The Dish on Senior Diets

Depending on their exact age and medical condition, older cats have varying dietary needs.

By Rebecca Sweat

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As obligate carnivores, cats of all ages need a high percentage of animal-based proteins and fats and a low amount of carbohydrates in their diet. However, a cat's nutritional needs change somewhat as they grow older.

"Middle-aged cats [between 7 and 11 years of age] tend to be less active and have a lower energy requirement than younger cats," explains Dottie Laflamme, DVM, Ph.D., a board-certified veterinary nutritionist in Floyd, Va. "But once a cat reaches 11 or 12 years of age, the calorie requirements actually start to increase." Cats this age — classified as seniors — tend to be underweight, whereas middle-aged cats lean toward being overweight or obese, she says.

The reason senior felines have a hard time keeping weight on is because "their digestive tracts are less efficient at absorbing fats and proteins," Laflamme says. "Consequently, they need to eat more quantities of food or eat a more digestible, higher fat, higher calorie diet just to maintain their weight." A lot of times they don't eat nearly enough. Cats this age typically have a decreased ability to smell and taste, which probably makes the food less appealing.

**Get the September 2010 issue of CAT FANCY to read the full article.**

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