Is your cat a senior?
The answer might depend on who you ask. It’s generally accepted that cats become seniors when they’re anywhere between seven and ten years old. With cats now living longer than ever before, it’s becoming obvious that senior kitties can be fit, healthy, and energetic – and diet can play a part in helping your cat stay well as they age.
Senior cats don’t necessarily need special foods designed for older cats. They just need high-quality nutrition that meets their unique needs.
Quick Look: Best Rated Senior Cat Food
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Here’s what senior cats need out of a food:
Protein is the cornerstone of every cat’s diet, and it’s doubly important for senior cats.
As your cat ages and their ability to absorb nutrients and metabolize energy declines, high-quality protein content can mean the difference between a healthy, fit kitty and a skinny one.
When cats reach 10-12 years of age, their calorie and protein needs increase. It becomes more and more difficult for them to maintain muscle mass – an estimated 50% of senior cats are underweight.
A study on the effect of protein on lean muscle mass in adult cats gives us a clear picture of what cats need.
Mark E. Peterson, DVM shares the results of that study in a piece called Don’t Let Your Senior Cat Become a Skinny Old Kitty:“In the first study, cats were fed three isocaloric diets with protein levels of 22%, 28% or 36% on a dry matter, or DM basis. In this study, the protein sources for these diets included poultry, soy, fish and crystalline amino acids to meet amino acid requirements.
Only the cats on 36% DM protein were able to maintain their lean body mass, whereas the cats on the 28% and 22% protein diets lost lean body mass.”Again, protein content becomes ever more important when your cat enters their senior years.
Unless that protein is highly digestible, however, it’s virtually worthless for your cat’s health. Feed your cat foods that use high-quality protein sources that honor your cat’s biological needs.
Meat protein is highly digestible and nourishing for your cat – an obligate carnivore. Cats weren’t made to consume plants.
Foods high in plant protein have only minimal digestibility. While the inclusion of plant proteins can pump up the protein percentages on the can, they don’t deliver the nourishment that your cat needs.
Kidney Health Support
With renal failure the most common condition affecting senior cats, it’s important that we feed them a diet that can help keep their kidneys healthy.
Water is the foundation for kidney health throughout life. Because cats don’t typically drink a lot of water on their own, it’s important to ensure that their food provides adequate moisture. The simplest way to do this is by feeding a raw or canned food, which both offer at least 70% water content.
Secondly, metabolically stressful foods put an excess burden on your cat’s kidneys. The best approach is to feed a diet that is easily assimilated by your cat’s body.
Minimally processed meat, organs, and bones are the most biologically available food for your cat. The introduction of biologically inappropriate ingredients like grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes places excess strain on the kidneys.
Cats with renal problems should also be on a phosphorus-limited diet to help ease the burden on the kidneys. Foods high in phosphorus include dairy, organ meats, and fish. Low-phosphorus meats include rabbit and poultry.
Because many cats lose their interest in food as they age, it’s important to stimulate their desire to eat. Warm, moist foods with strong aromas can point your cat in the right direction. A sprinkle of bonito flakes or a splash of bone broth can also encourage your older cat to get the food they need.
Easy to Eat
Dental problems can make chewing a challenge, so it’s a good idea to select moist, soft foods that are easy for your cat to consume.
The Top 5 Best Cat Foods for Older/Senior Cats Reviewed
After the metabolism slump of middle age, senior cats typically have higher calorie needs. A nutritionally dense diet made from high-quality ingredients is the best choice for your aging cat. A complete and balanced raw or homemade diet can be a great choice.
If you’re looking for a commercial food for your senior cat, the following list features a handful of the best products available on the market today.
Each of the foods on this list was chosen with senior needs in mind: nourishing biologically appropriate animal protein, minimally processed ingredients, plenty of moisture, and a soft texture.
