Best Limited Ingredient Diet Cat Food

Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food 2023 – Our Favorite Elimination Diet Recipes for Cats with Intolerance

Vet-Checked • Pet-Tested • Owner-Approved

Kate Barrington

Researched & Written by

Kate Barrington

At EasyPet, we are committed to presenting the most accurate and up-to-date information to assist you in your pet care journey. When appropriate, we consult licensed and practicing veterinarians to fact-check our professionally written articles.

Our little furry friends sometimes have touchy stomachs. It’s important to know what’s in your cat’s food and what might be causing belly issues, so you can get to the root of the problem. Often, a simple diet change can help bring your lovable kitty back to good health.

You might be surprised when you look at the ingredients on cat food bags, though. Some labels have so many ingredients listed that it seems unlikely that you’ll ever find the culprit for your cat’s upset stomach or allergy.

Unless you switch to a limited ingredient formula, that is. Limited ingredient cat foods, as the name suggests, limit the number of ingredients in your cat’s food to reduce the risk of allergy and upset stomach so that your kitty can enjoy mealtime again.

Here, we cover our four top picks for dry and wet cat food with limited ingredient formulas that can be useful options for your cat with allergies or food intolerances.

What is the Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food?

Why Choose Limited Ingredient Formulas?

Just like us humans, cats are susceptible to food allergies and food intolerances. A food intolerance can make it difficult for your cat to digest his food, or can make him sensitive to additives, like coloring and flavoring that manufacturers sometimes add to cat food.

A food allergy, on the other hand, can cause more severe symptoms, like extremely itchy skin, skin lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, and an inflamed throat.

In either case, a limited ingredient cat food may help your cat more easily digest her food and absorb all the essential nutrients that come along with it.

Limited ingredient diets usually have about five or six ingredients – much different than the seemingly never-ending list that traditional kibble has. The idea behind limiting the ingredients is that, the fewer ingredients there are, the easier the food will be to digest and the less likely it is that your cat will have a reaction.

According to Pet Education, some of the most common foods that can spark an allergic reaction in your cat include:

  • Beef
  • Seafood
  • Lamb
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Wheat gluten

You’ll notice that, in many limited ingredient cat food formulas, these ingredients aren’t on the list, much like you’d expect from hypoallergenic cat food.

Cat eating plated canned food

What to Look for in a Limited Ingredient Cat Food

Now that you know how a limited ingredient cat food might help your sensitive cat, it’s time to learn what you should look for in a limited ingredient formula. As with any cat food, not all limited ingredient diets are created equal. You’ll still want to ensure that you understand the ingredients and nutrition label to get the best diet for your feline friend.

Protein Source

Protein is one of the most critical parts of your cat’s diet. By nature, cats love meat. However, not all protein sources are adequate for cats, and the limited ingredient formula you choose should have an excellent protein source that’s proven to give cats the protein they need while reducing the risk of allergies.

The guaranteed analysis of dry cat food for adults should have a minimum of 26 percent crude protein by weight, according to recommendations from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). For kitten food, the number jumps to 30 percent. However, both age groups can handle more protein, so it’s a good idea to shoot for 30 percent and above, even for adults.

Protein helps your cat digest her food, which is incredibly important when she suffers from food intolerances or allergies. You should look for a limited ingredient cat food that has a quality, whole protein source, such as deboned chicken or turkey instead of chicken by-product, that ups the protein content.

As tempting as it can be to feed your cat a tuna or salmon meal, try to steer clear of proteins that are more likely to cause allergies in cats, as noted above.

Carb Source

Research has shown that cats and carbohydrates don’t cooperate well with each other. Carbohydrates are essential for energy, but cats’ bodies just can’t break it down as seamlessly as humans and other animals can. Therefore, it’s not only important that your cat’s limited ingredient food has low carb content, but it’s also crucial that the carb source is one that your cat can digest easily.

Starchy carbohydrates are much better for your feline friend than grain-based carbs. Starches can break down much more efficiently, allowing your cat to get the energy-producing benefits, but also digesting them faster.

Look for plant-based carbohydrates, like potatoes and peas, which can be useful carbohydrate sources in a limited ingredient cat food.


