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Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods in 2021 – Reviews & Top Picks

Gray cat eating from the bowlJust like their human companions, some animals struggle with food-related woes. Whether the issue is a severe and life-threatening allergy or causes an upset stomach, the first line of defense is usually to start providing your feline friend with limited-ingredient foods to help remove allergens that might be causing them discomfort.

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet
  • Good labeling
  • Species-appropriate formulas
  • Use of organ meat in recipes
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Natural Balance Limited Ingredient
  • Budget-friendly
  • Medium-to-high quality formulas
  • Wide variety of recipes to choose from
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    Go! SENSITIVITIES Go! SENSITIVITIES
  • Large bag sizes
  • High protein and low carb
  • Formula developed by a doctor
  • Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Fantastic selection variety
  • Transparent food processing procedures
  • Acana Grain-Free Acana Grain-Free
  • High-quality ingredients
  • Transparent recipe formulation
  • The 10 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods – Reviews & Top Picks 2021

    1. Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet – Best Overall

    Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet

    Varieties: Chicken, Rabbit, Salmon
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food, Canned available in Chicken and Rabbit
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited Ingredient, grain-free

    Previously sold under the brand name ‘Natural Instinct,’ Instinct features a small variety of limited-ingredient cat foods that you can rely on to get your furball proper cat nutrition without the hassle of allergens. Instinct’s Limited-Ingredient lines have both dry and canned formulas in both turkey and rabbit flavors!

    Instinct’s recipes are remarkably species-appropriate featuring high protein and low carbohydrate quantities that will provide good nutrition to your cat. They also feature usage of organ meat which is a fantastic source of B vitamins and other minerals to keep your cat healthy. A small portion of vegetables and fruits are used, but the packaging is clearly labeled to help you identify the right recipe for your cat.

    Instinct is a little pricier than budget foods but won’t break the bank like many premium foods will, and deserves the best overall score. It might be challenging to justify the price if you have more than one cat unless separately feeding the cats is an option.

    Pros
    • Species-appropriate formulas
    • Good labeling
    • Use of organ meat in recipes
    Cons
    • A small variety of recipes
    • It can be pricey, especially if you have more than one cat

    2. Natural Balance Limited Ingredient – Best Value

    Natural Balance Limited Ingredient

    Varieties: Duck, Salmon, Chicken, Venison, Chickpeas
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food, Canned food available with salmon, chicken, and duck with chickpeas
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited ingredient, grain-free

    If you’re on a tight budget but still need to get your feline friend allergy-sensitive foods, look no further than Natural Balance. Their food is affordable and relatively high-quality when compared to other foods at the same price.

    The bigger draw for Natural Balance, in our opinion, is the vast selection of Limited-Ingredient recipes to choose from! From turkey to salmon and even more unusual blends like venison, there are so many different choices to find the right one for your little pal! They even have high-protein blends for those looking to feed a more species-appropriate diet!

    In general, Natural Balance’s recipes have many plant-based proteins, and the use of some uncommon meat sources like venison can be a turn-off for some folks, but these are a healthy, budget-friendly choice. The high-protein formulas will be a bit more species-appropriate for cats than the regular limited-ingredient blends. Still, Natural Balance’s formulas are widely acclaimed by veterinarians and cat-lovers alike.

    Pros
    • Budget-friendly
    • Medium-to-high quality formulas
    • Wide variety of recipes to choose from
    Cons
    • High amounts of plant materials in recipes

    3. Go! SENSITIVITIES – Premium Choice

    Go! SENSITIVITIES

    Varieties: Duck
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited Ingredient, Grain-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free

    Maybe you’ve only got one cat, and you want to give them the absolute best. Go! SENSITIVITIES by Petcurean is an excellent premium option for limited ingredient cat foods. The Go! line is a bit more expensive than budget foods, and their limited-ingredient food isn’t any different.

    The high cost isn’t for nothing, though; Go!’s nutrition manager has a Ph.D. in companion animal nutrition. It’s long been argued that there aren’t enough scientifically informed people working on animal nutrition formulas and Go! is looking to change that. The Go! cat food lines feature above-average protein and low carbohydrate content, so it’s safe to assume that the expertise hasn’t gone to waste.

