Help Your Cat Live Longer—Some Well Known and Unusual Tips

Monday Feb 25 | BY |
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Cat's Long Life

“Dogs come when they’re called. Cats take a message and get back to you.”
—Mark Bly

The ASPCA states that the average lifespan of the indoor cat is 13 to 17 years, but that many cats make it to 20 or older.

How can you help your cat to be one of those lucky few?

Standard Health Care

Any good plan for keeping your cat around for as long as possible will include the basics—a healthy diet, exercise, and regular veterinarian check-ups.

  • Feed a quality cat food high in protein and moisture content—cats are used to getting much of the water they need from their food. Avoid commercial cat foods with soy protein, as it’s difficult for cats to digest. Look for real meat as the first ingredient (not meat “meal” or meat “by-products”), as meat is a cat’s main source of critical amino acids.
  • Provide fresh, clean water: Even with moist food, cats need fresh water. Many are picky and won’t drink stale water, so be sure to refresh their supply every day. Cats also love drinking fountains.
  • Keep the cat indoors. Current statistics show that indoor cats live longer than those who are left unsupervised outdoors. The ASPCA says cats that are strictly outdoor animals usually live to only 7 years or so. Indoor cats are at a lower risk of allergies, injuries, car accidents, fights, poisonings, and infections, and typically eat better than outdoor cats.
  • Stay up on vaccinations. Cats often die needlessly of diseases that can be prevented through vaccinations. Rabies is mandatory in most states. Other core vaccinations include those for feline distemper and upper respiratory disease.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: According to recent research by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54 percent of cats in the U.S. are obese or overweight, which can lead to other health problems like kidney, liver, heart, and pancreatic disease. Control food portions and engage the cat in regular exercise by rotating toys and scheduling regular play times each day.
  • Take care of their teeth: Today we have many dental treats, toothpastes, tooth sprays, and the like to take care of the cat’s teeth. The bacteria from dental and gum disease is not only dangerous to the cat’s mouth, but can travel to other parts of the body where they may cause other problems.
  • Spay or neuter your cat: It not only prevents overpopulation, it can protect the cat from reproductive cancers. Some studies have also found that pets that are fixed live longer than those who are not.
  • Groom regularly: Though cats naturally groom themselves, indoor cats especially may end up with extra hair that then shows up in hairballs. Regular grooming can cut down on excess hair both in your house and in your cat’s stomach.

Some Less Well Known Tips
Though doing all of the steps above will help your cat live longer, there are other less well-known steps you can take as well.

  • Use eco-friendly cleaning products: The chemicals in cleaning products can be dangerous to your cat. They may pick them up on their feet or their fur, and then as you know, they will lick them off and swallow them. Use only non-toxic cleaning supplies and avoid using dangerous chemicals or pesticides inside.
  • Avoid poisonous plants: Some plants are poisonous to cats. Check the ASPCA’s list of toxic plants to be sure you don’t have any in your home.
  • Provide a heating pad to older cats: Older cats, like older humans, like warm places. Try a heating pad on a low setting where your cat normally rests, or position a shelf by the window where he can catch the sun.
  • Consider supplements: Though a good, quality food will provide your cat with the nutrients she needs, some supplements may contribute to optimal health. Try omega-3 fatty acids for keeping the cat’s coat shiny, probiotics and enzymes to improve digestive health, glucosamine to help increase joint mobility, and milk thistle to detox. Avoid high amounts of garlic, onion, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C—too much can be toxic to cats.
  • Change diet with age: Older cats need fewer calories, easier-to-chew and digest food, and more fiber and fatty acids. They also have a reduced ability to digest fat and protein. Take your cat to regular check-ups, and adjust feeding as he ages to target healthcare needs.
  • Consider herbs, but be careful: Herbs can contribute to optimal health. Catnip can relieve stress and nervousness, licorice root can soothe allergies and digestive issues, cat’s claw may help with itching, and goldenseal can be used as a natural disinfectant on wounds. Check with your vet, however, and use only small amounts. Avoid comfrey, tea tree oil, red clover, white willow bark, and wormwood as these can be toxic to cats.
  • Provide variety and stimulation: A bored cat may become stressed, act out, or develop depression. Provide a variety of toys that you rotate in and out so there is always something new to play with. Try shoelaces, paper bags, cardboard boxes, and toys you can use to play together. Change up the cat’s perches so she has a new point of view when looking out the window. Give her your old sweater to lie on or hide under. Make life interesting and your cat will likely be more lively and active!

What do you do to help prolong long life in your cat? Please share your tips.

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Drs. Foster & Smith, “Vaccines & Vaccination Schedule for Cats & Kittens,” Pet Education,

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho.

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