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Home > Cats > How Long Do Cats Live? Vet Reviewed Average Lifespan, Data & Care

How Long Do Cats Live? Vet Reviewed Average Lifespan, Data & Care

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Ashley Darby

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Disclaimer: This article has been fact checked by a qualified veterinarian using information available at the time of review. Veterinary medicine is continually evolving and changing. Cat owners are urged to discuss their cat’s care with their veterinarian and this article should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice for your pet.

If we had it our way, our pets would live forever. They bring us so much joy and unconditional love, and they are our best friends and steadfast companions. But we must be realistic when asking how long cats (Felis catus) live. How much control do we have over their lifespan? We know that pet ownership is a serious responsibility, and the goal is to provide the best quality of life that we can.

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A Cat’s Average Lifespan

Living with humans has reduced the cat’s struggle for survival. We provide their food and protect them from predators however, our influence isn’t always positive (think obesity, car accidents). The average lifespan for domesticated cats is roughly 12-14 years, but many cat’s live into their late teens and twenties. The world’s oldest cat, Creme Puff, lived to 38 years!1

egyptian mau cat lying on the couch
Image Credit: Sarah Fields Photography, Shutterstock

How Long Do Cats Live in the Wild?

The African Wild Cat (Felis silvestris lybica) is a possible ancestor to our domestic cats. Their average lifespan is about 30 years in zoos and 15 years in the wild. Big animals usually have a longer lifespan, but that’s not necessarily the case with felines. Our cats share 95.6% of their DNA with the tiger (Panthera tigris).2 Yet, wild tigers live only between 8 and 10 years, whereas those living in zoos make it to 16 to 18 years.

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How to Care for Your Cat for a Long Lifespan

Good pet care is imperative. A long lifespan with an excellent quality of life is the end game. Several factors play a role in achieving that goal. Understanding your responsibility is at the crux, and it’s essential to know what it entails before getting a cat.

woman lying on bed with her cat
Image Credit: Stock-Asso, Shutterstock

Feeding & Diet

Cats are obligate carnivores that depend mainly on meat. Commercial cat food will provide all the essential nutrients for your cat. You should provide the best quality diet that you can afford. Kitten’s need a slightly more nutrient dense diet compared to adults, so they should always be fed kitten food. Pregnant and lactating cats should also be fed special diets for this life stage. Beyond this, there are special diets designed for specific health conditions, so you should always talk to your veterinarian about the ideal diet for your cat.

Body condition is a good way to determine if your cat is under or over nourished. You will need to adjust what you are feeding if your cat appears too large or skinny; in general aim to be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs (but not see them) and for them to have a visible waist. Obesity increases the risk of health problems so be vigilant and remember failure to lose or gain weight despite diet is a sign of disease so consult with a veterinarian if this is the case.

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High-quality cat food is an important part of fostering a long and healthy life for your cat but the right cat food and water dish will promote good posture, offer whisker relief, and aid in good digestion. The Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl is our favorite bowl since it offers all of the above and is beautifully crafted to meet modern home stylings. The wide tray design catches any food and water spills and the entire setup is dishwasher safe. Learn more about the Hepper NomNom Cat Bowl here.

At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

Environment

We strongly urge you to keep your cat indoors, mainly for the animal’s safety. Predators and traffic are the obvious threats. We must also consider their toll on wild birds. Outdoor and indoor-outdoor pets take an estimated 2.4 billion birds yearly.3 They have even hastened the extinction of many threatened and endangered species.

Indoor felines have a lower risk of internal and external parasites simply because of the lower exposure. Outdoor pets are at more risk of some diseases, like feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). They’ll be more protected  if you keep them close, inside your home or in an outdoor “catio”. Remember that cats have a high wanderlust potential and prey drive, which can get them into all sorts of sticky situations and reduce their lifespan.

long haired cat stretching in an outdoor catio
Image Credit: SariMe, Shutterstock

Mental and Physical Enrichment

Mental stimulation is crucial for cats. Remember that our pets are ruled by instincts shaped by an environment that doesn’t exist in our homes. It’s up to you to provide enrichment, which can improve their mental and physical well-being. That also requires playtime. Cats are social and intelligent animals, and they need time to interact with you.

You should spend at least an hour with your cat. Play helps prevent boredom, especially with indoor pets. Male feral cats have territories up to 150 acres that offer much diversion and interest. Your goal as a pet owner is to provide similar mental stimulation for optimal health and longevity.

