limited ingredient cat food

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The 5 Best Limited Ingredient Cat Foods: Reviews and Our Top Pick

Katelyn Son

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

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See our advertising disclosure.

What Cat Food Has the Least Amount of Ingredients?

What is Limited Ingredient Cat Food?

Limited ingredient cat food or diet (LID) is special pet food formulated with a small number of ingredients. The goal is to control the animal protein and carbohydrate content, thus reducing the food allergy risk. The limited ingredient cat food is nutritious; it is just less likely to trigger allergic reactions.

It is to be noted that the term ‘limited ingredient’ is not officially regulated by the FDA. As a result, pet food companies and brands often write the term on several cat food labels irrespective of the number of ingredients that are present in the product.

If you want to ensure that you are feeding your cat a limited ingredient diet, take a look at the pet food label and the ingredient list and compare it to some other ingredient lists. It is also helpful to consult a vet before you decide to opt for this diet, as these foods can contain harmful ingredients such as preservatives, additives, allergens, and other low-quality ingredients.

Is Limited Ingredient Diet Safe for Cats?

Yes, the limited ingredient cat food formulas are safe for cats.

This is particularly true if they are made by reputable brands like Royal Canin or Blue Buffalo and are top-rated on online platforms such as Amazon or Chewy. They are made delicious and are well-accepted even by picky eaters.

If your young or older feline friend has any type of food sensitivities, limited ingredient cat foods will be better suited for this purpose. Many ingredients such as wheat, soy, grains, gluten, corn, and artificial colors do not find a place in many of these products. This acts as a benefit for sensitive cats and helps with their digestion.

It is best if your cat food replicates natural cat food as it is catered specially to what your cat needs. They should be low-calorie foods with a single animal protein source (whitefish, chicken, turkey, venison) and contain beneficial high-quality ingredients such as probiotics, antioxidants, omega-3 amino acids, and fatty acids.

Is Limited Ingredient Cat Food Better?

Limited ingredient cat food is better if you have a cat with food allergies or food sensitivities. On the other hand, if you have a healthy cat, there is no need to use a limited ingredient diet.

Limited ingredient cat food usually has a single protein and a single carbohydrate source. Some limited ingredient diets are also grain-free and use ancestral grains or alternative carb sources like green peas, chickpeas, or sweet potatoes.

They are suitable for cats of all life stages and support healthy skin & coats.

The Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food Reviewed

There are many different limited ingredient cat food options. To help owners choose the right one for their feline friends, we have reviewed some of the market’s best-selling formulas.

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet | Adult Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet | Adult Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This is our top pick as it has been formulated with a limited number of premium protein and carbohydrate sources. It is an excellent choice if you are seeking a food product with alternative ingredients for your cat. This grain-free cat food is designed to support healthy digestion and to maintain skin and coat health as it contains premium ingredients in a special blend. It also provides complete and balanced nutrition for adult cats.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats; Grain-free

Price: $3.7/pound

Pros

  • Grain-free, limited ingredient diet
  • Single animal protein source
  • High-protein formula with real chicken
  • Supports healthy skin and a shiny coat
  • Complete, balanced nutrition for adult cats

Cons

  • The packaging should be of higher quality

Ingredient Analysis

  • Salmon: This is the primary source of protein and helps build muscles in your cat’s body, giving them the energy to play all day.
  • Salmon Meal: This not only adds protein to the food but also imparts a seafood flavor that your feline friend will love.
  • Green Peas: This is a great source of plant protein and contains fiber that helps with digestion. However, it is not usually recommended for cats.
  • Pea Protein: This is added as a protein source. However, many vets do not recommend it for cats as they are carnivores.

Review: This cat food has a great seafood flavor and scent that most cats will love. It offers several health benefits and prevents allergic reactions.

Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Instinct Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This limited ingredient cat food is natural, made from real meat and whole-food ingredients. It is also packed with protein and is minimally processed. It is manufactured in the USA with the finest ingredients from around the world. If your cat has a food allergy often, you can be sure that this product will suit them. Every piece of kibble in this product is freeze-dried for nutrition and taste.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats; Grain-free

Price: $12/pound

Pros

  • Made with one protein & one vegetable
  • No soy, artificial colors, or preservatives
  • Provides all the essential amino acids
  • Made with simple ingredients
  • Contains easily digestible protein

Cons

  • Tapioca is a low-quality ingredient

Ingredient Analysis

  • Rabbit Meal: This is the primary source of protein in this particular cat food. It helps build muscles and reduces the chance of an allergic reaction.
  • Peas: This is a great source of plant protein and contains fiber that helps with digestion. However, it is not usually recommended for cats.
  • Tapioca: This is usually a form of starch that provides carbohydrates to your cat’s body. It provides energy but is not usually recommended for cats.

Review: It does contain some starch that might not be recommended by some vets. However, it has a great taste that keeps your cat wanting more.

Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Adult Wet Cat Food

Merrick Grain-Free Limited Ingredient Canned Adult Wet Cat Food

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Summary: This single-source, high-quality, deboned protein provides your feline friend with the important amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to support healthy muscles. It is also easy to digest and ensures that your cat does not have an allergic reaction to any of the ingredients. Additionally, it is grain-free and potato-free and does not contain any artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It is filled with antioxidants that build immunity along with omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat.

Type: Wet cat food

Best for: Adult cats; Grain-free

Price: $2.3/can

Pros

  • Real deboned duck is always the first ingredient
  • Provides important amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
  • Supports healthy muscles and provides energy
  • Grain-free and potato free
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives

Cons

  • The scent might be off-putting for some cats

Ingredient Analysis

  • Deboned Duck: This is the main source of animal protein that will help build your cat’s muscles. It helps them move around and play all day.
  • Pea Protein: This is added as a protein source. However, many vets do not recommend it for cats as they are carnivores.
  • Taurine: This is an essential amino acid that all cats need as it supports their overall health and builds their immunity against infections and allergies.

Review: This cat food does not contain any harmful ingredients such as potatoes or grains that might otherwise be difficult to digest.

Purina Beyond Grain-Free, Natural, Adult Wet Cat Food Pate

Purina Beyond Grain-Free, Natural, Adult Wet Cat Food Pate

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Summary: This cat food is made with limited ingredients and made without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It contains wholesome vegetables, including sweet potatoes and carrots, that provide nutrients and fiber that boost digestion. It uses high-quality ingredients that are purposely selected by the brand’s in-house pet nutritionists. It is easy to chew and has an attractive flavor and scent, making your cat come back for more.

Type: Wet cat food

Best for: Adult cats; Natural diet

Price: $2.1/can

Pros

  • Made without corn, wheat, or soy
  • Made with a grain-Free Solution
  • Does not contain artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
  • Accented with wholesome vegetables
  • Offers a complete and balanced daily diet

Cons

  • The texture might not suit some cats
  • The product’s shelflife is not very long

Ingredient Analysis

  • Duck: This is the main source of animal protein that will help build your cat’s muscles. It helps them move around and play all day.
  • Fish: This is another source of protein that helps build muscles in your cat’s body, giving them the energy to sustain themselves.
  • Duck Broth: This is a great flavoring agent that provides a poultry essence to the food. It also helps to hydrate your cat.
  • Liver: This is not only a great source of protein, but it also adds iron to your cat’s diet.

Review: Formulated with a special blend of ingredients, this cat food provides all the nutrition your cat might need.

Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Grain-Free, Natural Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food

Blue Buffalo Basics Skin & Stomach Care Grain-Free, Natural Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food

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Summary: This limited ingredient cat food features a single animal protein source along with added potatoes and pumpkin that help support your cat’s digestion. It does not contain any gluten in the form of grains that might otherwise lead to an allergic reaction in your cat’s body. This particular cat food contains the brand’s signature LifeSource Bits which is a precise blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that boosts your cat’s immune system.

Type: Dry cat food

Best for: Adult cats; Stomach Care

Price: $3.7/pound

Pros

  • Contains a single animal protein source
  • Perfect for cats with sensitive stomachs
  • Features a precise blend of antioxidants
  • Offers a healthy oxidative balance
  • Contains no chicken or poultry by-product meals

Cons

Ingredient Analysis

  • Deboned Whitefish: This is the primary source of protein and helps build muscles in your cat’s body, giving them the energy to play all day.
  • Fish Meal: This not only adds protein to the food but also imparts a seafood flavor that your feline friend will love.
  • Pea Protein: This is added as a protein source. However, many vets do not recommend it for cats as they are carnivores.
  • Potatoes: This is usually a form of starch that provides carbohydrates to your cat’s body. It provides energy but is not usually recommended for cats.

