As our beloved companion cats get on in years, one thing that’s crucial to pay attention to is their diet. The best cat food for older cats takes that into consideration and then some! After researching dozens of brands, the best food for older cats is Blue Buffalo’s Healthy Aging Kibble for mature cats. The first ingredient in the Healthy Aging kibble is deboned chicken, and this may entice your aging cat to eat if they’ve lost interest in meals.
As cats age, their nutritional needs and dietary requirements significantly shift. So do their chances of developing certain diseases and health conditions like obesity or arthritis.
Cat food manufacturers are increasingly transparent about the ingredients they use in their products. They’re more committed to making premium quality whole-food-based kibble and wet food. In this case, specifically for older cats and their less active lifestyles.
Our top 5 best cat foods for older cats:
- Best overall – Blue Buffalo: Healthy Aging Kibble For Mature Cats
- Royal Canin: Aging 12+ Senior Canned Cat Food
- Hill’s Science Diet: Healthy Cuisine Adult 11+ Seared Tuna and Carrot Medley Canned Cat Food
- Petcurean: Now Fresh Grain Free Senior Weight Management Cat Food
- Blue Buffalo: Carnivora Grain Free Woodland Blend For Mature Cats
Our top choices are widely available (and affordable!) in stores and online today.
Our top 5 picks for the best food for older cats
1.Best overall: Blue Buffalo Healthy Aging Kibble for Mature Cats
This dry cat food from Blue Buffalo, a brand famous for making food from premium whole-food-based ingredients, is affordable and widely available in stores and online. The first ingredient in the Healthy Aging kibble is deboned chicken. There are no meat by-products, artificial flavors, corn, wheat, or soy. Blue Buffalo’s Healthy Aging kibble is formulated with a holistic blend of meat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and features omega-3 rich fish oil.
- Real deboned chicken is the first ingredient
- No meat by-products or meals
- No corn, wheat, or soy
- No artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers
- Affordably priced
- The kibble may be too hard for cats with sensitive or missing teeth
- May contain too many vegetables for some cat parents’ liking
- Contains fish, so it’s not appropriate for cat with fish allergies or sensitivities
Royal Canin is one of the most respected names in the cat food business, and many vets sell this brand. Their formulas are engineered to meet your kitty’s specific needs at every age. The Aging 12+ Senior canned cat food consists of highly digestible animal protein, like real pork, joint-supporting omega-3 fatty acids, and carefully calibrated phosphorus levels for optimal kidney health. This canned cat food is soft enough for cats with teeth sensitivities and packed with a high moisture content to combat dehydration.
- Contains two types of meat
- Fortified with vitamins, minerals, and all the necessary nutrients for seniors
- Safe for cats with kidney illnesses or diseases
- Contains pork by-products
- Contains corn, wheat, and vegetable oil
- Only comes in one flavor
- Some cats may not like the taste and texture
- Not appropriate for cats with fish allergies or sensitivities
Hill’s Science Diet is another leading name in feline nutrition. Highly regarded by veterinarians, Hill’s formulates nutrition-rich and extensively researched foods for cats of all life stages. These high-quality foods are produced in U.S.-based factories and come with a 100 percent satisfaction money-back guarantee. The Healthy Cuisine Adult 11+ cat food combines lean proteins like real chicken and tuna with free-radical fighting antioxidants and immune system supporting vitamins C and E. The chunks of meats and vegetables are cooked to a soft tenderness in gravy and offer a significantly high moisture content.
- Senior cat food precisely balanced nutrition to sustain kidney and vital organ health in older felines
- Provides mature cats with high-quality protein to help maintain lean muscle
- Made with purposeful, easily digestible ingredients your mature cat will love
- Supports an old cat's immunity with clinically proven antioxidants and Vitamin C+E
- This food can be used as a dry topper to add variety or fed as full meal
Petcurean’s Now Fresh Senior Weight Management kibble is, as the full product name suggests, tailored for weight management in aging cats. Packed with lean proteins like real turkey, salmon, and duck, probiotics for digestive health, and antioxidants for immune system function, this kibble checks off all the boxes for your aging kitty’s dietary needs.
- Has probiotics for help with digestion
- Low calorie and low carb
- Made with real lean and highly digestible animal proteins
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
- Made in the U.S.
- Hard to find in physical stores and has to be ordered online
- Not appropriate for senior cats with fish allergies or sensitivities
- The kibble may be too hard for cats with missing or sensitive teeth
Blue Buffalo’s new Carnivora line of high-protein wet food contains over 11 different animal proteins, including iron-rich chicken and duck livers. Carnivora Grain Free Woodland Blend is especially useful in supporting your senior cat’s muscle development, sustaining energy levels, and supporting their heart and immune health. Fiber-packed ingredients like pumpkin, peas, and carrots also aid digestive function and help with healthy weight maintenance.
