As cats get older, their systems tend to slow down while their nutritional storage becomes gradually depleted. They may become less active and spend more time indoors. With such minimal exercise, they might end up gaining a lot of weight. Additionally, as they approach their geriatric years, their appetite may be affected by reduced of smell and taste as well as illnesses. As they get older, their nutritional requirements also change. Therefore, it is important to feed them properly, to enable them maintain a good shape. With that in mind, food for older cats should be specially formulated, to address those concerns. If you are a pet owner and you are wondering what to feed your ageing cat, here is what you need to know.
Nutritional Requirements of Older Cats
Cats will spend about 40% of their life, in their senior years, thus the need for appropriate nutrition. During these years, they should eat a tasty and high quality diet, composed of easy to digest proteins, as well as careful balance of vital nutrients. The best food for senior cats should also contain a high concentration of high quality proteins, easy to digest carbohydrates, and controlled levels of fat. Key minerals will be very essential in supporting ageing joints while proteins and vitamins will support the weakening immune system.
Vets and pet experts recommend that food for older cats should be specially formulated. This will also depend on their underlying medical situation. Specially formulated food for senior cats is low in calories. This is intentionally done, to enable them maintain an ideal body weight, considering the significant drop in their activity levels. When this is done, the cat will be able to enjoy mealtimes, without compromising on necessities.
As previously highlighted, their sense of taste and smell tends to fade, together with their capacity to chew. In light of this, softer, smaller pieces will help your ageing get to derive the most from meals. This is essentially important for those ageing cats that have sensitive mouths, due to loss of some teeth. Formulations with higher meat content can also help to improve the flavor and smell of their food. This makes them find it more appealing.
It is important to remember that changing to new food should be done gradually. The best way to go about it is to start with small proportions, mixed with the older food. This should go on for a period of up to ten days or so as you introduce the senior formula food. There are some instances where the cat might refuse to eat the new food. If that is the case, the best thing to do is to consult your vet, who will be able to establish whether there are any medical reasons. The vet will also be able to provide alternative formulas.
How to Feed Ageing Cats
Due to their reduced activity, their metabolism also tends to slow down. It is therefore advisable to feed them as little as often. You can also provide the occasional treat, unless there is a medical condition that makes it unhealthy to do so. Food should be served at room temperature. This will enable them to smell and taste it properly.
If the food to be used is wet, opened pouches or cans should be removed from the refrigerator around two hours prior to feeding time. You may also use a microwave to warm their food if it is wet. However, this should only be done for a very short period to ensure it attains room temperature. Avoid feeding them hot food. Wet food should always be refrigerated when being stored. It should never remain opened for more than 24 hours.
When feeding older cats dry food, it should be stored in a clean, dry environment. An airtight container or re-sealable packaging seals in the aroma thus keeping it tasty. It also prevents the food from going stale. Food should be served in a clean saucer or low bowl. Moreover, don’t let food go dry in the saucer since cats are very particular when it comes to freshness. Remember to include clean and fresh water in a ceramic or large metal bowl.
Since they are creatures of habit, it is advisable to feed them at the same time and the same place every day. Identify a quiet area, away from unnecessary disruptions. Feeding bowls should be placed away from the water bowl and litter tray. If you have several felines, separate their feeding bowls and maintain a reasonable distance apart. This will prevent potential bullying or confrontations. You should also feed your younger cats separately, since they are fast eating and might deprive your older cat sufficient food. An automatic cat feeder is also a good choice, when it comes to feeding older cats.
Things to Avoid
One of the things that you should avoid or keep to a minimum when feeding your older cats is sodium. Although it is a vital electrolyte and mineral, many old cats tend to suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease. In such situations, it is important to keep sodium levels at a minimum.
Another important nutrient that should be minimized is protein. The majority of ageing cats suffer from kidney related problems. There are certain cats fortunate enough to avoid kidney disease. However, ageing cats will always have some sort of kidney impairment. When the kidney is poorly functioning, there will be poor protein metabolism. Another alternative is to provide highly digestible protein.
Read Labels Carefully
It is important to consider carefully the ingredients used to manufacture your cat’s food. Ageing cats are very sensitive. Certain cat food manufacturers use artificial ingredients together with chemical preservatives and addictive flavorings. This might be very difficult to digest, for your ageing cat. Younger cats have stronger systems, which enables them to deal with such ingredients easily. However, your older cat has an immunosuppressed and weaker system. Such ingredients might worsen any the existing health condition.
When it comes to feeding senior cats, it is important to keep things as simple as possible. Only feed your cat the cleanest and food from trusted sources and brands. Once you do that, you will be able to minimize their toxic burden while promoting overall health.
Annie is the founder of MeowKai, where she and her associates write about cat behavior, health issues, and tips and tricks on how to get your cat to behave! It concentrates on creating the best life for you and your cat so you can enjoy each other’s company and build that trust that is so important between pet and human.