In recent years, petfood manufacturers have began creating more over-the-counter preventive petfood diets that help cat owners manage their cat's special health condition, says a recent article in Pet Product News International.

Previously, petfoods to manage cat health issues, such as allergies, urinary problems, hairballs and diabetes, were only available from a veterinarian, but petfood retailers are now offering special cat diets from grain-free to novel protein-sourced formulas, all without a prescription.

Petfood companies like Halo, Purely for Pets and Wellness have began creating more grain-free diets to respond to consumer demand. These grain-free diets are usually selected for cats with digestive issues or allergies, according to Halo's Donna Spector, DVM, because the formulas usually do not contain grains, like corn or wheat, but instead contain vegetables and meat. Spector says that refined grains like white rice should be avoided in cat food because these overprocessed grains lose much of their nutritional value, and can lead to blood sugar spikes and obesity in cats.

Feline allergies may also be caused by the protein sources in traditional petfoods, like chicken, beef and lamb. But, new over-the-counter petfoods, such as those made by Addiction Foods, are formulated by a veterinarian and nutritionist to include unique proteins such as venison, bushtail, kangaroo and rabbit, which are less likely to result in allergies, according to CEO Jerel Kwek.

Another specially formulated cat diet being made more available on retailer shelves, rather than by prescription only, is a high-water content food that can help cats with bladder problems, according to Spector. She also recommends pet owners feed a diet formulated with proper pH levels.

The wider availability of these new petfoods means also that petfood manufacturers and retailers must do a better job of educating consumers about preventive diets, rather than relying on a veterinarian to do so when prescribing the food. David Yaskulka, vice president of marketing communications for Halo, says his company provides an educational website to help retailers understand the special cat diet products they are selling to customers. Petfood retailer Holistic Pet Center says it, too, goes to great lengths to educate consumers on preventative diets for cats by providing these foods with more space and signage in stores, as well as by bringing the special diets to street fairs, business events and other marketing opportunities.