The best cat food for diarrhea gives your cat’s GI tract a break, relieves inflammation, and allows the body to heal. If your cat is experiencing acute diarrhea, that might mean a few days on a bland diet.
In cases of chronic diarrhea caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or long-lasting issues, more permanent dietary changes can help. For cats with chronic diarrhea, the best food is free of irritants and allergens, gentle on the GI tract, and ready to encourage healthy digestion.
We spoke to veterinary experts to determine the best cat food for diarrhea and assembled a list of our top recommendations to help you choose.
At a Glance: The Best Cat Food for Diarrhea in 2023
- Rabbit is a novel protein for many cats
- Rich in animal-sourced protein and fat
- Easily digestible with few main ingredients
- Contains four sources of animal protein
- Rich in hydrating moisture
- Relies on animal-sourced omega-3 fatty acids
- Features highly-digestible animal proteins
- Significantly lower carbohydrate content than the typical dry food
- Contains salmon oil as a source of anti-inflammatory fatty acids
- Easily digestible and rich in moisture
- Top four ingredients are all animal-based
- Prebiotic fiber helps support gut health
- Species-appropriate blend of muscle meat and organs
- Contains pumpkin as a source of dietary fiber
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Made with turkey—an excellent option for cats who like poultry but can’t eat chicken
- A limited-ingredient diet for cats with allergies and food sensitivities
- Free from common irritating ingredients
- Rich in easily-digestible animal protein sources
- Free of common irritating ingredients
- Contains salmon, which is a good source of DHA for brain and eye development
- Protein-rich recipe made with beef
- Easily digestible formula
- Rich in hydrating moisture
Acute vs. Chronic Diarrhea
If your cat has acute diarrhea due to illness or eating something they shouldn’t have, you don’t necessarily need to permanently change their diet. Fasting for up to 12 hours followed by feeding a bland, easily digestible food for a few days may help. After the stool returns to normal, you should be able to return to your cat’s usual diet.
Chronic diarrhea that occurs intermittently or consistently for more than three weeks may demand significant dietary changes. It could stem from allergies, food intolerances, IBD, or other issues and may manifest as part of an issue generally referred to as a “sensitive stomach.”
If your cat has chronic diarrhea, a trip to the veterinarian is a good idea. The vet can run diagnostic tests, including bloodwork, to determine the cause of your cat’s endless loose stool. On top of treating the underlying cause of your cat’s issues, long-term dietary modification may be required.
Why Trust Cats.com
We’ve spent the past several years tirelessly researching, testing, and reviewing the top cat food brands on the market. Brand research involves assessing recall history, reading customer reviews, analyzing product information, and contacting the company directly to answer questions and get a feel for the customer experience.
Our testing is entirely funded by Cats.com without the direct influence of the brands involved. When we test cat food, we gauge our cats’ responses to the food and make observations about its appearance, texture, smell, consistency, packaging, and general appeal.
When it comes to feline health problems that may benefit from dietary intervention, we consult our panel of veterinary experts for advice.
Our Veterinary Advisors:
- Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
- Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH
- Dr. Sarah Reidenbach, DVM
- Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
- Dr. Albert Ahn, DVM
- Dr. Elizabeth Youens, DVM
In addition to performing our own research and testing, we sent samples of several recipes to an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab. The reports provide detailed and objective information about the products including nutrient content and contamination with things like heavy metals, microbes, yeast, or mold.
Our Top 11 Picks for the Best Cat Food for Diarrhea
We’ve chosen Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels as the overall best cat food for diarrhea. These raw morsels are packed with easily digestible meat and organs, plus sources of fiber and probiotics for digestive health. But it’s not the right choice for every cat.
Every cat is unique and the best diet to resolve diarrhea will depend on the underlying cause of your cat’s issues. Your veterinarian can help you obtain a diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment. If dietary modification is likely to help, one of the foods we’ve recommended may be a good fit.
What to Look for in Cat Food to Stop Diarrhea
If your veterinarian recommends dietary changes to stop diarrhea, they may suggest an elimination diet. This stripped-down diet eliminates those familiar ingredients that may have triggered your cat’s diarrhea and replaces them with novel proteins.
If your cat’s diarrhea vanishes while on the elimination diet, you can re-incorporate ingredients one by one to determine which one caused the symptoms. Here are some features to look for in cat food for diarrhea.
Minimize inflammation by giving your cat a species-appropriate diet centering around fresh muscle meat and organs. Ingredients that aren’t species-appropriate aren’t efficiently utilized by your cat’s body and may contribute to digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or flatulence.
Look for a recipe that, when measured as dry matter, contains at least 40% crude protein and around 20% crude fat. High-moisture diets are the most appropriate choice for cats. Cats get most of their hydration from the moisture in food, so if you feed kibble or another low-moisture diet, be sure to supplement your cat’s water intake elsewhere.
Short List of Easily Digestible Ingredients
The shorter the ingredient list, the better. A long list of ingredients means there are more potential triggers for irritation, inflammation, or allergic reactions. By providing a high-quality, meat-based cat food with minimal carbohydrates, plant protein, and irritating additives, you lessen the burden on your cat’s GI tract.
Look for a source of animal protein as the first ingredient followed by supplemental proteins and animal-sourced fats. While the carbohydrate content should be kept low — ideally below 10% when measured as dry matter — cats have a limited ability to digest nutritious plant ingredients like whole grains, low-starch veggies, and fruits. Legumes and processed grains like corn, wheat, and soy may be harder to digest.
Supplements to Support Digestive Health
Gut dysbiosis—an imbalance of good and bad microorganisms in the gut microbiome—is a major factor in chronic diarrhea. To manage your cat’s diarrhea, fortify those “good” populations by administering probiotics. While most probiotics can help, the S. boulardii strain is the gold standard for cats with diarrhea.
Cat foods and supplements that contain slippery elm bark may benefit your cat’s digestion as well. Pumpkin is another option. It contains soluble fiber which may help bulk up your cat’s stool. Just be sure to use cooked fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin free from added spice or sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best food to feed a cat with diarrhea?
In some cases, the best food is no food at all. For cases of acute diarrhea, many vets recommend withholding food for 12 to 24 hours (give plenty of water during this time) to give the cat’s stomach a chance to settle. From there, a bland diet for a few days is recommended, followed by a high-moisture, meat-centric recipe formulated for complete nutrition.
How can I firm up my cat’s poop?
Increasing your cat’s intake of dietary fiber may help. Try canned pumpkin (unsweetened), which is rich in soluble fiber and gentle on your cat’s stomach. Other bland foods like cooked white rice may help as well.
Is dry food better for a cat with diarrhea?
No. A high-moisture diet is best because it’s more digestible and helps prevent dehydration. That said, a high-quality dry diet with plenty of supplemental moisture may be better than a cheap wet food loaded with by-products, fillers, and irritating additives.