Best Cat Food For Older Cats: Reviews of the Top Wet and Dry Foods for Seniors

Your cat has had a long and happy life by your side. You’ve fed the best cat food you could find, and now it’s time for Kitty to enjoy her retirement!

But what should you be feeding your older cat?

Does she need a specific diet that changes drastically from the one she grew old on? Or can you keep feeding her what you always have?

Well, we’ve put together a list of some of the top foods for senior cats, and explain why each choice made our list.

Let’s jump into what senior cats need to eat, what the ideal feline diet is, and then we’ll go over our reviews.

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Senior-Specific Feline Nutritional Requirements

All cats should be eating a high quality, protein-rich cat food. That’s why our list of the best cat foods are all very high protein, very low carb, and have a reasonable amount of fat.

Therefore, our top picks should be just fine for all cats, assuming your older cat can stomach eating enough to get her fill of both calories and protein.

However, there is one important difference that you need to remember in feeding senior cats vs. feeding adult cats.

Senior cats have a higher protein requirement.

According to feline-nutrition.org, a fantastic resource on cat food:

…energy requirements sharply and progressively increase again in these cats when they become older, starting at 10 to 12 years of age.

The author also suggests that protein requirements, not just caloric requirement, increase during this time, because they are more likely to lose muscle mass with a limited-protein diet, which of course is not good for their health.

Therefore, as your cat reachers her geriatric years, it’s important to continually weigh her to be sure she’s not losing mass.

Consider increasing the calorie and protein intake of your senior cat by 1.1-1.6 times her normal adult amounts.

If your senior cat is starting to have a tough time keeping her food down, you might want to find the best cat food for sensitive stomachs.

How We Choose The Best Senior Cat Foods

While this list focuses mostly on those foods marketed to senior cats, what is actually important is the ingredient label and the macronutrient profile.

As long as you choose a food that allows your kitty to eat enough calories and protein, the food can be suitable, assuming it’s Complete and Balanced, as per AAFCO regulations.

The problem with some adult cat foods, though, is that they are fairly low calorie. A good senior cat food should have a slightly higher calorie per gram number, since some senior cats have difficulty eating as well as they previously did.

With a higher caloric density, an older cat can consume less food, while still ingesting enough energy to maintain a healthy body weight.

What Cats Actually Want To Eat

Studies on both indoor, commercially-fed cats, and feral and stray cats show that cats will self-select food sources that result in a macronutrient profile in this range (dry-matter basis used):

  • Protein: 52-63%
  • Fat: 22-36%
  • Carbohydrate: 2.8-12% (with “wild” cats on the very low end of this range)

What we believe this shows is that cats have evolved to thrive on a high protein, moderate fat, and low carb diet.

How We Rate Foods

Our database of cat foods contains over 2000 individual foods.

We collected all the relevant information on each product, including:

  • AAFCO Rating
  • Ingredient list
  • Macronutrient profiles (Guaranteed Analysis, Dry-Matter Basis, and Caloric Basis)
  • Price and price per pound
  • Calories per 100 grams
  • Whether meat is the first ingredient
  • How each food compares to the average of all foods on a macronutrient basis
  • Whether the recipe uses more than 4 controversial ingredients

Each of these data points works together to form a star rating on a 1-5 star scale (including half points).

  1. If the food’s first ingredient is meat, it gets 1 point.
  2. If the food does not use unnamed meat ingredients (“meat by-products”), it gets 1 point.
  3. If the food has an above average protein level on a dry-matter basis, compared to all other foods in the database, it gets 1 point. If it has an average amount, it gets .5 points.
  4. If the recipe contains fewer than 4 controversial ingredients (not necessarily bad ingredients), it gets 1 point. If it contains exactly 4 it gets .5 points.
  5. The final available point is a discretionary point that we award based on things like carbohydrate content, inclusion of probiotics and vitamins, and other points, and is our judgement call on a food’s quality and biological appropriateness for your cat.

We think that this system provides a fair, transparent system by which we can compare all foods on an equal footing, and give you the easiest possible time when choosing the best of the best.

Reviews of the Best Cat Food For Older Cats

The Healthiest Wet Cat Food For Senior Cats

#1. NomNomNow Fresh Wet Cat Food (EDITOR’S CHOICE, Best High-Protein Brand)

nomnomnow chicken

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 119

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 66.7%
Fat: 14.81%
Carbs: 8.15%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken thigh, chicken breast, chicken liver, carrot

NomNomNow is probably completely different to any food you’ve ever fed your cat.

That’s because it’s a fresh, hand-made food that gets delivered to your door in ready-made, single-meal packages.

All you need to do is order, put the pouches in the fridge, tear open a pouch at meal time, and watch your furry friend thrive.

Created by a highly regarded veterinary nutritionist, NomNomNow offers all the benefits of a homemade cat food, with NONE of the hassle.

