a girl taking care of her senior cat and resting on the grass

Caring for Senior Cats – Health and Nutrition

Dr Amelia Bunker, Resident Veterinarian - Knose Pet Insurance

Approved by

Dr. Amelia Bunker

Dr. Amelia Bunker (BVSc), our resident veterinarian at Knose, blends her passion for animal care with her expertise in veterinary science. Her journey from mixed practice clinics to insurance expert motivates her dedication to animal welfare, both in her professional role and as a pet owner.

Last updated on

Published on

If dogs are man’s best friend, cats are that one acquaintance that pretends to hate you but invariably sticks around. And much like that distant family member, cats can have a long lifespan. Despite their carefree lifestyles, our feline friends can live to be around 15 to 18 years of age. However, this is merely the average lifespan of a domestic cat. For those caring for senior cats, some live to see ages far above the 15-year mark. One feisty feline by the name of Creme Puff has been reported to have exceeded 38 years of age, before her tragic demise in 2005. Other outliers have also been known to cross the 30-year barrier.

A senior cat looking out the window - Knose
We owe it to our senior cats to help them gracefully reach their twilight years with the best possible care.

Make no mistake though, cats undergo the same processes of aging as humans. Albeit energetic when young, our fur-babies can grow more immobile and ill-tempered when approaching their twilight years. Cloudy eyes, impaired hearing, and frequent soiling can be just a few of the marks of a retirement-age feline. We discuss further how pet owners can care for their senior cats.

How to care for senior cats

1. Provide palliative care

For individuals living with a senior cat, life can sometimes be more challenging. Your senior cat may develop a tendency for increased vocalisation and a very bad temper. A 12-year-old cat is said to be the equivalent of a 64-year-old human being, and, like humans, as we age, they have changing medical needs.

This is a stage of transition in a senior cat’s life. Pet owners, vet clinics, and pet hospitals work to make senior pets feel as comfortable as possible. For pet owners who are caring for senior cats, it becomes a difficult stage but a necessary one. It is stage where we recognize and accept that our pets are approaching their golden years. The goal is to provide as much care and support for our pets and prepare them for the process of end-of-life situations.

2. Watch out for diseases

Felines are known to be resilient when it comes to illnesses. Despite having one of the best immune systems of the animal kingdom, your cat, like any other animal, is more likely to develop medical conditions with age. Older cats are more susceptible to a wide range of diseases, like, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and cancer. Dental issues are also common in cats as they age.


Diabetes may be caused by obesity. And, if diagnosed, in conjunction with medical management, your vet may advise that your diabetic cat could benefit from a diet that is high-protein and low-carbohydrate. As with caloric intake control, you can read nutritional facts from the packaging to make sure you pick the right cat food. However, in most cases, your vet will discuss and recommend the best foods to feed.  You’ll probably also be told to watch your cat’s weight and administer insulin. This may cause blood glucose levels to stabilise over time.


Kidney problems in senior cats can be slowed down by the use of a diet that is low-phosphorus and contains restricted quantities of high-quality protein. Again, in most cases, your vet will discuss and advise on the most appropriate diets. However, generally, you should look for foods that have low salt content, and more carbohydrates than proteins. Wet food can be best for this application, particularly as kidney disease progresses, as it prevents little gramps from being dehydrated.


Caring for senior cats with cancer requires a diet with extra nutrition to help them maintain their weight as long as possible. This also means that we have to keep our cats hydrated as possible and keep them clean. Senior cats will eventually stop grooming themselves and it will be up to us to take care of them. Consult your local veterinary on how to deal with senior cats with cancer.

Dental Disease

For cats with dental disease, you need to consult a vet to determine how this can be best addressed or treated. This is because dental disease can significantly decrease their quality of life. Signs of dental disease can include bad breath, red gums and changes to eating patterns. While softer, wet food can be less painful in the short term when dental disease is present, it can contribute to more rapid deterioration of dental disease longer-term. You should check with your vet how often your cat should get a dental check-up to avoid any causes for dental disease.

lovely cat american short hair sleeping on wood floor - Knose cat insurance
Senior cats require diet modifications. We have to make sure that their nutrition allows them to stay healthy.

