These days, it’s not uncommon for a cat to live over the age of fifteen. Some can live well into their twenties. But nutrition often plays a major role in your senior cat’s health, especially if they have certain health conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. The best cat food for older cats should contain all of the important, supportive vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are designed to aid in digestion, relieve joint inflammation, and help them to thrive at age twenty and beyond.
But even the best cat food can contain additives and fillers that offer no real nutritional value to seniors. Seniors go through many changes as they age, which can make them more vulnerable to disease and medical problems. That’s why I decided to create a buyer’s guide that will help senior cat owners to choose a product that will actually help their pets to continue to thrive by offering a different formula that you can’t get with cat formulas that are designed for younger cats. Instead, food designed for seniors will meet their special nutritional needs. I’ve also included six products that contain all the right ingredients for our seniors who no longer have the same type of high calorie and high protein needs that our younger cats do. Below, you’ll see a comparison chart that includes each product, their rating, and important information that can help you choose a great product for your elderly cat.
Cat Food for Older Cats Comparison Chart
Best Cat Food for Seniors-Iams Proactive Health Healthy Senior Dry Cat Food
One of the leading formulas for seniors on the market, the Iams Proactive Health Healthy Senior pet formula contains chicken as the first ingredient. This nutrient-rich formula helps support healthy energy and strong muscles. It’s also loaded with essential nutrients including phosphorus and calcium for bone and joint health. For healthy weight maintenance, this formula also contains L-carnitine and includes vitamin E for healthy immune response in older cats. According to the manufacturer, this product contains twice the number of antioxidants that competing products do.
- Contains essential vitamins and minerals
- High quality crude protein source
- Contains deboned chicken
- Natural ingredients
- Not recommended for cats who have trouble chewing
If you’re searching for a product that can naturally boost your older cat’s energy, while providing essential vitamins and minerals that support their aging body, then this formula by Iams delivers. The formula is designed to nourish bones, provides immune and joint support, and will taste great to your pet, thanks to the high protein content. The fact that this formula contains chicken as the first ingredient tells you that this product features a filler-free formula that all cats will love.
Best Canned Cat Food for Seniors-Blue Buffalo Healthy Wilderness Grain Free
This Blue Buffalo healthy formula is packed with real chicken. The grain-free formula contains a high protein content that’s designed to support muscle growth. The DHA promotes cognitive development. If you have an older pet with dental issues, then they’ll definitely appreciate the smooth pate texture that’s easier to chew and swallow. This Blue Buffalo formula consists of a variety of essential vitamins and minerals that aging cats need in order to continue to thrive.
- Contains fatty acids
- Improves muscle mass
- Grain free
- High quality animal protein
- Strong odor
This chicken recipe for mature cats will boost your pet’s immune system, contains vitamins and minerals that will help your feline thrive, and is the leading wet cat food on the market, for seniors. The high-quality ingredients that include omega 3 fatty acids, will aid in digestive, boost skin and coat health, and will provide your aging cat with a natural energy source, while improving cognition and minimizing age-related health issues such as dehydration and constipation.
Best Senior Cat Food for Cats Over the Age of 12-Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition Aging 12+
This formula by Royal Canin is specially designed for senior cats over the age of twelve. The texture of this product is very moist and soft, so cats with sore gums and other dental problems will have no problem scarfing this food down. It’s also loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, which will help support joint health, keeping your senior cat active. This formula consists of the perfect ratio of high quality proteins, amino acids, fats, and carbs. The formula’s controlled phosphorus levels also support healthy kidney function, while the quality protein is sure to stir even the most stubborn cat’s taste buds.
- Contains essential fatty acids
- Promotes immune system health
- Contains natural ingredients
- Quality protein
- Contains cellulose, which can impact nutrient absorption
This is a great food for older cats over the age of twelve. It contains vitamin E for skin, coat, and digestive health, while the animal protein and phosphorus content is perfect for older seniors. With this formula, aging cats get the essential vitamins and minerals they need to thrive and stay healthy, for many years to come.
Best Dry Cat Food Formula-Hill’s Science Diet Kibble, Adult 11+ for Senior Cats
This formula supports a healthy immune system in cats that are eleven years old and beyond. This kibble is packed with well-balanced nutrition for your senior. It includes balanced minerals for kidney and bladder health, with added taurine for heart and vision health. This product is also made out of natural ingredients that are designed to keep your older cat healthy and active. It’s also a good choice for cats with sensitive stomachs and contains natural fibers that are easy to digest. This premium kibble is made with real deboned chicken, is free from animal byproducts, and is loaded with the type of special nutrients experts agree a cat needs in their senior years.
