Top 5 Best Senior Cat Foods [2020 Buyer’s Guide & Reviews]
When you welcome a kitty into your family, there's one hope you probably have above all else:
That she'll have a long, healthy, happy life…as close to purr-fect as she can get.
And trust us when we say we want that for your cat, too!
And for good reason: by the time your sweet feline reaches her senior years—typically, around 7 to 11 in human years—it's all you can do to not swoon over her every day. After all, there's something so special and sweet about animals in their golden age and we want to provide them with the best care we can.
But you may be wondering something:
Does my older cat have different dietary needs compared to her younger siblings—or even compared to when she herself was younger?
The answer is almost definitely yes.
In this review, Best Senior Cat Foods, we're going to talk about the unique nutritional needs of your senior feline, things to consider when choosing the best senior kitten food, what senior cat food is exactly, and which food brands are the best of the best based on price, customer reviews, ingredients, and of course—kitty feedback.
- Our Top Recommendations
- A Review of The Top 5 Best Senior Cat Food Brands
- Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Cats
- Special Dietary Requirements for Senior Cats
- What Should I Look for in Senior Cat Food?
- How Much Should I Feed My Senior Cat?
- At what age should I feed my cat senior food?
- Is senior cat food necessary?
- What is different about senior cat food?
- How much should a senior cat eat?
Our Top Recommendations
Nutro Senior Indoor Cat Dry Food
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Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Chicken Recipe
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Now Fresh Senior Weight Management Recipe
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Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain-Free Pate
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Ziwi Peak Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Recipe
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A Review of The Top 5 Best Senior Cat Food Brands
By this point, you hopefully have a better idea of what a solid nutrition plan looks like for your senior kitty. Now's the time to figure out which brand of senior kitten food is best for your animal and easy on your budget.
Without further ado, let's take a look at our top five recommendations:
- Nutro Senior Indoor Cat Dry Food
- Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food For Senior Cats
- Now Fresh Senior Weight Management Recipe
- Instinct Ultimate Protein Grain Free Recipe Natural Wet Cat Food & Toppers by Nature's Variety
- Ziwi Peak Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Recipe
1. Nutro Senior Indoor Cat Dry Food
This Nutro dry cat food is great for senior cats, especially senior kitties who live indoors all the time. It's been fortified with essential fatty acids and nutrients like taurine, as well as healthy antioxidants for a strong immune system.
- Pros: high protein content, antioxidant and vitamin rich, made with non-GMO ingredients
- Cons: contains brown rice (a potential high carb source that could lead to weight gain in some animals), hard kibbles may be tough to eat
2. Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food for Senior Cats
This senior dry cat food from Hill's offers a lot of wonderful real ingredients for a healthy older feline. For instance: cranberries support urinary health, broccoli offer healthy fibers, beets is rich in antioxidants, and real deboned chicken for first class quality protein.
It also has a new smaller kibble size and shape which makes it easier for older animals to eat and enjoy.
- Pros: made in the USA, finest protein with a crude analysis of at least 38%, 10% moisture, affordable, no by-products or artificial fillers
- Cons: contains grains (wheat, corn, rice) which ups the carb content, not well-received by finnicky eaters
3. Now Fresh Senior Weight Management Recipe
One of the five pet food brands manufactured by Petcurean, this brand is a Canadian pet food brand. It is an independent pet food company that started as a small family operation in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia, Canada. The company is a well-respected pet food brand, and their food for senior cats is well-received. It's free of corn and wheat and appears to be enjoyed by even picky kitty eaters!
- Pros: cats love the food and tolerate it well, isn't overly hard kibble, first class protein, gluten free
- Cons: contains peas (potential allergen issue)
4. Instinct Ultimate Protein Recipe
Finally, we're getting into some of the better wet food options for senior kitties. This product by Nature's Variety comes in an appealing pate style and is made with 95% real cage-free chicken, turkey, and chicken liver.
As for the carb sources, they're mostly the water-rich ones you'd like to eat too, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, parsley, blueberries, and pumpkin.
- Pros: has nutrient-dense carb sources, enhanced with vitamins including thiamine; moisture-rich
- Cons: contains and eggs and fish oil, may not be aceeptable food for older kitties
5. Ziwi Peak Grain-Free Canned Cat Food Recipe
Rounding out our list is another canned food for seniors. While among the pricier options from the list, this brand uses the finest single-source protein from ethically raised, free-range animals. It's also free of the usual oh-no-no's when it comes to cat food (grains, rice, soy, potatoes, agar agar, BPA, perservatives, fillers, wheat, sugars, etc.).
