We all hope that our felines will live long and whole lives. But when they reach a ripe old age, it isn’t uncommon for various problems to pop up.
Just like humans, older cats can experience changes in eyesight and declining brain health. They may also be less mobile, which can affect their weight.
Not all older cats need senior cat food. Sometimes, they’re fine with the adult food that they’ve been eating for years.
Of course, not all senior cat foods all the same. There aren’t any regulations regarding what can be sold as “senior” cat food and what can’t. Therefore, you must do your research and check ingredient lists.
Here, we reviewed 11 of the best senior cat foods on the market. These contain the extra nutrition that your older cat might need.
A Quick Comparison of Our Winners in 2022
The 11 Best Senior Cat Foods
1. Smalls Smooth Bird Fresh Cat Food — Best Overall
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken thigh, breast, liver, green beans, peas|
Our 1st choice for the best senior cat food comes from Smalls. If you aren’t familiar with them, Smalls is a subscription meal delivery service for cats. Their recipes are high in protein and made with ingredients that are USDA-certified and sustainably sourced. They offer freshly cooked meals, as well as raw meals, so your kitty can enjoy food as it would in the wild.
Out of their recipes, we find the best overall senior cat food to be their Human Grade Fresh: Smooth Bird Recipe. As a “smooth” recipe, the food is blended into a pate-like substance making it easier to eat for cats suffering from dental issues. The recipe is high in protein with 15% crude protein and low in phosphorus with only 328 milligrams (which is good if your pet has kidney problems). This smooth blend contains a wealth of ingredients, including chicken thighs, chicken breast, chicken liver, chicken hearts, peas, kale, and green beans. It also contains needed minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin Bs, vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium, taurine, and more.
These high-quality ingredients and added nutrients make this the best overall senior cat food that you can purchase.
2. Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Senior Dry Cat Food — Best Value
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken by-product meal, rice, corn gluten meal, soybean meal|
Purina is known for making budget pet foods, and their Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Senior 7+ Dry Cat Food is no different. This formula is much less expensive than others out there, but it may be suitable for some senior cats.
The first ingredient is chicken, a high-quality option for any feline. However, the rest of the ingredient list is less than stellar. For instance, chicken by-product meal is the second ingredient. While by-products aren’t always harmful, there is no way of knowing what this ingredient contains. We do know that by-products tend to be less digestible than whole meats and are therefore lower quality.
Other ingredients include corn gluten meal and soybean meal, two ingredients that our felines don’t need.
This cat food does contain many quality vitamins and minerals, helping our cats stay healthy. It includes a rich fiber mixture that is designed to reduce hairballs. Not all senior cats have hairball problems, but many do, primarily because they may shed more than they once did.
Antioxidants are included as well. These prevent oxidative stress and may keep your cat healthier for longer. With these added ingredients, this is the best senior cat food for the money.
3. Nulo Freestyle Senior Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Pollock, chicken meal, turkey meal, yellow peas, green lentils|
Whether your feline is struggling with multiple health problems or budget isn’t an issue, the Nulo Freestyle Senior Alaska Pollock, Duck & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is one of the best cat foods out there.
It includes high-quality meat ingredients all throughout. Pollock is the first ingredient, followed by chicken meal and turkey meal. All this meat supports your cat’s health and leads to high protein content.
The use of pollock leads to high levels of omega fatty acids, fats that are important for brain and skin health.
It is fortified with natural fiber and L-carnitine for metabolism support. The fiber can help your feline feel fuller for longer, leading to less weight gain. Probiotics are included to support healthy digestion.
4. American Journey Indoor Pate Canned Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Natural Flavors, Ground Flaxseed|
Many senior cats benefit from wet cat food. Those with dental problems may have a hard time eating kibble, making canned cat food necessary. The added moisture can also help prevent urinary tract problems, which can be standard in felines.
American Journey Indoor Pate Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is easily one of the best wet cat foods for seniors out there. It isn’t costly either.
