What is a good dry cat food for a senior (13 years plus) cat?
June 25, 2014 9:51 AM   Subscribe

What is a good dry cat food for a senior (13 years plus) cat?

She's a LOT skinnier than she should be, so something with more protein and fats would be welcome.

I'm currently thinking Science Diet Senior Age Defying Cat Food, but I'm wondering if there is a better option?

The cat in question is on the far right
posted by The locked room sockpuppet to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I, and my cats, are big fans of Fromm's (scroll down for cat food). High protein and fat, low carbs. However, I'm from Wisconsin and they are made in Wisconsin, so while they are easy for me to find, that may not be the case for you. Also, as a warning, you may want to avoid the fish flavors. They do smell of fish.
posted by rtimmel at 10:07 AM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: I was feeding Royal Canin Special 33 to my senior cats until they needed a prescribed diet for kidney disease. You could try a small bag and see how she likes it.

Have you had her tested for hyperthyroidism?
posted by tully_monster at 10:08 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, seconding what tully_monster said, test for hyperthyroidism. It makes them so terribly skinny.

Any reason to not go with wet food, though? That would be the best choice of all. We gave up the Orijen as a supplement to the wet food, although we were pleased with it and they cats were happy with it, right around the time we realized that any dry food in rotation would set the eldest cat in the household off on bouts of vomiting and stomach problems, due to an IBS condition.
posted by instead of three wishes at 10:38 AM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: We feed our current senior cat the science diet you reference.

easy to find
relatively inexpensive
she eats it - and she's pretty picky and snooty about her food

When needed (i.e. when we moved and she freaked out about everything), we fed her wet food. And topped it with fish krispie treats.

Our vet approves.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

None really, wet food is way better. You could use dry to round out her diet though. But I would not feed it as the main food. Second thing is, protein can be hard on the kidneys, so if the weight loss is recent-ish, I'd have her checked out by the vet to see if kidney & thyroid levels are okay before you switch to a high protein/grain free food (sounds like your curent food might be not).

We have Taste of the Wild (Rocky Mountain). Orijen is also good. One of my cats turned 13 this year. What's up with the pic? I got a Not Found notice. :-(
posted by travelwithcats at 11:02 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is she skinny because she's turning away food, or is she eating an appropriate amount but losing weight anyway?

My very, very skinny and grumpy 16-yr-old lady lost weight because she stopped eating enough. She's hungry and always demanding food, but only eats nibbles because her intestines are inflamed. Right now I'm feeding a prescription diet - Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Energy (wet, but it's available dry too). It's made to be easy to digest but also high calorie/nutrient dense for those that aren't eating a lot.

I understand fully not wanting to spend a ton of vet time and money on a senior cat, as someone who has spent almost a grand in just exams and blood draws/lab work in the last month. So no pressure here if you don't want to take your cat to the vet but wet food might be more calorie dense in general and worth looking into.

On preview: good point about high protein being bad for cats with troubled kidneys. You may be able to get a broad spectrum senior blood panel done for not *too* much money and if the problem is obvious, it may be cheaply/relatively easily fixable.
posted by misskaz at 11:07 AM on June 25, 2014

Orijen as well. Please be careful about feeding brands that include rice and corn in the first ten ingredients - cats are obligate carnivores and while some filler is expected in dry food, some of these specialty brands have, uh, rather too much chaff and not enough missile. I've also used Taste of the Wild and Acana, and have heard good things about Solid Gold.

Wet food would be a nice idea if you can swing it. I've been buying occasional cans of GO! and they seem to be a nice treat. (My youngest will not eat wet food, because he is nuts.)
posted by Nyx at 11:30 AM on June 25, 2014

Our vet is saying to give wet food of the poultry variety primarily.

I have heard that chicken livers are a fine thing to feed cats. They're pretty cheap, (along with other innerds) but my cats will only eat them cooked (brats). I feel like a balabusta fussing around with Gehakte Leber. (Obviously no garlic or onions for the kitties.)

The raw fed site suggests warming in warm water.

So a thought/option that may work for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2014

Have you had her checked for kidney disease, which can come with a whole host of reasons she may not be eating enough (nausea, stomach acid, constipation, dehydration)? I just went through this with my old man at 14. With fluids and much rotation of wet foods, he's finally not a bag of bones and I can tell how much better he feels.

Like Nyx, I've dropped a grand plus on testing and extras, but you can pick and choose the tests you want. This was the broadest possible testing to see if he had any complications like thyroid issues, etc. in addition to CKD. Luckily he doesn't, but these issues tend to run in packs. A simple blood panel can tell you if her levels are high (under $100) and you can go from there based on that. His regime now is cheap with just fluids and no medications.

Even if the cat does not currently have kidney issues, feeding wet is ideal (mine was dry his whole life and I firmly believe this is what caused the problem, as do many people online if you read about the condition). But we use dry as a free-fed staple because he just likes it and he's in no condition to lose out on calories (but now that I've found some varieties of wet he likes, he will eat that first at least). He gets Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin. It's helped us a ton with an upset tummy and vomiting.
posted by rawralphadawg at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2014

"wet food might be more calorie dense"

It's the other way round, kibble is about 7x as rich as wet food.
Feeding an exclusively dry diet can lead to obesity and issue with the urinary tract. Most cats are not great at drinking. Their normal prey (birds, mice) is about 70 % water, whereas kibble averages around 10 %. Many cats that are feed only dry food are chronically dehydrated and present sooner or later with infections due to crystals and other kidney issues. Canned food is called wet for a reason, it contains usually 75 % water - so it's very close to what cats naturally need from their food. I know wet is more expensive than dry on first impression, but if vet costs (and pain and heartache) get factored in, the math changes.

