Aging Cats and Hill’s Science Diet – Special Foods for Mature and Senior Cats

cats-eating

This photo was taken several years ago when Jazz was still with us. He was a senior at that time and Zee and Harley were just verging on mature status, with Zoey and kittens checking in as young adults.

Living in a household of seven cats of ages varying from 4 to 9, feeding time can be a bit overwhelming – not because they are all underfoot and singing a loud meow chorus at me to hurry up and put dinner in their bowls, but because cats have very different dietary needs throughout the stages of their life, especially when it comes to cats of mature or senior status.

A cat is considered to be a mature adult at the age of 7 which is about mid-forties for a human (if your cat is an outdoor cat, his age would be more equivalent to someone in their early sixties). It does not necessarily mean your cat is “old,” it just means that it is time to  adjust their nutritional needs to this new stage of their life. A cat at this age needs controlled levels of phosphorus and other vital nutrients to help reduce kidney stress and it is also important for their pH levels to be maintained to support a healthy urinary tract.

aging-zee

Our Zee has always seemed so young at heart – it’s hard to believe he is already a mature cat at 9 years of age and that he will be a senior soon.

At age 11 and beyond, a cat is considered to be a senior and a myriad of changes in their behavior and routines might occur such as changes in sleep routine, increased vocalization, decreased interaction with humans and other pets, less desire to eat, less awareness of their surroundings, and urination or defecation outside the litter box. A proper diet rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids is important for your cat at this stage of their life in order to help improve their cognitive functions.

This is all well and good advice, but what if you have a cat and you do not know his age because you found him as a stray or adopted him with unknown history? How do you know what age appropriate food you should be feeding him? To get a general sense of how old a cat is, these are some key factors to consider:

Teeth – Older cats tend to have more staining than younger cats and missing teeth may mean you have a senior cat on your hands.
Muscle Tone - Younger cats are more likely to have defined muscles from physical exercise and older cats are usually a bit bonier and may have some extra skin hanging because they are more sedentary.
The Coat - A younger cat typically has a soft, fine coat, whereas an older cat tends to have thicker, coarser fur. A senior cat may display grays or patches of white.
The Eyes - Younger cats will have clear and bright eyes without any discharge. A cat with some cloudiness in their eyes is indicative of a senior cat.

age-defyingOnce you have an idea how old your cat is, the good news is that there is a variety of healthy and nutritious foods available for you to give your beloved mature and senior cats without having to guess what they need and one of these options is the mature and senior line of foods developed by the team at Hill’s Science Diet. Available in Mature Adult Active Longevity, Mature Adult Hairball Control, Mature Adult Indoor, Senior 11+ Age Defying, and Senior 11+ Indoor Age Defying formula’s, each is uniquely created with controlled levels of phosphorus and sodium, omega-6 fatty acids, fibers, taurine, prebiotic fibers, real chicken, and other nutrients and multivitamins to help ensure your mature or senior cat live a longer and happier life.

In conjunction with a proper diet, it is also important at this life stage of your cat’s life to take them to the vet at least twice a year and to pay attention to the changes in their behavior, however subtle they may because sometimes these changes require medical intervention.  I know from my own personal experience that when my Mr. Jazz passed away this past August 28th at 15 years of age, up until a few months before his passing he still seemed young to me and so sometimes I would forget how old he really was. Having the guidance of my vet was important because often my judgement was clouded and blindsided by my love for him and I was not always capable of making the best decisions for him on my own.

Jaz-on-bed

Mr. Jazz’s aging process was so gradual that I often forgot he was a senior cat at 15 years of age.

It is also important to interact with your mature and/or senior cat as much as possible too – try to engage in play type activities with them to keep them active and to preserve their muscle tone. Feed them several small meals a day rather than one large one and be aware of their dental health. Try to stimulate mental activity to keep their brains alert and most important, give them plenty of love and attention.