3. Provide sufficient supplementation

Some aging cats might develop gastrointestinal complications. Due to this, it can become hard for them to absorb some nutrients and vitamins, for example, Vitamin B-12. If your cat is showing gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, or loss of appetite, you should consult your veterinarian. There can be a wide range of possible causes for these symptoms. These can range from food intolerance to cancer, all of which can progress differently and require different treatments or management. In some cases, supplementation can be beneficial, but this very much depends on the cause of the symptoms. Your veterinarian can guide you in diagnosis and treatment to care for your senior cat.

If already being given a healthy, nutritious diet, older cats do not usually need to take any supplements. To ensure that your senior cat is in good health, be sure to give them the best food for both their age and also take into account any health problems. There are various food options for senior cats.

As cats grow old, they become less active. Senior cat food addresses changes in your pet’s activity levels and can help support their immune system. Food for older cats helps them stay in good shape by reducing their fat intake while giving them the vitamins and fibre they need for a healthy gut. 

4. Trim the fat

As cats grow older, they generally grow more sedentary. If mobility becomes an issue, cats can lay around a lot more to preserve energy. However, lazy cats aren’t usually good at restricting their calorie intake to account for reduced activity levels. So you’ve got to do it for them! Feeding your cat too many calories can cause them to grow fat and accumulate mass that their weary limbs can no longer support.

Changes to activity levels as your cat ages can sometimes be related to undiagnosed musculoskeletal pain, e.g. from advancing arthritis. Regular check-ups with your vet can assess for any pain which may be contributing and ensure it is addressed as needed. This can help keep your cat mobile, active and as happy and healthy as possible.

The best way to ensure your more sedentary older cat does not gain weight is to ensure they are not getting higher than their required daily calorie intake. How many calories they require depends on their age, size, activity level, body condition score and any diseases present. Your veterinarian can help you work up how to raise or lower their calorie intake as appropriate to your cat. A good way to keep track of this is to read cat food package labelling for nutritional facts and feeding guides. Most good-quality cat foods now have clear feeding guides on the packaging, showing you how much to feed.

Using slow or puzzle feeders can also be very beneficial for your furry friend as they age. These can help with encouraging movement, increasing mental stimulation, and slowing down eating patterns.

5. Enjoy a lifetime of companionship

Felines hold sway over our hearts like no other animal. Dog lovers disagree, of course! Even in their old, tender ages, cats maintain a certain loving charm. It’s not always easy to take care of your grumpy old cat. Remember, if they are becoming more grumpy and aggressive, it is important to check with your veterinarian to ensure there is no underlying pain causing their behaviour change.

a girl taking care of her senior cat and resting on the grass
Nothing replaces the long-time love and companionship our senior pets give us.

Sometimes it can also be heart-wrenching to see them struggle with menial tasks, like hearing or walking.  But by addressing any health concerns early, ensuring they maintain appropriate body weight, and keeping them mentally and physically engaged, you can help them enjoy their best possible retirement years

Ensure the well-being of your senior cats

We say they have nine lives, though within that they too are prone to accidents and Illnesses just like any other living creature. It’s common for cats to require veterinary attention at some point in their lives, and the severity and cost of such care can be unpredictable. Our Knose Cat Insurance is designed to provide extensive coverage for unexpected injuries and illnesses your cat may face. We prioritise your pet’s well-being and don’t impose sub-limits, ensuring they have access to veterinary treatment whenever they need it most.

If you need to consult right away, why not try the Knose Pet Health Hotline? Find out if you need to take your pet to the emergency vet, ask specific questions or get general advice, any time day or night. It doesn’t replace your local vet, but it does give you 24/7 access to expert advice and peace of mind for those times when a vet visit isn’t practical.We have also developed pet care plans specifically for cats to keep them healthy and well.

Contact us today or get a quote under 2 minutes.

More resources related to cat health:

Subscribe to our newsletter for updates

Stay updated with the latest in pet health and wellness.