How to Choose Treats for Cats with Dietary Restrictions and Allergies

Key Points

  • Determine the cause of your cat's allergy before choosing their treats.

  • Read all ingredients in any dietary cat treats you purchase and consult with your vet to ensure you avoid allergens.

  • Limited-ingredient treats minimize the risks that they contain allergens.

As a loving cat owner, you want to provide the best treats for your furry friend, especially if they have dietary restrictions or allergies. Choosing the right treats for cats with health concerns is a challenging task, but with some guidance, it becomes much easier.

This comprehensive guide helps you identify allergens, select grain-free, limited-ingredient, and hypoallergenic treats, and even offers some homemade options for your feline companion. Read on to discover how to choose treats that keep your cat healthy and happy.

cat taking treat from person's hand

I. Consultation With a Veterinarian

You know your cat well, but you aren't a trained doctor. If you suspect your cat has allergies, take them to the vet to make that call.

A. Determining the Cause of Allergies

Before you choose treats for your cat, consult with your veterinarian to determine the cause of their allergies. Allergies stem from various factors such as the environment, fleas, or food ingredients. Your vet performs a series of tests and reviews of your cat's medical history to identify the root cause of their cat allergies.

B. Identifying Dietary Restrictions

It's crucial to discuss any dietary restrictions with your veterinarian. Your vet has the expertise to help you understand your cat's specific needs based on their health history, symptoms, and overall diet. They may recommend avoiding certain ingredients or opting for specific types of treats to ensure your cat's well-being.

C. Personalized Recommendations

Your veterinarian is your best resource for personalized recommendations tailored to your cat's needs. They suggest brands, ingredients, and even recipes that are suitable for your cat's dietary restrictions and allergies. Being aware of your cat's unique requirements helps you make informed choices when it comes to selecting treats.

cat taking treat from human's hand

II. Identifying Allergens

Food allergies may cause symptoms like vomiting, fur loss, diarrhea, skin irritation, and scratching, among others. No matter what the symptom, don't allow your cat to suffer. The first step is to identify the cause and then eliminate it.

A. Common Allergens in Cat Treats

Some common allergens in cat treats include beef, chicken, dairy, fish, and grains like wheat and corn. It's essential to be aware of these allergens and know what to look for when selecting treats. The more informed you are about potential allergens, the better equipped you are to find the best treats for your cat.

B. Food Trials

To identify your cat's allergens, start food trials under your vet's guidance. This process involves removing all potential allergens from your cat's diet and gradually reintroducing them one by one. By carefully monitoring your cat's response to each reintroduction, you pinpoint which ingredients are causing problems.

C. Reading Labels and Ingredient Lists

When shopping for cat treats, always carefully read the labels and ingredient lists. Look for products with minimal ingredients and avoid those containing your cat's allergens. Familiarize yourself with terms like "by-products" and "meat meal" as these may signify hidden allergens.

III. Grain-Free Treats

You may be familiar with the popularity of grain-free options in recent years. Grain-free treats are an excellent choice for some cats with dietary restrictions, especially those suffering from grain allergies.

A. Benefits of Grain-Free Options

Grain-free treats omit common grains like wheat, corn, and soy, and instead focus on high-quality proteins, fruits, and vegetables. As a result, grain-free treats provide a more natural and easy-to-digest alternative for sensitive cats.

B. Selecting High-Quality Ingredients

When choosing grain-free treats, prioritize those with high-quality ingredients. Look for treats containing real meat, fish, or poultry as the primary ingredient, followed by healthy fruits and vegetables. Avoid ingredients like artificial preservatives, flavorings, and colors that may further irritate your cat's sensitive digestive system.

C. Popular Grain-Free Treats

There are numerous popular grain-free treats available for cats with dietary restrictions. Brands like Blue Buffalo, Nutro, and Wellness produce grain-free treats with high-quality ingredients and limited fillers. Researching different options and reading customer reviews help you find the most suitable grain-free treats for your cat.

cat taking a treat from a human

IV. Limited-Ingredient Treats

The fewer ingredients you have to deal with in treats, the easier it is to identify and eliminate allergy-causing elements. Be wary of the term "limited ingredient," though.

Dr. Jamie Lovejoy practices preventative veterinary medicine in Central New York and writes for PetMD. Lovejoy says, "The term 'limited ingredient' is not regulated by the FDA. That means that pet food companies can write 'limited ingredient' on the label of any cat food, no matter how many ingredients there are."

