Help Your Cat Live Longer

Updated on January 20, 2017
Twenty-year-old cat washing his face in the sunshine.
Twenty-year-old cat washing his face in the sunshine. | Source

Increase Your Cat's Longevity With a Few Practical Tips

Cats are wonderful companion animals. They provide affection and comfort to those who live with them. Unfortunately, cats don't live as long as we do, but there are steps you can take to help your cat live a long healthy life.

I'm not a veterinarian or pet care specialist but I've had companion cats that have lived to healthy old ages. Of my last four cats to pass on over the years, one lived to the age of nineteen, another twenty, and another twenty-one. Fatbat, the semi-sweet chocolate fellow in the photo passed on at twenty-two. He was with me through thick and thin, through bad relationships, through moves and job changes, and through joy and sadness for over half of my life. I was truly blessed to share my home and heart with such a loving bundle of fur.

I'd like to share what I've done (or wish I could have done) to try to increase my cats' longevity so that maybe you, too, will be able to have a little more time to spend with the cats you love. These tips come from a combination of my own experience with cats and tips veterinarians (and one wonderful crazy old cat lady) have given me over the years.

Do NOT construe any of this advice as replacement for care by a licensed veterinarian.


Black cat playing in a priority mail box
Black cat playing in a priority mail box | Source

Keep Cats Indoors Only

Living indoors can increase your cat's lifespan dramatically.

Cats did not evolve in the automotive age; they are helpless and vulnerable before these speeding piles of metal and unable to reason out how to safely cross roads. Even when standing still, automobiles present a hazard to cats. Cars drip deadly toxic substances which can kill any animal that ingests them. Even if cars did not exist, the great outdoors is not safe for cats.

Outside, cats can fall prey to predators including wild animals and humans. Cats can also be gravely injured by pet dogs or even other cats. They can catch irritating and disease spreading parasites or contagious, sometimes untreatable illnesses. Cats also did not evolve in cold, wet climates and can die from exposure to the elements.

In some areas, people are trying to create legislation to make it legal to kill stray cats. In some areas of America, it already is legal to kill "stray" cats. You can be assured they aren't going to be checking for tags when they start shooting, poisoning, or hitting with hammers. Some mentally ill homeless people hunt and eat cats. It is quite common for people to torture and kill cats whether it's legal or not. My dad learned this when he was an animal control officer.

So keep your cat inside.

Readers Weigh In

Should Cats Be Let Outside or Is It Too Dangerous?

Cats should be let out if they want to be.
It's too potentially hazardous. Keep kitties inside where it's safe.
My purrecious baby was a full-grown feral when we adopted him, and although he spends most of the spring winter and clinging desperately to my lap these days, during late spring and summer there is no keeping him inside. Either we let him out, or he breaks out. I do worry about him when he's gone, but he grew up outdoors and he's a stubborn old fool. It would greatly depress him if we barred him from the outdoors. - kirsten7767
I once read a book that said: When the cat owner firmly believes that a cat is happiest when he is kept indoors and away from danger, the cat is happiest when he is kept indoors and away from danger. I couldn't agree with it more. As much as we humans try to interpret our cat's feelings, unless he is safe and sound, he won't have much time to enjoy his feelings. - persistance lm
Cats are independent creatures who want to have a little fun! Unless the cat lives somewhere around vicious wild animals or a busy street, why not let it connect with it's inner tiger? - lovelylashes
No, it isn't cruel to keep a cat indoors because they were born in raised in a home, not outside in a trashcan. There are still certain ways you can take your cat outside and it be safe. First make sure he has all of his shots so he can't catch any diseases, and then you could just use a kitty leash. Most cats don't like them because it wraps around their body. When I first took my cat outside, he was afraid of the grass.haha - jerrodtong
I think it depends on where you live and your cat's nature. We have 3 cats and they are allowed out when they want. 2 of them stay indoors all winter! But they love to watch out the window, and in the warmer weather lie out in the sun outside. The other arrived as a stray and goes crazy if we try to keep him indoors. It would be cruel to keep him indoors. - jptanabe
Indoors! My cat used to go outdoors for hours a day but that led to many problems. Now that we keep him inside, he is healthier (although "fluffier"). - snazzify lm
I guess it really depends on where you live. I live in the country and I would have no problem letting my cat out if she wanted to go out. I can see where it would be dangerous if you lived in the city or next to a busy road. My first cat hated being indoors so she spent most of her life outside. She lived a happy, long life. - momto4 lm
I have 2 cats and keep them in the house where I know they will be safe. I had a custom cat condo built for the 2 of them. They like to lay on it and look out the window. If I go outside to eat on the patio they will step out onto the patio and look around a bit, but seem to feel safer going back indoors. - SLHamilton LM
Cats were originally undomesticated. They love to hunt, so letting them out at night is in some ways important. If you let them out at night, they find it easier to keep out of trouble and there is often less traffic. I say this as the proud owner of four extremely alive cats! - anonymous
We keep all of our cats inside and even built a screened in back porch, complete with plexi-glass "skylight" for all of us. Pepper, the cat that was left behind, will soon be coming into our home. - naturegirl7s
 