Review: This cat food is great if your cat has a sensitive stomach as it contains ingredients that are not very difficult to digest. It also has a great flavor that cats love.

What Types of Limited Ingredient Food are Available for Cats?

There are several types of limited ingredient diets that are available for cats:

  • Dry Food. This is among the most popular type of cat food on the market. Not only does it last a long time, but it also provides a more diluted taste and smell in comparison to other cat foods. Limited ingredient dry cat foods are usually great at providing the benefits that your cat needs. This type of food usually contains high levels of protein, fat, and fiber. However, it also contains high amounts of carbohydrates.
  • Kitten Formula. This is a special type of limited ingredient cat food made especially for kittens and growing cats. It is catered to providing beneficial nutrients for a young kitten’s growth and development. Kittens have faster metabolisms than adult cats and require more protein to fuel their energy levels and muscular development.
  • Wet (Pate) Food. If your cat is a picky eater, this type of limited ingredient cat food is specially made for them. These cats usually shy away from crunchy kibble as wet cat foods offer a higher moisture content that they crave. It also contains a concentrated level of protein, fat, and fiber so you can tell how much nutrition your cat is getting from each feeding.
  • Mince and Gravy-Based Foods. This limited ingredient cat food is very much similar to wet pate cat foods. It consists of a mince that is finely chopped and separated. Many cats find this texture a lot more appealing as it is less slimy than wet cat foods and contains a lot more moisture in the form of gravy.
Best Seller
Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet | Adult Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
10/10Our Score
  • Grain-free, limited ingredient diet with a single animal protein source
  • Complete, balanced nutrition for adult cats
  • Real chicken is a high-quality protein that helps maintain strong muscles

What Should I Look for in Limited Ingredient Cat Food?

When shopping for a limited ingredient diet cat food, there are several things to consider. Here are the important factors for choosing a balanced diet with limited ingredients:

  • No Artificial Ingredients or Flavors. There is no proof at the moment that shows that LIDs cause allergic reactions in cats. This is mainly because they contain no artificial ingredients and flavors that could cause these reactions. They also do not include filler ingredients that usually are added for bulking the product and have no nutrition in general.
  • Single Source of Protein. This is the most critical part of a LID. It is best for your cat’s health if your limited ingredient diet has a single protein source, as it reduces the chance of food sensitivities in your feline friend.
  • Novel Source of Protein. These are proteins that your cat has never eaten before. Since your cat has never tasted it, the chance of them being allergic to it reduces. Therefore, a good LID contains an uncommon protein source such as turkey or venison.
  • Single Source of Carbohydrates. While carbs are not generally recommended for cats, many of the best LIDs contain a single source. It follows the general principle similar to a single source protein. Having a single source of carbs minimizes the chance of an allergic reaction.
  • No Grains. Grains are again not usually recommended for cats. Having a grain-free diet has two purposes. First, the ingredient list is free from fillers that often have no nutritional value. Second, grains are usually linked to allergies in cats. Therefore, you should avoid foods with wheat, corn, soy, alfalfa, and others.

What Ingredients in Cat Food Should Be Avoided?

There are several foods and ingredients that should not be included in a limited ingredient cat food. Those are: 

  • Grains. These are considered the primary contenders for causing allergic reactions in cats. Since cats are obligate carnivores, it is best to avoid giving them grains.
  • Soy. While this is a great source of plant protein, cats prefer animal protein for their nutritional needs. It is best to avoid giving them soy.
  • Gluten. Gluten is known to cause allergic reactions in many cats. It is a red flag if your cat food has gluten present in it.
  • Meat By-Products. If your cat food has any type of meat by-product, it is best to avoid it. This ingredient does not specify where the meat is coming from and could increase the chance of an allergic reaction in your feline friend.
  • Artificial Colors and Flavors. These are ingredients that should be avoided in any type of cat food. They are unnatural and can lead to allergic reactions leading to harm to your cat.