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5 Best Dry Cat Food For Older Cats

Disclaimer

We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

BEST DRY CAT FOOD FOR OLDER CATS: TOP PICKS

BEST OVERALL

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food, 14-oz bag
ZIWI PEAK
Air Dried Lamb Cat Food (14 oz)
Best quality overall

Ziwi peak air-dried uses whole animal food sources that aren’t rendered. This is the best dry cat food to help senior cats maintain strength and mobility.

  • High in protein
  • Grain-free
  • Whole animal sources
  • Omega 3 fats for mobility
  • Pricey
  • Lack of flavor variety
NUTRITION ANALYSIS
  • Protein: 40.7%* (*dry matter)
  • Fat: 38.4%
  • Carbs: 4.7%
  • Fiber: 2.3%
  • Ash: 14%
  • Water: 14%

BEST DIABETES

Dr. Elsey's cleanprotein Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 2.0-lb bag
DR. ELSEY’S
Chicken Formula Grain-Free Dry Cat (2 lb)
Customer Favourite

Dr. Elsey’s clean protein range is an ultra low carb choice for easy digestion and top health. This food is carb-free to improve the health of diabetic cats.

  • High in protein
  • Zero carb
  • Whole animal sources
  • Low in oxalate for kidney health
  • Shape won’t suit some cats
  • Recent formula changes
NUTRITION ANALYSIS
  • Protein: 67.1%
  • Fat: 20.5%
  • Carbs: 0.0%
  • Fiber: 4.5%
  • Ash: 7.6%
  • Water: 12%

BEST PICKY CATS

ORIJEN Original Grain-Free Dry Cat Food, 4-lb bag
ORIJEN ORIGINAL
Grain-Free Dry Cat Food (4 lb)
Great For Picky Cats

Orijen Original is 90% premium animal protein for top taste and optimal health. The bag also contains ingredients to help with digestion and kidney health.

  • High in protein
  • Grain-free
  • Tasty choice
  • Made in the USA
  • Strong fish smell
  • Recent price changes
NUTRITION ANALYSIS
  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 22.2%
  • Carbs: 18.9%
  • Fiber: 3.3%
  • Ash: 11.1%
  • Water: 10%

BEST AFFORDABLE

NULO FREESTYLE
Senior Dry Cat Food Grain-Free (4 lb)
Best Budget Pick

Nulo freestyle is a great affordable choice with lots of quality animal protein foods in the bag. The calcium to phosphate ratio is high for kidney health as well.

  • High in protein
  • Grain-free
  • Tasty choice
  • Affordable
  • Low in water
  • A little high in carbs
NUTRITION ANALYSIS
  • Protein: 44.4%
  • Fat: 18.9%
  • Carbs: 21.7%
  • Fiber: 5.6%
  • Ash: 9.4%
  • Water: 10%

BEST MID RANGE

TIKI CAT
Born Carnivore Chicken & Herring (2.8 lb)
Healthy Weight Gain

Tiki Cat Born Carnivore is a delicious blend of chicken and fish. This food is high in protein and calories to help a senior cat gain weight and increase strength.

  • High in protein
  • Grain-free
  • Great flavor
  • Non-GMO
  • Strong smell
  • Added chickpeas
NUTRITION ANALYSIS
  • Protein: 43.0%
  • Fat: 19.0%
  • Carbs: 12.4%
  • Fiber: 3.5%
  • Ash: 8.8%
  • Water: 10%
  • Energy: 3,750 kcal/kg

INTRODUCTION

Not sure what dry food to feed your older cat?

Many senior cats struggle with weight loss, low mobility, and kidney disease.

Feeding quality dry cat food will help to manage these issues to help your senior cat live a healthier life.

In this article, I’ll help you find the best dry cat food for older cats.

Top 5 Best Dry Cat Food For Older Cats

My name is Derrick, and I write for Simply Cat Care.

My goal with this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.

The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

In this article, I’ll give you a buying guide to help find the best dry cat food for older cats and cover some frequently asked questions.

Let’s get into the article.

BUYING GUIDE

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

Senior cats tend to experience the following issues:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Weight loss
  • Arthritis

Let’s find the right foods to help manage these problems and help your senior cat.

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN DRY CAT FOOD?

PROTEIN

Senior cats need a high protein diet to maintain strength.