Cats love to climb so having different levels for them to explore e.g. an elevated platform really pleases them. They also need to have an outlet for scratching so get them a good scratching surface or post. Feed them using puzzles and give them hiding spots to add some variety to their “territory”.

Spaying and Neutering

The chances are if you’ve adopted a cat, they are fixed or neutered. Some areas or organizations may require it. Some breeders may make it a condition of buying a pet. Spaying and neutering reduces the animal’s risk of cancer of the reproductive organs. It can also curb inappropriate (in our eyes) behavior, such as urine marking, when your cat reaches sexual maturity. We suggest considering this decision carefully, especially since some studies show a higher life expectancy in spayed and neutered cats.

Grooming

One of the things pet owners like about cats is their self-sufficiency. They don’t need to go outside if you have a litter box that is cleaned and ready for them. They also groom themselves and may only need a good brush every week or so. The exception is long-haired cats that may need regular combing to keep them free from mats and hairballs.

You should check your pet’s ears occasionally for signs of an issue, such as discharge. Of course, you should also trim your cat’s nails as needed, especially if your kitty doesn’t go outdoors. Dental care should be a top priority; give your cat dental treats or brush their teeth to help prevent dental disease.

Our favorite cat brush is Hepper Cat Brush. This brush is perfect for both you and your cat since it is easy to use, clean and it’s very effective when getting rid of loose hair and knots in your cat’s coat. 

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At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

Healthcare

Your cat should get annual exams regardless of whether they are an indoor or outdoor pet. It’s an excellent time to keep up with routine healthcare, such as deworming and vaccinations. Prevention is always the best medicine. It can help catch a potential threat earlier and make treatment less stressful or prolonged for your kitty.

It’s part of the responsibility of pet ownership to provide proper healthcare for your cat. The average vet care expenses for cat owners is roughly $125 per year. However, this is an average that does not account for your particular cat’s health. Some cats will need emergency treatment or surgery that can cost significantly more than $125. Pet insurance or savings is a responsible way to make sure your cat can get the treatment they need when it counts. Problems are often more manageable in the early stages, so picking up on issues early means better outcomes and, often, smaller bills.

man holding cat in vet clinic
Image Credit: VGstockstudio, Shutterstock

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The 3 Life Stages of a Cat

1. Kitten (birth to 12 months)

Kittens are fun, full of energy and love exploring the world; they need a positive outlet for all that energy. They are growing and need a good quality balanced diet. Congenital issues may present themselves in this life stage. Kittens are also particularly susceptible to parasites and infectious diseases.


2. Adult (12 months to 9 years)

Your adult cat should ideally be well-socialized and well-cared for. They should have a happy and comfortable routine in your home. Adults can suffer from urinary issues when stressed. Other common health concerns are skin complaints such as allergies, gastrointestinal issues such as intestinal foreign bodies and food intolerances. Preventative treatment against viruses and parasites is necessary for adults too.

woman brushing the Persian cat
Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

3. Senior (10 years +)

Senior kitties tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle. Major health problems can develop in the senior years however, some issues such as arthritis and dental disease are easily managed with the correct treatment. As with all life stages, preventative care is important and early intervention can make all the difference to your cat.

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How To Tell Your Cat’s Age

Your vet can estimate the age of a kitten based on their size and teeth present. Once a kitten has all their adult teeth, around 6 months of age, estimating their age becomes more difficult. If your cat is still noticeably growing, they are under 12 months old. The most reliable way to tell a cat’s age is from paperwork such as records of their first vaccination or microchip implant. Without these records, age is always just an estimate. Young to middle aged adult cats can look very similar. Signs your cat is an older cat include a slight milky change to the lens of the eyes, also known as nuclear sclerosis. The presence of dental problems, duller coat, arthritis and other physical signs are suggestive of an older cat, but not exclusive to cats of a certain age.

Vet and owner examining cat_s teeth
Image Credit: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

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Conclusion

Good care is the foundation for a long and healthy life for your pet. Although luck plays a significant part in how long your cat will live, regular veterinary check ups, preventative treatments, good nutrition, desexing and keeping them indoors will likely have a positive effect on your cat’s longevity.


Featured Image Credit: Sydneymills, Shutterstock

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