Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a major disease affecting old cats and is the consequence of severe and irreversible loss of brain cells and brain atrophy. The present study focused on the hypothesis that the optimal strategy for promoting successful brain ageing is to target risk factors associated with brain ageing and dementia. We used a nutritional strategy involving supplementation with a blend of nutrients (antioxidants, arginine, B vitamins and fish oil) to test this hypothesis. Middle-aged and old cats between 5·5 and 8·7 years of age were assigned to cognitively equivalent control or treatment groups based on prior cognitive experience and performance on baseline cognitive tests. The cats in the treatment group were maintained on a diet supplemented with the nutrient blend and the cats in the control group were maintained on the identical base diet without the additional supplementation. After an initial wash-in period, all cats were tested on a battery of cognitive test protocols. The cats fed the test diet showed significantly better performance on three of four test protocols: a protocol assessing egocentric learning, a protocol assessing discrimination and reversal learning and a protocol focused on acquisition of a spatial memory task. The results support the hypothesis that brain function of middle-aged and old cats can be improved by the nutrient blend that was selected to minimise or eliminate the risk factors associated with brain ageing and dementia.