Older cats tend to experience sarcopenia, which is a loss of muscle mass associated with aging. The side-effects of sarcopenia include:

  • Reduced mobility
  • Inability to groom (can’t stay clean)
  • Low quality of life
  • Increased mortality risk

Look for dry cat food with a minimum of 40% protein on a dry matter basis.

Whole animal foods are the best source of protein for senior cats and the easiest to digest. Plant protein (e.g. corn gluten meal) may increase the risk of constipation and contain less essential amino acids for strength.

Bottom Line: Look for dry cat food with a minimum of 40% protein on a dry matter basis for strength.

CALORIES

Many older cats need a high-calorie diet for weight loss.

Older cats tend to lose weight as they age due to declining fat and protein digestion. This reduces their strength and ability to stay active. Experts recommend choosing food with 4-4.5 kcal/g dry matter for healthy weight gain.

Not all senior cats need a high-calorie diet. Obese cats need a calorie-controlled diet to help with weight loss. To find out whether your older cat needs to gain or lose weight, check their body condition score chart.

Check out this article to help learn how much to feed your cat.

Bottom Line: Many older cats struggle with weight loss with age. A high-calorie food (4-4.5 kcal/g dry matter) helps to maintain strength and mobility.

FAT

Fat is high in calories to help senior cats maintain weight.

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.

Bottom Line: A moderate-fat diet (25-40% on a dry matter basis) is best for senior cats to help with weight control and fussy eating.

OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS

Omega 3 fatty acids help maintain a senior cats joint and cognitive function.

Better joint mobility helps with grooming and helping your cat live a happier life.

Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids include:

  • Salmon
  • Green mussels
  • Herring

Other nutrients such as chondroitin and glucosamine may also help improve joint health as well.

Bottom Line: Omega 3 fatty acid food sources help maintain a senior cat’s joint and cognitive health.

MOISTURE

Senior cats struggle to drink enough water, which may cause kidney stones.

This is a problem with cats that eat only dry food. Wet cat food is contains 70-85% moisture and is the best choice for hydration. Dry food only contains 10-15% moisture.

Since there isn’t a ‘high moisture’ dry food it’s best combine a dry food diet with wet canned food.

Other alternatives include adding water to dry food before serving.

Bottom Line: Dry cat food is low in moisture. Add water to food to help with hydration.

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.

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

Many pet food manufacturers follow the AAFCO nutrient guidelines. “AAFCO approved for all life stages” is a label used to recognize nutritional adequacy.

Bottom Line: Look for the AAFCO nutritional sign of adequacy on the label of pet food. This indicates that your cat’s food is a balanced food source for health.

WHAT SHOULD I AVOID IN DRY CAT FOOD?

CARBOHYDRATES

Senior cats don’t need any carbohydrates in their diet.

Carbohydrate based foods include:

  • Brown rice
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit
  • Corn
  • Tapioca starch

Cats have low levels of carbohydrate digesting enzymes. They also lack taste receptors for sweetness. When given a choice, cats prefer a diet low in carbohydrates (~10% on a dry matter basis). A wild or feral cat will consume a diet of less than 2% carbohydrates.

Experts suggest a diet with less than 15% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis for a diabetic cat. Senior and obese cats are at higher risk of diabetes and prevention starts early.

Most dry cat food is high in carbohydrates (>30% on a dry matter basis) and not a good choice for senior cats.

Bottom Line: Give a senior cat a lower carbohydrate dry cat food (as close to 10% dry matter basis as possible) to help reduce the risk of diabetes.

PHOSPHATE

Too much phosphate may be bad for the kidneys.

Phosphate is a micronutrient that is vital for cellular processes (e.g. energy production).

In cat’s food with 0.10-0.14% phosphorus content may prevent kidney disease. For older cats without kidney disease, a high phosphate diet does not increase the risk of kidney disease, but this was only after an 18-month trial. In humans, a low phosphate and high phosphate diet increase the risk of mortality.

Balancing phosphate with calcium (1:1 ratio) helps reduce the absorption of phosphate. In young cats, a diet low in calcium (e.g. an all muscle meat diet) may lead to hyperparathyroidism. This causes:

  • Poor mobility
  • Weakened bones
  • Confusion
  • Death

Choose dry cat food that has a 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphate for kidney health. Check out my article on the best cat food for kidney disease to learn more.

