Have you heard of the famous saying that cats have nine lives? Well, guess what; they are wrong. Your furry pal has just one very precious life & it is your job to take good care of them. However, they do have comparatively very long lives, especially when compared to smaller pets like hamsters or guinea pigs. They seem to live on forever. Therefore, it is very important to keep in mind that if you are deciding to get a pet cat, you must be ready for a long-term commitment.
The general medical scenario for cats and other pets has considerably improved over the past decade or so. However, in comparison to human medicine, there is still a lot of scope for improvement. Veterinary clinics, medicines, and doctors have increased in number. Hence, you could expect a healthy kitten to stay with you for any time between 15 to 20 years if provided proper care. Now you need to consider what sort of a personality your cat displays. That’s right! Cats have personalities too. They may be of two types:
1. Outdoor cats: These cats remain outdoors most of the time, disappear for a large part of the day, hunt their own food, and sometimes bring some back for you. These cats are self-reliant and need freedom. They require lots of space and cannot be closed up inside a house. These cats, however, live for a shorter duration because of the fact they are exposed to a large number of threats. They may get hit by vehicles on the roads, attacked by larger animals or even by other cats. There is also no way to ensure they consume clean food or water. They may even hang out with other cats who have infections such as the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and Feline Leukemia, which spread from one infected cat to another. These diseases tend to be fatal in most cases. If you are adopting a cat from a shelter, ensure that you get them checked out by a vet. Though there is no way to control your cat’s behavior, ensure that you get them regularly checked and vaccinated.
2. Indoor cats: These are the cats that enjoy sleeping all day long and seem to be living life. They interact with you a lot and depend on you to feed them every meal. They are extremely attached to their humans and need human contact to stay happy. Even if they seem resigned, they always have a sense of territory and consider you and your home to be a part of it. These cats tend to live longer as they have very little interaction with other cats. They only consume food that you feed them and are less prone to infections. However, it always worthwhile to ensure they are vaccinated and checked out with a vet.
Factors that affect your Cat health:
Apart from their personality, there are other factors that you must keep in mind to ensure that you keep your cat healthy and fit. Let us start with what these factors are and what you can do to give them your best:
Cats are not always as expressive as other pets. They tend to hide several signs of illnesses. Identifying problems that your cat seems to be facing in time is very important. It is a major factor that can help keep your cat healthy. Observe your feline at all times; you will start to notice that they have very specific quirks and habits. If they seem to be drastically deviating from these habits, you can hazard a guess that something is wrong.
Physically examining your cat from time to time is another small step to a long cat life. Cats may develop conditions such as allergies, fleas, skin diseases, or even physical injuries that will need care. You can avoid further deterioration and provide timely care if you spot these things on time.
Every cat has a pattern of eating, drinking, and even toilet habits. Look for any changes in their behavior. If you notice any reduction or increase, you may take the cat to a vet for proper assessment. In the case of females who haven’t been neutered, this can even point out possible signs of pregnancy. You should also check for repetitive coughing, difficulty breathing, sneezing, or lack of grooming are also possible signs of concern.
A healthy cat will have a certain weight, which will indicate a healthy diet and good lifestyle. Every cat breed has a particular marked weight range, and your pet’s weight should fall in that range. Slight occasional fluctuations within the weight range is not a big issue, but the trouble arises when the weight either increases or decreases too much and crosses the threshold. It might cause your cat to develop weight-related disorders, including arthritis, diabetes, or other orthopedic ailments, which will ultimately impact his/her life expectancy.
When you own a cat, you have to do enough amount of research to know about the ideal diet plan for a cat. Each cat possesses different metabolic requirements, which depend on the cat breed, genetics, age, lifestyle, and other factors. Initially, you will have to settle for the trial and error method and find out your feline pet’s diet pattern. With time, you will get hold of the ideal diet plan that will help your cat stay lean and active.
