Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food [8 Best Picks for Your Cat]

best limited ingredient cat food

If you’re looking for the best limited ingredient food for your cat, the chances are they’re suffering from allergies or a sensitive stomach. Limited ingredient food can help pinpoint the problem ingredient that’s causing your pet issues.  

The best limited ingredient food for your cat will eventually depend on what they’re sensitive to. This article will discuss what a limited ingredient diet is, as well as symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of allergies and intolerance. 

Finally, we will review our eight best limited ingredient cat foods for your cat. They are:

  1. Purina Beyond 
  2. Blue Buffalo Basics 
  3. Blue Buffalo Basics Wet Food
  4. Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets
  5. Natures Variety Instinct
  6. I and love and you Lovingly Simple 
  7. Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet
  8. Freely Limited Ingredient Diet

What is Limited Ingredient Cat Food?

Limited ingredient cat food is just that, a cat food with a limited amount of ingredients. They’re primarily used to combat food allergies or intolerances by restricting the number of proteins and carbohydrates given to your cat. 

Limited ingredient foods will contain what vets call “novel” ingredients. These are meats that your feline is likely not to have eaten before, such as venison, duck, and rabbit. Truly limited ingredient foods contain one protein, one carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Some recipes will also include prebiotics and probiotics, which, when used correctly, will help cats maintain a healthy digestive tract.

However, we have to consider that the term “limited ingredient”, isn’t regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, any manufacturer can stick “limited ingredient” on their product regardless of what it contains. 

Symptoms of Food Allergies and Intolerance 

Food allergies in cats rank third most common disorder after fleabites and inhaled substances such as pollen and dust. Foods commonly associated with allergies in cats include beef, fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy. There could be many more but research in this area is limited.

If your cat has a food allergy or intolerance it will most likely be associated with proteins such as beef or chicken. However, a small minority of cats may have an adverse reaction to grains

Grain is a collective name for carbohydrates such as wheat, barley, rice, corn, and oats. If your cat has a suspected allergy or intolerance to grain your vet may recommend a grain-free diet. Otherwise, there’s no reason to remove grain from your cat’s diet. 

With a food allergy, your cat’s immune system mistakes certain foods as being dangerous. It’ll then produce antibodies to attack the food, causing symptoms such as:

  • Itching all-year-round.
  • Skin inflammation.
  • Over-grooming.
  • Hair loss.
  • Skin abrasions.
  • Recurrent ear infections.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.   

Food intolerances are generally less serious and they’re often caused by digestive issues, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea.

Allergies and intolerances in felines can occur at any age. Your cat may have been eating the same food its whole life and still develop an allergy to it.

Diagnosing Food Allergies and Intolerances

If you think your cat is suffering from a food allergy or intolerance, seek veterinary attention immediately. Your vet will usually rule out other causes of irritation like flea bites before suggesting adverse reactions to food.

When a food allergy or intolerance is considered a possibility, finding out which ingredients are causing the problem becomes a priority. A food trial is the most reliable way to diagnose—it’s simply a process of elimination. 

Most cat food allergies are caused by the protein or carbohydrate in your cat’s usual meal. Therefore eliminating these ingredients from your feline’s diet is key.


Because limited ingredient foods often contain only one protein source and one carbohydrate source, it makes the elimination process easier. 

Check the proteins and carbohydrates in your cat’s diet and replace them with a “novel” ingredient, something they haven’t had before. For example, if your cat usually eats foods that include chicken and beef proteins, choose a product containing rabbit instead.

You should keep your cat exclusively on the new diet for eight to ten weeks. The only other thing your cat should consume is water, so be sure to keep all other foods hidden away. 

You should also avoid giving them any treats, supplements, and flavored medicines unless advised to do so by your vet. If signs of the allergy disappear during this time, you can assume an ingredient from their previous diet caused it. 

Once your cat’s symptoms have settled you can start reintroducing ingredients one by one to try and pinpoint the culprit. Be sure to look out for symptoms reappearing, and wait around two weeks before reintroducing another ingredient.

8 Best Limited Ingredient Foods for Your Cat

Purina Beyond

Purina Beyond is a popular choice among consumers whose adult cats have digestive issues. There’s a choice of chicken or salmon flavor in a range of bag sizes from three to 11-pound.

This food is fantastic for cats who need a grain-free diet. Replacing grain with cassava root flour, pea fiber, and pea starch to help provide energy. As well as adding natural probiotics to promote healthy digestion for those kitties with sensitive stomachs. Many consumers said that it cleared up their feline’s skin and digestive issues, and they’ve never been happier. 

