Here Are Some Clues to How Long Your Cat Might Live
Maybe you've heard of Creme Puff. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she's the oldest cat ever, living to the ripe old age of just over 38 years in Texas. She died in August 2005. More recently, British cat Rubble lived for 31 years before passing away in July 2020.
While these cats may have set outstanding records for their longevity, they might inspire you to wonder how long your cat could live.
How Long Do Cats Live?
Generally, a cat's lifespan is between 10 and 20 years, says Jessica Watson, the Cat World team lead at Best Friends Animal Society sanctuary.
A big key to your cat's long and healthy life: routine veterinary care, Watson says. Make sure you have a veterinarian and visit them before an emergency. "Routine checkups and vaccines allow your vet to quickly spot if something changes in your cat's medical record and helps your cat to live a long life by catching possible illnesses quickly," she says.
Your vet can also help you make a nutrition plan that's specific to your cat's needs. Age, breed, and activity level all affect the type and amount of food that's best for your cat. Your vet will help you identify when it might be time to change your cat's food as he ages.
Lifespans of Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats
A cat's life expectancy also depends on where kitty spends most of his time.
Indoor cats—ones who live exclusively inside your house—have roughly double the life expectancy of outdoor cats, Watson says. Outdoor cats still live full lives, but they're exposed to illnesses, parasites, predators, and cars their indoor brethren steer clear of. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the average lifespan of indoor cats is 10–15 years. For outdoor cats, it's as low as 2–5 years.
Indoor-outdoor cats, who live inside but visit the outdoors every so often, get to live in the best of both worlds, but they face the same risks as the ones who spend most of their time outside—just at a lesser frequency.
"Indoor-outdoor cats are more susceptible to abscesses (from bites) and diseases that can be transmitted by parasites they will encounter outdoors," Watson says. "Regular checkups and monthly topicals for flea/tick prevention can help combat these, along with making sure your animals are up-to-date on their vaccines."
She adds that in some cases, spayed or neutered cats can live longer than those who aren't. Unaltered cats can be more prone to sexually transmitted diseases and conditions of the reproductive system.
Cats’ Life Stages
Cats have six life stages, Watson says:
- Kitten (birth to six months old)
- Junior (six months to 2 years old)
- Adult (3–6 years old)
- Mature (7–10 years old)
- Senior (10–14 years old)
- Geriatric (15 years or older)
The first 24 months of a cat's life are when he matures the most. A 2-year-old cat is generally thought to be as physically mature as a 24-year-old human. After that, you can add about 4 years of human age for each year of a cat's age. So, a 3-year-old cat is like a 28-year-old human, etc. A cat who lives to be 20 is the age equivalent of a 96-year-old human.
Throughout those life stages, along with the routine vet visits, Watson recommends keeping a close eye on your cat's behavior. Small changes—like a sudden disinterest in playing—can indicate an underlying health issue. "The tricky thing with cats is they can show little to no sign of feeling ill," Watson says.
She adds that the desk staffers at most vet offices are usually able to tell you whether what you're seeing is cause for a trip to the vet (and how urgent the issue is). So don't hesitate to contact the office for advice about any behavior changes you observe.
So, do cats have nine lives? No, they have only, ahem, one life to live—potentially with you! And you can extend that time by ensuring your cat has regular vet care, good nutrition, and by making other lifestyle choices that protect your cat's health and wellbeing.