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How Long Do Cats Live?

You’ve probably heard the saying that “cats have nine lives.” It’s a playful way to acknowledge the resilience and almost mystical agility that our furry feline friends seem to possess. 

But as much as we’d like to imagine that our pets have some sort of magical resilience, the truth is that they have just one precious life to live—just like every other living creature on this planet.

So it’s natural for cat lovers to wonder, “How long do cats live?” The answer depends on several factors. Breed, lifestyle, genetics, and overall health are just a few. One significant factor determining a cat’s lifespan is whether they’re indoor or outdoor cats.

This post focuses on answering the question, “How long do cats live?” and will provide all the ways to help your feline live a long, happy, and healthy life. 

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Cat?

The average lifespan of a pet cat lies between 13 and 15 years. Some kitties can even go beyond 15 and even 20 years. Believe it or not, the oldest cat on record was 38 years old

If you’re wondering “How long do cats live?”, you’re probably thinking about how to extend your own cat’s life expectancy and provide the best life possible as your cat ages.

What Factors Contribute to a Cat’s Lifespan?

A few genetic and environmental factors impact indoor and outdoor cats in different ways and can affect how long they live and their quality of life. Let’s explore those here. 

Nutrition

Good nutrition is crucial in extending a healthy cat’s life. Cats are carnivores, so proper nutrition for your cat requires significant amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and minimal carbohydrates daily.

Many cat parents only feed their kitties dry food, while others offer canned wet food. Both types of food should provide the necessary health benefits and nutrients to ensure your cat thrives at any age. 

What type of food you feed your cat may depend on your cat’s preferences and what your veterinarian recommends. Feeding your cat a proper balanced diet with food designed for their age or any health conditions is important. 

Kittens require more frequent meals of kitten-formulated food, while adult and mature cats ideally should adhere to diets tailored to their age group. Kittens under three weeks old, for example, should only drink their mother’s milk or a formula specifically made for kittens. At three to four weeks old, they can start consuming solid food specially designed for their age. 

According to Feline Medical Clinic, food designed for kittens is specifically tailored to meet their developmental needs, including essential proteins, fats, and caloric content. 

On the other hand, the nutritional profile of food for adult cats is different, with fewer calories but more vitamins and minerals to promote weight management and overall well-being.

No matter what you feed your cat and whether they live indoors or outdoors, be sure they always have access to clean and fresh water. 

Lifestyle

Depending on your cat’s age, there are steps you can take to extend their life, along with the quality of years they have.

During the young adult years (ages one to six), keeping a close watch on your cat’s weight is a proactive way to reduce their risk of developing health conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and obesity later in life. 

Cats are very sensitive to their environments, and any changes to their space can be very stressful. These stressors can be anything from introducing a new pet to the home, moving homes, or simply having people they don’t know in their space. 

It’s important to observe and learn the things or situations that can stress your cat out and to provide them with a safe space where they can find comfort when they feel scared or overwhelmed. 

Their safe space could be a cat shelf where they can seek higher ground or a quiet room where they can find comfort. Regardless, having a quiet and calm space where your cat knows they are safe is essential to lowering their stress levels. 

Long-term stress on a cat can cause some health conditions, including problematic behavior and even physical illnesses, like vomiting, diarrhea, and sudden weight loss. It’s best to create a relaxing environment for your cat as best you can, as reducing stress levels can significantly contribute to increasing their life expectancy.

Regular Preventive Care

Cats between one and six years old should visit the veterinarian once a year for a health check. After age six, senior cats should see the veterinarian twice a year to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight and get a physical exam. 

At your cat’s appointment, the veterinarian will perform a physical examination on your cat and recommend all the appropriate vaccines, feline medicine if needed, and any other necessary treatments or lifestyle changes based on your cat’s age. 

Regular preventative care is one of the best ways to ensure our cats live longer, happier lives.

Breed or Genetics

Research indicates that mixed-breed cats are less prone to illness than purebred cats because their genetic diversity protects them from common hereditary diseases. 

Some breeds of cats are also known to live longer than others, affecting a cat’s life expectancy. Cats with the longest lifespans of all felines include Siamese, Balinese, American Shorthair, and Burmese. 

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An Indoor Cat’s vs. Outdoor Cat’s Life Expectancy

Indoor cats typically live longer than outdoor cats do. This is primarily due to their more secure environment indoors, less exposure to illnesses, and fewer interactions with other animals. 