I encourage you to try Hill’s line of foods for your mature or senior cat, but even if you don’t, I hope you have learned just how important it is to understand that cats have varying nutritional needs for their ages and circumstances. Please be aware as well that the Hill’s mature and senior foods are meant for aging cats and are not suitable for kittens, pregnant or nursing cats, young or young adult cats, or cats with other dietary needs. In these cases, you should switch to  whatever Science Diet formula is best suited to your cats age and  needs.

catages

Just how old is my cat? Despite popular belief, cats do not age an even 7 years for every calendar year of life. There are many factors, such as indoor or outdoor cat, and the fact that the feline aging process is most rapid during the first two years of their life. Graphic by Illustration from The Cat Owner’s Manual / Quirk Books

“While my cats personally have been eating the Hill’s brand for years without compensation, this post is sponsored by Hill’s. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s Science Diet for Cats, but Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.”

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  1. I would like to strongly disagree with your endorsement of Hill’s food. Have you taken a look at the ingredients? It is filled with carbohydrates and starches, which cats do not need. Cats have no need for carbohydrates. Contrary to popular belief, cats do not require “life stage” foods. That is a marketing gimmick by the pet food companies. Cats is the wild eat the same food at any ages, kittens and pregnant cats just eat more. You may need to adjust your cat’s diet only if there is disease, and then, a healthy raw meat diet can easily be adjusted. A cat’s urinary pH is maintained naturally when they are fed the foods they evolved to eat, namely raw meat, bones and organs. Adding acidifiers to maintain pH – in essence to correct the problem the food is causing in the first place – makes no sense. Dry food especially has way too many carbs for a feline, even if it is “grain-free.” Dry food is totally inappropriate for cats – any dry food. It has too little moisture and leads to chronic dehydration, which contributes to urinary and kidney problems down the road (which, of course, Hill’s will sell you another “prescription” food to fix).

    • Deb says:

      Margaret – I appreciate your information and don’t doubt at all that there are incredible benefits to feeding your cat a raw food diet and I knew writing this post that I would be subject to criticism. I may consider feeding my cats a raw food diet myself one day, but until then, my cats have been eating Science Diet under the recommendation of our vet for years. I think what is important is to inform people that they should recognize that cats do go through an aging process and to be aware that some changes in behavior that might seem insignificant could actually be a problem that a veterinarian could help with.

      Most people try to do the best they can for their pets and have a variety of reasons as to what food they chose to give them. I am not telling people what to do in that regard, just like you, I am informing them of one of the options.

      • Hi Deb! Great that you might consider a raw diet in the future. You’ll be amazed at the results. And to comment on another comment to this post: cats that are fed a raw meat diet have virtually odorless poops. Really. Stinky poops in a cat are not natural and are an indication of digestive problems. If you have numerous cats as I do, this can be a huge issue in the household. It’s the one aspect of feeding a raw meat diet that benefits the human too. As in a benefit to your nose!

        We at Feline Nutrition emphasize information above all. We try to provide science-backed information on diet and health, to help people make the right choices for their cats.

  2. Beverly says:

    I won’t comment on the efficacy of Hill’s food, but I will say it has been my experience that the more expensive cat food makes for a less stinky litter box. Seriously. Cheap food produces smelly poop, because it was not digested properly.

    • Deb says:

      Beverly – I can’t really comment on this either… even though I do have a lot of litter to contend with in my house, the smell is not too bad, relatively speaking!

  3. da tabbies o trout towne says:

    jazz……dood…did ewe ever get any social seCATity benny fits when ewe turned senior….we sure did KNOT get any…noe social seCATity ore mediCATS for that matter…..

    hhhmmmpphhh

    and boomerz STILL waitin on hiz…. ta thiz day……

    XXXX

    sauce & dude

  4. Hazel Marie says:

    I know what I’m saying when I state that ScienceDiet produces VERYHEALTHYCATS and this should give you an idea of it’s quality. I’m so excited to get the new Grain Free variety to feed, which I’m blessed tohave won here.Oh, lets not forget the Ideal Balance produces stink free poop. Also, our kitties are evolved from who the raw diet is based upon. Which unless you’re well read about can be dangerous to them. I’d like to end thus with a huge Concatulations to Deb for such well written, well researched articles. Especially this one!

