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Nutritious diet for a Senior, toothless feline

Updated: Nov 15, 2023


toothless cat

A nutritional approach to treating an elderly toothless cat on a tin (wet) food diet.


The current nutrition

A commercial ‘wet’ food, aside from contributing to poor dental health and tooth loss is nutritionally inferior to a raw, species appropriate diet with many deficiencies building up over time leading to poor health and disease [1].


Client/Owner concerns

Although it is not possible to undo 16 years of ‘aging’, improving a cat’s diet, regardless of age, can support improved health moving forward and give them the best outlook possible. Cats, especially those who have reached their senior years, can be fussy and unwilling to try new foods. Putting in a little extra effort to improve palatability and encouraging the cat to try new things is an investment in their future health and well worth the effort.


Management of the condition, nutritionally.

A species appropriate diet for a senior cat comprises 50% muscle meat, 30% meaty bones, 10% Offal and 10% plant matter and supplements. Transitioning the pet to a species appropriate raw diet over a period of around 12 days is essential with a number of considerations specific to the pet. The pet’s current ‘wet’ diet provides a good medium to add the new foods into, slowly replacing the old ‘wet’ food by blending in a little of the new, balanced mix should ease the transition for the fussy cat.


A. Meat protein: Selecting a lean red meat is ideal as red meat stimulates a more acidic gut environment than white meat. A minced meat will blend easily into the wet food; if palatability needs to be increased a bone broth or stock can be added. The meat should be free of any preservatives to avoid any unwanted additional toxins or allergens being included in the diet[2].


B. Meaty bones: Turkey necks, chicken necks or chicken wings are a great choice for toothless cats due to being small and relatively soft, to increase palatability they should be fed at room temperature, they can also be cut into and even coated in a little bone broth or stock if needed. Wings can be broken at the joints to avoid them getting in the cats eyes whilst cuts can be made into the skin to improve palatability. It’s important that bones form part of the diet so if the cat is still reluctant they may be ground up and combined with the rest of the meal to ensure the cat is receiving a balanced diet.


C. Organs: a selection of offal meats such as liver, kidney, brains and green tripe are essential components of any balanced diet; Raw Liver is a good first offal meat packed with valuable B12 whilst raw green tripe is naturally high in enzymes and probiotic bacteria whilst being low in fat making it an ideal dietary choice. The offal meats can be minced and mixed with the other dietary components to improve acceptance.


D. Plant matter: Fruits and vegetables provide much needed fibre to the diet together with a whole host of other valuable nutrients. Dark leafy greens such as spinach are a great item to start with due to availability, nutrient density and ease of pulverizing and mixing with mince for palatability. Cats tend to find sweet potato and corn palatable but lightly steamed carrots and cooked, mashed pumpkin are also good options which can be easily blended with a mince mix as a small amount is all that’s needed to meet the cat’s 5% daily requirement[3].


E. Supplements: other additives may be provided to further enhance the nutrient profile of the diet and address any deficiencies that have built up for the pet.


  1. Eggs are an excellent source of the highest quality protein available suitable for cats of all ages containing all of the vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids cats need for good health which makes them an ideal addition to a balanced diet.

  2. A good quality, cold pressed flaxseed oil adds valuable omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to the diet which are often lacking in the pets fed a commercial product. EFA’s are key to maintaining and supporting all aspects of our pets’ health as they are components of cell membranes, supporting the flow of molecules into and out of cells as well as supporting enzyme and membrane receptor function[4]. An appropriate Vitamin E source should also be provided to protect the pet against the oil becoming rancid in their body.

  3. Brewer’s yeast, as a rich source of vitamins B-complex, antioxidants and assorted minerals, and is a useful dietary supplement for pets not sensitive to yeast[5].

  4. Kelp, among the many minerals found in kelp there are iodine and selenium, both of which are lacking in New Zealand soils and can be provided in the diet safely, without fear of toxicity, by the inclusion of kelp.

  5. Gut flora: A lifetime of eating commercial, sterile foods destroys the natural gut flora, restoring healthy gut bacteria is an essential part of restoring a healthy digestive system. A natural, unsweetened Greek yoghurt can be a useful addition to the diet providing a highly digestible protein, vitamins, enzymes and other nutrients Including lactic acid bacteria such as bifido bacteria, a known probiotic which promotes digestion and bowel health[6]. Many cats find the milky yoghurt treat extremely palatable however there are pet probiotic supplements which could be utilized if necessary.

  6. Bone broth: Can be particularly beneficial as it provides the body with collagen and other essential nutrients to reduce inflammation and support healing of the intestinal barrier and other tissues whilst also being extremely palatable for the fussy cat[7]. Once accepted, bone broth can then be used as a medium to increase the palatability and acceptance of other dietary items.

  7. Cranberry: although not specified providing a little support for bladder and urinary tract health in the form of cranberry tablets is wise for the senior pet and will certainly not harm the pet in any way. In addition to the vitamin C, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients they contain there are compounds called proanthocyanidins which have both anti inflammatory and anti-microbial functions. They reduce any inflammation in the bladder and coat the surface which prevents any harmful bacteria present from attaching itself to the bladder wall, without attachment any harmful bacteria is simply excreted with normal urination.


With the cat successfully transitioned to a raw balanced diet incorporating a variety of species appropriate foods, it’s useful to ensure the owner can maintain the diet long term. A meat patty ‘recipe’ incorporating the meat, offal, plant matter, supplements and bones if ground, whilst providing the owner guidance as to interchangeable items to further add variety and cope with seasonal availability is provided. Pets on a raw diet don’t tend to have weight issues; discussing changing energy requirements as the cat’s health & energy levels change enable the owner to adjust meal sizes appropriately whilst maintaining balance.




Sources

[1] Billinghurst, I. 1993. Give Your Dog a Bone. Bathurst, New South Wales: Warrigal Publishing. [2] Syme, B. 2011. Scientific Guide to Natural Nutrition. Southbank, Australia: Vets All Natural Pty Ltd. [3] Healthline. 2020. Spinach 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved November 25th, 2020, from Healthline web site: www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/spinach [4] Patel, A. 2017. Essential Fatty Acids In Veterinary Dermatology: Do They Have A Place? Retrieved May 10th, 2020, from veterinarypractice.com: www.veterinary-practice.com/article/essential-fatty-acids-in-veterinary-dermatology-do-they-have-a-place [5] Elfenbein, H. 2017. Brewer's Yeast for Dogs: Understanding the Benefits and Risks. Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Pet MD web site: https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/brewers-yeast-dogs-understanding-benefits-and-risks [6] West, H. n.d.. Lactose Intolerance 101 - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment. Retrieved October 10th, 2020, from Healthline web site: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lactose-intolerance-101 [7] Johnson, J. 2020. What are the benefits of bone broth? Retrieved October 22nd, 2020, from Medical news today web site: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323903#summary

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