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The best senior cat foods of 2024


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Collage of three cans and two bags of cat food for senior cats from Royal Canin, Purina, Wellness, Nutro, and Hill's against a blue gradient background.We rounded up the best food for senior cats with advice from veterinarians and animal nutritionists.

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The best senior cat foods can support your older cat’s overall health and improve their quality of life. Cats may earn “senior” status around age 10, depending on factors like their breed and overall health. Around this time, they often begin to gain fat and lose muscle, and many have a less robust immune system than younger cats, says Dr. Carly Fox, a senior veterinarian at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center. 

For this guide, we chose the best wet and dry foods for senior cats across seven categories, taking into account specific ingredients that may benefit older cats. We also consulted veterinarians who helped us narrow down the options by sharing insights into health concerns and nutrition for senior cats. One of our top canned senior cat food picks is Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf in Sauce, which contains supplements like fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin to reduce inflammation and support joint health.

Our recommendations for the best senior cat food align with pet food standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Global Nutrition Guidelines published by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). Keep in mind that Fox says it’s important to consult your vet when choosing food for your senior cat because not all formulas meet the same health needs. Foods for cats with chronic kidney disease typically contain less phosphorus, sodium, and protein than other cat food diets. On the other hand, high-protein diets can benefit senior cats with healthy kidneys who have muscle loss. 

Read more about how Business Insider Reviews tests and researches pet products.

Best wet overall

Cans of wet cat food from Royal Canin, Hill’s, and Wellness, against a blue gradient background.Royal Canin, Hill’s, and Wellness make some of the best wet cat food for senior cats.

Chewy/Business Insider

Domestic cats evolved from desert-dwelling felines, who stayed hydrated by eating prey made up of about 70% water, says Ellen Dierenfeld, a comparative animal nutritionist and founder of Zootrition. Commercial wet cat foods replicate these diets. Since they’re about 75% to 78% moisture, they can help keep your cat hydrated, which is especially important for senior cats with health conditions, says Dr. Kelly Fishman, a veterinarian and founder of Strut Animal Mobility Specialists. 

Senior cats with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism often drink more water and urinate more frequently than healthy cats. So, taking steps to prevent dehydration can help your cat live a longer, happier life, Fishman says. Offering wet food is one of those strategies.

Our top picks for the best wet cat foods for senior cats also contain healthy extras like fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Fox says these nutrients can support your aging cat’s joints and mobility. They can also benefit cats with osteoarthritis — more than 90% of cats over age 12. The soft texture of wet food is ideal for senior cats who have dental disease or have had tooth extractions. 

To compare the nutrition values of wet and dry foods, you’ll need to convert wet food values to a dry matter basis, which are the values with all moisture removed. We contacted the manufacturers of the foods in this guide to get the nutritional profiles of each food on a dry matter basis. If you’d like to compare recipes for dry foods with other wet foods, you can use these directions from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, call the food manufacturer, or ask your vet for help.

Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf in Sauce

Meat protein sources: Pork byproducts, pork liver, chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin
Feeding trials: Yes
Nutrition breakdown: 51% protein, 19% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 71 kcal/3-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Savory Chicken Entrée

Meat protein sources: Chicken, turkey giblets, pork byproducts, pork liver
Other standout ingredients: Fish oil, rice, soybean meal
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 39% protein, 24% fat, 3% fiber
Calorie count:  90 kcal/2.9-ounce can

Wellness Complete Health 7+ Age Advantage Tuna and Salmon Entree

Meat protein sources: Tuna, salmon broth, chicken liver, chicken, salmon
Other standout ingredients: Peas, beet pulp, flaxseed
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 50.8% protein, 22.8% fat, 4.1% fiber
Calorie count: 98 kcal/3-ounce can

Best dry overall

Bags of dry senior cat foods from Purina, Hill's, and Nulo against a blue gradient background.We like these dry senior cat foods from Purina, Hill’s, and Nulo.

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Senior cat food must meet the same minimum AAFCO nutritional requirements as adult maintenance or all life stages cat food. Your older cat will receive the right nutrients to support their overall health whether you feed them dry or wet food, as long as the food carries the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label. 

That said, while dry cat food (kibble) formulated for senior cats offers similar nutritional benefits to wet food, some key differences between the two types of food may make one a better fit for your cat. Kibble has a longer shelf life and may promote dental health by scraping plaque from their teeth. However, dry food contains about 60% less water than wet food. Fishman says this can be a problem for senior cats at risk of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Whatever type of food you choose, our experts recommend selecting one that contains quality protein sources. Cats are obligate carnivores who need animal-based proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs. Our kibble picks for the best cat food for seniors contain these and other nutritious ingredients like fish oil and antioxidant-rich cranberries. Antioxidants may help lower a cat’s risk of degenerative diseases of the liver, kidneys, and brain. Several of our senior picks for the best dry cat foods also contain L-carnitine, an amino acid that can help cats lose weight by making it easier to burn fat.

Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Salmon and Rice Formula

Meat protein sources: Salmon, poultry byproduct meal, beef fat, fish meal, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: Rice, cassava root flour, soybean meal, fish oil
Feeding trials: Yes
Nutrition breakdown: 38% protein, 17% fat, 2.5% fiber
Calorie count: 603 kcal/cup

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken fat, egg product
Other standout ingredients: Whole grain wheat, brewers rice, flaxseed, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 32.7% protein, 22.5% fat, 3.7% fiber
Calorie count: 510 kcal/cup

Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior Alaska Pollock, Duck, and Sweet Potato Recipe

Meat protein sources: Pollock, chicken meal, turkey meal, deboned duck, chicken fat, salmon meal
Other standout ingredients: Salmon oil, dried cranberries, L-carnitine, probiotics
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 38% protein, 14% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 431 kcal/cup

Best budget wet

Cans of wet cat food from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Natural Balance against a blue gradient background,Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Natural Balance make nutritious wet food for older cats.

Chewy/Business Insider

Senior cats — even those who have had multiple tooth extractions — can still eat kibble, says Emily Luisana, a veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals. However, your vet may recommend switching to wet food if your senior cat doesn’t like to drink water, has tooth sensitivity, or no longer seems interested in kibble. 

When choosing your cat’s food, your budget may play an important role. Wet cat food is typically more expensive than dry food because it contains more moisture. Still, you have plenty of options for affordable and nutritious wet foods for senior cats. Striking a balance between wet and dry foods may also be an option, depending on your cat’s specific health needs and food preferences. 

We chose budget-friendly foods with quality ingredients and healthy additions like vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation associated with aging and joint problems, says Dr. Nicole Savageau, a small animal veterinarian at The Vets.

Purina One Indoor Advantage Senior 7+ Chicken and Ocean Fish Recipe Pate

Meat protein sources: Chicken, ocean fish, liver, pork lungs
Other standout ingredients: Vitamin E supplement, powdered cellulose
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 48.9% protein, 34.7% fat, 0.5% fiber
Calorie count: 87 kcal/3-ounce can

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Chicken Entree for Mature Cats Pate

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 46.8% protein, 31% fat, 2.8% fiber
Calorie count: 95 kcal/3-ounce can

Natural Balance Original Ultra Salmon Formula

Meat protein sources: Salmon, chicken, chicken liver, ocean fish, egg
Other standout ingredients: Salmon oil and vitamin E
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 49.7% protein, 27.7% fat, 1.2% fiber
Calorie count: 165 kcal/5.5-ounce can

Best budget dry

Bags of dry senior cat food from Nutro, Iams, and Purina against a blue gradient background.For affordable dry senior cat food, we recommend these recipes from Nutro, Iams, and Purina.

Chewy/Business Insider

When it comes to feeding your cat, it’s important to keep portion control in mind since even a few extra kibbles can add up to a lot of extra calories for a cat. Giving your cat measured portions can help them maintain a healthy weight while also helping you save money on cat food. “Be mindful in maintaining your older cat’s weight, as overweight cats are more prone to diabetes, neoplasia, skin disease, and painful osteoarthritis,” says Fox. 

Budget cat foods must meet AAFCO’s recommended nutrient profiles for all life stages, so they have the same essential nutrients as pricier options. However, they may not contain as many healthy extras, like probiotics to regulate digestion or antioxidants to protect against age-related conditions. 

Our budget dry food picks for senior cats include proteins, like beef and chicken byproduct meal, as their first ingredients. Chicken byproduct meal is a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. Our pick from Purina also includes L-lysine, an amino acid that supports the immune system and may increase a cat’s resistance to certain viruses.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat
Other standout ingredients: Dried beet pulp, fish oil, vitamin E supplement
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 36% protein, 17% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 386 kcal/cup

Iams ProActive Health Healthy Senior

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: L-carnitine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34% protein, 17% fat, 3% fiber
Calorie count: 399 kcal/cup

Purina Cat Chow Senior Essentials 7+ Immune and Joint Health

Meat protein sources: Chicken byproduct meal, beef fat, chicken
Other standout ingredients: Vitamin E, L-lysine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34% protein, 12% fat, 4% fiber
Calorie count: 382 kcal/cup

Best for sensitive stomachs

Two cans and a bag of cat food for senior cats with sensitive stomachs from Purina, Wellness, and Hill's, against a blue gradient background..Senior cats with sensitive stomachs may benefit from these foods by Purina, Wellness, and Hill’s.

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When it comes to senior kitties, the best cat food for a sensitive stomach can vary, depending on their individual needs. Luisana tailors her patients’ diets to their age, underlying medical concerns, senior lab work, muscle mass condition score, and body condition score (BCS). For instance, many cats can easily digest high-protein diets, but high-protein food can be harmful for cats with kidney disease.

Generally speaking, certain nutrients and ingredients can make a food more easily digestible for cats. Our experts say that pets have an easier time digesting more processed proteins like meals and byproducts. Recipes with low to moderate fat are also less likely to upset your cat’s stomach. Additionally, foods formulated for sensitive stomachs often contain easily digestible carbohydrates, like whole wheat, corn, or white potatoes.

Our recommendations contain nutritious animal proteins like chicken meal and salmon, a good source of omega fatty acids. Our picks from Purina and Wellness include inulin, a soluble fiber typically derived from chicory root that can aid digestion. Our low-protein pick from Hill’s contains dried beet pulp. Dierenfeld says beet pulp is a good source of fermentable fiber for cats and may help improve digestive health.