It includes chicken-based ingredients primarily. Chicken is the first ingredient, followed by chicken broth and chicken liver. These additives provide lean protein for your senior feline and all the amino acids that they need to stay healthy.
There are no grains, corn, wheat, soy, or poultry by-product meals in this formula. This company doesn’t use them in any of its recipes.
The balanced levels of protein and fat can help your feline maintain a healthy body weight. Flaxseed, fish oil, and cranberries are all included to improve the nutrition content of the food.
5. Wellness Complete Health Senior Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Deboned chicken, chicken meal, peas, herring meal, potatoes|
Wellness Complete Health Chicken & Deboned Chicken Grain-Free Senior Dry Cat Food features deboned chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients. Both of these keep the protein content relatively high at 39%.
This lean protein can help your senior feline stay full and strong, even if their appetite isn’t as strong as it once was.
Herring meal is also included relatively high on the ingredient list. It has omega fatty acids, which can be helpful for your cat’s coat and brain health. For senior cats with skin or coat issues, these added fatty acids can be helpful.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are included to support your feline’s joint health. Fiber and L-carnitine are added for metabolism support. Added vitamins and minerals can support your cat’s immune health and keep them healthy for years to come.
6. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Chicken Grain-Free Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Deboned chicken, chicken meal, pea protein, tapioca starch, peas|
Blue Buffalo makes high-quality foods. The Blue Buffalo Wilderness Mature Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food is a decent choice for most senior cats. We consider it to be one of the best dry foods that you can choose for older felines.
It is high in meat ingredients, including deboned chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients. These work together to add plenty of lean protein to the recipe.
This formula doesn’t contain any grains, gluten, or by-products. However, it does contain quite a bit of pea protein. Since it is veggie-based, this protein is lower quality and may not be absorbed as readily by cats. It adds to the food’s overall protein content, though, something to keep in mind when looking at it. Peas occur again further down the ingredient list.
This food is high in fiber to support a healthy appetite and reduce weight gain. Probiotics are also included to support healthy digestion. Like most senior foods, it has high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
7. Purina Beyond Simply Dry Cat Food — Best All-Natural Senior Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Salmon, pea starch, chicken meal, pea protein, canola meal|
The Purina Beyond Simply Indoor Wild-Caught Salmon, Egg & Sweet Potato Recipe Grain-Free Dry Cat Food may not be designed explicitly for senior cats. However, it does include many of the added nutrients that senior cats thrive on. It only has all-natural ingredients.
Salmon is the first ingredient. This meat is exceptionally high in omega fatty acids, improving the cat’s brain and coat health. Plenty of natural fiber is added to control hairballs, and this food is surprisingly high in antioxidants.
There is less fat included in this food than in other formulas. If your cat is sensitive to fat or overweight, you may consider this recipe as an option.
However, this formula does include a large amount of peas, including pea protein. Much of the protein content likely comes from these peas, so this food is lower quality than other formulas out there. There are also other less-than-stellar ingredients, like canola meal.
We would have preferred to see higher levels of meat, especially for the price.
8. Blue Buffalo Freedom Mature Grain-Free Canned Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken broth, chicken liver, carrots, sweet potatoes|
Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Mature Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Canned Cat Food is a wet cat food suitable for senior cats. It is high in moisture, perfect for those that have urinary tract problems or similar issues.
Chicken is the first ingredient and provides plenty of lean protein. Chicken broth and chicken liver come next, both providing a high level of nutrition and protein.
Some veggies are included, but these are typically high-quality options, like carrots and sweet potatoes. Flaxseed is included for extra fatty acids to support your feline’s coat and brain health.
This food does not contain any grain, gluten, by-product meal, corn, wheat, soy, or artificial flavors. Only whole and high-quality ingredients are used.
9. Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf in Sauce Canned Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Water, pork by-products, chicken liver, brewers rice flour, chicken|
Royal Canin is one of the more expensive brands on the market. It advertises its formulas as “premium,” but the ingredient list says otherwise.
