If you do a good job as a feline parent and benefit from a bit of good luck, your cat will likely live a long life. Some particularly well-tended cats approach or exceed 20 years of age!
But there are a number of differences between cats of advanced age and their younger counterparts. They have different health issues than younger cats do, and these influence the types of food they require. Always be sure to coordinate with your veterinarian when selecting a new pet food, but give consideration to those detailed below. This is especially important for owners who have older cats with health issues.
Each provides for the specific nutritional needs of older cats, and are sure to keep your cat healthy and happy for years to come.
Analysis & Award Winners
NUTRO Indoor Cat Senior recipe is a premium, yet affordable cat kibble designed specifically for older cats. Like most other high-quality foods, NUTRO lists chicken as the first ingredient. However, NUTRO also contains a number of other supplemental proteins, including chicken meal, pea protein and dehydrated alfalfa. Additionally, NUTRO is prepared with whole, brown rice which will often help regulate your cat’s digestive function. Taurine is included in the recipe to help support heart health, and omega fatty acids (from fish oils) are included to help ensure a healthy coat.
Most cats appear to love the taste of NUTRO – even finicky cats. Many owners rate it very highly, and expressed that the food helped improve their cat’s coat condition.
Wellness Complete Senior Formula is specifically formulated to provide the type of nutrition a senior cat needs. Deboned chicken is the first listed ingredient, but the food contains a variety of other premium ingredients as well, to ensure your cat stays healthy and happy for years to come.
Wellness Complete is made without corn, wheat or soy, nor any artificial additives, flavors, colors or preservatives. However, it is made with a host of important, natural supplements, including glucosamine and chondroitin, which may help to stave off arthritis, and flaxseed and salmon oil to supply your aging cat with the omega fatty acids he needs to keep his skin and coat looking their best.
Hill’s Science Diet is a very reasonably priced food formulated for senior cats. Like most other high-quality foods, Science Diet features a whole protein (chicken) as the first listed ingredient. While not a grain-free diet, Science Diet does rely on whole grain wheat as the primary carbohydrate source, which provides better nutrition than enriched wheat.
Most cats find Science Diet perfectly palatable, thanks in part to the manufacturer’s use of pork fat and chicken liver flavor. Additionally, a slate of fruits and vegetables, including green peas, apples, cranberries, carrots and broccoli, provide the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that your aging cat needs.
Characteristics of Good Cat Foods for Seniors
In general, senior cats require the same types of things in a food that cats of other ages do to remain healthy and happy. Some of these include:
- Good cat foods feature a whole protein as their first listed ingredient. Whole proteins include things like deboned chicken, deboned turkey, beef, pork or salmon. While meat meals and byproducts are potentially valuable ingredients, they should be viewed as supplemental, rather than primary, protein sources. Your cat is a “carnivore”, and he should be fed accordingly.
- Good cat foods are made in countries with strict food safety requirements. Countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and those of western Europe impose much stricter food safety regulations on manufacturers than many other countries do, so it is preferable to purchase foods made in these places.
- Good cat foods are made without artificial dyes, colors, flavors or additives. Artificial additives like these are unnecessary and potentially problematic, so the best senior cat foods simply avoid including them in the first place. Besides, the best senior cat foods provide good flavor by including high-quality ingredients.
- Good cat foods only include meat meals and byproducts that are properly identified. While meat meals and meat byproducts can be valuable additions to a recipe, they must be labelled properly so that you know what species of animal went into the production of your cat’s food. In other words, “chicken byproducts” are acceptable, while “poultry byproducts” are not.
However, senior cats do have additional requirements and health issues that good foods address, and the best senior cat foods address these. Some of these traits include:
- Great senior foods include multiple fiber sources and probiotics. Senior cats often suffer from poor digestive health, but foods with adequate fiber help to promote the smooth passage of food through the digestive tract. Additionally, probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria) also help to regulate and normalize your cat’s eliminations.
- The best senior foods provide fewer calories per ounce than foods for adults or kittens. Obesity is one of the most serious health problems that afflicts older cats, and it is important to keep your senior cat fit and trim as he ages. Accordingly, most of the best senior foods pack fewer calories into each bite.
- Ideally, good foods for senior cats should include chondroitin and glucosamine for joint health. Arthritis can be a big problem for older cats, and glucosamine and chondroitin are thought to help support the health of your cat’s joints, thereby improving their overall quality of life.
Best of the Rest
One other food deserves special recognition, even though it wasn’t quite good enough to rate more highly. Nevertheless, prospective buyers should consider the following food as well, before making a final decision, as it is one of the best foods for older cats available on the market.
IAMS Proactive Health Senior is designed to specifically address the nutritional needs of older cats. It features chicken as the first ingredient and primary protein source, but chicken byproduct meal is also included as a supplemental protein source included in the recipe. Strangely, the recipe does not include many antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, yet the manufacturer claims that it provides twice the antioxidants that most other foods do. The vast majority of cat owners reported that their cat enjoyed the taste of the food, and their health improved after making the switch.
Choosing between the best foods for older cats is no different than selecting a food for cats of any other age. You must select a food that possesses both the traits shared by all high-quality foods, as well as one that addresses your cat’s individual needs. Just compare the various foods carefully and try to make the best decision you can for your cat.