Last Updated: June 4, 2021
It’s the thing that no cat owner wants to think about: Someday, your cat will die.
But how long do you have with your furry little friend? You understand that there are no guarantees, but on average, how long will your cat live? What’s the best-case scenario?
We’ll answer all these questions and more below.
What’s the Average Cat Lifespan?
Before we can answer this question, we have to ask one of our own: Will the cat live their life indoors or outdoors?
This simple fact will have a tremendous effect on the cat’s lifespan. The simple fact is that outdoor cats don’t live nearly as long as indoor ones — in fact, they live half as long on average. Indoor cats often live to be about 14 years old, while those that spend time outside only live 2 to 5 years.
There are simply too many things in the big world outside your door that can kill your cat, from cars and predators to eating something that they shouldn’t. If you want your cat to live as long as possible, then you should never let them go outside.
That’s not to say that every indoor cat will give you 14 years, of course. Your cat’s lifespan will depend on their breed, how well they’re taken care of, and their genetic history.
Likewise, you may have a tough old cat that’s stayed outdoors and lived to the ripe old age of 20. There are no guarantees in this, but there are probabilities at work, and it’s probable that your indoor cat will long outlive their outdoor counterparts.
What Is the Maximum Cat Lifespan?
It’s rare to find a cat that lives past 20 years old. That’s akin to a human living to be 100 — it certainly happens, but don’t count on it.
That said, there have been cats that have blown well past the 20-year mark. As far as we know, the oldest cat to ever live was a mixed-breed named Crème Puff that passed away at 38 years old, which would be like a human living to be 170 or so.
What was Crème Puff’s secret? Her owner, Jake Perry, said he fed her dry food supplemented with turkey bacon, broccoli, coffee (with cream), and the occasional eyedropper full of red wine. You won’t find many cat experts that recommend a diet like that, but then again, you won’t find many cats living to be 38 years old either.
You shouldn’t count on your cat living that long, of course, but that represents the outer limit of what we know that a cat can do.
Which Breeds Live the Longest and Shortest?
Surprisingly enough, there’s not much reliable data on this point. Different sources will give you different answers, but the breeds that are commonly cited as living the longest include the Siamese, Burmese, Balinese, and American Shorthair.
It should be noted, however, that mixed breeds often live longer than their purebred counterparts. We wouldn’t be surprised if a mix of any of the above breeds outlived them all.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s no definitive answer to the “cats with shortest lifespans” question either. Typically, though, Manx, Singapura, and Munchkin cats all have fairly short lives, as they rarely live past 14.
These lifespans assume that the cat is kept indoors and is well taken care of. If you let your cat roam around outside or feed them junk food and never give them any exercise, their life expectancy will plummet.
How Long Is a Cat Year Compared to a Human Year?
The short rule of thumb is that a human year is equal to 5 cat years. If you’re in a pinch, that will give you a pretty good approximation of how old your cat would be if they were a person.
It’s certainly not a perfect indicator, though. Cats mature much more quickly than humans do, and a cat would reach adulthood somewhere around 18 months old. As a result, 6 months for a kitten could be equivalent to 10 years for a person.
As the cat matures, though, the difference slows down dramatically. After the cat turns 2, each year becomes equivalent to about 4 human years for the rest of the cat’s life.
What Is Considered Old Age for Cats?
That depends on who you ask and it varies from breed to breed. If you have one of the short-lived breeds, like a Manx, the cat may be considered elderly as early as 7 or 8 years old. On the other hand, a breed like the Balinese may not get old until they’re 14 or 15.
Most people consider cats to be “senior” once they turn 11. However, the number isn’t as important as the cat’s behavior, and a better rule would be that the cat becomes a senior once they start slowing down.
As long as your cat is active and alert, you shouldn’t consider them old and enfeebled. That said, we still recommend taking your cat in for a checkup after they turn 11, and you should also consider switching them to a senior cat food around that time.
Do Most Cats Die of Old Age?
First off, “dying of old age” isn’t a thing, at least as far as vets are concerned. A cat who dies at an old age will have died from something, and that something won’t be the turning of the pages on a calendar. Dying of old age usually means that they passed due to a natural ailment, like heart disease or cancer, when they were extremely old.
Even with that clarification out of the way, this question is hard to answer. It depends on the cat’s level of care.
If your cat spends most of their time outside, then no, they won’t die of old age. Sadly, outdoor cats often die violently, usually by being hit by cars or eaten by predators.
Indoor cats have much better prospects. Most indoor cats die of something like kidney disease, heart disease, or cancer, and these usually happen toward the latter stages of their lifespan.
How Can I Ensure That My Cat Lives as Long as Possible?
We recommend that you keep your cat inside. That alone will double their life expectancy.
Past that, diet is usually the most important consideration. Feed your cat a healthy, well-balanced food, and be strict about portion control. Obese cats suffer nearly a three-times increase in mortality compared to their leaner counterparts.
You should also make sure they have plenty of exercise and stimulation. Not only will this help keep them lean, but it will also work their brains, ensuring that they stay sharp well into their senior years.
Take your cat in for regular checkups as well, especially once they cross that all-important 11-year threshold. Semiannual checkups will allow your vet to monitor their health and catch any issues early.
How Long Will Your Cat Live?
While we can’t make any promises as to how long your cat will live, the good news is that you have a significant amount of power when it comes to determining your kitty’s lifespan. If you keep your cat indoors, feed them well, and provide them with exercise, there’s no reason that your cat can’t live 14 years or more.
Featured Image Credit: jojosmb, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.