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5 Best Cat Food for Older Cats with Bad Teeth

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As a Chewy and Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This does not impact our reviews and comparisons.

5 Best Cat Foods for Older Cats with Bad teeth

Wet cat food in a pate texture is the best choice for older cats with bad teeth. Older cats have a harder time digesting food. High protein wet foods are the best choice for senior cats to help with age-related muscle loss.

Here are our best 5 cat foods for older cats with bad teeth that meet those needs:

What is the best cat food for older cats with bad teeth?

Older cats tend to lose weight as they age (usually around 12 years of age). Dental disease only makes this harder on seniors to get what they need to stay strong.

If not given the right quality food, a senior cat will have a shorter lifespan and worse quality of life.

In this article, I’ll help you find the best food to help your older cat with bad teeth. I’ll also answer common questions on the topic and give you cat food buying tips.

I’ve tested most of the cat food products in this article to make sure they hold up as great options for your cat.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. This article is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

5 Best Cat Foods For Older Cats With Bad Teeth

Best Wet Food for Cats with Dental Problems

Range: Feline Natural Feast

Who it’s for: A great high protein and calorie choice in an easy to chew pate texture. Has joint friendly nutrients including chondroitin, glucosamine, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Who it’s not for: It’s a bit pricey and some of our cats turned their noses up at it. Use caution with fussy cats.

Learn More: Feline Natural Cat Food Review

Best for Older Cats with Kidney Disease

Range: Meat Mates Lamb Dinner

Who it’s for: Meat Mates is kidney friendly product with a high calcium to phosphate ratio. High in meats and organs in an easy to chew pate texture. Our 5 cats enjoyed Meat Mates.

Who it’s not for: Has crappy availability and is also pricey.

Learn More: Meat Mates Cat Food Review

Best for Overweight Seniors

Range: Instinct Original wet cat food

Who it’s for: One of the lowest calorie wet foods we’ve looked at in our database. High in animal based ingredients to help older cats get the protein they need.

Who it’s not for: Might not be the best choice for cats with kidney disease with a high protein content. Yet to test this choice with our cats.

Best for Picky Older Cats

Range: Wellness Core Tiny Tasters

Who it’s for: Our cats enjoyed Wellness Core, and this product will suit fussy eaters. Has a kidney friendly high calcium to phosphate ratio. Very affordable too.

Who it’s not for: Does contain gums which may not suit sensitive stomachs.

Learn More: Wellness Core Cat Food Review

Best Affordable Choice

Range: Nulo Freestyle wet cat food

Who it’s for: This has everything an older cat needs in a nice easy to chew pate. It’s low in carbs and has a high calcium to phosphate ratio. Great stuff!

Who it’s not for: Added plant based ingredients in the tin may trouble a fussy eater. This includes pumpkin, cranberries, and tomatoes.

Learn More: Nulo Cat Food Review

How Did I Choose These Products?

I have a database of over 50 popular cat foods (US based). For this article I filtered options for the following:

  • Suitable for all life stages based on AAFCO nutrition guidelines
  • Over 40% protein dry matter
  • Less than 12% carbohydrate dry matter
  • Pate texture
  • Calcium to phosphate ratio >1:1

I’ve based these stipulations on research recommendations for older cats. You’ll get a cat food to keep your older cat in top health whilst being easy on the teeth.

Here’s a comparison table of the best cat foods for senior cats with dental difficulties:

Best Cat Food for Older Cats with Bad TeethTextureProtein*CarbsCalcium to PhosphatePrice
Hound & Gatos Turkey & LiverPate45.5%0.0%2.3$$
Meat Mates Lamb DinnerPate41.7%2.1%2.4$$$
Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb FeastPate51.5%2.1%1.3$$$
Instinct Original Real RabbitPate59.1%3.2%N/A$$
Ziwi Peak Otago ValleyPate44.9%4.1%1.6$$$
Nulo Freestyle Duck & TunaPate51.4%5.8%1.5$
Sheba Perfect Portions Roasted TurkeyPate45.0%7.5%N/A$$
Avo Derm Tuna & CrabGravy55.6%11.1%1.2%$$
*dry matter basis

Buying Guide

In this buying guide, I’ll help you with everything you want to look for in your senior cat food.

A cat is a senior at the age of 12 years of old. This is about 60 in human years.

Senior cats tend to experience the following issues, among dental problems:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Weight loss
  • Arthritis

Let’s find the right foods for your older cat.

What’s Best for an Older Cat With Bad Teeth?

Wet canned pate or gravy based cat food. These types of cat foods are easier to chew and swallow.

Cat’s have sharply pointed incisors designed to grab onto prey for consumption. Instead of chewing, older cats use their tongue to push food into the back of their mouth.

