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How Long Do Cats Live? 7 Factors Cat Owners Need to Know

I found it quite difficult to write this post as I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to my beloved Siberian cat Alexei. However, I did want to know what I could do to ensure that he has the longest and fullest life possible and I am sure most people who are reading this post feel the same way.

I will answer the question of How Long do Cats Live as best I can based on the research I have been able to gather. And then let’s focus on what the research to date says about how to increase the life expectancy of cats so that you and your favourite feline can have as many years together as possible.


How Long do Cats Live?

There have been several major studies across the US and the UK that have looked at how long cats live. Taking out all of the factors that we are going to cover, the average age for a domestic cat appears to be around 15 years. Different studies come up with different results but when they’re taken together and averaged 15 years sounds like a sensible benchmark.

The good news is that it appears that domestic cats are living longer. A study that has been published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that the average lifespan of a cat is now around 15 years. Just a few decades ago the average lifespan of a cat was single digit. The study found that an estimated 20% of cats were 11 years of age or older.

owner and cat with foreheads together

The experts believe that cats are living longer because medical advances are helping to prevent diseases in cats. This study was conducted in 2016 so of course, it doesn’t take into account medical advances for cats in the last five years.

The study acknowledged a lack of research in this area that means no one really knows how long cats could live a healthy life. These days cats are considered to be geriatric at the age of 15 years but are living into their late teens and early 20s.

When looking at how long do cats live it helps to take into account the classic cat life stages.

Cat Life Stages

  1. Kitten (0 to 6 months) – the equivalent of a human infant
  2. Junior Cat (6 months to 2 years) – equivalent of human adolescence
  3. Prime (3 to 6 years) – the equivalent of a human in their 20s and 30s
  4. Mature Cat (7 to 10 years) – the equivalent of a middle aged human eg in their 40s and 50s
  5. Senior Cat (11 to 14 years) – the equivalent of a human in their 60s and 70s
  6. Geriatric Cat (15 years +)

Key Factors that Influence the Life Span of a Cat

1. Indoor vs Outdoor Cat

According to the ASPCA, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 13 to 17 years and cats who live up to 20 years are not uncommon. In general, outdoor cats who are allowed to roam during the day have shorter lives than indoor cats. This is because they are open to several dangers that indoor cats are not. These include traffic accidents, attacks from other animals, and certain diseases. It is estimated that an outdoor cat’s lifespan can be 2 to 3 years shorter than that of indoor cats.

woman with ginger cat touching nose

2. Cat Breed

Different cat breeds have different average life expectancies. Mixed breed cats like say American Domestics tend to live longer than purebreds as their genetic diversity protects them from some hereditary diseases. However, pure breeds like the Manx and Siamese cats are also known for their longevity.

The oldest cat ever recorded is a Tabby cat called Lucy who lived to be 39 years old. The second oldest cat on record, Creme Puff, was a mixed breed and lived to 38 years.

Here are the current views on the average lifespan for some of the most common cat breeds:

  • Siamese: 12 to 20 years
  • Calico: 12 to 15 years
  • Bengal: 14 to 16 years
  • Burmese: 16 to 18 years
  • Savannah: 12 to 20 years
  • Ragdoll: 15 to 18 years
  • Russian Blue: 15 to 20 years
  • American Shorthair: 15 to 20 years
  • Sphynx: 10 to 15 years
  • Manx: 8 to 14 years
  • Persian: 10 to 17 years
  • Maine Coon: 10 to 13 years
  • Munchkin: 12 to 15 years

3. Regular Medical Care

Cats aren’t able to tell you when they aren’t well. And cats tend to keep their ill feelings to themselves. Often by the time that an owner has noticed something is wrong, it may be too late to help the cat. Therefore, regular medical checkups with a vet are particularly important for cats. This is the best chance of finding any problems early enough to allow for effective treatment.

vet puts grey cat on scales

4. Diet

Just like humans, diet is a critical factor in a cat’s lifespan. An optimal diet is moisture-rich and high in nutrients. Cats are also prone to dehydration so having several drinking options for your cat is a good idea. And avoid giving your cat human food. Although some human foods aren’t toxic, a cat’s digestive system was built around proteins and not designed for what we eat which can cause problems.

When your cat encounters health issues, there are many different types of cat foods specially formulated to help cats that need to gain weight, constipated cats, and many other health issues. Also, as your cat ages, there are formulations of cat food designed to support older cats and their common health issues.

Weight is also an issue when it comes to a cat’s health. On average, a cat’s lifespan is reduced by six months for every 1kg increase in adult bodyweight.

siamese cat walking

5. Exercise

Again, some of these factors are sounding familiar to humans. The more your cat moves the more likely it is that it will stay in good health. If you have an indoor cat toys interactive toys are ideal to get your cat moving and on the hunt. Cat towers can also be great for indoor cats as they allow them to jump and stretch.

6. Mental Health/Boredom

Cats can also get down – particularly in they are bored. Most cats like some type of variety in their lives and are most entertained when on the “hunt”. Again, toys and climbing equipment can help keep your cat entertained. But the best way to keep your cat in the best mental spirits is to spend quite a bit of time playing with it yourself.

tabby kitten plays with colourful toy

7. Spayed or Neutered

Spaying and neutering remove the risk of developing diseases that can affect a cat’s reproductive system in old age. Also, female cats tend to live 1-2 years longer than male cats.

What is the difference between a sick cat and an old cat?

As your cat ages it will experience changes in behaviour, appearance and in its physical health. Cats should retain their ability play and jump when they age even if it is slightly reduced. Cats should also be able to maintain a healthy weight as they age. There should be no significant changes to muscle mass or body fat.

cat purring while being stroked

From a behavioural point of view your cat’s sleep patterns may change, their meows and other vocalisations may change and they may become less tolerant. In terms of appearance their nails may thicken, pupils can become cloudy and teeth may become slightly yellow or off white due to the thickening of dental walls.

There may be changes in your cat’s daily routines, a decline in vision and mobility and declines in their sense of smell and hearing.

A good way to keep an eye on your older cat’s health is by using the acronym DISHA to watch our for signs of cognitive decline:

  • Disorientation – getting lost in familiar areas or not recognising family members
  • Interaction Changes – they may become more clinging or irritable
  • Sleep Disturbances – changes in their sleep patterns
  • House Soiling – going to the toilet in places where they shouldn’t
  • Changes in Activity – less interest in play or excessive licking
american shorthair kittens
american shorthair kittens

What are the most common causes of death in cats?

The most common causes of death in cats overall are:

  • Trauma 12.2%
  • Kidney Disease: 12.1%
  • Cancer: 10.8%
  • Lumps/Growths: 10.2%
  • Brain Disease: 7%
  • Lung Disease: 5.5%
  • Heart Disease: 4.2%

Most common causes of death in cats under 5 years:

  • Trauma: 47.3%
  • Viral Infection: 6.6%

Most common causes of death in cats over 5 years:

  • Kidney Disease: 13.6%
  • Cancer: 12.3%

How to increase life expectancy in your cat

There are ways you can help to support a longer life for your favourite feline. The first step is to keep a close eye on your cat and watch out for changes. You know your kitty better than anyone and will spot potentially troublesome changes first.

siamese cat with owner in bed how long do cats live

Here is a list of the key things that can help to increase a cat’s life:

  • Nutritious balanced diet
  • Health weight
  • Spayed or neutered and vaccinated
  • Regular vet check-ups
  • Regular Exercise
  • Microchip if your cat spends time outside
  • Keep your cat mentally stimulated and happy with quality time together, interactive toys etc

Cat Lifespan in Conclusion

It isn’t nice to think about the death of our favourite feline but there are things that we can learn to provide our cats with the longest, happiest and healthiest life possible. If you have lost your cat and are struggling I am so sorry and please do know that there is a Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support centre.

Far less research than I would have expected has been done in the area of how long cats live. However, the work that has been done shows that average cat lifespans are on the increase thanks to medical advances. Everyday we learn more about how to keep our cats healthy and remember nothing can take the place of an attentive and loving owner.

ginger cat asleep on woman's chest

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Eva Vauchee

Wednesday 27th of July 2022

Lovely. I have a calico, Lucy; got her from a shelter when she ws 11 years old. She is very beautiful. But was difficult the first year which according to cat lore is not unusual with a cat that has been who knows where. We are bonded & love each other a lot. She does follow me around when she is not sleeping. As i am an elder don't know how to send a picture.

Amanda OBrien

Monday 1st of August 2022

Lucy sounds lovely Eva - thanks for commenting.

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