Article Hero Image

CAT / nutrition

When to Buy Cat Food for Allergies & Sensitive Stomachs


Are you unsure whether or not to buy your pet cat food for allergies or cat food for sensitive stomachs? There are different types of foods designed to help your cat get everything they might need nutritionally, depending on their health consideration. As pet parents, you should always use caution when deciding whether or not to switch your cat’s food and should always consult a veterinarian as to whether or not it's the right choice for your cat. A vet can assess your feline friend and determine exactly what they need in order to live their best and most healthy life. Pet parents should never switch their cat’s diet without first talking to their veterinarian about whether or not it's the right choice. 


Just like humans, cats can have allergies toward certain foods or sensitivities to certain ingredients that might have them needing a special diet. In these situations, pet parents can talk to their vet about cat food for allergies or cat food for sensitive stomachs. Should these diets be the right fit for your purring pal, and you can start the process of switching their food. But first, pet parents need to have a better understanding of cat food allergies and sensitivities so they know when to buy the right food. 


What is a Cat Food Allergy or Sensitivity? 


People often confuse cat food allergies and sensitivities with one another, but they are actually different. Knowing the difference between them is important when figuring out how to care for your pet. Your veterinarian can explain the difference between them in-depth, but the general difference between them can be found below. 


Cat Food Sensitivity 


Also referred to as food intolerance, sensitivities can usually be the result of a certain ingredient in food, and symptoms are often limited to the digestive tract. For example, your cat might have loose stools when they eat a certain type of food that upsets their stomach. It's common knowledge that most cats are lactose intolerant, but cats can have other intolerances to gluten, wheat, dairy, and more. For many cats, standard foods can cause irritation to their sensitive stomachs that have them needing specialized cat food for sensitive stomachs.


Signs of a Cat Food Sensitivity: 




Frequent Bathroom Trips 


Cat Food Allergy 


Allergies can be, but are not always, more severe than food sensitivity or intolerance. The symptoms of a food allergy are not limited to the digestive tract and can result in a variety of other issues. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, symptoms usually start small and develop more intensely over time. These kinds of reactions often develop over time after continuous exposure to a repeated ingredient or component of a cat’s diet. For example, even though your cat has been eating the same food for years, they can develop an allergy to the protein within that specific food. This can result in a need to change the cat’s diet. 


Symptoms of Cat Food Allergies: 



Ear Infections

Skin Irritation

Persistent Scratching 

Hair Loss

Poor Coat Health

Skin Lesions


Common Food Allergies in Cats: 






When to See a Veterinarian 


If you notice your cat showing any of the signs of a food allergy or a food sensitivity, you should consult a veterinarian right away. Your vet can pinpoint the cause of your pet’s symptoms, determine what is causing those symptoms, and formulate a plan to help them feel better. 


Food sensitivities are usually easier to identify as long as you are paying attention to the appearance of your cat’s stool or if they are throwing up around your home. While diarrhea and vomiting are signs of sensitivities, that does not necessarily mean that is the issue for your cat in particular. Those symptoms are tied to many other conditions that your vet will be able to diagnose or rule out, making it extremely important to contact them as soon as you notice a change in your cat's digestive health. 


With allergies, it's not always as easy to tell right away when your cat is not feeling their best. Symptoms often start out small and grow larger and more intense over time. As soon as you notice a change in your cat’s behavior, digestive health, or the health of their coat, you need to contact a vet for help. 


When to Buy Cat Food for Allergies or Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs 


You should only buy cat food for allergies or sensitive stomachs after your vet has established a treatment plan for your cat. Your vet will likely recommend a certain diet or authorize a cat food diet if necessary. 


You should never purchase cat food for allergies or cat food for sensitive stomachs prior to talking to a vet because there is no way to tell if you are buying the right one to meet your cat’s needs. By sticking to your vet’s plan, the both of you can determine what the best diet for your cat will be for their health and happiness. These diets often include wet cat foods and dry cat foods with limited ingredient in the name and are often made without ingredients that are common sources of allergies in cats. 


What is the Best Way to Switch Your Cat’s Food?


Switching a cat’s diet abruptly can be difficult on their stomachs. For cats that eat the same food every day, new food can really throw them off. For this reason, it's best to gradually transition your cat to new cat food for allergies or cat food for sensitive stomachs. 


Start by adding only a small amount of the new food to their current food, gradually increasing the proportion of new to old each day. The time it takes to fully transition a pet from old to new food varies depending on the pet. For cats with sensitive stomachs, in particular, the transition might take a few weeks in order for them to adapt smoothly. The average time it takes to transition to a new food is 7 days. 


Pet parents can expect some stomach upset during the transition, which is natural, but is also why it's so important not to rush the transition. 


Ultimately, a trip to the vet is in your pet’s best interest if they are suffering from any symptoms associated with cat food allergies or sensitivities/intolerances. Your vet can evaluate your pet and determine whether or not you should buy cat food for allergies, cat food for sensitive stomachs, or if another issue is causing your cat’s symptoms.


Need to schedule an appointment with a veterinarian? Click here. 

Did your vet authorize or recommend a certain food for your cat? Click here to shop.

Shop other cat products while you’re looking for the right cat food including cat treats and cat bowls and feeders


PetSmart also offers convenient shopping with curbside or in-store pickup. Need something today? We have select items available for same-day delivery in most areas powered by DoorDash. For items you purchase frequently, PetSmart has Autoship that automatically delivers the items you want to your door as often as you’d like. Check the website to see which items are eligible.


Information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure your pet and is not a substitute for veterinary care provided by a licensed veterinarian. For any medical or health-related advice concerning the care and treatment of your pet, contact your veterinarian.