Your senior cat is very much like an elderly person in that she has important, specific nutritional requirements. She may no longer have all her teeth, or she might have frequent difficulty with digestion. Making fresh cat food at home might be the answer to better health for her.
Cats are strict carnivores, and they get most of the water they need from eating prey. As they get older, they need more water to flush out their systems and decrease the concentration of minerals in their urine. They are often overweight or have medical conditions such as arthritis, heart disease or liver disease, or hyperthyroidism, which is common in senior cats. A diet of homemade food may benefit your senior cat, particularly if it contains fewer carbohydrates and more pure protein, because preventing obesity is vital for older cats.
A raw-foods diet has been shown to have many benefits for senior cats. Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pierson’s website CatInfo.org advocates the feeding of raw food for cats using rabbit meat obtained directly from a rabbit farmer, or whole chicken and turkey thighs that are partially baked to kill surface bacteria. Dr. Pierson grinds her meat herself to ensure its freshness, and she believes it is responsible for curing her elderly cat of a variety of illnesses, including urethritis.
Some senior cats prefer cooked food, and veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Remillard of the MSPCA-Angell Boston Animal Medical Center suggests using 3 ounces of cooked dark-meat chicken, pork, lamb, beef or fish such as salmon or tuna as a basis for adult cat food. Mix this with one-third cup of cooked white rice and one-fifth cup of cooked sweet potato. Add one-quarter teaspoon of vegetable, olive or fish oil and a half-scoop of commercial vitamins and minerals. Dr. Remillard recommends this food for healthy adult cats of all ages.
The main disadvantage of feeding homemade cat food to your senior cat is the potential for tooth decay. Most homemade cat food diets consist mainly of soft food, which doesn’t promote dental health. Senior cats are at risk for gingivitis and periodontal gum disease caused by the accumulation of plaque, and these can lead to other systemic medical conditions. Dry food, however, provides a tooth-cleaning action due to the hardness of the kibble, which scrapes tartar from cats' teeth. If you choose to feed a homemade diet, Eastwood Vets of Ballarat, Australia, recommend that you implement a tooth-cleaning program at the same time.
- CatInfo.org: Timely Topics in Nutrition: The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats
- Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, 3rd Edition; Richard H Pitcairn
- WebMD: Healthy Cats: Homemade Cat Food and Raw Cat Food
- CatInfo.org: Making Cat Food
- MSPCA Angell: Homemade Diet Formulation
- Eastwood Vet: Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.