With excellent cuts of real chicken meat, including the very important addition of an organ meat (liver, in this case), your older cat will get all the protein content she needs to stay healthy and maintain her ideal weight as she ages.

This is our top pick for pretty much every cat, simply because it’s very close to a natural diet that they’d eat in the wild.

It is very high in protein, has moderate fat, and is very low in carbohydrates.

The carbohydrates all come from fresh vegetables and fruit, and are added to mimic the stomach contents of your cat’s prey animal.

Not a pretty mental picture perhaps, but incredibly important, nonetheless.

Did you know felines in the wild typically eat the stomach and protein-, mineral-, and vitamin-rich organs in the gut first?

This food contains everything you want your cat to eat, and literally nothing you don’t.

It’s extremely well-rounded, made in kitchens the company owns (that means they don’t have to worry about issues with co-packing facilities), and is of course incredibly convenient.

Oh, and they’re offering our readers 20% off your first order.

Highly, highly recommended.

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#2. Nutro Soft Loaf Grain Free Senior Moist Cat Food

nutro soft loaf senior cat food

Catological Rating: 5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 116

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 54.5%
Fat: 22.7%
Carbs: 2.3%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Chicken Broth, Pork Broth

Nutro is such a good brand that we recommend it all over this site.

It’s one of the few brands with multiple perfect 5/5 star ratings in our huge database.

And happily, they didn’t skimp when it comes to their senior cat food.

There’s so much good about this food, it’s hard to know where to begin!

It includes chicken and the all-important organ meat, chicken liver.

Rather than water for processing, they use two types of broth. The broth, while not a game-changer, should provide just a few more bits of nutrition to your cat when compared with water, and it’s a small thing that helps us to believe that Nutro really does know what they’re doing.

After that, the ingredient list is pretty sparse…just as it should be!

Other than a little bit of guar gum to keep the food from completely falling apart, there are literally NO fillers. No grains, no non-grains…nothing.

Just vitamins, minerals, and fish oil, for important omega fatty acids.

This line comes in a chicken or cod recipe. Both flavors will obviously be tasty for your cat, but we recommend going with the chicken one, because we don’t recommend feeding a diet high in fish to any cat. There are just too many risks, and it’s not what cats naturally eat in the wild.

All that being said, this is one of the very best canned foods to feed older cats.

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#3. Nutro Minced Senior Wet Cat Food

nutro minced senior cat food

Catological Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 68

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 58.8%
Fat: 14.7%
Carbs: 2.9%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Cod, Chicken, Chicken Liver

Almost as good as the brand’s Soft Loaf, the Minced Senior Food is another winner from Nutro.

It comes in Chicken and Salmon as well as Cod and Tuna.

I know what you’re thinking…we literally just recommended not feeding your cat too much fish.

However…if you look at the ingredient list, you’ll find this is mostly a chicken recipe, with added cod and tuna.

With chicken broth, chicken meat, and chicken liver, your cat will get all the healthy amino acids and nutrients from chicken, but will also get the fatty acids and protein from cod and tuna.

It’s just that cod and tuna are not the only ingredients, therefore you can get away with feeding this without guilt.

Just like the Soft Loaf we suggest buying above, this has literally no fillers.

Just a bit of guar gum and xanthan gum as thickening agents.

The other reason this falls lower on our list is because it is not very calorie-dense.

If your senior kitty has a hard time eating much, you may want to pick a different food, since she’ll have to eat more to get to her daily requirements.

But if you’re looking for a clean, natural food, and she already has a taste for fish, this is a very good option.

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#4. Halo Senior Grain-Free Canned Cat Food

halo grain free cat food for older cats

Catological Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 117

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 40.9%
Fat: 31.8%
Carbs: 6.8%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Chickpea Flour

Halo has excellent wet cat food, and is one of our top choices for kitten food. Thankfully they put together a pretty good offering for senior kitties, too.

While we’ll admit that the addition of chickpea is unnecessary, and is usually only there to increase protein amounts at the expense of better quality proteins like meat, the food overall is quite good, especially when you look at the macronutrient ratio.

Very low carbohydrate content is excellent to see, and the fat and protein are fairly high.

Importantly, this food includes chicken liver, which is very important for the delivery of animal-sourced vitamins and minerals, plus the protein. Muscle meat does not have anywhere near the micronutrient levels of organ meat, so it’s clearly a very high quality ingredient list.

The only “fillers” are whole food options that delivery more micronutrients, like cranberry, sweet potatoes, blueberry, and some light greens (again, to mimic a cat’s natural prey diet).

Interestingly they use agar agar as the thickening agent, which means there are no gums, nor the potentially hazardous ingredient carrageenan, which some people believe to be a carcinogen.

It also includes green lipped muscles, which are incredibly helpful in joint health, which is of course even more important as cats age.

Otherwise it’s a fairly limited ingredient food, and is rounded out by the addition of vitamins and high quality proteinate versions of the minerals included.