Avoid going for free-choice feeding, where you leave a bowl of food all day, and let your cat choose the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on his own; it has been found to contribute extra pounds. Instead, go for scheduled feeding and fix time intervals for feeding your furry pal.
Also, you may notice that most cats sleep more and exercise less; hence, make sure you feed your pet with controlled and measured food quantity.
The correct diet:
It is imperative to understand that just like humans, your feline pet also needs a well-maintained and balanced diet. It is your responsibility to make sure that your pet is being offered with all the nutrients that it needs to stay healthy and fit, even when it has aged quite a lot.
So, here’s a table listing the nutrients that your cat needs and the source of food from where it can derive so.
|Vitamin A||Codfish liver and oil||It builds a strong immunity, keeps a good vision, and prevents skin problems.|
|Vitamin D||Liver, sunlight, and Vita-D supplements||This vitamin builds strong bones and teeth and prevents pre-mature tooth erosion.|
|Proteins||Chicken by-products, corn gluten, and ground whole grain wheat||It develops strong muscles and prevents fatigue, strengthens, and initiates gluconeogenesis.|
|Carbohydrates and Fats||Corn gluten, flaxseed, soya bean oil, and dried egg products||These nutrients help in energy production and storage.|
|Calcium||Chicken, lamb, and fish||It supports the formation of healthy bones and teeth and prevents blood clots.|
|Phosphorus||Meat, eggs and dairy products||This element helps in muscle functioning, supports healthy teeth and strong bones.|
|Sodium||Mineral mix||It aids muscle movement and maintains optimum body fluid levels.|
Along with all these nutrients, one more element exists, which is an essential part of your cat’s daily diet, and that is water. Make sure that you give your furry friend enough water to drink. Staying hydrated is the key to tackle a lot of diseases and can flush out toxins easily from your pet’s body. Also, drinking the right amount of water will safeguard your pet against kidney and urinary tract disorders, as well as accumulation of too much fat.
It goes without saying that if you want your cat to enjoy a healthy, long life, you must regularly vaccinate them, perform routine check-ups with the vet, and provide them with a good diet. You must feed them regularly on time and give them a safe environment to live in. You may also give them exercise if they tend to get lazier as they grow older by experimenting with a variety of toys.
Spaying or neutering:
Several studies have portrayed the existence of a link between spaying/neutering pets and their life expectancy.
The results show that the average lifespan of neutered male cats increases by approximately 62% as compared to unneutered cats, whereas the average lifespan of spayed female cats increases by 39% as compared to unspayed cats. It is because unspayed or unneutered animals tend to develop certain diseases. For instance, female cats can develop mammary cancer or uterine infections, and male ones can be attacked by testicular or prostate cancers. Of course, such ailments will cut down their lifespan, which is very undesirable for any feline pet owner.
You can certainly talk with your vet for better suggestions and get a proper idea about the merits and demerits of spaying or neutering your furry pet.
There are certain factors that you cannot do anything about. These are passed down to your cat from previous generations and tend to affect your cat’s health adversely. However, you can find out such problems in the early stages. They may have inherited disease, or a deficiency, which may or may not be cured. By visiting the vet regularly, you may be able to find health supplements that you can give to the cats or perform procedures that can save their lives.
An interactive life:
Of course, like humans, cats also tend to stay happy when it can do whatever things they like. So, it’s your job to treat your pet with the activities that it enjoys. Provide your furry friend with the opportunities to play, explore, and interact. These caresses will keep their brain stimulated, and it will feel happy. Happiness is undoubtedly the key to a healthy and long lifespan.
Well, you might wonder how to provide this life to your kitty? It’s simple. Cats like to scratch posts or cat trees, go for search missions to find their much-adored toys around the house, roll in their catnip, and of course, spend time with their favorite human. You, as an owner, can play and cuddle your pet if it wants so, and let it enjoy your attention and be happy. The more you spend time with your kitty, the more it will start trusting you and will show any signs of discomfort that it may encounter. And then, you can take your kitty for check-ups if needed.
