Across the industry, cat foods often feature the same one or two proteins. Although tasty and widely accepted by most, this can sometimes exasperate food intolerances for sensitive cats. Food sensitivities commonly occur after consistent exposure to an ingredient, and due to their popularity, it is no surprise that the most commonly documented potential allergens in cats are, beef and fish.1 It is important to note, however, that not all cats will develop sensitivities, and many can consume the same food for countless years without a problem.
Based on a compilation of studies totaling 78 cats and the identified ingredient triggering an allergic response. Adapted from Mueller, Olivry & Prélaid, 2016.1
Finding a recipe that does not contain any of these ingredients may be challenging as they are often a primary protein source, but rest assured there are options for your sensitive cat.
What is protein?
In many cases, a cat experiencing an adverse food response is reacting to a protein in their diet.2 But what is protein, and is it necessary for our pets?
Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with fat and carbohydrates, which make up all foods. Proteins are made of amino acids, which are the building blocks for the growth and maintenance of almost all tissues in the body. When a cat eats protein, amino acids are released, allowing them to be absorbed and incorporated into their own proteins for things like muscle growth and recovery. Muscle growth and tissue maintenance are known as ‘protein-only’ functions as no other nutrient can do these tasks in the body.
Protein is known to be extremely palatable for cats, and different protein/flavour choices can be important when it comes to picky eaters.
If your cat has a known food sensitivity, especially to a commonly used protein in pet foods, it is important to find a recipe without that ingredient to help avoid an adverse food reaction.
Common Food Sensitivity Symptoms
The most commonly documented signs of a food intolerance in cats are3:
Itchy skin & paws regardless of season (This can be particularly bad in the groin, armpits, and belly and result in hair loss and lesions)
Chronic ear infections
Digestive upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, and chronic poor stool quality
If you notice these symptoms in your cat, it could be a food intolerance, but it is important to contact your veterinarian to rule out other potential health concerns.
Choosing a food for a cat with food intolerances can be difficult, especially because many foods contain multiple protein sources. The first step is reviewing a full diet history and determining when the symptoms began appearing. This way, you can review the ingredients of that food and choose a new recipe which avoids those ingredients.
In some cases, your veterinarian may suggest an elimination trial, which is the “gold standard” for diagnosing an adverse food reaction.
This trial, in part, consists of feeding a diet containing a novel protein source, one that the cat has not eaten before, for at least 6-8 weeks.4 At the end of the trial, it is suggested to ‘challenge’ the pet with the presumed allergen, to confirm this diagnosis.
More information on identifying a food intolerance can be found on our blog, food allergies and intolerances in cats.
Novel protein options
A limited ingredient diet (LID) can also be an option for cats with food intolerances. Our Go! Solutions Sensitivities recipes feature single-source primary animal proteins from novel sources, in addition to novel carbohydrate ingredients which a pet is less likely to have consumed before. These LID recipes may be a great option for those pets who experience adverse food reactions.
Black Solider Fly Larvae
BSFL is rich in essential amino acids, B vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and chitin, a unique prebiotic fibre.
Salmon is rich in essential omega 3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA.
Lamb is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.
Duck is rich in essential omega 6 fatty acids, particularly linoleic acids along with essential vitamins and minerals.
Turkey is rich in niacin, vitamin B6, and essential minerals, particularly selenium.
A lean protein, rich in iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and choline.
It may take some trial and error to find the right fit, but Go! Solutions Sensitivities line up has many alternative protein options for sensitive cats. We offer the Go! Solutions Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Insect recipe as an alternative protein source for cats.
Nutritious, Delicious + Sustainable Insect Protein
Go! Solutions Sensitivities Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Insect recipe features sustainable insect protein and no chicken, by-product meals, grain, gluten, potato, wheat, corn or soy.
Mueller, R.S., Olivry, T., & Prélaud, P. 2016. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (2): common food allergen sources in dogs and cats. BMC veterinary research. Vol 12 (9).
Seo, K., Cho, HW., Chun, J., Jeon, J., Kim, C., Kim, M., Park, K., & Kim, K. 2021. Evaluation of fermented oat and black soldier fly larva as food ingredients in senior dogs. Animals. Vol 11(12).
Food Allergies in Cats. VCA Animal Hospital. Food Allergies in Cats | VCA Animal Hospital (vcahospitals.com)
Bryan, J., & Frank, L.A. 2010. Food Allergy in the Cat: A diagnosis by Elimination. Journal of Feline medicine and surgery. Vol 12 (11).