What's the best senior cat food out there that's also affordable?
January 2, 2008 12:20 PM   Subscribe

We're looking for recommendations for a senior cat food. More info behind the cut.

We took our cats to the vet on Saturday for their yearly check up. Indy is now into senior cat territory (just under 10 now!). She had some blood work done and the numbers related to kidney function were slightly elevated, meaning we need to keep an eye on that so she doesn't get an infection or worse.

So, one of the things the vet said to do was to switch to the senior cat food.

Here comes the question: what kind of senior cat food should we get?

We want one that is affordable (we buy the Whole Foods cat food right now and that's less than $3 a bag, so I honestly don't know what an appropriate price is for cat food...), one that is okay for our other cat Maddie (age ~3) to eat, one that is more actual food than "animal byproducts" and chemicals.

I tried googling around, but found a lot of crap about the food recall and scare tactics about how you're killing your cat unless you hand prepare them people food.

So, what senior cat food do you recommend?

And for those of you who demand pictures in any thread that involves cats: the cats.
posted by monochromaticgirl to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I feed my cats Science Diet for seniors. My vet has never quibbled with my food choice, so I figure it's okay. A 20 lb is about $30 at PetCo.

Cute cats, btw!
posted by christinetheslp at 12:36 PM on January 2, 2008

Mine have Hill's Science Food. The cats I have now aren't seniors (but are fat and are on the low-cal one), but previous elderly cats have eaten the Hill's Senior and they were fine on it. Hill's is expensive but I think it's worth it.

Supermarket cat food such as Meow Mix is the equivalent of feeding your cat Doritos for every meal.
posted by essexjan at 12:43 PM on January 2, 2008

My cat is pushing 15. She eats the Purina marketed for "urinary tract health". She didn't like it at first but after she got used to it she stopped getting UTIs.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 12:45 PM on January 2, 2008

Innova Evo foods are well-regarded by my cats and my vets, have a high protein content and a pretty convincing ingredient list, and they do make both dry and wet for senior cats. I usually wait until the pet supply site I usually buy from has a decent couopn, which makes it pretty affordable.
posted by vers at 12:53 PM on January 2, 2008

Aw. Your cats are very cute!

I feed my three kitties (8, 12, and ~14) Nutro Natural Choice for Seniors. They like it and all seem to be thriving on it. I think the 20 lb. bag costs about $40 CDN.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:57 PM on January 2, 2008

My 15-year-old cranky grande dame is happy and healthy with her Iams Active Maturity.
posted by desuetude at 1:03 PM on January 2, 2008

Yeah. Science Diet and Iams are both pretty good brands to start with. My cat currently gets Iams original recipe. (Even though he's 16, he hasn't had any health problems at all. The vet has never recommended a senior food for him.) He used to eat Science Diet when I still lived with my Mom.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:32 PM on January 2, 2008

I have Pedro, the geriatric wonder cat, who is around 18 years old. He and his adopted brother, Domino (9 years old) will eat nearly any dry food, but in their old age, I realized it was time to take it up a notch.

I now purchase Iams Active Adults - $12 at Wegmans; $16 at SuperPetz - and they both love it. Pedro, who had the old cat skinnies, even put some minor but noticeable weight.
posted by bozichsl at 1:37 PM on January 2, 2008

Or Iams Active Maturity.

My bad.
posted by bozichsl at 1:38 PM on January 2, 2008

Also take a look at wellness. These guys take their cat food seriously, and have stuff that beats out Hill's Science Diet and Iam's (Iam's was recently reorganized by Proctor and gamble, who is trying to capitalize off their quality name, without using much quality).

Wellness has more general stuff than old age, such as urinary care, etc. I have found it works well with many cats, and the store near me has trouble keep their stuff in stock.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:56 PM on January 2, 2008

Timber Wolf Serengeti (chicken)

Solid Gold Indigo Moon (chicken)

Innova EVO (chicken/turkey)

First Mate (fish)

Orijen (chicken/turkey/fish)

What all these have in common is they are grain free, low-filler. Carbs come in the form of fruits and vegetables. The First Mate in particular has blueberries, a very good antioxidant and useful for older cats or ones with recurring infections that tax the immune system. 10 is barely senior for a cat, by the way. I would be more focussed on good quality and don't feel like it has to be marketed towards "senior" cats. Sometimes the difference between senior food and adult food is even more filler from grain, the EXACT last thing a cat needs.

I'm sure biscotti will be along shortly with some excellent recommendations :)
posted by vito90 at 4:09 PM on January 2, 2008 [2 favorites]

Grain-free and low carb is what you want. vito90's suggestions are great. There is also a line of Wellness low-carb/grain-free called "Core". Iams and Science Diet have crappy ingredients (by-products) and a ton of grain (mostly corn), which cats (especially older cats) do not need (cats are obligate carnivores), you'll feed less of a better-quality food, so cost per bag shouldn't be your deciding factor.
posted by biscotti at 5:01 PM on January 2, 2008

Hills Feline CD. Our 16 year old stripe, Whittie, (sitting on the arm of the chair as I type), does well with this. It's a prescription diet, i can only get it at the Vets. It was recommended for him due to kidney problems.

