Best food for the very old cat
June 25, 2013 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Zad is a 19-year-old cat. What kind of food makes the most sense now?

Yes, she has a vet, but her vet sells specific brands and I'm not sure I'd rely on her to be an objective dietitian on several counts, which is why I'm turning to mefi.

I've had another cat get very old with me, so I know the signs that Zad's kidneys are failing – she's gradually begun drinking more water and peeing more.

Aside from this, she's not in bad shape – no chronic illnesses, she can see and hear okay and still jump up on the bed and so on. It's like living with a very small, very thin old lady who happens to be a cat.

She's got long hair so I've had her shaved for the summer. But her appetite is on and off lately, and she sometimes rejects a food she previously liked. She's lost a few teeth, so she gets canned food. It's been Wellness turkey, Holistic Blend fish – things like that, grain-free as far as I can manage and good quality. Of course there's always plenty of fresh water.

The one category of food she will always eat is kitten food. I have qualms about this because while it's nice to see her tucking in, I figure it's got to be higher in protein than regular cat food, and thus worse for her kidneys. I keep some handy to tempt her when necessary.

Is there something here I'm not thinking of? Advice about very specific products would only be helpful if I can get them in Canada.
posted by zadcat to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Raw diet, maybe? Not sure if that is tougher on kidneys. She may like the occasional boneless chicken or turkey breast, cooked plain and well.

Definitely soft / canned foods with water added. I like to swish warm water around in the empty can for maximum cat gravy.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:09 PM on June 25, 2013

The longer the rest of her teeth last, the better. Have you started any kind of brushing habit? My cat rather likes this poultry toothpaste.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:15 PM on June 25, 2013

When my cat had kidney failure, they had me get Royal Canin Feline Renal LP Modified Cat Food. I just bought it from the vet, but they said you can get a prescription and order it off the internet. He lasted about 2 years after being diagnosed, making it to 20, with the foods and iv fluids.

Anyhow, my vet gave me a bunch of different foods to try out, and I just went with the one he seemed to eat best. I never switched it around after that.
posted by katinka-katinka at 6:29 PM on June 25, 2013

Please do not feed raw. Royal Canin Renal LP is very good, but really, I would feed her whatever she wants to eat. The on-and-off appetite is part of renal failure. You can talk to your vet about giving her famotidine to help with that, and I would also ask about calcium binders and potassium supplement if you are serious about addressing the renal failure. But as far as food, Fancy Feast, Friskies, whatever. I lost my 19 year-old cat to renal failure in November, and she was happy until the end (seriously the 'best' euthanasia I ever had to deal with, PM if you want the details for whatever reason). She got whatever she wanted, mostly Fancy Feast and canned tuna.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:02 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

When Zach was diagnosed with early-stage renal failure, I found this page on diet to be really, really reassuring - especially the section on what the best food was. They even have a list of specific flavors of Fancy Feast that would nutritionally be okay.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:00 PM on June 25, 2013

Sorry, hit post too soon - as far as Zach was concerned, we went with the special diet food from the vet. But Zach had the appetite of a Clydesdale Horse and had utterly no problem with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 PM on June 25, 2013

When the late, great Bunky was 20 and eating the other cat's kitten chow, we asked the vet what a 20 year old cat with kidney problems eats. His response was "Anything she wants."
posted by Soliloquy at 8:05 PM on June 25, 2013 [14 favorites]

18-yr-old cat here.

He's getting really skinny, and it's hard to find something he really likes to eat these days, so basically we feed him whatever he is willing to eat.
posted by mikeand1 at 10:22 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Has your old cat has been tested for thyroid function?
If not, it's a simple blood test to see how her liver, kidneys and thyroid are holding up.
It's best not to guess.

Naturally occurring feline geriatric hyperthyroidism can be treated, and renal failure can be accommodated, for a while.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:56 PM on June 25, 2013

My cat is 19, with kidney issues too. (And a thyroid tumor. And a heart murmur. She takes a few pills.) The best thing we've found that she will eat, and which is commonly available, is Friskies Selects Indoor Homestyle Turkey Dinner with Rice & Garden Greens. Nice low phosphorous content (based on Tanya's list). She just keeps going. Unfortunately Friskies does not appear to offer a direct Canadian cognate, but the basic advice is: low phosphorous content.
posted by mumkin at 1:52 AM on June 26, 2013

When the late, great Bunky was 20 and eating the other cat's kitten chow, we asked the vet what a 20 year old cat with kidney problems eats. His response was "Anything she wants."

That was going to be my answer. But as memory serves, too much protein is rough on their kidneys. So its a bit of a balance act- does the cat starve of lack of appetite or eat well and maybe their kidneys break down a little quicker?
posted by gjc at 3:11 AM on June 26, 2013

IANAV, IANYV, but Kinetic Jr is studying to become a vet and says an old kitty can eat whatever the hell it wants. Kitten food, tuna, baby food, whatever. Yes, all-protein can be hard on kidneys (failing or healthy) and there are special diets and supplements and you could go bananas sourcing out the perfect food, but geriatric cats are special little kings and queens in the veterinary world and should be accorded the privilege to eat whatever they find nom. They should also be given many balls of paper to attack, cuddled excessively and given many many skritches.

