Image via Ingus Kruklitis/Shutterstock
By Dr. Wailani Sung, DVM
Our feline companions live longer compared to our canine companions. The average lifespan for an indoor cat is about 13 years. Of course, there are many cats that exceed the expectations, and it’s not unusual to hear of cats living into their late teens or early twenties.
So what can cat owners do to help their cats live longer, healthier lives? Here are a few cat health tips so you can maximize the time you have with your furry friend.
Feed Your Feline Wet Cat Food
Managing an appropriate diet is crucial to maintaining good cat health. Some cats are susceptible to becoming overweight when only offered dry food. Dry food contains a lot of carbohydrates, and unless your cat is very active, this puts them at risk of gaining weight.
When cats become obese, it increases the risk of diabetes, which is a life-threatening disease if left untreated. Consider switching your cat to canned diets that naturally contain more protein and fewer carbohydrates.
Cats are pure carnivores and need the protein in their diet. When you offer a canned diet, you also help your cat increase their water intake.
Encourage Water Consumption
Our domestic cats are descended from desert cats and are prone to drinking just enough water to function. However, as they age, the lower water intake places greater strain on their kidneys.
If you can encourage your cat to drink more water, it helps dilute their urine, leading to a lower risk of feline urinary tract disease. It also helps flush out more toxins from the kidneys.
Some cats are more likely to drink running water, so the use of a cat water fountain can be helpful. Some cats like to drink directly from the faucet. Provide at least two water bowls placed in different areas of the house to encourage your cat to drink more water.
Make Them Work for Their Meals
Keep your cat physically and mentally healthy by providing them with a cat puzzle toy. Cats living in the wild can spend up to 65 percent of their time hunting for food. An average 8-pound cat may eat 10 to 14 small, furry or feathered creatures to meet their daily caloric intake. They spend the majority of the day hunting for food and exploring their environment.
Our cats have their food presented in a cat bowl, which is not very mentally stimulating for them. By providing food in puzzle toys or placing small amounts of cat food in small dishes that you disperse around your house, you provide more environmental enrichment.
This makes your cat’s daily routine much more interesting and gives your cat more appropriate activities to work on in your absence. This can help reduce destructive behavior, reduce your cat’s level of anxiety and stress, and make for a happy cat.
Keep Your Cats Indoors
Outdoor only cats may live an average of 5 to 7 years. By keeping your cat indoors, you can potentially double your cat’s lifespan. Living indoors protects your cats from infectious diseases that other cats carry. It also keeps them safe from being hit by cars or attacked by larger predators, such as dogs and coyotes.
You can make your indoor cats lives more enriching by providing them with puzzle toys, daily play sessions and cuddle time.
Yearly Physical Examinations
If you want a healthy cat, it is crucial to take your cats in for routine physical examinations, vaccinations and bloodwork. One human year may be equal to 5 to 7 cat years. Since they age at a faster rate, yearly examinations and bloodwork can detect a problem early on, before it severely affects your cat’s physical condition.
Quality Bonding Time
Decreasing stress in your cat’s life by giving him individual attention and daily petting sessions improves his quality of his life. Offering your feline a cat perch, tall cat tree or even a cozy cat bed tucked in a hidden corner or an empty cardboard box, allows them to have places of their own to relax.
Improving the quality of your cat’s life by addressing his physical and mental needs can help your cat live a longer, happier life.