Purina Pro Plan Adult 7+ Prime Plus Ocean Whitefish and Salmon Entree

Meat protein sources: Ocean whitefish, liver, meat byproducts, salmon
Other standout ingredients: Chicory root, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 47.4% protein, 36.5% fat, 0.7% fiber
Calorie count: 107 kcal/3-ounce can

Wellness Core Digestive Health Salmon Pate

Meat protein sources: Salmon, chicken, chicken liver, whitefish, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: Cranberry powder, pumpkin powder, inulin, blueberry powder
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 50.1% protein, 34.8% fat, 5% fiber
Calorie count: 99 kcal/3-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Speciality Perfect Digestion Adult 7+ Chicken, Barley, and Whole Oats Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken meal, egg product
Other standout ingredients: L-lysine, dried beet pulp, fish oil, L-carnitine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 33% protein, 17% fat,  2.1% fiber
Calorie count: 465 k/cals per cup

Best for weight loss

Two bags and a can of weight loss food for senior cats from Nulo, Royal Canin, and Blackwood against a blue gradient background.Nulo, Royal Canin, and Blackwood make excellent weight loss food for senior cats.

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If your cat is overweight, your vet may suggest a tailored diet to help them live longer and improve their quality of life. The best senior cat foods for weight loss are low in calories and fat, high in nutrients, and often higher in fiber than other cat foods. In addition, Fox says an exercise routine is just as important, even for senior kitties. 

Our experts recommend a diet that can reduce joint pain and encourage your senior cat to become more active again. Ingredients that may help include fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Savageau says salmon is a particularly excellent protein source for senior cats because it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Our picks for the best cat foods for weight loss contain nutrients that help support healthy weight loss, according to these recommendations. For instance, our picks include omega-rich menhaden fish oil, high-fiber cellulose, and fat-burning L-carnitine. Other healthy extras include probiotics for a healthy gut and antioxidants from blueberries and cranberries to help ease the effects of aging.

Nulo Medal Series Grain-Free Weight Management Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe

Meat protein sources: Deboned salmon, turkey meal, chicken meal, deboned cod, herring meal, chicken fat
Other standout ingredients: Dried cranberries, L-carnitine, probiotics
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 40% protein, 12% fat, 5% fiber
Calorie count: 431 kcal/cup

Royal Canin Indoor 7+ Morsels in Gravy

Meat protein sources: Pork byproducts, chicken byproducts, pork liver, chicken, pork digest, pork plasma
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, fish oil, glucosamine, L-carnitine, chondroitin
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 57.12% protein, 15.36% fat, 4.38% fiber
Calorie count: 65 kcal/3-ounce can

Blackwood Lean/Senior Cat Food

Meat protein sources: Chicken meal, egg product, menhaden fish meal
Other standout ingredients: Dried plain beet pulp, menhaden fish oil, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, probiotics 
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 30% protein, 8% fat, and 3.2% fiber
Calorie count: 366 kcal/cup

Best for hairball control

Two bags and a can of senior hairball control cat foods from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Hill's against a blue gradient background.The best senior hairball control foods include recipes from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Hill’s.

Chewy/Business Insider

If you’ve had your cat for a while, you’ve probably cleaned up a few hairballs. Cats groom themselves as a natural behavior, but when too much hair clumps up in their stomach, a hairball forms. The hairball then travels through the digestive tract as waste or gets coughed up onto your floor (or bed). In some cases, hairballs can become a medical issue if they get stuck in the digestive tract and cause a dangerous obstruction.

Dierenfeld recommends fermentable fibers like beet pulp in cat diets because they feed the good bacteria in the microbiome and help improve gut health. Insoluble fibers like wheat bran, cellulose, and rice hull are also ideal ingredients in hairball control foods since these fibers help pull waste through the digestive tract. 

Just know that while plant-based fiber does play an important role in feline diets, Fox says cats should never eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Cats require amino acids from animal-based proteins that their bodies can’t make. Our picks for the best cat foods for hairballs vary in protein and fat, so you may want to ask your vet about your cat’s specific nutritional needs.

Purina One +Plus Indoor Advantage Senior 7+

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, beef fat
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, soybean hulls, vitamin E, L-lysine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 36% protein, 13% fat, 4.95% fiber
Calorie count: 413 kcal/cup

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Mature Cat Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, cranberries, blueberries, vitamin E
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 47.7% protein, 32.8% fat, 3.4% fiber
Calorie count: 170 kcal/5.5-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Indoor Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken 
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, dried beet pulp, fish oil, vitamin E, L-carnitine, cranberries
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34.1% protein, 17% fat, 8.6% fiber
Calorie count: 316 kcal/cup

What to look for in senior cat food

When shopping for the senior cat food, considering the following criteria can help you make the right choice:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for adult maintenance or all life stages: The AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that recommends nutritional profiles based on an animal’s life stage. They haven’t established specific recommendations for senior cat diets, so these foods must meet the minimum AAFCO nutritional recommendations set for adult or all life stages foods. This means the nutritional profile of senior foods can vary from recipe to recipe. But if you choose a senior cat food formulated for adult maintenance or all life stages, the recipe will meet an adult cat’s dietary requirements.

