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How Long Do Cats Live?

There are a lot of different factors that come together to create a cat’s life expectancy. Some cats live for only a few short years, while other felines can live for decades on end. Find out how long cats can live for when Dr. Jess answers, How long do cats live?

grey cat on exam table with vet

Cat Life Expectancy Factors:

There are many factors that can shorten or lengthen your cat’s lifespan. Please keep in mind, that this is more the majority of cats, most of the time. There will always be outliers when talking about how long do cats live for.

Here are the more common factors can affect a cat’s life expectancy:

Factors Affecting Cat Lifespan

A list of some of the more common factors affecting the average cat's lifespan.

1. Indoor vs Outdoor Cats

Outdoor cats are more vulnerable to diseases and casualties like car accidents and animal fights. Most outdoor cats do get more exercise than indoor cats so being overweight is usually not an issue, especially when combined with the fact that many outdoor cats must hunt for their meals - nutrition can be an issue.

Indoor cats tend to live much longer in general due to modern interventions like veterinary medicine and vaccinations, complete and balanced cat foods, and protection and shelter. Because indoor cats tend to be more sedentary (because they typically don't hunt for their food, etc.) getting enough exercise and becoming overweight is a huge worry regarding their health.

2. Genetics/Overall Health

Conditions can be genetic or picked up from the environment or over time. From cancers, to infectious diseases, to genetic/inherited diseases, all health conditions can affect how long your cat can live for. Providing proper veterinary care, food, water, and safe environment can help some of these larger health issues when they do pop up.

3. Spay & Neutering

A spayed (female) or neutered (male) cat has a decreased chance of developing mammary cancer and no chance of ovarian (female), uterine (female), or testicular (male) cancers.

WIthout the reproductive hormones that were there before the spay or neuter, your cat will be much less likely to roam - and that will likely help with the chances of being hit by a car of getting into fights with other animals.

4. Nutrition/Diet

An ideal diet for your cat is a complete and balanced food. Not all commercial or homemade cat foods fit into this category. It is best to talk with your vet and discuss with them about the best food options for your pet, including amounts and time of feedings.

5.  Your Cat's Weight & Exercise

An overweight cat may have issues with bone, joint, liver, heart, lung, and other systems. Extra weight put on these systems can be incredibly detrimental to your cat's overall health. However, an underweight cat can have just as many problems.

Keeping your cat at an ideal body weight and allowing them plenty of opportunities to get exercise, will help mitigate weight issues in the long run. Contact your veterinarian to help you come up with the best weight and exercise plan specifically for your pet.

6. Veterinary Care

  • Hopefully by now it is pretty obvious that cats who seek routine medical care and emergency care in times of need, are going to live longer, healthier lives. Veterinarians can administer preventive medicine to your cat to help prevent many diseases and conditions. They can also diagnose and treat concerns and diseases as they arise. Vets can also help formulate plan to increase your cat's happiness, comfort, and overall health to live longer.

7. Breed of Cat

There are certain cat breeds with longer life spans, which are discussed later down in this article.

How Long Do Cats Live?

Many sources will say that the average indoor domesticated cat will have a life expectancy somewhere between 13-17 years of age. [source -Spector WS. Handbook of Biological Data. Philadelphia: Saunders; (1956). ]

However, there are many factors, many of which were discussed above, that come into play when talking about the length of a cat’s life.

Some cat’s will unfortunately live just a few months, while others will live on for decades. Some cats are luckier than others and seem to actually have 9 lives!

In fact, the oldest cat on record as of the time of writing this article, was a cat named Creme Puff who was 38 years old (and his cat “brother” Grandpa Rex Allen was the previous record holder before Creme Puff held the honor). [source]

There are always going to be outliers. Some outdoor cats may live into their teens or twenties, while some indoor kitties my only live a few months or years.

What is the Average Lifespan of an Indoor Cat?

With advances in modern medicine, modern diets, modernized kitty products, modern indoor living, etc. cats, as well as other pets, are living healthier for longer.

The average indoor domesticated cat will have a life expectancy somewhere between 13-17 years of age, depending on factors that were discussed earlier in this article. [source]

calico cat eat food out of bowl on ground

Cat Breed Average Lifespans:

Here are the average lifespans of some popular U.S. cat breeds. Keep in mind that these are assumed to be indoor cats:

  • Abyssinian: 9 – 15 years [source]
  • American Shorthair and Longhair: 15 – 20 years [source]
  • Bengal: 12 – 16 years [source]
  • Burmese: 9 – 13 years [source]
  • Himalayan: 8 – 11 years [source]
  • Maine Coon: 9 – 13 years [source]
  • Manx: 9 – 13 years [source]
  • Persian: 15 – 20 years [source]
  • Ragdoll: 12 – 15 years [source]
  • Russian Blue: 15 – 20 years [source]
  • Siamese: 8 – 12 years [source]
  • Sphynx: 8 – 14 years [source]

The Outdoor Cat Lifespan:

Unfortunately, the threats of living outside far exceed the threats that an indoor cat will typically face in its lifetime.

Therefore, it is common for an indoor cat to have a much longer life expectancy when compared to an outdoor cat.

Outdoor cats will likely encounter fights with other animals, cars and other industrial/manufacturing equipment, severe environmental conditions, possible encounters with serious diseases and illnesses without medical help or with less veterinary care, etc.

With all of these things, plus more, in front of them, it is easier to see that their lives may be drastically shorter than their indoor counterparts.

