Cat Lifespan: How Long Do Cats Live on Average?

Author: K. Marie Altoby K Marie Alto Updated 8 min read 1 Comment

Cat Lifespan: How Long Do Cats Live on Average?

Cats are a joy to have around, whether they're digging in the trash, pouncing on a feather, cramming themselves awkwardly in a box they insist is comfortable, or just sprawled out napping in the nearest sunbeam. Cat parents often wonder, though; how long will this joy last?

What is the average lifespan for a domestic house cat? What factors influence it, and what can you expect?

The Broad Answer

First, let's start with the broadest answer.

The average lifespan for a domesticated house cat is 13-17 years.

The Broad Answer Image by Toe Beans

If you adopt a newborn kitten around the same time you have a human child, they'll grow up together, and the cat will likely pass away sometime in their teenage years. This might be early and will probably be one of their earliest experiences with a significant loss, or it might be later when they're getting ready to move out of the house and onto college or a career.

While 13-17 years is a fairly broad range, it also doesn't tell the whole story.

What's the Longest a Cat Can Live?

With immaculate genetics, consistent vet care, and a little luck, a cat can live quite a bit longer than what the average implies.

A Well-Cared For Cat Image by Toe Beans

The oldest cat on record, and current holder of the world record, was a cat named Crème Puff. Crème Puff was born in 1967 and died in 2005, making her 38 years old when she died. That's over twice the average! What helped Crème Puff live so long? Likely a combination of care, activity, and genetics.

Crème Puff is an outlier, of course; her exceptional lifespan is something to be envied and enjoyed, and not something to base your own expectations on. Most cats won't make it nearly that long; a cat living to be 20 is already exceptional in a lot of cases.

Is There a Difference Between Indoor and Outdoor Cats?

This is a big one. You may have heard that cats should be kept indoors for a bunch of different reasons, and one of the big ones is that indoor cats just plain live longer.

That's true.

Outdoor cats, left unsupervised, live half as long: 7-9 years.

An Outdoor Cat Image by Toe Beans

Now, that's for feral cats that are born, raised, and left to their own devices to scrounge for whatever food they can catch, suffer whatever illnesses they develop, heal (or don't) from injuries they receive, and generally have no one to care for them.

Unfortunately, even cared-for outdoor cats can have shorter lifespans for a bunch of different reasons.

  • Catching diseases and parasites from the outdoors, even when a vet treats them, puts stress on the body, can damage organs, and can lead to other problems down the line.
  • Spending time outdoors can lead to conflicts with other animals, including other cats, dogs, coyotes, other predators, and native wildlife, all of which can lead to injuries.
  • Cats outdoors don't have the kind of supervision over their behavior or diets they have indoors, and they can eat something that has been poisoned or is toxic to them.
  • In areas where summers are extremely hot and winters extremely cold, the weather can be a significant factor as well.
  • Cars are an omnipresent danger, and thousands of cats are killed by vehicles every year.
  • In rare and unfortunate cases, cat-hating people in your community might abuse or kill your fur baby.

Even a cat that stays away from roads, gets lucky with other animals, and doesn't eat anything toxic can still be exposed to allergens, pollution, and parasites, all of which cause problems that don't just hurt in the now; they shorten the future as well.

Outdoor cats that are cared for but are still left to their own devices – such as cats that have shelter in a barn or garage but aren't let inside or cats that can come and go as they please but still spend some nights outdoors – will naturally live somewhere in between the two averages.

Do Different Breeds of Cat Live Different Lengths of Time?

Since genetics play a pretty big role in aging, the answer here is also yes. Some cats live longer than average, and some live shorter amounts of time; these "breed averages" can still vary, but you can expect to adjust your planning either upwards or downwards depending on the cat you're adopting.

Different Breeds of Cats Image by Toe Beans

Breed Average Lifespans:

  • Abyssinian: 9-15 years
  • Devon Rex: 9-15 years
  • Javanese: 10-15 years
  • LaPerm: 10-15 years
  • Cornish Rex: 11-15 years
  • Siberian: 11-15 years
  • Bengal: 12-16 years
  • Birman: 12-16 years
  • Maine Coon: 12-15 years
  • Munchkin: 12-14 years
  • Ragdoll: 12-17 years
  • Sphynx: 13-15 years
  • Norwegian Forest Cat: 14-16 years
  • American Shorthair: 15-20 years
  • Siamese: 15-20 years
  • Burmese: 16-18 years
  • Balinese: 18-22 years

Additionally, most of the time, a purebred cat is going to have a shorter lifespan than a "mutt" cat, as more diverse genetics tend to lead to more resiliency against various ailments. Some breeds are susceptible to things like kidney problems and other issues over time, and larger breeds are often (though not always) shorter-lived because of those inherent traits.

Again, breed is only one factor in the lifespan of a cat, and while it can be an important one, it's far from the only factor in play.

Do Different Colors of Cat Live Different Lengths of Time?

While you might scoff and say "no" to this out of hand, if you think about it, is there something to it? Do orange cats pass quicker when they don't have control of the brain cell? Do black cats suffer from bad luck?

Honestly, the biggest reason I bring this up is simply because I've seen many people ask about tabbies. Tabby cats have the same lifespan as their breed because tabby is just a coloration and pattern, not a breed.

