Q: Our cat, George, is going to be 22 years old this spring. He moves slower, doesn’t jump as often, but you’d never know he’s a senior citizen. How did he live to be so old? D.S., Henderson, NV
A: The odds are George has always been an indoor-only cat, and I sure as heck hope he is now, at his geriatric age. Being indoors only, life is safer – no attacking coyotes, no cat fights with strangers, and he won’t get hit by a car.
Most cats who live that long have also benefited from regular veterinary care, including organ function testing. There’s a simple new blood test to detect kidney disease earlier, which might help even more cats make it to 22. The test, called symmetric dimethylarginine or SDMA is offered with the IDEXX regular blood chemistry panel as the IDEXX SDMA™ test. [Editor’s note: IDEXX laboratories is the parent company of Pet Health Network.] Before SDMA, by the time kidney disease was discovered, about 75 percent of kidney function was gone. Using SDMA testing, kidney disease may be diagnosed much earlier (when the loss of function doesn't yet affect quality of life). Many geriatric cats do have compromised kidney function.
Lastly, a good diet helps. And so does being “lean and mean,” because overweight or obese pets aren’t likely to make it to age 22.
However, at the end of the day, much of the credit likely goes to your cats’ good genes and old-fashioned good luck. Congratulations!
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.