Nutro Grain Free Soft Loaf Senior Cat Food Review
This pate cat food has a soft texture that your senior cat can easily eat up. The food is based on real, protein-rich chicken, which helps to support continued muscle mass and overall health. It doesn’t contain any byproducts or fillers and is completely grain-free. It’s free from anything artificial like colors, flavors, and preservatives that could make your cat sick.
- Made from high-quality meat ingredients with no fillers
- Moisture-rich to support kidney and urinary tract health
- Soft texture is easy to eat
- Customer reviews indicate that picky senior cats willingly eat this food
- Supplemented with fish oil, which can help maintain skin and coat health as well as kidney health
- Not all cats will enjoy it – some reviews say that their cats didn’t like the flavor
Ziwi Peak Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Recipe Review
Reviewers mention another unexpected perk of such a clean food – less odor in the litter box.
With 92% fresh meat, organs, and bones, this canned cat food nourishes your senior cat in the way that nature intended. It comes in a chunky loaf that’s soft and easy to eat, plus rich in moisture to keep your cat’s entire system healthy.
The food contains 3% green lipped mussel, which is a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin – perfect for cats with joint problems.
The recipe is free from plant proteins, byproducts, and fillers. All of the ingredients are carefully sourced from sustainable New Zealand farms and waters.
- Contains glucosamine and chondroitin for continued senior joint health
- Free from preservatives, fillers, and byproducts
- A great source of nourishing animal protein
- Above average in cost
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Absolutely Rabbit Dinner Morsels Cat Food Review
These freeze dried morsels give your cat the well-rounded nutritional value of raw food in a convenient, safe form. High-quality raw rabbit is nutrient-rich and packed with biologically available protein. The recipe also incorporates probiotics to support digestive and immune system health. When rehydrated with warm water, this is a moisture-rich, appetizing food that should excite your cat.
The food is made in the United States and doesn’t include any ingredients from China.
- Rabbit is low in phosphorus – good for cats with kidney problems
- Freeze dried food retains the natural nutritional value of raw meat
- Made exclusively from high quality ingredients
- High in moisture after rehydration
- Contains probiotics for digestive health
- It takes a few minutes to rehydrate the food for each meal
- Some cats don’t like the taste of this food
Hound & Gatos Rabbit Canned Cat Food
This canned cat food uses a single animal protein source, making it perfect for senior cats with allergies and food sensitivities. Rabbit meat is a biologically appropriate source of protein that’s also low in phosphorus. This simple recipe is free from anything that’s not a good fit in your obligate carnivore’s diet and doesn’t contain fillers, grains, or artificial ingredients.
It’s high in moisture to support kidney and lower urinary tract health.
This recipe is made in the United States from only high-quality US ingredients.
- Packed with necessary moisture to keep the kidneys and urinary tract healthy
- Made with wholesome rabbit meat, which is low in phosphorus and a biologically appropriate source of protein
- Made in the USA with high-quality US ingredients
- Limited ingredient recipe is ideal for cats with food sensitivities and allergies
- Some cats dislike the flavor
Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Mature Chicken Wet Cat Food Review
This is a soft pate made with low-activity seniors in mind.
The recipe starts with real high-protein chicken meat, chicken broth, and chicken liver, followed by a few plant ingredients and supplements. It contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to support a healthy skin and coat.
While it is grain-free, this recipe does include unnecessary plant ingredients like carrots and sweet potatoes. The addition of dietary fiber can help some constipated older cats, but aside from fiber content, these ingredients have little to offer an obligate carnivore.
With up to 78% moisture, this food helps to keep your cat healthy and hydrated.
- Rich in moisture to support kidney and urinary tract health
- Centers around nutritious animal ingredients
- Grain-free and made with only high-quality ingredients
- Made in the USA
- Contains high-carbohydrate sweet potato and other plant ingredients
About the author
Mallory Crusta is a writer and adventurecat enthusiast on a mission to make cats’ lives extraordinary. She’s one of the founders of Wildernesscat – a site for happy, healthy, and adventurous cats who are fueled by nature. Visit Wildernesscat for radically natural cat nutrition, home remedies, and lifestyle inspiration.