Guaranteed analysis and nutrient profiles: The guaranteed analysis shows the percentages of protein, fat, and essential nutrients in a food. According to AAFCO standards, all life stages food must meet the minimum nutrient requirements for kittens, which is a minimum of 30% protein and 9% fat. Adult maintenance cat food must have a minimum of 26% protein and 9% fat. Cat food must also contain essential nutrients, including amino acids like taurine found in animal protein, fatty acids from cold water fish, minerals, and vitamins. Our experts say it’s critical to discuss your cat’s recommended nutrient profile with your vet before transitioning to a new food. 

Ingredients list: The ingredients list on a pet food label appears in order of weight. Your cat can get the nutrients they need from various ingredients in many different combinations, Dierenfeld says. However, cats are obligate carnivores, so they require animal-based proteins for essential amino acids. Proteins in the form of whole meat, meat meal, or byproducts should always come first on the ingredients list.

Expert formulations: Our picks for the best senior cat foods all meet quality control standards as recommended by WSAVA. This means the brands employ a full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist or a PhD-level animal nutritionist. These standards help ensure your cat’s food is formulated to meet nutritional recommendations using the right ingredients for cats. 

Manufacturing standards: When choosing a brand of cat food, consider the quality control measures and facilities used. Brands that own their manufacturing plants have greater control over the ingredients in their recipes and, therefore, the food your cat consumes. Pet food brands should also be transparent about how they implement quality control measures. It’s generally not enough to simply say they conduct quality control. Pet food companies should make this information available on their website or provide it upon request.

Calorie content: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories (kcals). Instead of basing calorie needs solely on age, our experts recommend discussing your cat’s lifestyle and eating habits with your vet. Before recommending any senior diet to pet parents, Luisana assesses a cat’s ideal weight, BCS, and muscle mass condition score. The BCS assesses your cat’s body fat on a scale of 1 to 9 while the muscle mass conditioning score assesses your cat’s muscle loss on a scale from normal to severe. This can help you understand if they need to lose or gain weight and lean muscle. You can ask your vet to teach you how to use this visual tool so you can check your cat’s BCS and muscle condition score at home.

How we selected the best senior cat foods

To make our picks for the best senior cat food, we followed recommendations from the AAFCO, the WSAVA Global Nutrition Guidelines, and various publications and organizations linked in this guide. We also consulted two animal nutritionists and three small animal veterinarians to select the senior cat foods for this guide. You can learn more about them below.

Ellen Dierenfeld is a comparative animal nutritionist with a doctorate in animal nutrition from Cornell University. She is the founder of Zootrition, a software designed to record and evaluate the diets of animals. Diernfeld has over 30 years of experience in zoo, wildlife, and companion animal nutrition.

Dr. Kelly Fishman is a small-animal veterinarian and founder of Strut Animal Mobility Specialists. She received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Fishman is trained in animal acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and specialty companion animal diets. She also advises on supplement use.

Dr. Carly Fox is a senior emergency and critical care veterinarian at The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City. She is a graduate of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Fox has a special interest in trauma, emergency procedures, and toxicities.

Dr. Emily Luisana is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and a clinical nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her clinical areas of interest include critical care nutrition, weight loss, homemade diets, and disease-state nutrition. 

Dr. Nicole Savageau is a small animal veterinarian at The Vets. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Senior cat food FAQs

What is the best food for an elderly cat?

There is no one best food for any cat, whatever their age. It may help to consider a few key factors when choosing among the best senior cat foods. For example, high-protein diets may be a good choice for senior cats with age-related muscle loss, but vets don’t recommend these diets for cats with kidney disease. What’s more, since senior cats commonly have arthritis, most will benefit from a diet with supplements that reduce joint pain. These supplements may include omega-3 fatty acids, green-lipped mussel extract, glucosamine, or chondroitin. Additionally, senior cats who are overweight may benefit from a diet with L-carnitine, an amino acid that helps the body convert fat into energy. This healthy extra may help some senior cats lose weight, which can improve their overall health.

Is there a difference in senior cat food?

The AAFCO hasn’t set specific nutritional recommendations for senior cats. So, the minimum nutritional recommendations for senior cat food diets align with those for adult maintenance or all life stages foods. This leaves a lot of room for variation between senior recipe formulas. Many senior food recipes contain added nutrients to relieve joint pain and increase mobility. Other senior diets may be formulated to help manage specific health conditions, like chronic kidney disease. 

When should you switch your cat to senior food?

The 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines define “senior” as 10 years or older. However, certain breeds of cats with chronic health conditions may be considered seniors as early as 8 years old. However, senior cats in good health who eat a quality diet may not need to switch to a senior cat food. If you’re trying to decide whether to transition your older cat to a senior diet, you’ll want to talk to your vet as a first step. They can recommend the best diet for your cat based on their overall health and any signs of aging you’ve noticed.

Is wet or dry food better for senior cats?

