As cats age, their nutritional needs begin to adjust. When they reach seven years old, most vets will consider them to be seniors.
Once cats reach the senior age range their diet needs to be changed to one suitable for the adjustments their bodies are making. Cats can develop several common clinical conditions like hyperthyroidism and diseases of the teeth and kidneys. Many of these can be managed effectively with diet and medication.
Arthritis is another common issue for older cats. You may have noticed your cat becoming less active and spending more time in the home. This is why senior cat diets tend to have slightly fewer calories. This is to prevent obesity and any extra pressure on the joints and heart.
Senior diets are also higher in fatty Omega 6 acids. Some diets even have supplements of Glucosamine and/or chondroitin. This helps the maintenance of healthy joints and holds back the progression of arthritis.
A cat’s kidneys are responsible for filtering blood. They also produce urine and maintain the balance of water and electrolytes. Older cats are more prone to kidney damage so senior diets tend to be naturally lower in sodium and phosphorus. This prevents any damage to a cat’s vital organs.
For any cats that are diagnosed with kidney disease, it is recommended that they are placed on a prescribed renal diet. This will have even lower sodium and phosphorus levels, which will also assist in reducing the workload of the kidneys.
Other added benefits that can be gained from senior cat foods include:
- Higher levels of fatty acids, to assist skin and coat conditions
- Multivitamins that help a cat’s brain health
- Gut flora that aids digestion
- Healthy teeth maintenance.
When switching your cat onto any new food, it should be adjusted over some time and very slowly. A one or two week period is advisable. To do this a handful of the new diet should be mixed in with the usual food and the ratio should be slowly reduced each day. Many cats are fussy eaters so doing this gradually will reduce any chance of the food being rejected or the animal developing an upset tummy.
Older cats can feel overwhelmed by large amounts of food so they should be fed little and often. Occasional treats are acceptable.
Food should be served at room temperature. This ensures your cat can smell and taste the food properly. If it helps you can warm the food to boost the smell.
Dry food should be left down so cats can graze throughout the day. The fresh wet food can be offered at regular intervals.
Try to increase the number of feeding stations to encourage your cat to eat. It is also recommended that senior cats are given six monthly health checks. This is to monitor their health and identify any signs of diseases.
Senior cats should be encouraged to increase their water intake. To do this try adding additional water bowls around the home. Also, you can add a little water to their food and even introduce a water fountain.