For instance, the Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf in Sauce Canned Cat Food starts with water, a standard ingredient for a high-moisture wet food. However, the next ingredient is pork by-products, which are less digestible and nutritious than whole meat.
Chicken liver is included, a high-quality ingredient with plenty of nutrients and protein. However, it comes after the by-product meal and is one of the few decent ingredients on the list.
This formula includes many of the added nutrients that you’d expect, such as fatty acids, EPA, and DHA. These support your feline’s joints, coat, and brain.
The sauce is specifically designed to be extremely high-moisture, making it easier for older cats to eat.
The balance of protein and fat does help reduce the chance of obesity. However, there doesn’t seem to be high amounts of fiber or other appetite-controlling ingredients.
10. Fancy Feast Chicken Feast Senior 7+ Canned Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, fish, meat by-products, liver, chicken broth|
Fancy Feast is a common choice for those looking for budget-friendly cat foods. However, it is usually low quality, which is exactly why its prices are so low. Fancy Feast Chicken Feast Senior 7+ Canned Cat Food isn’t as bad as some of the other formulas, though. Most of the ingredients are of decent quality, except for one.
Meat by-products appear high on the list. We don’t know what this ingredient exactly is, since the name is vague. By-products could mean anything left over after the meat is processed, ranging from feathers to organ meats. The source of these by-products isn’t even named. It’s the equivalent of “mystery meat.”
However, the other ingredients are decent. Chicken is included as the first ingredient, followed by fish. We don’t exactly know what kind of fish it is, though.
Antioxidants are included to support your cat’s health and reduce free radical damage. Vitamin E helps keep their coat shiny and prevent shedding.
11. Iams ProActive Health Healthy Senior Dry Cat Food
|First Five Ingredients:||Chicken, chicken by-product meal, corn grits, ground whole corn, dried plain beet pulp|
Iams ProActive Health Healthy Senior Dry Cat Food is exceptionally inexpensive. It is one of the cheapest options on the market. However, the brand keeps its price low by cutting corners on ingredient quality.
Chicken is included as the first ingredient. This additive is a quality option for most cats because it provides lean protein. However, the ingredient list goes downhill from there.
Chicken by-product meal is included next. While there isn’t anything wrong with meat meals, by-products are less digestible than whole meats and should be avoided.
The protein content is high, but not all of this will be digestible. The chicken by-product meal adds a large amount of protein to the overall food, but your cat likely won’t use much of this.
L-carnitine is included to support a healthy metabolism. Phosphorous is also included — this may be either good or bad, depending on your cat’s kidney health.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Senior Cat Food
Purchasing any sort of pet food can seem complicated. You have to pay attention to ingredient lists, price, brand, and macronutrient content.
When you’re purchasing food for a senior cat, it gets even more complicated. You have to pay attention to all these other factors and your feline’s specific health needs.
For instance, if your cat is starting to gain weight in their old age, you may want to consider choosing a food that is high in fiber and low in fat. Cats with kidney problems usually need low phosphorous levels, while some with dental problems may not be able to eat dry foods.
In this section, we help you figure out whether your feline needs senior food and what the best food for them might be.
Does My Cat Need a Senior Cat Food?
There is no particular age when your cat needs senior food. Some cats may never need it.
Seniors don’t have any specific nutritional needs that adult cats don’t have. Therefore, adult cat foods often work for many seniors. If your cat is doing fine on their regular adult food, there is no reason to change it.
However, cats are prone to developing a few different health problems as they age. For instance, they may start gaining weight as their activity levels decline. Skin and coat problems are common. Kidney issues and declining brain health afflict many seniors.
Senior cat food is often designed to counteract these problems. Nutrition can be essential in prevention. For instance, omega fatty acids can help with joint issues. For cats with these problems, switching to a senior cat food may be helpful.
