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Cats have a much longer lifespan than dogs do. Which raises the question, “what should you feed your elderly cat?” Not unlike the last meal, if your cat is truly nearing the end of her life, then the answer to that question is to feed her whatever she wants! Cats are generally picky when it comes to food. Even getting them to eat anything at all is considered a success. To maximize the amount of time your cats live and spend with you and her health in general, there are a few things that you can do.
Digestive Physiology of Cats
A cat’s digestive physiology is complicated. It changes as she gets older. Her ability to properly digest fatty foods starts to decline by the time she reaches 12. As fats have much more calories per gram than either carbohydrates or proteins, their inability to process fats can, in turn, have a negative impact on their ability to extract energy from different foods. To make matters even more complicated, research shows that 20% of cats have a decreased ability to process proteins by the time they reach 14. The combination of these two very serious conditions leads to fat loss as well as a decline in the very little muscle mass that a regular cat has. That increases the risk of illness and premature death.
Bodily Changes from Aging
In most cases, cats develop a sort of arthritis and have an increased risk of getting kidney disease. An increase in age also increases the production of free radicals in the body.
A Good Diet for an Older Cat Consists of:
- Higher Anti-oxidant Levels like Vitamins A, E, and C, selenium, and beta-carotene. These antioxidants help in counteracting the damage caused by the free radicals.
- Lower levels of Phosphorous in order to better protect the kidneys. Stick to high-quality proteins instead of low. Low-quality proteins are higher in phosphorous.
- A good amount of protein to maintain your feline’s muscle mass. An amino acid known as carnitine can be helpful for this.
- Essential fatty acids such as fish oils in order to counteract the dire effects of the aging brain and to promote proper health in her joints.
- High levels of fat (based on her body condition score.) Overweight cats don’t need as much fat as skinny cats do in order to maximize their calorie intake for the day.
- An important factor to remember when trying to get your cat to eat is that palatability accompanied by a good smell will definitely stimulate her appetite.
These suggestions are only suitable for a regular elderly cat. If your cat suffered or suffers from a certain medical condition, then you should consult your veterinarian for the best diet plan to accompany her mode of treatment.
Best Foods for Elderly Cats
As we age, so does the food we eat. We need more minerals and nutrients to get us through our old age. We have different needs and we need to be eating the right kinds of foods to accommodate those needs. Cats are creatures that live longer when compared to other pets. And so that raises the question of what we should feed them to keep them sustained and happy. The answer to that question clearly depends on what stage of life your cat is in. If your cat is really nearing the end of her days, then let her have free reign over the foods she eats. As they age, cats become pickier and pickier with food. So if you get them to eat anything at all, that would be seen as a success. When they get this finicky about food, there are certain things that you as a pet parent can do to keep their health up. As your cat ages, so does her ability to digest different types of foods. When she reaches the age 11 to 12 milestone, her ability to process fats decline. This can impact the way in which she extracts energy from food. Since fats have the highest amount of calories, that obviously causes a problem. Once she reaches 14, her ability to process certain foods further deteriorates and she will have difficulty digesting proteins. This can lead to the loss of both fats as well as muscle mass. When your cat loses her muscle mass, she has a higher risk of catching illnesses and having an early death. A lot of senior cats also suffer from kidney diseases and arthritis.
Here’s what a good diet for your senior cat should contain:
- High levels of antioxidants – in order to counteract the damage caused by free radicals.
- Lower levels of phosphorous – the health of her kidneys is already deteriorating. Less phosphorous in her diet can help protect her kidneys.
- Higher protein levels – this helps to maintain the muscle mass and prevent muscle atrophy which can lead to various different medical conditions.
- Essential fatty acids like fish oils – can promote joint health while also keeping her mind sharp.
- Moderate levels of fat – when a cat loses her ability to process fats, she loses a lot of it. This means that you need to feed your cat a lot more calories to properly balance her intake. Especially when your cat is on the skinnier side.
- Good smell – cats are more likely to eat their food if they like how it smells. As with humans, the olfactory experience is what amplifies the taste.
Cats are finicky eaters. It’s our job to recognize this and help them in any way we can. You could even talk to your vet about dietary options for elderly cats. He’ll only be happy to help.