While it is hard to find solid data on a more exact life expectancy of an outdoor cat, one source states that it is a little over 5 years [source]

How Old Is My Cat in Human Years?

Your cat’s teeth and eyes are a good place to start for a veterinarian to guesstimate what age your cat is.

The condition of the heart, coat, and other body systems can also help your vet determine an approximate age of your cat.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to bring your feline friend in for a vet exam to help determine their age if you do not already know.

Once you know your cat’s age (or age range), many pet owners want to know how old their cat is in human years.

It is a well known thought that for every year old your cat is, they are x times that number in human years.

However, this may not be true.

Purina came out with an article explaining in very simple terms, what this newer believe entails:

Although there’s no reliable scientific way to calculate the relationship between human and cat years, it’s generally agreed that the first two years of a cat’s life are roughly equal to the first 25 of a human’s. After this, each additional year is around four ‘cat years’. “

Yet, another article explains it this way:

A common misconception in cat aging (and dog aging) is that a cat ages the equivalent of what a human would age in seven years each year. This is inaccurate due to the inconsistencies in aging as well as there being far more accurate equations to predict a cat’s age in “cat years”. A more accurate equation often used by veterinarians to predict cat years is 4× + 16, (× being the chronological age of the cat) which works for cats who are two years of age or older.”
orange tabby cat laying on back on white bed

Cat Age Groups Defined:

Another big component around cat lifespans is how cats are defined by their ages. In general, this is how I identify different age groups of cats.

#1- Kittens:

  • 6-9 months.
  • From birth to months old, a kitten will be learning so many things about their world, and growing so so much. They will learn to become more and more independent during this stage.
  • This is the best time to sterilize (spay or neuter) and start a vaccine routine, recommended by your veterinarian.

#2- Juveniles:

  • Up to 1.5 – 2 year of age.
  • Your kitten will turn into a cat, meaning that they will continue to grow for some time, but will eventually reach their full adult size during this phase of life.
  • Your cat will have many of their habits and quirks in place by the time this stage of life ends and they move on to mature adulthood.

One study, titled Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary-care veterinary practices in England, found that cats under 5 years of age, tended to die due to certain types of causes or traumas, including:

For cats dying before 5 years of age (n = 516), the most frequent causes were trauma (n= 244; 47.3%), viral infectious disorders (n = 34; 6.6%) and respiratory disorders (n =23; 4.5%).”

#3- Adult/Mature Cats:

  • 2 – 10 years old.
  • This is equivalent to early to midlife for your pet. They may tend to slow down a bit (even though they may still have bouts where they revert back to kitten behavior espcially when playing).
  • This is the time frame when many indoor cats start to gain weight and develop other medical issues, such as dental health concerns.
  • It is important to keep up with veterinary care through these enjoyable years.

In one study of cat mortality (deaths), the most frequent causes of death included: trauma (12.2%), renal disorder (12.1%), non-specific illness (11.2%), neoplasia (10.8%) and mass lesion disorders (10.2%). [source]

#4- Senior Cats:

  • 10+ years old.
  • Most cats will slow down and tend to sleep more and be less active.
  • Many diseases may arise such a heart, kidney, joint, and dental diseases to name a few.
  • Routine veterinary care is extremely important to help identify and treat many of these diseases.
mother cat nursing kittens on back

Increasing Your Cat’s Life Expectancy:

Now that we understand the factors that can influence your cat’s lifespan, we can try and help your cat live their life to the fullest and longest.

Remember that some of the factors that can affect a cat’s life expectancy include: diet, genetics, exercise, environment, veterinary care, etc. Some of these factors we can manipulate to help our cat’s potentially live longer.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Keep Your Cat Indoors: This will help with what veterinarians call HBC’s, or “hit by cars”. Keeping your cat indoors will also help decrease the chances of cat fights, other animal fights, and some potential diseases.
  2. Exercise Your Cat: That’s right. If your cat is spending its days inside, it is more likely to not move around as much as its outdoor counterparts. Your indoor cat will need to exercise and play inside to keep their body moving and healthy, and to keep those extra lbs off their frame. It is also very good for their mental health to be moving and get the blood pumping.
  3. High Quality Diets Only: One of the single biggest factors to the health of your pet cat is their diet that you offer to them. That is why it is extremely important to feed them a complete and balanced diet. That includes cat treats and fresh water too! Have a conversation with your vet as to what you should or need to feeding your cat before changing their diet and do it immediately if your cat stops eating or drinking.
  4. Spay and Neuter: Spaying or neutering your cat can help decrease the chances of your cat succumbing to certain cancers later in life.
  5. Medical / Veterinary Care: Everything from spaying and neutering, to routine vaccinations and other preventatives (such as fleas!), oral care, kidney and urinary disorders, and emergency care, will all likely be a part of keeping your cat around for longer than if veterinary care was not available to your kitty.

Do Cats Have 9 Lives?

Cats do not actually have 9 lives.

Cats do seem like they can escape danger due to a little bit of luck and the ability to maneuver stealthily through tricky situations. Cats do not have 9 lives.

Cat Lifespan Summary:

There are so many factors that can affect the lifespan of your cat.

There are things that you can do for your cat that may help them live a healthier longer life.

Contacting your veterinarian and discussing options about your cat’s lifespan and health is going to help you and your cat with how to proceed through life in a healthy and positive way!

veterinarian signature

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.