I keep my cat indoors and he's almost 19. It works, and if you love them, you will keep them in! - RinchenChodron
 
Indoors is way better. Your cat will not get sick or injured, and you will not have to see the vet as often. We open the door on very rainy days or very cold days so that the cat can agree with our choice... - suecat
 
As someone who lost my heart & soul last July when my kitty Wompuss was killed by a vehicle, I will never ever let a kitty outside without being on a leash again. The world is just too dangerous. People who love their cats should keep them indoors. Those who don't keep them indoors don't deserve cats - mysticmama lm
 
I've always kept my cats indoors at night. Apart from everything else, they are predators and kill the local wildlife when the sun goes down. - SusannaDuffy
 
If you can provide a good indoor home with enough stimulation including toys, things to chase, and things to climb on, I think it is perfectly fine to keep them inside. - lightrix
 
It's not just cars, it's dogs and wild animals. Keep her inside - Agapantha
Old black cat looking up
Old black cat looking up | Source

Spay or Neuter

Spayed and neutered cats live longer


Spayed and neutered cats are proven to live, on average, three to five years longer than cats that are not spayed or neutered. So not only will spaying and neutering prevent unwanted litters of kittens and unpleasant urine marking, it could give you years more time with your beloved kitty!

Advice from a Veterinarian

Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life
Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life

This book contains veterinarian tips for helping cats live longer, healthier lives. I recommend it to anyone wishing to help his or her feline companion attain better health.

 
Rupert loves to chew up his cardboard boxes!
Rupert loves to chew up his cardboard boxes!

Practice Good Dental Hygiene

Healthy teeth increase cats' lifespans

Yes, I said dental hygiene. This means not only following through with any dental procedures your veterinarian may recommend, it means brushing your cat's teeth. No, really, it can be done and it isn't that hard to do.

You may ask what benefit this provides. When a cat loses teeth it impairs his ability to eat, but worse than that, gum disease and mouth infections can kill him in many unpleasant ways. Bacteria from infected gums can cause heart problems, cause sepsis, infect the jaw and spread, infect the sinuses, and probably do lots of other awful things. Not only can bad dental hygiene kill your cat, it can cause him a great deal of horrible pain.

If you still aren't convinced, go now and eat a can of tuna. Now, never brush your teeth again. Exactly - ew! Another benefit of brushing your cat's teeth is fresh, sweet cat breath, not a lifetime of old fish and tooth decay.

So brush his teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for cats. I try to brush my cat's teeth at least once a week, if not more frequently.

Your cat may also desire something to chew on. Rupert, the attractive redhead in the photo, is partial to cardboard boxes and gets exercise going nuts in them as well as safely expressing his desire to chew.

Dental Care Products for Cats

Whatever you do, don't use toothpaste made for humans on your cat! It with sting his mouth, upset him, and not be right for cleaning his teeth. Using a cat toothbrush with nothing on it is much better. However, many of them are sold bundled with a tube of pet-appropriate toothpaste so you probably won't need to. It also lasts a long time because you don't use very much.

Fatbat in his Halloween costume, photo by Kylyssa Shay
Fatbat in his Halloween costume, photo by Kylyssa Shay

Keep Your Cat Hydrated

Well-hydrated cats are healthier


Always provide your cat with a constant supply of clean drinking water. Some older cats may not take in enough water so a moving water supply can entice them to drink more. You can also ensure that elderly cats get enough fluids by feeding wet or canned food mixed with a bit of drinking water.

A Cat Fountain

My roommate owns the deluxe version Drinkwell pet fountain and her cats like it a lot. They catch the water before it hits the bowl part of it, either with their mouths or their paws.

PetSafe Drinkwell Original Dog and Cat Water Fountain, 50 oz.
PetSafe Drinkwell Original Dog and Cat Water Fountain, 50 oz.

This fountain has a carbon filter that filters out impurities. It's a lot like drinking from a running tap so most cats love it.

 
cat food kibbles
cat food kibbles | Source

Feed High Quality Cat Food

Better quality food can lengthen a cat's life

Yes, it costs more per pound, but it also costs less than it seems to. Much smaller servings of quality cat food will feed your cat better than larger servings of grocery store cat food will. Some premium cat foods have serving recommendations as small as a third the size that nutrient-poor cheap cat foods do. So, the premium food can cost more than twice as much per pound, but cost less per day of food. Not only that, but you will use less cat litter. If cats eat nutrient dense, quality food they produce a lot less feces.

