Cats age differently to people, and while there’s no exact formula to work out just how old a cat is, most experts add 15 years for the first year, 10 years for the second and four for every year after that. This means that even though we refer to Oscar and Joey as our babies, the truth is they’re almost 40 in cat years. And soon, we’ll need to make a few changes to their diets so that their new nutritional needs are being met. With this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the best cat food for older cats.
In the same way, our bodies change as we get older, so too do cats’. A senior cat will require more naps, and regular checkups at the vet to make sure he stays as healthy as possible. But even more importantly, he will need a diet that meets his nutritional needs.
The Best Cat Food for Older Cats
Why Your Senior Cat Needs Specialized Food
Cats, as they get older, suffer from various age-related issues. These include dental and digestive problems as well as changes in their metabolism and vitamin levels. They are also at risk of illnesses such as diabetes, liver or kidney problems, arthritis, and heart disease.
Also, as they age, they’re no longer able to see, smell or taste food the way they used to, which can lead to a loss in appetite and even dehydration. All of these issues, if not addressed with specific cat food for older cats, means yours isn’t getting the nutrition he needs to enjoy his golden years.
Let’s take a look at each of these in a bit more detail.
Even with the best dental care, senior cats will often have missing or broken teeth, teeth that are infected or loose and even gum disease. All of this, along with weak jaw muscles, makes it more difficult for them to chew.
Older cats often have trouble digesting fat as well as absorbing all the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy, resulting in gastrointestinal problems. Without adequate vitamins and minerals, cats can also, in extreme cases, become malnourished.
As cats get older, they slow down. Unfortunately so does their metabolism. This means if they’re being fed food for healthy, active cats and not getting sufficient exercise, they’re at risk of gaining weight.
Decreased vitamin levels
Age, stress, and illness can lower your cat’s vitamin levels. This, combined with the fact that he’s not eating as much as he used, means he isn’t getting all the minerals and vitamins he needs to stay healthy.
Just like we develop various age-related problems and illnesses, cats do too. These include heart disease, liver and kidney problems, allergies to certain foods, arthritis, and even diabetes. Some of the best cat food for older cats is formulated to help manage the different symptoms, while others will contain additional supplements like essential fatty acids.
Dehydration is as dangerous for cats as it is for the elderly and babies. And because older cats don’t eat or drink as much as they used to, they are more susceptible to this than younger cats and kittens. Soft cat food for older cats contains the liquid they need to stay hydrated.
Yes, it’s a lot of information, but as we mentioned, if you take your cat to the vet regularly for checkups, any issues can be diagnosed early on, treated and managed effectively. Your vet will also be able to guide you with regards to your (not so young) kitty’s changing needs.
Top Rated Senior Cat Food Reviews
If you’re looking for cat food for senior cats, you and your cat are spoiled for choice. There are nutritional dry foods available as well as senior wet cat food.
We’re reviewing both types so you can make an informed choice, but ultimately your decision will depend on your cat’s needs, and of course, his personal preference.
Best Overall Choice
If your cat is 11 years or older, IAMS Proactive Health Senior Adult Dry Cat Food comes highly recommended. There are three options available in their senior range, namely Mature Adult-Hairball Car, Mature Adult Healthy Senior.
IAMS Senior is made using chicken as the main ingredient and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor cats. This specially formulated food contains all the essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, potassium, and calcium for your cat’s overall health, from his teeth and joints to his bones and heart. It also contains probiotics, prebiotics, and to aid digestion and antioxidants for his immune system.
Because older cats are prone to putting on weight, IAMS Proactive Health Senior cat food has L-carnitine, for a healthy metabolism. The crunchy, dry kibbles are a good size, and they help reduce plaque buildup.
Best Wet Option
If you like the idea of senior cat food wet, then Purina Pro Plan Senior 7+ Canned Wet Cat Food should be on your shopping list. As soft as pate, and as delicious with real salmon and tuna, this formula is easy for older cats to chew. And the combination of 25 minerals and vitamins strengthen your cat’s immune and digestive systems, as keeps his bones and joints healthy.
While the lower protein content is ideal for weight management, older cats who are on the skinny side might need more. It’s available in two popular flavors, chicken and beef, and tuna and salmon, and the strong smell, although a little off-putting for humans, is particularly appealing to geriatri’cats with a reduced sense of smell.
For Sensitive Stomachs
Even though Hill’s Science Adult 11+ for Senior Cats food is dry, the small triangular kibble is easy to chew and digest, even for older cats with dental issues. With indoor cats in mind, the formula contains all the necessary nutrients your older furbaby needs for a healthy heart, as well as joints, kidneys, and eyes.
We love that there are no artificial flavors or colors used in the recipe, and the high levels of fiber help keep your cat’s digestive system regular.
