Senior Cat Nutrition
Aging is a natural part of life for cats, just like it is for humans. In fact, we have some of the same visible signs of aging, like white hair and lower energy… although senior cats definitely pull them off with more dignity. The less-visible signs in senior cats are important too, including their changing nutritional needs and digestive health.
But before we delve into senior cat nutrition, here are a couple of important points to keep in mind:
- No two cats are the same, which applies to senior cats too. For example, a cat’s years do not always match her body condition: One may be 9 years old with lots of health issues, while another may be 19 and fit as a fiddle. If you’re the proud owner of a senior cat, remember to treat her as an individual.
- For the purposes of this article, “senior cat” covers two age groups. We’ll call cats between the ages of 7 and 12 “mature cats,” and cats 12 and older “geriatric cats.” As you’ll see, there are some important differences, especially from a nutrition standpoint.
THE MATURE CAT
At 7 years old, cats are more likely to gain weight, and some may start to struggle with chronic issues like arthritis or diabetes. Once your cat hits this age bracket, keep the following pointers in mind:
- A mature cat’s body is more likely to gain weight in fat. If this is the case for your cat, try feeding slightly less each day, or consider transitioning to a reduced calorie formula. She may not appreciate the change at first, but you’ll be doing what’s best for her. Just be sure to make the transition gradual, over several days.
- Think of ways to make your middle-aged cat’s meals more interactive. Invest in a food puzzle or other device that makes her play to eat. Or try hiding small batches of food in places that will require some activity.
- Make sure your cat sees her veterinarian every year. Your veterinarian can assess your mature cat’s overall health and body condition and provide specific nutrition advice. If your mature cat is losing weight, set up an appointment as soon as possible, since this may indicate a health condition.
THE GERIATRIC CAT
Unlike humans and even dogs, cats 12 years and older tend to need a diet with increased levels of protein and calories to keep them from becoming underweight. If you’re considering what to feed your geriatric cat, consider the following nutrition tips:
- Cats 12 years and older typically need energy-dense, highly digestible food with high protein calorie content. Translation: Geriatric cats need food that gives them the most nutrition possible per bite – specifically, high levels of highly digestible protein.
- Think of ways to be consistent and accommodating. Geriatric cats love routine in a low-stress environment. If your cat has arthritis, consider investing in raised bowls. Remember to transition to a new food over several days. Go the extra mile to keep her calm and comfortable.
- Continue visits to the veterinarian at least once each year.He or she can assess your cat’s lean body mass and dental health, as well as recommend diet changes to address vitamin deficiencies and health conditions.
Cats are a joy at any age. It’s a privilege to care for them during their senior years as their needs change. Whatever senior cat nutrition you choose, make sure it meets your cat’s individual needs, including activity level, body condition and overall health. And, of course, taste. We all know who ultimately decides whether a cat eats her food!
Do you feed your senior cat dry cat food? Purina® Cat Chow® proudly offers a variety of products for all life stages, each with 100% complete & balanced nutrition.
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- Sparkes A. Feeding Old Cats – An Update on New Nutritional Therapies. Top Companion Anim Med. 2011 Feb. 26(1):37–42.