What does the geriatric stage cover nutritionally for cats?

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Cats have specific nutritional needs, such as their need for high amounts of protein, the amino acid taurine, and Vitamin A. As cats age, their individual nutritional requirements can vary depending on their age-related changes in body function, disease processes, and behavior.
A cat is considered geriatric when she is 12 years of age or older. Unlike dogs, where activity decreases with age, the cat’s energy needs will stay basically the same throughout adulthood. Although AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) only recognizes two life stages—and senior isn’t one of them—there are some senior foods on the market that include extra nutrients, such as fiber, needed for the senior-to-geriatric set. Ask your veterinarian to see if he/she recommends them. You’ll need to monitor the weight and body condition of your cat, and adjust her diet accordingly.
Here are some key points to keep in mind in caring for your geriatric cat:
• Some studies have shown that senior cats do not digest, and thus absorb fat, as well as younger cats. This means that older cats may need to consume fat that is more digestible to get the same amount of energy.
• The protein needs of cats are higher than the protein needs of many other animals. Inadequate amounts of protein in the diet can impair immune function. Unless the cat has a health condition, which would call for protein restriction, an older cat should not be placed on a protein-restricted diet.
• Sometimes older cats don’t drink sufficient water, which make constipation problems worse and can result in dehydration. If this is the case for you, consider purchasing one of those flowing cat fountains or add a little water to her food for extra moisture.
• Very often, an older cat may lose her appetite. Often, this is because of diminished sense of smell. First, take her to the veterinarian to be sure there’s no underlying disease causing the reduction in appetite. If she receives a clean bill of health, try popping the food in the microwave for a few seconds to bring out enticing aromas. Other options include switching from dry to canned food, feeding smaller amounts of food more often, checking her feeding area to be sure it’s quiet and stress-free and asking your veterinarian about any pet “gravies” or drippings that can be safely added to pet food.

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