In the first blog in this series, we talked about cat food allergies: what they are and how to find out if your cat has one. So where do you go from here? Once your vet has confirmed that your cat has an allergy or intolerance, you need to know what to do about it. What kind of diet is right for a cat with allergies? This can be a difficult thing to navigate, with plenty of brands throwing a lot of scientific-sounding terms around; some unfamiliar, some a little misleading. So let’s dive in and talk about what diets are out there and what can really help your cat.
What does hypoallergenic mean?
First of all, the blanket term ‘hypoallergenic diet’ refers to food that contains few allergy-producing substances (which are usually proteins, but sometimes additives). As a reminder, you can find out what an allergy in cats looks like in our first blog in this series.
If a food is truly hypoallergenic, it shouldn’t contain any allergens. Unfortunately, the definition can be misleading and the ingredients in a ‘hypoallergenic’ product can vary widely from brand to brand. If a food says it’s ‘hypoallergenic’, it might avoid certain common allergens, but include others, so it’s always important to check the label.
Okay, but grain-free means hypoallergenic, right?
In a word, no. Just because a high street brand is grain-free, that doesn’t make it hypoallergenic. Sure, it’s got no grains, but if it’s made with ‘animal derivatives’ or meat by-products, there are still plenty of unwanted potential allergens lurking. Cat food brands don’t have to tell you what animals or meats they’re using – they can just say ‘animal derivatives’ – which is bad news if your cat is allergic to a specific animal protein.
So if you and your vet suspect that your cat has an allergy, what diet should you really be using to find out? Your vet will likely start with a food trial.
How does a food trial work?
A food trial is a meal plan – as recommended by your vet – that excludes certain ingredients in order to diagnose or treat a food allergy. You have to stick to the plan rigidly though: no treats, supplements or table scraps, or else you won’t be able to tell what your cat is and isn’t reacting to. Even bowl licking between cats on different foods can invalidate the test.
There are two standard diets that can be used during a food trial: hydrolysed diets and novel protein diets.
Hydrolysed diets: In hydrolysed diets, the constituents of the food have been broken down so that they’re too small to be recognised by the immune system as allergens. They have varied success, but if a hydrolysed diet is effective for an individual cat, then it should remain effective lifelong, which means the cat shouldn’t become allergic to it over time. Hydrolysed diets have undergone special processing and so can be less tasty, but they’re a good solution in some cases.
Novel protein diets: ‘novel protein diet’ means that the food is made with a protein which is unlikely to have been encountered before in mainstream commercial diets. That may be as simple as pork, or as unusual as ostrich. During the food trial, your cat will stick to just one novel protein throughout the 6-12 week period.
At the end of the food trial, if your cat has stopped showing signs of an allergic reaction, then there are various options and your vet will talk you through them: your cat can stay on that diet (if it’s complete and balanced) or the vet can recommend introducing what are known as challenge ingredients. That means staying on the same diet, and introducing a small amount of one new ingredient for up to two weeks. By introducing only one challenge at a time, we can then attempt to establish what caused the allergy.
How can KatKin help?
Every allergy is different, so we can never guarantee that KatKin will help in absolutely every case, but we’ve seen amazing success stories from our KatKin club members. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
KatKin Oink! is made only with pork, which can be considered a novel protein, so talk to your vet about whether it’s right for your cat, if you’re about to start a food trial
Our single protein recipes – Cluck!, Mooo!, and Oink! – are made with just one animal protein (chicken, beef and pork, respectively), so they’re useful in cutting out other proteins.
Our recipes have simple, limited ingredients: you don’t have to pore over a long and scientific list of chemicals and compounds to know what’s in your cat’s food
Our 100% Fresh premium meat contents are clear: we tell you exactly which cuts of meat we’re using in each recipe, and we never hide anything behind an umbrella term like ‘animal derivatives’
Our food is grain-free if your cat does have a grain allergy (and even if they don’t, they’ll find our premium meat easier to digest)
When it comes to allergies, we’ve had great feedback from happy cats and cat people, full of reports on shiny coats, settled stomachs and better general health. Here’s one of our KatKin club members to tell you more:
“I won't lie, I thought this food wouldn't make any difference and would be another failed attempt to help my beloved cat. For his whole life (14 years) he's had some kind of allergy to whatever it is they put in store food. I decided to give KatKin a go, even though I've tried him on other food including prescription food. Well!! He gobbles up the food like he's starving, he’s put on weight, he doesn't cry out any more, he's had no asthma attacks, and his coat is fluffy and shiny!”