Another thing to try is meat. I feed raw (up to 50%), but if you feel uncomfortable doing that it is fine to lightly sauté or boil the meat. Chicken, turkey, duck, rabbit, beef, veal, lamb are all fine options. Pork is to be avoided. Innards only in small quantities. I am happy to answer all your questions, if you have any.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:30 PM on June 25, 2014

I have heard that chicken livers are a fine thing to feed cats.


Feeding your cat excess organ meat can lead to hypervitaminosis A.

This is why veterinarians recommend against formulating a diet for your pet without the guidance of a nutritionist.

Sockpuppet, please make a vet appointment if your senior plus cat is WAY skinnier than she should be.
posted by Seppaku at 1:16 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, it sounds like your kitty is due for a full geriatric workup ASAP. Your veterinarian will probably recommend a diet or even prescribe one, depending on what's going on.

One thing you can definitely do is invest in a drinking fountain to encourage hydration -- you can get a decent one for less than $100.
posted by tully_monster at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

My 18 year old kitty has lost a lot of weight in the past few years. Bloodwork all came back normal. Our vet recommended supplementing his regular diet of canned chicken flavoured Wellness with plain boiled chicken and egg yolks. He loves it, and gained a whole pound this month!

Echoing what others have said about dry food not being the best option. My cat loves it, but has such severe dehydration and constipation issues in his advanced age that we had to take it away completely.
posted by makonan at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2014

There is no such thing as a "good" dry food for any cat. Cats are supposed to get fluids in their food. Please read this website by a cat nutritionist veterinarian: http://www.catinfo.org/

I also urge you to start getting your cat's kidney function tested regularly so you can switch to a kidney-supportive prescription food as soon as her kidneys start to go bad. That could add years to your cat's life.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:11 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have an older cat who has lost weight, you may want to take her to the vet to have her kidneys checked...one of the early warning signs of kidney failure is weight loss. It's very common in cats, especially those who have been fed primarily dry food. The test is not that expensive, and it's important to catch these things early.

Cats are desert creatures, and they evolved to eat small animals who have blood and squishy bits that provide moisture. They don't have the same thirst mechanisms as humans, so cats fed dry food will simply not drink enough water to compensate and this results in a strain on their kidneys.

Cats tend to tough it out and not show how sick they really are, so it's up to us as their caretakers to watch closely for small changes in weight, behavior, and feeding habits. Little changes are often masking larger health issues.

I hope for your sake this is not the case and switching to a more palatable food will solve the problem. My 13 year old kitty died of kidney failure, and it was a sad, hard road for both of us :(
posted by ananci at 6:17 PM on June 25, 2014

Best answer: We fed our previous kitty the Science Diet Senior Age Defying cat food and supplemented it with wet food 3x a week. She loved it and did very well on it - she lived to be 18 years old.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:30 PM on June 25, 2014

I've lost two cats to end-stage kidney disease. They were aged 15 and 18 at the time of their deaths. For the last several years of their lives they were getting canned food twice a day and dry food for occasional grazing. For the first several years, however, they were getting mainly dry food. Why? My vet said it would be better for their teeth, as periodontal disease could lead to heart and kidney problems.

I don't think the canned-vs-dry debate has been definitively settled. At some point, no matter what their diet, a cat's kidneys give out, and no matter how much water they drink they can't compensate for the dehydration. Were they in the wild, they'd have a much shorter lifespan and would die with their kidneys intact. I think, as does the author of this page, that it may simply be a matter of cats increasingly outliving their kidney function. We're used to indoor cats living to age 16 or 17 these days, but a cat is still considered geriatric at age 8.

Our vets have seen us through the passing of two CRF kitties, and their advice, as the cats got older and pickier and began to have problems with appetite, was simply to find something they liked to eat - - the nutrition was less of a priority (at least, until I ended up having to feed them with a syringe). At one point toward the end my male cat went off the Royal Canin prescription kidney diet (which, just weeks before, he couldn't get enough of) and wouldn't eat anything but dry food. Maybe it was bad for him, but it was better than no food at all, and he would eat it. At their age, they're like 90-year-old humans who smoke and drink and eat red meat to their heart's content--they made it this far, they can have whatever they damn well want.
posted by tully_monster at 12:37 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

If your cat refuses to eat wet food and/or a kidney-supportive diet, you can help keep her hydrated by giving her subcutaneous fluids at home. It's easier than you would think.

But please do try to switch her to wet food -- it's more enjoyable for everyone if she gets her fluids that way instead of you having to harpoon her twice a day.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:03 PM on June 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. The vet has tested her for diabetes and kidney disease, and she doesn't have either.

I've switched her to Science Diet Senior Age Defying Cat Food and she's put on some weight and her fur is smoother.

She's now 3kg, which the vet is happy with, but I'm aiming for 4kg (which is what she weighed last year.)
posted by The locked room sockpuppet at 5:46 AM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

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