Both wet and dry foods formulated for your cat’s life stage can offer similar nutritional benefits, but wet food may be a better fit for some cats. It helps keep cats hydrated, which is especially important for seniors with conditions like kidney disease and diabetes. On the other hand, dry food may promote dental hygiene by helping clean plaque from the teeth. Kibble is also more budget-friendly than wet food. Dierenfeld says the best senior cat food for some cats and their caretakers may be a combination of wet and dry food. Ultimately, the decision between wet and dry food will come down to factors like your budget and your cat’s health — along with their preferences.

Best wet overallCans of wet cat food from Royal Canin, Hill’s, and Wellness, against a blue gradient background.Royal Canin, Hill’s, and Wellness make some of the best wet cat food for senior cats.

Chewy/Business Insider

Domestic cats evolved from desert-dwelling felines, who stayed hydrated by eating prey made up of about 70% water, says Ellen Dierenfeld, a comparative animal nutritionist and founder of Zootrition. Commercial wet cat foods replicate these diets. Since they’re about 75% to 78% moisture, they can help keep your cat hydrated, which is especially important for senior cats with health conditions, says Dr. Kelly Fishman, a veterinarian and founder of Strut Animal Mobility Specialists. 

Senior cats with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism often drink more water and urinate more frequently than healthy cats. So, taking steps to prevent dehydration can help your cat live a longer, happier life, Fishman says. Offering wet food is one of those strategies.

Our top picks for the best wet cat foods for senior cats also contain healthy extras like fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Fox says these nutrients can support your aging cat’s joints and mobility. They can also benefit cats with osteoarthritis — more than 90% of cats over age 12. The soft texture of wet food is ideal for senior cats who have dental disease or have had tooth extractions. 

To compare the nutrition values of wet and dry foods, you’ll need to convert wet food values to a dry matter basis, which are the values with all moisture removed. We contacted the manufacturers of the foods in this guide to get the nutritional profiles of each food on a dry matter basis. If you’d like to compare recipes for dry foods with other wet foods, you can use these directions from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, call the food manufacturer, or ask your vet for help.

Royal Canin Aging 12+ Loaf in Sauce

Meat protein sources: Pork byproducts, pork liver, chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Fish oil, glucosamine, chondroitin
Feeding trials: Yes
Nutrition breakdown: 51% protein, 19% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 71 kcal/3-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Savory Chicken Entrée

Meat protein sources: Chicken, turkey giblets, pork byproducts, pork liver
Other standout ingredients: Fish oil, rice, soybean meal
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 39% protein, 24% fat, 3% fiber
Calorie count:  90 kcal/2.9-ounce can

Wellness Complete Health 7+ Age Advantage Tuna and Salmon Entree

Meat protein sources: Tuna, salmon broth, chicken liver, chicken, salmon
Other standout ingredients: Peas, beet pulp, flaxseed
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 50.8% protein, 22.8% fat, 4.1% fiber
Calorie count: 98 kcal/3-ounce can

Best dry overallBags of dry senior cat foods from Purina, Hill's, and Nulo against a blue gradient background.We like these dry senior cat foods from Purina, Hill’s, and Nulo.

Chewy; Walmart/Business Insider

Senior cat food must meet the same minimum AAFCO nutritional requirements as adult maintenance or all life stages cat food. Your older cat will receive the right nutrients to support their overall health whether you feed them dry or wet food, as long as the food carries the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label. 

That said, while dry cat food (kibble) formulated for senior cats offers similar nutritional benefits to wet food, some key differences between the two types of food may make one a better fit for your cat. Kibble has a longer shelf life and may promote dental health by scraping plaque from their teeth. However, dry food contains about 60% less water than wet food. Fishman says this can be a problem for senior cats at risk of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

Whatever type of food you choose, our experts recommend selecting one that contains quality protein sources. Cats are obligate carnivores who need animal-based proteins like fish, chicken, and eggs. Our kibble picks for the best cat foods for seniors contain these and other nutritious ingredients like fish oil and antioxidant-rich cranberries. Antioxidants may help lower a cat’s risk of degenerative diseases of the liver, kidneys, and brain. Several of our senior picks for the best dry cat foods also contain L-carnitine, an amino acid that can help cats lose weight by making it easier to burn fat.

Purina Pro Plan Prime Plus Salmon and Rice Formula

Meat protein sources: Salmon, poultry byproduct meal, beef fat, fish meal, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: Rice, cassava root flour, soybean meal, fish oil
Feeding trials: Yes
Nutrition breakdown: 38% protein, 17% fat, 2.5% fiber
Calorie count: 603 kcal/cup

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 11+ Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken fat, egg product
Other standout ingredients: Whole grain wheat, brewers rice, flaxseed, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 32.7% protein, 22.5% fat, 3.7% fiber
Calorie count: 510 kcal/cup

Nulo Freestyle Grain-Free Senior Alaska Pollock, Duck, and Sweet Potato Recipe

Meat protein sources: Pollock, chicken meal, turkey meal, deboned duck, chicken fat, salmon meal
Other standout ingredients: Salmon oil, dried cranberries, L-carnitine, probiotics
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 38% protein, 14% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 431 kcal/cup

Best budget wetCans of wet cat food from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Natural Balance against a blue gradient background,Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Natural Balance make nutritious wet food for older cats.