Because the problems start when they stop eating.
posted by kinetic at 3:51 AM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

When our 17 year old boy was diagnosed with renal failure almost 2 years ago we switched to Blue Grain Free Indoor cat food from petco/ petsmart. He likes it and we saw an improvement! He still goes through phases though. He always eats it, but some times he will get sooooo needy for whatever we are eating, so we just give him whatever he wants. When he is going through a down phase we also give him wetfood. He will eat it like a horse for a few days then lose interest, we get worried he is nearing his demise, have 'the talk', then catch him frolicking about the house again a couple of days later. Good luck. Old kitties are a rollercoaster aren't they?
posted by MayNicholas at 5:38 AM on June 26, 2013

Wow, your cat is still jumping! That is so amazing. Our eighteen-year cat is 100% stairs to the bed at this point.

I second raw food (memail if you want the brand our cats like best). Our elderly cat started on it about 9 months ago, and her health improved significantly -- better coat, more energy. All her vet tests have remained stable (kidney, thyroid etc). Even the vet has remarked on how great she looks. I know it is against popular wisdom regarding protein consumption in senior cats, and we went out on a limb with it in an effort to help her feel better, and it worked.
posted by nanook at 8:55 AM on June 26, 2013

Response by poster: Some good ideas here. Couple of responses:

I've a friend who's keen on raw, and feeds her own 4 eminently healthy cats on raw chicken, ground up with a vitamin supplement and a few vegetables added in. She gave me some and I tried Zad on it a few months ago. Zad ate it readily, but after a couple of feedings she puked a lot and then didn't eat for a day. I concluded it was too late in her life to try to transition her to raw; the rest of the raw chicken preparation is still in the freezer and I'm hesitant to use it up.

Brushing her teeth would not be on. She's a sweetie most of the time, but having things done to her is not OK and never has been. I need assistance to get her claws clipped. Even now.

She hasn't been tested for thyroid function. I should ask about that at the vet's, next time we go. Downside to this: limited budget, absolute refusal to be pilled.

Thanks especially to all who said "feed her whatever she likes" because that's been my instinct. Obviously I will inquire about the thyroid and possible special foods, but the main thing is to see her happy to eat.

And good luck to everyone with an elderly cat!
posted by zadcat at 9:13 AM on June 26, 2013

I've had a lot of older cats and the only consistent about vet advice re: diet I've had for all of them is lower calories and lower protein foods.

In the past, I have fed my cats whatever they like, but that's come to an end recently. I'm still experimenting a bit with different lower protein/lower fat foods for my Umaibo, who is back to working order after spending two weeks at the vet on kitty dialysis. He doesn't enjoy the new foods as much (I've found 3 different kinds that meet the criteria), but it's not theoretical about him needing them. He was close to dying. Some things that have made the low protein food more palatable: adding extra water or gravy to wet food and warming it up. Basically, the stinkier to you make it, the more they like it.
posted by Kurichina at 9:24 AM on June 26, 2013

Downside to this: limited budget, absolute refusal to be pilled.

There is a way to pill your cat. You just haven't found it yet.

For mine, it's taking a dehydrated chicken or turkey dog treat and crushing it to powder, mixing it in a wee bowl with a pinch of dried bonito flakes, adding some Greenies, a GlycoFlex II, a renal support tablet, and her thyroid pill. The thyroid pill is small, and she only gets 1/4 with each meal, so it typically vanishes into that sundae of kitty-treat goodness.

Zad probably wants something no less complicated, but completely different.
posted by mumkin at 11:31 PM on June 26, 2013

Downside to this: limited budget, absolute refusal to be pilled.

Oh - pill pockets. This is how I gave Zach his daily kidney support supplement. The pill was actually too big for the pocket, and poked out at either end like a mini pig-in-a-blanket, but Zach liked the Greenies' pockets so much he didn't care.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 AM on June 27, 2013

Baby food has worked for several of our cats as they have gotten older.
posted by wittgenstein at 11:57 AM on June 27, 2013

By the time a kitty reaches that age, he should have whatever he wants to eat whenever he wants it. There should be some benefits to living so long, shouldn't there?

Bless his little bitty kitty heart.
posted by aryma at 12:27 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wanted to note here that Zad's been eating readily again, and to remind future self not to panic if her appetite is down on really hot days, because it comes back when the heat wave is over.

Thanks all!
posted by zadcat at 9:49 AM on June 28, 2013

« Older Custom tote bags with custom, wrap-around artwork?   |   Is There A Butcher In The House? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.