How Long Do Cats Live?

By Kathy Blumenstock, Animal Planet

The cliché is that cats have nine lives, though their actual longevity depends on more than folklore. The Internet is littered with tales of cats in their 20s and 30s. England’s Daily Mail, profiled a 24-year-old feline in a prominent article and the Guinness Book of World Records reports that the world’s oldest cat died at age 38. Most of us are ecstatic if our cats hit their teens (human equivalent of the 70s).

Cats mature quickly during their early years, reaching the equivalent of 24 human years by time they turn two, then aging about eight to five times in human years each subsequent year (the number decreases as the cat gets older). So your 12-year-old tabby would be about 65 years old — eligible for Social Security!

While there’s no easy answer on just long your cat will live, we’ll look at life spans for different felines, plus discuss how to prolong those golden years.

Life Span for Indoor Living

An indoor cat’s world is a safe, cozy haven, with tasty meals dished up on time, and protection from the changeable weather. Her only experience with a predator is probably a zealous owner who wants to groom her coat or trim her claws. Life with a clean litter box, a private place to catnap and attention from one or more humans who offer affection and care — what more could a cat want for a stress-free existence? If she’s grown up indoors, she’ll likely have no interest in exploring the great outdoors, especially with stimulating playtime and toys to keep her stalking instincts keen. With routine vaccinations and vet checkups, plus a spaying or neutering can cause an indoor cat to easily thrive into her teens or beyond. The average life span is 12 to 15 years.

Related: Can Humans Contract Cat Diseases?

Outdoor Life

By contrast, an outdoor feline, whether a lifelong feral or one who’s been dumped by a former owner, experiences daily stress. Her survival instincts keep her alert as she eludes dogs, unkind humans and traffic every day. She hunts birds or rodents for dinner, or forages in trash cans. Her shelter from the elements may be a dry spot under someone’s front porch or in a garage. Besides hunger, she faces pregnancy and its complications — how to care for those helpless little ones that arrive so regularly — and untreated diseases, from worms to rabies to distemper. She may be struck by a car, poisoned, or killed in a fight with other animals. No wonder an outdoor cat’s life span sounds like a prison sentence: two to five years.

Related: What Are the Dangers of Letting My Cat Outdoors?

What lengthens/shortens a cat’s life?

A healthy diet and physical activity, along with regular vet exams, help a cat stay fit. Spaying or neutering boosts your cat’s health prognosis while avoiding additions to the feline overpopulation. Neutered males are less prone to prostate problems or testicular cancer; spayed females face less risk from breast cancer, ovarian cysts and tumors, or uterine infections. Cats who have been spayed or neutered are calmer, but also burn fewer calories. Therefore, their diets should be monitored. If they become overweight or obese, their lives can be shortened by complications ranging from diabetes to liver disease. Cats who have not been vaccinated; who are not treated for parasites, and who roam freely, even if they spend some time indoors; face shorter lives than those getting proper attention.

Related: Top 5 Most Common Cat Diseases

Nine Lives for all Breeds?

Some purebred cats mature at different ages than so-called common cats. A female Siamese cat is sexually mature by 6 months of age, compared to a non-purebred cat, which is considered sexually mature at 10-12 months. Maine Coons and Persians mature even later — at around 2 years. Plus, the genetics of some purebreds can affect their life spans. A Siamese cat’s life expectancy is about 15 years, while for Persians it can be up to 17. In general, a cat is considered a senior when he reaches his 9th birthday — the equivalent of the mid-50s for humans.

Boosts for a longer life

Just as with humans, cats living a healthy lifestyle improve their chances of marking more birthdays. Felines may not take to the treadmill, but offering your cat regular physical activity helps keep her weight down, and provides mental stimulation too. Dental care, to avoid common oral issues that affect many cats, is key to overall health. Annual vet exams, especially as cats age, will spotlight any bodily changes or potential health problems. Older cats may also need a few dietary changes to accommodate their aging systems, and your vet may suggest supplements or vitamins. Finally, a tranquil home environment, populated by those she loves, will keep your kitty content at every life stage.

Got a Cat Question? Find All the Answers at Cat Health 101
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Eileen Mary P.
Eileen P3 years ago

My cat is 8 years old and is beginning to show signs of ageing. I love her just the same and always will.

Kimberly B.
Kimberly B.5 years ago

my cat is at least 12-13 years old and lost his right eye last year. looking at him now i think his time is coming. he sleeps outside even if its raining and ownly comes to the house if hes hungry. he is a shy little cat towards strangers.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Margie Bonn
Past Member 6 years ago

One of my feline friends lived 22 years.
She could see and hear BUT she had severe arhritis and was in pain, also a thyroid problem.
I was working alot and not home,
I was afraid something may happen to her when I was not there for her.
I had to make the very difficult decision, and what to do.
Took me a long time to think about it, but finally it was for the best to put her to sleep.
It is always a terrible thing to have to do.
I loved her very much and still miss her, even though it was such a long time ago.

I have 2 cats now, and they are special, too.
Can't imagine my life without being owned by a cat...

Diane Patrick
Diane Patrick6 years ago

I once had a beautiful 23 year old cat called Mort who was in top health. He used to love sitting under my cat-hating neighbour's apple tree in the summer. My neighbour warned me to keep Mort off his property. How to do that? Mort grew very ill over one weekend. I rushed him to the vet. The vet said that Mort had been sprayed up his rectum with kerosene. My neighbour was always spraying any of my plants that happened to stray over the fence above his property. Poor Mort had to be euthenazed. I was grief stricken for a long time. My neighbour died of a massive stroke a week after Mort died. Karma?

Ida J.
Ida J6 years ago

I love my cats

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Very interesting article. I had no idea what the general lifespan is for cats.

ijaz khan
ijaz khan6 years ago

Thanks for the article

Sonya Armenia Redfield

I never want my cats to die !

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

Noted with great interest. I wish good health and long life to my cat Mona Lisa.