Arthritis Cat Food

What to feed your older cat with Arthritis

Cat Food for Older Cats with Arthritis

Cat food for older catsSpecial cat food for older cats with arthritis is a relatively new idea and one that we should be thankful for. Only in the early 20th century did commercial cat food come into being – dog food being ‘invented’ many years prior. Cats, only being semi-domesticated, were previously indoor-outdoor or outdoor only pets. They survived by eating mice, rats, birds and were fed meat or dairy scraps from human tables.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that they must eat meat to survive and thrive. Modern-day commercial cat food is produced with shelf life and convenience in mind, but still contain primarily meat-based protein. Unique ingredients that are necessary for cats, like the amino acid taurine, are added. Cat food is also produced and sold based on your cat’s “life stage.” Kittens have different dietary requirements than adults and labels reflect such.

Currently in the US, “senior” diets meet all the regulatory requirements for “adult maintenance” diets and then the manufacturer may add in something different or tweak the formula a little. Many cat food companies add ingredients that can help your aging cat.

Many senior cats suffer from disease, from kidney insufficiency to diabetes to arthritis. Some cats can have multiple medical problems all at once. Some companies, like Hill’s Science Diet, have over-the-counter formulas to help support senior cats with urinary issues or specific cat food for arthritis.

But What about Cat Food for Arthritis?

Cats with mild to moderate arthritis can sometimes benefit from over-the-counter (OTC), non-prescription diets from reputable pet food companies. Most of these foods are in dry (kibble) and canned (wet) formulations. Active ingredients that may help promote joint health include glucosaminoglycans (GAGs) like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Many cat foods are fish-based, so omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish oil is an easy, tasty and healthy addition.

For more information check out our Arthritis Cat Food Buying Guide here.

Prescription Diet for feline arthritisPrescription cat food for arthritis is also available from companies like Royal Canin and Hills’ Science Diet. Hill’s Science Diet Prescription Diet® Feline j/dTM “contains higher levels of EPA and DHA (types of Omega-3), glucosamine, chondrotin sulfate, antioxidants, and L-carnitine” than other brands

Pet food companies such as Hill’s Science Diet have invested in studying how their formula affects cats on the molecular level. Their aim is to include high levels of ingredients found in joint supplements to improve mobility and pain level. Often, prescription diets are fed along with other nutritional supplements and medications.

A prescription cat food for arthritis can be a good alternative for cats that are difficult to give supplements or medication. Many OTC joint supplements are in pill or chew forms and they can be a pill to give to a cat! Prescription cat food for older cats with arthritis has everything in there and can make things easier.

Check out our review of the Best Food for Older Cats with Arthritis here.

Custom Cat Food for Older Cats with Arthritis

For thousands of years, certain foods have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat certain diseases. The idea behind Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) is to bring the body into balance – disease is seen as a result of imbalance. Special diets can be formulated by holistic, TCVM veterinarians to meet your cat’s individual needs. It is important to first get a TCVM diagnosis. Your TCVM vet may consult with a veterinary nutritionist to balance your cat’s specific recipe

As obligate carnivores, your cat’s diet will still need to be meat-based. Warming foods are often used to treat arthritis in TCVM, so your cat’s diet may include foods such as chicken, lamb, oats, white rice, sweet potato, ginger, pumpkin and tomato.

If you don’t have access to a TCVM practitioner, you can still feed your older cat a home-cooked diet. It is best to contact a veterinary nutritionist for a balanced recipe. The author prefers the University of California-Davis Nutrition Support Service.

Ingredients that contain high amounts of arthritis-fighting nutrients include:Foods for Cats with Arthritis

  • Salmon
  • Rolled Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Green-lipped mussel
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Blueberries
  • Spinach
  • Whole eggs

Foods that should not be included in cat food for older cats with arthritis include many of our favorite foods. Certain foods are toxic or can create digestive issues, such as avocado, chocolate, onions, garlic, citrus, coconut oil and raw/undercooked meat or eggs. If you aren’t sure what is safe to feed your cat, please check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control website first

Food for Thought

An arthritis diet is a wonderful tool to help manage your cat’s arthritis pain. It can be used in conjunction with joint supplements, different medications and methods recommended by your vet. Talk to your veterinarian if you are interested in a referral to a TCVM practitioner, a cat food for older cats (prescription diet) or a balanced home-cooked diet.

Helping cats with ArthritisWritten by Dr. Deborah Shores who is an American veterinarian, freelance writer and consultant. Deborah received her B.S. in Animal Science from Berry College in Rome, Georgia and D.V.M. from Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. When not writing or in the clinic, she enjoys swimming and cuddling with her cat, Piper.


  1. Gowan, R. Feline Osteoarthritis – Diagnosis and Management. International Society of Feline Medicine Proceedings. 2012. Veterinary Information Network.
  2. Silver, R. The “Natural” Diet: Navigating Pet Food Trends to a Healthy Diet. Wild West Veterinary Conference Proceedings. 2015. Veterinary Information Network.

For reviews of cat food for older cats click here.