The best hypoallergenic cat food is simple, streamlined, and contains anti-inflammatory ingredients for improved skin, coat, and digestive health.
Vital Essentials is our top pick for the best hypoallergenic cat food. While we’ve selected the rabbit variety, there are numerous single-protein formulas to choose from. But every cat is different, so a food that is hypoallergenic for one cat might not be for another.
In this guide, we’ll discuss what makes a cat food hypoallergenic and provide our recommendations for best products on the market for cats with food allergies.
At a Glance: Best Hypoallergenic Cat Food to Buy in 2023
- Made with a single source of animal protein
- Very straightforward, simple ingredient list
- Herring oil as a source of soothing omega-3 fatty acids
- Made with a single source of animal protein
- Rich in moisture to support your cat’s hydration
- Limited list of digestible ingredients
- Rich in animal protein and moisture
- Completely free from fish ingredients
- Simple recipe is highly digestible
- High in species-appropriate animal protein
- Relatively low in carbohydrates
- Very nutrient-dense
- Rich in digestible animal protein
- Good source of hydrating moisture
- Limited list of ingredients
- Made with a single protein source
- Turkey is a novel protein for some cats
- Easily digestible, short list of ingredients
Why Trust Cats.com
Terms like “hypoallergenic” can be misleading and confusing, so we’ve done the research to define it. In addition to consulting with our team of veterinary experts, we’ve spent countless hours analyzing product labels, researching brands, and reading customer reviews to determine the best cat food on the market for cats with allergies.
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 analysis of these products, we personally purchased and tested them with our own cats. All products were purchased at full retail price and our recommendations are made without direct influence from the brands involved.
Our recommendations are made with careful consideration of key factors such as ingredient quality, species-appropriateness, price, and popularity. We also sent samples of several recipes to an ISO 17025 certified food testing and analysis lab to obtain detailed and objective information about the products.
The Top 9 Best Hypoallergenic Cat Foods
Vital Essentials Freeze-Dried Raw Rabbit Mini Patties Entree Cat Food is our top pick for the best hypoallergenic cat food on the market. This freeze-dried food has a simple, meat-based recipe with herring oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation and control itchiness.
While this Vital Essentials recipe is our top pick, it might not be the ideal choice for your cat. Every cat is unique, so we’ve included a range of options, broken down by food type, price category, and other considerations.
What to Consider When Shopping for Hypoallergenic Cat Food
Diets featuring hydrolyzed proteins are the only truly hypoallergenic foods on the market; hydrolyzed proteins have been chemically broken down with water (hydrolysis) to avoid triggering an allergic reaction. However, diets with hydrolyzed proteins are not right for every cat.
Instead of shopping exclusively for so-called hypoallergenic foods, the key is finding a food that works for your cat’s unique allergic situation. Your options fall into several key categories.
Novel Protein Foods
Novel proteins don’t have to be exotic, odd, or expensive. Whether or not any given protein source is novel is determined by the eater, not the seller. For example, lamb-based foods are frequently marketed as novel protein diets, but if a cat has eaten only lamb-based food, chicken will be a novel protein for that cat.
Limited Ingredient Diets
Limited-ingredient food is a cornerstone of feeding a cat with allergies. Whether you’re creating an elimination diet to identify your cat’s allergies or accommodating the cat who’s allergic to everything, a limited-ingredient diet makes it easy to control what’s going into your cat’s body.
Not all limited-ingredient foods are the same, but they should all have characteristics that protect against an allergic reaction. They should be free of animal by-products and mystery meals that contain a nameless slurry of proteins. They should contain one primary high-quality protein source like chicken, turkey, or rabbit.
Perhaps the only true hypoallergenic cat food is the hydrolyzed diet. These foods are made with proteins that have undergone hydrolysis, as described above. Hydrolyzed foods are typically available with a prescription only.
Though they may prevent allergic reactions, hydrolyzed diets are flawed. They usually don’t taste great, are made from low-quality ingredients, and they’re usually more expensive than other foods of similar nutritional quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
What food is best for cats with allergies?
The best food for a cat with allergies is one that doesn’t contain the ingredient (or ingredients) your cat is allergic to. If you’re not sure what that is, you’ll need to use an elimination diet to find out. Once you’ve identified the allergen, stick with a limited ingredient diet that meets your cat’s nutritional needs and doesn’t include the offending allergen.
Does hypoallergenic cat food really work?
It depends. Food allergies are just one type of allergies known to affect cats. If your cat’s allergies are caused by something in the environment, a change of diet might not help. If food is the problem, switching to a diet free from the thing your cat is allergic to should resolve the issue.
What ingredient in cat food causes allergies?
Food allergies are typically triggered by proteins in the food. While it’s possible for cats to develop allergies to grains and dairy, the most common food allergens for cats are beef, fish, and chicken. In some cases, cats develop allergies to more than one ingredient.
How can I tell if my cat is allergic to their food?
While some cats develop digestive symptoms like diarrhea or vomiting related to food allergies, the most common signs are recurrent skin problems. Food allergies often manifest as skin inflammation, itchy skin, dry or dull coat, recurring ear infections, and hair loss.