Chewy/Business Insider

Senior cats — even those who have had multiple tooth extractions — can still eat kibble, says Emily Luisana, a veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals. However, your vet may recommend switching to wet food if your senior cat doesn’t like to drink water, has tooth sensitivity, or no longer seems interested in kibble. 

When choosing your cat’s food, your budget may play an important role. Wet cat food is typically more expensive than dry food because it contains more moisture. Still, you have plenty of options for affordable and nutritious wet foods for senior cats. Striking a balance between wet and dry foods may also be an option, depending on your cat’s specific health needs and food preferences. 

We chose budget-friendly foods with quality ingredients and healthy additions like vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation associated with aging and joint problems, says Dr. Nicole Savageau, a small animal veterinarian at The Vets.

Purina One Indoor Advantage Senior 7+ Chicken and Ocean Fish Recipe Pate

Meat protein sources: Chicken, ocean fish, liver, pork lungs
Other standout ingredients: Vitamin E supplement, powdered cellulose
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 48.9% protein, 34.7% fat, 0.5% fiber
Calorie count: 87 kcal/3-ounce can

Blue Buffalo Tastefuls Chicken Entree for Mature Cats Pate

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 46.8% protein, 31% fat, 2.8% fiber
Calorie count: 95 kcal/3-ounce can

Natural Balance Original Ultra Salmon Formula

Meat protein sources: Salmon, chicken, chicken liver, ocean fish, egg
Other standout ingredients: Salmon oil and vitamin E
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 49.7% protein, 27.7% fat, 1.2% fiber
Calorie count: 165 kcal/5.5-ounce can

Best budget dryBags of dry senior cat food from Nutro, Iams, and Purina against a blue gradient background.For affordable dry senior cat food, we recommend these recipes from Nutro, Iams, and Purina.

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When it comes to feeding your cat, it’s important to keep portion control in mind since even a few extra kibbles can add up to a lot of extra calories for a cat. Giving your cat measured portions can help them maintain a healthy weight while also helping you save money on cat food. “Be mindful in maintaining your older cat’s weight, as overweight cats are more prone to diabetes, neoplasia, skin disease, and painful osteoarthritis,” says Fox. 

Budget cat foods must meet AAFCO’s recommended nutrient profiles for all life stages, so they have the same essential nutrients as pricier options. However, they may not contain as many healthy extras, like probiotics to regulate digestion or antioxidants to protect against age-related conditions. 

Our budget dry food picks for senior cats include proteins, like beef and chicken byproduct meal, as their first ingredients. Chicken byproduct meal is a source of glucosamine and chondroitin. Our pick from Purina also includes L-lysine, an amino acid that supports the immune system and may increase a cat’s resistance to certain viruses.

Nutro Wholesome Essentials Senior Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat
Other standout ingredients: Dried beet pulp, fish oil, vitamin E supplement
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 36% protein, 17% fat, 6% fiber
Calorie count: 386 kcal/cup

Iams ProActive Health Healthy Senior

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: L-carnitine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34% protein, 17% fat, 3% fiber
Calorie count: 399 kcal/cup

Purina Cat Chow Senior Essentials 7+ Immune and Joint Health

Meat protein sources: Chicken byproduct meal, beef fat, chicken
Other standout ingredients: Vitamin E, L-lysine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34% protein, 12% fat, 4% fiber
Calorie count: 382 kcal/cup

Best for sensitive stomachsTwo cans and a bag of cat food for senior cats with sensitive stomachs from Purina, Wellness, and Hill's, against a blue gradient background..Senior cats with sensitive stomachs may benefit from these foods by Purina, Wellness, and Hill’s.

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When it comes to senior kitties, the best cat food for a sensitive stomach can vary, depending on their individual needs. Luisana tailors her patients’ diets to their age, underlying medical concerns, senior lab work, muscle mass condition score, and body condition score (BCS). For instance, many cats can easily digest high-protein diets, but high-protein food can be harmful for cats with kidney disease.

Generally speaking, certain nutrients and ingredients can make a food more easily digestible for cats. Our experts say that pets have an easier time digesting more processed proteins like meals and byproducts. Recipes with low to moderate fat are also less likely to upset your cat’s stomach. Additionally, foods formulated for sensitive stomachs often contain easily digestible carbohydrates, like whole wheat, corn, or white potatoes.

Our recommendations contain nutritious animal proteins like chicken meal and salmon, a good source of omega fatty acids. Our picks from Purina and Wellness include inulin, a soluble fiber typically derived from chicory root that can aid digestion. Our low-protein pick from Hill’s contains dried beet pulp. Dierenfeld says beet pulp is a good source of fermentable fiber for cats and may help improve digestive health.

Purina Pro Plan Adult 7+ Prime Plus Ocean Whitefish and Salmon Entree

Meat protein sources: Ocean whitefish, liver, meat byproducts, salmon
Other standout ingredients: Chicory root, fish oil
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 47.4% protein, 36.5% fat, 0.7% fiber
Calorie count: 107 kcal/3-ounce can

Wellness Core Digestive Health Salmon Pate

Meat protein sources: Salmon, chicken, chicken liver, whitefish, dried egg product
Other standout ingredients: Cranberry powder, pumpkin powder, inulin, blueberry powder
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 50.1% protein, 34.8% fat, 5% fiber
Calorie count: 99 kcal/3-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Speciality Perfect Digestion Adult 7+ Chicken, Barley, and Whole Oats Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken meal, egg product
Other standout ingredients: L-lysine, dried beet pulp, fish oil, L-carnitine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 33% protein, 17% fat,  2.1% fiber
Calorie count: 465 k/cals per cup

Best for weight lossTwo bags and a can of weight loss food for senior cats from Nulo, Royal Canin, and Blackwood against a blue gradient background.Nulo, Royal Canin, and Blackwood make excellent weight loss food for senior cats.

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If your cat is overweight, your vet may suggest a tailored diet to help them live longer and improve their quality of life. The best senior cat food for weight loss is low in calories and fat, high in nutrients, and often higher in fiber than other cat foods. In addition, Fox says an exercise routine is just as important, even for senior kitties. 

Our experts recommend a diet that can reduce joint pain and encourage your senior cat to become more active again. Ingredients that may help include fish oil, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Savageau says salmon is a particularly excellent protein source for senior cats because it’s high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Our picks for the best cat foods for weight loss contain nutrients that help support healthy weight loss, according to these recommendations. For instance, our picks include omega-rich menhaden fish oil, high-fiber cellulose, and fat-burning L-carnitine. Other healthy extras include probiotics for a healthy gut and antioxidants from blueberries and cranberries to help ease the effects of aging.

Nulo Medal Series Grain-Free Weight Management Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe

Meat protein sources: Deboned salmon, turkey meal, chicken meal, deboned cod, herring meal, chicken fat
Other standout ingredients: Dried cranberries, L-carnitine, probiotics
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 40% protein, 12% fat, 5% fiber
Calorie count: 431 kcal/cup

Royal Canin Indoor 7+ Morsels in Gravy

Meat protein sources: Pork byproducts, chicken byproducts, pork liver, chicken, pork digest, pork plasma
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, fish oil, glucosamine, L-carnitine, chondroitin
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 57.12% protein, 15.36% fat, 4.38% fiber
Calorie count: 65 kcal/3-ounce can

Blackwood Lean/Senior Cat Food

Meat protein sources: Chicken meal, egg product, menhaden fish meal
Other standout ingredients: Dried plain beet pulp, menhaden fish oil, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, probiotics 
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 30% protein, 8% fat, and 3.2% fiber
Calorie count: 366 kcal/cup

Best for hairball controlTwo bags and a can of senior hairball control cat foods from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Hill's against a blue gradient background.The best senior hairball control foods include recipes from Purina, Blue Buffalo, and Hill’s.

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If you’ve had your cat for a while, you’ve probably cleaned up a few hairballs. Cats groom themselves as a natural behavior, but when too much hair clumps up in their stomach, a hairball forms. The hairball then travels through the digestive tract as waste or gets coughed up onto your floor (or bed). In some cases, hairballs can become a medical issue if they get stuck in the digestive tract and cause a dangerous obstruction.

Dierenfeld recommends fermentable fibers like beet pulp in cat diets because they feed the good bacteria in the microbiome and help improve gut health. Insoluble fibers like wheat bran, cellulose, and rice hull are also ideal ingredients in hairball control foods since these fibers help pull waste through the digestive tract. 

Just know that while plant-based fiber does play an important role in feline diets, Fox says cats should never eat a vegan or vegetarian diet. Cats require amino acids from animal-based proteins that their bodies can’t make. Our picks for the best cat foods for hairballs vary in protein and fat, so you may want to ask your vet about your cat’s specific nutritional needs.

Purina One +Plus Indoor Advantage Senior 7+

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, beef fat
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, soybean hulls, vitamin E, L-lysine
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 36% protein, 13% fat, 4.95% fiber
Calorie count: 413 kcal/cup

Blue Buffalo Freedom Indoor Mature Cat Grain-Free Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken, chicken liver
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, cranberries, blueberries, vitamin E
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 47.7% protein, 32.8% fat, 3.4% fiber
Calorie count: 170 kcal/5.5-ounce can

Hill’s Science Diet Adult 7+ Indoor Chicken Recipe

Meat protein sources: Chicken 
Other standout ingredients: Powdered cellulose, dried beet pulp, fish oil, vitamin E, L-carnitine, cranberries
Feeding trials: No
Nutrition breakdown: 34.1% protein, 17% fat, 8.6% fiber
Calorie count: 316 kcal/cup

What to look for in senior cat food

When shopping for the senior cat food, considering the following criteria can help you make the right choice:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for adult maintenance or all life stages: The AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that recommends nutritional profiles based on an animal’s life stage. They haven’t established specific recommendations for senior cat diets, so these foods must meet the minimum AAFCO nutritional recommendations set for adult or all life stages foods. This means the nutritional profile of senior foods can vary from recipe to recipe. But if you choose a senior cat food formulated for adult maintenance or all life stages, the recipe will meet an adult cat’s dietary requirements.