- Excellent amino acid content
- Promotes immune system health
- Chicken is the first ingredient listed
- Promotes skin and coat health
According to the manufacturer, this formula is the number one choice of veterinarians for aging cats. Loaded with important vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, and other essential ingredients, this balanced formula and tasty chicken recipe makes this product the best senior cat kibble for felines over the age of 11.
Top Choice for Skin and Coat Health-Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Natural Mature Dry Food
Blue Buffalo has created a unique diet that’s loaded with chicken, fatty acids, and important amino acids. The formula contains fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and essential proteins, for a well-balanced, complete diet that cats will love. This dry senior formula is gentle on the stomach, contains brown rice, and lifesource bits. Lifesource bits are made up of a precise blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been chosen by a holistic veterinarian. The lifesource bits are designed to support life stage requirements, immune system health, and offer a healthy oxidative balance.
- Contains brown rice
- Contains fruits and vegetables
- Natural ingredients
- Veterinarian approved
- Can cause diarrhea
This formula by Blue Buffalo is one of the best senior cat food formulas on the market. It’s the perfect kibble for older felines and contains all the essential nutrients an aging cat needs to thrive, including vitamin E, the best amino acid profile, and fiber. The manufacturer claims the content of this formula will support a variety of lifestyle needs, including weight management, hairball control, sensitive stomach, and more.
Best Senior Cat Food for Heart Health-Nutro Wholesome Essentials Adult & Senior Dry Cat Food
Cat lovers will appreciate this nutrient packed formula by Nutro that features the protein content senior cats need in order to thrive. The contents of this formula include essential nutrients such as taurine, which supports vision and heart health and real chicken. It’s also free of corn gluten meal, soy, and wheat. The contents are loaded with omega 6 fatty acids that promote skin and coat health. The first ingredients listed are chicken and brown rice, offering the type of nutrient dense and well-balanced formula that not all senior cat foods offer. This is a dry senior formula, which may make it a poor choice for felines who are prone to constipation or dehydration. However, most types of dry senior cat foods are not recommended for cats who don’t drink enough water. If your cat loves their kibble and refuses to make the switch to canned, then this complete formula is a great choice.
- Well-balanced cat food formula
- High quality protein
- Contains real chicken
- Low Price
- Kibble is large and may be difficult for some cats to chew
Loaded with omega 6 fatty acids, protein, vitamins and minerals, and all the right ingredients all cat lovers are looking for, this flavor packed chicken formula won’t stay in your pet’s food bowl for long. This complete senior chicken formula is the perfect choice for senior cats who prefer a tasty kibble over traditional wet.
Cat Food for Older Cats Buyer’s Guide
As a cat ages, their dietary requirements will change. Proper nutrition can help to reduce your cat’s risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer, in addition to developing certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or arthritis.
Like humans, a cat’s dietary needs will change as they grow older. Just like people, they need foods that can help aid in digestion and provide joint support. A cat will become less active in their old age, which will also reduce their daily caloric needs. Pet owners who aren’t aware of the senior’s special diet needs may continue to give their cat the kibble they’ve eaten for years, but this can lead to weight gain, heart disease, obesity, kidney failure, kidney stones, and chronic upset stomach.
Cat food for older cats is specifically designed to keep an older cat on the move and active. Products for seniors can include either dry or wet and products that are formulated for indoor pets, outdoor pets, and cats with sensitive stomachs or allergies.
Important Factors to Consider
When you’re shopping for food for older cats, pay attention to the product’s ingredients.
Many products will include high levels of taurine for eyesight support and heart health, in addition to vitamin E. Products that contain antioxidants can also be important since antioxidants can combat free radicals.
Avoid products that contain grains as the first, and main ingredient, products that are loaded with preservatives and additives, and artificial dyes. Cats with allergies may require a grain free formula.
Older cats may not eat as much as they did in their heyday, so every bite will count. Because of this, it’s important that you choose a food for older cats that’s loaded with essential nutrients.
Older cats can suffer from gum disease, tooth decay, muscle weakness, and other types of dental problems that can make chewing difficult. If you prefer to feed your cat kibble, then make sure the senior cat food features a kibble that’s small, so a cat won’t have to chew several times to break it down.
