How to treat irritable bowel syndrome in cats with diet

Updated February 21, 2017

IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease in cats is equivalent to IBS in humans. Caused by an overactive immune response in some cases, the immune system attacks the healthy cells of the digestive tract and presents with vomiting and diarrhoea, lethargy, weight loss and anaemia. In other cases, the cause is bacterial. Harmful bacteria colonises the intestine or colon of the animal and the immune system responds, causing the same symptoms. Diet plays an important role in managing IBD, as it is key in reducing inflammation of the digestive tract.

Remove all food and food sources from your cat. This includes treats. Bring the cat indoors if it is an outdoor pet. You cannot control what your cat is consuming if it has access to the outdoors.

Create a feeding routine and stick with it. Feed at the same time every day, in appropriate amounts for the life stage of your cat. Young cats of a healthy weight will eat more than a largely inactive or older cat. If the cat is over- or underweight, adjust feeding accordingly to bring it back to a healthy weight.

Feed a protein and a carbohydrate. After removing the cat's normal diet, start it on some cooked chicken or duck combined with a simple white carbohydrate such as cooked rice or potato. Feed the same mix in the same amount each day. According to Pet Education, your cat's system takes at least two weeks to respond to the new diet.

Reduce fat in the cat's diet. According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, fat naturally causes inflammatory responses in the bowel by digesting slowly. It also slows the digestion of foods consumed with it. Keep your cat's digestion moving smoothly by feeding it white meat from the chicken/duck with the fat and skin removed.

Add in some yoghurt cultures, according to Precious Pets. Lactobacillus acidophilus can restore the natural bacterial balance in the colon in cats as in humans and reduce the symptoms and discomfort of IBD.

Add more variety in the form of high-quality pet foods, different carbohydrates and even some fibre after the initial two weeks on the chicken/duck and rice/potato. With each addition, wait two weeks before adding anything else. If the cat's symptoms return or worsen with an addition, immediately remove that food and try something else.


Feeding bottled, filtered or well water rather than municipal water can help a cat with IBD, as the chlorine in city water can kill healthy bacteria in the intestines.


If your cat is sick, call the vet. Diagnostic tests are needed to determine if IBD is present, as many illnesses in cats present with similar symptoms.

Things You'll Need

  • Chicken/duck
  • Rice/potato
  • High-quality pet food
  • Bottled water
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About the Author

Angela Baird has been writing professionally since 1995. She has a wide range of life experiences from work with abused animals with the Humane Society, to more than 20 years of hands-on experience in the culinary arts. In addition, she keeps horses and does her own home improvements and home gardening.