Life is too short. Did you know the Arctic Whale can live for over 200 years? No, nor did I. Unfortunately Arctic whales aren’t the best pet, for numerous reasons. Also, they’re not very cuddly. I’ve had owned many cats in my life and currently have two Maine Coon brothers, Harry and Charlie. They’re 14, loving life and really happy. I’m all too aware of the lifespan of cats though and so I do everything I can to not only give them the best life possible but to give them the longest of lives.
Here are 14 ways in which you can help to lengthen our cat’s life:
1) Regular vet check-ups
If you don’t get your car regularly serviced then there’s an increased risk of something going wrong. Regular car services increase the chances of capturing a more serious problem at an earlier point and hopefully fixing it before it becomes a major problem. It’s also why we (should) get regular dental check-ups, preventative care is a lot more effective than finding a cure.
Okay, so I think you know where I’m going with this one. Take your cat in for an annual health-check. Even if you think your cat is absolutely fine, it’s worth doing. Even though you’ll only go (hopefully) once a year, it will help your cat form a bond with your vet. They’ll become more accustomed to the smells and hopefully, the same vet will see them each time so they can become accustomed to them. I’m not saying they’ll ever actually enjoy the experience but it will hopefully make it a little easier for them.
Another reason to go is to get their vaccinations topped up. Maybe your cat is doing so well because you do these annual health checks?
2) Indoors or Outdoors?
If you let your cat out then it doesn’t need saying that there is an increased risk to their health. There are numerous potential dangers such as:
- leftover food that may contain parasites
- Dirty water that contains bugs
- Getting into fights with other cats (and subsequent infections)
- Traffic and generally bad people
- Getting lost
..to name but a few. Once you let her out of that catflap then it is out of your control and you have no idea what she will get up to. There are breeds which are content to stay inside though so if this is your thing then this may be something to explore. There is also an argument of course that says the outside is her natural habitat and by preventing her from exploring you’re restricting the life she can lead. I’m in this camp personally but that’s just because I’ve always had cats that have enjoyed playing outside.
We’ve also been very lucky with them coming back, apart from one incident where we ‘lost’ our Charlie for three days. Maybe if we’d had a different experience then we would think differently. Also, by keeping the cat inside (and meaning they may suffer from higher anxiety as they feel trapped) would you be accelerating the one thing you’re trying to slow down? Who knows. There are a lot of things you can do for your cat to increase their life expectancy but, depending on the cat, I think forcing them to stay inside is a little selfish.
3) Look for weight loss
Whenever we take our son round his Nanny’s she comments on how much he’s grown. She’s right, he’s 11 and growing quickly, maybe another inch since she saw him last time. We always say, “oh, has he?”. Because we spend so much time with him we don’t notice these changes. The same can be said for your cat. You won’t notice that they’re gradually losing weight. You may be looking at old photos and think to yourself, “wow, she was quite a bit bigger back then.”
There are many reasons why your cat may be losing weight. If you think your cat has lost 10% of her weight, then you should be concerned and get them to the vet. But how do you know if they’ve lost that much weight? Well, weigh them regularly, we’d recommend once a month. Keep track of her weight in the spreadsheet and talk to your vet if you’re concerned. This is another advantage of getting regular check-ups though as they will weigh your cat whilst there.
4) Play with your cats
A cat without anxiety is a happy cat and a happy cat is one that is being stimulated. You should make time to spend at least 20 minutes a day playing with your cat. More if she’s an indoor-cat. We have a few cat toys in our dining room and we now just leave them there. We know when our ginger cat wants to play as he either stands in the middle of them all looking up at us all big-eyed or alternatively flops upside down purring. We have made the mistake of tickling his tummy on several times (it’s so inviting) only to be ‘got’. Despite being 13 he still has reflects of a ….err cat.
