11 Best Cat Foods for Diarrhea – 2023 Reviews & Top Picks
Cats are mighty predators, but despite their fearsome hunting prowess, many seem to have a curious inability to handle their kill once they’ve eaten it. Digestive issues like vomiting and diarrhea are common in cats, and some poor animals struggle with those problems for years, if not their whole lives.
Nothing can make you feel more helpless than watching your cat struggle while knowing that you can’t fix the problem, so it should excite you to know that there is something that you can do to help. Switching your cat to an appropriate food — one targeted at digestive issues like diarrhea — can make a world of difference for their health and happiness.
These reviews take an in-depth look at the top formulas for sensitive stomachs on the market today. We can’t guarantee that one of these kibbles will solve your cat’s digestive issues, but we’re confident that they stand a better chance than just about any other foods out there.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2023 Update)
|Best Overall||Smalls Ground Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription)||
||Click to Save 40% Use code: Hepper2023|
|Best Value||Blue Buffalo Stomach Chicken Dry Cat Food||
|Hill's Prescription Multi-Benefit Dry Cat Food||
|Best for Kittens||Royal Canin Vet Diet Dry Kitten Food||
|Purina Pro Plan Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food||
The 11 Best Cat Foods for Diarrhea
1. Smalls Ground Bird Recipe (Fresh Cat Food Subscription) — Best Overall
|Primary Ingredient:||Turkey thigh|
Smalls is our top pick for the best cat food for diarrhea, specifically, their “other bird” recipe. While it’s not a prescription diet for cat diarrhea, it contains all the key ingredients that make up a good diarrhea-fighting food.
First, Smalls only uses lean protein sources like chicken and turkey breast. These are both low in fat and easy to digest. The healthy fiber from veggies, like green beans, peas, and kale, also helps with digestion.
Additionally, the wet food formula contains a lot of moisture, which is important when your cat is dealing with diarrhea. The short ingredients list, which is mainly composed of meat and vegetables, also means that there are no potential diarrhea-causing ingredients such as fillers, grains, or artificial flavors.
Finally, most cats love the taste of Smalls cat food. Even if they only eat a little at a time, the ultra-high protein content and nutrients can help them keep their strength up while they’re sick.
Diarrhea or not, we think Smalls is one of the best overall cat food brands around. They use only high-quality, human-grade ingredients and have a recipe for every stage of your cat’s life. If your cat is dealing with diarrhea, we definitely recommend trying out one of their several cat food options.
- High-protein recipe with lean meats
- Contains healthy fiber from veggies
- Moisture content helps with hydration
- Wholesome and human-grade ingredients
- More expensive than regular cat kibble
2. Blue Buffalo Stomach Chicken Dry Cat Food — Best Value
|Primary Ingredient:||Deboned chicken|
Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food isn’t only good for cats with tummy problems, but it’s also a great all-around kibble. It’s surprisingly affordable for the quality, which is why we feel that it’s the best cat food for diarrhea for the money.
The first two ingredients are chicken and chicken meal, so your cat will get plenty of protein (32%) from the food. Some of that protein comes from plant sources, though, which cats don’t digest as well as they do animal proteins.
After that, the next ingredients are brown rice and oatmeal, which should help calm your kitty’s stomach.
There are probiotics to aid digestion, as well as the LifeSource Bits that are included in every bag of Blue Buffalo. These are chunks of vitamins and antioxidants, many of which are essential to proper digestive function.
There’s dried egg product in here, however, which is a strange addition because it can cause upset stomachs in some cats.
All in all, though, Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach is a high-quality, affordable choice for cats with sensitive stomachs (and even those without).
- Good value for the price
- Plenty of protein inside
- Brown rice and oatmeal calms upset stomachs
- LifeSource bits full of important antioxidants
- Probiotics to aid digestion
- Some of the protein comes from plants
- Dried egg product can cause upset stomach in some cats
3. Hill’s Prescription Multi-Benefit Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredient:||Brewers rice|
While it’s excellent for cats with digestive issues, Hills Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit Dry Cat Food is actually something of a one-stop health shop for your kitty.
There’s a ton of fiber inside (9%), and the first ingredient is brewers rice to keep your pet’s stomach happy.
The food also takes care of your cat’s urinary tract health, thanks to all the L-carnitine inside and the low sodium levels. The high protein levels (34%) help your kitty build lean muscle and metabolize fat, helping to keep your cat at a healthy weight.
While this food is all-inclusive, it’s not perfect. It’s fairly expensive, and there’s quite a bit of wheat, corn, and gluten inside, all of which can be difficult for some cats to process.
If you can get a vet to write you a prescription for Hill’s Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit, you should take it, though, as this food can do more than just solve your kitty’s digestive woes.
