We’d all like our cats to live long, healthy lives. While nothing can be done about genetics, there are several things that we as cat owners can do to improve our feline’s lifespans. From simple lifestyle changes to maintaining healthy habits, here are 9 things you can do to increase your cat’s life expectancy.
Keep Up with Those Vet Visits
Regular nose-to-tail examinations are a must for keeping your feline in tip-top shape. Compared with dogs, cats are more likely to disguise pain, so you might not notice when they’re ill or injured. In addition to maintaining overall health, keeping up with vet visits will help catch potentially serious health concerns before they become life-threatening. From dental issues to advice managing an aging pet, maintaining regular contact with your vet is a no-brainer approach to extending your kitty’s life.
Keep Them Inside
Because of elements like infectious disease, pesticides, animal attacks and car accidents, outdoor cats tend to live much shorter lives. In fact, outdoor cats live only 2-5 years on average compared to 15-20 years for indoor cats. An easy way to not only extend your cat’s life but improve their quality of life is to never leave them outdoors unattended (It only takes a second for your cat to ingest something toxic or get snatched by a wild animal). Now, enjoying outdoor activities with your adventure cat is a different story—we’re all for that!
Keep Them Hydrated
Many household cats do not drink enough water, and it’s not always the owner’s fault. Firstly, in the wild, cats consume much of their water through feeding. Secondly, some cats can be weird about stagnant water sources, including traditional water bowls. If your cat is not adequately hydrating, you can help them get more water by switching out dry foods for options with higher water content (we suggest consulting your vet for specifics). Additionally, feel free to turn on the faucet every now and then so your cat can grab an extra drink. Just make sure to switch it off when they’re done—wasting water is no bueno.
Spay or Neuter
A study by Banfield Pet Hospital found that spayed and neutered cats live longer than those that haven’t undergone these procedures. In addition to saving literally millions of animal lives from euthanasia each year, these surgeries can help limit undesirable behaviors like marking as well as reduce the likelihood of certain diseases. Want your cat to live as long as possible? Fixing them is one of the easiest steps you can take in that direction.
Improve Their Diet
As the saying goes, you are what you eat, and the same goes for our feline friends. It’s simple: If your cat eats a high quality, balanced and age appropriate diet, they’re going to live longer. Specifically what that diet includes will vary from cat to cat based on lifestyle and specific health needs. In general, aim for a diet that’s as organic and fresh as possible and avoid over or underfeeding. Keep treats to a minimum, too. Consult a vet (or holistic vet) to determine what diet is best for your cat.
Manage Their Weight
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 60% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. All that extra weight can put a serious strain on your cat’s body, potentially causing type 2 diabetes, organ damage, joint problems or heart failure. On the other end of the scale, an underweight cat can point to underlying health conditions, such as kidney disease or cancer. If your cat’s weight is unhealthy, visit your vet to strategize how to improve your pet’s physical fitness. If you’re unaware if your cat’s weight is healthy, visit petmd’s weight tool to find out.
Dental hygiene is about more than quality of life—it can affect how long your cat lives, too. Bacteria from mismanaged teeth can enter your pet’s bloodstream, ultimately causing organ damage and in some cases even premature death. Most cats over the age of three already experience some form of dental disease. If you’ve neglected your cat’s teeth, it’s not too late! Make an appointment with your vet for a dental checkup and maintain regularly scheduled visits thereafter. Also, consider professional teeth cleanings if you don’t feel comfortable performing them at home.
Fend Off Boredom
Bored, depressed, and stressed cats on average live shorter lives. Providing your cat with engaging toys as well as perches and scratching posts can help keep them nimble and alert (just remember to rotate the toys occasionally). Playtime and grooming can be a much needed source of stress-relief for your cat, too—the shared bonding time will not only improve your relationship but also help keep your cat’s behavior in check. Bored and stressed cats are much more likely to act out or otherwise misbehave. Adopting a friend for your cat is another fun way to keep your kitty entertained. Click here for tips on showing your cat some love.
Ditch the Chemicals
From cleaning supplies to outdoor pesticides to flea and tick products, your cat is surrounded by toxic chemicals that can shorten their lifespan. Limiting their exposure to these chemicals is essential. Firstly, consider switching out household cleaners and air fresheners for natural alternatives. Making your entire cleaning routine pet-safe is even better. Secondly, trade traditional, chemical-based pesticides and bug repellents for pest control options sourced from natural ingredients.
From heartworms (which are spread by mosquito bites) to skin diseases caused by fleas and mites, bugs can put a serious hurt on your cat’s health. Protecting your cat from these pests—and the harmful topical pesticides normally used to treat them—is something every cat owner should take seriously. To safeguard your feline, we suggest applying a non-toxic insect repellent to your cat’s fur weekly (2-3 times a week for outdoor and adventure cats).