How To Get Your Cat To Live Until 20… And Beyond



Sometimes, when I’m feeling extra morbid, I think about the day my cats will inevitably leave me. Lying on a cloud, bathed in sunshine, they stretch out languidly and yawn, blinking sleepily at me.

Well mum,” they purr, “it’s been real. Catch you on the flippy-flips.

And with that, they drift away into a dandelion-filled sky to cross the rainbow bridge. It’s not something I think about often. But when I do, I like to get a nice good cry in. (I told you, I’m morbid. Besides, crying is cathartic.)


I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. And it goes without saying that I do everything in my power to try and delay this tragic event. A lot of these strategies are obvious (but I’ll repeat them anyway, cuz that’s how I be), but the rest are a little less so.

Time to bust out our cauldrons and pointy hats—today we’re whipping up some longevity brew, kitty-style.



The Obvious


I’m never one to state the obvious.

HA! Just kidding, I love repeating myself to the point of inducing nausea. So here we go.



Keep your kitties inside.


A bevy of beautiful, well-kept indoor kitties.

Indoor cats live drastically longer lives (think 10+ years longer) than their outdoorsy compatriots. It’s easy to rationalize an outdoor kitty’s life as being more stimulating and fulfilling, but as with everything else in life, it’s all about context.

Imagine our earth as just a tiny fraction of the inhabitable worlds in our galaxy. Your mom, being the overprotective helicopter parent that she is, never informed you of this startling fact. You spend an entire blissful existence on this solitary planet, never the wiser.

Cats raised and brought up indoors never know what they’re “missing.” (And really, all they’re missing is disease and car wrecks and wild animals.) Your home is their world.

With that said, it’s absolutely essential that we keep their worlds stimulating and enriching.



Keep their world stimulating and enriching.

(I told you I like to repeat myself)


Yes, that extra sunny perch by the window actually does help your cat live longer. A mentally and physically stimulated cat is a happy cat. A happy cat is a healthy cat. It’s not rocket science, friends!

Repeat after me: Toys, beds, & vertical space.



Educate yourself on proper kitty nutrition.


Turn off that TV and punch your vet square in the face. Nearly every pet food brand that advertises on TV is going to be garbage. And while vets are awesome human beings (for the most part), SO many I’ve encountered mindlessly shill shitty pet food (like Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin) without bothering about proper cat nutrition.

Here’s the rule of thumb: The first 5 ingredients listed on your pet food package should be some sort of meat protein. Not pea protein. Not soy. Not corn meal. Not a by-product. MEAT. If you can swing it, grain free is ideal.

Learn urself on the subject (and as it’s probably the most decisive factor in a cat’s longevity and wellbeing, shouldn’t we all?) and get my pet food recommendations here.

Oh! And one more thing: Don’t free-feed your cats. Cats (especially bored cats) have a tendency to overeat. Start regulating their diet with twice a day mealtimes, and don’t leave food out for more than a few hours.

Here’s how to tell if your kitty is on the tubby end of the spectrum*:


Remember, just like with peoples, the key to healthy cats is plenty of exercise (playtime) and a controlled diet.

*As these are silhouette diagrams, it’s easy to confuse actual tubbiness with primordial pouches, which most cats carry. If your cat’s belly is loose and floppy, that’s normal pouch action. If it’s firm and tubby, that’s…well, that’s a fat kitty.



Keep their water fresh.


Cats tend to have a low thirst drive, and derive most of their water needs from their food (which is why wet food is preferable). On top of that, they are picky as hell. Keep multiple water sources set out, refreshed daily. And by refreshed, I mean rinsed and wiped down. You know that tiny film of scum floating at the surface of your cat’s water bowl? They don’t want to ingest it any more than you do. And it comes from a dirty bowl that hasn’t been washed in a while.

Also, be sure to keep their food and water bowls separate. Instinctively, cats consider any water found near their food (which in nature would be a dead animal) to be contaminated. I know, sometimes I wish my cats would be more like dogs, happily slurping down whatever murky liquids are placed before them—but alas. It is not to be.

The bottom line is this: When cats aren’t drinking enough water, they can quickly develop urinary tract diseases and die with very little warning. (9 lives my ass, kitty! Aren’t you supposed to be indestructible like a cockroach??)



Get on them annual checkups.


Our cats are warriors. When something is wrong, many tend to suffer in silence. “Just muscle through it,” they tell themselves. This is no bueno from a cat parent perspective. Even if kitty seems to be in perfect health, swing by your vet at least once a year to screen for any silent-but-deadly maladies.



The Slightly Less Obvious


Brush kitty often.

Sky the Ragdoll, the world’s most brush-able kitty.

Cats are always grooming themselves, as you may have noticed. When summer comes around and shedding season is in full swing, they’re working overtime to whip their coats back into manageable shape. This mean swallowing a lot of extra fur, which, if your cat already has a problem with hairballs, could be a problem.

Get yourself a nice soft slicker brush and lend a helping hand. You’ll also be doing double duty of bonding with your cat (I firmly believe that cats with a loving, close bond with their owners live much longer) and checking for fleas/ticks.



Speaking of fleas…go natural with your flea control.


Natural is best, says hippy cat.


