What To Feed A Senior Cat

Reduced calorie intake and a high quality, protein rich diet is the general guide for senior cats.

Pops a senior cat
Pops a senior cat aged 19
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

This is about feeding geriatric cats. It’s an important topic because it can prevent obesity. Feline obesity can decrease lifespan. As expected geriatric cats are less active. They require up to 30% fewer calories than younger cats. Their diet needs to be adjusted otherwise they might be overfed and gain weight.

Tip from Dr Bruce Fogle: He recommends Akivait for Cats. Don’t use the canine variety. He says that in dogs it resulted in improvements in ‘signs of disorientation, social interaction and house soiling. It contains omega-3 fish oils, vitamins E and C, L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid (for dogs only), coenzyme Q, phosphotidylserine and selenium.’

Aktivait for cats
Aktivait for cats

Reduced Calories

It is agreed that a reduced-calorie diet is important for senior cats. Specifically, the average senior cat of reasonable weight requires about 20 calories per pound, or per 0.45 kg, of body weight per day. It might even be less than this. This is a guideline only. Health conditions may vary the amount.

If you feed your cat wet cat food you can divide up the daily amount into three equal parts. You can provide these smaller parts at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s better to let the food warm up slightly before feeding. If your cat is underweight it might be better to provide three or four meals a day.

You can buy senior cat food but perhaps a more sensible alternative is to feed less of an adult maintenance diet. The diet also depends upon the activity levels and general health of your senior cat. The cat food label should tell you how many calories are in a serving of cat food. Although, personally, I find labels hard to read.

In an ideal world, cat owners should weigh their cat and work out the daily calories required and from that figure out how much to feed her each day based upon the amount of calories in the food. Adjustments can be made for the reasons above. If your cat is losing weight she may be ill and you should see a veterinarian.


If your cat is already obese she should be placed in a weight loss diet. You might consult your veterinarian beforehand as a precaution. This is because there may be a medical reason for the obesity. Veterinarians will provide dietary instructions.

Senior cats should lose weight gradually at no more than 1.5% of the body weight per week. Try and avoid table scraps and treats between meals as these force up the calorie intake and spoil the diet, unless you adjust the diet accordingly. Older cats are less tolerant of changes to diet and therefore it should be gradual as mentioned.

Pops an elderly rescue cat
Pops an elderly rescue cat

Quality Protein

It’s important that the protein in the cat food for senior cat is of the highest quality. You can look for the meat sources of protein on the label on the can; it is the first ingredient.

As a gauge to the quality of protein, poor quality protein passes through a cat’s intestinal tract unused. This results in a mushy stool or diarrhoea.


As senior cats have reduced kidney and liver function, a diet too rich in meat produces an increase in nitrogen. Nitrogen is eliminated by the liver and kidneys. This may lead to the blood urea nitrogen levels being too high. The cat might develop uraemia or kidney failure. Expert veterinarian say that this can happen if you add meat products to a balanced feline diet, “in excess of 10% of the total daily ration”.

Poor Eaters?

Senior cats will have diminished senses such as taste and smell. Cats rely on smell to be attracted to food. The food therefore should be highly palatable in order to encourage its acceptance.

Some senior cats will become reluctant eaters. Their diet can be supplemented to maintain body weight. You can add small amounts of “white meat chicken, whitefish meat, cooked and drained ground beef, and, if the cat does not have lactose intolerance problems, low-fat plain yoghurt or cottage cheese” (Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook 3rd edition. Most of the info for this page also comes from this book).

You can also add small amounts of fat to improve the palatability of food. This also provides extra calories. This is in case your cat does not maintain weight when on her diet. Also, plain olive or vegetable oils are good supplements but always consult your veterinarian.

31-year-old-cat Nutmeg
31-year-old-cat Nutmeg

Minerals and Vitamins

Senior cats need more vitamins and minerals. This is because of a decreased ability to absorb them in their gut. Senior cats with reduced kidney function can lose vitamin B in their urine. Many quality commercial foods for senior cats contain added B vitamins and minerals. Phosphorus and calcium can help prevent the softening of bones and should be in the ratio 1.2 to 1.


Some veterinarians say that a low magnesium diet is useful for cats suffering from Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Many veterinarians believe that antioxidants are useful for senior cats. This is because they slow down or prevent damage to cells by free radicals. Antioxidants most often used are vitamins E and C, and the co-enzyme Q.


It’s useful to touch on chronic renal disease (CRD) because it particularly affects senior cats. Some experts believe that it affects 8% or more of cats of 10 years of age and older. It’s most common in middle-aged and older cats. CRD refers to reduced kidney function. There are many reasons for it such as poisoning, infection and injury as well as old age. High-protein, wet foods are, according to Dr Elizabeth Hodgkins, the best diet for CRD cats.


Also, research has indicated that phosphorus can accelerate the progress of kidney failure and therefore cats with kidney issues should be on a special prescription diet with veterinary advice. Some vets say that a low phosphorus diet is right for a cat with kidney disease.

P.S. I’d very appreciate the comments of experienced cat guardians on this topic. Please share your thoughts.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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