We want to give our cats the longest, best life possible, right?
Although the average indoor cat has a decent life expectancy, a cat’s life span can be extended by implementing simple practices into their routines.
Remember, our super cats. Their continued health is very dependent on how we care for them.
If you follow some really simple lifestyle and dietary guidelines, it is possible to extend their lifespan as well as their quality of life.
Learn how to give your cat the best quality of life you can.
CREATING A LONG LIFE PLAN FOR YOUR CAT
Whether you are adopting an older cat or a kitten, you need to set a standard for what their health should look like.
This usually means getting them into a veterinarian for their initial checkup.
A wellness check should establish your cat’s ideal weight, any existing health issues, health issues you should watch for as well as your cat’s dental hygiene.
- Consider Environmental Factors
It can be difficult to control our cat’s environment, especially if they are an indoor/outdoor cat. However, there are some things that can have a major impact on your cat’s well-being and lifespan that you can influence.
Deciding whether your cat will be an indoor, outdoor, or indoor/outdoor cat will influence how you approach their health in the future. For example, in order to maintain a healthy weight for an indoor cat, you may need to schedule additional play time to give them plenty of activities.
It may also be a good idea to get certain vaccinations for outdoor cats that could be exposed to potentially fatal diseases from neighborhood cats. Keep in mind that keeping your cat as indoor-only can add years to your kitty’s lifespan.
- Consider Neutering or Spaying Your Cat
Deciding to neuter or spay your cat is a personal preference but many studies suggest neutering your cat can add years to their life. In some instances, it may increase your cat’s life expectancy by 62%.
- Dietary considerations
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a cat’s diet can greatly influence their life expectancy. After all, humans are told all the time about which foods are best to boost health and live a longer life. Cats are no different.
It is easy to forget that cats were once wild animals living on a simple diet. We needlessly complicate our cats’ diets and they suffer from a range of health problems they’d never otherwise encounter.
Diabetes, arthritis, skin infections, bladder infections, kidney disease, heart disease and more are all linked to poor diet and obesity. That’s why I think diet is the most important factor to consider when working to extend your cat’s lifespan.
In this post, I have some easy to follow, simple to implement recommendations to get you started.
My 10 Health Tips to Give Your Cat the Best Life Possible
Once you have a snapshot of your cat’s current health and the environment you will keep it in, you can set out a basic plan for how to get keep him/her in good shape, for snuggles for you for many more years to come.
The following are the ten tips that I have used over the years, to keep my cats in great shape.
Tip 1 – GET REGULAR WELLNESS CHECKS FOR YOUR CAT
Your cat should have a checkup with the vet at least annually or two times a year with blood tests.
Why do we suggest blood tests? Blood tests can reveal issues early, which allows you to start on early intervention. Cats are prone to a handful of diseases such as kidney problems that can reduce their lifespan.
Getting a complete wellness check with blood work can more than double the cost of a general exam, but it is so worth it.
Early intervention can be vital to giving your cat greater comfort and better quality of life if a health issue arises.
Catching things EARLY DOES PAY OFF HUGE!
Here are some practices to help keep your fur friend healthy!
Related > How to Choose a Vet For Your Ragdoll Cat
Tip 2 – KEEP YOUR CAT AT AN IDEAL WEIGHT (OR AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE)
The most important factor in keeping your cat at a healthy weight is feeding it the proper amounts of food.
Many people don’t take this seriously and feed their cats as much food as they want. Cats easily form addictions – especially to dry foods which can be high in carbs and lead to problems stemming from obesity.
Your vet will give you a weight range that is ideal for your cat. If you have a bigger than average cat, it’s still important to keep them at an ideal weight.
You can get an initial weight reading at your vet (usually for no charge) and this should tell you the ideal weight range to shoot for.
On the same day that you get your kitty weighed at the vet, weigh your cat on your home scale to compare. The figure should be reasonably close. Your home scale doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly accurate as you are just trying to follow weight trends over time.
If you don’t have a scale, then you can also gauge your cat’s weight by feeling their ribs. You should be able to feel between their ribs yet not see their ribs.
