken, corn products and dairy products. 

Artificial coloring, and food preservatives such as BHA and BHT can also cause allergic reactions. Cats can also have a bad reaction to meat byproducts that are used as pet food fillers, such as excess organs, tissues and fats from pigs, chickens and other animals. 

What ingredients should you avoid in cat food? 

To reduce food allergies and intolerances in your cat, here are several things that you should look out for in cat food. Always read ingredient labels carefully before purchasing food for your pet.  Here are some that you should look out for to avoid triggering allergic reactions in your cat. 

Meat byproducts and rendered fat

Meat byproducts are secondary animal products such as spleen, lungs, brain, liver, kidney, intestines, stomach, fatty tissue and many other parts. It should be avoided as you do not know which species of animal the meat comes from.

Rendered fat is used to enhance flavour in your cat’s food. However, it is a source of microorganisms such as salmonella and toxins. The rendering process also alters and/or destroys natural enzymes and proteins, resulting in food that are low in nutrients. 

Chemicals, Dyes and Preservatives

Corn meal, soy and carbohydrate fillers

Corn, soy and wheat gluten can cause gastrointestinal issues and allergies. They are also not needed by your cat. 


As cats are carnivorous, they do not actually need grains, unless prescribed by your vet. A study on cats who were fed dietary rice had decreased levels of taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid needed by felines to stay healthy

How to tell if your cat has a food allergy? 

Cat with food allergies usually suffer from chronic, year round itching and skin issues. You may notice your cat scratching or overgrooming its face, ears, belly, legs and paws to the point of hair loss. Overgrooming can also cause wounds and abrasions that lead to skin infections. 

Food allergies can also present as gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea and vomiting. Itching around the rectum, frequent bowel movements or straining to defecate may also point to food allergies, if no other medical issue can be found. 

Pinpointing the food that your cat is allergic to can be quite tricky as there are numerous ingredients in your cat’s food. You vet may suggest a food trial to determine the food that your cat is unable to agree with. A hydrolyzed protein diet or novel protein diet may be used as part of the food trial. You can also put your cat on a limited ingredient diet to reduce the chances of your cat having a bad reaction to what it is eating. 

How will a limited ingredient diet help my cat?

A limited ingredient diet helps your cat by having much fewer ingredients than regular cat food. Because the ingredient list is small, limited ingredient diets give you a chance to determine what food your cat is allergic to. 

If your cat does not have any allergies, a limited ingredient diet protects it from exposure to ingredients in regular cat food that it might be sensitive to. 

Transitioning your cat to a limited ingredient diet

It is important to go slow when changing your cat’s diet. Abrupt changes can cause stomach upsets and result in undesired outcomes. Transitioning your cat to a new diet should be carried out over a number of days, or even weeks to ensure that you cat adapts well to the changes in its food. Here are some tips on moving your cat to a limited ingredient diet:

  • Opt of a protein source that your cat is accustomed to. Chicken is a common meat that can be suitable for this diet. 
  • Give your cat small portions of the limited ingredient cat food together with its regular diet
  • Increase the amount of the new food and reduce the amount of the regular food after two or three days. 
  • Continue increasing the limited ingredient cat food until it replaces all the food from the regular diet. 

Do remember that different cat foods provide different amounts of calories. Check the labels on how much of the new food to give your cat in accordance to its weight. 

Limited ingredient cat food for sensitive stomach

Limited ingredient cat food is probably one of the best diets for cats with sensitive stomachs. It will decrease your cat’s exposure to common ingredients in regular cat food that it might be intolerant to such as meat byproducts and grains and help greatly with the discomfort. 

By putting your cat on a limited ingredient diet, you will be able to monitor the exact foods your cat is consuming and thus, find out the trigger foods that your cat is intolerant of. 

You will be able to help your cat’s sensitive stomach settle, ensure that its gut is healthy and promote normal bowel movements. Dehydration from diarrhea due to stomach sensitivity will also be less likely to occur. You will also be able to avoid worrisome conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome which may lead to colitis in cats if not treated. 

Limited ingredient cat food without peas 

Dried peas is a legume that seems to be gaining popularity in place of grain in grain free cat food formulas. It is not to be confused with the fresh, succulent green peas. With concerns arising from whether peas are good or bad for cats, many limited ingredient cat foods take the precaution not to have pea protein as part of the formula. 

Are peas bad for cats? 

The problem with peas is that it contains lectins which are sugar binding proteins. They protect plants from predators by acting as natural insecticides and fungicides. However, the sticky molecules in lectins can also cause it to bind to the lining of your cat’s small intestine. 

This may damage the intestinal lining and decrease the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients. It can also disrupt the microflora in the gut and lead to leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory diseases. 

While a bowl of legumes eaten by your cat occasionally will probably not cause it any harm, many cat foods contain a concentrated amount of pea protein. When fed on a daily basis, there is potential that your cat may soon suffer from gastrointestinal issues. 

Photo Credit: Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Do you know that wheat, soy and corn are also full of lectins? As these foods are also potential allergens for cats, you may want to consider purchasing cat food that do not contain peas! If you are looking for a limited ingredient diet without pea protein, check out Petcubes’ range of premium raw cat food.


Your cat’s diet is very important for its health and general well being as food allergies and intolerances are not uncommon in cats. One of the best ways to ensure that your cat is getting all the nutrients it needs in addition to preventing the discomfort of allergies and intolerances is to give it limited ingredient cat food. However, do remember to check with your vet before you make any changes to your cat’s diet. Your vet may also have suggestions as to which foods are best for your cat.