Best Dry Food
Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Natural Mature Dry Cat Food includes real meat, which cats love and cat parents appreciate LifeSource Bits, a proprietary blend that contains all the minerals, vitamins and antioxidants to keep senior cats healthy.
Rich in animal protein, the main ingredient is deboned chicken as well as concentrated chicken meal. Brown rice is the main carbohydrate, while chicken fat provides all the essential fatty acids. Fish meal and flaxseed ensure your cat gets omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and chelated minerals help with absorption.
Most cats battle with their eyesight as they get older, which is why we like that Blue Buffalo Mature cat food contains taurine. It can be served dry, or if your cat prefers, you can add water for a softer option.
Royal Canin Aging 12+ Thin Slices in Gravy Wet Cat Food is made with all the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates your senior cat needs to stay healthy. The formula has reduced levels of phosphorous which helps support your cats kidneys.
Most cats over the age of 12 battle with gum disease and loose or missing teeth, but these thin slices are soft and easy to chew. And the delicious gravy keeps even the fussiest of eaters coming back for more. This formula also takes into account older cats mobility issues, with higher levels of essential fatty acids, as well as DHA and EPA.
The Best Food For Older Cats: What You Need to Look For
Because food for older cats is uniquely formulated to meet their specific needs, it’s crucial that you know what to look for. For example, an indoor-only cat won’t have the same requirements as an outdoor-only cat, and a senior with kidney disease will need different food to one that’s still fighting fit. Whether it’s high-calorie cat food for older cats, a diet for weight management or senior wet cat food, there’s a dietary solution for your aging kitty’s condition.
To make sure you’re feeding your cat the best food for seniors, you need to keep the following ingredients in mind, or better still, make a quick list for the next time you’re at the store.
The Right Kind of Protein is Important
All cats, regardless of their age, need protein in their diet, but it needs to be the right kind of protein. Remember, your cat is a carnivore, which means he needs meat more than vegetables and fruit. The best cat food for older cats should contain high-quality animal proteins such as poultry, meat, or fish.
With Easy to Digest Carbohydrates
Even in the wild, cats will be getting some carbohydrates from the contents in their prey’s stomachs. The right carbohydrates provide cats with fiber that aids digestions, and it has essential minerals and nutrients. Older cats need easy to digest carbs, such as whole grains, or if they’re sensitive to that, sweet potatoes and various types of legumes.
Healthy Fat is Good
Healthy fats provide your cat with a concentrated source of energy, and fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 are necessary for healthy skin and fur. Ideally, it needs to come from an animal, as in salmon oil or chicken fat, but a blend of plant and animal fats is also suitable.
Your Cat Needs Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Like we mentioned earlier, cats in the wild will be getting some form of fruit or vegetables, albeit from the stomach contents of their prey. This means it’s okay if the cat food you choose contains some fresh vegetables and fruits. These provide essential minerals and vitamins from natural sources, rather than synthetic ones, which is always a better option.
Antioxidants Equal a Healthy Immune System
Antioxidants are essential for your cat’s immune system and his cell health. Just like they help humans look and feel younger, they serve the same purpose for aging cats. And more importantly, they help repair any cell damage your cat might have.
Probiotics Are Recommended by Professionals
The best cat food older cats should contain probiotics. They help with digestion and reduce stomach issues. While not all aging cats need probiotics in their diet, those with sensitive stomachs do.
Count Those Calories
The number of calories your cat needs will depend very much on his health. Some cats need a low-calorie diet because they’re not as active anymore. But, if your cat is battling to keep the weight on, your vet might recommend a high-calorie cat food for senior cats.
Fiber Helps Keep Your Older Cat Regular
Fiber is an essential component of any diet, but it is especially important for older cats. As they age, they develop gastrointestinal or digestive problems, and food that’s rich in fiber helps keep them regular.
Grain-Free is a Better Option
If you can, try to find food that is grain-free or has very little grain. Grains are usually used as a filler in pet food, but they have very little nutritional value. Some cats also struggle to digest grains, which is why grain-free is a much better option.
Older Cats Need Moisture in Their Food
A vast majority of cats develop issues with their kidneys as they get older, and a lack of water can lead to renal failure. Because cats generally don’t drink a lot of water, canned food contains the moisture they need to keep their kidneys functioning correctly.
Also, soft food is more comfortable to chew, especially for seniors with loose or missing teeth, sensitive teeth, or gum disease.
The Most Common Diseases That Affect Older Cats
Cats, although they do it a lot more gracefully than the rest of us, also get old. And just like us, they are prone to age-related illnesses. The most common are:
There are no surprises here. Heart disease affects most animals, including humans, as they age. For older cats, however, the most common is called cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle.