Canned can be easier for older cats with dental problems, especially if you choose a pate style texture. Other types such as minced, stews, chunks, or diced can also work well for cats with sore teeth and gums, as long as the meat is tender. With wet food, it can take a little firsthand research before you find a texture that your cat prefers.
Senior Cat Food for Indoor and Outdoor Cats
Both outdoor and indoor cats will share many of the same basic nutritional needs. However, an indoor cat tends to struggle more with digestive issues and hairballs. You’ll come across some senior cat foods that are specifically designed for indoor cats. This type of pet food will contain extra sources of fiber that will break up hairballs and make using the litter box easier.
They can also contain higher levels of vitamin E, which is also designed to prevent excess shedding and help reduce hairballs.
Older cats are more prone to dehydration compared to young adults. They are also more prone to fatigue, which can decrease the likelihood that they’ll seek out fresh water.
Dehydration can be fatal to seniors. It can lead to liver failure, chronic constipation, and other health conditions. Because of this, ensuring your elderly cat remains well-hydrated is vital to their health. If you leave out a dish of water but you find that the water level in the dish doesn’t move much each day, then you should consider making the switch to wet food, which contains high moisture levels that can help to keep your pet hydrated. While canned is definitely not a replacement for water, it can help to minimize the severity of dehydration in older cats.
Older cats will have a hard time digesting certain types of protein, which is why a product with fiber is essential. Kibble that’s formulated for older cats will typically have a higher level of fiber compared to a formula that’s designed for adults. Kibble, not wet, tends to have the levels of fiber older cats need.
Cats slow down as they grow older. They’re not as active, may rarely play, and tend to spend most of their time napping. As their activity levels slow down, so does their digestive system. This will also have an impact on their digestive system’s ability to digest fats. This can put older cats at risk of obesity. Products that contain a lower fat content will help them to maintain a healthy weight, minimizing their chances of developing diabetes or heart disease.
If your cat has skin sensitivities or stomach issues, then they may have a grain allergy. Fortunately, there are many different types of grain free products available to choose from. If you’re not sure whether or not your cat would benefit from a grain free kibble, speak with their veterinarian. Making the switch to a grain free formula can provide immediate results, such as reduced episodes of constipation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Many cat owners who have older cats may also wonder how much they should feed their cats and how often. The right portion size will usually depend on your pet’s current weight and what they’re eating. Caloric density in senior cat food tends to vary significantly from brand to brand. Cutting back by as little as an eighth of a cup can have a major impact on a cat’s weight. Portion control is very important at this age, since seniors are very prone to obesity due to their lack of activity. Instead of leaving a bowl of food out all day, feed your older cats two to three times a day, following the recommended portion size guide on the bag. Most manufacturers that produce cat foods for older cats will recommend a portion size based on a cat’s current weight and age.
When Should I Switch to Senior Cat Food?
There’s really no set age that a feline should be placed on the best cat food for older cats. Ultimately, it will depend on each individual cat and what their vet recommends.
If a senior is maintaining muscle condition and body weight on their current diet, then there’s no reason they should switch to a diet designed for seniors. However, if they begin to gain weight, with no underlying health reason, other than their metabolism has changed, then feeding them cat food for older cats can help with weight management. If they’re losing weight due to a change in metabolism, they may even have to be placed on a diet for kittens, since it’s more calorically dense.
If a feline develops a health issue, such as diabetes, then switching to cat foods for older cats will be crucial.
Pet owners can discuss their cat’s changing dietary needs at their annual exam. When it’s time to make the switch to the right pet food, this should be done gradually, over a period of several days.
Transitioning slowly is done to prevent digestive upset and to ensure a cat accepts their new food.
Other Factors to Consider When Switching to the Best Cat Food for Older Cats
When you’re choosing a new senior cat food, the main goals should be:
- Reducing the symptoms of any pre-existing medical conditions
- Preventing or slowing a chronic illness
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Additionally, the food’s moisture content, texture, and taste will also matter.
How a cat’s food tastes will become more important as their senses begin to wane as they grow older. In many cases, wet foods tend to rate higher with seniors, in terms of taste, due to the quality protein.
But this can also be dependent on each cat since some cats prefer wet food and others will prefer dry.
Many cats will develop a preference during adulthood. Since cats tend to be creatures of habit, if they’ve mostly eaten kibble over the years, they may not accept wet food. However, as I mentioned earlier, cats can also develop oral sensitivities and dental problems that can make eating kibble uncomfortable. If this is the case with your cat and he or she refuses to eat wet food, you can try adding water or diluted chicken broth to their kibble, to soften it up, making it easier for them to chew.