In other words, older cats don’t tend to chew much.

A pate or gravy textured cat food doesn’t need a lot of chewing, giving older cats relief from pain.

What Ingredients Should I Look For?

Feed older cats a high protein and fat diet. This helps with age related muscle loss and keeps seniors strong.

Let’s take a closer look at ingredients to check for:

Protein

20% of senior cats over 12 years have impaired fat digestion and 30% have impaired protein digestion. This is one reason for age related muscle loss (sarcopenia).

Wet cat food with over 40% protein on a dry matter basis helps senior cats maintain strength and mobility.

How do I know if my wet cat food meets these guidelines?

You can use an online calculator to find the dry matter basis of cat food. You’ll need to use the guaranteed analysis and pop that into the calculator.

Here’s an example below using the guaranteed analysis for Meat Mates lamb wet cat food on their website:

  • Protein: 7.5%
  • Fat: 7.5%
  • Carbohydrate: 0.3%
  • Fiber: 0.7%
  • Ash: 2.0%
  • Moisture: 82.0%

Since the calculator doesn’t have ash and carbohydrate, combine the two and put it into ‘others’. They added up to 2.3%. The values in the guaranteed analysis must equal 100%.

Based on the dry matter calculation, Meat Mates has a 41.67% protein on a dry matter basis.

Dry matter calculator for cats
Use a dry matter calculator to find out if your cat food is best suited for an older cats needs.

Choose Foods High in Animal Protein

Animal protein is easier for senior cats to digest.

Grain based ingredients reduce the digestibility of protein. Cooked mashed corn also impairs fat and protein digestion.

Corn protein increases the risk of constipation and urinary tract disorders which isn’t good news given senior cats have a higher risk of constipation.

According to a case study report on a vegan cat with recurring urinary tract disorders, plant-based diets can alkalize the urine and increase the risk of painful struvite urolithiasis (kidney stones).

What to look for?

Check the front label.

There are laws about what words mean. Descriptors like ‘feast’ and ‘recipe’ mean that the named ingredients are between 25-94.9% of the content of the food.

Some cat foods list the percentage of named ingredients (e.g. Meat Mates Lamb Dinner has 98% meat based ingredients).

Having animal foods as a first ingredient (or first 3, 4, etc.) doesn’t always mean ‘high animal protein’.

Some brands divvy up ingredients to lower their ranking on the list (making them look more attractive).

Remember, cat’s are carnivores. Cat’s eat meats, not sweets.

Learn More:

Calories

Senior cats have impaired protein and fat digestion. Choosing a calorie dense wet food will help with weight loss. Fat helps increase calories.

Cats prefer food with ~25% fat on a dry matter basis. Senior cats have reduced sense of smell and taste. A moderate-high fat wet food helps improve taste and calorie density.

How do I know if my wet cat food meets these guidelines?

Use the following calculation:

  1. Find the moisture content of the wet cat food on the label
  2. Use the calculation (1-[moisture content]) to find dry matter content
  3. Use the calculation (1/[dry matter content]) to find dry weight
  4. Find the caloric density (kcal/kg * dry weight/1000)

Example:

  1. Feline Natural feast chicken and lamb has 80.6% moisture content.
  2. 1-80.6% = 19.4% dry matter content
  3. 1/19.4% = 5.15 dry weight
  4. Feline Natural contains 895 kcal/kg. Use the equation – 895 * 5.15/1000 = 4.6 kcal/g

Based on this calculation Feline Natural has a caloric density of 4.6 kcal/g. It’s a good choice for senior cats.

Fat

Fat is high in calories to help senior cats maintain weight. It’s helpful to choose a higher fat wet food if your senior cat with bad teeth is struggling to eat as much.

This macronutrient also helps with the following:

  • Improving the taste of food (for picky cats)
  • Fat soluble vitamin absorption
  • Providing essential fatty acids

Senior cats have reduced fat digestion, which is why it’s important to keep their fat intake high.

When given a choice, cats enjoy foods with a moderate amount of fat (25-40% on a dry matter basis). For fussy eaters, a moderate-fat diet helps encourage food intake.

Obese cats may need a lower fat choice to control calories.

Learn more:

Moisture

A high moisture food helps soften foods for easy chewing. As it is, senior cats don’t tend to drink enough water, which causes kidney stones.

Most wet canned foods are great choices to increase moisture.

Wet cat food is 70-85% moisture and is the best choice for hydration and chewing. Dry food only contains 10-15% moisture, creating a hard texture.

If using dry cat food, add water before serving to soften the food. This makes it easier to chew.

Wet canned foods are the best choice for easy chewing and kidney health. Add water to food to soften dry foods.
Wet canned foods are the best choice for easy chewing and kidney health. Add water to food to soften dry foods.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are needed for health and metabolism.

