Feeding Your Senior Cat
Some aging cats lose their appetite or become obese. Experts tell WebMD how to feed your senior cat and what nutritional supplements he might need.
Special Nutrition for Diseases of the Aging Cat
Several diseases can affect cats as they age. Often, senior cats with
medical conditions have special nutritional needs.
Diabetes: Diabetes is a big
problem in cats, and it’s often triggered by obesity. Diet is a
major part of managing the disease. Many vets recommend that cats with
diabetes eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet, which may help them gain
better control over the disease. If you watch your cat’s diet and weight and
give him insulin regularly, there’s a good chance the blood sugar levels will
stabilize. In some cats, with prompt treatment, the diabetes will go away
Kidney Disease: Many cats
develop kidney failure as they age.
Senior cats with kidney disease may need to be on a phosphorous-restricted
diet. Suitable diets for cats with kidney problems often have less salt and
protein than standard cat foods.
Other diseases that are common in older cats can also require dietary
changes. Diseases like cancer may cause a cat to
lose weight and therefore need extra nutrition.
Dental disease can make it more difficult for your cat to chew dry food, so
you may need to switch to a softer canned food.
Proper hydration is also important for the senior cat. Make sure that your
cat gets enough water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
Should You Give Your Senior Cat Supplements?
If you are feeding your senior cat a balanced diet, he shouldn’t need
supplements. But some health conditions that affect older cats can make it more
difficult for them to absorb certain vitamins or nutrients.
For example, gastrointestinal conditions can interfere with a cat’s ability
to absorb vitamin B12. In the case of a nutritional deficiency, your vet may
recommend a specific supplement.
Be careful when using over-the-counter nutritional supplements. Most haven’t
been well-studied in cats.
“Some supplements that have been shown to be just fine in dogs or humans can
be detrimental in a cat because their metabolisms are very different,” Wakshlag
says. It’s also possible that supplements can interact with medications your
cat is already taking. “Check with your vet,” Michel advises.
What to Do When Your Senior Cat Won’t Eat
Sometimes a cat that once had a huge appetite may become reluctant to even
approach the food bowl. Cat owners have tried everything to get their pets to
eat, from mixing in tuna juice to warming food, but these home remedies have
limited success, Wakshlag says.
Any time your cat won’t eat (unless you’ve just switched his food), call
Appetite loss is usually a sign of an underlying condition. Gastrointestinal
disease, cancer, and chronic pain can all affect a cat’s appetite. Your
veterinarian can diagnose the condition and get your cat started on the right
If necessary, an appetite-stimulating drug, such as cyproheptadine or
mirtazapine, may be prescribed.