Senior Cat Nutrition and Supplements

As cats age, the level and type of nutrients required for optimal health can change. The aging process creates imbalances that may require additional support. Supplements can help bridge the gap to complement your senior cat's daily needs.

The unique needs of cats

Nearly 47 million households in the United States share their space with at least one cat.1 Cats are certainly not small dogs. As strict carnivores, cats have unique needs, requiring more protein than dogs. Cats prefer to eat frequent small meals throughout the day, and early on, they tend to develop preferences for the size, shape and taste of their foods.
gray and white cat

Caloric needs in senior cats

Cats' nutritional requirements change as they age:

  • Up to about 10 to 12 years of age, cats require fewer calories and therefore have a tendency for being overweight or even obese.
  • After that, caloric requirements may increase, causing many older cats to experience weight loss and, even more importantly, the loss of muscle mass, called sarcopenia.

Aging cats have reduced digestive function, as well as decreased absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. The normal bacterial flora that keep the feline gut healthy may also change as cats age.

Special care for senior cats

Talk with your veterinarian about any changes you've observed in your older cat's behaviors and routines, especially changes you've observed relating to mobility, self-maintenance/grooming, activity level and social and exploratory behavior. Many of these changes are rarely observed during veterinary examination, but they can be important clues to determine if an older cat is stiff or uncomfortable and could benefit from supplements that help maintain joint mobility and support healthy hips.
Gait changes or reluctance to jump, climb or use stairs may be the first signs of declining joint health, stiffness or discomfort in a cat.

How supplements help senior cats

  • Antioxidants help eliminate damaging free radicals, reduce their negative effects in the body and support normal body system functions in aging cats.
  • Glucosamine, green-lipped mussel and chondroitin sulfate may support the structure and function of joints in cats as they age.2
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may help to relieve occasional joint stiffness.2
  • Probiotics and prebiotics may help maintain a healthy microbial balance and support proper digestion and bowel health in senior cats.

Special care for the senior cat

Cats' requirements change as they age. Ask your veterinarian about cat supplements and environmental enrichment that may help your favorite feline maintain optimal health as he or she ages.

Here are some suggestions to consider for senior cats:

  • Make all resources easy for an older cat to reach. If an aging cat has to walk or climb for food or water, he or she may choose to do without.
  • Offer multiple padded beds/resting places with easy access or ramps.
  • Provide your senior cat with a large litterbox that has low sides and sand-type litter.
  • Create safe hiding places for your cat, in case he or she is stressed or just needs to relax.

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1Pet industry market size & ownership statistics. American Pet Products Association website. Accessed August 22, 2018.
2Lascelles BDX, DePuy V, Thomson A, et al. (2010). J Vet Intern Med. 24:487-495.