My vet finds this a challenge with my Ragdoll cats due to their heavy coat!
I have heard several veterinarians say they would much rather see a slightly underweight animal than an overweight one.
This is because being obese results in significant health issues such as joint problems, diabetes, excess stress on the kidneys and of course a strain on the heart and more.
If you find your cat is on the heavier side, then daily playtime will not only boost their well being but also help to keep slim them down.
You could consider adopting a second cat to play with your other cat, if you think he isn’t getting enough activity, although you shouldn’t neglect scheduling play time to keep them moving.
However, if you notice that your cat is losing significant weight then this could indicate an underlying disease. You should take him to the vet immediately if you begin to notice unhealthy weight loss.
Tip 3 – CARE FOR YOUR CAT’S TEETH
Most cat owners aren’t aware of this, but tooth decay and the state of your cat’s teeth, affects the lifespan of your cat more than you would think.
A buildup of tartar and plaque will cause gingivitis, tooth decay, and tooth loss – all things that can have an even greater impact on their quality of life.
Bacteria from your cat’s mouth can circulate in their system causing inflammation and several chronic health issues. Plus, the issues caused by the buildup of tartar and plaque can sometimes require expensive dental surgery to remedy.
You need to create a maintenance routine to keep plaque from accumulating on their teeth.
Dental health is very critical. DO take it seriously.
Related > Your Complete Cat Dental Care Guide
Tip 4 – CONSIDER NATURAL FLEA TREATMENT
If your cat is indoor/outdoor or is exposed to animals that are, then consider opting for a natural flea treatment to keep the bugs off.
Unfortunately, most flea treatments such as Advantage and other monthly treatments (both sprays and powders) are loaded with toxic chemicals and pesticides that seep into your cat’s bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.
These chemicals are hard on their tiny little organs, like their liver and kidneys, which work overtime to flush out these toxins.
Commercial flea treatments are especially hard on older, senior cats and should be avoided if possible.
Think about this. Would you give your child a monthly pesticide treatment to keep away head lice? I wouldn’t.
Instead, I urge you to consider the following to battle those NASTY BUGS:
- NIT Combs – You can hand pick fleas using a NIT comb or another very fine-tooth comb along with bathing to drown out the fleas. I’ve done this, and it works. I loathe it because it’s so time-consuming and tedious especially if you have more than one cat, but it works.
- Diatomaceous Earth – Just sprinkle some in their beds helps keep those pesky bugs away. You can also sprinkle it and rub it into their fur. If eaten, it won’t harm the cat.
- Essential Oils – Some essential oils can be toxic to cats, but others can actually relax and detoxify their bodies. For example, cedarwood oil not only smells wonderful but is a powerful flea killer. Make sure you choose a therapeutic-grade essential oil (not a fragrance oil) to use for your cat. Spray a diluted solution onto their bedding or add a small diluted amount to their collar.
Tip 5 – TOXINS REDUCE YOUR CAT’S LIFESPAN
There are many more places that a cat can be exposed to toxins than just flea treatments.
Potentially hazardous chemicals exist everywhere, from our cabinets to our lawns.
For example, take a look at what most people use to clean inside their home.
Inside the Home
Household cleaners, floor cleaners, kitchen cleaners, bathroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, and even room sprays all settle on the floor and create a build-up of chemicals.
When cats walk across the floors, they get these chemicals on their paws which they then lick while cleaning their bodies. Can you imagine having to lick bleach off your hands? Yuck!
These chemicals are also inhaled by your cat, day in and day out, as they walk through your home, across bedding, furniture, and carpets that the chemical sprays have come to rest on.
Unfortunately, your cat’s liver (the organ that cleans out the body) does not have the ability to efficiently synthesize the chemicals and detoxifying the blood of the cat. The resulting buildup of toxins can mean a slow death for your beloved furry friend.