The best cat food should have a texture that’s palatable. An older cat with missing teeth may prefer wet or kibble that’s softened with broth or water. However, others will still prefer their standard crunchy kibble. A cat with missing teeth can still eat kibble because their gums will become harder. They may also still have other teeth they can use to crush the kibble.
As I mentioned earlier, older cats are more prone to dehydration as they get older, often because they tend to drink less water. Wet food has a higher moisture content. Additionally, food that has a higher moisture content may be more palatable to cats. Cats are carnivores that eat prey in the wild, which is why many prefer wet food since it mimics freshly caught prey. The higher moisture content in wet food can also help to reduce a cat’s risk of UTIs and other health conditions that are linked to dehydration.
The Picky Eater
Finding a senior cat food that has the right water content, texture, and taste, not to mention the right balance of nutrients, can be very challenging, especially if your senior is a very picky eater. If your cat is very finicky when it comes to what they will and won’t eat, the first question should be whether or not this is health related. Older cats are more prone to diseases, so an exam by your vet may be necessary if you find it increasingly difficult to find a senior cat food your feline will eat.
Benefits of Switching to Cat Food for Older Cats
Seniors can develop some common health issues that can easily be managed by switching to the right diet.
- If your cat is losing muscle, then they may need to make the switch to a higher protein senior cat food that also includes important vitamins and nutrients for aging felines. Sometimes, losing muscle is a direct result of certain diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism. Sometimes it can be caused by diet if their food was switched to a low protein formula. If your cat is disease-free, then they simply may require a low carb, higher protein diet.
- If you have an overweight senior that needs to drop a few pounds, then a low calorie senior cat food can help them lose weight. A low calorie, low fat, high fiber diet can promote weight loss and fat mobilization.
- If your senior is experiencing memory changes, such as forgetting where their litter box is, they’re displaying other types of senile-like behavior such as altered wake and sleep cycles or they’re wandering the house at night and meowing loudly, then a senior cat food that’s packed with healthy fats and antioxidants can help.
- Sometimes not drinking or eating enough can be a major problem for seniors. The first step is to rule out any underlying health issues, and then make the switch to a flavor packed senior cat food. Additionally, warming up their food and offering several different flavors and textures of foods specifically designed for seniors can help to pique their appetite.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Should I Feed My Senior Cat?
A senior cat should be given wet food or kibble that contains the right level of protein and other nutrients, based on their specific needs. As an example, if your cat is overweight, then a low fat, low calorie food will be the best fit. Not all seniors will need special cat food as long as their bodies are still able to tolerate regular adult cat food.
Is Wet Food Better for Older Cats?
A wet senior cat food can encourage a cat that’s picky or a cat that’s losing their sense of taste, to eat. It’s also better for cats with dental problems or cats that don’t drink enough water, since wet food has a higher moisture content.
What to Feed an Older Cat that is Losing Weight?
If your cat is losing weight with no explanation, the first step is seeking medical attention. Unexplained weight loss can be caused by hyperthyroidism or cancer. If diet alone is to blame, then your cat may need food that’s higher in protein, calories and healthy fats.
Why is My Senior Cat Always Hungry?
One of the most common reasons a senior cat is constantly hungry is due to an overactive thyroid. Thyroid hormones are what are responsible for regulating the metabolic processes in the body. When a cat’s body produces too many of these hormones, it triggers an increase in their metabolic rate. Medical intervention will be required and is often very effective.
Do Senior Cats Eat Less?
As a cat ages, it’s normal for their eating habits to change. Some may lose interest in their old favorite food and others may simply not need to eat as much since they’re not as active as they were when they were younger. If there’s no underlying health condition to blame, try offering different flavors of cat food for older cats.
Can Cats Live on Dry Food Only?
Dry cat foods for older felines is perfectly fine, as long as the formula offers balanced and complete nutrition. Make sure you provide extra dishes of fresh water for your cat, since they will not get most of their hydration from kibble, like they can with wet.
When you’re shopping for the best cat food for older cats, stick to a premium brand that provides a formula that specifically targets seniors. These special cat foods for older felines are designed for older cats will contain the correct balance of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are needed to support a healthy lifestyle and reduce your cat’s risk of developing certain chronic conditions. This buyer’s guide and the products that I’ve included here will help you choose the right formula for your pet based on their age, special health needs, activity level, and current health, which can keep your senior cat healthy and active for many more years to come.