The vet that I go to is a strong proponent of alternative protein diets for cats. Instead of common proteins like chicken, beef, and fish, the alternative proteins are less common animals like venison and duck.

Our two cats are about 8 years old and are perfectly healthy. They are on the thin side (around 9 pounds). The vet was speculating that they might be thin because of irritable bowel issues, and that the alternative proteins would help.

We had another cat that passed a year ago, and he was fat but she also recommended alternative proteins for him so it seems this vet recommends this a lot.

The alternative proteins are much more expensive than the regular proteins so I'd rather not spend the extra money.

When, if ever, does it make sense to buy alternative proteins cat food?

  • 1
    Simplest answer: ask a different vet (from another practice). It sounds a bit odd to me.
    – Mick
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 17:16
  • Do some research here on the site. You can supplement your current food with "extras." I agree with Mick about a consultation with another vet We all have out biases for good or for naught.
    – M.Mat
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 0:31
  • Any chance your vet is also selling an alternative protein cat food? If so, get a better vet.
    – MmmHmm
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


Alternative proteins are mostly for pets who have allergies, if your vet suspects IBD then the use of these proteins can help as allergies can cause this reaction in the guts.

chicken and beef are common ingredients that causes allergies so we try to get something the pet hasn't come in contact with yet. Allergies develop as your pet ages, for example if your cats have been on chicken based diets since kittens they can obtain an intolerance to it (though not always the case!).

This website has a really good summary of IBD worth a read - I'll add a few excerpts.

Chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract can occur as a result of a specific disease, such as a parasitic or bacterial infection or a specific food allergy. However, the cause of IBD in many cases is considered to be “idiopathic” or unknown.

Some symptoms:

Some common signs of feline IBD include vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargy. Appetite can be variable, ranging from ravenous to anorexic. While some cats will show obvious symptoms of disease, such as vomiting after every meal, other cats may exhibit symptoms much less frequently, such as vomiting or producing hairballs once or twice a month.


Making a diagnosis of feline IBD requires an extensive work up because many of the common symptoms of IBD, such as vomiting and diarrhea, are also common symptoms of other diseases. First, specific causes of gastrointestinal inflammation must be ruled out. Your veterinarian will likely recommend blood work, fecal examinations, radiographs, and/or an ultrasound check for metabolic disease, feline leukemia, parasitic or bacterial infections, and certain types of cancer. A hypoallergenic food trial may also be conducted to rule out food allergy.


Dietary Management:

Because dietary allergens may play a role in inflammatory bowel disease, a food trial using hypoallergenic diets may be recommended by your veterinarian. In using a hypoallergenic diet, the key is to use a protein and carbohydrate source that the cat has never eaten before. Rabbit, duck, or venison-based diets are often tried initially.

Medical Treatment:

Cats that have been diagnosed with IBD may be put on a course of corticosteroids, usually prednisolone. Corticosteroids have potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. Diabetes and excessive immunosuppression are among the serious side effects these drugs can produce. Cats should be monitored closely while they are on corticosteroids, although they tend to tolerate these drugs well as long as they are given at an appropriate dose and schedule.

If your vet suspects IBD it's a good start to try out a hypoallergenic food however you can always get a second opinion if you have doubts.

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