- Pros: contains New Zealand green mussels which are excellent for kitty joint health; top quality, high protein content; soft and chunky
- Cons: expensive
Understanding the Nutritional Needs of Cats
All cats have a few basic nutritional requirements, and their diet needs to be able to support and meet these needs. This is essential at every stage of life, but especially in her earliest and latest years when her immune system may need some extra help to remain fully functioning (see the next section for dietary requirements of senior kitties specifically).
In general, here's the basic nutritional checklist for kitties:
- They need to have a lot of protein. Cats evolved as carnivores, and their bodies do best with a diet rich in animal-based protein. In fact, protein should be the bulk of their caloric intake.
- They need to have healthy fats and plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients support everything from healthy coat and skin to proper brain and muscle development.
- They need minimal carbohydrates. Ideally, the carbs they do eat will be low on the glycemic index scale (don't spike blood sugar a lot) and are nutrient dense—in other words, more fruits and veggies and fewer (if any) potatoes, corn, soy, and grains.
- They need adequate hydration. Cats don't have a super strong drive for thirst. This is mostly because they evolved by getting most of their hydration through the moisture-rich meat which they hunted and ate. To make sure everything runs smoothly, make sure your kitty gets plenty of fresh water every day. You can entice her to drink more by using a kitty fountain and keeping her water away from her food.
- They need the right amount of food. Cats need enough food to support play and exercise, but not too much to promote getting on weight and obesity. Kitty obesity is a big problem (no pun intended) that can increase an animal's risk of diabetes, arthritis, and many other health problems.
Keep in mind that, like humans and other animals, kitties do best when they don't consume artificial preservatives, fillers, and other chemicals which can disrupt normal digestive and gut health. And while higher quality food that's free from these ingredients costs more than the typical commercial options, it really is worth it when you consider how much healthier it can make your animal over the course of her lifetime.
Special Dietary Requirements for Senior Cats
As we've seen, all cats do have some basic nutritional needs. But if you're one of the lucky ones who has a kitty at home enjoying her old age, then you should realize her dietary needs are likely even more specific and nuanced now.
The best cat food for senior cats will take into account the following characteristics which are common to senior felines:
- Reduced ability to smell and taste: as kitties get older, they may begin to lose interest in food. This is often because they can't see, smell, or taste quite as well as they used to. You can probably imagine how not being able to experience your food fully will make it less appealing to you!
- Dental problems: Older cats often have periodontal disease (gum disease), broken, loose, infected, or missing teeth, or simply weaker jaw muscles. Understandably, such problems can make it difficult to chew, especially hard food.
- Changes in digestion: as felines grow older, it often becomes harder for them to digest fat and absorb nutrients from the food they eat. This can lead to gastrointestinal problems and even malnourishment in extreme cases.
- Age-related illnesses: Like humans, kitties are susceptible to certain diseases as they get older. This includes things like arthritis, kidney disease or liver problems, food allergies or intolerances (even to normally healthy ingredients like fish and eggs), and more. Your kitty's diet should a) help her avoid these age-related illnesses and b) help her manage her symptoms if she does develop one at some point. For example, certain illnesses and diseases require extra fiber or special supplements, including omega-3 fatty acids. But don't worry: your vet can answer your specific questions.
- Lower vitamin levels: Stress, age, and illness can deplete an animal's body of essential vitamins. And again, because older cats often tend to eat less than their younger feline peers, they may be at a greater risk for vitamin deficiencies, including thiamine (aka B1, which is important for breaking down carbohydrates).
- Dehydration: signs of dehydration in cats are not always obvious. But because older cats tend to eat less and drink less, they are at an increased risk for potentially dangerous health problems like the kidney disease for an example.
- Changes in metabolism: metabolism tends to slow down for a kitty as she gets older. Plus, your animal may not be as active as she was in her more youthful days. Together, these may increase her risk for weight gain. Because of this, older kitties often don't need to eat as much as they used to. Smaller portions are key to making sure your older feline doesn't gain weight.
Of course, you know your kitty better than anyone. You may have even raised her since she was just a little kitten! But if you ever have questions or concerns about your pet's unique dietary needs, it's always a good idea to chat with your vet. He or she can give you tailored guidance that will help you make the best possible choices when it comes to your cute little furball.
What Should I Look for in Senior Cat Food?
Now that we understand how the dietary needs for senior felines tend to change, it's time to talk about the main “dish,” so to say: Senior cat food.
Foods for the older kitten have been designed specifically for aging animals, and is specially formulated to meet their unique needs. To help you make sure you're selecting the right product for your pet, look for the following features of top rated senior cat food:
- More moisture: this is to combat the risk of dehydration, which as we've seen is common in older felines who tend to eat less than the young'uns running around.
- Slightly more fiber: since older cats tend to have difficulties with digestion, getting slightly more fiber in their diet can help them stay regular.