While often referred to as the silent killer, there are a few symptoms to look out for. These include:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the abdominal area
- Difficulty exercising or unable to exercise
- A low-pitched cough
If you suspect your cat has heart disease, speak to your vet for a proper diagnosis and advice on which food to feed him.
Kidney or renal disease is also common for older cats. This is as a result of damaged kidneys not being able to filter the waste products from your cat’s body. When the waste builds up in your cat’s bloodstream, it can lead to a condition known as azotemia.
The symptoms for kidney disease overlap with other health issues, but look out for:
- A loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- An increase in thirst and an increase in urinating
Humans and cats can get diabetes, which causes an increase in blood sugar or blood glucose. And the same risk factors apply to both, namely being overweight and not getting enough exercise.
If your cat is diagnosed with diabetes, he will need insulin injections and a specialized diet. Your vet will be able to recommend a senior cat food that is suited to his nutritional needs.
Arthritis affects people as well as cats and dogs, but it’s harder to diagnose in cats. This is because the symptoms are similar to what’s considered the normal aging process. When left untreated, it can cause your cat extreme pain, and even affect his quality of life.
If your older cat is not as agile as before, seems to sleep more and move a lot less, it might be worth asking your vet to check for this common ailment.
Senior cats can develop a condition called hyperthyroidism, which can cause extreme weight loss, regardless of how much food your cat’s actually eating.
The most common symptoms include:
- An unusually large appetite
- Increased thirst and more urinating
Although older cats are prone to dental issues, such as gum disease, infected teeth, as well as loose or missing teeth, younger cats can also be affected by this. Because eating becomes too painful, your cat might lose his appetite and lose an unhealthy amount of weight.
Cancer affects us all, including your senior cat. There are different types of cancers and symptoms vary, but regular checkups at the vet mean any potential diseases can be diagnosed early on.
The Best Food for Older Cats: Making Sure He’s Eating
As cats get older, they lose interest in food. It could be due to an illness or because their sense of taste and smell is no longer as keen, but whatever the reason, mealtimes will need a little more love and patience for your older fur baby.
- Instead of two big meals, try feeding your cat between four and six smaller meals a day, and do it in an area where he’s comfortable.
- Tempt his taste buds with different food to stimulate his appetite.
- If he’s on a soft food diet, feed it to him at room temperature rather than cold. If he’s battling with sensitive teeth food, food that’s just below body temperature will be better.
- Depending on your cat’s dental health, the crunchy kibble he enjoyed a month or two before, might be too hard for him now. Try one of the specially formulated soft cat food for older cats. If he doesn’t go for the soft food, you could try adding some water to his dry food.
- Physical discomfort while eating could also cause lead to a loss of appetite. If your cat suffers from aching joints or arthritis, try raising his bowl a little so that he’s more comfortable.
- Older cats, more often than not, have sensitive stomachs. Uneaten wet food shouldn’t be left out for more than an hour.
- Gently stroking him or talking to him while he’s eating could help stimulate his appetite, or you could even try hand feeding him bits of food. Of course, how successful this is, depends very much on your cat’s personality. He might very well hate the idea.
- To make sure your cat is getting the hydration he needs, you should have several water bowls around the house. These need to be accessible and preferably in his favorite spots. Cats generally aren’t big on drinking, so you will probably have to try different types of bowls, as well as various types of water. If your cat eats well with his food bowl raised, then it’s a good idea to lift his water bowl too.
Your Older Cat Could Have Whisker Fatigue
While the jury’s still out as to whether whisker fatigue is actually a thing or not, we’ve done some research on it, and thought it’s worth mentioning.
What Exactly is Whisker Fatigue
Your cat’s whiskers, although nothing more than a few very long hairs, serve a fundamental purpose. And in case you haven’t noticed, they’re not restricted just to the front of the face. These remarkable sensory collecting nerves can be found above a cat’s eyes, on their chins, on the back of their front legs, and they receive millions of ‘messages.’ From surrounding objects, wind currents and more, whiskers are an integral part of a cat’s communication system and even help them hunt in the dark.
Whisker fatigue, as the name suggests, is when a cat’s whiskers are continually being touched, whether it’s by people, or brushing against a food bowl. Not only is it uncomfortable for a cat, but it can also be painful, making eating or drinking stressful.
Makes sense, don’t you think? For older cats, whisker fatigue, along with all his other aches and pains, could be a genuine reason for him not wanting to eat or drink.
What Are the Common Signs of Whisker Fatigue?
Even though your cat won’t be able to tell you that he’s got whisker fatigue, there are a few common signs to look for. These include:
- Your cat approaching his food or water bowl with caution. Also, you may notice that he wants to eat, but instead paces around the food or water in a nervous way
- Him trying to paw food out the bowl to eat it, rather than eating it from the bowl
- Your normally meticulous cat making a mess around his food or water bowl.
