The Best 5 Senior Cat Foods

Older black cat with white patches lying down on the floor looking off to the side
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What Kind of Food Should Older Cats Eat?

It might be surprising to know that cats can live to be well into their twenties. This is likely due to readily available advanced medical knowledge, early detection of disease, progressive therapies for diagnosed conditions, and readily available high-quality food that we can offer our feline friends. While age isn’t a disease, an older cat is more prone to illnesses and infections. By providing them with a nutritious diet and supporting them in their senior years, we can make those years happy and healthy.

In this article, we will focus on nutrition for the senior cat. A cat is considered a senior from 11 years of age until about 14 years old. They are considered geriatric after that. Many changes come with age for a senior or geriatric cat. We will get into all those important details, but first, let’s look at some veterinarian-recommended diets for aging cats.

1.  Best Overall Senior Cat Food:  BLUE Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Indoor Mature Cat

Blue Buffalo Basics Limited Ingredient Diet Grain Free, Natural Indoor Mature Dry Cat Food
An excellent choice for senior cats with food sensitivities (grain free and no artificial flavors or preservatives.

BLUE indoor mature offers a great balance of macronutrients with a moderate amount of protein, low fat, and high fiber. This is a limited ingredient food, which makes it easy on the stomach, especially in cats with food sensitivities. While the Basics brand doesn’t have any senior-specific canned food, BLUE carries several other lines of canned food for mature cats.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

  • Crude Protein Min: 28%
  • Crude Fat Min: 12%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 7%

Pros

  • Limited ingredient diet, which is excellent for cats with sensitive stomachs.
  • Deboned turkey is the first ingredient and a healthy protein source.
  • Fish oil for added omega fatty acids to support the skin, hair coat, heart, and joints.
  • Added amino acids taurine and L-Carnitine can support heart health.
  • Moderately priced

Cons

  • Only 28% crude protein, which is the lowest compared to the other brands on this list.
  • No wet food option and the other BLUE brand wet foods all contain chicken so limited protein variety.

 

2.  Best Senior Cat Food for Sensitive Stomachs:  Purina Pro Plan PRIME PLUS 7+

Purina Pro Plan PRIME PLUS Adult 7+ Salmon & Rice Formula Dry Cat Food
This proprietary blend helps to support a strong immune system, maintain lean body mass, and is proven to improve & extend the life of cats age 7 years and older.

Backed by 9 years of research.

Purina is a well-known brand of cat food and a leader in its field. Purina has a staff of veterinarians and nutritionists who dedicate their efforts to conduct research and studies to produce high-quality foods. This food has two protein varieties, one with salmon as the primary protein source, which makes it ideal for cats who have food sensitivities. The other type is with chicken. This senior diet also includes several different varieties of delicious canned food.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

  • Crude Protein Min: 38%
  • Crude Fat Min: 17%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 2.5%

Pros

  • Reliable company
  • Salmon is the first ingredient
  • Added taurine for heart health
  • Includes omega fatty acids to support the skin, hair coat, heart, and joints
  • Beta carotene and vitamin E are included as antioxidants
  • High protein diet

Cons

  • Low fiber content

 

3.  Best Senior Cat Food on a Budget:  IAMS Proactive Health Healthy Senior

IAMS™ Proactive Health Healthy Senior
For those on a budget but still want a quality food from a trusted brand.

100% complete & balanced adult nutrition with 0% fillers.

IAMS is another reliable company that produces good quality diets. Their senior cat diet has added antioxidants, taurine, and omega fatty acids. Its affordable price makes it a great option if you are feeding a senior cat but need to stick to a budget. They don’t compromise quality for the price.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

Crude Protein Min: 34%

Crude Fat Min: 17%

Crude Fiber Max: 3%

Pros

  • High-quality diet at an affordable price
  • Chicken is the number one ingredient
  • Added Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate to support healthy joints

Cons

  • Low fiber content
  • Only one wet food flavor
  • Both the wet food and dry food come in only one flavor, chicken. There are no other protein options

 

4.  Best Senior Cat Food for Indoor Cats:  Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Indoor

Hill's Science Diet Adult 11+ Indoor cat food
An excellent option for indoor cats over 11 years or older.

Natural high quality, easy-to-digest ingredients and natural fiber to support digestive health.

Hill’s Science Diet brings us an additional trusted pet food brand where the “science” in the name rings true with backed science and research in every diet. Science Diet breaks down their cat’s life stages into kitten, adult 1+, adult 7+, and adult 11+, giving specific age groups the appropriate nutrition. This diet has a higher amount of fiber to help the digestive system. There is a higher fat content in this food, so watch your overweight kitties. There is a canned wet food option (tuna & carrot) for the adult 11+ product. The Science Diet Youthful Vitality line has two varieties in chicken and salmon in both pate and stew forms.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

  • Crude Protein Min: 34.7%
  • Crude Fat Min: 20.9%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 8.5%

Pros

  • Chicken is the first ingredient
  • High protein content
  • High fiber to support the gastrointestinal tract and healthy stool
  • Added vitamin C and E
  • Includes Omega fatty acids and amino acids

Cons

  • Contains a high-fat content, which is not ideal for cats prone to weight gain.
  • Added grain and corn gluten as the second and third ingredients.

