Feeding Older Cats
As cats grow older, their dietary needs change. Older cats are often more finicky about what they’ll eat and may prefer to eat smaller portions at a sitting. Some have fewer and more sensitive teeth than in their younger days and find it harder to eat food that requires a lot of chewing. Digestion takes longer for older cats, and their metabolism slows down. In general, the older the animal becomes, the less active its going to be.
With less activity comes a reduction in lean muscle mass and lean body mass, so the energy requirements of the older animal tend to be reduced. A common mistake made by owners is to feed their elderly cats the same amount of calories as was needed when the animal was younger and more active, resulting in an overweight cat; though some older animals do remain active, and require the same caloric intake to maintain their weight.
Excess weight is especially hard on a senior cat. It overloads the muscles and the joints, it increases the demands on the heart and lungs, and it is associated with such conditions as diabetes and kidney disease.
For some cats, old age can bring with it the opposite trend the tendency to be underweight. A lot of senior cats have a hard time absorbing and digesting their food, and those cats need increased nutrition and a higher caloric diet in order to keep their weight up.
How and what you feed your cat in its later years can make a significant impact on the animals well-being. The diet isn’t going to cure or prevent a disease, but it might help the animal deal with the illness or feel better while it has the disease, Dietary management plays an important role in the control of many ailments common to older cats such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, kidney failure, dental problems and cancer.
Talk to your veterinarian about your cats particular health needs and together discuss the variety of cat foods on the market and what type is best for your geriatric cat. If your cat has a chronic illness, your veterinarian may recommend a special diet to help with that problem in particular. For example, a cat with a heart condition may do well with a low sodium senior diet.
Rather than leave food out for your cat all the time, you should feed your cat at specific times during the day, preferably in the morning and again in the evening. Meal-feeding is better for older animals because it helps you monitor their food intake, to make sure they’re not eating too much or too little, and to know if they’re having trouble getting food down, she says. Be sure to measure the amount of food you give your cat so that you know how much you should increase or decrease the portions should your cat start losing or gaining weight.
For many cat owners, an aging cat is an old friend in need of a little special care. Taking time to re-evaluate your senior cats changing nutritional needs is a small kindness you can do for him that can have a big impact on his quality of life.