The world’s oldest cat – Creme Puff, from Austin, Texas – lived to see her 38th birthday earning her a place in the Guinness Book of Records. While reaching such a great age is rare, the average lifespan of our pet cats is between 15 to 17 years, with some even reaching their 20s.
Although there are various factors beyond our control that influence how long a cat may live, such as genetic and hereditary predispositions to certain illnesses, there are plenty of things devoted owners can do to help their cat live a long, happy and healthy life.
1. Evaluate how safe their territory is
Take a look at the local area that makes up your cat’s territory and view it from your cat’s perspective. Is there anything you can do to ensure your cat doesn’t have to take excessive risks every time they go outside due to traffic, neighbouring cats, dogs, or other hazards.
Find out more about keeping your cat safe in the great outdoors here
2. Protect your cat from poisons
Curious cats are natural explorers, which makes them highly susceptible to poisoning. Anything that gets on your cat’s feet or fur is very likely to be ingested when they are grooming. Keep common poisons such as antifreeze, weed killer and slug bait locked safely locked away. Be aware that many plants, including lilies, bluebells, foxglove, hydrangea and wisteria are poisonous to pets. Choose a feline-friendly planting scheme instead, with lavender, honeysuckle, snapdragons, Michaelmas daisies, camellias, sunflowers and impatiens – plus some catnip or cat mint!
Find out more about creating a pet-friendly garden here
3. Create a calm and comfortable home
As cats are territorial, their environment is everything – so make your home the perfect place for a fussy feline to minimise stress and anxiety. Cats like a place for everything, and everything in its place – so put their food, water, litter tray, scratching post and bed in different locations around the house, ensuring your cat can access them whenever they need to. Also provide places for them to climb up high to safely observe the world and secret hideaways for when they need undisturbed, private time.
Find out more about creating a cat-friendly home here
4. Keep medical treatments up to date
To reduce the risk of infectious diseases, ensure that your cat is fully vaccinated against feline herpes virus (FHV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline parvovirus (FPV). Cats can also pick up parasites such as fleas, ticks and a variety of internal worms. Speak to your vet to discuss the best protection for your cat.
Find out more about why vaccinations are so important here
5. Groom your cat regularly
Not only does regular brushing keep your cat’s coat shiny and matt-free and minimise fur balls, it also allows you to get familiar with your favourite feline’s body. If you notice any new lumps, bumps or sore spots, they could be a sign of a potentially serious medical condition and you should consult your vet immediately.
6. Keep a check on your cat’s teeth
It’s very common for cats to suffer with dental issues, particularly as they age, so a regular teeth-check with your vet is essential. Problems can include abscesses and infections. If left unchecked, dental diseases can also lead to kidney and heart problems.
Find out more about caring for your cat’s teeth here
7. Get to know your vet
Your vet is the best source of help and advice for any health concerns you may have. What’s more, regular, routine health checks enable your vet to spot many life-threatening health conditions before they become a problem. This is particularly important for cats as they excel at hiding the fact that they’re sick or in pain and owners may not realise there’s a problem until it’s become very serious.
8. Learn what’s normal
By learning what’s normal behaviour for your cat, you have a better chance of identifying when something’s not right. Anything out of the ordinary – such as changes in food intake, eating habits or the way your cat moves – are signs that your cat needs to be checked out promptly by your vet. Excessive vomiting could be a sign of bowel issues, kidney problems, or pancreatitis. Coughing, sneezing and breathing issues could be a sign of asthma or cardiac disease. Going to the toilet outside the litter box could be a sign of urinary tract problems or painful bladder issues.
9. Feed a complete, nutritionally balanced diet
Cats have very specific nutritional needs. As obligate carnivores, they have to eat meat to survive. Protein is critical to every cat’s diet, along with a balanced blend of minerals and taurine – an essential amino acid to support a healthy heart.
Find out more about feeding your cat here
10. Watch your cat’s weight and fitness levels
Carrying a few extra pounds can lead to all sorts of health conditions, including liver problems, diabetes, and arthritis. Being overweight also puts unnecessary stress on a cat’s joints and organs. If your cat is overweight, your vet can advise on a suitable eating plan. Also ensure that exercise and playtime are part of your cat’s daily routine. As well as helping to keep your feline in trim, exercise results in happier, healthier cats. Play should be based around performing typical cat behaviours, such as hunting, pouncing, climbing and scratching.
Find out more about playing with your cat here >>
11. Get your cat microchipped
Also remember to keep your registration and contact information up to date. If your cat does go missing, having a microchip could make all the difference to them finding their way back to you or being handed to a rehoming centre.
12. Consider taking out pet insurance
If your cat needs veterinary treatment such as x-rays, blood tests or an operation, the bills could quickly stack up. Paying a regular amount each month into a reputable pet insurance policy means that you won’t have to make decisions about your cat’s medical care based on whether or not you can afford it.