 

Great Basic Senior Cat Food  Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Cat Food

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Indoor and Sensitive Digestion Dry Cat Food
A simple and basic choice that is a good value for the price.

No corn, wheat, soy protein, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Nutro provides a well-balanced senior cat food with only the chicken and rice flavor. This is an excellent option for an affordable, basic senior cat food. The chicken provides a high-quality protein source, and there are added fish oils, vitamin E, and taurine.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

  • Crude Protein Min: 36%
  • Crude Fat Min: 17%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 6%

Pros

  • The first ingredient is chicken, followed by chicken meal
  • Added fish oil for omega fatty acids
  • Includes taurine, an essential amino acid
  • Affordable option

Cons

  • No canned food option specifically for senior cats
  • Only one main protein variety (chicken)

 

Runner Up Senior Cat Food:  Wild Frontier Senior Ancestral Diet

WILD FRONTIER™ Senior Ancestral Diet with Chicken
A high protein food that's also grain-free and contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.

The Nutro brand has a new line called Wild Frontier Senior Ancestral Diet. This is a grain-free, limited ingredient, quality cat food containing chicken, salmon, and Menhaden fish. It has a high protein content at 42% and includes added taurine, omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and DHA. This is a newer brand, so it has limited research, but the brand does pay attention to renewable energy and zero waste, which is an added benefit. They have several wet food varieties, but not specific for senior cats.

Macronutrients for This Diet:

  • Crude Protein Min: 42%
  • Crude Fat Min: 18%
  • Crude Fiber Max: 4%

Pros

  • Incredibly high protein for a dry cat food
  • Chicken is the first ingredient followed by chicken meal
  • Limited ingredients that are beneficial to senior cats

Cons

  • This is a newer brand, so research is limited

 

Best Food For Senior Cats:  Essential Information and GuideA big, fluffy, yellow cat eating from a white bowl with spiral designs on the floor with an open door in the background

Cats have specific and targeted dietary needs as they reach their senior golden years. Choosing the right food to meet these nutritional requirements can be an overwhelming and daunting process with many different options on the pet store shelf.

Here are some things to consider when selecting a quality, balanced, senior cat food:

 

Wet Food Versus Dry FoodA un-canned portion of wet cat food on top a pile of dry cat food with a white background

While dry food provides a nice crunch, a senior cat should also be offered wet food to increase calories and hydration.

Cats have specific hydration needs, and seniors can suffer from dehydration. This is especially true if they suffer from kidney disease. As such, additional moisture is beneficial in any way we can provide it to them. Wet, or canned food, is a great option for senior cats. It has a higher moisture content to battle dehydration. It is highly palatable, so older cats losing their sense of smell or taste will find it more attractive. It is also soft, making it easy on sensitive old-cat teeth.

Some cats will prefer one versus the other but ideally offer both.

 

High Protein

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they rely on nutrients in animal products, including high amounts of protein. Cats have a higher protein requirement than other mammals, up to five times higher than dogs!

As cats age, they are prone to muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia or muscle atrophy. Choosing a diet with a high protein content is essential.

 

Low Carbohydrate

Look for a food that is low in carbohydrates. Cats don’t digest carbs as easily as dogs and humans. Again, this goes back to cats being obligate carnivores.

 

Decreased Phosphorus

This is most important in cats with kidney disease. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, phosphorus builds up in the blood. For these cats, choose a diet that contains lower phosphorus levels.

 

Decreased Sodium

Low salt content is most important for cats who have been diagnosed with or are prone to kidney disease, heart disease, and hypertension.

 

Increased Antioxidants

Antioxidants are beneficial to fight inflammation and support the immune system. Examples include vitamin E and beta-carotene.

 

High Fiber Content

Increased fiber in a diet helps cats prone to constipation and diarrhea, both common gastrointestinal conditions in senior cats.

High fiber content may not be right if your cat is prone to weight loss or needs to gain weight since higher fiber diets typically have fewer calories. A high fiber diet is good for your cat if she needs to lose weight for this reason.

 

Highly Digestible

A senior cat’s diet needs to be highly digestible. This is because their gastrointestinal tract is more sensitive, and with age, they have more trouble digesting fat and protein. This makes a cat’s energy requirements increase compared to a younger cat.

 

Calories

A lower calorie food is ideal for an overweight senior cat. Obesity is a negative prognostic indicator in seniors due to the increased risk of diabetes and arthritis.

