*This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, a small organ that produces substances which help your cat digest their food. There is no curative dietary therapy for pancreatitis but a palatable, meat-based food that is easy to digest may help your cat maintain muscle mass as they undergo treatment.
Our top pick for the best food for cats with pancreatitis is Smalls Fresh Ground Bird, an ultra-digestible food that’s highly palatable and free from inflammatory ingredients. But this food isn’t right for every cat. Let’s take a look at some of our other picks.
At a Glance: Best Cat Foods For Pancreatitis To Buy
Want a quick look at the products reviewed in this article? In the comparison table below, we’ve highlighted some of the most important features of each product. You’ll find more detailed information about each product later in the article.
- Species-appropriate source of animal protein
- Soft texture and highly digestible recipe
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Contains a species-appropriate blend of muscle meat, organs, and bone
- Very short list of highly digestible ingredients
- High in protein and very low in carbohydrates
- Affordably priced around $0.30 per ounce ($2.00 per day)
- Relies on animal-sourced protein and fat
- Free from carrageenan and artificial additives
Why Should You Trust Us?
We’ve reviewed over 200 of the world’s most popular cat food brands and hundreds of different formulas. We’ve spent hours researching, contacting pet food companies, analyzing labels, and reading customer reviews. With the help of our cats, we also got hands-on experience with most of these foods.
Finally, we consulted 7 veterinarians to get their professional opinion on what makes a great cat food.
Our Veterinary Advisors
- Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ
- Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH
- Sarah Reidenbach, DVM
- Chyrle Bonk, DVM
- Jamie Whittenburg, DVM
- Albert Ahn, DVM
- Elizabeth Youens, DVM
We personally purchased and tested the products on this list. The entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct input or influence from the companies involved.
During our in-depth testing, we make observations about the product’s appearance, texture, consistency, smell, and packaging. We also feed the food to our cats to get their opinion regarding palatability and general appeal.
In addition to performing our own qualitative analysis of the brands reviewed here, we submitted samples of several recipes for analysis at an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab.
We bought the products at full retail price, and the entire testing process was funded by Cats.com without direct input or influence from the companies involved.
Analytical testing in a food chemistry lab gives us the exact macronutrient and micronutrient content of each recipe. The tests also look at microbial content, yeast, mold, and heavy metals, helping you ensure that you’re only putting the best in your cat’s bowl.
Dietary Management of Pancreatitis in Cats
Pancreatitis is often comorbid with other inflammatory conditions, particularly inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The exact cause of pancreatitis is unknown, so treatment typically centers on supportive care. Some cats may require medication to manage acute symptoms like pain and vomiting while others may benefit from fluid therapy.
There are no prescription diets for pancreatitis and no specific strategies for dietary management. If your cat’s pancreatitis is secondary to another condition, your veterinarian may recommend nutritional therapy catered to the comorbid condition.
Because cats with pancreatitis often experience weight loss and lack of appetite, encouraging your cat to eat is vital to their recovery.
Cats with pancreatitis may not feel like eating, putting them at a risk for hepatic lipidosis. This condition occurs when a cat doesn’t eat enough and must metabolize their own fat as energy. Without adequate protein intake, the fat isn’t properly sent into the bloodstream and gathers in the liver, disrupting healthy organ function.
Depending on the cat’s overall health and body condition, hepatic lipidosis can develop after two to ten days of not eating.
Qualities of the Best Cat Food for Pancreatitis
Quite simply, the best food for a cat with pancreatitis is one they will eat. Small, frequent meals are better than big ones and supplemental probiotics and digestive enzymes (from natural sources like green tripe) may help minimize inflammation in your cat’s body.
Focus on highly digestible animal ingredients.
Because pancreatitis impairs the production of digestive enzymes, it’s essential to keep your cat’s diet as digestible as possible. Focus on animal-sourced ingredients, especially proteins. If your cat’s pancreatitis is secondary to diabetes mellitus, it’s particularly important to limit high-glycemic plant ingredients to keep the carbohydrate content of the food low.
Cats don’t need a low-fat diet.
If you’re familiar with pancreatitis in dogs or people, you’ll know that excessive dietary fat is a common contributor to the condition. Pancreatitis patients are usually encouraged to eat a low-fat diet. Cats are different. In cats, there’s no apparent connection between dietary fat and pancreatitis.
Try different flavors, types, and textures of food.
If your cat has low appetite, tempting them with a variety of foods may encourage them to eat. High-moisture foods are best to keep your cat hydrated, so try offering patés, minced or shredded foods in broth or gravy, or fresh food. You can also try adding bone broth to enhance the aroma and flavor of the food to make it more appealing.
Avoid inflammatory ingredients.
Since pancreatitis is fundamentally an inflammatory disease, you should avoid any ingredients that might contribute to inflammation. These include carrageenan, added sweeteners, and some artificial colors.