As we mentioned above, cats have a particularly difficult time digesting grains, like wheat and corn. These carbs break down slowly in the cat’s body, which can cause them to turn to excess glucose. High levels of glucose in the body can head to severe weight gain and even feline diabetes.

You’ll see that many limited ingredient diets are labeled “Grain-Free,” but you should still check the ingredients to ensure that the food doesn’t have grainy fillers or any sneaky ingredients that could harm your cat.

Whole Foods

Whole foods are significant additions to your cat’s limited ingredient diet. Since there are fewer ingredients than traditional cat food in these formulas, you want to be sure that they’re filled with the very best foods to give your cat the nutrients he needs.

Look for things like “Chicken” rather than “Chicken by-product,” for example. And, since your kitty also needs some fat to help absorb all the nutrients he’s getting from his food, be on the lookout for a quality fat source, like “Sunflower oil,” which is preferable over animal fat.

Nutrient Profile

It is crucial that you look at the nutrient profile of your cat’s food. You can see the most essential nutrients of a limited ingredient formula by looking at the label, which is usually on the back of the bag. You’ll see a part labeled “Guaranteed Analysis,” which is something cat food manufacturers are required by law to provide.

This analysis will tell you how much protein, fat, fiber, and other nutrients are in a cat food formula. Some things, like Omega-3 fatty acids, aren’t required on the label, but some manufacturers put them there anyway, which can make your job easier to ensure that your cat is getting the best diet possible.

To check a cat food formula against expert recommendations, you can check out the pet food label resources on the AAFCO website.


Last, but certainly not least, is the cost of your cat’s food. No cat owner should go broke trying to feed their furry friend. However, it’s true that some limited ingredient formulas can cost significantly more than regular kibble and wet foods.

You’ll need to weigh your options and find a cat food that’s both nutritious and cost-effective for your kitty. It might be a good idea to spend time researching your options before making the food switch and working the cost within your budget to see if it’s reasonable for you.

The foods we’re recommending in this review are ones you can find on Chewy, which not only makes the shopping experience simple, but also lets you see cat food reviews, ingredients, guaranteed analysis, cost, and more without stepping foot in a store.

Although limited ingredient diets for your cat can be pricey, you should also remember that they can significantly improve your cat’s health and put your mind at ease knowing that he’s getting the best kind of food and nutrients your money can buy.

Cat eating from bowl

Reviewed: The Best Limited Ingredient Cat Food 2023

It’s time to talk food! Although there are many incredible cat food brands and limited ingredient formulas, we want to introduce you to four of our top picks that adhere to the critical factors we mentioned above that make up a quality limited ingredient cat food.

We picked two dry foods and two wet foods for you to consider because we know that some owners and cats have specific preferences when it comes to the type of food they choose.

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Dry Cat Food

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Merrick’s Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free formulas for cats have one protein and limited veggies to give your cat the nutrition she needs to thrive. This formula uses deboned chicken as its main protein, and also includes some chicken meal and chicken fat as following ingredients, which help increase the protein content.

One of the best things about this formula is its excellent balance of protein, fat, and fiber. Like we mentioned before, your cat needs a lot of protein to digest food and help several bodily functions perform their best. Couple that with low fat content, which can keep your cat at a healthy weight while letting her body get the nutrients it needs, and your cat gets the right balance of protein and fat.

With additional high fiber content from chickpeas, alfalfa meal, and flaxseed, your cat’s digestion can improve on this food. Since food will be making its way through your kitty’s digestive tract more quickly, you can likely see a decrease in allergy symptoms after a few days or weeks on this food.

Another benefit of Merrick’s Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free formulas is that they have added vitamins and minerals to increase the overall nutritional value of your cat food. This food is an excellent source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that benefit the immune system and can help heal skin lesions caused by allergic reactions.


  • Low-fat and high-fiber content
  • Several vitamins and minerals added
  • Deboned chicken as main protein
  • Probiotics added to improve digestion


  • Subtle flavor that may not be enough for some cats
  • High moisture content may make it not keep as well as other foods

Instinct By Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free with Real Turkey Recipe

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Instinct By Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free formulas are designed to give your cat the best nutrition possible, but in the most straightforward way. The formulas have just one protein and one vegetable to make finding your cat’s allergic triggers an easy process. Plus, with fewer ingredients, your cat can be on his way to having a healthy diet that keeps his digestive process in check.