- Soft wet foods: a kitten won't eat her food no matter how hungry she is if it hurts too much to chew and swallow! Soft wet is usually have the ideal choice of foods for older kitties, simply because it's easier on their teeth and jaws.
- Ingredients list: again, because older kitties have a harder time digesting their food, any ingredients that are artificial, known allergens, or otherwise “unhealthy” may be poorly tolerated by older kitties. This may include ingredients like grains, artificial colors, corn, soy, and carrageenan. To optimize her nutrient intake and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal problems, you want to look for ingredients that are real, whole, and natural—readable, in other words. It is best to avoid as many artificial ingredients as possible.
How Much Should I Feed My Senior Cat?
In addition to giving your golden girl top rated senior cat food (in other words, knowing what to feed her), you also should be aware of how much to feed her in order to properly care for her needs.
Of course, every cat is unique, which means your four-legged darling may need slightly more or less food compared to the “average” recommendation. That said, starting from a general guideline is a best place to start.
The typical recommendation for kitty portion control is around 240 calories per day for an average 8-pound cat. But you'll probably need to decrease this amount slightly as your animal ages, since her activity level will probably go down. Use your best judgment.
That said, one good way to make sure your cat isn't too skinny nor too fat is to feel and look at her body:
You should be able to easily feel (yet not see) her ribs when you run your hands down her body. And when looking at her from the side or the top, you should see a clear narrowing at the waist area. This is the best and ideal situation but it is also wise to get advice from your vet for your specific cat depending on her health and other factors like if she is obese and needs a weight loss plan.
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What About Feeding Frequency?
Now, most senior cats do best eating one to two times per day. In fact, your kitty will probably be able to keep eating as often as she did when she first became an adult—the portions may just need to be smaller.
Keeping a similar feeding routine may actually encourage your older animal to actually eat and drink enough. Remember…kitties are creatures of habit. Change can be hard, especially for an older cat who's adorably stubborn, a bit picky, and more or less set in her ways. But we love and care for our cats so this is a task we will be willing to take.
If your cat is used to being free-fed (that is, if you leave out her chow in a dish so she can eat whenever she wants), you may be able to continue doing this…but remember, hard dry nutrition may not be appropriate for your senior, and wet food shouldn't be left out all day. So if you do have to make the move away from dry foods to canned food, you may also have to prepare yourself to change your feeding routine, too.
How to Introduce New Food to Your Senior Feline
Lastly, remember the trick to introducing your kitty new food—Slowly and surely.
This is especially important for older kitties who probably have more sensitive stomachs to begin with.
A basic rule of thumb is to gradually adjust the ratio of old food to new food over the course of a week and a half or so. You may want to use this template as a guideline:
- Start by mixing 25% of your cat's new food in with 75% of her old food (for a total of 100% of the calories she usually gets).
- After 3 to 4 days, adjust the ratio to 50/50: half old food, half new food.
- After 3 to 4 days of this, adjust the ratio again so she's getting 75% new food and 25% old food.
- Finally, after 3 to 4 days of 75/25, switch her fully to her new food. Watch her closely to make sure she's tolerating the switch well, and talk to your vet if you have any concerns of how she's responding.
Your senior kitty may be “mature,” but we know she still has tons of personality! Make sure you're optimizing her well-being and supporting her health from the inside out with the right type and amount of cat food. Proper care of your cats includes the proper understanding of her diet needs because this is an essential part of her life.
That way, she'll be able to show off her unique personality and enjoy her life with you for as long as possible!
- YOUR CAT’S NUTRITIONAL NEEDS A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners National Academies’ Division on Earth and Life Studies
- Feeding Your Cat at Cornell Feline Health Center
- Feline Dental Disease at Cornell Feline Health Center
- Feeding Your Senior Cat By Stephanie Watson at WebMD.com
- Normal Aging & Expected Changes in Older (Senior, Geriatric) Cats at www.petcoach.co
At what age should I feed my cat senior food?
Start your cat on a senior diet at about seven years of age. The main objectives in the feeding an older cat should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow or prevent the development of chronic disease, and minimize or improve clinical signs of diseases that may already be present.
Is senior cat food necessary?
And as our cats age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this life stage such as joint support and antioxidants. Forgo “all life stage” pet food for senior pets, says Dr. Vogelsang.
What is different about senior cat food?
The only real difference between regular adult formula and senior formula foods is that senior foods tend to be lower in calories and have a little less protein–because too much protein can lead to some health issues in older cats. ... And don't worry about your senior cats if they're getting into the younger one's kibble.
How much should a senior cat eat?
From age six months to maturity, most cats will do well when fed two times a day. Once the cat becomes an adult, at about one year, feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases. Senior cats, age seven and above, should maintain the same feeding regimen.