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January 4, 2016

It is no secret that pets are living longer lives than ever before. With that positive trend has come a change in the terminology of pet aging.

According to Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, dogs and cats used to be considered seniors when they reached seven years of age. Now, because cats (and dogs) are living well into their teens, seven years is now termed “adult” and 11 years is considered “senior.”

Ingredients for Longer Lives

With cats living well into their late teens and even their early twenties, nutritionists must  reconsider older cats’ diet changes as they enter later life stages.

“At Royal Canin, we typically recommend cats at the age of seven switch from an adult diet to a mature diet,” Myabb said. “Nutrients in these diets such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help support healthy aging. As cats continue to age, additional nutritional adaptations can be even more beneficial, so we recommend the change to a senior diet at age 11. Even if you’re not seeing physical signs of aging yet, there may be aging changes that we should address with nutrition.”

According to Heidi Nevala, president and founder of Natura Petz Organics, it is not uncommon for senior cats to display multiple symptoms related to a variety of health conditions. This makes it difficult for owners to offer palliative care.

“Retailers and pet parents alike are seeking superior feline wellness solutions that are condition-responsive as well as contain more specialized ingredients beyond MSM [methylsulfonylmethane] and chondroitin, such as adaptogens and super foods,” Nevala said.

She further explained, “Our product called Bionic Body contains adaptogens such as camu camu and cat’s claw, which are plants that are naturally coded to identify oxidative, metabolic, physiological and emotional distress in your cat’s body and nutritionally work to help restore balance.”

Many senior pet products incorporate ingredients with high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—the so-called “super foods.”

“Super foods are another compelling wellness solution for senior cats because, as our cats age, it becomes more difficult for them to assimilate critical nutrients,” Nevala said. “Super foods like maca and sacha inchi are highly nutritious, but also offer innovative joint care by working to limit inflammation and pain. They may also help stimulate collagen production, which directly builds bones, cartilage, joints and connective tissues, and thus can offset symptoms related to degenerative conditions such as arthritis.”

Making Pills Palatable

When it comes to supplements and medication, it is often possible to open a capsule and sprinkle its contents onto food. Unlike their canine counterparts, cats are not known to simply chomp down pills. Using some kind of tasty treat to hide a pill is one solution for many cat owners.

“Our Pill Paste is low-calorie so that it can be used to disguise capsules and pills that have to be given daily,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products.

The paste is bacon flavored and, according to Cope, is a flavor that cats seem to enjoy as much as dogs do.

There are Greenies Pill Pockets from Mars Petcare, which can also be found in the treat aisle. These help pills masquerade as treats and are available in two flavors: chicken and salmon.

Creature Comforts

The Green Pet Shop has produced a self-warming mat called the Achy Paws Pet Mat, designed to soothe aching joints and increase blood circulation.

“The self-warming mat uses a unique, non-toxic bamboo charcoal technology that is pressure-activated by a pet’s own weight to provide a soothing relief from a natural source,” said Larry Wright, president and CEO of the company. “The pad is soft and durable and made with triple-layered fabric that absorbs odor, moisture and toxins.”

Apart from their soothing effects, the mats are also designed to calm the restlessness, stress and anxiety that go along with discomfort.

“If a pet overheats, the bamboo charcoal can also fluctuate according to the pet’s temperature and provide a cooling relief,” Wright added.

The mats are machine washable.

The senior cats category also allows retailers to expand their horizons by adding to their inventory a variety of lifestyle products that will also enhance the general health and wellbeing of older felines.
Pet steps are one example.

Petmate offers a wide variety of products to provide solutions for older cats, such as super comfy beds and Pet Steps, which have been designed with older pets in mind,” said Emily Schmale, senior marketing manager for the company. “Our Pet Steps are perfect for cats (or small dogs) that need help jumping onto the sofa, a chair or the bed. They are constructed as one piece but are lightweight enough to move around to different locations within the home. They also have rubber feet so as not to damage flooring.”

Older felines often have trouble getting down to floor or counter level to eat, and raised bowls–even those that are slightly raised–make the eating experience a more comfortable one. The Wetnoz Style Series includes raised oval-shaped bowls made from a high gloss melamine.

“They are designed to be skid-proof and dishwasher safe,” Schmale said.

The oval design is also cognizant of whisker stress that occurs when the cat’s whiskers touch the sides of a food bowl.

“This shape allows whiskers to remain untouched by the bowl and thus helps to make the eating experience an all the more enjoyable one.”

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