    Pros
    • Formula developed by a doctor
    • High protein and low carb
    • Large bag sizes
    Cons
    • Rather expensive
    • Minimal selection

    4. Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels

    Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels

    Varieties: Chicken, Duck, Salmon, Turkey, Rabbit, Cod
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited Ingredient

    Stella & Chewy’s has taken the world of pets by storm with its friendly packaging and amiable outlook on creating pet food. More than just being a friend to the consumer, they also make an effort to be highly transparent about their safety procedures to ensure the continued safety of the pets who eat their products.

    Stella and Chewy’s has a page detailing all of the food safety precautions they take during production. They utilize high-pressure processing with their raw formulas to ensure that they kill any pathogens found during processing.

    Stella & Chewy’s Dinner Morsels line for cats is a limited-ingredient raw recipe for cats. It’s got a great variety of recipes to choose from, but it’s costly if you have more than one cat seeing as the largest bag you can get is 18 oz, and that’s $40. The Dinner Morsels line feels more like an additional option to add to food, but there’s no indication that that’s what it was intended for.

    Pros
    • Transparent food processing procedures
    • High-quality ingredients
    • Fantastic selection variety
    Cons
    • Pricey, not a great value

    5. Acana Grain-Free

    Acana Grain-Free

    Varieties: Wild Atlantic
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient, Grain-free

    Acana is well known for its high-quality dog food line, but its cat food line is also pretty high-quality, though very limited in variety. Their recipes feature high-quality ingredients that they don’t shy away from naming openly on the packaging, a big plus!

    There’s not a lot of selection in Acana’s cat line, to begin with, and only their Wild Atlantic recipe is considered Limited-Ingredient, which is a definite downside. Still, their prices won’t completely break the bank, so it evens out a bit.

    Ultimately, their recipes are a bit high in carbohydrates for our feline friends, and they’re not cheap at all! So, it’s even more apparent how significant the lack of species appropriateness is when you see that price tag!

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • Transparent recipe formulation
    Cons
    • High in carbohydrates

    6. Taste of the Wild

    Taste of the Wild

    Varieties: Turkey, Beef
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient, Grain-Free

    Like Acana, Taste of the Wild is better known for its high-quality dog food line. Lovers of their products similarly acclaim the taste of the Wild’s cat food, and they have a small selection of Limited Ingredient blends to choose from in their cat lines. The turkey and Angus beef recipes are both considered to be Limited-Ingredient friendly.

    It is a little bit high in carbs and does feature some lower-quality filler ingredients, Chewy features more than a few reviews from happy pet parents who needed to put their loved ones on a limited-ingredient diet and found success with Taste of the Wild.

    Taste of the Wild also has a minimal recall history, though it isn’t empty. Naysayers may attribute this to the fact that it’s a relatively new brand, but fans argue that it is because of meticulous practices.

    Pros
    • High-quality ingredients
    • Not too expensive compared to other brands of similar quality
    • Limited recall history
    Cons
    • High in carbs
    • Some use of low-quality ingredients

    7. Blue Buffalo Basics

    Blue Buffalo Basics

    Varieties: Turkey, Duck, and Fish
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient

    Blue Basics is the Limited-Ingredient version of Blue Buffalo food, a tried and true favorite of the pet care world. While Blue may be a bit of a pet care darling, its relatively high carbohydrate content and extensive recall history can leave some people feeling nervous.

    Blue Buffalo’s formulas are based on a more omnivorous creature than a cat. There’s no indication that they’ve specially formulated their recipes for species-appropriateness. The high carb content speaks volumes since cats are obligate carnivores and should have a very low-carb diet.

    Pros
    • Fairly good selection
    • Veterinarian acclaimed
    Cons
    • High carbohydrate content

    8. Feline Natural

    Feline Natural

    Varieties: Beef, Chicken, Venison, Salmon, Lamb
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Canned
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free

    Feline Natural is an esoteric brand that not many people have heard of. This article was our first introduction to the brand as well, and the formula is very high quality, and the species-appropriateness of the recipe is almost unmatched. You might ask why you haven’t heard of that if this is true. The reason is its price point!

