It is quite impossible to determine a cat’s age just by looking at it. Not all cats age the same. There is an estimated 10.9 million cats living with UK families. Your cat may look young and fit, but it is not wise to ignore a cat’s age, especially when it comes to feeding it. Older cats need a completely different set of nutritions than it’s younger self.
Cats are innately carnivorous. Even the domestic ones. Which means that animal-based protein and fats are their primary source of nutrition. Since they are hunters, they need strong lean muscle and therefore primarily rely on animal-based foods. Along with that, a cat needs some amount of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. But the amounts of each changes with your cat’s age. However, it’s not just diet that needs to change; how you interact with a senior cat is also important.
Nutritional Requirements of a Senior Cat
For a long time, veterinarians were under the impression that a cat’s protein consumption must be reduced as it ages. This notion had formed because they came across many cats with compromised organ functions as a result of consuming low-quality cat foods. The dietary stress created by consuming low-grade protein affects the cat’s organs adversely and also results in premature aging.
But it is quite clear now that older cats need proteins even more than the younger ones. Even if they are suffering from certain organ disorders. Restriction of proteins in a cat’s diet results in hypoproteinemia, which weakens the animal’s muscles and causes unnecessary weight loss. So you must choose a high protein cat food like Royal Canin Senior Consult Feline dry cat food.
Older cats need less phosphorus as they grow old. High levels of phosphorus have detrimental effects on a cat’s kidneys. Therefore, an older cat’s diet must have adequate protein and less phosphorus. The animal protein fed to senior cats should be of high quality, even if the quantity is less.
Senior cats need good animal protein
Good quality animal protein in your cat’s diet, along with proper hydration, are the keys to a senior cat’s health. The protein should get easily absorbed and incorporated into the cat’s body tissues. These would have the least adverse effect on your cat’s organs. The protein quality in manufactured pet food can vary extremely. Animal proteins are highly assimilable, whereas proteins derived from plants can be difficult for your cats to digest.
The quality of protein is usually determined by its amino acid content. Eggs and fish are high-quality protein, whereas beaks and feathers have no value wheresoever, as they cannot be digested. Similarly, plant proteins from food grains, like soybeans, are not ideal for a cat’s digestive system.
Too much of Carbohydrates in a senior cat’s food could lead to assimilation of mycotoxins. They can also increase blood sugar levels causing diabetes.
When you choose a food for your aging cat, make sure you select the ones that will cause the least amount of metabolic stress. There is no set of rules which can be applied to all senior cats. Every old cat may have his or her own set of problems and the diet would need to be tailored accordingly. It is always advisable to include your vet in the decision making process or ask them to prescribe the ideal feeds.
Obesity in Old Cats
Age is not the only factor responsible for your cat’s dietary requirements. Your cat’s existing lifestyle plays a major role here. Since cats are hunters, they need to stay physically active. Domesticated cats, however, do not have that luxury and that is why obesity is a major problem among cats. Due to their small stature, extra calories can add up extra pounds very quickly in cats.
For aging cats, obesity can add to medical problems. So it is important to closely monitor their diet and provide only the required amount of food. Regular body mass checks must be carried out and monitored.
Ask your veterinarian to suggest the perfect food for your senior cats. When you are buying food, read the label carefully for nutritional information. It should declare the minimum percentage of crude protein, fat, and fiber content. Use portion control to meet your cat’s weight maintenance.
Special Nutritional Needs
In case your aged cat is suffering from a disease, modifying her diet is essential. Cats suffering from diabetes should be fed foods that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. In the case of renal diseases, phosphorus needs to be restricted. Their food should also contain relatively less protein. If your cat is suffering from cancer, it might need nutritional supplements to counter weight loss. Your cat may be unable to chew solid foods due to the loss of teeth and must be fed soft foods. An old cat must stay adequately hydrated at all times.
In case you ever notice a substantial amount of difference in your cat’s appetite or weight, consult a veterinarian immediately. It is advisable not to waste time in home remedies because they tend to have a low success rate with older cats. Sudden loss of appetite or weight loss usually has an underlying reason and needs to be diagnosed and treated without delay.