Preventing IBD in cats

Feeding your cat a high quality diet with little or no grain content can help stave off inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other health problems.

When I adopted Alex, she was obese, thanks to what her previous family fed her. I began to learn about proper feline nutrition, and under the supervision of my vet, we put her on a diet. But the changes we tried to make were unfortunately too late. The damage was already done, and Alex became very ill with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.

Unfortunately, there are too many cats just like Alex – some that are still around, and others, like my girl, that are gone. Because there are no statistics available, IBD technically isn’t classified as an epidemic. But tens of thousands of cat parents around the world know differently.

Too much grain isn’t good

Low quality commercial cat foods contain ingredients we should not be feeding our cats. Many of these ingredients are imported from other countries that have few, if any, safety regulations in place. Among these ingredients are cheap grain fillers. “Cats can convert protein to energy in their bodies, so they don’t need to eat carbohydrates for energy,” says holistic veterinarian Dr. Deneen Fasano. “I believe that high carbohydrate diets contribute to most of the chronic diseases in cats, such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, bladder disease (cystitis), inflammatory bowel disease and many others.”

Pre-digested grains from the stomach of a prey animal, such as a rodent or bird, are normal, but the grain products added to commercial cat food are not. They are usually poor quality, and in quantities that are too high for an obligate carnivore like a cat.

Most grains are broken down in the body as some form of sugar. And although not all sugar is bad, cats don’t have the mechanisms to digest them. This means a diet containing too much grain can cause an overproduction of insulin in the pancreas. Too much insulin causes inflammation, and too much inflammation can be the precursor for IBD. And many cases that start out as IBD can and do lead to cancer. Cats are just like people; if they eat enough junk, their organs will pay for it.

Meat comes first

There is no magical way to completely prevent IBD. But a proper diet is a great place to start. “The best diet for your cat would be a meat-based homemade diet, either prepared raw or cooked,” says Dr. Fasano.

Many times, putting a cat on a natural raw diet can help curb and stabilize IBD symptoms. Thanks to raw diets, many cats have been able to stop taking their medications altogether, and have done a 180 in the severity of their disease. If you don’t want to prepare raw food at home, you can buy premium frozen raw diets at many pet supply stores. If you can’t go raw, at least go grain-free and get rid of all that excess sugar, especially if your cat is suffering from diarrhea. Purchase the highest quality meat-based packaged food you can afford.

I had to learn about proper feline nutrition the hard way. Now it’s my goal to help others before their cats end up like Alex did. Think long term and understand that starting your cats off on the right foods when they are small can give them long, healthy and happy lives – although it’s never too late to try making changes with adult cats either.

As cats age, they are bound to develop health issues; it’s inevitable. But a good diet can help keep some of those problems, such as IBD, at bay. We need to change the way we think about feeding our cats. Our kitties bring us great joy and unconditional love. Let’s do the same for them.


Lisa Provost is the owner/creator of and counsels people about feline IBD and its associated disorders. She also helps counsel and educate fellow cat lovers about proper feline nutrition, feline IBD and feline obesity.