Choose a higher calorie diet if your cat is prone to weight loss, has trouble keeping on weight, or is too skinny overall.

Make sure to measure your cat’s food, whether they are overweight or underweight. This will let you know exactly how much you are offering them and how much they eat, which gives you numeric information to keep track of.

Use the feeding guideline written on your cat’s bag of food as a loose guide or a place to start. This may need adjusting based on your goals for your cat’s weight.

 

Palatability

Senior cats often lose their sense of smell and taste. Choose a highly palatable and tasty (sometimes smelly) food to encourage them to eat.

It can sometimes help to let wet food warm up to room temperature if kept in the fridge.

 

Common Medical Conditions in Senior CatsFemale veterinarian using a stethoscope on a brown and black Siamese cat lying down on a metal examination table in a vet office

As previously mentioned, older cats are more prone to various diseases. It is extremely important that you take your cat in for routine veterinary checkups. For a senior cat, this should include a yearly physical examination and yearly routine laboratory work such as a fecal test, urinalysis, complete blood count (CBC), serum chemistry, and thyroid screening. Regular dental cleanings are also crucial to their overall health. Your veterinarian can detect early diseases with physical exams and tests and will be a great asset to you in your effort to keep your cat living a long and happy life. If you are ever concerned about the health of your cat, take her to see your veterinarian.

Here are some common clinical signs and conditions to look out for in your senior cat:

  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle loss/atrophy/sarcopenia
  • Dental disease
    • Commonly seen as tartar buildup, gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue), difficulty chewing or eating, grinding the teeth, spitting out hard food.
  • Chronic kidney disease
    • Owners will often notice signs such as weight loss, loss of appetite, drinking more water than normal, urinating more than normal, clear or dilute urine, or vomiting.
  • Hyperthyroidism
    • Common signs include increased vocalization (more meowing than normal), weight loss despite a great or even ravenous appetite, and vomiting.
  • Gastrointestinal diseases such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
    • Clinical presentation is often seen as problems with digestion, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, or inappetence.
  • Diabetes
    • Owners will note weight loss or weight gain, drinking more water than normal, urinating large amounts and frequently, or sticky urine.
  • Arthritis
    • Owners might notice difficulty jumping up or down, lameness, or soreness.
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease

 

Commonly Asked QuestionsPeople of different backgrounds raising their hands (only their arms are visible) with different colored questions marks above them

1.  Why buy a senior food and what is different about it compared to adult cat food?

  • Senior cat food includes a high protein, high fiber, and low-fat diet. It contains added amino acids, omega fatty acids, antioxidants, and joint support for a senior cat’s specific nutrition requirements. They are highly digestible and palatable foods.

2.  Does my senior cat need vitamins?

  • A senior cat should not require added vitamins if feeding a nutritionally balanced diet.
  • Added vitamins or minerals may help older cats if they have a particular disease requiring such supplementation. Make sure to consult your veterinarian about this.

3.  What other supplements will benefit my senior cat?

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin
    • These supplements support the joints and provide cartilage health benefits.
    • This is a great supplement to help a cat suffering from arthritis.
  • Laxatone
    • This is a molasses-like supplement that helps move hairballs through the gastrointestinal tract. This helps in reducing the frequency of vomiting hairballs.
  • Fish oil
    • Fish oil provides a great source of omega fatty acids to support the skin, hair coat, heart, brain, and joints.

4. How can I provide my cat with more water and better hydration?

  • Canned or wet diets
    • These diets have higher moisture and water content.
  • Fountains
    • Some cats prefer soft running water and will drink more from a fountain
  • Water bowls
    • Provide several fresh and clean water bowls throughout the house.
  • Drinking from the faucet
    • Cats that prefer drinking running water may enjoy drinking out of a faucet.
  • Make sure to provide options!
    • Always have at least one fresh water bowl, if not several, and provide other sources of fresh water.

 

Foods to Avoid for Senior CatsGrey cat with black stripes and white patches drinking milk from a small saucer on the floor

  • Canned fish
    • Many sources of canned fish have high mercury content and can lead to neurologic diseases. Avoid canned fish in oil and choose the fish in water instead.
  • Raw diet
    • Raw or homemade diets are many times deficient in essential nutrients a senior cat requires.
    • The risk of a poorly balanced diet is significantly increased.
    • There is a higher risk of infectious diseases to your cat, such as toxoplasmosis.
    • Preparing a raw diet presents the increased risk for foodborne illness for pet owners.
  • Milk
    • Despite the common myth that cats should drink milk, cats are actually lactose intolerant and drinking milk often causes a cat to get an upset stomach, and may cause vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramping, or bad gas.

As always, consult your veterinarian if you have any specific concerns about your senior cat’s health. They can also guide you with selecting the most appropriate diet. No matter what, enjoy those golden cat years and cherish every minute with your beloved feline friend!

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