While Inside, Put Out the Butt
Another thing to consider is avoiding smoking around your cat. Felines have very small lungs. Smoking can be incredibly harmful to their health as well as your own. Second-hand smoke has been linked to oral cancer, respiratory disease, and lung cancer in cats. This is a terrible fate for your little guys. Smoke outside and away from your cats tiny lungs if you want them to be purring without the smoker’s cough.
Outside the Home
As bad as chemical use in the home is, so is the use of them outside. In particular, don’t use pesticides on your lawn and garden, especially if you allow your cats outside in your yard.
Vinegar solutions are a safe alternative to conventional pesticides and they won’t hurt your little babies.
Consider switching to non-toxic, natural cleaners around your home which are specifically pet-friendly. It’s better for your cat, your family, and for you too. It’s a win-win for the whole darned family!
Help Support Your Cat’s System
If you’re worried about your cat’s overall exposure to toxins and how it may be affecting your cat’s lifespan, then consider giving them a dose of Milk Thistle on a regular basis.
Milk Thistle is a safe detoxifier that helps cleanse the liver and support kidney function. It’s a 2 for 1 deal: liver AND kidney support!
Try to find a Milk Thistle made with glycerin rather than alcohol if you’re able. Mix a few drops in their food every day.
The multivitamin my boys get daily in their food has milk thistle in it, so I only supplement with extra milk thistle in their food a few times a week.
Tip 6 – GRAIN-FREE DIETS HELP YOUR CAT LIVE LONGER
Many of us are bothered to varying degrees with digestive upsets because of grains in our diet. So are cats. Grains are shown to be very irritating to a cat’s gut.
Grains can cause low-grade inflammation which results in allergy symptoms such as itching, bald patches, diarrhea, etc. Cats do not need grains in their diet, so why bother giving them something they don’t need?
Years ago, before the internet was available, one of my Ragdoll cats and one of my rescue cats developed nasty, dry, and itchy bald spots which were clearly uncomfortable.
I tried several natural remedies and nothing seemed to help. I wasn’t willing to medicate them to solve what I thought was probably a diet-related problem.
They were also on a homemade raw diet. But, the homemade diet had an oatmeal base. I wondered if the grain was bothering them and setting off an inflammatory response?
So, I altered the recipe to exclude the oatmeal. In less than one month, the bald spots started to grow back hair and the frantic itching stopped.
You will be amazed at the number of health issues your cat may be suffering from that are caused by their diet.
Unfortunately, some cat breeds, like my Ragdolls are known to be very tolerant of pain and will often deal with debilitating issues like arthritis while you are none the wiser.
Start them off with a high-quality diet and reduce the risks that a grain-based or cheap food could have on their bodies.
There are grain free canned foods available, which are more expensive on average. However, if it means improving your cat’s health, the cost difference is truly ‘chump change’!
Consider leaving out grains from your cat’s diet. There are so many grain free choices out there. Your cat will not miss the grain, I promise. It’s worth the switch.
Tips 7 – ROTATE FOODS IN YOUR CAT’S DIET
Rotating your cat’s foods has some hidden benefits.
For example, by rotating the foods you feed to your cat, you:
- Help to ensure they are getting a variety of nutrients
- See that they don’t get too much of an ingredient that may not agree with them
- Help them avoid allergies (too much of same foods can cause allergies, just like in people)
- Prevent food boredom. We don’t eat the same every day for 6 months in a row. Your cat would prefer not to have the same meal 2X/day for 6 months either.
There are ways to transition foods. Don’t just stop feeding a particular food cold turkey and start another as this can be a strain on their digestion.
Transition them slowly. It can be harder to transition foods with older cats so take your time with it and don’t do it too frequently.
Tip 8 – FEED YOUR CAT HIGH WATER CONTENT FOOD – CONSIDER A RAW DIET
Cats are, as you may already know, obligate carnivores.
Their bodies are not adapted to digesting plant-based ingredients in food and the burden of digesting these foods can negatively impact their life expectancy.
Cats need water, usually drawn from the animal flesh the eat, to flush the toxins and waste gunk from their little kidneys.
If their diet is low in water, they could develop Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD, seen as crystals and/or stones in the kidney), one of the most common ailments found in cats.
