For Older Cats
cat may look youthful on the outside, but aging changes are occurring
on the inside," explains Dr. Dicke. If your cat is at or over the
age of 7, you should transition to a "maturity" food formulated
for senior cats.
Cat food for felines of any age should be 100 percent nutritionally complete,
with no fillers or artificial preservatives. Beyond that, Dr. Dicke says
these three food components gain added importance for senior kitties:
• Antioxidants Substances that neutralize the peroxidation process are
called antioxidants. Peroxidation is a normal function during which the body
destroys cells that outlive their usefulness, but it can also damage healthy
cells. Antioxidants like vitamin E come to the rescue by combating this damage.
They also improve immune responses, which decrease as a pet ages.
• Prebiotics Nondigestible food ingredients like soluble fibers, which
can stimulate the growth or activity of good gastrointestinal bacteria, are referred
to as prebiotics. They're especially important for aging felines.
"Older cats tend to have a higher number of undesirable bacteria and a lower
number of beneficial bacteria in their intestines, which can result in digestive
upset," says Dr. Dicke. "Prebiotics, such as fructooligosaccarhides
(FOS) can nutritionally promote the growth of desirable bacteria and help bring
the digestive tract back into balance."
• Protein All cats are protein-craving carnivores. Protein, the building
block of muscle tissue, merits extra attention for senior kitties, though. "A
diet for a healthy older pet should maintain a higher protein level to preserve
muscle and [to allow the cat to] continue to be physically active," says
Mammals experience reduced energy expenditures and lowered metabolic
rates as the years tick on. Exercise helps, so continue to play with
your mature cat but be sensitive to your pet's limitations and when rest
time is needed. In terms of food, diets reduced in fat levels with lower
caloric density than adult maintenance foods are beneficial to the majority
of older cats. In addition, high-quality manufactured foods often include
healthier fats, like fish oil, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. Studies
indicate that these acids support heart, brain, joint and digestive functions.
Some creatures, like sharks, can regenerate teeth if
they lose them. Unfortunately, cats can't perform this
natural tooth-replacement trick.
Once a tooth is lost, it's gone for good, and kitty dentures aren't yet
available. Another problem, according to Tiffany Margolin, DVM, is that
older cats can develop cavity-like "gum erosions," which can
practically dissolve the teeth. If you cannot brush your cat's teeth
on your own, take it to your veterinarian for annual professional cleanings.
Also, seek out dry cat foods formulated to reduce tartar buildup.