She says that the only way to know what ingredients are included is to look for yourself or ask your vet.

A. Advantages of Limited-Ingredient Options

Limited-ingredient treats are for cats with food allergies or sensitivities. They contain fewer ingredients than traditional treats, minimizing the chances your cat ingests allergens. This also makes it easier to pinpoint any ingredients that may trigger an allergic reaction, ensuring your cat consumes only what's safe for them.

B. Rotating Protein Sources

Rotating protein sources is a strategy to prevent food allergies and help with food intolerances. Offering your cat limited-ingredient treats that feature different protein sources, such as duck, rabbit, or venison, may be beneficial. This rotation ensures your cat gets a variety of nutrients and prevents them from developing allergies to a single protein source.

C. Top Brands for Limited-Ingredient Treats

Some top brands offering limited-ingredient cat treats include Natural Balance, Merrick, Instinct, and ZiwiPeak. These companies focus on high-quality proteins and minimal additives to create treats that are easily digestible and less likely to provoke allergies. Be sure to read labels carefully and consult with your veterinarian about the most appropriate treats for your cat's specific needs.

V. Hypoallergenic Treats

Hypoallergenic treats lessen the risk of a reaction. You still need to identify the element causing the allergy, so checking the ingredient list is essential.

A. What Makes a Treat Hypoallergenic

Hypoallergenic treats are specially formulated to minimize the risk of triggering an allergic reaction. They typically contain hydrolyzed proteins, which are broken down into smaller particles, making them less likely to cause allergies. Additionally, they usually contain limited ingredients, further reducing allergy risk.

  1. Diet Hypoallergenic Cat Treats
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    by Hill's Prescription 

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  2. Veterinary Diet Adult Hydrolyzed Protein Cat Treats
    $8.79

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    05/03/2024 12:01 am GMT
  3. Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Dry Cat Food
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B. Best Hypoallergenic Treat Options

Some of the best hypoallergenic treat options for cats include Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Treats, Hill's Prescription Diet Hypoallergenic Treats, and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets Hypoallergenic Treats. These treats are specifically designed for cats with severe allergies and are often only available through a veterinarian's prescription.

C. Alternatives to Commercial Hypoallergenic Treats

If commercial hypoallergenic treats don't suit your cat's preferences or restrictions, consider alternatives like single-ingredient freeze-dried treats made from protein sources such as rabbit, duck, or venison. These options provide straightforward ingredients and cater to your cat's allergies while still giving them something to enjoy.

cat playing with a ball shaped treat

VI. Homemade Treats

Making cat treats has its advantages. You control the freshness of the treats as well as the ingredients and form for finicky felines. Some cats even enjoy licking pureed frozen treats.

On June 22, 2023, Brooks Johnson, a writer for the Star Tribune, reported, "Nationally, pet food and treat sales should reach $62.7 billion this year, an 8% increase from 2022. Most of that growth will probably be in dry food, though fresh/refrigerated pet food is still rising despite its already higher prices."

This may cause pet owners to turn to homemade treat options. Before you make your own treats, consult your vet to ensure you include all nutrients necessary to keep your cat healthy.

A. Control Over Ingredients

Creating homemade treats for your cat allows you complete control over the ingredients. This is especially important if your cat has dietary restrictions or allergies. Customize treats to include only the ingredients that are safe for your cat to consume.

B. Simple Recipes for Cats With Dietary Restrictions

A variety of simple recipes are available for homemade cat treats that cater to dietary restrictions. Incorporating safe proteins, vegetables, and fruits allows you to create delicious and nutritious treats tailored to your cat's needs. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian about appropriate ingredients and quantities when creating homemade treats.

C. Storing and Preserving Homemade Treats

When making homemade treats, it's essential to store and preserve them properly to ensure their safety and freshness. Keep treats in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week for optimal freshness. Freeze treats for up to three months, defrosting them as needed for your cat's enjoyment.

Give Your Sensitive Cat a Special Treat

Having dietary restrictions and allergies shouldn't prevent your cat from getting a special treat on occasion. Many options exist for cats with sensitivity issues. With the proper direction, pick the best cat treats for your feline.

Choosing treats for cats with dietary restrictions and allergies is a challenge, but with proper knowledge and guidance, it's easy to find the best options for your feline friend. Consult with your veterinarian, learn to identify allergens, and explore the various treat options available.

By taking these steps, you ensure your cat's health and happiness while still providing delicious treats. Your cat's dietary restrictions don't have to limit their rewards. A special cat deserves a special treat.

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