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Health & Wellness

How to help your cat live a long, healthy life

Some cats live for over 20 years!

You’re an amazing pet parent — so it makes sense that you're doing some research on how to help your cat live a healthy, happy life. And while your vet is always the best resource when it comes to making health decisions for your best friend, we're happy to share what we know, too.

General health facts about cats

According to Dr. Lauren Phillips, a veterinarian at Burnham Park Animal Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the average lifespan for a house cat is 13-16 years — but she's seen a few cats live to be older than 20. Of course, there are a few factors that contribute to these variables. 

"Dogs and cats that are an ideal weight live, on average, 2-years longer than those that are overweight," she says. "Cutting down your cat's food and treat intake by 15-20% can help with weight loss. If your cat is always bothering you for food, you can use an automatic feeder to redirect their attention." 

Indoor cats tend to live longer than outdoor cats, as well. "They are not as easily exposed to infectious diseases," Dr. Phillips explains, pointing to other risk factors for outdoor vs. indoor animals. "Outdoor cats are also at risk for fighting with other animals or being hit by a car." 

Certain breeds also tend to have different lifespans. "Domestic shorthair and domestic longhair cats are the 'mutts' of the cat world and are the most common cats you'll see," Dr. Phillips notes. "In general, mutts have more genetic diversity than purebred pets, and having more diverse genes can decrease the likelihood of inheriting undesirable genetic diseases, like heart disease." 

How to optimize your cat's health

Naturally, as any cat-obsessed person would want to do, ensuring your fluffy family member has the fullest and healthiest life possible is of the utmost importance. And according to Dr. Phillips, there are a few things you can do to help facilitate that. 

"Yearly exams and blood work are important for detecting heart murmurs, dental disease, weight gain or loss and changes in liver, kidney and thyroid values," she explains. "This can help us treat disease in the early stages, rather than treating later on, when the disease has progressed." Ultimately, Dr. Phillips says that this helps cats live longer, more healthy lives. And if your cat hates going to the vet as much as you hate going to the dentist, fear not: "There are medications we can give prior to their appointments so that they'll be relaxed and easier to get into the carrier," assures the doctor.

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Health tips for senior cats

As your best friend ages, approaching senior status, it's time to make some changes to ensure optimal comfort and nutrition. "Ten years of age is considered 'senior' for cats," Dr. Phillips says. "This is the age when they can start losing some muscle mass and not be as agile as they used to be. Switching to a senior diet is recommended at this point, which helps provide the ideal nutrition for their golden years." 

No one knows your cat better than you — but your vet comes pretty close. The best way to help your cat live a happy and healthy life is to talk to your vet and make lifestyle decisions with their guidance. You shouldn't make any major health decisions for your cat without the help of a professional veterinarian. 

Photo by Lara Baeriswyl on Unsplash

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