Choosing the Best Food and Treats for Your Senior Cat

Your cat's nutritional requirements will change as he ages. Thankfully, many cat foods are formulated specifically for senior cats' health needs so you can choose what's best for your feline friend.
By Tracey L. Kelley
October 26, 2020
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He might not jump as high as he used to, but your senior cat is still full of love, curiosity, and feather-chasing abilities. Naturally, you want to make sure he gets the nutrition he needs at this life stage so he stays happy and healthy for years to come.

The Cornell Feline Health Center reports that a cat becomes a senior between the ages of 7 and 10. In fact, a 10-year-old cat is similar to a 53-year-old person. Now, we wouldn’t dare say that’s old—far from it! But health needs certainly change, especially regarding food and exercise.

Feeding senior cats is an especially interesting topic,” says Tarina L. Anthony, DVM, a longtime practitioner of feline-exclusive medicine, and owner and medical director of Aurora Cat Hospital and Hotel in Aurora, Colo.

“It used to be that veterinarians recommended lower-protein foods for senior cats, especially as they’re more likely to have kidney dysfunction, and reduced-protein foods have typically been recommended for kidney disease,” she says. “However, recently it’s been shown that senior cats may have an increased protein need due to age-related muscle loss. In fact, this protein level needed may rival that of kittens!” 

How to Choose the Best Food for Your Senior Cat

Make sure to speak with your veterinarian about any particular health issues your mature cat may have before changing his diet, Anthony says. Body condition, GI health, and other concurrent issues should be addressed by a vet first. 

She points out you can narrow down the choices for best senior cat food by checking labels for these specifics:

  • Ingredients are listed by weight. 
  • The main bulk of the food is summed up in the first three or four ingredients. 
  • In canned food, meat should be the first or second ingredient (to water), and in dry food, it should be one of the top three ingredients.  
  • Pet food should meet the requirements set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). The wording will either say “animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures” or “formulated to meet standards.”

Because your vet is aware of your individual senior cat’s underlying conditions, they might have recommendations in addition to these brands, so it's good to check with them first. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Best Dry Senior Cat Food
    Wellness Complete Health Senior Cat Food - Natural, Grain Free, Chicken
    $21
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Best Wet Senior Cat Food
    NUTRO Grain Free Natural Wet Cat Food Cuts in Gravy
    $23
    SHOP IT
    Walmart
  • Best Canned Senior Cat Food
    Fancy Feast Senior Classic Pate Cat Food
    $8
    SHOP IT
    PetSmart
  • Best Cat Food for Dental Problems
    Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care Dry Cat Food
    $17
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
  • Most Affordable Senior Cat Food
    Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Chicken and Rice Formula Adult Dry Cat Food
    $21
    SHOP IT
    Petco
  • Best Senior Cat Treats
    Greenies Feline Smartbites Hairball Control
    $2
    SHOP IT
    Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Wellness Complete Health Senior Cat Food - Natural, Grain Free, Chicken

Winner-winner, chicken dinner! The first ingredient in this senior cat food option is deboned chicken. It’s also fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and vitamins, minerals, and fiber from fruits and vegetables to boost immunity, digestive function, and metabolism. However, because cats need to get most of their water from their food, it’s important to add water to dry food!

$21
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

NUTRO Grain Free Natural Wet Cat Food Cuts in Gravy - Beef, Tuna, Chicken Variety Pack

Easy to chew, and full of protein and non-GMO ingredients, this wet senior cat food also includes chicken broth to help your kitty stay hydrated. Zinc, taurine, vitamins E and D3, and manganese support many aspects of health.

$23
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Walmart
Credit: Courtesy of PetSmart

Fancy Feast Senior Classic Paté Cat Food

If your kitty has finicky taste buds, this is one of the best canned cat foods for senior cats to lure him back to the bowl. The variety of quality beef, chicken, and tuna minced finely appeals to his palate, while a host of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals keep him healthy.

$8
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PetSmart
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Oral Care Dry Cat Food

This kibble’s formula is clinically proven to reduce plaque and tartar, and help clean teeth. It might even freshen his breath, too! Nutrition isn’t sacrificed either—there’s tasty chicken protein combined with vitamins and antioxidants to boost muscle mass and immunity.

$17
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Chewy
Credit: Courtesy of Petco

Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Chicken and Rice Formula Adult Dry Cat Food

Specially formulated for cats over age 7, this cat food contains real chicken, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins A and E, and taurine to boost digestive health, vision, and muscle mass. The nutritional makeup is a powerpack of goodness for a great price.

$21
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Petco
Credit: Courtesy of Chewy

Anthony says cats don’t always chew treats before swallowing, so those that remove and prevent tartar might not be as effective. Make sure to have your cat’s teeth checked regularly, and leave treats for special occasions!

$2
SHOP IT
Chewy
Credit: Jessica Cangiano / Getty

It’s always a special bonding time with your mature kitty to fix a meal that he enjoys, but you have to be mindful about portions and his special nutritional needs. Talk with your vet about these human foods cats sometimes eat, and whether they’re appropriate for your senior cat.

A few people foods that are safe for senior cats to eat (assuming your cat is healthy and doesn’t have any dietary health conditions like diabetes or hyperthyroidism) include apples (only the flesh—not the stems, leaves or seeds!); bananas (sans-peel); rinsed, de-stemmed blueberries; cooked eggs; and fully baked bread. Though, not all of these human foods are necessarily nutritious for your cat, so consult your vet before adding any of these foods to your cat’s diet. Also, be sure to never feed your cat chocolate or grapes, as these can be toxic!

RELATED: 15 Toxic Human Foods You Should Never Feed Your Cat

Credit: ASHLEY POSKIN

If you want to make homemade cat food treats for your older kitty, simply use wholesome ingredients and keep it simple. This is a terrific recipe you can whip up in no time.