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Choosing the best hypoallergenic cat food
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Choosing the best hypoallergenic cat food

Are you tired of your cat constantly suffering from allergies or digestive issues? It's time to consider switching to hypoallergenic cat food. This type of food is formulated with ingredients that are less likely to trigger allergic reactions, making it ideal for cats with sensitivities. But with so many options available, how do you choose the best option for your cat?

In this article, we will explain what this food is, when cats might need it and guide you through choosing the right food that meets your cat's specific dietary needs. We will explore the importance of understanding your cat's allergies and sensitivities, as well as the different types available on the market. From limited ingredient diets to hydrolysed protein formulas, you’ll be a hypoallergenic cat food pro!

What is hypoallergenic cat food?

Let’s start by defining ‘hypoallergenic’. This means “designed to be less likely to cause allergic reactions”, which as you can imagine is a rather large catch all. Furthermore, the term hypoallergenic is not regulated in the marketing of pet food, so it is very important to understand exactly what the food you are buying is claiming when it says it is hypoallergenic

Cats, like humans, can develop allergies and sensitivities to certain foods. These allergies can manifest as skin irritations, gastrointestinal issues, or even respiratory problems. Hypoallergenic cat food is designed to minimise the risk of triggering these allergic reactions by using novel protein sources and eliminating common allergens such as wheat, soy, and corn.

When selecting this type of food, it's important to understand that not all cats with allergies have the same dietary requirements. Some cats may have a specific protein allergy, while others may be sensitive to grains or artificial additives. By identifying the specific allergens affecting your cat, you can choose a hypoallergenic food that addresses their unique needs.

This in turn means that not all hypoallergenic food is suitable for all cats as it might not address the issue they have. A process of elimination, trial and error or talking to your vet can help you isolate the exact cause of your cat’s sensitivities and get the right food for them. 

Common cat food allergens, sensitivities and intolerances 

Cats can develop allergies to a wide range of ingredients commonly found in cat food. The most common food allergens for cats include beef, grains, some fish and dairy products. Symptoms of food allergies in cats may include itching, scratching, vomiting, diarrhoea, or even respiratory issues. If you suspect that your cat has a food allergy, it's important to consult with your vet to determine the best course of action or to find out how to safely treat the symptoms while you determine what the sensitivity or allergy is.

Benefits of feeding your cat hypoallergenic food

Feeding your cat hypoallergenic food can provide several benefits. Firstly, it can help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms associated with food allergies, such as itching and gastrointestinal issues. By eliminating the allergens from their diet, you can give your cat relief and improve their overall wellbeing.

Secondly, hypoallergenic food can also improve your cat's skin and coat health. Many cats with allergies suffer from skin irritations and dry, flaky skin. By providing them with a hypoallergenic diet, you can nourish their skin and promote a healthy, shiny coat.

Finally, hypoallergenic food can also support your cat's digestive health. Cats with food allergies often experience digestive issues such as diarrhoea or vomiting. By switching to hypoallergenic food, you can provide your cat with a diet that is easier to digest, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal discomfort.

What ingredients are usually excluded?

Because the term ‘hypoallergenic’ is not regulated, it can mean many different things including:

  • Free from a specific protein source 
  • Grain free
  • Dairy free
  • Soy free
  • Wheat free
  • Gluten free
  • Egg free
  • Made with a novel protein source
  • Free from artificial preservatives

Different types 

There are many different forms, including dry, wet, and even raw options. Each type has its own advantages, and the choice ultimately depends on your cat's preferences and dietary needs.

Dry formats are convenient and have a longer shelf life. It can also help promote dental health by reducing plaque and tartar build-up. Tippaws Delicious Dry Food is hypoallergenic, defined as: grain free, wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, soya free, egg free and free from artificial preservatives.

Wet formats can be beneficial for cats who require additional hydration or have dental problems. It's also easier to mix medications or supplements into wet food. 

Raw formats are gaining popularity among cat owners and is currently ‘trendy’ however it does have its limitations including not being cooked to the “kill step” temperature.  

