By Jessica Remitz
As your cat becomes older, your objectives for feeding her may change. You’ll always want to maintain her health, but you’ll also need to consider how the cat food will aid in managing or preventing chronic disease while helping promote joint mobility. There are many brands of pet food designed to help older cats stay energized and move around like their younger selves, but what ingredients should you look for and how do they help? Here are four ways pet food can promote mobility for cats.
"One of the main concerns with older pets is osteoarthritis," said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association and veterinary behaviorist, "so you’ll want to give them supplements or food to help with joint health and pain management." According to many experts foods rich with omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may help with both issues.
According to the ASPCA, it is common for older cats to put on more body fat even if they consume fewer calories. Though their change in body composition is natural, and can be brought on by a change in metabolism, decreased amount of activity, or the overconsumption of calories, it's important to prevent obesity in your cat. Look at pet foods with a lower caloric density and a normal level of protein to help maintain muscle mass and prevent weight gain, according to the ASPCA. Cats with healthy body weights will be able to jump, climb and move more efficiently, regardless of their age.
"If your cat appears to have some cognitive issues in addition to decreased movement, you’ll want to make sure they’re getting plenty of antioxidants, which can be found in a majority of quality [pet] foods," Dr. Beaver said. Antioxidants like vitamin E beta-carotene help eliminate free radicals that can damage your pet’s body tissues and cause signs of aging, according to the ASPCA. They can also help increase how effective their immune systems are, much like humans, and keep your pet feeling fit. Look for natural antioxidants like apples, tomatoes, and blueberries on your cat food label.
Kidney issues are another reason cats struggle with moving about as easily as they were able to before. Fortunately, there are diets created specifically to manage these types of issues. If you believe your cat may be suffering from kidney disease, consult with your veterinarian.
"While there are a number of specialized foods in the market to help geriatric animals," Dr. Beaver said, "it is important to discuss your cat’s feeding and dietary needs with your veterinarian first." Depending on her health, you may need to increase or decrease how much you’re feeding her to improve mobility. Your vet will be able to help determine how much she’ll need to eat to improve or maintain her body condition and stay in the best shape possible. As you notice certain changes in your cat’s behavior or diet, don’t hesitate to call or vet or increase your number of visits per year to help maintain your pet’s health.