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You’ll always think of your cat as the feisty little kitten they were when you first brought them home. Pets don’t age as visibly as humans do, but the fact remains that just because they look young on the outside doesn’t mean they feel young on the inside. Aging cats have different nutritional requirements than young cats, and you can help them out by feeding them specially formulated food for senior cats.
Here, we’ll explore how a cat’s nutritional needs change as they get older. We’ll also provide some tips for shopping for senior cat food and share our top picks.
How Cat Nutritional Needs Change with Age
When it comes to cat food, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Kittens generally have higher needs for protein, fat, and calories than adult cats because they’re growing and developing. Once they reach maturity, maintaining a healthy body weight becomes the focus.
But what happens when your cat starts to mature?
According to the Feline Nutrition Foundation, a cat’s energy requirements decrease in middle age (between 4 and 9 years). With decreasing energy requirements, your cat has a higher risk of weight gain. But once your cat hits 10 to 12 years of age, their calorie requirements may increase. Without enough calories and protein, your cat could lose muscle mass and become too skinny.
There’s limited scientific data on this phenomenon, but one thing is certain—adequate protein intake is essential for all cats, regardless of age. The best thing you can do is choose a healthy, protein-rich diet for your cat and make sure he’s getting the calories needed to maintain a healthy body weight. As usual, your vet is a valuable resource for monitoring your cat’s weight and suggesting modifications in their diet.
What to Look for in Senior Cat Food
All cats are obligate carnivores, which means that the majority of their diet should come from animal protein. Here are some things you should look for in senior cat food:
- Highly digestible food. Digestibility is the key to proper nutrient absorption—so keep in mind that cats are designed to digest protein, not carbohydrates. (If your cat is throwing up food, talk with your vet to find out why—and get their recommendations for other food options.)
- Plenty of protein. Research suggests that older cats may need a higher percentage of protein in their diets than younger cats do.
- Taurine. Taurine is an essential amino acid critical for heart health and is important for aging cats. Taurine can be found in animal-based proteins like chicken, lamb, and fish—and you’ll see it listed as an ingredient in any good cat food.
- Moisture. Many older cats develop dental problems that make chewing kibble difficult. Wet food is easier for many senior cats to manage and the increased moisture content is important for digestion and kidney health as well. If your cat insists on dry food, try using moisture-rich wet food as a topper.
- Sufficient calories. While some cats gain weight as they slow down with age, many senior cats have the opposite problem—they have trouble keeping weight on. Work with your vet to determine the ideal weight for your cat and the right food and feeding schedule to help them achieve and miantain that weight.
The Best Cat Food for Senior Cats
The easiest way to make sure your senior cat’s nutritional needs are met is to choose a recipe formulated for older cats, but this isn’t a requirement. As long as the cat food you choose provides the right balance of protein, fat, calories, and essential nutrients, and your cat is maintaining a healthy weight, you’re already on the right track.
If you are looking for foods specially formulated for older cats, there are several excellent options. We’ve listed the crude protein content for each of these foods. Keep in mind that the percentage of protein is calculated differently for dry foods and wet foods—that’s because wet foods include so much water. You’ll want to compare dry food to dry food and wet food to wet food in choosing a food for your senior cat.
Formulated to support your senior cat’s immunity, heart, and digestion, this recipe features Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Crude protein: 32%.Shop on Chewy
This grain-free recipe is made with balanced protein and fat content to support healthy weight management. Added prebiotics and probiotics can help with healthy and regular digestion. Crude protein: 30%Shop on Chewy
Nourish your senior cat’s whole body health and wellness with this protein-rich recipe featuring deboned chicken and chicken meal. Wellness’ WellFlex System includes added glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health. Crude protein: 39%Find on Amazon
This senior-specific recipe features premium animal proteins like chicken and turkey with a wholesome blend of fresh produce to keep your senior cat purring with pleasure.Shop on Chewy
This kibble features farm-raised chicken, chickpeas, and salmon to help your kitty enjoy a long and healthy life. Crude protein: 34%Shop on Chewy
Chicken is the first ingredient in this dry food specially designed for adult and senior cats. Crude protein: 34%Shop on Chewy
Uniquely designed to support the health of senior cats, this food features protein from lean chicken along with easily digestible carbohydrates, including brown rice and oatmeal. Crude protein: 36%Shop on Chewy
A protein-rich recipe packed with salmon and tuna, this wet food is designed to appeal to senior cats age 11 and older. It offers 25 essential vitamins and minerals, plus taurine—an amino acid to help support your cat’s overall health. Crude protein: 10%.Shop on Chewy
If you’re looking for a softer food option for your senior cat, consider this pâté recipe. It offers chicken as the main protein ingredient to support lean mass and healthy body weight. Crude protein: 7%.Shop on Chewy
If your cat is a staunch Fancy Feast fan and you’d like to shift them to a senior-friendly food, check out the protein-rich line for cats age 7 and up. It includes recipes such as this minced tuna in gravy. Crude protein: 12%.Shop on Chewy
How to Transition Your Senior Cat to New Food
Making adjustments to the food your senior cat eats is important for their health and wellness, but don’t make the change too quickly! Sudden dietary changes can upset your cat’s stomach, so transition them to the new food slowly over the course of seven to 10 days. Start by mixing 25% of the new food with your cat’s current diet and slowly increase ratio as your kitty adjusts. You’ll find more tips in this article from PetMD.