Aging cats experience a larger number of chronic diseases than younger cats: some of these conditions may benefit from special dietary management. The hypothesis examined in this study was that geriatric cats are fed differently than younger adult cats.
The data used for this study were generated as part of a larger study, using a telephone survey of pet owners. A questionnaire was administered to pet owners selected by a randomized process using a local telephone book from each study site (four in the USA, one in Australia). If an owner had multiple pets, a single pet in the household was used as the subject of the survey. All telephone calls were made between May-August, 2004, and 1074 surveys were completed. After excluding dogs, kittens and all cats fed therapeutic diets, the dataset used for this study represented 429 adult cats. Data were grouped by cat age into Adult (1-6 yr, N = 251), Mature (7-11 yr, N = 125), and Geriatric (12 yr and up, N = 53). Linear regression and ANOVA were used to detect differences by age, and by age group, respectively.
Owner reported body condition was greatest for Mature, and lowest for Geriatric cats, p<0.001. Geriatric cats were more likely to have health problems (p<0.001), but were not seen by a veterinarian with greater frequency. Commercial pet foods made up over 94% of the diet for all 3 age groups. The proportion of dry food consumed decreased (p<0.01) while canned food intake increased (p<0.001) with age. This resulted in significant differences between Geriatric and Adult cats in dry and canned food intake, whereas Mature cats were intermediate for both parameters. Geriatric cats received more table scraps than younger cats, but this was significant only versus Mature cats (p = 0.026). No effect of age was detected on feeding of treats, vitamins or supplements, or on the use of non-commercial foods.
Geriatric cats are fed more canned food and more table scraps, compared to younger adult cats. This may influence dietary recommendations, especially if dietary changes are needed for therapeutic reasons.