Transitioning your cat 

When transitioning your cat to hypoallergenic food, it's important to do so gradually to avoid any digestive upset. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with their current food, gradually increasing the proportion of the new food over a period of 7-10 days. Observe your cat's response and adjust the transition pace accordingly.

If your cat is resistant to the new food, try mixing in a small amount of their favourite treat or topping to entice them. Patience and persistence are key during the transition process.

Understanding ingredient labels

It’s extremely important to look the ingredients in your food. For example, we were recently at a show and a lady asked if our food was hypoallergenic. We said yes and she then asked us how many ingredients our food has as she can only feed her cat food that has a maximum of 4 ingredients. We walked her through our Tippaws Delicious Dry Food ingredients label and she said because it had more than four ingredients, it wasn’t suitable. She also explained that the food she was feeding her cat had only one protein source, three additional ingredients and was free from all carbohydrates. We didn’t think this sounded right as you wouldn’t be able to get the right nutrition in this food. So we googled it and here is the ingredient list:

Cereals, vegetable protein extracts, meat and animal derivatives, oils and fats (fish oil 1%), minerals, derivatives of vegetable origin, fruit, seeds. Protein sources: Rice protein concentrate, chicken liver hydrolysate (15.1%). Carbohydrate source: Brewers' rice

As you can see, there are definitely more than four ingredients and this food contains grains as well as multiple protein sources. This shows that the marketing for this food is so convincing, that the lady thought she was buying a ‘pure’ cat food that was free from everything her cat could be allergic to. What it does contain to make it hypoallergenic is hydrolysed animal protein and prebiotics. 

The lesson here is to really understand what your cat’s sensitivities are and really understand the ingredients in cat food. 

Can kittens eat hypoallergenic dry kitten food?

Yes, they can. The most important thing with kitten food is that it has the nutrients, amino acids and fatty acids required to support healthy growth. And that it has the right caloric content to support this too.

How does it help with digestion?

By eliminating ingredients that usually cause irritation or sensitivity, your cat can digest the food more easily. Particularly if the food contains high quality animal protein sources that are gently cooked, such as Tippaws Delicious Dry Food, that can be easily digested.

Can you get hypoallergenic dry cat food and wet cat food?

Yes, you can get both.

What percentage of adult dry cat food on the market is hypoallergenic?

It's hard to know exactly, but more and more brands are accommodating specific dietary needs of cats so it's likely that you'll be able to buy hypoallergenic food quite easily in 2024. 

Is gastrointestinal feline food the same as hypoallergenic?

No they are different, gastro food is designed to support digestive health. 

Is grain free cat food hypoallergenic?

Not necessarily because it could still contain other common allergens. 

Are all veterinary diets hypoallergenic?

No, not all of them. Veterinary diets are specifically formulated to address various health issues in cats and dogs, and they come in a wide range of formulations targeting specific conditions such as kidney disease, urinary issues, weight management or joint problems. So it could be that they are hypoallergenic, but it is not a given. 

Veterinary health nutrition is something you should talk to your vet about if you are considering it's important a professional opinion be sought before use. 

Is it normal for adult cats to have sensitive stomachs?

Whilst it's not uncommon for cats to have sensitive stomachs, it's not 'normal', check with your vet if your cat shows signs of this. However, a lot of the time it is something simple that can be managed through diets.

Similarly, quite a lot of cats suffer from allergies but it is 'normal'.

Is there an adult cat food recipe that is generally suitable for cats with sensitivities?

See above point on ingredients that are excluded from hypoallergenic foods. 

Do you still get the same level of nutrients?

Yes. 

Some brands that sell hypoallergenic food:

Royal Canin & Royal Canin Veterinary

Tippaws

Purina & Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets

Hills Prescription Diet 

Conclusion

Choosing the best hypoallergenic cat food is crucial for cats with allergies or sensitivities. By understanding your cat's specific needs and preferences, you can select a food that addresses their unique dietary requirements. The key is to provide your cat with a balanced and nutritious diet that promotes their overall health and well-being. 

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