Bottom Line: Choose a dry cat food with a 1:1 ratio of calcium to phosphate for kidney health.

FIBER

Senior cats don’t benefit from high-fiber diets.

Plant ingredients increase fiber content which lowers the digestibility of protein. Cooked mashed corn also lowers fat and protein digestion.

Since senior cats already have poorer digestion of protein and fat, fiber is not helpful.

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

Bottom Line: A high fiber diet reduces the digestibility of protein and fat. High-fiber diets aren’t the best choice for senior cats.

SHOULD I CHOOSE CAT FOOD LABELLED AS ‘SENIOR’?

Not necessarily…

Many cat foods have the word ‘senior’ on the label. This doesn’t mean much for older cats.

According to a veterinarian:

“There is no AAFCO designation for a ‘senior’ diet, nor is there a nutrient profile for a senior cat,” he says. “Therefore, ‘senior’ diets are essentially slightly modified adult foods.”

Joseph Bartges, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM, DACVN

Senior wet cat foods may contain lower levels of protein and fat with more fiber. This type of diet isn’t a good choice for senior cats, who need more protein to combat sarcopenia.

Oddly enough, kitten food is a better choice for senior cats. This is because kitten food is higher in protein and fat, with added calcium for growth. Senior cats benefit from the added calcium for kidney health.

Bottom Line: Food labeled as ‘senior’ cat food doesn’t offer better nutrition for senior cats. Most senior cat foods are worse choices.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

DO CATS EAT LESS AS THEY GET OLDER?

Older cats tend to eat less.

With age comes a reduced sense of smell and taste. Chronic health conditions that reduce mobility (e.g. arthritis) also reduce the desire to walk to the food bowl.

It’s important to optimize a senior cat’s environment to make eating easy and enjoyable. This includes:

  • More food bowls
  • Offering high-calorie foods to compensate for low food intake
  • Elevating bowls for easier access

Bottom Line: Older cats tend to eat less due to a reduced sense of smell and taste.

SHOULDER OLDER CATS EAT DRY FOOD?

Dry cat food is not compulsory.

Too much dry food limits your cat’s water intake, which increases the risk of kidney disease and constipation.

I recommend a diet of at least 80% wet food for senior cats. Dry food is great for convenience and variety.

Bottom Line: Dry cat food is not compulsory for senior cats.

HOW MANY CALORIES DOES A SENIOR CAT NEED?

Senior cats need a high-calorie and protein diet to maintain strength.

Experts recommend food with 4-4.5 kcal/g dry matter for healthy weight gain. Obese cats need a calorie-reduced diet.

Use this online calculator to find out how much food to feed your cat. Check out my guide on how much to feed your cat to learn more.

Bottom Line: Senior cats need 4-4.5 kcal/g on a dry matter basis to maintain strength.

DO SENIOR CATS NEED SPECIAL FOOD?

It depends.

Some senior cats may have other health conditions that require diet modification (e.g. kidney disease).

All senior cats need a high protein diet from easy-to-digest animal food sources to combat the effects of aging on muscle.

Bottom Line: Senior cats need a high protein diet from animal food sources to combat the effects of aging.

WHAT’S THE BEST DRY CAT FOOD FOR OLDER CATS WITH KIDNEY DISEASE?

Ziwi Peak air-dried cat food.

Senior cats with kidney disease benefit from a low phosphate diet. This helps slow the progression of kidney disease to improve lifespan.

Learn more about the best cat food for kidney disease in this article.

Bottom Line: Older cats with kidney disease need a low phosphate to help slow the progression of kidney disease.

CONCLUSION

In this article, I talked about the best dry cat food for older cats.

Older cats tend to lose weight and strength as they age. They also have an increased risk of kidney disease and mobility problems.

Feeding older cats a high-calorie and protein dry food will help with weight loss. Senior cats with kidney disease need a low phosphate diet to help slow the disease progression.

Discuss food choices with your vet for more help.

BEST DRY CAT FOOD FOR OLDER CATS: TOP PICK

Ziwi Peak Air Dried Lamb Cat Food (14 oz)

Ziwi Peak Air-Dried Lamb Recipe Cat Food, 14-oz bag

High protein from whole animal sources

Grain-free

No fillers

Omega 3 fats for mobility

Pricey

Lack of flavor variety

Disclaimer

We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for yourself. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. As a Chewy affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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