While an indoor cat may live anywhere from 12 to 18 (or more) years, the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is much shorter—only two to five years. That’s why we strongly advocate against letting cats roam free outdoors.

As mentioned, an outdoor cat is much more likely to be exposed to diseases like feline leukemia, immunodeficiency virus, peritonitis, and distemper from stray cats and other animals outside. 

Even if an outdoor feline has had all their vaccines, they may still be exposed to harmful infectious diseases carried by wild animals. 

Aside from serious diseases, outdoor cats are much more susceptible to fleas, ticks, and lice. If you let your cats outdoors during the day but bring them inside during the evening, you also risk bringing these parasites into your home and to your other pets. 

Moreover, outdoor cats that are allowed to roam free through neighborhoods, open land, and other areas of a city or town face significant external threats on a regular basis. They may get into a fight with other cats or meet more dangerous animals like foxes, coyotes, or dogs. They could also get hit by vehicles or become a target of animal cruelty. Regardless, the outdoors is not a safe place for any cat.

Indoor cats live longer largely because they face much less risk of disease, trauma, and untimely death. Exclusively indoor cats can still enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors by bird-watching through your home’s windows, on a covered cat patio, or an outdoor stroll in a cat stroller or with a leash.

How to Improve Your Cat’s Life Expectancy

Whether you have a kitten or a senior cat, you can take steps to improve your cat’s health at any age. The environment a cat lives in can impact their life expectancy more than many cat parents realize, so we strongly recommend keeping your cats indoors. If your kitty already lives indoors exclusively, here are other impactful ways to improve your cat’s life expectancy: 

Spaying and Neutering

If you haven’t already, consider spaying or neutering your cat. Not only does this prevent unwanted litters, but it also comes with health benefits that can contribute to a longer life for your pet. 

For females, spaying can reduce the risk of uterine infections and certain types of cancer. Meanwhile, neutering male cats can lessen aggressive behaviors and eliminate the risk of testicular cancer.

Diet and Weight Management 

A balanced diet can help extend your cat’s life expectancy regardless of age. Weight management is essential as it helps lower the risk of health conditions and issues for older cats. 

Whether it’s kibble or wet food, your cat food should contain at least 26% to 30% protein. Other ingredients in your cat’s food may include named animal fats, carbohydrates from grain-free sources, and fiber. Cats’ diets may vary, so always consult your veterinarian before feeding your feline friend new food. 

Additionally, there are a few fruits and vegetables you can feed your cat to enhance their diet and to give them as a treat. 

Celery, broccoli, green peas, cucumbers, and carrots have health benefits like hydration, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can improve your cat’s energy, immunity, and overall health. They can also have small portions of bananas, berries, apples, and cantaloupe, though these should only make up 2% of your cat’s diet.

Encouraging exercise and playtime throughout the day can help indoor cats maintain a healthy weight. Find their favorite toys, like a laser pointer or a feather toy, to get them up and running around. Alternatively, you can fill a toy or ball with catnip to get them more excited and engaged in playtime. 

Annual Check-Ups

Taking your cat to see a veterinarian at least once a year ensures that any changes in their behavior, diet, or general well-being will be noted and monitored. 

Some cats don’t exhibit any noticeable changes when they are sick, so annual or bi-annual wellness checks to monitor their health can make a big difference in their quality of life.

Observation

Daily monitoring of your cat’s behavior, from how they eat, how long they rest, and their general well-being, is encouraged, particularly for senior cats. 

As cats age, they naturally become less active, so picking up on signs that something is awry can be challenging. Many feline parents check in with their older cats throughout the day and night to observe them and note any changes in their temperament, appetite, or mood. 

The Tail End 

Understanding the answer to “How long do cats live?” highlights the value of every moment we share with our beloved felines. Naturally, we desire for our cherished kitties to enjoy the longest and happiest lives with us. Be sure to shower your cat with as much love as they’ll allow and give them your undivided time and attention during playtime or cuddle time so they know how loved they are. 
Cats are one of the greatest companions for humans, and it’s important to know how to best care for them at any age. Explore our blog for more kitty content that will keep you in the loop on how to keep your feline friend happy, healthy, and thriving.

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, KristenLevine.com has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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