The natural aging process:
All cats grow old, and there’s no stopping time. Hence, it is inevitable for all your furry pals. That is why cat owners must understand the natural aging process. If you learn to observe and identify these signs, you will be able to take appropriate actions and not worry unnecessarily. Some of the other serious diseases that your cat could develop as it grows older are:
|Hyperthyroidism||Increased Activity or severe fatigue|
|Hypertension (high blood pressure)||Heart disease, difficulty in breathing|
|Inflammatory bowel disease||Indigestion, lack of appetite|
|Cancer||Severe pain, fatal.|
Though these conditions are prevalent in younger cats, older cats are more susceptible to them.
Just as with humans, as cats grow older, their immune systems get weaker. They get more prone to illnesses and may fall sick often. At older stages, it is very important to constantly check for illness and double your visits to the vet.
As a cat grows, it’s the owner’s responsibility to help it strengthen its acquired immunity. For that, diet plays an integral role. Along with the necessary nutrients, as your pet grows old, try to include nutritional supplements in its diet. It can be multi-vitamins or anti-oxidants that will decrease the risk of infections and halt tissue damage in your feline pet.
Also, include a set of exercises in the routine of your feline pet to strengthen its bones and keep it active and healthy. Spend time with it; let it play around. It will also reduce your cat’s stress and lethargy and help counter weight-related problems. By taking all these measures, you can enhance your cat’s low immunity, even if it has aged old.
Cats prefer to stay clean. They are proud animals that groom themselves from time to time. However, as cats grow old, their skin becomes thinner and more prone to infection. They shed more fur than usual and have minimal blood circulation. It could lead to a strange odor, skin rashes, or accumulation of dirt on them. Hence, they need human help in getting groomed and staying clean.
If you start with this grooming your furry pet at an early stage, your cat will develop this as a good habit, and it will help it to have a healthy skin coat even at old age. Regular brushing of your kitty’s hair will keep it clean and reduce hairballs. When you brush its fur, always start from the head, and then gradually move from its front legs to its chest, followed by hind legs and tail. Use a slow and soft hand motion while brushing.
Apart from this, bathing your cat is also a fundamental way to keep its skin safe from infections. Introduce your cat to bathing slowly and steadily, so that it doesn’t get stressed. Gradually, it will develop into a habit that your pet would not like to quit.
Cats generally take care of their own nails by sharpening it often and wearing it down. However, older cats may not be able to do so. They get overgrown and brittle leading to bleeding and infections. You can also get yourself or your furniture damaged by these nails. Hence you may need to clip their nails more often and with more care.
Cats can also get affected by nail disorders, which can be a result of cancer or tumor. It can also be a side-effect of other diseases like FIV or FeLV, diabetes, hyperadrenocorticism, or other congenital disorders. So, keep an eye on their nails as it might be an alarm for the internal physical ailments of your pet.
Hearing and seeing:
Cats generally have very good vision, even in the dark. However, their eyesight weakens as they have grown older. They may have trouble seeing and hence must be protected from predators and guided to their food. It may also happen as a result of diseases such as hypertension. You must also check for any signs of discoloration of the eyes. Immediate medical attention and medication can prolong their good health. Their hearing can also decline in their old age. Generally, it is not detectable unless observed carefully. However, it is a natural part of the aging process & there’s nothing much you can do about it.
Your feline pet’s breath can be an indication of its health condition. Of course, you can’t expect it to smell like a flower bouquet, but at the same time, it should also not let out a rancid wheeze. Poor oral hygiene will always result in bad breath, and when such a thing occurs, take it as a warning and pay attention to the oral health of your cat to avoid further deterioration.
Sometimes, bad breath can act as an alarm for more severe metabolic issues in your cat. Especially for elderly cats, bad breath can be an indication of kidney issues, diabetes, or even liver problems. So, pay attention to such symptoms before it’s too late so that you can enjoy the company of feline partner for a long time.