You don’t need to spend loads on cat toys if you don’t want to though. Ours get just as much fun out of a piece of a4 paper being folded up like a fan and then a piece of string tied through the middle. It makes it look like a giant butterfly or maybe it reminds them of a bird. Anyway, they love it and chase it all over the place. It doesn’t last long but then it is only a piece of paper so I’m not fussed.
The advantage of this is not only will you be reducing any signs of stress in your cat but you’ll be reducing the stress levels in yourself. Go on, give it a go and see what I mean!
5) Look for Vomiting
You will have seen this I’m sure, a cat can be sick for many reasons. Your job is to tell when it’s serious and when it isn’t. Try not to get confused between when she regurgitates and when she doesn’t. Regurgitation is when the contents of the esophagus are dispelled. You’ll recognize it when she does this as she will usually lower her head a little and won’t be straining. The food will most likely be undigested and will often have a shape like a tube. Then, they may eat it – yuk! Cats will also be sick though when they eat something that doesn’t agree with them or maybe just ate too much.
There can be a number of reasons why a cat vomits and some of them can be serious. So, if your cat is vomiting frequently you need to bring her into the vets for an examination. It may well be nothing serious but don’t take the chance. Catching potential problems earlier is a big factor in increasing the lifespan of your cat. You’ll have a gut feeling about these things usually so if it’s telling you that something isn’t right, then get it checked out.
6) Give them a great diet
Firstly, remember that your cat isn’t a vegetarian. They need to eat meat as their small bodies require the proteins that are found within it. They would prefer regular meals and more of them than just a couple of very large ones.
There are a lot of foods that you most certainly must not feed your cat:
Chocolate (tempting around Christmas time I know but, like with dogs, don’t do it – it’s poisonous to them), onions, coffee. Garlic, grapes, avocado’s, sultanas, raisins, currants and any type of nut. Definitely no tomatoes, mushrooms and cooked bones (see the part above about bones). Even as much as a teaspoon of alcohol can be poisonous. Although I’m not sure why anyone would feed their cat some of this stuff. It’s like us asking for a cyanide cream biscuit, really?
Our cats are 13 and healthy so let me share with you what we do as we know it has at least worked very well for them. We give them a combination of wet food pouches and dry food, with a clean bowl of fresh water every day. In the evening we cook 2 cod steaks. This may sound extravagant but they’re surprisingly inexpensive if bought in bulk. Every few months they go off their wet food for some reason and we switch to some other brand. We then repeat. For the last couple of years, we’ve been using the senior pouches. As they’re not going out as much these days they don’t need as many calories.
7) Give them fresh water
I mentioned it above but it’s important enough to be highlighted. If you don’t do this they will find a water source somewhere else, more likely outside. This could be water that’s dirty and has parasites within it. Or it might be from a garden pond and if there have been any animals that have died in it then your pet could become quite ill.
The water dish should be cleaned every day and scrubbed if necessary to get rid of any calcium deposits around the edge of the water line. Fresh water should be put in and the dish topped up during the day if required.
If your cat is acting lethargic or not urinating (easier to tell if they use a litter tray) or if their coat seems a bit off then this could be a sign of dehydration.
8) Dental hygiene
When you take your cat for her annual checkup they will check the cat’s teeth but there are some things you can keep an eye out for in between these:
- Have you noticed her struggling to eat properly or even not wanting to eat?
- Are there any noticeable ulcers in her mouth?
- Does she have an unusual smelling breath?
- Have you noticed her drolling abnormally?
If you’ve spotted any of the above symptoms in your cat then see your vet about it. It is possible to brush your cat’s teeth at home but this is rare. If you’re going to go down that route then you need to start early. There are alternatives to this though. You can get toys that the cat will chew on and also special treats geared towards dental hygiene (this is what we’ve been using). If we started again then maybe we would try brushing their teeth from when they were kittens but in 13 awesome years, they’ve not had a single problem with their teeth as yet. We just give them the dental biscuits and whatever they’re doing, they’re working!