    Pros
    • Unmatched in species-appropriate recipe formulation
    Cons
    • But at far too high of a cost to be the first choice

    9. Lotus

    Lotus

    Varieties: Chicken, Turkey, Venison, Pork, Rabbit, Salmon, Pollock
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food, canned
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient

    Lotus’s cat food line is considered limited ingredient all around and has an immense selection because of that, but is it that good? A deep dive on the ingredients reveals that it provides “above average” nutrition but doesn’t differ much from the average food. In our opinion, its price point is just too high to get an “above average” food. For that price, you’d probably be better off taking your chances with Feline Natural.

    Pros
    • Above-average nutrition
    Cons
    • Costs more than Feline Natural, somehow

    10. Merrick Limited Ingredient

    Merrick Limited Ingredient

    Varieties: Chicken, Salmon, Tuna
    Packaging Type: Bag
    Life Stage: Adult
    Food Form: Dry food
    Special Diet Considerations: Limited-Ingredient, Grain-Free

    Merrick’s Limited-Ingredient recipes are, just like most of Merrick’s cat recipes, dead average. Average recipes, average nutrition, average price point. You can’t get more standard than Merrick’s cat food line. Merrick has been a bit of an industry darling for a few years, but the unfortunate truth is that the cat recipes are just mediocre and nothing special.

    Pros
    • Great price point
    Cons
    • Nothing special to note about nutrition facts

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    Buyer’s Guide

    Why High-Protein?

    Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their sole sustenance in the wild comes from animal proteins, and their bodies can’t break down plant matter properly. This dietary need is true of domesticated cats and wild ones; a diet that isn’t high in animal proteins isn’t healthy for a cat. Calories obtained from plant proteins are empty calories that don’t contribute much to the overall nutrition totals.

    Cats shouldn’t just be fed grain-free foods; their foods should be free of plant material for the most part and made up almost entirely of animal proteins to maintain a dietary content that is healthy for them.

    This doesn’t mean you have to start feeding your cat raw foods. A small amount of non-animal proteins is perfectly fine for them, much like sugar contents for humans. But feeding your cat low-quality foods that are high in plant-based materials can have harmful effects on their health outcomes later in life.

    calico cat eats cat food from a red bowl
    Image Credit: Stamat Vitalii, Shutterstock

    How Much Plant-Product Is Too Much?

    For cats, 25% plant content in a food is generally considered too much. As mentioned above, the lower, the better, and looking at the ingredient list will give you a lot of information on what plant contents are included and how many of them are there.

    Protein should make up at least 30% of the nutritional values for cats—in the wild, they’d be eating far more than that—and it’s essential to avoid corn products since those are bad for them, even if they’re common additions to recipes.

    What Ingredients Are High-Quality?

    Real meat should be the crux of the ingredient list, especially on a limited-ingredient diet. Cats who are getting limited-ingredient diets will be getting their nutrition from fewer sources. Ensuring that their food is species-appropriate is even more critical than with cats with fewer dietary restrictions.

    Aside from real meat, meat meals are an appropriate source of nutrition and protein but are significantly lower quality than real meat. Beware of ingredient labels that list meat meals but no meats. Pet parents will want to look out for bone meals as bones are appropriate for cats. Bone meal powder can be an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous for cats, but this beneficial ingredient can also be a sign of low-quality processing.

    Low-quality ingredients like wheat gluten and unnamed meats should be low on the list if present at all.

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    Conclusion

    Cat nutrition can be highly contested since high-protein, low-carb diets can be expensive for pet parents. A cat with dietary restrictions doesn’t help the budget much either. Still, we shouldn’t forego our companions’ health if we can avoid it, and proper nutrition can go a long way towards a long, happy life with your cat.

    Instinct Limited Ingredient Diet is our choice for best overall limited ingredient cat food. To save a few bucks, go for the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient selection, our choice for best value.


    Featured Image Credit: Skrypnykov Dmytro, Shutterstock

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