Cat

Whether you’re planning on adopting a new kitten or have enjoyed years with a feline senior citizen (or something in between) it’s natural to wonder how long you can expect your cat to live. If you’re asking yourself how long do cats live? Well, of course, cats’ lifespans vary greatly, so there it’s one magic number. But knowing what to expect, even if it’s just in general terms, can help you plan for the future.

What is the average life expectancy of an indoor cat?

One of the most reliable ways to help cats live longer is to keep them indoors—away from all the dangers that lurk outside. While there is not a lot of research into the average lifespan of indoor-only cats, most veterinarians and cat welfare organizations agree that it is in the range of 10 to 15 years. Many indoor only cats live significantly longer than this, but the average is brought down by those unfortunate individuals who succumb to injury or illness relatively early in life.

Staying inside is undeniably safer for cats, but it isn’t without drawbacks. A lack of exercise and over-eating may lead to obesity, and boredom is a risk factor for behavioral problems, all of which can adversely affect a cat’s wellbeing and longevity. Thankfully, owners can overcome these challenges by paying attention to a cat’s diet and providing ample opportunities for exercise, play, and mental stimulation. Supervised access to the outdoors via leash walks or cat-proof enclosures can also help.

What is the average life expectancy of an outdoor cat?

In comparison to indoor cats, cats who spend a lot of unsupervised time outdoors are much more likely to suffer from a variety of potentially fatal illnesses or injuries including:

  • Animal attacks
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Falls
  • Hypothermia
  • Heat stroke
  • Infectious diseases
  • Parasitism
  • Toxin exposure

The life expectancy for outdoor cats can vary significantly but is typically in the range of 2 to 7 years. As a general rule, outdoor cats tend to live for about half as long as do indoor cats.

Do male or female cats live longer?

A study published in 2014 looking into the longevity and causes of death of over 4000 cats in England found that female cats lived longer than did males. The median longevity of all females was 15 years while for males is was 13 years.

The effect of spaying and neutering was especially profound for male cats, with neutered males living 1.7 years longer than intact males. Spayed females lived 0.6 years longer than did intact females.

What cat breeds have the shortest and longest lifespans?

The 2014 study also led to some interesting findings with regards to the longevity of a variety of cat breeds. Mixed breed cats tended to live longer (median longevity 14 years) than did purebreds (median longevity 12.5 years), but there was great variation between the purebreds with some living significantly longer than mixed breeds.

Cat BreedMedian Lifespan
Birman16.1 years
Burmese14.3 years
Siamese14.2 years
Persian14.1 years
Mixed Breeds14.0 years
British Shorthair11.8 years
Maine Coon11.0 years
Ragdoll10.1 years
Abyssinian10.0 years
Bengal7.3 years

Do cats go away to die?

As cats get older, their risk for developing age-related health problems like chronic kidney disease and cancer increases. Some cats seek isolation when they don’t feel well, and this can be misinterpreted as “going away to die.” In truth, cats need care and attention more than ever when they are sick or elderly.

With appropriate veterinary care, many conditions in older cats are treatable, or at least manageable for a period of time. However, when a cat’s quality of life begins to decline to an unacceptable degree and further treatment is either not possible or no longer in the cat’s best interests, it’s time to consider euthanasia.

What is the oldest living cat?

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest cat ever is Crème Puff from Austin, TX who died in 2005 after living for 38 years and 3 days. More recently, an English cat named Rubble lived to be 31 years old before his death in 2020.

While there’s certainly no guarantee that any cat will make it to these extremes, providing appropriate veterinary care, good nutrition, adequate exercise and mental stimulation, and lots of love and attention will help maximize your cat’s length and quality of life.

Cat Age Chart*

Cat Life StageAge of CatHuman Age Equivalent
Kitten0-1 month
2-3 months
4 months
6 months
0-1 year
2-4 years
6-8 years
10 years
Junior7 months
12 months
18 months
2 years
12 years
15 years
21 years
24 years
Prime3 years
4 years
5 years
6 years
28 years
32 years
36 years
40 years
Mature7 years
8 years
9 years
10 years
44 years
48 years
52 years
56 years
Senior11 years
12 years
13 years
14 years
60 years
64 years
68 years
72 years
Geriatric15 years
16 years
17 years
18 years
19 years
20 years
21 years
22 years
23 years
24 years
25 years
76 years
80 years
84 years
88 years
92 years
96 years
100 years
104 years
108 years
112 years
116 years

*Modified from the life stage classification published in the 2010 AAFP-AAHA Feline Life Stage Guidelines

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates