One of the hardest parts about being a pet parent is the hard, cold truth that our pets have such short life spans in the grand scheme of things. Aging cats and aging dogs have a special place in our hearts, indeed.
As a dog lover of the highest order, I am often in awe at my cat friends who have a cat that lives to a ripe old age of 18, 19, 20, or more. So what is it about cats that seems to bless their parents with a longer life span in general? Millions of pet households, and no doubt Fidose of Reality readers, share their lives with both a dog and a cat (maybe more than one of each). It is timely, then, that we explore what it is that helps live longer lives. Just what is considered an “old cat” versus an “old dog” — or as we prefer to call them, senior pets. Here’s the scoop and some tips on how you can help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life.
Keeping Your Older Dog or Cat Young: Protein Requirements
Ah, the hotly contested and often misunderstood protein debate: Just how much and in what quantity should you feed your dog or cat? Protein is a building block essential to all dogs and cats at all stages of life.
In general, cats have a high protein requirement, so knowing how much to feed according to age is pivotal. Since cats cannot synthesize certain amino acids, they require protein in their diet. Essential amino acids are reformed into proteins that help tissues grow along with repair and regulating of the body’s metabolic processes.
Cats age 7 to 10 are considered mature adults, while cats age 11 and up are generally “seniors.” For dogs, these numbers change. Depending on size, a dog is considered a senior when he or she hits 8 to 10 years old.
The old adage that senior diets should include a reduced level of protein has proven to be inaccurate. Read on, we’ve got guidelines and feeding requirements for senior cats and dogs. Remember to always check with your pet’s veterinarian before making any food changes.
Weight Management and Dietary Needs
It’s no surprise that a dog or cat with extra weight has a harder time with mobility, is more prone to an array of health problems, and more susceptible to things like arthritis and cancer. We just “celebrated” National Pet Obesity Day in this country. If there’s an entire date dedicated to the topic, no doubt it’s a problem.
Feeding older pets is part of the confusion: Maintaining quality of life whole decrease risk of diseases is pivotal. So what’s the difference in cat and dog feeding amounts and requirement? Aha, the million dollar loaded question indeed.
What to Feed a Senior Cat vs a Senior Dog
Protein intake for adult cats should equate to about 25 to 30 percent of the daily caloric intake. Not all proteins are created equally and each protein varies in its ability to break down into amino acids. Cats require taurine as an amino acid, which is found in meat or eggs. Quality protein sources include chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, beef, and eggs.
Generally, older cats require higher amounts of protein since they absorb and metabolize protein less effectively as they age. A high protein, quality diet using an animal source is important to senior felines. Cats fed too much protein will excrete it in their urine, but those with kidney damage should be monitored closely for protein consumption. Follow similar guidelines for protein requirements of an adult cat.
Since a cat’s metabolism is different than a dog’s, they also use carbohydrates less effectively than dogs. In turn, cats use more protein in their diets.
Diets of adult dogs (over one year of age) should contain anywhere between 10 and 18 percent protein. Animal-based proteins are best for dogs, including chicken, lamb, fish, or beef.
The old adage that senior diets should include a reduced level of protein has proven to be inaccurate. In fact, senior diets should maintain a steady, if not increased, level of protein so dogs can maintain good muscle mass. The extra protein a senior dog’s system does not need will be excreted via urine, burned off in exercise, or stored as fat. Feeding quality protein in canines with kidney issues ensures the dog’s kidneys will not work as hard. Generally, follow the same protein levels as an adult dog.
With an aging pet population and a pet industry vying for your hard-earned dollars, pet parents have options these days. One of the formulas we recently learned about is from our friends at Hill’s. The new Science Diet Age Defying cat food is designed to actually fight the signs of aging with visible results, as in 30 days’ time. Hill’s tells Fidose of Reality that after 30 days of eating this diet, senior cats will have increased play and interaction, increased agility, fewer in-house accidents, and sleep less. Senior cats with hairball issues have a special formula from Hill’s as well: The Mature Adult Hairball Control. Some days I think my dog believes he is a cat with his self-grooming, but I digress.
So Why Are Cats Living Longer?
Scientifically, it appears that the metabolism of dogs is higher than cats and with dogs being more active than cats in general, our feline friends seem to tip the longevity scales in their favor.
As a pet parent, my goal is to help keep my dog happy and healthy, defying the signs of aging and maintaining his zest for life for many years to come. It’s good to be a dog or cat parent these days. Here’s to a long, happy healthy life for your pets, no matter their age. Senior pets do, simply stated, rock.
Got a tip for keeping your aging cats or aging dogs young? Bark at us below in the comments!
Note: This post is sponsored by Hill’s. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s Science Diet for Cats, but Fidose of Reality only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.