Do your cat a favor and consider a raw diet (which is super high in moisture) or a meal per day of wet food (canned food) or at least a few gobs of canned food for a little snack each day.
It’s easiest to start kittens on wet food, but adult cats can become converts as well!
If your cat doesn’t seem to like wet canned food, I have a magic solution – NUTRITIONAL YEAST. I sprinkle some on my boy’s meals when I’m introducing something new and they go for it each and every time! It tastes cheesy to the cats. 🙂
- NOTE: Feeding a low-quality WET food rather than a high-quality DRY kibble, is healthier for your kitty in the long run.
Tip 9 – FEED YOUR CAT A PROBIOTIC
Probiotics help reduce a lot of the same problems you see in obesity.
This is because oftentimes the disease is caused by poor digestion which results in inflammation.
Probiotics help to balance out good and bad bacteria which improves digestion. An additional bonus is that probiotics can help your kitty deal with troublesome hairballs as well as nasty intestinal worms. Simply mix the probiotic powder or liquid into their food once per day.
I use HMF Super Powder by Genestra. The initial cost is a little on the pricey side but a tub of this lasts a long time. Only a smidge is needed daily for an average cat 8-10 lb. 1/2 smidge for a kitten up to one year of age.
TIP 10 – ADD OMEGA-3 TO YOUR CAT’S DIET
The addition of Omega-3’s to your cat’s diet will do them a world of good and can lengthen your cat’s lifespan.
Omega-3’s are powerful anti-inflammatories. Adding this essential fatty acid (EFA) to your cat’s diet can calm allergies, support healthy weight loss, aid in diabetes symptoms, reduce degenerative conditions and improve their coat.
I believe the condition of a cat’s coat, reflects their general overall health.
It’s a signature quality of a healthy cat! The addition of Omega-3’s will help keep that spectacular coast silky soft and looking its best.
A high-quality fish oil added daily to their meal can boost their lifespan and including Omega-3’s in their diet is simple. The dose for your cat depends on their weight. Your conventional vet or your holistic vet should be able to recommend the correct dosage for your cat.
Choose a fish oil specifically for cats as some people formula fish oils have flavorings and other additives that cats don’t like and aren’t suitable to feed to a cat. Use a high-grade NON-CONTAMINATED FISH OIL. Herring or sardine oil is good. These tiny fish don’t eat other fish which could be contaminated with mercury and other toxins.
I give my boys ULTRA EFA. Just like with the probiotics, it has a high initial cost, but it lasts a very long time as they only get a tiny bit of it each day in their food. Be sure to mix it well into their food. As a rule, cats don’t like fish oil, which I think is downright weird. Go figure.
To my reluctant eaters who keenly sense the presence of even a smidge of fish oil, I add Nutritional yeast as a sprinkle on top. Its cheesy taste attracts them and masks the taste of the fish oil. It’s hard to trick a cat but this trick actually works for my lads. Try it.
NO FLAX OIL FOR YOUR FELINE! Also, as a final note, don’t give your cat flax oil! Yes, it’s an Omega-3 source, but it’s for people, NOT cats. Cats cannot use plant-based Omega-3’s. It won’t provide them with any benefits.
It’s much cheaper than a high-quality fish oil, but don’t be tempted with it. You will waste your money.
It probably won’t harm your kitty, but they won’t benefit from it either.
FOLLOW THESE RULES FOR A LONGER LIFESPAN FOR YOUR CAT
Start out with just one of these suggestions and implement it into your cat’s health routine.
If you only ever follow through on a few of these suggestions, your cat will certainly benefit. No matter what the age of your cat, it is NEVER too late to start implementing one or more of these suggestions into your cat’s routine.
The most important rule if you want your cat to live to its fullest, healthiest, most fulfilling quality life is, “Always, always, do the best you can.”
You may not have the financial resources, time or energy to follow through with all the things in this guide that contribute to a longer lifespan for your cat, but you can do your best.
That’s all your little fuzzball asks of you.
Your efforts will pay off.