- Happily eating if his bowl is full, but refusing to eat as the food level gets lower.
- Him leaving food behind in the bowl, even though he still seems to be hungry.
- Him getting annoyed or acting aggressively around mealtimes.
What You Can Do To Reduce Whisker Fatigue
Some people are poo-pooing the idea of whisker fatigue as just another marketing campaign to sell overpriced food and water bowls, but we think it’s a very real problem that could be causing your senior cat severe distress.
Addressing the problem isn’t about rushing out and buying expensive food and water bowls. Instead, you can make a few small changes that will help reduce any symptoms of this specific condition.
Try a bowl that’s shallower and wider than the ones he’s currently using. This will allow him to eat and drink without his whiskers touching the sides of the bowl. Whatever you do, don’t trim his whiskers as this will have a very negative impact on the way he senses things around him.
The Best Cat Food for Older Cats: Frequently Asked Questions
When do cats start to get old?
This is a great question, as cats age differently to humans and even to dogs. A cat aged between one and six years old, in human years, would be considered a young adult. From seven years old, he’s middle-aged, while a senior cat is anywhere between seven and 10 years of age.
External factors that may affect the way your cat ages include whether he’s an indoor or outdoor cat, or a bit of both. Any pre-existing health conditions will also play a role in how well he ages.
We would suggest you start looking at older cat food options from the time your cat reaches seven so that all his nutritional needs are met.
How should I introduce my senior cat to a new food?
The best way to introduce your old cat to new food is slowly. Just like you would change your kitten’s food to an adult type, the same applies here. Slowly and surely.
It’s a good idea to gradually adjust the ratio of the old food with the new one over seven to 10 days. Below are a few guidelines that will help you make the switch.
Start with 75% of the old food and 25% of the new one.
By the third or fourth day, you should be on 50% new food and 50% old.
Day four should see your cat enjoying 75% of his new food and approximately 25% of his old food.
After another day or two, your cat should only be eating his new food.
Remember, to go at a pace that suits your pensioner. If you need to slow things down for your feline companion, then do so.
Is there a specific amount of food I should be feeding my older cat?
Ideally, your cat should be getting approximately 240 calories per day. This is based on a cat weighing 8 pounds. But, depending on your cat’s needs, his activity levels (or lack thereof) and his health, the calorie intake might need to be adjusted.
If you’re concerned about your older cat gaining or losing too much weight, speak to your vet in case there is an underlying health issue.
How often should I feed my aging cat?
Again, how often you feed your cat will depend very much on what suits him. If he’s always enjoyed a morning and evening meal, then stick to that, but reduce the portions.
Some cats are free-fed, which is fine. But if his new diet includes a wet formula, it’s important to remember that it can’t be left out all day. When it comes to your cat, especially if he’s older, it’s best to keep his routine as normal as possible.
Where Should I feed My Senior Cat?
Just because you’re changing your senior cat’s diet, it doesn’t mean where you feed him needs to change. In fact, cats are creatures of habit, and keeping things sticking to his routine as possible will prevent any unnecessary stresses on him.
- Make sure where he eats, and drinks is in a low traffic area, away from too many distractions and noise.
- Don’t put his food and water bowls near his litter box, and if you can, keep his food bowl separate from his water bowl.
- The best place for your cat’s food bowl is an open spot, where he doesn’t feel cornered or threatened.
- Use a shallow bowl or even a saucer to feed your older cat. Even if whisker fatigue isn’t a diagnosed condition, we think it’s something that can definitely affect your cat.
- If you have more than one cat, rather feed your senior away from the others. This is especially important if he gets stressed easily.
Our Verdict for the Best Cat Food for Older Cats
Before we go, we want to let you know which we think is the best cat food for older cats.
Five Paws goes to IAMS Proactive Health Senior Adult Dry Cat Food. The reason we’ve voted this as the best one is that it’s available in three specific formulas and it’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor cats.
With chicken as the main ingredient, it is a good source of protein for older cats, and it contains vitamin E, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, pre, and probiotics. All these ingredients work together to ensure your cat’s overall health. It is also one of the few formulas that have L-carnitine, that helps maintain your cat’s metabolism.
The dry kibble is a good size, and the crunchiness reduces plaque buildup. We also like that you can add water to the food if your older cat prefers his food softer.
From the different ingredients, health issues, and even whisker fatigue, it’s a lot to take in. But we hope that this information helps you make an informed decision so that your feline companion’s golden years are spent in good health.
As always, we love hearing from you and look forward to your comments, good or bad. Tell us what you think about our foods for older cats, or let us know if we’ve left a worthy contended off the list.