SOURCE: Purina

February 15, 2006 12:41 ET

Studies Reveal Cats Struggle to Maintain Weight in Later Years

Nutritional Needs of Senior Cats Change After Age 11

ST. LOUIS, MO -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 15, 2006 -- Like the aging human population, America's most popular pet, the cat, lives a greater portion of life in the senior years -- more than half his life in fact. Though advances in veterinary care, better nutrition and better educated owners have helped improve the quantity and quality of these years, new studies reveal that senior cats continue to struggle with weight as the result of reduced activity levels and a steady decline in senses, nutrient absorption and fat digestion.

Purina® Pro Plan® has reformulated its entire line of senior cat foods to address the changing nutritional and physiological needs of aging cats in two different phases of the senior lifestage: ages 7-11 (mature) and 11 and up (senior). Purina Pro Plan brand's new senior formulas are the only dry cat food formulas on the market today that specifically address two different senior lifestages.

"One of the most important goals when feeding senior cats is maintaining an ideal weight and keeping that weight stable," said Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM, who developed a senior wellness program to address the special needs of aging cats at his veterinary clinic, Manhattan Cat Specialists in New York City. "However, up to 50 percent of cats over the age of 11 are underweight because of the various physiological changes that occur during this senior phase. The specialized nutrition provided by Purina Pro Plan brand's reformulated senior line helps keep their aging bodies at an ideal weight to promote optimal health throughout their later years."

The Aging Cat

Like humans, cats do not age at a consistent pace. Breed, activity level and overall health are factors that can affect the cat's aging process. However, it is generally accepted that indoor cats enter maturity around the age of seven and live, on average, for 16 years. As the senior years progress, cats often experience the classic outward signs of aging such as whitening of hair, drop in activity level, changes in the skin, coat and body condition, and failing senses. But these more obvious signs of aging are just one part of the picture.

"When a cat enters his senior years, less noticeable changes begin to occur behind-the-scenes in the digestive, immune and skin and coat systems," said Plotnick. "As the aging process progresses, these key protective systems tend to work less efficiently, which can open the door to other problems such as dramatic weight changes and disease."

Although weight gain is a common concern during the early part of the senior lifestage when a cat's activity level declines, weight loss is a top concern after 11 years. Around this age, many cats' sense of smell and taste diminish, which affects their interest in food. In addition, their ability to absorb key nutrients and digest fat declines, making eating itself less efficient. In fact, one-third of cats over the age of 11 experience a decrease in fat digestibility, with only 40 to 80 percent of the fat in their diet digested. The undesirable result of an inefficient digestive system is that more food passes through as waste and less is used for energy, causing a drop in lean muscle mass and body fat that leads to potentially harmful weight loss.

Nutrition for the Later Years

Given the physiological changes that occur in the senior cat and the potential dangers associated with weight loss, the nutritional goal during these years is to provide a diet that helps keep cats interested in eating and promotes fat digestion. Purina Pro Plan brand's Senior Cat 11+ Formula is a great tasting formula that contains highly digestible ingredients including up to 43 percent protein and a special blend of nutrients that helps facilitate the digestion of fat.

"Increasing a senior cat's food intake is not an ideal solution for gaining weight as the digestive system itself is not as efficient," said Plotnick. "Senior cats that are experiencing weight loss should be fed a palatable, highly digestible, nutrient dense food such as Purina Pro Plan Senior Cat 11+ Formula."

In addition to providing optimal levels of protein to help maintain lean body mass and a healthy weight, all of the Purina Pro Plan brand's senior formulas nutritionally support the many other health concerns of the aging cat, including:

--  Joint health: Calcium, phosphorus, and other nutrients help support
    strong bones and healthy joints
--  Immune system health: Complete nutrition with vital antioxidants and
    high levels of quality protein to help nourish the immune system
--  Skin and coat health: Contain omega fatty acids, vitamin A and high-
    quality protein to help support a healthy skin and coat
--  Vision health: Formulated with vitamin A and taurine for bright,
    healthy eyes and good vision
--  Dental health: Crunchy texture helps maintain healthy teeth and
    promote fresh breath, while small kibble in Senior 11+ formulas is designed
    for older cats
    
Real chicken or turkey is the #1 ingredient in the Purina Pro Plan brand's reformulated line of senior cat foods. The newly formulated line is available in pet specialty stores and includes two formulas for senior cats ages 11 and up (Pro Plan Senior Cat 11+ Indoor Care and Pro Plan Senior Cat 11+ Chicken and Rice) and three formulas for mature cats aged 7-11 (Pro Plan Senior Cat 7-11 Indoor Care, Pro Plan Senior Cat 7-11 Hairball Management and Pro Plan Senior Cat 7-11 Chicken and Rice).

"Providing the proper lifestage diet is one of the most important measures cat owners can take to improve their cats' quality of life," said Plotnick.

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