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Caring for an Older Cat

by Lauren Samet

Just like people, the needs of your cat change with age. Responding appropriately to these changes is crucial to ensure long-term health and quality-of-life for your pet. But what exactly should be paying attention to?

If you’re noticing signs that your cat might be slowing down here are some of the most important elements to consider…

Dietary Changes for Older Cats

Avoid Excess Weight Gain

As cats get older they tend to become less active and to sleep more. This means your cat’s energy requirements become less as they age. Unsurprisingly, consuming the same number of calories as a more active cat can lead to weight gain which, in turn, can be bad for their health.

To limit weight gain in your senior cat, consider reducing the amount that you feed them, switching to a lower calorie senior diet, or encouraging additional activity with gentle play.

If in doubt your vet or animal nutritionist will be able to help monitor your cat’s weight to ensure that it is appropriate for their age. 


Cats are known as “obligate carnivores” which means that they require a diet that is rich in meat. As well as protein, meat also provides essential nutrients such as taurine, arginine and arachidonic acid. 

Unfortunately, as cats age their digestive systems can become less efficient, so a highly digestible or bioavailable source of protein can be of benefit; hydrolysed protein is a great example, as it is much easier to digest, and features on the ingredients list of many senior cat foods. 

If you are concerned that your cat is not receiving enough of these nutrients in its diet then speak to your vet and consider whether a supplement such as Vitapaws Taurine for Cats would be beneficial.

Senior Cat Complete Diets

As well as being lower in calories, many senior cat foods include a range of beneficial nutrients for the more aged feline. L-Carnitine, for example, may assist fat metabolism and lean muscle mass, something which often declines with age. 
Many complete senior cat foods also contain joint supplements, omega 3 fatty acids or extra vitamins and minerals to help reduce inflammation, keep the coat and skin in top condition and generally assist the body with aging. 

Supplements for Senior Cats

A number of supplements can be considered for older cats, particularly if their joint health is being compromised. Supplements containing the fatty acids DHA and EPA are thought to be beneficial for mobility and arthritic individuals. 

Vitapaws Cod Liver Oil for Cats is a source of these fatty acids and has been carefully designed to contain a regulated amount of Vitamins A and D. If you are already feeding a diet high in vitamins A or D you should speak to a vet before supplementing to ensure total dietary levels remain optimal.

Alternatively, joint-specific supplements such as Vitapaws Joint Aid Plus for Cats or Maxi Joint Plus for Cats could be an option. These supplements contain glucosamine sulphate, a well-known nutrient to encourage joint health. They can be easily sprinkled onto your cat’s food rather than having to convince them to swallow tablets.

If your senior cat begins to lose digestive efficiency then a supplement such as Vitapaws Digest Aid for Cats can also be considered. This combines friendly gut bacteria with beneficial fibre and digestive enzymes to help support gut health and the good bacteria that are found there. 


Older cats may start to lose their appetite. If this is the case for your pet, and the vet cannot find a health reason as to why, then there are a few tricks you can use to encourage them to eat:


It is a good idea to monitor how much water your cat is drinking. Doing so allows you to easily identify sudden increases or decreases in fluid intake, which can indicate health problems in some older cats. For example, increased thirst and water intake can be a sign of feline diabetes. Note,  that older animals are also more vulnerable to dehydration if their appetite and thirst decrease. 

Any noticeable changes in drinking routines should be monitored and discussed with a vet. Feeding wet foods (you can now buy soup for cats!) can help increase their water intake if you are worried drinking has declined.

Veterinary Diets for Older Cats

Many different prescription or veterinary diets now exist but common ones include those for:

Feeding prescription or veterinary diets should come at the recommendation of your vet. In many cases, a change of diet will support pharmaceutical treatment or surgery to improve the condition.

Lifestyle Changes for Senior Cats

Tooth Care & Grooming

A higher level of care is important for many older cats. Old age can mean that your cat is less able to groom themselves efficiently or to reach the same areas that they once could. 
Grooming your cat regularly can help prevent matting and scurf build-up in the coat, as well as being a great bonding experience for you both. It is also a good chance to check for ticks and fleas or other parasites which may take advantage of older cats with weaker immune systems. 

If your aged cat has become more inactive it may need its nails trimming from time to time. Also, don’t forget to also check your cat’s teeth to ensure good dental health. Bad breath, drooling or loss of appetite could be a sign that there is a dental issue. Regular brushing and veterinary tooth care can help avoid this.


We’ve mentioned that as cats get older their digestive system can become less efficient. This doesn’t only impact the breakdown and absorption of food, but also the removal of ingested hair from the body too. If hairballs cannot be eliminated easily then vomiting and constipation can be the result; Brushing your cat regularly is the best solution to help prevent your cat from swallowing too much hair when it is grooming. 

Additionally, your vet may recommend a supplement to lubricate your cat’s intestinal passage, therefore allowing hair to pass while avoiding constipation. Treats are available which contain sources of fibre such as cellulose to help improve digestive transit.

Litter Trays

As your cat gets older their toilet habits can change, and you may find that they also spend less time outside during bad weather. For these reasons, your cat may start to rely more on their indoor litter tray. For older, less mobile cats it can, therefore, be helpful to provide an additional litter tray away from the other somewhere else in the house (for example, placing one upstairs or at the other end of your house). In this way, your cat should always have easy access to a tray.

Mind and Body

Remember that just because your cat is getting older it can still benefit from gentle play, feeding enrichment and/or food puzzles. Keeping a cat’s mind stimulated throughout its life can help prevent boredom and keep your cat happy and healthy. 

Regular Veterinary Checks 

As your cat gets older regular veterinary checks can help catch the first signs of disease or reduced condition. Remember to visit the vet if your cat shows any signs of the following:

•    Bad breath
•    Weight loss
•    Eating less
•    Drinking more than normal
•    Is less active than usual, appears stiff or struggles jumping up onto things
•    Lumps or bumps, especially if they seem to be growing quickly
•    Is having trouble passing urine or faeces, or is passing urine indoors
•    Has become dull, disorientated or is having trouble with balance
•    Is gagging or vomiting frequently
•    Has lost coat condition or is suffering from hair loss

Blue Cross (2018) Caring for the older cat [online]. Available at: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/caring-older-cat  (accessed May, 2018).
Blue Cross (2018) Pet Bereavement and Pet Loss [online]. Available at: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/caring-older-cat (accessed May, 2018).
Blue Cross (2018) Time to say goodbye to your cat [online]. Available at: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/time-say-goodbye-your-cat (accessed May, 2018).
Cats Protection (2015) Elderly Cats: Essential Guide 16 [online]. Available at: http://www.cats.org.uk/uploads/documents/cat-care-leaflets-2013/EG16_Elderly_cats.pdf (accessed May, 2018).
Laflamme, D. and Gunn-Moore, D. (2014) Nutrition of aging cats. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice 44(4), pp.761-774.
National Research Council (2006) Nutrient Requirements of Dogs & Cats. National Academic Press: Washington, DC.