What to Feed a Senior Cat

An orange cat eating from a food bowl

As your cat enters the senior stage of their life, they may start to become less active and their metabolism may slow down. As such, they can be prone to putting on weight. It’s important that you give your senior cat the right food to help them stay in good shape. Read on to learn what to feed a senior cat and what the benefits of senior cat food are.

What to Feed a Senior Cat

It’s generally recommended to move older cats onto a specially formulated senior cat food in preference to a normal ‘adult’ cat food, as long as they don’t have any underlying medical conditions or your vet has advised you otherwise.

Senior cat foods provide high-quality protein and many also contain vitamin E to help strengthen your pet’s natural defences. Most importantly, senior cat food contains fewer calories to help your cat maintain their ideal body weight.

When to Switch to Senior Cat Food

You may be wondering when to switch to senior cat food. The general recommendation is to switch to senior cat food when your cat reaches the age of seven.

As with any new food you’re feeding your cat, you should transition gradually. Slowly build up the proportion over the span of a week and up to ten days until you’re only feeding the senior cat food. If your senior cat refuses to eat the food, check in with your veterinarian to see what the underlying issue may be. Your vet may recommend a different food if needed.

The Benefits of Senior Cat Food

So, what exactly are the benefits of senior cat food and how can they help your senior cat in their golden years? Cat foods that are optimal for senior cats have the following characteristics:

  • Enhanced antioxidant levels. Senior cats can benefit from antioxidants that provide extra support to their immune systems, which may be declining.
  • Highly digestible ingredients. Your senior cat’s ageing digestive system will benefit from ingredients that are easy for them to fully digest.     
  • Adapted calorie levels. Optimized calorie levels help senior cats maintain an ideal body condition while supporting joint health.
  • Higher protein. A higher protein diet helps older cats maintain lean body mass. Because some senior cats experience less efficient protein digestion as they age, dietary protein should be high quality and highly digestible.
  • Healthy fats. Fats can be particularly difficult to digest for some senior cats, but they’re still an important part of their nutritional needs. Reduced-fat diets are not advisable for older cats.

How to Feed a Senior Cat

Cat’s love routines, so it’s best to feed them at the same place and the same each day. Make sure to choose a quiet, low-traffic area for your cat to eat and place the feeding bowl away from the litter box. If you have more than one cat, you may want to keep their bowls a good distance apart to avoid any confrontation.

Here are some other things to keep in mind to help make feeding your senior cat a breeze:

  • Feed smaller portions more frequently. Your cat may feel overwhelmed by a larger portion of food and may fare better if you divide up the food into smaller portions to feed throughout the day.
  • Serve food at room temperature. This can help your cat taste and smell the food properly. If you’re feeding wet food, you may need to remove the food from the fridge up to two hours before feeding time to bring it up to the right temperature. It’s fine to microwave food in a microwave-safe container. However, you should heat it for a short period and make sure it’s not too hot before feeding your cat.
  • Keep your hydrated. Getting enough water can be a struggle in senior cats. Senior cats can experience impaired sensitivity to thirst, which is often accompanied by kidney problems that can increase water loss through urine. Make sure you provide fresh water in multiple locations throughout the house to encourage your cat to drink more. Wet cat food can also help keep your cat hydrated.

Avoid overfeeding. Make sure to follow the feeding guide found on your cat’s food. Keep in mind that the guide is there as a general recommendation and every cat is different. Check with your veterinarian if you’re unsure that you’re feeding your cat the right amount of food daily. 

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