We know that your cat will always be your little kitten, but as cats age, they need different things to function properly. Cats don’t visibly age as much as us humans do (until they’re really old). Just because they look young on the outside doesn’t mean that they’re young on the inside.
When cats reach the age of 12 they are actually going through their 64th year in human terms. As they approach this age (or even younger) you should consider changing up their diet to ensure that they are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that an aging body needs. By doing so you’re going to provide them with a happier, healthier life in their golden years.
With that in mind today we are going to take a look at what foods older cats should eat, why they should eat them, and we’re going to make a few food recommendations that are perfect for cats “of a certain age”.
Let’s get started.
What To Look For In A Good Food For Older Cats
There’s no one size fits all solution when looking for food for older cats. Some cats will be suffering from some health issues, and other cats will be suffering from other health issues (and as such, they have different requirements). We will list some common considerations below, but remember that not all cats will need all of the things we’re about to cover.
One of the most common issues that older cats face is tooth loss and sensitivity. Just like humans, as cats age, the enamel on their teeth breaks down and over the years tooth loss is often inevitable.
If they just have one or two missing teeth this may not be such a big issue, but when tooth loss is severe (or they are experiencing discomfort while eating) you’re going to need to adjust their diet. Ideally, you will be able to provide them with canned food that is much easier to lap up than hard food.
Again, like humans as cats age, their stomachs can become a little sensitive to certain ingredients and mild allergies can form. This can mean that foods they once enjoyed can suddenly cause vomiting, diarrhea, or just a generally upset tummy. If you notice any of these symptoms in an aging cat it could be due to increased stomach sensitivity. There are several foods on the market that include a low number of ingredients to cater for cats with these kinds of issues.
Note: Vomiting and diarrhea can be symptoms of severe health issues. If your kitty is doing either of them over a prolonged period of time then you should schedule an appointment at the vets to make sure it’s not something more serious.
However, not all foods designed for older cats have a small amount of ingredients. Some just avoid the most common irritants instead. If you don’t want to try the low ingredient varieties, then pick one of the many that are free from grain, corn, and soy. These are often the most problematic ingredients and by eliminating them you may give your kitty a happier tummy.
Vitamins And Minerals
The majority of the best cat foods that are on the market are packed full of vitamins and minerals that are designed to ensure your cat stays happy and healthy. However, cat foods that have been specifically designed for older cats will often have them in much higher quantities. The specific vitamins and minerals vary from brand to brand, and there’s nothing you should be specifically looking out for (unless you’ve been advised otherwise by your vet).
The one exception to this is probiotics. Many cat foods designed for senior cats contain probiotics which help promote a healthy stomach and digestive system. This can significantly help with sensitive stomach issues. So if your older cat has a sensitive stomach, you should definitely try and get a food with probiotics.
As cats age, they inherently become less active. Your fierce kitty that once spent their days prowling and hunting now probably enjoys cuddling up to you on the sofa instead of going off on adventures. While this is great for us (as we get more snuggles), it does mean that your cat is going to be burning much fewer calories on a daily basis. If they keep eating their ordinary food there is a good chance they are going to start piling on the pounds (and they may become obese).
Being obese is as bad for cats as it is for humans, especially at an advanced age. To deal with this, cat foods designed for older cats will often have a lower calorific content. This allows you to feed them roughly the same amount as they have always been fed but will prevent them from gaining weight.
3 Different Types of Food for Senior Cats
You’ll be able to find 3 different types of cat food on the market that are specifically designed for older cats – canned, semi-moist, and dry.
Canned food is often considered the best kind of cat food for older cats. As we mentioned earlier this is because it’s much easier for them to eat and chew compared to harder foods. They are also usually the tastiest from the cat’s point of view as they are often made from meat, fat, and water with very little else added.
This short and natural ingredient list (that is free from irritants like corn and soy) makes it perfect for kitties with a sensitive stomach. However, they are often much more calorically dense than dry food – so make sure that you’re not overfeeding them.
Semi-moist foods were once the must-have cat food that no kitty could be without, but in recent years their popularity has fallen drastically. As such it’s often much harder to find semi-moist food than other kinds, especially when it’s a specialist variety for older cats.
If you can find some, it’s a middle ground between dry and moist food that an aging cat will appreciate. It usually contains more ingredients than moist food (and sometimes contains grains), which isn’t good news for sensitive stomachs. However, on the other hand, it’s easier for the kitty to eat compared to dry food.
In our opinion there’s not a lot of point in semi-moist food. Instead of providing the benefits of both moist and dry food, it just seems to have all of their weaknesses instead. We recommend you commit to moist or dry and leave semi-moist out of the equation.
Dry foods are the bread and butter of the cat food world. Because they have the potential to combine various nutrients, vitamins, and minerals into a long lasting product they are extremely popular. They are also the most affordable kind of cat food on the market.
As we’ve already mentioned, dry foods can be a little hard for older cats with tooth loss to consume. But if your cat has a reasonably healthy set of teeth there is no reason at all why they cannot be fed a dry food (although they’d probably prefer a moist food if given the option).
Common Health Issues with Older Cats
Let’s take a look at a few common health issues that older cats can face as they age. It’s going to be surprisingly familiar reading, as many of these issues face us humans as we get older too.
- Dental Issues – Just like us cats have issues with their teeth as they age. Their enamel wears down, cavities form, and their teeth fall out.
- Sensitive Stomachs – As the test of time takes its toll on our kitties, their stomachs become a little sensitive to certain foods causing digestive issues.
- Hairballs – All cats deal with hairballs, but as cats age hairballs can become more of an issue than they once were.
- Kidney Disease – One of the most serious health issues that older cats face is kidney disease, it’s important to monitor for the symptoms when your cat starts to age. Vomiting is a common symptom, and if you notice regular vomiting you should schedule a vet appointment ASAP.