9) Ease up on the cat treats
It’s easy to spoil cats. Whether it’s a bit of ham leftover from your dinner or a bit of chicken from your lunch. They’ll love it of course. So much so that they’ll expect it next time you have it. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with giving the occasional treat, but everything in moderation. If they fill up on treats they won’t eat their dinner (reminds me of a conversation I have with my son, every day). Their food pouches (or whatever you regularly get them) is where they get the right amount of proteins and calories. If you want them to maintain a healthy life then ease up on the treats, yes, now and then, but not every day.
10) Vitamins and Supplements?
A debatable point this as a lot of people will question whether they’re required at all. However, a lot of people believe that supplements can extend a cat’s life. My personal advice would be this if your cat is doing really well and healthy then don’t do it. There’s no scientific proof that suggests providing your cat with vitamins and additional supplements will do them any good. However, and this is why this point is in here. If your cat has been unwell for some time then this might be the time to give it a go. You do need to see advice from your vet about this as you should never give something to your cat unless you know exactly what is in it and what it will do.
11) Spay and neuter
This day and age there is no reason not to spay or neuter your cat. However, there are some myths to dispel related to neutering, here are a few. The following are the facts:
Think about this for a second. Just one unneutered cat can be directly responsible for about 20,000 descendants in only five years!
- Cat’s can have around five kittens in each litter, three times a year! Think about this, that’s a lot of kittens.
- Typically, a cat won’t be neutered until they are six months old, for safety reasons.
- If you’re thinking of waiting until the cat gets older, you should be aware that cats can breed from only about four months old!
- A cat can mate just a few weeks after giving birth and pregnancy is only nine weeks in length.
Spaying or neutering will calm your cat down and they will be less likely to wander outside. Less wandering outside means less chance of getting lost or getting involved in a road traffic accident.
12) Have Insurance
Often forgotten but a very important point. If your cat becomes ill the vet’s bills can quickly turn into thousands. Will you be able to afford these bills? Can you imagine the decision you’d have to make if it was potentially a life-saving operation? Either having to try and find a stack load of money which you might not have or tell the vet you simply can’t afford it and you’ll just have to leave your cat’s health to nature. Having insurance will potentially increase the life of your cat as these operations will be covered and you won’t have to worry. Do bear in mind though that as your cat ages the cost of this insurance will increase. The insurance on our little boys costs more than our cars! But they’re worth it.
If, by the way, you’re looking for probably the best insurer for your cat, look no further than PetPlan. In my experience, they have been the best and the cheapest, do check them out by clicking on the link to get a quote in literally less than a minute.
13) Keep your older cat warm
As your cat gets older they’ll go out less and their priorities will change. They won’t have the urge to go outside and hunt. They’ll be more content with staying inside and curling up with you. As your cat changes, you need to change with her. Think about your house whilst you’re out and make sure the house is kept nice and warm and make sure she has a nice place to curl up in the corner and sleep. Their needs will change and their appetite will decrease. They will spend more time asleep than awake and will need less food but more care and attention.
14) Spend time with them
Arguably the best way to keep her anxiety down is to just spend time with her, especially as she reaches an older age. She will feel content, relaxed and safe. High levels of anxiety and stress will reduce your little furry friend’s life, so prevent that from happening by keeping her company and making her feel protected. It’s the most simple of all of these recommendations but perhaps the most important.
Chart of life expectancy
|Cat Breed||Avg LifeSpan (Yrs)|
I have included below the average lifespan of some of the more common breeds. Note though that these are averages so don’t think too much about it if yours is reaching the upper limit of this!
To find out your cat’s equivalent age in human years you don’t actually multiply by 7. See our article that tells you exactly how to calculate a cat’s age according to its lifestyle here.
I do hope you learned something from this article, it was fun compiling it. If you have any comments or any other tips on extending your cat’s life then please feel free to leave a comment below, we’d genuinely love to hear from you!