If your cat is used to moist food from a can, we’d recommend this highly.

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#5. Precise Naturals Senior Canned Cat Food

precise naturals senior cat food

Catological Rating: 3/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 116

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 40.9%
Fat: 20.5%
Carbs: 25.7%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Oat Bran

Precise offers a decent senior food for the money, and we’ve included it as a slightly less expensive option.

However, this comes with sacrifice.

We’re thrilled to see that it includes chicken liver as one of the main ingredients. As noted, it’s incredibly important as a meat-based way of getting huge vitamins and minerals, plus extra protein.

It does include oats, rice, and three different gums (gelling agents), though, and these are not really necessary ingredients in any cat food.

The macronutrient ratios are decent, though higher in carbohydrates than we’d like to see.

If price is a big concern, it could do in a pinch. It’s not incredibly cheap, but definitely cheaper than most of our other options.

It is still an above average food for older cats, so that’s why we included it on our list.

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The Top Rated Dry Kibble Food For Older Cats

#1. Wellness Senior Dry Cat Food

wellness senior dry cat food

Catological Rating: 4/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 374

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 42.2%
Fat: 14.4%
Carbs: 28.3%

First 4 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Rice, Barley

Dry food is never the best thing to feed your cat.

It’s higher carbohydrate levels and lack of moisture can be quite damaging to cats in the long term, leading to dehydration and problematic kidney and urinary tract issues.

However, since many cat parents feed this to their kitties, we had to find the very best senior offerings out there.

This food from Wellness is not the worst thing in the world, and includes quite a good protein and fat ratio…even if it does contain too many carbohydrates.

For meat, you get chicken (including the important ingredient, chicken fat), some herring fish for extra fatty acids and protein, and a salmon oil.

It even contains probiotics to promote healthy digestion and gut health.

It’s moderately priced and contains a lot more calories per gram than wet food, of course.

For all cats, we’d suggest mixing some water in with the kibble to help them chew and digest, but this is especially important for older cats who may have trouble chewing.

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#2. Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Senior Cat Food

merrick purrect bistro senior cat food

Catological Rating: 3/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 343

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 43.3%
Fat: 13.5%
Carbs: 24.7%

First 4 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Dried Potato

This is definitely a meat-rice food, which is what you want to be feeding your cat.

With chicken and turkey up top of the ingredient list, it also includes a bit of chicken liver, which is rare to see in a dry food. Although there’s not much in there, it’s nice to know they’re trying to do the right thing!

While it is grain-free, it does include other fillers like potato and rice, which might also be slightly harmful to your cat’s digestion.

For a dry food, though, it’s pretty good.

There are a lot of vitamins and minerals, plus added probiotics for gut health.

We still recommend choosing a wet food, even if you’ve never fed wet before, but if you’re looking for a reasonably priced dry option, this one is fairly good.

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#3. Nutro Wild Frontier Senior Kibble Cat Food

nutro wild frontier senior dry cat food

Catological Rating: 3/5 stars

Calories / 100 grams: 379

Macronutrients (Dry-Matter Basis):

Protein: 46.7%
Fat: 20%
Carbs: 18.9%

First 4 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Pea Protein, Split Peas

Nutro makes its way onto our list yet again, this time in kibble format.

Compared to other dry foods designed for seniors, this is actually fairly good. It’s grain free of course.

This has quite a high level of protein for a dry food and relatively low carbs coming from peas and potatoes. Not ideal, but better than the rest.

Some minerals appear in their chelated form, which may make them more bioavailable and easier to digest.

With good meat proteins and fairly low carbs, it’s hard to beat this if you must feed dry.

As we’ve seen in our wet cat food reviews above, Nutro can be trusted to deliver top notch recipes, and this takes our top spot on our dry list.

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Should Senior Cats Eat Wet or Dry Food?

All cats should be fed more wet than dry food.

In the wild, cats are used to eating prey animals, which are made up of about 60-70% moisture.

Dry foods typically have less than 10%.

This can lead to all sorts of problems, especially as they age, including urinary tract and kidney issues that can be both painful and potentially deadly.

In all the veterinarians we talked to, they suggested wet food should be fed as a healthier alternative to kibble.

For cats who are older, they may have even more trouble both chewing and digesting dry food, therefore we strongly recommend you choose a wet food, if you are able.

How Much Should I Feed My Older Cat?

As noted above, senior cats have a higher energy and protein need than they did when they were adult-aged cats.

Therefore, a good rule of thumb is to increase their intake of both of these things by 1.1 to 1.6 times.

That means if your kitty has always eaten 200 calories, you should test feeding her 220 to 320 calories, and monitor her weight.

That’s the most important thing for determining what to feed any cat – their actual weight and body condition.

If she’s losing weight, increase feeding her by a little bit until you reach a stable weight. Do this by increasing her food for a week, and then weigh her at the end of each week.

You can learn more about how much to feed your cat here.

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Emily Parker
 

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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