Just as humans need more careful consideration of our diets as we age, so, too, do our cats. There isn’t a “one size fits all” diet for our senior pets, as every individual has a different activity level and metabolism, as well as various potential health issues.
Cats become seniors at around age seven, which is when you should start to change over her diet. Unlike dogs, cats do not require a significant decrease in calories as they age. They do, however, have other special needs, which are listed below.
Senior cats require easier-to-digest fats
Studies have shown that as cats age, they have a harder time processing fats. They need fatty acids that are easier for their bodies to digest, so be sure to consult your veterinarian for the best way to incorporate them into your cat’s diet. By monitoring your kitty’s weight and activity level, you’ll be able to tell if he’s thriving on his new diet.
Senior cats require a lot of protein
Cats, unlike humans and dogs, cannot survive on a vegetarian diet. Cats of all ages need a diet that’s meat protein-based. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian of your cat has any underlying health problems that could change her protein needs. But if she’s in good health, you don’t need to cut back on the protein she consumes.
If your senior cat gains or loses weight unexpectedly, see your vet
Both of these can indicate too many or too few calories or health problems. Some older cats become more finicky with their food, so monitor his reaction to his meals. If he seems uninterested, it may be time to switch to another brand or a different medium of food (from dry to canned, for example). Always make sure to consult your vet if you notice any changes in your cat’s weight or behavior.
Some senior cats require special diets
Cats with health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer (to name a few) will require a special diet. Your vet may recommend food that’s higher in fiber and lower in carbohydrates, lower in sodium or higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. Your cat may be given a prescription for a specific brand of food, or you may need to supplement her diet with fresh ingredients from the kitchen (such as bits of fish or vitamins). Which brings us to our next point:
Supplement his food accordingly
If your cat doesn’t seem to be getting the nutrition he needs from his regular food, your vet may prescribe supplements to add to his diet. These can range from various vitamins, minerals, or electrolytes that can help cover the missing nutrients. Make sure to talk with your vet before giving your cat any supplements, because too much of any substance isn’t good for him (and can cause kidney and liver failure, among other problems).
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Adjusting the diet of your senior cat will help her to continue to age in a healthy, graceful way. Contact us with any questions or concerns you may have, and rest easy in the knowledge that you are giving your kitty the best care possible!