What do I mean by high quality cat food? High quality cat food does not contain soy as a major protein source as cats cannot properly use soy protein. It has side effects such as gas, bloating, and poor nutrient absorption. High quality cat food does contain meat as its primary ingredient. Cats are obligate carnivores - that means they must eat meat to survive.

I suggest such brands as Innova, Nutro, Wysong, Prairie, Blue Buffalo, Wellness and Royal Canin. The food I prefer to feed is Innova Evo.

I also fed my elderly cats home made food, usually cooked chicken meat and a little of the fat combined with brown rice and pureed. It turns out to be cheaper per serving than canned cat food and it excited their appetites, something beneficial for many elderly cats.

Visit the Vet

Proper veterinary care makes cats live longer by catching illnesses early

Whenever possible, take your cat to see the veterinarian for a checkup at least once a year. Regular vet visits will catch illnesses before they become too serious to treat effectively and they will also help you to keep a handle on your cat's overall health. Follow all of your veterinarian's recommendations.

Three cat buddies relaxing
Three cat buddies relaxing

Exercise

Exercise can keep your cat healthier and aids cat longevity


By exercise, of course I mean play. Playing with your cat is healthy exercise for him and fun for you. Get your cat to chase a piece of string, a laser pointer light, a feather or commercial cat toy at least once a day. Other toys such as jingly balls and catnip mice create motivation to play when you are not available. A good scratching post will provide exercise as well as saving your sofa from kitty.

Fatbat and the Bear
Fatbat and the Bear

Provide Plentiful Affection and Contact

Affection shared is good for both you and your kitty!


Affection is good for kitty and for you. Some studies suggest that owning a pet such as a cat reduces blood pressure. I know that a pet can provide vital love and affection when no one else will. It's our responsibility to return this affection in full measure.

Even if lots of love won't increase your cat's lifespan it will surely make the time you share more enjoyable.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        forthecat 5 years ago

        A very nice read. My cat lived to 20 years old, almost reaching 21. He was an outdoor cat most of his life but chose to spend most of his last years inside with an occasional guided walk around the garden :-) I got him a water fountain too, best thing i ever bought for my cats.

      • profile image

        anonymous 6 years ago

        This is an awesome article. I lost my cat to kidney failure at the beginning of this year . I think about her all the time and feel bad for her suffering, she was only 9. Im planning on adopting a cat soon and I will definitely use these tips so it can live a healthy happy long life and not have to suffer. Thanks !

      • Kylyssa profile image
        Author

        Kylyssa Shay 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        @anonymous: Cats have very individual tastes. My roommate's cats can't get enough of the Blue Buffalo and even my crotchety old cat picked out the dark kibbles to eat. They're called something like life bits for marketing so we used to say Fatbat sucked all of the life out of the cat food.

      • Kylyssa profile image
        Author

        Kylyssa Shay 6 years ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

        @anonymous: Home made cat food isn't necessary for good health, it just helps to stimulate appetite in many very elderly cats.

      • profile image

        anonymous 6 years ago

        @suecat: I tried the expensive like BLUE BUFFALO they won't touch it!!!!

      • profile image

        anonymous 6 years ago

        Any info is benfical,We have three cats but I'm not really sure on mixing homecat food because one of our cats is the ROBINSON CARUSO and the other twowon't eat anything we put down other than dry or canned!!! BUT I TRULY LOVE THEM ESPECIALLY OUR FIRST TWO!!!

      • Inkhand profile image

        Inkhand 6 years ago

        A great lens on cat longevity.

      • naturegirl7s profile image

        Yvonne L. B. 7 years ago from Covington, LA

        Very good advice.

      • profile image

        RinchenChodron 7 years ago

        A great lens - I'm lensrolling it to my Emergency Pet Care Kit lens.

      • momto4 lm profile image

        momto4 lm 8 years ago

        Great advice! We got a kitten about four months ago and she is such a great pet! She gets along great with my four kids and I hope she is with our family for a long time!

      • profile image

        suecat 8 years ago

        Good advice ! I agree with keeping cats inside & buying the best food: on the long run the more expensive (& quality) food cost Less(a lot less health problems, eating less etc..)

      • mysticmama lm profile image

        Bambi Watson 8 years ago

        Great advice!Blessed!

      • SusannaDuffy profile image

        Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

        No matter if my companions are spayed/neutered there is always someone who lets their own cats out and they will harass mine. Fights, diseases, possums, cars, no thanks!

      • VladimirCat profile image

        Vladimir 8 years ago from Australia

        I don't think your duel is working, it must have been hit by a car. Personally, I spend a couple of hours outside but I have an enclosed backyard and, come dusk, I am locked in. Once I objected to this but now I', grateful for my 19 years of safety. Just don't mention the vet! I detest my 6 month check-ups

      • groovyfind profile image

        Samantha Devereux 8 years ago from Columbia Mo

        Cute lens!

      • TreasuresBrenda profile image

        Treasures By Brenda 8 years ago from Canada

        Very nicely done!

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