When selecting the best food for older cats with arthritis here are some things to consider.
Cats between 7 and 10 years old are considered mature, cats between 11 and 14 years senior, and a cat more than 14 years old is considered to be geriatric, according to the American Animal Hospital Association. Many manufacturers now make cat food for these different age groups.
Anytime after the age of 7 a cat could be considered for a senior diet. However all dietary requirements should be based on your cat’s individual health status and whether they suffer from any chronic conditions, such as feline arthritis. If they do, you should also look for a cat food that supports those issues in addition to being formulated for older cats.
Your cat’s energy requirements
As your cat ages it is likely to spend more time sleeping and being generally less active. This will be even more likely if your furry family member suffers from uncomfortable conditions such as feline arthritis that can make physical activity difficult. As a cat’s energy requirements decrease they can become overweight if not fed correctly. However sometimes older cats go the other way, and can actually loose weight and condition. So it’s important to understand the caloric requirements of your cat and make sure you following the guidelines that come with most quality veterinary recommended or endorsed products.
Nutritionally complete cat food
You should also look for a cat food that claims to be “nutritionally complete”. These foods are made to meet AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) nutritive requirements and these vary for different stages of your cat’s life – ranging from “Growth” to “Adult”.
Foods that are sold as treats or snacks don’t usually meet these nutritional standards and would be considered as ‘supplemental foods’ only. You will often see these words on the label of these types of products indicating that they are not a complete food.
What’s in the food?
Check the ingredients list
Good quality cat foods should contain essential proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Cats need protein from animal sources in their diet as they can’t produce the vital amino acid taurine themselves. Meat should be among the first ingredients on the label by weight according to FDA standards.
Different countries have different manufacturing standards and labeling requirements for cat food. For example there is a difference between ‘meat’, ‘meat derivatives’ and ‘meat by-products’. It’s important to check the product ingredients carefully if you want the best quality product for your older cat.
Products may also state they contain certain ingredients boldly on the label, but it may represent a very small proportion of the actual contents of the product, in some cases only 5 % of the total. In the USA, ingredients should be listed on the label in descending order of inclusion in the product.
Joint support – what else to look for?
Quality cat food for older cats with arthritis should contain some if not all of the following ingredients that support joint and cartilage health.
- Higher levels of EPA and DHA (types of Omega-3) than those found in regular commercial cat foods
- Glucosamine to provide joint support
- Chondrotin sulfate a building block of joint function
- Antioxidants to promote good health
- L-carnitine to aid metabolism
Like us, our pets enjoy tasty food. As pets age, the taste of food can become more important, particularly if your pets appetite has decreased with age. Cats may find it hard to get the nutrients they need if they don’t eat the required amount of food. Wet foods can sometimes be more pungent than dry foods making them more appealing to fussy cats.
One thing to look out for is the level of salt in the food, which manufacturers sometimes add to make the food more palatable. This is less of an issue for healthy cats but should be considered if you have a senior cat with chronic conditions such as feline arthritis, kidney issues or your cat doesn’t drink enough water.
Sustainability issues are an important decision making factor for some people when purchasing any consumer products including their pets food. When foods contain ingredients such as fish oil products, especially those harvested from the wild, it’s good to check where these are sourced from to not only promote sustainability, but they can also impact quality and contamination levels.
Many pet manufacturers make their pet food products in human grade production facilities. Buying cat food manufactured in countries that adhere to Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) can help to ensure that the resulting food product is of a suitable quality to deliver the benefits needed by aging arthritic pets.
Special dietary foods for your cat will not be the cheapest cat food on the market but you should still look for value for money by comparing package sizes and feeding guidelines. A cheaper product may not be the cheapest option if you need to feed your cat twice as much for the same benefit. Try comparing products by weight, for example the cost per 100 grams.
Also check how much water the product contains, as this will affect the weight of the product without necessarily improving its nutritional value. Water content is not always bad in a product, especially if your cat doesn’t drink much. This can be a helpful way of getting more moisture in your cats diet.
Want to know which food is best?
Check out our Review of the Best Cat Food for Older Cats with Arthritis here.