Why is senior cat food so important?

Written by Tanya Whipps RVN
September 1, 2022

When your cat reaches a senior age, you may notice they start to slow down. There will also be less visible changes to their immune system, digestion, muscles, and joints. Getting older does not mean poor health for your cat. Nutrition allows you a chance to directly influence their quality of life. To fully understand the role nutrition will play for your older cat, it is necessary to explore the major changes they will undergo as they age.

Senior cat food is designed to help you better manage your cat’s needs and improve their wellbeing. As your cat ages they become less active and have a reduced body mass. This will result in a reduced metabolic rate. Changes will occur throughout their body for example affecting their digestion, immune system, kidneys, taste, and sense of smell.  You are aiming to provide your senior cat with nutrition that will maximise their quality of life. It is important support their health and any age-related health problems, as well as improving their vitality and hopefully life expectancy. Food for your senior cat can be purchased from all major pet shops, vets and pet food retailers.

Firstly, its vital you discuss your senior cats needs with your veterinary team so they can be assessed. Suitable recommendations can then be made specifically for them. Once your cat has been assessed its advised that an older cat is transitioned to a complete senior cat food.

Weight and Body Condition

You may notice your senior cat becoming less active. This is often combined with a lower percentage of body fat and a lower metabolic rate. This results in your cat having a lower energy requirement in their senior years. Unlike the pattern seen in dogs’ older cats are more prone to be underweight. It is important to assess your cat’s weight to make suitable choices for their senior years. Your cat’s food should contain high quality protein to maintain the muscle mass and support their immune system. Senior cat foods contain moderate to low levels of fat to reduce the risk of obesity, replacing those calories with protein.

General additions to senior cat food

Senior cat foods are often supplemented with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. These have been shown to be beneficial to reducing symptoms of age-related changes. Vitamin E and C as well as Selenium are frequently seen added to senior cat food. These are antioxidants that are known to help reduce or repair cell damage. As your cat ages their sense of smell and taste can be impaired. This along with changes to their metabolism, any pain or dental disease and underlying medical conditions can reduce their appetite. As a result, senior cat foods are highly palatable and highly digestible. Texture is also often an important consideration for your senior cat. Changes to your cat’s mouth and teeth are common in this age group. The texture of the food can be an important factor to consider in the engagement of and enjoyment for your cat.

Breed considerations

Different breeds of cats may have differing energy and nutritional requirements. The variation is less noticeable than it is in dog breeds. There are also far fewer studies into the benefits of breed specific nutrition in senior cats. Certain cat breeds are known to be boisterous and energetic like Bengals and Abyssinians. Others are known to be more sedate and quiet such as Persians, this may affect their energy requirements. Understanding your cat and their nature will help inform your choices in their nutrition.

Additional options to consider

An important factor to consider for your senior cat is their health and any underlying medical conditions. As previously mentioned, dental disease is common in senior cats. If left unmanaged it can lead to poor appetite and pain and it can affect other body systems. There are foods available that are approved for preventing or reducing plaque and tartar and improving halitosis and gum inflammation. The Veterinary Oral Heath Council approve multiple foods and treats for this purpose containing their seal.  If your cat has been diagnosed with any health problems it’s worth discussing diet with your Vet. The use of a specific veterinary based diets can help manage their condition. For example it is known that cats suffering from kidney disease or disfunction should have a reduced phosphorus and salt levels in their diets.

It is important to understand how many areas nutrition can impact within your senior cat’s health and wellbeing. We have discussed the importance of considering your cats individual needs and life stage changes. Also how making a change to senior cat food can directly and positively affect their daily life. There is a varying array of choices and options, and a good understanding of your cats needs and collaboration with your veterinary team can help you to make informed choices about their diet.

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