The 7 Best Cat Foods for Senior Cats

By Nadine Oraby | 2021 Update

As we age, many of our needs change. The changes that occur in our bodies need to be accommodated through nutrition and exercise. The same can be said for your feline. As cats age, their bodies go through various changes. As a result, the nutrition your senior cat receives plays a vital role in maintaining their health.

Senior cats also struggle with maintaining a healthy weight since they can pack on the pounds more easily. While some cats may lose the desire to eat and lose weight with age. When feeding your senior cat, there are certain things one needs to keep in mind. Your feline’s health is important and their food can contribute to their longevity and vitality.

Keeping your senior cat’s needs in mind, we have compiled a list of the best cat foods that provide premium nutrition.

The 7 Best Cat Foods for Senior Cats

Best ProductsRatingTop Ingredients
1. Nutro: Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe4.5Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein…
2. Natural Balance: Original Ultra Senior Chicken & Salmon Meal Dry Cat Food4.5Chicken, Chicken Meal, Lentils…
3. Blue Buffalo: Healthy Aging Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe4.6Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice…
4. ORIJEN Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food4.7Whole Mackerel, Whole Herring, Flounder…
5. Nulo: Freestyle Senior Alaska Pollock, Duck & Sweet Potato Recipe4.4Pollock, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal…
6. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Weight & Mature Care Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe4.3Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal…
7. Weruva: Mideast Feast with Grilled Tilapia in Gravy4.7Tuna, Water Sufficient For Processing, Tilapia…

1. Nutro: Wholesome Essentials Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Senior Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Whole Brown Rice, Chicken Fat 

This Nutro Wholesome Essentials recipe uses lean proteins from chicken for healthy muscle maintenance. Along with chicken, brown rice is a great source of carbohydrates and fiber for your senior cat. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants make this a complete meal and boost your pet’s immunity. Additionally, taurine is also included for the health of your feline’s eyes, brain, and heart.

The non-GMO ingredients in this recipe are all sourced from trusted local farmers and suppliers. Your feline will find this chicken-flavored kibble highly palatable and easy to digest due to its fiber-rich ingredients. This recipe also contains omega-rich fish oil which promotes the health of your feline’s coat and maintains healthy fat levels.

2. Natural Balance: Original Ultra Senior Chicken & Salmon Meal Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Lentils, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salmon Meal

Natural Balance’s recipes are designed for whole-body health and contain natural nutrient-rich ingredients. This recipe by Natural Balance contains ample protein from chicken and salmon, while lentils provide fiber. It contains lean proteins and fewer calories for senior cats that struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. Additionally, superfoods such as pumpkin, spinach, and cranberries add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to this recipe for immune support.

This recipe is simple and delicious and contains all the right nutrients for your senior feline such as taurine, omega fatty acids, and biotin.

3. Blue Buffalo: Healthy Aging Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Mature Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal

This recipe by Blue Buffalo provides your senior feline ample protein from chicken fish. It is also rich in fiber from brown rice and barley which encourage healthy digestion. The sweet potatoes, carrots, and blueberries add vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to this kibble for immune health. This kibble is particularly rich in Omega-3 and 6 Fatty Acids for brain and coat health due to fish meal, fish oil, and flaxseed.

This recipe is the perfect blend of wholesome natural ingredients, enriched further by the addition of LifeSource bits. It contains many essential nutrients such as taurine, L-carnitine, biotin, and probiotics which provide whole-body nutritional support to your senior cat.

4. ORIJEN: Six Fish Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Whole Mackerel, Whole Herring, Flounder, Acadian Redfish, Monkfish

If your senior cat struggles to maintain his appetite, this Orijen recipe could be a great option. Made with six different types of fish, this recipe is rich in protein and flavor. It is a biologically appropriate diet that your senior cat will thrive on. Orijen’s “Wholeprey approach” includes meat, meat organs, and bone for complete nutrition. This recipe also includes red lentils, pumpkins, and apples for a balanced meal rich in fiber and vitamins.

Additionally, the prebiotic fiber and probiotics in this recipe make this an easily digestible kibble. Your senior cat will love this highly palatable kibble that is coated with freeze-dried cod for an additional flavor boost.

5. Nulo: Freestyle Senior Alaska Pollock, Duck & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Pollock, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Yellow Peas, Green Lentils,

This Nulo recipe is a delicious protein-rich meal for your senior cat made with the flavors of pollock, chicken, turkey, and duck. The peas and lentils add natural fiber and carbohydrates to make it a balanced kibble. This recipe is made with all the right nutrients to help senior cats that are overweight such as L-carnitine and ample fiber. Additionally, vitamins C and E along with probiotics promote your senior feline’s digestive and immune health.

This grain-free recipe includes healthy fiber-rich vegetables rather than carb-heavy potatoes which can encourage weight gain. It is rich in omega fatty acids from fish and fish oil for the health of your feline’s eyes, brain, and coat.

6. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Weight & Mature Care Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, Peas

This recipe by Chicken Soup for The Soul is made with chicken and turkey to help your senior cat maintain lean muscles. Additional duck and salmon are also included for a flavor and nutrition boost. Brown rice, peas, and pearled barley in this kibble provide your feline carbohydrates and fiber for digestive support. This recipe is designed to promote immune health with the inclusion of superfoods such as blueberries, spinach, and apples which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

If your senior feline struggles with weight gain, this is a great option since it contains fewer calories but ample protein.

7. Weruva: Mideast Feast with Grilled Tilapia in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

Weruva Mideast Feast with Grilled Tilapia in Gravy Grain-Free Canned Cat Food, slide 1 of 5

Top Ingredients: Tuna, Water Sufficient For Processing, Tilapia, Potato Starch, Sunflower Seed Oil

This grain-free wet food by Weruva is made with tuna and tilapia for your senior cat. Tender chunks of tuna and tilapia are included in a delicious gravy which provides hydration to your pet. Additionally, it is supplemented with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a complete and balanced meal. This wet food is great for a senior cat that has dental or kidney issues since it is easy to chew and contains low levels of phosphorus.

This recipe includes taurine and omega fatty acids for the health of your feline’s eyes, brain, heart, and coat. It is made without any artificial additives and can be served as a complete meal or a delicious topper for dry food.

8. Instinct: Original Grain-Free Recipe with Real Duck Freeze-Dried Raw Coated Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Duck, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat, White Fish Meal

This recipe by Instinct is rich in protein from various sources such as duck, turkey, chicken, and whitefish. This is a thoughtfully balanced recipe made with only the best local ingredients to provide optimal nutrition. Peas provide carbohydrates and fiber, while apples and cranberries enrich this kibble with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune health. This recipe is rich in omega-rich fish for a healthy brain, eyes, and coat.

Instinct includes 60 million live probiotics per pound of kibble. These are responsible for encouraging digestion and also boost immune health.

9. Earthborn Holistic: Chicken Catcciatori Grain-Free Natural Adult Canned Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Chicken, Potatoes, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors

This Chicken Catcciatori recipe by Earthborn Holistic contains tender chunks of chicken in a delicious chicken-flavored gravy. It is inspired by a biologically appropriate diet and contains high levels of chicken protein for lean muscles. It is enriched with vitamins, minerals, and taurine to promote your senior feline’s overall health. The absence of grains, fillers, and artificial additives make this recipe as healthy as it is delicious. You can serve it as a complete meal or a topper for kibble.

10. Merrick: Purrfect Bistro Grain-Free Indoor Senior Recipe Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Potato, Peas

This delicious recipe by Merrick is made for your senior feline with lean chicken and turkey protein. Potatoes and peas provide carbohydrates and fiber to make this a complete meal. Additionally, your senior can benefit from the omega-rich fish oil which promotes brain, eye, and coat health. It contains ample fruits and vegetables like cranberries, alfala, and sweet potatoes which encourage your feline’s immune health. Made with simple and natural ingredients, this recipe also includes probiotics to promote healthy digestion.

11. Blue Buffalo: Wilderness Mature Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Tapioca Starch, Peas

Blue Buffalo’s Wilderness Mature recipe is made with lean chicken proteins to help your senior feline maintain healthy muscles. This recipe is abundant in omega fatty acids from fish meal, fish oil, and flaxseed for the nervous, optic, and skin health of your feline. It also includes Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource bits, a carefully chosen blend of nutrients proven to promote your feline’s overall health.

Your senior feline will love this delicious and easily digestible kibble. It is designed to support healthy digestion with ample fiber and probiotics, while balanced calories from proteins and healthy fats help maintain a healthy weight.

12. American Journey: Turkey & Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Tapioca Starch, Dried Egg Product

This kibble by American Journey is a great option for overweight senior cats due to high protein levels and additional L-carnitine. Made with lean proteins such as turkey and chicken, this kibble aids the maintenance of lean muscles. It also includes many wholesome fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, spinach, and pumpkin that are rich in vitamins, minerals, an antioxidants for your feline’s immune health.

This high-quality dry food is grain-free and provides your feline energy without any wheat, corn, or soy. It is made with the finest local ingredients and has no meat by-products and artificial additives.

13. Crave: with Protein from Chicken & Salmon Indoor Adult Grain-Free Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Split Peas, Chicken Fat

This grain-free recipe by Crave is inspired by your feline’s natural diet so it is rich in protein from chicken. Quality real chicken is the first ingredient and this food contains no animal by-products or artificial additives. This is a simple recipe with few natural and biologically appropriate ingredients. There are additional vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants which make this a balanced meal and provide immune support.

This recipe is made with 40% protein and contains very few carbohydrates for a balanced diet. The ingredients are sourced from trusted sources around the world to ensure safety and quality. It is designed to help your senior feline maintain lean muscles, a strong immune system, and optimal energy levels.

14. Wellness: Complete Health Deboned Chicken Grain-Free Senior Dry Cat Food

Top Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Peas, Herring Meal, Potatoes

The first ingredient in this senior cat food by Wellness is real deboned chicken. It also contains additional protein from herring, while potatoes and peas provide fiber and digestible carbohydrates. The cranberries are a great addition for senior cats that suffer from urinary infections or kidney issues. This grain-free recipe is fortified with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to promote your cat’s immune health.

This recipe includes ample fiber and L-carnitine for senior cats who have slower metabolisms. Additionally, the glucosamine, taurine, chondroitin, probiotics, and omega fatty acids present in this kibble provide whole-body nutritional support to your feline.

Buyer’s Guide

When it comes to buying food for your senior cat, there are many needs you should consider. While the idea of nutrition based on life stage for cats is a recent concept, it is one that has gained popularity very quickly. You will find many options on the market that are specifically for senior cats. However, this does not mean that every formula is the best for your senior cat.

You need to consider your cat’s specific nutritional needs when shopping for cat food.

Nutritional Needs for Senior Cats

Senior cats have certain specific nutritional needs that differ from kittens and adult cats. Older cats are prone to certain illnesses, while certain factors such as teeth that weaken with age can also play a part.

As cats start to approach middle age up till they turn 11 years old, their energy needs fluctuate. Senior cats also differ from younger cats because of the nutrients their body can effectively synthesize to stay healthy. A quality cat food for a senior cat should be rich in protein and fiber, while low in carbohydrates from healthy sources.

Other key issues for senior cats include:

1. Difficulties in Digestion

Senior cats can experience trouble digesting protein and fat, which are necessary for a healthy body. The key is the amount of nutrition your cat can absorb from their food to maintain good health. Senior cats need highly digestible protein and fat sources for optimal nutrition. This means the protein and fat in your senior cat’s food should be from quality animal sources rather than plant-based.

2. Lack of Vitamins

The levels of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes in your cat’s body can decrease with age. Not only do they absorb less nutrients, but they can also lose them through the kidneys and urinary tract. Older cats can also experience dental issues, such as tooth loss or oral diseases. As a result, they can eat less, leading to malnourishment.

Your senior cat’s food should include the necessary vitamins and minerals to provide nutritional support. The best vitamins for a senior cat are vitamins A, C, and E which can protect your cat against some aspects of the aging process.

3. Age-Related Illnesses

As is the case with all animals, cats become susceptible to a variety of illnesses. Your senior cat’s food should include certain nutrients that can reduce the risk of them contracting these illnesses. They will also help your cat manage the symptoms better by preventing the illness from becoming more severe. The illnesses that most felines suffer from in their senior years are:

  • Diabetes
  • Anal Gland Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Urinary Infections
  • Kidney Stones
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Dental issues (Gingivitis, Periodontitis, and Tooth Resorption)
  • Cancer

4. Increased Need for Hydration

While felines don’t enjoy drinking water regardless, senior cats are at an even higher risk for kidney problems since they tend to drink less water than they should. Since senior cats have low energy levels, they are less likely to actively seek out fresh water.

In order to prevent kidney disease in your cats, it is important that they get enough water plus controlled amounts of phosphorus in their food.

How to Choose Cat Food for Your Senior Cat

When choosing food for your senior cat, the best food will combine great flavor and optimal nutrition. While taste is important, specific nutrition is also necessary to keep your aging feline healthy. When buying food for your senior cat, take the following into consideration:

1. Lifestage

While it is generally considered that cats are seniors around 11 years of age, it can vary between different breeds. It is possible that your cat may still be at the middle age at 11 years old. At what age is your cat considered a senior? While 11 years old is the general consensus, it is not a hard and fast rule.

2. Protein Levels

Protein is the most important nutrient your cat needs. It is responsible for many vital roles such as lean muscle maintenance, tissue repair, and metabolism. As cats age, their ability to derive nutrition from their food declines. Quality highly digestible protein can make a big difference for a senior cat. Maintaining healthy muscles becomes increasingly difficult as felines age.

It has been estimated that around 50% of senior cats are underweight. When it comes to protein levels, there are two main factors that must be considered:

  • Digestibility— where does the protein in your cat’s food come from? Cats are obligate carnivores and need a protein-rich diet. Protein that comes from plant-based sources does not meet your cat’s nutritional requirements. Foods that contain a great deal of digestible animal protein are the best for your senior cat.

  • High Levels— what is the level of protein in your cat’s food? Mark E. Peterson, DVM shares the results of a study about the effect of protein levels on lean muscle maintenance in a piece titled Don’t Let Your Senior Cat Become a Skinny Old Kitty. In one of the studies cited by Dr. Peterson, cats were fed three isocaloric diets with protein levels of 22%, 28% or 36% on a dry matter basis. The results indicated that only cats fed a diet with 36% protein were able to maintain lean muscle mass with age, while the cats fed 22% and 28% lost lean muscle mass.

3. Increased Fiber and Probiotics

Fiber and probiotics are important to maintain gut health, which plays an important role for your feline’s immunity. Senior cats struggle with digestion so healthy amounts of probiotics are necessary to ease digestion. Fiber comes from healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables, while probiotics are supplemented.

4. Low Carbohydrates

Cats do not have any nutritional need for carbohydrates in their diet. However, they can easily digest 5-10% carbohydrates from quality natural sources. Your senior cat’s food should not contain an excess of carbohydrate sources such as potatoes and peas because these can encourage weight gain.

5. Natural Ingredients

It goes without saying that natural ingredients are the best for your feline regardless of age. Non-GMO fruits and vegetables, hormone-free meat, and ample fresh water are key to maintaining good health for your senior cat.

Additionally, you must also ensure there are no artificial additives in their food. Artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives have no nutritional value and can be harmful for your feline in the long run.

6. Palatability

Cats lose interest in eating as they age, so their food needs to be highly palatable and enticing. Moist foods with strong aromas are the most appealing to a senior cat. Dental problems can make it difficult for your cat to eat their food so you should opt for soft foods.

7. Essential Nutrients

Since senior cats are prone to a variety of illnesses, they need essential nutrients in their diet for prevention and management of these illnesses. Your senior cat’s food should include the following to maintain good health:

  • Vitamin E
  • Omega 3 & 6 Fatty Acids
  • Vitamin C
  • Taurine
  • Vitamin D
  • L-Carnitine
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B12
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

How Much Should You Feed A Senior Cat?

Just as your cat’s nutritional needs change with age, so does the amount of food they need. If you are unsure about how much to feed your senior cat, you should consult your veterinarian.

Sudden changes in a cat’s diet can be harmful and cause problems such as Hepatic Lipidosis. In general, the key to determining how much to feed your cat depends on their weight and activity level.

Indoor senior cats generally have a sedentary and inactive lifestyle. As a result, the amount of calories they need decreases with age. It is also important to manage portions as senior cats are especially prone to obesity. You should avoid giving them treats and feeding calorie-dense meals.

Outdoor senior cats tend to be more active and will need more calories than indoor cats. An outdoor cats needs a formula specifically designed for outdoor cats to meet their nutritional needs.

How much you feed on your cat also depends on whether your senior cat can maintain a healthy weight easily. Many senior cats struggle with maintaining a healthy weight and might either be over or underweight. If your cat is overweight, you should opt for a low-calorie food. If your senior cat is underweight, you should feed them a high-calorie food to encourage weight gain.

Feeding your cat the right amount of food is not only necessary, but can impact how long they live. The right diet plays an essential role in keeping your feline’s health at her best through every stage of life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are senior cats picky eaters?

Cats lose interest in eating as they age and can become picky about what they eat. Your senior cat might suddenly stop enjoying a food they’ve eaten for a long time. It is important that your senior cat’s food is palatable and appetizing, or you will have trouble getting them to eat.

Is grain-free cat food better for senior cats?

There is no reason to believe that grain-free food is better for your senior cat, unless they have an allergy or sensitivity to grains in their diet. Most cats can digest grains easily, as long as they’re whole healthy grains instead of wheat and corn. Grains are also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Does my senior cat need a limited ingredient diet?

If your senior cat struggles with digestion or has an allergy to certain ingredients, you can consider feeding them a limited ingredient diet. However, a perfectly healthy feline does not need a diet with limited ingredients.

How can I prevent my senior cat from becoming overweight?

In order to prevent your senior cat from gaining too much weight, you should watch their calories early on. Avoid a high level of fats and carbohydrates in their diet as these can provide excess calories that encourage weight gain.

Why won’t my senior cat eat her food?

Cats generally lose interest in their food when they get older but there are many reasons a cat could stop eating entirely. This could be due to dental issues, pancreatitis, and liver inflammation. If your senior cat is not eating, you should immediately consult your vet.

How do I get my senior cat to eat her food?

If your senior cat is not enjoying her food, it might be time to switch to a new food. Foods with palatable proteins such as bison, rabbit, and fish are more appetizing for cats due to their strong aromas. Even a sprinkle of bonito flakes or some bone broth could make your cat’s food more appetizing.

How can I ensure my senior cat stays healthy?

A senior cat needs a healthful diet that is abundant in protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients. Additionally, it is also important that you ensure your senior cat gets exercise since an inactive lifestyle can lead to many health issues.

What can I do to prevent dental issues for my senior cat?

Senior cats are prone to developing dental issues so it is important that you brush your cat’s teeth regularly to prevent plaque build-up. Never use human toothpaste as it can be toxic for cats. Pet toothpastes that are non-foaming, flavored, and safe to swallow are the best for your feline.

How can I prevent kidney disease for my senior cat?

Once your cat is in his senior years, he is at high risk for developing kidney disease due to a lack of hydration. In order to prevent kidney disease for your cat, make sure he gets plenty of water. You should also ensure your cat’s food does not contain more than 0.5% of phosphorus since excessive dietary phosphorus can lead to kidney damage.

How can I prevent my senior cat from being underweight?

When your cat is near the end of his middle years, you should start feeding him a diet that is rich in animal-based protein (36%-40%). Felines that don’t have enough protein in their diet are at the highest risk for becoming underweight in their senior years.

Can I give treats to my senior cat?

Most commercially prepared treats are high in calories and can cause excessive weight gain for your senior cat. If you want to give your senior cat treats, look for healthy options that contain a limited amount of calories. Always count treats as part of your cat’s daily caloric intake.

How can I make sure my senior cat gets enough water?

You can effectively increase your cat’s water intake in the following ways:

  • Add some bone broth or warm water to their dry food. This makes the food more palatable, easy to chew, and increases hydration.
  • Switch your senior cat to a wet food.
  • Invest in a water fountain since most cats prefer fresh, running water.