- Extremely high in fiber
- First ingredient is brewebrewer’s
- Includes L-carnitine for urinary tract health
- High protein levels help build lean muscle and burn fat
- Fairly expensive
- Large amounts of wheat, corn, and gluten inside
4. Royal Canin Vet Diet Gastrointestinal Dry Cat Food — Best for Kittens
|Primary Ingredient:||Chicken by-product meal|
It’s important to start your cat off on the right paw from the moment that you bring them home, so if your new kitten is having digestive issues, you should consider switching them to Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Kitten Gastrointestinal Dry Cat Food.
Formulated especially for young cats, this kibble is high in both calories and fat (22%), ensuring that your kitten will get all the nutrition that they need to grow up big and strong. There’s plenty of protein inside too (33%), most of which comes from animal sources, like chicken meal.
There’s fish oil inside as well, which in addition to calming the stomach, helps with the development of healthy eyes and brain. This food has prebiotics, ensuring that the good bacteria in the gut have plenty to eat.
There’s not much fiber inside (3.7%) for a sensitive stomach food, and it includes ingredients like corn and wheat gluten, which aren’t ideal.
If you have a brand-new kitten with a tricky tummy, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal is the best food for ensuring that they grow up strong and healthy.
- High in calories and fat
- Plenty of protein inside
- Includes fish oil for brain and eye development
- Prebiotics act as food for good intestinal bacteria
- Relatively low in fiber
- Includes ingredients like corn and wheat gluten
5. Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Sensitive Skin & Stomach is a double whammy of a cat food because it’s designed to help you feel less allergic to your cat and make your cat feel less allergic to their food.
The formula is designed to reduce allergens in the cat’s saliva, so anyone with a cat allergy should see their symptoms reduced after the cat has been on the food for a while. This could be the difference between keeping your beloved pet and being forced to rehome them.
Don’t think that the only emphasis is on your well-being, though. This food is loaded with protein at 40%, although much of that comes from peas and potatoes. Still, turkey and chicken meal are the first ingredients, and you’ll also find beef fat listed.
To soothe your cat’s stomach, the manufacturers included oatmeal, rice, and chicory root, all of which can promote regularity and calm irritable bowels. You’ll also find taurine inside, which is an amino acid that’s vital for heart health.
This is far from a perfect food, however. It’s extremely low in fiber (2.5%) and fairly expensive. If you can afford it, though, Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Sensitive Skin & Stomach might make life much easier for every member of your household.
- Can reduce cat allergies in people
- Packed with protein
- Has oatmeal, rice, and chicory root for digestive health
- Includes added taurine for heart health
- Fairly expensive
- Low in fiber
6. Royal Canin Vet Diet Gastrointestinal Fibre Response Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredient:||Brewers rice|
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Fiber Response is a mouthful in more ways than one, but it’s been specially designed by vets for cats with digestive issues, which is why it’s a great pick as cat food for diarrhea.
It works on cats with both short- and long-term stomach issues, and it’s loaded with probiotics to ensure that everything gets digested properly. There’s also a large amount of fiber inside (4.7%), so everything should move through your cat’s digestive tract without issue.
That’s not the only good stuff inside either. There are also omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for boosting immune response and improving gastrointestinal health. It also has something called an S/O index that prevents crystals from forming in your cat’s bladder.
The first ingredient is brewers rice, which should help calm down upset stomachs.
The biggest issue we have with this food is that it requires a prescription from your vet, so you can’t just run down to the store and pick up a bag. If your cat has chronic digestive issues, though, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Fiber Response is worth the price of both the kibble and the doctor visit.
- Designed by vets for cats with digestive issues
- Loaded with probiotics
- High in fiber
- Includes omega fatty acids for immune support
- Brewers rice is gentle on upset stomachs
- Requires a vet’s prescription
7. Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Dry Cat Food
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin is the over-the-counter alternative to its Prescription Diet line. You don’t need authorization from a vet to buy it, but it’s not quite as good either.
Chicken is the first ingredient, starting the kibble with a nice protein base. It’s immediately followed by brewers rice, so the first two foods are dedicated to ensuring that your cat has all the nutrients that they need to build lean muscle and that their stomach problems are soothed.
The recipe also includes something called FOS, which is short for “fructooligosaccharides.” This is a prebiotic that nourishes the healthy bacteria in your cat’s gut, enabling them to process nutrients more efficiently.
You’ll find added vitamin E and omega fatty acids, which in addition to improving their digestive health, makes their skin and coat healthy and lustrous.
Unfortunately, the ingredients list also mentions things like corn and artificial flavors, neither of which are good for your cat. The fiber levels are low too, at just 3%. It doesn’t skimp on calories, though (and most of those are empty calories from the corn), so watch your cat’s waistline if you switch them to this food.
Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach & Skin is an excellent food for cats with diarrhea, especially if you want a non-prescription solution. As you might expect, though, it’s not quite up to the standard set by some other prescription-only foods.
- Chicken is firstthe ingredient
- Brewers rice helps soothe irritated stomachs
- Contains an important prebiotic called FOS
- Vitamin E and omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat
- Includes corn and artificial flavors
- Low fiber levels
- Full of empty calories
8. Purina Pro Plan Vet Diet Hydrolyzed Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredient:||Rice starch|
A prescription-only food, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula is built around simple proteins and foods that are unlikely to be allergens to the vast majority of cats.
Many of the ingredients have been hydrolyzed, which means they’re broken down into smaller, easier-to-digest components. This can make it a good choice for cats that have trouble digesting a wide variety of foods.
However, it’s not necessarily designed the way that a “good” cat food should be. Meat is the fourth ingredient listed, and that’s hydrolyzed chicken liver. While liver is excellent for cats, we’d like to see a richer nutrient profile instead of relying on just a single organ meat. Hydrolyzed chicken is also listed, but it’s significantly farther down the list.
Nevertheless, this food boasts a good amount of protein at 30%, but much of that comes from hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, which isn’t ideal because it’s not a meat-based protein and cats shouldn’t eat soy, anyway.
There’s not much fat inside, at just 9%. That means your cat’s likely to get hungry sooner with this food than with a food with a heavier fat content, and they may overeat to compensate (we’d advise against letting them free-feed with this kibble).
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Formula certainly isn’t a bad food, but compared to similar prescription-only kibbles, it has a few glaring flaws.
- Ingredients hydrolyzed for easier digestion
- Good amount of protein
- Uses nutrient-rich chicken liver
- Meat is just the fourth ingredient listed
- Much of the protein comes from soy
- Low-fat content may leave cats hungry and unfulfilled
9. Royal Canin Vet Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredient:||Brewers rice|
Many sensitive stomach formulas only focus on being gentle on your cat’s stomach, and as a result, they pay little attention to anything else, causing many to be packed with calories. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie is an exception to the rule, as it’s gentle on tummies and low in calories.
It’s high in protein at 33%, although chicken is only the second ingredient. It also uses chicken by-product meal instead of real chicken, so the meat isn’t as high-quality as what you’ll find in some other foods.
The first ingredient is brewers rice, so this should be gentle enough for even the most finicky felines. It’s also loaded with omega fatty acids from fish oil, which boosts immune response and can calm inflammation in the digestive tract.
Many of the ingredients farther down the list aren’t as high-quality as the chicken and rice, though, as you’ll find a great deal of corn and wheat in the mix. There’s also egg product, which can cause irritation in some cats.
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Gastrointestinal Moderate Calorie is a good choice, but unless your cat has both a sensitive stomach and a weight management issue, you might be able to find something better.
- Low in calories
- Brewers rice is gentle on stomachs
- Fish oil helps fight inflammation
- Meat isn’t first ingredient
- Uses low-quality chicken
- Full of corn and wheat
- Eggs may cause irritation in some cats
10. Go! Sensitivities LID Duck Dry Cat Food
|Primary Ingredient:||Deboned duck|
As a general rule, the more ingredients that a food has, the higher the likelihood that one of them could cause issues in your cat’s digestive tract. Go! Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Diet tries to sidestep this issue by limiting the ingredients inside.
The first two ingredients are duck and duck meal, ensuring that your cat will get plenty of protein and other important amino acids. For some reason, though, dried eggs are next in line, which seems risky, given their allergen profile.
There’s also a ton of veggies inside, including peas, chickpeas, and lentils. While this sounds good, cats are carnivores, and we’d prefer to see more meat in the recipe.
Despite all those veggies, the fiber levels are low at just 3.5%. The kibble itself is also quite small, which makes it hard for some cats to eat it.
If you want a formula with as few ingredients as possible, Go! Sensitivities Limited Ingredient is the way to go. However, we’d prefer if the ingredients that it did include were a little higher-quality.
- Limited ingredients reduces risk of causing irritation
- Duck and duck meal are first ingredients
- Large amount of eggs inside
- Heavy on the veggies
- Low fiber levels
- Kibble is too small for some cats to eat
11. Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dry Cat Food
Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach is mass-produced enough that you can find it in your local big box or grocery store. However, while it’s better than most of the other stuff that you’ll find on the aisles there, it’s not quite up to snuff compared to the other foods on this list.
There’s a good amount of protein inside at 34%, and while much of that comes from turkey, it also includes low-quality chicken by-product meal. The ingredients are lower in quality after that, with corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and dried egg product all making an appearance.