Again, like a human, older cats tend to get dental problems easily. If they are experiencing any discomfort or pain in their mouth, they may tend to avoid eating or may even produce sounds of pain while chewing. And this can also be checked out with a vet and properly treated.
Many tooth issues can affect your cat’s health adversely. Feline periodontal disease is considered to be one of the most common and serious cat health problems that can affect approximately 70% of the cats by the time they are 3-years old. These diseases do not remain confined to only oral space, but can cause disorders in other body parts and thus affect the lifespan of your cat.
Here’s a brief list of some feline periodontal disorders for you.
How it affects your cat?
|Gingivitis||Tartar starts to dig into and below the gum tissues. It causes inflammation of gums along with irritation and redness.||Swelling, redness, bleeding gums, loss of appetite, drooling, and bad breath|
|Periodontitis||Plaque bacteria below the gum line secrete toxins causing tissue damage. It triggers the cat’s immune system, which sends WBCs to destroy bacteria. Many supporting soft tissues are damaged in the process. It is a result of uncontrolled gingivitis.||Redness, bleeding gums, swelling, unwilling to eat, and halitosis|
|Tooth Resorption||It refers to the breaking down of the tooth structure. It begins inside the tooth and progresses to other parts.||Pinkish defect at the line where the tooth meets the gum, drooling, unwillingness to eat, showing off aggression and irritation.|
There are instances where you might find your kitty vomiting only because it has a hairball. A hairball is a collection of dead hairs and digestive juices that forms in your feline pet’s stomach. It is generally the result of the cats grooming themselves by licking their fur. Their tongue catches the loose hairs, and they might swallow them. Some of these hairs pass through the digestive tract and come out as excreta, and the remaining end up forming a hairball. Vomiting is the process of throwing out this hairball and cleaning the digestive system.
Younger cats generally have lesser hairballs compared to older ones. Aged cats tend to shed more hair and have long hairs. It is quite normal for cats to have hairballs until it’s happening too frequently. In such a case, it is better to go and visit a vet, since it can be an indication of gastrointestinal problems.
Even if you notice sudden behavioral changes in your cat, like wandering around the house fussily and repeated retching with no sign of hairballs, don’t delay in getting a vet. Such actions can be a symptom that the hairball has moved from its stomach to the intestine, and this is a grave issue. It can be accompanied by diarrhea and constipation.
Appetite, as discussed earlier, is a solid indicator of cat health. In older cats, however, this indicator may fail. As older cats have a fainter sense of smell, they may not be able to identify food items or simply lose interest in eating. It may or may not be due to a disease or an underlying condition, but you might as well get it checked out.
Treating your cat:
Like humans, cats also like to receive gifts and treats as a part of their growing up process. But, your care for your kitty shouldn’t turn harmful for it. Too many treats can ruin your pet’s habits, and in the long run, might hamper its health.
Of course, it’s tough to turn away your feline friend that comes and asks for treats with its adorable eyes, but after all, it is for its good. Too many treats might increase your pet’s overall calorie intake and force it towards obesity and related health issues.
Feline bones get very weak as cats grow older, which can result in Degenerative joint disease or arthritis – a common disease among older cats. They have difficulty playing with you, jumping onto favorite resting spots in the initial stages. As it progresses, they may even become unable to access food, water, or litter boxes. They won’t enjoy being touched and may prefer staying on the ground floor of your building to avoid the stairs.
But apart from old age hitting the bones, many other bone disorders might hamper your feline partners’ well-being.
