Thriving Cat

Single Protein Cat Food

Tabby kitten with it's head in the food bowl eating outside

Single Protein Cat Food

Many protein sources can cause digestive problems for cats including common ingredients like fish, poultry and beef. Other ingredients including grains and dairy can be a problem as well.  My cat is sensitive to tuna and possibly chicken and turkey.  These are very common ingredients in cat food so to determine which proteins are making him sick we need to feed him a single protein cat food.

Cats are notorious for throwing up. While throwing up occasionally is not cause for concern, if your cat throws up or has diarrhea all the time you might need to try single source protein cat food to rule out food intolerances which are commonly referred to as “allergies”. An allergy is generally something that causes an allergic reaction like sneezing, runny nose or itchy skin. An intolerance produces more gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. Trying one single protein cat food at a time can pinpoint which ingredient is the culprit.

Multi Protein Cat Food

Most varieties of cat food contain multiple protein sources. Even if the label says “Chicken” it may also contain fish, pork or any other protein. I have chicken food that contains tuna. Beef food that contains chicken and pork and fish food that contains chicken. I was surprised that it is actually very hard to find a wet cat food that contains only one protein source. Multiple protein sources are not inherently bad, but they make it much harder to identify the cause of a food intolerance. Be sure to read the ingredient list when looking at cat foods. You will likely see multiple protein sources listed even if they do not show up on the front label. Also beware that “fish” could include tuna or any other fish.

Hydrolyzed Protein Cat Food

There is a way around the protein intolerance but it is expensive. It is hydrolyzed protein food. The hydrolization process breaks down the protein so that the cat’s immune system doesn’t react to it. This is a possible solution for some pet owners but it is not cheap or easy to find. I will address this more in a future post.

Reasons Cats Throw Up

If you have no idea why your cat is throwing up or has diarrhea you need to consider all of the following:

  1. Cats are sensitive to changes in diet. Have you changed your cat’s food recently? New foods need to be introduced slowly over time gradually adding more of the new food each day.
  2. Cats can be sensitive to a wide range of ingredients in foods. Certain grains like corn or wheat could be to blame as well as proteins, eggs and dairy.
  3. Cats can have digestive problems that are not caused by food allergy or intolerance.
    1. Excessive stomach acid. This could be triggered by stress, medical conditions or food sensitivity. See my post here: Remedy for Cat Vomiting
    2. Stress.
    3. Medical conditions. See your vet first before attempting to diagnose a food allergy. There could be a more serious cause.
    4. Hairballs. This is not really a cause. It is actually more of a result of poor digestion. Cats in the wild eat whole animals so they are designed to eat fur. If they are throwing up hairballs it can indicate a problem with digestion. Hairballs themselves are not usually the problem. The underlying problem should be addressed.

Single Protein is Not High Protein

Unfortunately, many foods with a single protein are also high protein. High protein is not at all related to single source protein. If you have a reason for high protein fine but don’t assume every cat should be on a high protein diet. Cats with kidney disease for example need a low protein diet. Kidney disease is very common. Talk with your vet before starting a high protein or low protein diet.

How To Pick a Single Protein Cat Food

It is tricky to pick a single protein cat food. If you suspect your cat is sensitive to tuna for example, start with a totally different protein source like chicken, turkey etc. I suggest these because they are common but novel proteins can be better. These would be unusual meat sources like bison, boar, quail etc. The idea is to feed only that protein and see what happens. If your cat has no problems then you can add a different protein and see what happens.

There are recommendations that you do this diet with the help of a vet and try each food for 12 weeks. That is a bit long for many people. However, you cannot just try a new food for a day or two and know how it will work. It takes time for a cat to transition to a new food so if you just feed him a new food all of the sudden he will likely throw up whether he is truly allergic to it or now.

Be aware of other ingredients in the food as well such as grains. Ideally, you would have a grain free food or food with a single grain or carb source so you know that grain is ok as well as the protein.

While you are feeding the single protein diet, you will have to forego any treats or other foods that could confuse the results.

Single protein cat foods are hard to find. Most of them are expensive, high-end brands.

Once you go through the different single protein foods and find which ones are acceptable for your cat, then you could buy foods that have multiple protein sources again.

So if you determine that tuna is the culprit making your cat sick then you could get regular cat food brands that contain chicken and turkey or beef and chicken or salmon etc.

In future posts I will highlight specific brands and varieties of single protein cat foods.

Let me know if you have any questions. Please feel free to leave any questions or thoughts in a comment below!


Note: I am not a veterinarian and nothing on is veterinary advice. Always consult a veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet or attempting to diagnose any health problem. Views expressed here are from personal experience only.



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