UPDATE December 2011: The eBook is ready! Get it FREE here.
Would you believe the world record for feline lifespan, verified by Guinness World Records, is a 38 year-old cat?
Yep, a cat named Cream Puff.
In fact, most of us have met or heard of someone who had a 20 year-old (or older!) cat.
This kind of information makes me crazy and gives me hope that there may be more we can do to help our cats live longer.
Which means I had to investigate it with my usual obsessiveness.
As you may recall, I ran a quick, random a survey several weeks ago and closed it after it reached 30 cats. A wide range of folks were invited to participate.
I thought you’d like to know 5 things I found very interesting about the 20+ year-old cat survey results. But first…
Can we really make a difference? What about genes?
Genes are a funny thing. We tend to assume they predetermine longevity because it’s just easier to grasp “all or nothing” concepts.
Yet the influence of genes on longevity is complicated and small. Based on human studies at Boston University, longevity is determined by about 70-80% environment and lifestyle and only 20-30% genes.
How can this be? As Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. explains, science has discovered that genetic expression can actually be modified throughout our lives. He speaks of how nutrition is one factor that modifies it.
Very few people seem to know this yet!
So I say yes, you bet we can make a difference. More on this soon, with my upcoming eBook , How to Get More Happy Years with Your Cat. (Which will be free as a gift to newsletter subscribers – sign up below.)
Now, copied straight from that upcoming eBook, are 5 things you may find interesting about the survey results.
1. Most of the cats had wet food as at least part of their diet and most did not use chemical flea control.
The presence of wet food and lack of flea control chemicals were the factors that stood out the most among these long-living cats.
The few 20+ year old cats who were not fed any wet food and were indoors (unable self-supplement their diet) had other important beneficial factors working for them: most lived completely free of pesticides, smoke, and chemical flea control!
2. Almost every cat had at least two beneficial factors going for them.
From a list of beneficial health factors (practical things we can all do for our cats), almost all the long-living cats had two or more of those factors going for them.
I was able to create a point system for these beneficial factors and find that almost all the 20+ year-old cats had at least 5 points from the system – most had more.
I was also able to look at the two cats I’ve had who died under age 20, and realize they would not have had many points in this system, much to my regret. My family and I were not aware of these things when I was younger.
3. One woman had a magic longevity touch.
Bernadette E. Kazmarski, an artist and blogger at The Creative Cat, has had two 20+ year old cats, plus a cat who made it to 19 and another who is currently 19 and on the way to 20!
None of these cats are related and none are of any “special” breed, so we can’t attribute to shared genetics. Bernadette’s story speaks loudly for a focus on food because her cats did have toxin exposure for some time, yet she did a lot to give them a healthy diet.
It was mainly a grain-free, wet food diet, including some homemade food, though there were four years when all she could afford was dry food.
She made a point of giving her cats senior cats extra vitamins and all the wet food they wanted.
Some of her long-living cats did have health issues (one came to her with signs of kidney problems at age 15), but through devotion, love, and good nourishment she kept her long-living cats going to a ripe old age.
4. It inspired a closer look at grass and insects.
In spite of all the extra risks cats who go outdoors face, half of the of the 20+ year-old cats did have regular outdoor access.
I have a theory that, in addition to more exercise and supplementing their diet with the raw food called “prey,” eating insects and grass helps promote the longevity of these cats.
I did some digging and confirmed that insects, grass, and soil microorganisms may have more health benefits for cats than we realize.
That doesn’t mean the outdoors is required for longevity–there are other ways cats can get these benefits.
5. Most respondents had a very close or soulful relationship with the long-living cat.
93% of the people in the survey said their relationship with the long-living cat was special, very close, or even soulful or spiritual.
So many of us have lost feline soul mates who were under age 20, so I don’t want anyone to worry that they weren’t close enough to their cat: If you were heartbroken when they died, you were very close.
However, a couple people mentioned that they suspected their cat lived so long because he or she had a unique purpose–either to be there for a family member or even for other cats or kittens.
Do you think that sometimes cats manage to live longer for someone else–that having a special purpose gives them a longevity boost? I wonder.