Guaranteed analysis and nutrient profiles: The guaranteed analysis shows the percentages of protein, fat, and essential nutrients in a food. According to AAFCO standards, all life stages food must meet the minimum nutrient requirements for kittens, which is a minimum of 30% protein and 9% fat. Adult maintenance cat food must have a minimum of 26% protein and 9% fat. Cat food must also contain essential nutrients, including amino acids like taurine found in animal protein, fatty acids from cold water fish, minerals, and vitamins. Our experts say it’s critical to discuss your cat’s recommended nutrient profile with your vet before transitioning to a new food. 

Ingredients list: The ingredients list on a pet food label appears in order of weight. Your cat can get the nutrients they need from various ingredients in many different combinations, Dierenfeld says. However, cats are obligate carnivores, so they require animal-based proteins for essential amino acids. Proteins in the form of whole meat, meat meal, or byproducts should always come first on the ingredients list.

Expert formulations: Our picks for the best senior cat food all meet quality control standards as recommended by WSAVA. This means the brands employ a full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist or a PhD-level animal nutritionist. These standards help ensure your cat’s food is formulated to meet nutritional recommendations using the right ingredients for cats. 

Manufacturing standards: When choosing a brand of cat food, consider the quality control measures and facilities used. Brands that own their manufacturing plants have greater control over the ingredients in their recipes and, therefore, the food your cat consumes. Pet food brands should also be transparent about how they implement quality control measures. It’s generally not enough to simply say they conduct quality control. Pet food companies should make this information available on their website or provide it upon request.

Calorie content: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories (kcals). Instead of basing calorie needs solely on age, our experts recommend discussing your cat’s lifestyle and eating habits with your vet. Before recommending any senior diet to pet parents, Luisana assesses a cat’s ideal weight, BCS, and muscle mass condition score. The BCS assesses your cat’s body fat on a scale of 1 to 9 while the muscle mass conditioning score assesses your cat’s muscle loss on a scale from normal to severe. This can help you understand if they need to lose or gain weight and lean muscle. You can ask your vet to teach you how to use this visual tool so you can check your cat’s BCS and muscle condition score at home.

How we selected the best senior cat foods

We consulted two animal nutritionists and three small animal veterinarians to select the senior cat foods for this guide.

Ellen Dierenfeld is a comparative animal nutritionist with a doctorate in animal nutrition from Cornell University. She is the founder of Zootrition, a software designed to record and evaluate the diets of animals. Diernfeld has over 30 years of experience in zoo, wildlife, and companion animal nutrition.

Dr. Kelly Fishman is a small-animal veterinarian and founder of Strut Animal Mobility Specialists. She received her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Fishman is trained in animal acupuncture, physical rehabilitation, and specialty companion animal diets. She also advises on supplement use.

Dr. Carly Fox is a senior emergency and critical care veterinarian at The Schwarzman Animal Medical Center in New York City. She is a graduate of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. Fox has a special interest in trauma, emergency procedures, and toxicities.

Dr. Emily Luisana is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and a clinical nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the NC State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her clinical areas of interest include critical care nutrition, weight loss, homemade diets, and disease-state nutrition. 

Dr. Nicole Savageau is a small animal veterinarian at The Vets. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

We also consulted recommendations from the AAFCO, the WSAVA Global Nutrition Guidelines, and various publications and organizations linked in this guide.

Senior cat food FAQs

What is the best food for an elderly cat?

There is no one best food for any cat, whatever their age. It may help to consider a few key factors when choosing the best senior cat food. For example, high-protein diets may be a good choice for senior cats with age-related muscle loss, but vets don’t recommend these diets for cats with kidney disease. What’s more, since senior cats commonly have arthritis, most will benefit from a diet with supplements that reduce joint pain. These supplements may include omega-3 fatty acids, green-lipped mussel extract, glucosamine, or chondroitin. Additionally, senior cats who are overweight may benefit from a diet with L-carnitine, an amino acid that helps the body convert fat into energy. This healthy extra may help some senior cats lose weight, which can improve their overall health.

Is there a difference in senior cat food?

The AAFCO hasn’t set specific nutritional recommendations for senior cats. So, the minimum nutritional recommendations for senior cat food diets align with those for adult maintenance or all life stages foods. This leaves a lot of room for variation between senior recipe formulas. Many senior food recipes contain added nutrients to relieve joint pain and increase mobility. Other senior diets may be formulated to help manage specific health conditions, like chronic kidney disease. 

When should you switch your cat to senior food?

The 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines define “senior” as 10 years or older. However, certain breeds of cats with chronic health conditions may be considered seniors as early as 8 years old. However, senior cats in good health who eat a quality diet may not need to switch to a senior cat food. If you’re trying to decide whether to transition your older cat to a senior diet, you’ll want to talk to your vet as a first step. They can recommend the best diet for your cat based on their overall health and any signs of aging you’ve noticed.

Is wet or dry food better for senior cats?

Both wet and dry foods formulated for your cat’s life stage can offer similar nutritional benefits, but wet food may be a better fit for some cats. It helps keep cats hydrated, which is especially important for seniors with conditions like kidney disease and diabetes. On the other hand, dry food may promote dental hygiene by helping clean plaque from the teeth. Kibble is also more budget-friendly than wet food. Dierenfeld says the best senior cat food for some cats and their caretakers may be a combination of wet and dry food. Ultimately, the decision between wet and dry food will come down to factors like your budget and your cat’s health — along with their preferences.

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