(Our son, Jake’s cat, was a venerable, old cat of 21 years! Coincidentally, his name was T.C. (for Top Cat)
You never would have thought Luna, my strong willed little tuxedo girl, would live to her current ripe old age of 20. A few times in her life, Luna has endured some health setbacks, most of which have been related to intestinal problems. As a long time cat lover and specialist in their daily care and well being, I am often amazed by Luna’s resiliency when, with the proper care and nutrition, she has bounced back each time to live another day.
Age 20 for a cat is a great achievement in and of itself, but this wily cat also enjoys “working out” at night, a routine typically followed by much younger cats. At the stroke of midnight, a few times a week, Luna leaps from the bed to the floor, races through the second floor of our home, and repeats the performance. Not a way for her humans to get a restful night’s sleep, but we can’t help but admire Luna for her pep.
Observing the living habits of many older cats over the years, I have developed a sense of what is behind the phenomenon of cats managing to live to ripe old ages. Genetics certainly would seem to play a factor. Much like studies on human genetics and how their inherited traits may swing the longevity pendulum to a shorter, or longer life, I believe that this impacts cats’ lives as well. Some purebred cats, for example, seem to generally have a shorter life span than “mixed” breeds, the latter of what I term a “Heinz 57” cat. Although several years ago, there was a story about a Sphinx cat who purportedly lived to age 32. His human was also quite elderly, they were the perfect “little old men”!
Exercise leads to fit cats, another indicator of longevity. Our Luna is about as slim as they get, and that’s the way she’s been for many years. Perhaps that’s why she seemingly has little to no arthritis and the ability to fly through the air at midnight. It’s important to spend as much time as possible interacting with cats. Catnip, wand and other toys that bring out the hunting instinct in cats are effective in ensuring exercise as well as mental stimulation. Although indoor/outdoor” cats undoubtedly experience the thrill of the hunt, they are subject to many more life threatening risks than their indoor feline counterparts, including hit and run car accidents, animal fights, and unfortunately, ill meaning people.
Great nutrition is another leading factor. With the proliferation of cat food choices on the market, it’s easy to choose a food that has fewer by products, and purer ingredients. I have also discovered that moisture in food tends to be an important factor in a cat’s health, especially as they age. A combination of premium quality canned foods with dry foods seems to work for our aging cats. A vitamin supplement such as Felovite with Taurine also helps keep them well nourished.
Keeping cats well hydrated also is good preventative measure for many ailments. Cats tend to wait until they are fairly dehydrated before going to the water bowl. We have been using cat water fountains ever since they first came onto the market and recommend their usage to encourage cats to drink. Our favorite is the line of Drinkwell products, especially the Pagoda and Lotus ceramic fountains as well as the Stainless Steel “360”.
Finally, and perhaps the most important key to feline longevity, is emotional health. I can’t say enough about showing your cats how much you love them. Your cat will let you know what he/she prefers in this sense, whether it’s just a kind word, a stroke on the head, or a “full body hug”. Let them know every day how much they mean to you in your life. Encouragement and affection will go a long way towards extending their lifetimes.
It’s Adopt A Senior Pet Month! Did you know that senior cats can actually be the PERFECT pet for busy households? Bringing a young pet into your home can be a ton of work with kids, work, and all the fun activities and running around. But having a sweet pet that is already potty trained and is the best napping buddy can be a dream come true.
Adopting an older pet also gives families the benefit of knowing your cat’s personality is already developed. Quickly, your family will know if a cat is the right fit for your home and lifestyle, if he will get along well with your kids and how much canoodling he can take. This is great news, because another benefit is that pets can really help develop your children’s sense of responsibility and self-esteem! But, just because your new pet already has a fully developed sense of self, don’t think he can’t learn new things. In fact, he might adapt his behavior with new training faster than young cats, due to his cognitive development.
So before writing off older pets, try meeting a few. You might fall in love!
Check out PetMD’s slideshow to read all the fabulous reasons you should adopt a senior cat and tell us in the comments, would you ever considering adopting a senior pet?
What types of environmental enhancements do you offer your cat?
Caring for cats properly involves much more than simply furnishing food, water and a litter box. Environmental enrichment, such as toys, food puzzles, perches, and even hiding places, can really change the quality of life for almost any cat.
The Winn Feline Foundation recently took a look at this issue in a group of shelter cats on their blog. Environmental enrichment in shelter cats is an excerpt from a study which provided a food puzzle to a stable group of shelter cats and examined their reaction to the puzzle and their interactions surrounding the object. The study concluded:
“a stimulating item that can be shared by all individuals in a stable group, such as a puzzle feeder of appropriate size, can play an important role in promoting positive social interactions among cats and improving their welfare.”
Certainly, in shelter cats, this is an important study. It underlines the need for more than just basic care in the lives of these animals and the fact that this enrichment is easily achievable. After all, the ultimate goal is to give these cats the best chance for adoption. Cats that are comfortable in their environment and confident will show it in their behavior. And confident behavior is much more “adoptable” than a cat that is hiding in his cage or, worse yet, acting in aggressive manner out of fear.
However, this study also can be extended to those of us who keep multi-cat households. I have three cats and frequently see two or more of my cats interacting with the toys and puzzles at once. In fact, it seems as though if one cat shows interest, it generates interest in the other cats as well.
Many environmental enhancement toys, cat furniture and other items can be found at www.MyThreeCats.com, the experts in optimum care care and well being.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that people without felines were 30 to 40 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those without cats. No protective effect of dogs as domestic pets was observed.
Over 4,000 people were surveyed about pet ownership and risk factors. Dr. Adnan Qureshi, stroke expert at the University, said of the cat-dog differential, “We don’t understand this completely – it’s probably not a coincidence.”
I think we can help answer this phenomenon pretty easily.
Cats are creatures of peace and tranquility. They sleep on average 16 hours a day, they are generally quiet and they purr. They follow us around like we’re the pied piper, quietly observing us as we go about our daily activities. They force us to stay on the couch a bit longer as they purr away on our laps. Many have an uncanny sense of when we’re arriving back home, waiting in the window sill until we appear, then meowing and bumping up against our legs with a friendly hello.
Some are very conversational, wanting to tell us how their day went. Their meows are generally very pleasant and sweet. If they are hungry they tell us politely. If they are sick, their observant humans will know by the change in their habits or behaviors, but not because they complain.
These are just some of the ways they affect our lives in a calming, positive way.