Health & Care
An older calico cat relaxing.

How to Increase Cat Life Expectancy

Ever wish your cat could live as long as you? That’s still impossible but some easy changes to your cat’s lifestyle can increase cat life expectancy.

Denise LeBeau  |  Oct 2nd 2017

Every pet parent knows one universal truth about living with cats: You will most likely outlive every single one of them. So, what cats live the longest? There’s no straight answer but proper nutrition, exercise, medical attention and more, all play a part in upping the cat lifespan. While most cats will live until the median age of 15 years, there are many steps to take to increase the cat life expectancy.

Make sure your cat feels fulfilled

An older gray cat asleep on a couch.

An older gray cat asleep on a couch. Photography by bbbrrn/Thinkstock.

“Minimize stress whenever you can,” says Dr. Andrew Kaplan, DVM, founder of City Veterinary Care and The Toby Project (a spay/neuter program to reduce animal shelter deaths). He cites the Ohio State School of Veterinary Medicines’ indoor cat initiative as a great resource.

“Cat caretakers need to consider that cats are not designed for confinement in our homes. Making simple changes such as getting another feline companion for your cat can make him much happier. They’re highly social and benefit from living with other cats.”

So, introducing another cat to the home is one way to help your cat live a more fulfilled, and subsequently, longer life — along with adding plenty of enrichment to your cat’s environment.

Monitor your cat’s health with regular vet visits  

Another way to help ensure a longer life is to monitor your cat’s health. Dr. Kaplan recommends boosting regular cat examinations from annually to every six months starting at 10 years old.

Dr. Laura Andersen, shelter veterinarian at Nebraska Humane Society, echoes this advice. “I’ve known two cats who lived beyond 23 years old. They both received regular veterinary care — this helps identify any medical issues early so they can be treated or managed.”

Proper nutrition can increase cat life expectancy

A research paper published by the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery indicated that fixed, crossbreed cats with lower body weights are associated with longer lives. “We must remember that each cat is an individual, and aging includes a multitude of factors: breed, genetics and environment,” Dr. Andersen says. “However, diet is very important. A study done on the Effect of Nutritional Interventions on Longevity of Senior Cats determined that cats given antioxidants, vitamin E, beta-Carotene, dried chicory root and a blend of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids added significantly to the lifespan of the cats than those cats fed a controlled diet.”

And while diet is important, how much and how often your cat eats is also key. Slimming your cat down while super-sizing vital nutrition will help pack on the years!

Simply paying close attention to your cat can positively affect the cat lifespan

Although genetics may play a factor in living longer, “nothing replaces TLC,” according to Megan Snyder of Good Old Tails Senior Animal Rescue. The organization’s oldest cat, Stubby, is a sweet senior domestic short-haired cat with a nubby tail. While he isn’t currently on a special diet, he gets wet food to keep his urinary system running smoothly. It’s the maintenance and attention to detail that keeps the rescued kitties in tiptop shape.

“The most important thing to keep your senior cat healthy is to pay attention to him,” Snyder says. She urges cat parents to look for changes in behavior, stool/urine, coat condition and weight. “You have to know your cat well and catch the changes before it’s too late. Every cat is different, so saying ‘feed them premium food’ isn’t necessarily right for every cat.”

Are certain cat breeds known for longer lifespans?

Among the cat breeds touted for longevity, the three that come out on top are the Domestic Shorthair, Siamese and Russian Blue.

One senior cat’s success tale

Scruffy, a 17-year-old striped gray beauty, lives with his person, Brandon Kirk Newsom, and a feline sibling named Sophie. Newsom adopted the Maine Coon as a kitten. Their life together illustrates what proper cat care means to a happy and healthy life. Scruffy is a cool, calm and confident 13 pounds of fluffy fun. Newsom sees Scruffy’s natural resiliency as a great boon to his longevity, along with Scruffy’s love of Sophie.

“Scruffy’s time is filled with grooming and snuggling with Sophie.” While he may be older, his days are filled with love and the activities he craves. “Scruffy loves to go on walks,” Newsom says. “Being an older cat has not changed him that much from when he was a kitten. He’s still very healthy and vivacious.”

Keeping your cat living longer and being healthier is a multi-faceted strategy that includes diet and supplements, proper medical attention and an enriched environment. The years go by so fast, and you can add many more of them if you take time to address your cat’s physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Tell us: How old was the oldest cat you knew? What steps have you taken to increase your cat’s life expectancy?

Thumbnail: Photography by krblokhin/Thinkstock.

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