The fiber content is low (4%), as is the fat (13%). None of this is necessarily surprising, of course, as quality ingredients cost money, and this is designed to be a low-cost food.
As far as calming your cat’s stomach is concerned, the formula does include rice, but it’s rice flour, which limits the amount of good that it can do.
If you’re in a rush and need to grab a bag of food for your cat at the grocery store, Purina ONE Sensitive Skin & Stomach is likely to be your best bet. If you have time, though, it’s worth it to shop around and find something better.
- Highly affordable
- Turkey is first ingredient
- Uses low-quality meat
- Loaded with cheap fillers
- Not much fiber inside
- Low in fat
- Uses rice flour instead of real rice
Related Read: 9 Best Cat Foods to Prevent Vomiting – Reviews & Top Picks
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting The Best Cat Food For Diarrhea
Any sort of digestive issues that your cat is having should be taken seriously, and the first thing that you should do is take them to your vet to have them looked at. You want to rule out any serious issues like diseases or parasites.
Assuming that your cat is healthy and just has a finicky stomach, you’ll need to find a food that they can tolerate. Here are the questions that you should ask yourself while searching.
What Causes Diarrhea in Cats?
There are all sorts of things that can throw your cat’s regularity off. Assuming that you’ve been to the vet and have ruled out the more serious possibilities, there are a few things that you should look at.
One of the most common causes is a food allergy or intolerance.
- Extremely rich or fatty meat
- Artificial colors or flavors
- Animal by-products
This list isn’t comprehensive (some cats can even be allergic to chicken!), but it’s a good place to start. If you’re thinking of switching your cat’s diet, try to avoid kibbles with any of these ingredients.
Other causes include changing their diet too often or too quickly, stress, or eating a non-food item (like certain plants or garbage) that irritate their digestive tract.
How Do I Fix My Cat’s Digestive Issues?
The answer to this question should start at your vet’s office. Your cat may need medication or another treatment to get the problem under control.
If your vet concludes that it’s something diet or environmentally related, you’ll need to take a long look at what you’re feeding your cat and how they’re living. This may mean putting them on an elimination diet, in which you methodically eliminate one ingredient from their diet at a time until you figure out the culprit, or it could mean providing them with a more stress-free living environment.
While you’re waiting for the diarrhea to clear up, it’s essential that you provide your cat with plenty of water, as dehydration could be life-threatening. However, many cats don’t like to drink much water, preferring to get their moisture from their food instead. Most sensitive stomach cat foods are high in fiber and low in moisture.
There are several things that you can try to counteract this. One is to add water to the food, although many cats may not eat soggy kibble (and it won’t clean their teeth as well). Another is to mix in wet food with the dry, but you should only do this if you’re confident that the additional food won’t trigger more diarrhea.
Ultimately, your best bet is to do whatever you can to encourage your cat to drink. If they’re not drinking from a regular bowl, consider investing in a pet fountain, as many animals prefer to drink running water. Failing that, you can always let them drink from the tap periodically.
How Can I Tell If the Problem has Been Solved? When Should I Worry?
The only way to know for sure is to monitor your cat’s bathroom habits over time. We recommend increasing the frequency that you clean the litter box so you can have a better idea of the quality of their bowel movements. Doing so can also help you pinpoint whatever’s making them sick.
Regardless of what steps you take to cure the problem, you’ll need to see well-formed bowel movements for at least a week or so before you can consider the problem fixed. If you’ve ruled out illness or parasites and made dietary or lifestyle changes, then the consistency of your cat’s poop should tell you exactly what worked. Simply keep that up, whether it was changing to a new food, giving them a special space in the house, or something else entirely.
You should start to worry if you start noticing other signs of illness with your cat, like vomiting, lethargy, or listlessness. Also, if your cat is experiencing diarrhea every time that they use the bathroom, it’s probably time to take them to the vets.
Finally, if you have multiple cats and they’re all suffering, it’s more likely that they have an illness or parasite of some form that they’ve transmitted to one another. If that’s the case, switching foods won’t help — get them to your vet instead.
If your cat is having digestive problems, we hope that these reviews will help you find the best dry cat food for their diarrhea. After all, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than watching your best friend suffer. If you’re looking for our top pick, we recommend Smalls Fresh Cat Food. Our pick for the best cat foods for diarrhea on a budget is Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach.
At the end of the day, though, make sure that whatever food you buy is good in other respects, not just in soothing their sensitive stomach. Once you find one that works, you’re unlikely to change it, so make sure they’ll be happy (and healthy) eating it for years to come.
See also: 10 Best Cat Foods for Diarrhea in Canada – Reviews & Top Picks
Featured Image Credit: yykkaa, Shutterstock