What older cats need from their diet

10/2/2018
Your older cat's nutritional requirements are very different from those they had as a kitten—learn more about what needs to be included in their diet to support their health here.
Aging cat standing indoors eating from a red bowl.

As your cat gets older, their body changes—which means their diet and the way you feed them needs to change too. From about the age of 11, your cat is considered "senior" and requires different nutrients than in the earlier stages of its life.

What's happening in your cat's body as they age?

As you cat gets older, and from the age of about 11 years old, you'll notice outward signs that their body and behavior are changing.

They may sleep more or behave differently—such as being less sociable or vocalizing more. You might notice their skin and coat become less silky, or get whiter. As their joints age, they may be less able to walk steadily, jump up, or groom themselves.

Internally, your cat's bodily functions may slow down. Their immune system can be less effective, and so can their digestion. Dental problems, such as teeth wearing down or gum disease, can affect their appetite as it may be harder for them to eat; this in turn can cause weight loss. Their ability to smell, taste, and hear also becomes less acute, and their resistance to stress decreases.

Your cat may also begin to suffer from common conditions in senior cats, such as kidney disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, or hyperthyroidism, although these can be managed with the right diet and medication.

What impact does the aging process have on your cat's nutritional needs?

Because your cat's physical abilities are changing, it can benefit from different nutrition from any other time in its life.

It now takes their digestive system more effort to digest and absorb nutrients from their foods, particularly fat and protein. Dental and digestive issues also mean your cat might find it hard to eat or chew the food it's previously consumed, so softertextures can be easier for them to eat.

A decreased ability to smell and taste can affect appetite, so their food needs to be particularly palatable so they're more likely to eat it and therefore continue to get the nutrients they need.

 
Aging cat sitting indoors next to a cream bowl.

What specific nutrients does a senior cat benefit from?

To support their health and slow down the progression of diseases associated with aging, your senior cat's diet should include specific nutrients. For instance, glucosamine, chondroitin and fatty acids like EPA/DHA, together with New Zealand Green Mussel extract, can support mobility in aging cats.

Digestive impairments can be alleviated with precisely formulated diets and selection of high-quality nutrients. Highly digestible proteins, for instance, help support digestion in mature cats. Beet pulp can have a beneficial prebiotic effect, while omega-3 fatty acids, EPA/DHA, support digestive health.

Wet food or those which increase your cat's water intake are also beneficial, as these increase the volume of urine your cat passes and can support lower urinary tract health.

For a senior cat, there are four aspects to their diet: for it to be easy to digest, to be complete and balanced, to maintain their well-being, and to support the aging process.  Speak to your vet for more advice on which specific food is the best choice to fulfill all four of these requirements for your senior cat.

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