Around 11 years of age, the energy needs of many seniors decrease. Cats around this age have difficulty digesting fats and proteins, which means that they often need more in their diet. Most senior cat foods are high-protein for this reason.
Nutrition for Senior Cats
Much of what a cat needs doesn’t change as they grow older. They may need different amounts of calories, depending on whether they begin to gain or lose weight in their advanced age.
On top of this, some cats may develop health problems as they get older. Any nutritional differences will derive from these health complications. Many conditions that affect a cat at an advanced age can be somewhat controlled through diet.
Arthritis is a common problem in older cats. Like those of people, their joints have gone through a lifetime of wear and aren’t always entirely healthy. Arthritis is not a normal part of aging, though. It isn’t something that all older cats have to deal with. However, since they’ve had more time for things to go wrong, older cats seem more prone to this problem.
Omega fatty acids have been shown to improve mobility and joint health in older felines. Many senior cat foods include this ingredient for this purpose.
Obesity can make arthritis worse. Many senior cats may begin to gain weight as their overall nutrition activity decreases. It is essential to keep your cat healthy if you want to keep their joints healthy. If the joints have to carry around more weight, it makes sense that they’d wear down faster.
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After years of being used, a cat’s teeth may be deteriorating leg as they reach their senior years. Proper dental care when the cat is young can prevent this, of course. But once your cat is older, there is little that you can do to reverse the clock.
Professional cleanings are among the best ways to care for your cat’s teeth.
However, even with the best cleanings and proper care, some cats may still experience dental issues in their advanced age. You may need to switch them to wet cat food that is easier for them to eat.
Urinary Tract Problems
Urinary tract issues are common in cats of all ages, mainly because cats don’t have the same “thirst” sense that we do.
In the wild, they were designed to get much of their moisture needs from their prey. In captivity, cats that eat dry food hardly get any moisture. Therefore, many end up dehydrated, a contributing factor to most urinary tract issues.
In senior cats, their inability to feel thirst often gets worse. These cats are dispositioned to dehydration and all the problems that come with it.
Therefore, you may want to switch your feline to wet food, which can provide them with much of the moisture that they need. Of course, be sure to give your cat constant access to water as well.
Consider having multiple bowls of different sizes around the house, as cats can sometimes be picky about where their water comes from.
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A significant problem that many senior cats experience is a decrease in appetite.
If your cat stops eating, you should take them to the vet. Many cats are magnificent about hiding their illnesses. Therefore, you may not get many clues that they are sick. Many times, fatigue and appetite loss are your only signs.
However, many senior cats stop eating quite as much in their later years. On a good note, this does prevent them from becoming obese, a common problem with older felines. But it can also prevent your cat from getting what they need.
Switching to tastier food may be helpful. Many cats are more drawn to wet foods because they smell stronger than dry foods.
Many formulas are specifically designed to be tastier. Often, these include higher levels of fat, which may be precisely what your skinny cat needs. Adding nutritional gravies that are designed for cats may also be helpful. Many provide extra nutrition and calories on top of encouraging your feline to eat.
Not all senior cats need special cat food, but many do. If your cat is experiencing any of the common health problems that come with advanced age, you may want to switch them to food explicitly designed for their needs.
Senior cat foods do not come in a one-size-fits-all bag. Instead, you’ll need to consider your cat’s specific needs and choose an appropriate food.
We recommend Smalls Fresh Smooth Bird Recipe for most senior cats. This recipe covers many of the common health problems afflicting senior cats. It is made with high-quality ingredients and contains a variety of other nutrients.
If you’re looking for a budget option, give Purina ONE Indoor Advantage Senior 7+ Dry Cat Food a try. This senior cat food is much cheaper than most, while still providing many of the vitamins and minerals that your older cat needs. However, it does include lower-quality ingredients, which is one reason that it is so cheap.
In the end, the best food for your senior cat is one that fits their needs. Our reviews showcase 10 quality cat foods that may work for your feline. Hopefully, one of them will support your cat into their senior years.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock