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Practical information about the nutritional needs of cats and dogs at each life stage, including growth, maintenance, reproduction and aging.

Senior Cat

Feeding Senior Cats

Cats may enter their "senior" years at about 7 years of age; however, with a typically longer life expectancy compared to dogs, this life stage can be divided into 2 categories: "mature" from 7-12 years and "geriatric" when 12 years and older. These categories are defined by some common changes that can occur in activity levels, metabolism, and ability to digest key nutrients, including fat and protein, which can affect body weight, lean body mass, immune system, digestive system, and skin. Nutrition tailored to the unique needs of cats throughout their senior years can help them live longer, healthier lives.

feeding senior cats
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Senior cats begin losing lean body mass (e.g., muscle) from 7 years of age. By age 15, cats may lose an average 1/3 of their lean body mass.

Key Messages

  • Although all cats aged 7+ may be considered “seniors,” those over age 12 are very different from those 7-12 years of age: 
    • Mature cats often become overweight, especially up to about 10 years of age, which may be at least partly due to their reduced energy (calorie) needs. 
    • From 12 years, cats can start to lose weight, which may be caused by a reduced ability to digest fat and protein, and other metabolic changes. 
    • Aging cats slowly lose lean body mass (e.g., muscle). With advanced age, many lose weight and lean body mass, such that underweight conditions (sometimes referred to as the “skinny old cat syndrome”) are far more common than obesity in cats over 12 years of age. 
  • There are no established nutrient profiles for the senior cat life stage. However, several nutritional interventions have been shown to be beneficial:  
    • Cats aged 7-12 years: reduced levels of fat and calories and higher levels of fiber and protein to minimize weight gain.  
    • From 12 years: a highly digestible diet with higher levels of protein and fat to help maintain lean body mass and ideal body condition. A diet higher in protein, essential fatty acids, prebiotics and antioxidants (e.g., vitamins C and E) helps support an aging immune system and overall health. 
  • Aging cats should be fed to maintain ideal body condition (i.e., avoiding underweight or overweight) and preserve lean body mass for optimal health and longevity.  
    • Purina’s groundbreaking 9-year study showed that a proprietary blend of nutrients, with antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and a prebiotic, helped improve and extend the lives of healthy cats by an average of 1 year. The study showed that maintaining weight and lean body mass in non-obese cats helped senior cats live longer
      • The study also showed that cats eating the diet with the proprietary nutrient blend had higher serum vitamin E levels. Higher vitamin E levels were positively correlated with survival. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that can mitigate the increased oxidative stress that occurs with aging. 
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Cats 7-12 years old
"While every cat is an individual, cats from 7-12 years old are typically prone to becoming overweight. Our goal is to keep your cat in ideal body condition. Regularly monitor [cat's name] at home – it is easy – simply check the waist, the tummy tuck and feel the ribs. An appropriate diet for this stage may be lower in calories and fat and higher in fiber and protein to help keep your cat in ideal body condition."

Cats over 12 years old
"While every cat is an individual, cats over 12 years of age tend to be underweight. Our goal is to keep your cat in ideal body condition. Regularly monitor [cat's name] at home – it is easy – simply check the waist, the tummy tuck and feel the ribs. If we start to notice weight loss, changing to a more calorically dense, highly digestible food with higher levels of protein may help."

To Share With Pet Owner:

Protein and Senior Pets

Protein is a key nutrient for dogs and cats and a source of amino acids, the 'building blocks' used to build new proteins in the body. Irrespective of the pet’s age, protein plays many important roles in the body.

View Hot Topic 6 min to 10 min

Benefits of Healthy Weight

Although there are many benefits to maintaining a healthy weight in pets, many owners do not understand what a healthy weight is or the benefits for pets.

View Hot Topic 6 min to 10 min

Feline Body Condition System Sheet

A visual aid to the Purina Body Condition Score System for cats.​

View Tool 1 min to 5 min

Evaluating Your Cat’s Body Condition

Assess your cat's Body Condition in just 3 simple steps.​

View Video 1 min to 5 min

Choosing to Feed Wet or Dry Cat Foods

Feeding either wet or dry commercial cat foods, or a combination of both, will provide cats with a complete and balanced diet.

View Brief 1 min to 5 min

Additional Resources

Perez-Camargo, G. (2004). Cat nutrition: What is new in the old? Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian, 26(2A), 5–10.

Cupp, C. J., & Kerr, W. W. (2010, March 26–27). Effect of diet and body composition on life span in aging cats. Proceedings of the Companion Animal Nutrition Summit: Focus on gerontology. Clearwater Beach, FL, United States, 40–46.

Cupp, C. J., Kerr, W. W., Jean-Philippe, C., Patil, A. R., & Perez-Camargo, G. (2008). The role of nutritional interventions in the longevity and maintenance of long-term health in aging cats. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine, 6(2), 69–81.

Laflamme, D., & Gunn-Moore, D. (2014). Nutrition of aging cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 44(4), 761–774. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2014.03.001

Teng, K. T., McGreevy, P. D., Toribio, J.-A. L. M. L., Raubenheimer, D., Kendall, K., & Dhand, N. K. (2018). Strong associations of nine-point body condition scoring with survival and lifespan in cats. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, 20(12), 1110–1118. doi: 10.1177/1098612X17752198 ​