Different Colored Cats Image by Toe Beans

In general, no, different colors of cat don't live different lengths of time. The color of the coat, in some cases, can indicate a particular genetic ancestry, though – such as seal point or color point being more typical of purebred cats – but for the most part, it's all the same cat underneath.

One potential exception to this is black cats if they're outdoor cats, and only because there are terrible people who are superstitious about them and do terrible things to them. Even if you have an outdoor cat, if they're a black cat, bring them in around Halloween please.

What Factors Affect the Lifespan of a Cat?

If you're worried about how long your fur baby will be with you, and you want to do everything you can to make sure they live a long and happy life with you, what factors should you consider? It's pretty much all that you would expect.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet. A proper diet is probably one of the most important things you can do to keep your cat going for as long as possible. A good diet means three things.

  • A diet that is low on unnecessary fillers you commonly find in cheaper foods.
  • A diet that is focused on the nutrients and vitamins a cat needs – primarily meat.
  • A diet that adapts to changing health and keeps things like allergies and hormones in consideration.

You can't pick a food and stick with it indefinitely. Kittens need different nutrients in different amounts than adult or senior cats. Cats with thyroid or kidney issues need special diets. There are all sorts of different ways you may need to adjust your cat's diet over time to make sure they get what they need without the things they don't.

A Cat With a Healthy Diet Image by Toe Beans

Maintaining a Healthy Weight. Cats have a range of weights they should be in depending on their age, breed, and size. If your cat is underweight, they may be ill and not eating, and they should be seen by a vet right away. If they're overweight, they can develop issues like diabetes, organ damage, and other problems that, even once you address them and bring your cat back to a healthy weight, will tend to linger.

Keeping to a Healthy Activity Level. The healthiest and longest-lived cats tend to be cats that have plenty of stimulation and enriching activities in their homes. They run, they jump, they play. You want to help engage their hunting instincts in a safe and controlled way. The exercise keeps them healthy, the stimulation keeps them from developing anxiety or other cognitive issues, and it all helps you bond more closely with your feline friend.

Keeping Away from Sources of Danger.Partly, this comes back to keeping your cats inside, where they aren't going to run into predators, vehicles, or other issues. Inside, though, it also means keeping certain areas (like attics or crawl spaces) closed off, keeping dangerous houseplants out of their reach or out of the house entirely, keeping toxic chemicals and dangerous foods locked up, and so on. The fewer threats to life and limb that you have lying around, the better the environment will be for your fur baby.

Getting Swift Veterinary Care When Necessary. Sooner or later, something willhappen to your cat. Maybe they get sick, maybe they catch something, maybe they pick up parasites from a mouse that gets into the house, who knows. They might also develop tumors or other mysterious lumps just from genetics, age, or stray cosmic rays. Knowing when to bring your fur baby to the vet and have them looked after is critical for their long-term health.

I'm not saying you need to rush them to the emergency vet at the first sign of anything going wrong. That would be expensive and unnecessary. Instead, just make sure you keep an eye on them, notice changes outside of the norm, and address them as necessary.

Minimizing Unnecessary Sources of Stress. Stress and anxiety can do serious long-term damage in ways you never notice. Stress builds up the stress hormone cortisol, which causes further damage and stress to the bodily systems of anything – person or animal – who experiences it. Keeping stress down is critical for long-term health.

What Are the Signs of Aging in Cats?

How do cats progress as they get older? Other than getting larger, more active, and then less active, and eventually slowing down, there are a lot of little things that happen as your fur baby ages.

  • Their immune systems get weaker, and they can become more susceptible to diseases.
  • Their skin can grow thinner and more fragile, and they can develop rashes or infections more easily.
  • They may lose the attention or focus to groom themselves and may not groom themselves well, thoroughly, or consistently.
  • They may start to develop issues with controlling their bladder or bowels and might miss the litter box.
  • They can lose their sense of hearing and their eyesight, partially or totally.
  • They can develop dental disease, may need to have teeth pulled, and may need to switch to a softer diet because they have trouble chewing.
  • They can develop feline arthritis and other joint issues, which reduces their mobility and makes it harder for them to jump around, move, or be active.
  • They may develop kidney issues that need to be monitored over time.
  • They can develop tumors, cancers, and other issues that can require surgery or advanced treatment to address.

Older cats tend to be slower, more lethargic, and more content to just spend time with you, sleeping near you or with you, and just enjoying cozy, warm spots. The rambunctious days of their youth are behind them, and trust me; they appreciate every moment of their life with you.

An Old Cat Image by Toe Beans

It's always a heartbreaking event to have to put down a beloved feline friend, but sooner or later – unless they pass happily in their sleep – they will probably need the intervention. When quality of life is no longer possible, it's better to let them have a comfortable way out than to drag them along in pain for your own comfort.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you through the loss of a beloved pet. Groups like Lap of Love, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and even the country's mental health services can all help you out.

Just remember; they may be just a part of your life, but you are there for the whole of their life, and that's worth something.

Now that we're at the end of this article, I'd love to hear from you, the readers! How old is your feline friend? Do you have any favorite stories about them? Be sure to share them in the comments section down below! I absolutely love hearing about all your fur babies.

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more

1 Response

Wendy
Wendy

May 21, 2024

We got our cat when he was a kitten, In 2010. He is all black with long fur, I don’t know what breed he is. He will be 14 years old in October

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