However, if you suspect a food allergy, this is not the best food to start food trials with. Although ingredients are high quality and responsibly sourced, they consist of multiple common allergens like chicken, beef fats, and eggs.

The beef fats do add an extra yummy taste to it though. Consumers say their felines love the taste of Purina Beyond, even the pickiest cats adore the flavor of this food. 


  • Great protein source.
  • Responsibly sourced ingredients.
  • Added probiotics.
  • Great taste.
  • No artificial colors or preservatives.


  • Contains common allergens.

Blue Buffalo Basics Dry Cat Food

Blue Buffalo Basics is an adult cat food that comes in three great flavors: turkey, duck, and fish. All free from artificial flavors and preservatives.

Cats really enjoy this appetizing recipe, many customers state their cats love the taste and will choose it over other brands. The protein in this recipe is derived from a single meat source and common allergens chicken and beef are avoided. The pellets are small and easily manageable, great for more mature cats who have trouble chewing.  

Grain is replaced with tapioca, potato, and pumpkin—all safe and highly digestible ingredients for your feline. These constituents provide good nutrition and help aid healthy digestion.

Consumers noticed a huge difference in the condition of their four-legged friends’ coat and skin. Within a few weeks of feeding them Blue Buffalo Basics, skin irritation had stopped completely. However, it doesn’t seem to suit all cats as some customers reported it has caused vomiting.


  • Single source of animal protein.
  • Free from chicken and beef.
  • Free from grain.
  • Free from artificial flavors and preservatives.
  • Promotes a healthy coat and skin.


  • Caused vomiting in some cats.

Blue Buffalo Basics Wet Food

Blue Buffalo Basics wet food is a complete and balanced formula for adult cats. The three or 5.5-ounce cans would make a great accompaniment to Basics dry feed for an extra hydration boost. If you offer wet and dry food, use the same protein source to avoid introducing too many ingredients at once.

Like its dry companion, it’s grain-free and contains a single source of protein from real duck. Safe alternatives to grain, like potato, supports healthy digestion, and the absence of chicken and beef helps minimize food sensitivities. 

Customers have stated that this is a fantastic food that doesn’t make their cat ill and they love the flavor. Although some say that the quality is inconsistent and texture and taste differ from time to time.


  • Complete and balanced.
  • High moisture content.
  • Great taste.
  • Free from chicken and beef.
  • Single protein source.


  • Inconsistent quality.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets

Natural Balance L.I.D is a complete and balanced adult cat food. It comes in a wide variety of flavors including duck, salmon, chicken, and venison. As well as multiple bag sizes ranging from two to 10-pound—great if you want to try it out on your cat before buying a large bag. 

This is a grain-free diet with a single source of animal protein. The duck and venison flavors are a good option for cats sensitive to common allergens such as chicken. Grain is substituted for green peas which help cats maintain a healthy weight, lower cholesterol, and promote healthy digestion.

Many customers said their cats were doing great on this diet, they loved the taste and overall health improved too. However, a change in the formula has left some cats turning their nose up at it. You can’t please everyone.


  • Grain-free.
  • Single source of meat protein.
  • Free from common allergens.
  • Variety of flavors.


  • Change in formula some cats dislike.

Natures Variety Instinct 

Nature’s Variety Instinct is a complete and balanced, limited ingredient diet for adult cats. With flavors including rabbit, salmon, and turkey you can guarantee you’ll find a taste your cat will adore. 

This food is free from artificial flavors and preservatives as well as common allergens such as dairy, chicken, and beef. Instead of multiple vegetables to replace grain, this recipe only uses tapioca and peas, both safe and easy to digest.  

Consumers have praised this food for its responsibly sourced ingredients and how it cleared up their pet’s allergy symptoms. 

Although this kibble is great tasting and fantastic for allergies, many say it causes terrible smelling feces. Some people have also said that it upsets their cat’s stomach, but not all foods will suit every cat. It’s all about trial and error.


  • One protein source.
  • Good quality, responsibly sourced ingredients.
  • Free from common allergens.
  • Great taste.
  • No artificial flavors or preservatives.


  • Causes bad-smelling feces. 
  • Upsets some cats’ stomachs.

I and love and you Lovingly Simple

This tasty little bag of love is small but mighty, it’s a complete and balanced diet for all life stages. Although it only comes in 3.4-pound bags, it’s reasonably priced when compared with other limited ingredient diet foods on the market.