The Real Turkey Recipe by Instinct By Nature’s Variety uses real turkey as its protein, with slightly more turkey meal than whole turkey, which merely means that some of the turkey has been cooked prior to being placed in the food. Your kitty will still get the essential nutrients and protein content from the turkey, but with a lower moisture content that can help improve its shelf-life.

One of the things that Instinct By Nature’s Variety has prided itself on is its introduction of raw protein in every piece of kibble. A raw diet can mimic what a cat might eat in the wild, and research shows that it can give your feline friend more energy, improved digestion, better oral health, and more. By ensuring that raw turkey is included in every piece of kibble in this formula, Instinct By Nature’s Variety provides that your cat has a diet as close to his natural diet as possible.

This food is packed with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which can help improve your cat’s skin and fur that might have become damaged because of allergy symptoms. Additional taurine, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3, and other vitamins and minerals in the food can work together with the important fatty acids to improve your cat’s overall immune system.


  • High protein content
  • Added vitamins and minerals for increased nutrition
  • Made from cage-free turkeys as one and only protein


  • Pricey
  • Contains “natural flavors,” but doesn’t specify what the flavoring consists of

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Indoor Turkey & Potato Recipe Adult Canned Cat Food

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Blue Buffalo Basics’ Limited Ingredient Grain-Free Adult Canned Cat Food is one that’s focused on giving your sensitive kitty a yummy diet filled with things she’ll love that also won’t hurt her belly. This food can be a good option for cat owners who want to give their cat that suffers from vomiting, diarrhea, or upset stomach after eating a simplified option for mealtime.

Blue Buffalo Basics uses just one protein in its food, as you’d expect in a limited ingredient formula. This formula has turkey, which is one of the safest proteins for cats to avoid allergies and intolerances, and natural turkey broth for extra flavor and protein.

Your cat will get its carbs from starchy sources, like peas and potatoes, rather than grains from this grain-free formula. And, this food goes above and beyond in fiber and minerals, with ingredients like cranberries, blueberries, and pumpkin. These are excellent sources of fiber that also give the food plenty of natural sources of vitamins and minerals.

Still, Blue Buffalo supplements the nutritional value with additional vitamins, like Vitamins D3, B12, and B6, plus extra amino acids that can improve your kitty’s digestion and prevent allergy triggers from sitting in their bodies for too long.


  • Packed with healthy fruits and vegetables that support digestion and immunity
  • Excellent Omega-3 and Omega-6 content
  • Proper moisture content that can help promote urinary tract health and prevent dehydration
  • May improve the digestive tract over time


  • Somewhat high fat content
  • May not please the palates of picky eaters who prefer more flavor

Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Real Chicken Pate Recipe Canned Cat Food

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If your cat suffers from food sensitivities or allergies, then Merrick might have the right canned cat food for you to try. The Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free wet formulas have a single protein that’s easily digestible for cats. Our favorite pick is the Real Chicken Pate formula, which gives cats a lot of protein without making it difficult for their bellies to handle a meal.

This formula uses deboned chicken like its dry version, with chicken broth and chicken liver as following ingredients that provide extra protein. Your kitty will get its carbohydrate content – which is minimal at 8 percent in this formula – from the low-carb pea protein, which also gives the food a boost of protein.

You can rest assured that your cat will get plenty of vitamins and minerals from this food, too, thanks to its additional supplements. Merrick includes antioxidants that can help improve your cat’s skin and fur that might have been giving him the itchy-scratchies from food intolerances or allergies. Plus, Merrick provides taurine in this formula, which not only can improve brain and heart health, but also can keep your cat’s digestive tract in top shape.


  • Single protein and two plant-based ingredients make a super-simple formula for sensitive tummies
  • Low fat content
  • Added taurine for improved digestion and other bodily functions
  • Additional antioxidants to support the immune system and help skin and fur heal from allergies


  • Limited flavoring might not be convincing enough for picky eaters to try
  • The texture may be a bit inconsistent between cans
  • “Natural flavor” enhancement

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