5 Best Overall Foods for Older Cats
We’ve spent quite a bit of time looking around at the various cat foods on the market that are targeted towards older cats and we feel that we have managed to find the best of the bunch. Here are our top 5 recommended foods for older cats (in no particular order).
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor Senior Farm-Raised Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe
This is a great dry food that has been specifically designed for senior indoor cats. The recipe is calorie controlled which means that even if your cat isn’t active you can feed them a full meal without them putting on weight.
Its primary ingredient is whole chicken which provides your kitty with essential fats and oils required for healthy living. It also contains a large number of natural fibers which will help reduce hairball formulation (and its got added calcium for stronger bones and joints).
Merrick Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Healthy Senior Recipe Dry Cat Food
This is a food that has specifically been designed for older indoor cats made by the well-respected brand Merrick. Its primary ingredients are a blend of protein and fats from chicken and turkey (that make up 70% of the food). It’s completely grain free which is going to help with sensitive stomach issues, and it contains Yucca Schidigera which further helps with digestion.
It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals (including Taurine for eye and heart health) and it’s also calorie controlled to stave off obesity without your kitty feeling like they’ve been fed half a meal.
Wellness Complete Health Senior Health Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal Recipe
Chicken is the primary ingredient in this excellent senior cat food from Wellness Complete. It’s the first product we’re mentioning that’s not specifically designed for indoor cats and as such, the calorific content is closer to normal food than the others. However, it still contains fewer calories than standard food and will help prevent obesity.
It’s got a bunch of prebiotics and probiotics for a healthy digestive system, and it also contains a dose of l-Carnitine to help with slower metabolisms. It’s made in the USA and contains no grains, corns, or soy which should make it suitable for kitties with sensitive stomachs.
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Meadow Senior & Less Active Formula with Fresh Chicken
This food from Canidae has been specifically designed for older kitties that are less active and have sensitive stomachs. It’s a grain free formula, and it contains a very limited amount of ingredients. This should make it much more acceptable to your kitty’s digestive system and will provide them with a happier, healthier stomach.
Each of the 8 ingredients has been chosen specifically for its nutritional value, and Canidae has added a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to further improve digestion and overall health. It’s a great food that allows your kitty to have a flavourful meal without making them sprint to the litter tray afterward.
Now Fresh Grain-Free Senior Weight Management Recipe Dry Cat Food
The final recommendation in our top 5 section is one of our favorites. It’s a combination of fresh natural ingredients and uses turkey, salmon, and duck as its primary nutritional sources. These three types of meat combined provide a healthy dose of essential oils and fats that are required for a healthy kitty.
It’s a weight management formula which means it’s calorically controlled (and is suitable for indoor cats). It gets its wide range of vitamins and minerals from natural fruits and vegetables including peas, pumpkin, blackberries, and carrots. And its also infused with prebiotics and probiotics (while being free from corn, grain, and soy) for a healthy tummy and hassle-free digestion.
In this section, we’re going to take a look at a few foods we recommend for older cats that have specific health issues.
Best Food for Older Cats with Missing or No Teeth: Nutro Senior Soft Loaf Chicken Recipe
As we mentioned earlier, if your kitty has dental issues there is no substitute for providing them with a moist cat food. This product from Nutro has been specifically designed for older cats that have tooth loss issues and is easy to eat while being delicious at the same time.
It’s made primarily from real cuts of chicken and their associated fats. There are no grains, corn, or other padding which makes it suitable for sensitive stomachs, and its got fish oils and other vitamins for additional nutrition.
Best Food for Older Cats with Sensitive Stomachs: Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach
This food is designed for cats of all ages that have sensitive stomachs. Its main ingredient is chicken and it’s packed full of lots of prebiotics and probiotics to aid digestion and nutrient absorption. It does contain some grains which may be an issue for some kitties, but it contains no corn, wheat, or soy. There’s a large number of fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to promote overall health and keep your kitty as happy and as active as possible.
One thing to remember with this food is that it’s not designed specifically for older cats. As such you should limit the amount of this you feed your senior kitty (if they are not as active as they once were).
Best Food for Older Cats with that Vomit: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach Food
If your cat is regularly vomiting you should schedule an appointment with your vet ASAP. It can be a symptom of an underlying serious health issue (like kidney disease) that needs medical attention.
Once you’ve got the all clear from your vet, then this is a food that you should consider to limit vomiting. It’s been designed to be gentle on the stomach and has a soothing mixture of vitamins and minerals for overall feline health.
Best Food for Older Cats with Hairballs: Blue Buffalo Indoor Hairball Control
The special blend of fibrous ingredients in this great food from Blue Buffalo has been specifically designed to prevent hairballs. It’s a combination of chicken and brown rice that’s laden with vitamins and minerals for healthy living. Additionally, this is a calorically controlled food that’s designed to keep older cats at a healthy body weight (and it’s got no wheat, corn, or soy either).
Best Food for Older Indoor Cats: Blue Buffalo Indoor Health Chicken
The final food on our list is again from Blue Buffalo. It’s not specifically designed for older cats, but as it’s aimed at indoor cats it’s already calorie controlled. It’s made from chicken, brown rice, and several yummy superfoods like cranberries, blueberries, and spinach. It’s got probiotics for healthy digestion in sensitive stomachs, and it’s loaded with the amino acid Taurine that will help your kitty’s eyes and heart stay healthy long into their golden years.
So there you have it, that’s what your kitty needs to eat when they age, why they need it, and a few recommendations that are more than worthy of any kitty’s food bowl.
It’s important that you’re proactive with your cat’s aging. By feeding them correctly from the start of their senior years you’re going to give them a longer, happier, and healthier life.