The first ingredient is salmon, a great source of protein, and brilliant if you’re trying to avoid chicken or beef. Prebiotics and probiotics are added to help your cat maintain a healthy digestive system. 

The recipe relies on chickpeas and sweet potatoes to provide a nutrient-rich formula which is free from grain. It’s also free from artificial flavors and preservatives, so no extra allergen concerns. 

According to the majority of customers, felines really enjoy this tasty kibble, and it’s great for cats with sensitive stomachs. However, some people said their cats just wouldn’t eat it.


  • Free from grain.
  • Free from artificial flavors and preservatives.
  • One source of protein.
  • Good quality protein source.
  • Contain prebiotics and probiotics.


  • Some cats wouldn’t eat it.

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet

Merrick’s limited ingredient diet is complete, balanced, and suitable for all the life stages of your cat. Flavors include salmon, chicken, or tuna and bag sizes range from four to 12-pound.

This recipe is free from artificial flavors and preservatives, and all ingredients are locally sourced. It contains easily digestible carbohydrates, such as chickpeas and peas, which are a safe alternative to grain. 

Containing a single source of animal protein from chicken, this diet is great for cats with a sensitive stomach. However, chicken is a common allergen so not all cats will take kindly to this recipe. Some consumers have said it’s made their cat sick, but there are many cats that enjoy it too.


  • Single source of animal protein.
  • Free from grain.
  • Locally sourced natural ingredients.
  • Free from artificial colors and preservatives.


  • Contains a common allergen.

Freely Limited Ingredient Diet

Freely is a complete and balanced cat food for all your cat’s life stages. Available in a choice of rabbit, turkey, or salmon flavor, you’re sure to find something to tickle your feline’s taste buds.

This limited ingredient diet claims that all of its ingredients have a purpose. Peas, sweet potatoes, and lentils replace grain as safe carbohydrate substitutes. It contains good quality animal proteins from a single source and prebiotics are included to maintain a healthy digestive tract. It’s also free from artificial colors and preservatives.

This is not the most affordable kibble on our list and it only comes in a three or 4-pound bag. If you have multiple cats, this will not last very long. Especially when many consumers say it tastes so good to your furry friends.


  • Quality protein source.
  • Great taste.
  • Free-from grain.
  • Free from artificial colors and preservatives.
  • One protein source.
  • Contains added prebiotics.


  • Expensive.


Are food allergies and food intolerances the same thing?

No. Food allergies refer to reactions caused by the sensitivity of the immune system to a particular food. Whereas intolerance is a term used to describe the digestive system’s difficulties in breaking down certain foods. People often mistake the two because they can present in the same way.

Is it a food allergy or a food intolerance?

Telling the difference can be difficult. The symptoms of intolerances are usually limited to diarrhea and vomiting, but allergies can present like this too. One way to differentiate is by watching their symptoms closely. Intolerances can occur almost instantly whereas allergy symptoms tend to be gradual and get worse if they’re not treated. Consult a veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet.

Can I buy hypoallergenic cat food?

There is no such thing as cat food that is completely hypoallergenic. Cats can be allergic to any protein or carbohydrate source in their food. It’s just a case of finding the right ingredient combination for your pet using food trials.


If you’ve just found out your feline has suspected food allergies, try a food with a more unusual protein source. For most cat’s protein sources such as duck, rabbit, and venison are great to start out with. This is because they’re less likely to have previously eaten them in their regular diet. It’s also advisable to look for grain-free food, as some cats have issues digesting grains like wheat and rice.

Blue Buffalo Basics duck recipe is our best pick to begin a novel diet with as it contains no common allergens. Grain is replaced with highly digestible safe ingredients and it contains a single source of meat protein. This makes it a great option for cats with allergies. 

If you’re not concerned about allergies to proteins, but your cat suffers from digestive issues, Purina’s Beyond is an excellent choice. Its ingredients are responsibly sourced and it tastes great, to your cat of course. They use highly digestible alternatives to grain as well as probiotics, so it’s perfect for cats with sensitive stomachs.  

Every cat is different and one cat’s allergies and intolerances won’t be the same as the next. It’s a case of trial and error when it comes to limited ingredient cat foods and sensitive stomachs. It takes time to find the right diet but we hope we’ve given you some food for thought.

Olivia Davis

Olivia is the editor-in-chief at Cat Food Tip. She's in charge of making sure that every post is up to standards and contains accurate information that's comprehendable and fun for readers.

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