All the cats eat it, all of them seem to do well with it. Good luck, and take good care of the family members with triangle ears!
posted by HuronBob at 7:16 PM on January 2, 2008

We've been feeding our cats Solid Gold Katz-n-Flocken. It isn't remarkably expensive (about $4 a pound locally) and is for cats of all ages. Holistic cat food. No chemical preservatives, wheat corn or soy, company has been in business since 1974. Both of our cats love it. They sell a few other varieties as well. If there's a distributor near you check them out, they may have samples you can try for your cats.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:40 PM on January 2, 2008

in general, when reading a food's ingredient list, you want the first thing to be chicken, or fish, or whatever 'flavor' the food is advertised as. NOT meal or by-product.
I just switched my senior kitties to Iams in an orange bag, they love it and are both peppier than when I was feeding them (sorry) cat chow and purina One mixed together.
I don't know if 'senior formula' does anything but have more fiber in it, and maybe it's softer? They do tend to lose some teeth when they age. I try to focus on the protein content and keep them stocked on fresh water, hope for the best.
posted by photos_books_food at 8:12 PM on January 2, 2008

Cute kitties! We had our 18 year old empress on Wellness and prescription diabetes food (good for all kitties because it was low in grains and fillers). Sadly she left us in October after almost six years with diabetes.
We feed ours very VERY sparingly on the dry food because of the connection to increased obesity and diabetes rates.
We've had some good luck with Natural Balance for oldsters (we have a range now of 9, 6,3 and almost 1) but tend toward the wellness because it is impossible to keep them out of each others food.
We've found science diet to give them extreme flatulence and stinky pewps. And more barfing, so just say no to science diet (we have an aby with a delicate constitution, he's our canary in terms of cat food testing).
Good luck.
posted by pywacket at 8:18 PM on January 2, 2008

in general, when reading a food's ingredient list, you want the first thing to be chicken, or fish, or whatever 'flavor' the food is advertised as. NOT meal or by-product.

Specifically identified meat meals ("herring meal", "chicken meal", etc.) are actually the best possible ingredient to see in a dry food. I think in your above statement you're mixing up generic meals ("fish meal", "poultry meal", "meat meal"), which are lower in quality and handling standards (and therefore less desirable to see high on an ingredients list, if at all), with identified meals. Ingredients are listed by weight, whole meats ("chicken meat") include the water, whereas identified meat meals are dry weight, so you get more nutritional bang for your buck with an identified meal than with a whole meat. I would much rather see an identified meat meal as the first ingredient than anything else (since "chicken meal" is all chicken, whereas "whole chicken" is chicken plus a whole lot of water, so pound for pound, you're getting much more usable nutritional value from "chicken meal" than "whole chicken"), but I do not feed any generic meals whatsoever.

And incidentally, the reason by-products are bad is not because offal is bad, it's because the standards for content and handling are far lower for something identified as a by-product than for identified offal. I have no problem feeding my dogs "beef hearts" or "lamb lungs", because what can be called by those names is pretty much limited to beef hearts or lamb lungs, but I have a huge problem feeding "by products" since all kinds of ick can be included under that name, and there is minimal consistency in terms of things like protein content.
posted by biscotti at 8:42 PM on January 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Every animal health professional I've talked to anywhere (here in New Zealand) has recommended the Hills Science Diet senior food. I buy it for my 13 year old cat and she loves it. It seems expensive when you go buy a big bag but the amount a senior cat needs is very small and it ends up being very reasonable. Plus the pet shop is always having sales or rebates on Hills, and we belong to a cat food club that rewards regular purchases of the same sized bags. My cat is a total pig and even she's happy with her 3/8ths of a cup helping 2x per day (it's important to measure it this is good quality food, you don't want your older cat turning into a fatty). No problems with flatulence or smelly litter box and she passed her most recent senior blood tests with flying colours.

One thing to keep in mind, senior cat food is usually lighter in calories as senior cats are generally less active. So if you're giving it to a younger cat you may need to give them more. It will probably end up cheaper to buy two types and feed them separately so the younger cat uses up the food at the same rate as the older one (each bag of Hills costs the same whether it's adult, senior or kitten). You could also lower overall costs by keeping the younger one on the current cheaper food if it's working for her now. I do realise that splitting the food brings in logistical issues.

The main thing I'd suggest for whatever you choose, get it cleared with your vet. If your kitty is having kidney issues then there may be one type that is better than others. Only your vet can say for sure if it's a good choice based on your cats specific medical history and needs, they should be able to tell you if it's OK for the other cat too. A quick phone call will suffice.
posted by shelleycat at 12:14 AM on January 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

I feed my cats Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult formula, and I'll switch to Senior when they're older. The first ingredient in both is chicken meal. My cats are healthy and happy with shiny coats and bright eyes. An 8-pound bag costs about $15.99 in my area and lasts at least a month for two cats. I think it's well worth it.
posted by CiaoMela at 6:36 AM on January 3, 2008

So if you're giving [senior food] to a younger cat you may need to give them more...

This is really not a good idea. You'd be giving the young cat more of what she doesn't need (fillers). The young cat is more likely to develop allergies, urinary tract issues, more poop, lethargy, etc. It may be a bit of a pain, but your two cats have different dietary needs. Being able to feed all the animals in one house out of a communal bowl is convenient for you, but in this case not in the best interest of your cats (that is, if in fact you go with a "senior" food for the older cat).
posted by vito90 at 8:52 AM on January 3, 2008

Something that occurred to me today is that (here at least) a lot of the fancier cat foods, Hills included, have a money back guarantee in case your cat doesn't like the food for whatever reason. We've used it on prescription cat food in the past, including returning half eaten tins and partially used bags when the cat didn't like it or it disagreed with him, and they really did hold good on their money back promise. Cats can be fickle so changing to new cat food is a bit of a risk anyway, and more so when buying something reasonably expensive, so this is a good thing to look out for or ask about when switching foods.

I do agree that having the cats on separate foods is probably the best option and I run two containers of food myself (although I have a senior and a kitten so it's more clear cut). Generally I feed them separately then don't stress too much if there's a bit of swapping going on (they sneak from each other maybe once or twice a week), as long as they get the right thing most of the time. But I also know how hard it can be feeding multiple cats, particularly if you want to leave food out, so do the best you can.
posted by shelleycat at 6:54 PM on January 3, 2008

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