Micronutrients include:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

There are at least 25 recognized micronutrients needed in the diet for health. These nutrients provide a wide array of functions ranging from metabolism to structure.

An unbalanced diet may lead to deficiencies of micronutrients.

Senior cats benefit from a diet high in calcium to maintain strong teeth. Food with high calcium to phosphate ratios also benefit kidney health.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines nutrient recommendations for pets.

Whilst there’s no guidelines for senior cats, it’s good to look for a food that meets the needs of all life stages. Adult cat foods tend to have less nutrition quality, although it varies a lot.

Look for Cat Food with a High Calcium to Phosphate Ratio

Phosphate is a micronutrient that is essential for intracellular processes including DNA formation and energy metabolism.

Cat food with at least a 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphate helps reduces calcium deposits in the kidneys.

Older cats are at increased risk of kidney disease with ~31% of cats over 15 years affected. Starting your cat on a high calcium to phosphate wet food as early as possible is a great move.

A high phosphate diet does not increase the risk of kidney disease in older cats. However, this was only after an 18-month diet trial. This may mean you need to start changing diet earlier in adulthood to help with prevention.

In humans, a low phosphate and high phosphate diet increase the risk of mortality. It seems plausible that its the ratio of calcium to phosphate not phosphate itself is of most importance.

Often, websites will list information about calcium and phosphate (although sometimes you need to try email).

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Common Dental Problems in Older Cats?

Common dental problems in older cats include:

  • Plaque
  • Tartar
  • Gingivitis
  • Bacterial infection

As cats get older, their teeth start to accumulate plaque if not maintained with cleaning. Cats clean their teeth by chewing bones and/or grass.

Over time, plaque leads to tartar and gingivitis. Tartar is hard calcified deposits that build up and harbor bacteria. Some of the bacteria may enter the bloodstream from digestion, damaging internal organs.

Dental problems also cause pain when chewing food.

A cat chewing grass. Chewing grass may help clean teeth in cats.
Plaque, tartar, and gingivitis are common dental problems in older cats. Cat’s may chew grass or bones to try clean their teeth.

How Can I Check if My Senior Cat Has Dental Problems?

Look at your older cat’s mouth regularly by gently lifting up around the cheeks. The teeth should be clean and white without any bleeding around the gums.

Your cat shouldn’t have a foul stench to its breath. If your cats’ breath has a foul odor, it is a sign of bacteria buildup, which is a problem.

If you are having trouble checking your senior cat’s teeth, then ask for assistance from a vet.

Checking an older cats teeth for dental disease.
Check for bleeding around the gums and foul stench as signs of dental problems.

How Can I Keep My Older Cat’s Teeth Clean?

Many people don’t know this, but you can brush your cats teeth with products designed for cats. This is the best way to keep your cat’s teeth clean and healthy.

Diet can also help with teeth, but it’s unclear what works best. Dry food may help clear plaque with the mechanical action of chewing. Cat food should contain enough vitamin D and calcium to maintain teeth strength.

Let’s take a closer look at both approaches:

Diet

Wet canned animal-based foods are best for a cat’s teeth, but dry food may help remove plaque.

Some experts suggest that dry food helps reduce periodontitis because chewing acts to remove plaque. If your cat doesn’t have missing teeth or painful chewing, good quality dry food in small amounts helps maintain cleanliness.

Cat’s also need enough calcium to maintain strong teeth. A homemade diet may worsen dental health, but this may be from diets not supplemented with enough calcium.

Brushing

Older cats with tooth problems benefit from daily brushing.

You need to use a cat toothbrush and toothpaste.

This won’t work for all cats but is a great option if you are able to do it.

Learn more:

Brushing a cats teeth with a toothbrush.
Daily brushing with a cat toothbrush and toothpaste help keep your cats teeth clean.

Can I Use Dry Food for Older Cats With Bad Teeth?

Yes, you can feed a senior cat with bad teeth dry food. However, it’s best practice to soften the food with water before serving.

Moisten dry cat food with water to make it easier for an older cat to eat.
Moisten dry cat food with water to make it easier for an older cat to eat.

Conclusion

In this article, I’ve looked at the best cat food for older cats with bad teeth.

As cats age, they tend to lose muscle and strength. They are less able to digest protein and fat. Older cats have increased risk of kidney disease, diabetes, and dental decay.

Wet canned cat food in a pate or gravy texture is the best choice for older cats with bad teeth. This allows your older cat to swallow the food without needing to chew.

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily also helps to maintain clean teeth. Inspect your older cat’s mouth for teeth problems and report to a vet if you notice blood, swelling, or a foul stench.

Here’s our top pick for older cats: Feline Natural Chicken & Lamb Feast

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