  5. mariodacat says:

    Interesting. Our vet has recommended Hills Science Diet weight control (ummm, cuz everyone thinks I’m fat…..). It tastes okay, but I’m STARVING. M says I have to put up with it tho until get my weight down to the appropriate level. I tell ya – I’ll be skin and bones!

    • Deb says:

      Oh mario… it’s not always easy to be a kitty, is it? I do hope the human will get your weight under control so you can move on to more important things… like napping in sun-puddles!

  6. Sally Bahner says:

    I have to side with Margaret, Deb. It breaks my heart that someone so devoted would get taken in by marketing. If you look at the ingredients of the three foods you mention, they are all the same, chock full of carbs — corn, wheat, rice, and wood, with some magical adjustments for antioxidants or omegas:

    Mature Adult Active Longevity
    Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Brewers Rice, Wheat Gluten, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor

    Mature Adult Indoor
    Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Powdered Cellulose, Wheat Gluten, Brewers Rice, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp

    
Senior 11+ Age Defying
    Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Pork Fat, Dried Egg Product, Chicken Liver Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Flaxseed, Wheat Gluten

    Senior 11+ Indoor Age Defying
    Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Wheat Gluten, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Liver Flavor, Brewers Rice

    Cats are obligate carnivores and they need meat for optimum health. My 10-year-old is as active as my 4-year-old and my 14-year-old is as active as my 10-year-old. They all eat the same raw diet.

    • Deb says:

      Sally – I can understand your comment and respect your opinion. I have been approached by numerous cat food companies for endorsements and have always turned them down because I will not promote something I do not use with my cats. Throughout the years, I have purchased 3 purebred cats, different breeds, different breeders, and all of them recommended Hill’s brand food. I have also raised numerous strays and rescues and during all that time, my veterinarians have recommended the Hill’s brand. My cats have always been healthy and I felt I was doing right by them and that is why I felt comfortable accepting this project.

      As you know, cat advocacy is a new arena for me. I fully admit that I am subject to flaws and still have so much to learn – years ago I did not know what a feral cat was, I had no real clue on the issues of severe cat overpopulation and the need to help promote awareness on spay and neuter and I had no idea that I would be subject to scrutiny because I had purebred cats in a world rampant with cats in shelters. Then, to top it off, I had a cat that had kittens…

      Raw food diet is another area that I am still learning about. As I said to Margaret, I can see that there are significant benefits and it is something I feel I will pursue in the future. In the meantime, I felt that the more important aspect of working with Hill’s is that it is bringing up topics that are important – such as, that when cats age there are certain behavioral signs to watch for and that your cat should visit the vet more frequently to help ensure they live a longer and healthier life.

      I welcome opinions like those of you and Margaret – it only serves to get people thinking, to read labels, and to make educated and informed decisions that are best suited to their own personal circumstances.

  7. Andrea Dorn says:

    I think I may have mentioned before on your site that I have fed Hill’s foods for many years (well-over 25 years) and am happy to report that it works well for my cats. There have been times when I’ve used other brands when a cat or two has stopped eating for some reason and I needed to try everything I can find to get them eating again. But I always return to Hill’s.

    Hill’s (and many other companies) conducts a lot of research to bring us the best diets for our cats.And their research is ongoing. I am comfortable using their products.

    While raw diets may seem like a good idea, most people don’t understand how important it is to be sure the diet is balanced and complete. A raw diet doesn’t mean just giving a cat meat. They also need other vitamins/minerals, etc. I congratulate anyone who is able to commit to giving their cat a truly balanced and complete raw diet. As for myself, I prefer to have it all measured out, formulated for me.

    Deb, I am impressed with your well-researched information in this post. Nice job!