- Comes in wet and dry food options
- Grain-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free
- Higher protein, low carb, and low calorie
- No preservatives, additives, fillers, or anything artificial
- Limited vegetable ingredients
- Contains novel proteins like duck and saltwater fish
- Manufactured in the U.S.
- Only comes in one flavor
- Not appropriate for senior cats with kidney conditions
Cats and age: when are cats considered “older?”
According to the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), cats are “mature” at age 7, “seniors” at age 11, and “super seniors” when they reach 15 years.
Signs of aging may include weight loss (or gain), dental disease, a decrease in mobility, less fastidious grooming, and a thinner, less shiny coat.
Do old cats need special food?
You may need to customize your senior cat’s diet with the help of your vet. Specific diets can address obesity, diabetes, hyperthyroid conditions, and any other illness your older cat may have.
Life-stage nutrition matters
All cat foods are not created equally! You wouldn’t feed a 6-month-old kitten kibble formulated for senior cats with sensitive stomachs, nor would you feed aging cats cans of high-calorie kitten chow if they’re obese with diabetes.
Senior cats, much like pregnant and nursing adult cats and kittens, have very specific nutritional needs.
For example, seniors are significantly less active and with slower digestive systems. This means they require fewer calories in their foods. Higher-calorie foods in senior cat diets could lead to weight gain and potentially obesity, which can lead to serious health problems.
Much like with humans, a balanced, holistic, whole foods diet is one of the best ways to maintain your older cat’s health and fend off disease, illness, and obesity.
But, before we dish out the details on the best cat food for older cats, it’s time for a quick lesson on feline nutrition!
It’s important to keep in mind that older cats also tend to have smaller appetites. It’s a good idea to keep food available throughout the day so they can graze.
Essential nutrients for all cats
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means animal-derived, high-protein foods are crucial for all cats’ everyday diets. But if you’re under the impression that all-meat diets are best for kitty, think again! Optimal nutrition for cats of all ages involves a blend of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
Your vet may recommend a ‘senior diet,’ which will supply the correct nutrients for the changes in your cat’s metabolism and digestive processes.
The 5 most important essential nutrients to feed your cat:
- Water: alright, so this isn’t exactly a food, but moisture and hydration are vital for cats. Just like with basic human needs, it should be a no-brainer that regular water intake is necessary to keep your cat hydrated and their metabolism, brain, and body functions in order. Canned cat food tends to have high moisture content and can contain up to 78% percent water! To encourage your cat to drink more, try a water fountain. (We also reviewed five of the best water fountains available for pet owners.)
- Taurine: this amino acid found in organ and muscle meat is one of the most crucial things in a cat’s diet. Taurine plays a large role in nerve and cell function, immune system health, digestion, and heart health. Taurine deficiencies can lead to blindness and fatal heart conditions.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: found in flaxseed, salmon, and leafy greens, omega-3 fatty acids help maintain heart health. They’ve been found to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, both of which are key in preventing heart disease and complications.
- Omega-6 Fatty Acids: these polyunsaturated fats are also known as Linoleic acid. They’re most commonly found in chicken fat and corn. This dietary fat is a must for cats as it’s the leading contributor to healthy growth, skin, and coat, and the ability for your kitty’s body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
- Vitamin E: this essential vitamin often appears in the ingredients in quality cat foods. An antioxidant found in vegetable and seed oils and animal fats and livers, Vitamin E, combats cell damage and keeps your cat’s immune system running strong. Much like in human diets, antioxidants in cat diets also fight free radicals, which have been associated with cancer.
Senior cat health conditions
The best cat food for older cats considers the increased risk middle-aged, and senior cats have of developing certain diseases, disorders, and conditions.
The most common health problems in older cats are:
- Arthritis: Older cats are highly susceptible to developing arthritic conditions. Arthritis in cats manifests as decreased flexibility, lower activity levels, difficulty climbing stairs, and struggling to get in and out of high walled litter boxes. They also may no longer be interested in grooming.
- Inflammatory Bowel: Inflammatory Bowel Disease, or IBD, often appears in cats who are middle-aged and older. IBD symptoms range from loss of appetite and weight loss to diarrhea, lethargy, bloody stool, and vomiting. These symptoms can be mild or severe and potentially fatal.
- Thyroid Conditions: Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, tends to affect older cats, with the average age of onset at age 12. This is a common hormonal disease in senior cats. Weight loss, excessive thirst, diarrhea, heavy shedding, and increased appetite are the most common hyperthyroidism symptoms.
- Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is when a cat’s pancreas becomes inflamed. Middle-aged and senior cats are more prone to developing this condition. Pancreatitis symptoms are sudden loss of appetite, abdominal swelling and pain, and lethargy.
- Obesity: Nearly 50% of cats seen in veterinarian clinics tend to be overweight, with about 40% considered obese. Middle-aged and senior cat’s metabolisms and activity levels drop, so eating high carb, high calorie foods could potentially lead to weight gain significant enough to be considered obese.
How do you fatten up an old cat?
Many older cats lose the robust appetite of their youth. To ensure that your senior cat maintains a healthy intake of nutrients, you may have to tempt him with frequent small meals and tasty treats.
Many cat food brands now sell smaller portions of wet food that are especially appealing for senior and older cats. Blue Buffalo’s Blue Wilderness line sells 3oz pouches of protein-rich “toppers,” and Merrick Purrfect Bistro Bon Appétits are two of our top picks for wholesome and nutritious smaller portions of food to suit senior cats’ lower appetites.
So what is the best cat food for older cats?
Whether they’re holistic grain free kibble or canned food that is a medley of fortified meats and greens, the one thing all of the best cat foods for older cats have in common is that they put your companion cat’s nutritional needs first!
The best food for older cats provides a complete and balanced diet. They consider all of the essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids your senior kitty needs to thrive.
The best foods formulated for older cats include:
- Increased fiber: As cats age, their digestive system can become sluggish and unable to fully process proteins and other nutrients in their food. The best foods for older cats contain an increased fiber content (often found in varieties of dry kibble) that help aid your aging kitty’s digestion, ease the painful symptoms of IBD, and reduce the likelihood of them developing any GI tract conditions.
- Higher moisture content: Aging cats are less likely to drink water regularly. This means that older cats can be prone to suffering from potentially fatal dehydration. Canned or wet cat foods for middle-aged and senior cats tend to include higher moisture contents to help meet your kitty’s daily hydration needs. High moisture content is also beneficial for cats that have a number of diseases like kidney disease.
- Softer foods: Aging cats can have dental issues that make eating dry food a challenge. Senior cats may have sensitive teeth and gums or even missing teeth. If they’re only given hard and crunchy kibble to eat, the experience may be too painful for them to tolerate. They may not be able to eat enough and miss out on vital nutrients. Soft dry cat food may be a good alternative.
- Lower fat: Activity levels in senior cats drastically decline, and their digestion slows. That’s why obesity is the most common nutrition-based condition in cats. The best food for older cats offers a carefully tailored formula that includes less and more easily digestible fats to reflect their lifestyle.
So, is wet food better for older cats?
Do old cats need special food?
You may need to customize your senior cat’s diet with the help of your vet. Certain diets can address obesity (like low carb cat food), diabetes, hyperthyroid conditions, and any other illness your older cat may have.
How do you fatten up an old cat?
You must cater for a smaller appetite. Cats like to eat small meals during the day, so having a high calorie cat food available all day can make a difference in certain cases.
These five specially formulated, nutritionally balanced, and meticulously researched wet canned and dry kibble cat foods represent some of the best foods for older cats on the market today. With affordable price points, premium ingredients, and availability both in stores and online, these senior-specific foods are sure to leave your aging feline meowing for more!
Our overall winner for the best food for older cats is Blue Buffalo’s Healthy Aging Kibble for mature cats. A large issue for pet owners is when aging cats lose their appetite and interest in food. Many pet owners that feed this brand say this kibble is palatable, and their senior cats enjoy this diet. Let us know what your senior cats think in the comments on Facebook or shoot us an email.Our Top Pick!Blue Buffalo: Healthy Aging Kibble For Mature CatsRoyal Canin: Aging 12+ Senior Canned Cat FoodHill’s Science Diet: Healthy Cuisine Adult 11+ Seared Tuna and Carrot MedleyPetcurean: Now Fresh Grain Free Senior Weight Management Cat FoodBlue Buffalo: Carnivora Grain Free Woodland Blend For Mature Cats$21.98$47.30$55.99Price not availablePrice not availableHill’s Science Diet: Healthy Cuisine Adult 11+ Seared Tuna and Carrot Medley$55.99-Petcurean: Now Fresh Grain Free Senior Weight Management Cat FoodPrice not available-Blue Buffalo: Carnivora Grain Free Woodland Blend For Mature CatsPrice not available-
As always, we suggest talking to your veterinarian before making any significant changes to your kitty’s diet– especially if they have any of the conditions listed above. Our recommendations are not a substitute for professional veterinarian advice.
Last update on 2020-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API