What is it?
|Osteochondromatosis (a.k.a Multiple exostoses)||It is characterized by numerous bony growths from the surface of long bones, vertebrae, and ribs.||In older cats, it’s believed to be caused by feline leukemia virus.||Pain, stiffness, swelling of joints, and loss of functions|
|Osteomyelitis||Bone inflammation||Bacterial or fungal infections, inadequate blood supply to bones, bone damage, and trauma||Lameness, pain, puss-filled sores at wound sites, lack of appetite, and fever|
|Osteosarcoma (Bone cancer)||An aggressive form of cancer that spreads very quickly to other parts of the body.||Growth of malignant tumors||Stubborn lameness, swelling of the affected bone, breathing difficulties, lethargy, and loss of appetite|
|Chondrosarcoma||It is a rare tumor that can arise from cartilage.||A complex mix of risk factors and genetic or environmental mutation||Swelling at the site, lameness, localized pain, weight loss, and appetite loss|
|Hemangiosarcoma||It is one of the uncommon forms of feline cancer with high metastasis.||The exact cause is unknown yet||Weakness, presence of reddish or pinkish bump in the skin, swelling at the tumor site, weight loss, bulging belly, lethargy, loss of appetite, pale gums, increased panting, coughing, and collapsing|
|Hypervitaminosis A||Bony outgrowths form on vertebrae, which interfere with the normal movements and affect the nervous system.||Presence of excessive amount of Vitamin A in your cat’s diet||Pain and reluctance to move|
|Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism||Calcium deficiency leading to thinning and weakening of bones||Feeding the diet deficit of Calcium causes the parathyroid gland to secrete hormones to restore the normal Calcium level. The body extracts this Calcium from bones.||Pain, lameness, reluctance to walk or stand, and the cat easily fractures itself.|
They also have weaker kidneys, which may lead to impairing or failure of function. It is quite a severe condition and also prevalent among older cats. Hence, it must be treated as soon as possible.
The brain of your cat grows old too. As we discussed above, cats have unique personalities. These personalities start changing as cats grow older. An outdoor cat may be spending a lot of time around your house. They may experience memory loss or alterations leading to erratic behavior. They may even perceive you as a threat and hence needed to be given a lot of time and patience. They can also, in some cases, seek more attention and comfort from their humans. They would, however, avoid strangers and seem disoriented, which requires you to give them the rest they need. By accepting your furry friend’s aging process, you will be able to provide comfort, which can considerably lengthen their life.
It is a very tricky problem and quite difficult to spot. You might find your cat to become lethargic and reluctant to play, but such a behavior can be due to physiological reasons as well. You will generally tend to cut down any possible chance of a psychological problem, but that’s the wrong thing to do.
Even cats can undergo stress and depression, and there are multiple reasons for it. For example, the arrival of a new pet, losing its owner, pregnancy, family switching, etc. can make your feline pet stressed and unhappy.
Finding the right Vet:
Finding the right vet for your cat can go a long way in your feline’s overall health. It means timely appointments, proper diagnosis, making the right medicines available, etc. You should also take into considerations that the vet you choose has sound expertise in dealing with felines. He/She must be able to interact with them in a friendly and reassuring manner as a visit to a vet is almost always a harrowing experience for your buddy. They must also be able to suggest good vaccination schedules, suggest experts in case of serious illnesses, and perform in-depth health checks.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Can you convert an outdoor cat to an indoor cat?
No, this is a part of their personality and may depend on previous owners, past experiences, etc. However, it may naturally change over time, but usually, you have to accept your cat as it is.
2. Are there health supplements that I can give to my cat?
Yes, there are plenty available in the market. For instance, check out this pet booster, which helps in healthy development. However, it is recommended to consult your vet first.
3. What toys are healthy for my cat?
Well, it completely depends on your cat’s habits and health conditions. Find out if your cat has any allergies from your vet, and then you can check out this interactive toy if your vet agrees.
The life expectancy of cats depends on many factors, including whether the cat is an indoor cat or an outdoor cat, what are the things they are allergic to, health conditions, and so on. Many people have misconceptions about the health of the cats. Hence, it’s always necessary that you check with the vet or any at specialist before you conclude anything.
You and your vet both play an equal and important role in your feline’s life. Your cat’s life span depends on these two pillars of support and is hence completely up to you to give your cat the best and healthiest life possible. Even in spite of all your efforts, your furry friend might experience health issues and illnesses. It is quite normal and not a cause of concern. With the right approach and some love, they will be back on their paws before you know it!