Avoid chemical flea control and pet shampoos like the plague. The toxins in chemical flea control are extremely harmful to cats and their ability to ward off disease. In your daily life, I’d encourage you to go natural with your household cleaners and soaps. I know I’m sounding dangerously like a crunchy-ass hippy right now, but that’s OK. I kind of am. The amount of chemicals and toxins we allow into our homes these days is appalling. It’s killing us, and it’s killing our pets.

Toxins in chemical cleaners, pesticides, and flea control products build up in our cats’ bodies, weakening their immune systems and making them much more prone to cancer and disease in old age. 

If you’re not ready to give up your Lysol disinfecting sprays (the worst…seriously), at the very least dump those chemical-laden flea collars, sprays, and shampoos. Go natural. 

We’re not trying to turn our kitties into radioactive mutants, y’all.



Shall we get a little preachy? …Eh why not, you’re already here.


kitten-with-cigaretteSecondhand smoke kills. You’ve heard that before, no? It kills babies and fur-babies alike.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that cats are animals in the same way that humans are animals—what harms us is likely to harm them just the same, if not more, considering their considerably smaller body mass. In fact, cats are twice as likely to get cancer and die prematurely if their owner smokes.

Don’t believe me? According to Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, veterinarian:

“Secondhand smoke has been associated with oral cancer and lymphoma in cats, lung and nasal cancer in dogs, as well as lung cancer in birds.

One reason cats are so susceptible to secondhand smoke is because of their grooming habits. Cats constantly lick themselves while grooming, therefore they lick up the cancer-causing carcinogens that accumulate on their fur. This grooming behavior exposes the mucous membrane of their mouth to the cancer-causing carcinogens.”

Learn urself (even more) on the subject, here and here.

If you want your kitty to be with you until the ripe old age of 20, take your chain-smoking outside! (And maybe consider cutting down a bit yourself? …I know I know, I’m sorry, I care!)




Want more natural cat care tips? Head over to Natural Cat Care Blog – one of my favorite cat care resources. Be sure to subscribe to Liz’s newsletter and get her free ebook on cat longevity, where she goes more in depth into the factors that affect our cats’ health and lifespans. It’s a seriously interesting and enlightening read.

According to Liz, every cat, properly cared for, has the potential to live to 20. Now that I can get behind.



Hope this has been enlightening. I expect us all to be caring for healthy, happy, unnaturally old cats years from now. Deal?


Want more?

How to leave your cats home alone (without the guilt)

How to decode cat sounds: 7 things your cat is trying to tell you

Cat Treat Breakdown: What to Indulge, What to Avoid


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8 comments on “How To Get Your Cat To Live Until 20… And Beyond”

  1. Those are all excellent points!

  2. Connie says:

    it is a shame that more vets don’t think outside the box when it comes to nutrition. Fortunately, there are more now than there ever has been that do, but still far too many that think processed corn is a-okay for cats

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Completely agree! At least it’s an obvious indicator of whether your vet is knowledgeable about cat nutrition or not! If not, we run for the hills.

  3. Maurece says:

    In January 2017, I sadly had to let my baby girl Opal go to wherever it is we (cat-dog-human) go to next.
    Wonderful little life cat buddy for 22 years and actually fought against the fact her body was failing her physically and hissing at me while taking her to her vet since she couldn’t move her arms, stand up nor walk anymore and all I could do at that moment was hold her close and cry.

    The cycle of life did what it does, I still miss her contributions to my life and 7.5 months later, I was drawn to adopt 2 kitten girls who are just another version of the magical connection cats, or dogs and humans are fortunate to have and share… and they had some personality qualities Opal had which captured my heart.

    IMPORTANT NOTE FROM ALL THIS; Water type and water bowls are a HUGE component for life extending possibilities.

    Opal, and now my new rescued love-bug girls, Did not/DO NOT accept or drink directly from the tap or market delivered plastic water containers…

    Based on Opal’s prior 22 year existence, best appears to be alkaline water, from a local water host vendor and NOT MARKET BOTTLED DELIVERY (since they don’t mention from where, or when).
    The best water bowls (with filtered pump rotation) are ceramic, thick glass or stainless steel… Plastic and its hidden or quiet particle breakdown ended Opal’s brother at 14 years.

    Pay attention daily too, listen to and observe and Love your little buddies completely; feed them as well or better than you do yourself (since it’s not that expensive in bulk and wise storage) but just as your life blood is 95+% water based, make sure it’s as perfect as one can for your extended family cat members.

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Love this. Thank you for sharing your experience. My cats only drink filtered water, and I’m currently working on transitioning them to a 100% raw diet (I’ll do a post about it soon). Worth looking into, if you haven’t already!

      I strongly agree that we should treat our animals just as well (if not better) than we treat ourselves. Their welfare and entire happiness is in our hands–the least we can do is provide them with the best possible experience they can on this earth. :]

  4. Yvonne says:

    Hello! Can I just confirm with you, by “chemical flea control”, does this include the flea drops that go on their neck. How about the pills that we give them for worming? Thanks 🙂

    1. Why Cat Why says:

      Yes, typical store-bought flea drops are riddled with toxic chemicals (and are known to be very ineffective to boot). I’m unsure about worming pills–there maybe be natural remedies, but I think giving your cat medication to treat a condition like worms is unavoidable!

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