    • Deb says:

      Andrea –

      I do remember you telling me about feeding your cats Hill’s and I am happy to hear the food has worked out so well for your cats. I also appreciate your comments on raw foods – the cat food/dietary needs arena is an area that is very new for me. I am still in the process of researching and learning and have to admit I am quite overwhelmed with the plethora of information available. Years ago I didn’t even know that raw food diets existed as a feeding option for cats.

      I think what is most valuable to me and the series I am doing with Hill’s is that it is helping me to learn more about my cats in a physical sense. I’ve witnessed many a cat age in my life time and I was not always aware of all the cautionary signs I should have been looking for when a cat might need extra veterinary care. Losing Jazz taught me a lot about being a better pet-parent and what the aging process entails. This topic was important to me in that sense and I was grateful to be able to share information with my readers about it.

      And despite that I am not one that enjoys drawing attention to myself, I do like that people are willing to question both sides of the diet issue – it only serves to help all of us learn and to make better informed decisions one way or another.

      • Andrea Dorn says:

        I know what you mean about learning from your cats. I’ve had years and years of learning and just when I think I’ve got it something new crops up! I’ve had cats with FeLV, FIP, pancreatitis, cholangiohepatitis, mast cell tumors, lymphoma, gall bladder tumors, HCM, CRF, eosiniophilic granuloma, pheochromocytoma, bladder tumor, liver failure, colitis………………………..okay, now I’ve probably really scared you.

        But back to what you meant to share: recognizing the varying needs of different life stages is very important. Years ago we simply gave the cats their cat chow and didn’t even think about it. Now we know better.

      • Deb says:

        Andrea… so true. Years ago I had no clue. I remember way back when I was in my early twenties and newly married – we were so poor that life was minute by minute, day by day, and the food we fed our cats was dictated by what was on sale and what coupons we had. I loved my cats then as I love my cats now – we all just try our best with the circumstances we have.

  8. Kitties Blue says:

    Wow, I bet you didn’t expect all this controversy when you wrote this article. All 17 of the cats we have had ate/eat Purina Cat Chow (a dry food). The current group of eight also get a small amount of canned food morning and evening. All the kitties have been healthy and some have lived close to 20 years. I don’t believe there is one food or type of food (including raw) that is the magic bullet for any cat. Maintaining good health through regular veterinary care and following your vet’s advice concerning any specific dietary requirements for each particular cat is of the most importance. You spoke from your experience with this particular food and your kitties. We must respect that and not call you on the carpet for the decisions you make with regard to their health and well-being. Even though you were paid to promote Hill’s, I know that your integrity and values would never allow you to promote something that you didn’t believe in or hadn’t been the right thing for your kitties. Janet

    • Deb says:

      Janet –
      I have only been blogging for a few years and if there is one thing I have learned, is that the cat world is akin to debating politics – there are several hot topics that invite heated debate and cat foods are one of them! I appreciate your comment – I also respect that everyone has their own reasons for what they do and I think it is great that we can all learn from one another. The bigger issue is finding homes for all the cats in shelters and on the streets that need one and I pray for a day when that can be a reality.

  9. Deb, I thought you did a fantastic job with this post. Very well researched and nicely written. Like you, I cannot endorse a product that I would not use for my own cats or recommend to my veterinary patients. However, I have recommended various Hill’s diets to many veterinary clients over the years and have never regretted doing so.

    There are many different ways to provide proper nutrition for our pets. And nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Raw food diets are an option but they are not without their drawbacks either.

    Like Andrea, I like the fact that Hill’s conducts a great deal of research and they are a leader in the industry, providing a lot of the information that other smaller pet food companies use in formulating their diets. They have nutritionists on staff to oversee their formulations and make sure that their diets truly are balanced. They manufacture their products in their own plants rather than outsourcing, allowing them better quality control. They also practice a positive release, or test and hold, policy with their foods, which is something that has a positive effect on quality control but also something which many other pet food companies opt not to do.

    Anyway, just wanted to say good job, Deb. And I’m glad to hear that your fur-kids are doing well on SD also.