As the cat gets older, its demands on the contents of the food bowl change. There may be purely practical reasons for this: A toothless senior cat doesn’t have much to do with dry food. In addition, there are physiological changes in the cat’s metabolism, in which the specific need for certain ingredients shifts. It is also possible that elderly cats develop new nutritional preferences. So there are a few things to consider if you want to take care of your purring veteran perfectly.
How does the metabolism of an old cat change?
From about the age of eight, the aging process begins in a cat. Given that a well cared for, healthy house cat can live between 15 and 20 years, sometimes even older, this point in time seems to set very early. From the age of twelve at the latest, however, a cat is considered a senior and has earned particularly courteous care, including health checks. This is also essential in order to notice the most common weak point in old age: the decrease in kidney activity. When a malfunction becomes noticeable through visible symptoms, it is usually too late and the organs only have a quarter of their original functionality. In addition, the intestines also become sluggish with age in a cat. The feed should therefore be particularly easy to digest.
What do I have to consider when feeding the old cat?
To support the kidney functions, the feed must contain enough high-quality protein – but not too much of it! In older cats, the addition of phosphorus in the feed should also be reduced. Although the cat’s organism is dependent on phosphorus, an elderly velvet paw needs significantly less of it. The excess would in turn put a strain on the kidneys. The senior food should also be easy to digest: the intestinal activity of the old animal decreases somewhat. For this reason, vitamin supplements are also useful in the diet for seniors so that the organism absorbs enough of them despite the changed digestive performance.
An elderly cat’s nutritional requirements remain stable while energy expenditure decreases. So pay attention to the nutritional values when it comes to food: an elderly cat that no longer plays and rages as much consumes fewer calories and therefore tends to gain weight, which in turn would damage its health. The composition of the ideal senior cat food takes all age-related changes in the metabolism into account.
Regardless of the nutritional values, many old cats face another problem: sooner or later, the cat loses teeth over the years. Although the house tiger’s dentition can be preserved for a long time with good dental care, if signs of wear or loss of teeth finally set in, the consistency of the cat’s food can cause problems. Pay careful attention to whether the cat can still bite and chew the food, or whether a switch to soft meals is needed.
As with human seniors, it is important for old cats to stay hydrated. If the water bowl isn’t getting enough attention, try a cat drinking fountain. Many cats are enthusiastic about such a flowing water source – even at a young age.
My old cat won’t eat – what to do?
An old cat sometimes turns out to be unexpectedly demanding when it comes to daily feeding. Be prepared that the older animal will prefer to eat several small portions a day rather than a few larger ones. Some senior velvet paws also appreciate being served food at their seat instead of going to the stationary bowl themselves. If this helps encourage the cat to eat, then you should do the animal a favor. If the cat refuses food in otherwise good health, in the harmless case it can be because the sense of smell is waning and it simply finds the bowl unattractively full. Warm up the food a little – this will increase the smell – or mark it with a tasty substance with an intensive smell: A little tuna, liver sausage or malt paste has an enlivening effect. Physical limitations can also make the food bowl less attractive to the cat. If the elderly animal is simply not as agile, offer the food in a slightly raised bowl so that it can eat while standing. Such an eating aid can be a blessing for a cat with motor disabilities. In general, the ratio between dry and wet food should shift to the latter – not least to support hydration.
Are there any useful dietary supplements and additives?
The same applies to cats: food supplements should never be given on suspicion but should be given when needed. Older cats have an increased need for various vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. If these are not supplied in sufficient quantities via the feed, nutritional supplements can be useful, but only after consultation with the veterinarian. If there is no deficiency symptom, additives can be counterproductive.
Of course, there are cases where you can help cats age with special foods. In an old cat with very sluggish digestion, adding lactose, fish oil, or psyllium to the food can stimulate intestinal activity. Many old cats appreciate small amounts of cream cheese or natural yogurt as a snack between meals. Attention: Be sure to note any food intolerances of your house tiger!