Aging Gracefully: Feeding Your Senior Cat

Cats can leap and pounce and stay ahead of many things in life, but time is not one of them.

Once your cat reaches the seven-year mark, there are some things to think about incorporating into your feeding routine as your cat moves from adulthood to mature status.

First off, what qualifies as a senior cat? Here’s how we think of it:

Senior: 7-11 years

Geriatric: 11+ years

Cats can spend 40% or more of their lives in their senior and geriatric years. And there are plenty of changes that occur during this stage of life, much in the way the human body changes. This means staying vigilant with your care routines to ensure your cat is staying in peak condition. Things like:

-  Considering 6-month check-ups with your veterinarian

-  Staying active to help maintain lean muscle mass (but stay mindful of the level of exertion)

-  Regular grooming to limit hairballs and stimulate the skin

-  More frequent maintenance of the litter box

-  Limiting stress by being mindful of changes to your home environment

-  Checking for the signs of health on a weekly- rather than monthly-basis

Of equal importance is deciding what to feed your senior cat.  

How is senior cat food different from regular cat food?

To complicate matters, some cats between 7- and 11-years old tend to become less active, which makes them prone to obesity. Some cats 11 and older become less efficient at digesting protein and fats and tend to lose body mass. To account for these changing needs, look for a senior cat food with:

-  Antioxidant-rich nutrition to support the immune system and healthy aging

-  Highly digestible formulation to make the most of all nutrition

-  Optimized calorie levels to help maintain an ideal body condition

For most people caring for a senior cat, one of the important questions is your cat over- or underweight? (Want to learn how to determine your cat’s body condition? Try the Signs of Health Activity in the Purina ONE® Cat Journal.)

Overweight

If your cat is carrying some extra pounds, two SMARTBlend® options from Purina ONE® fit the bill:

Vibrant Maturity® 7+

We formulated this blend for cats seven years old and up. It helps them maintain lean body mass. It’s enriched with vitamins and minerals for strong bones and joints, as well as Omega 6 fatty acids for a radiant coat and healthy skin.

Healthy Metabolism™

This high-protein formula includes L-Carnitine to help spayed or neutered cats burn fat more efficiently and maintain a healthy weight.

Healthy Metabolism™ also has its own complementary set of wet food formulas so it’s easy to introduce different sources of protein as well as hydration to your senior cat’s diet, while still maintaining the benefits of L-Carnitine.  

Best part, you can begin feeding Healthy Metabolism to cats as young as one and potentially stick with it for much of your cat’s adult life.

Underweight

While it’s quite common for older cats to gain a few extra pounds, yours may struggle with being underweight.  This can be caused by a number of reasons, including:

-  Bodies become less able to uptake nutrients

-  Dulling of sight and smell lessens appetite & interest in eating

-  Dental issues later in life can make it more difficult to chew

-  An underlying health condition

-  Cognitive abilities may deteriorate as cats get older, so remembering feeding times or locations may play a role

Whether it’s one or a combination of these reasons, some older cats need to add weight to get back into ideal body condition.

So what can you do?

First off, consult with your veterinarian before taking steps to modify your existing feeding routine. This will help eliminate any underlying health issues that may be at cause, and help you stay aware of gaining or losing weight too rapidly.

In addition, your veterinarian should provide guidance on what types of food to try next in order to help your cat gain and sustain a healthy weight.

One option worth talking about is Purina ONE® SMARTBlend® Healthy Kitten formula. It’s highly digestible and palatable, offers more protein and calories than traditional adult cat foods, along with a taste and aroma that may be more appealing.

As you experiment with new foods for your cat, be sure to follow the recommendations for making a successful transition. You can find these instructions on package or on PurinaONE.com.

Expert Tips

Here are five smart ways our experts like to help you encourage your senior cat to eat better:

  1. Always serve meals in a clean dish.
  2. Try different tastes and textures; if you feed dry kibble, try wet food. If you feed wet food with gravy, try pate and vice versa.
  3. Serve smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  4. To make it easier to chew and accentuate the aroma of the food, mix one part warm water with three parts dry kibble to soften the food. Just be sure to wash or swap out your feeding dish more frequently to maintain a clean eating environment.
  5. Add a little bit of juice from canned tuna or some unseasoned broth to enhance flavor (but don’t feed canned tuna as a diet staple as it is not complete and balanced for your cat).

Living Well

As a cat owner, you want a long and healthy life for your cat. Not just years, but good years. Great nutrition is at the top of the list for making it so.

Want to learn more about caring for your senior cat? Follow us and connect with other cat lovers in our Purina ONE® Cats community on Facebook.