Thanks to advances in preventing diseases, improved medications and treatments, complete diets, the life expectancy of cats has increased over the past few decades.
The answer to the question “What is the average lifespan of cats?” is different now.
In the past, cats were considered seniors at 10 years of age and expected to live for only 3-4 more years. Today, an average life expectancy is 13 to 17 years. Moreover, well-cared cats can even live into their 20s.
Why Do Cats Live Shorter Than Humans?
Unfortunately, current studies do not have a definite answer to this question.
But scientists agree that a combination of several factors are all components of why cats live much shorter than humans. These factors include genetics, inbreeding, higher metabolic rates, and evolution.
Here are some examples of how they have higher metabolic rates than humans:
Humans have a normal body temperature of approximately 98.6 F, while a cat’s normal body temperature is 101.5 F
An adult’s resting respiratory rate is 12-16 breaths per minute, while a cat’s resting respiration rate is 16-40 breaths.
For example, just like humans, kittens are born without teeth. Their baby teeth begin to erupt at 3 weeks of age and the complete eruption of baby teeth occurs in 45 days. Kittens have a total of 40 adult teeth by the time they reach 6 months of age.
On the other hand, in humans, the baby teeth begin to come in at 4-7 months of age.
We can talk about more similar examples. In short, a cat reaches adulthood much earlier than a human.
So, how to calculate cat years to human years?
Cat Years to Human Years
This is one of the questions cat lovers wonder the most.
In the past, it was generally accepted that one cat year was equal to seven human years.
Rix Cambridge, a scientist from St. John Fisher College Of Arts and Sciences in New York, studied the age difference between cats and humans in the light of mathematical and biological data in his study published in 2017, and developed a new equation suggesting that one cat year is exactly equal to 16.6364 human years!
However, the calculations generally agreed on today are roughly as follows:
The first year of a cat’s life is equal to 0-16 human years, 1-2 cat years to 16-24 human years. Each year thereafter, one cat year is equal to 4 human years.
For example, a 10-year-old cat is equal to a human who is reaching the end of their 50s.
What Are the Life Stages of a Cat?
Kitten: After nursing mother’s milk for the first 2 months, kitten will have a smooth transition from milk to solid food. As most of us already know, kittens are irresistibly cute during this stage. They have a high play drive and sleep a lot.
Junior cat (7 months-2 years): Your cat still shows visible signs of growth. This phase marks the most active period of learning and developing habits.
Young adult cat (3-6 years): The young adult stage is marked by complete physical growth. They develop their basic temperament and personality. They are very active.
Adult cat (7- 10 years): This stage would be comparable to a 50 to 60-year-old human. At this stage, your cat is at the peak of maturity. They maintain a balance between play activities and resting, but curiosity and hunting instincts are always there!
Senior cat (11-14 years): At this stage, your cat may be less active and slow down. Even some very active indoor cats are more willing to lounge in the sun on the windowsill. Eating habits may change. They tend to eat more or less than usual.
Old but gold cat (15 years and above): Thanks to the increasing number of animal lovers who care for cats indoors especially in recent years, improved veterinary services, new medications and treatments have increased especially the average lifespan of indoor cats. Some cats at this stage show no signs of aging.
Aging signs: Some cats over 15 years of age may suffer from disorientation and memory loss (difficulty in locating food bowl or litter box), decreased interest and mobility in doing simple activities such as climbing, jumping, and sometimes walking. They may show some aging signs such as impaired vision or hearing.
You can read more about stages of a cat’s life at when do cats stop growing article.
Factors That Affect Your Cat’s Lifespan
The answer to “how long does a cat live?” is generally determined by three main factors and the variables of these factors.
- Environmental conditions
- Breed traits
Whether mix bred or purebred, the lifespan of your indoor furry friend also depends on the appropriate environmental and housing conditions you provide for them.
For example, if you live in a cold climate, you should know that Sphynx, a hairless cat breed that is very vulnerable to temperature changes, always needs to stay warm.
If you are a social butterfly and your house is always full of people, then Russian Blue may not be a good choice for you. Although they are very comfortable with the people and cats they know, they can become shy and nervous around strangers. This may affect their behaviors and even health.
Before diving further into the physical factors that affect a cat’s lifespan, it is important to highlight another factor that is as important as them.
Just like poor living conditions, the stress in cats may lead to fatal consequences when triggered by a lack of attention, maltreatment, and abandonment.
Cats suffering from increasing levels of stress due to the reasons some of which I listed above, may display behavioral problems such as lack of interest, loss of appetite, decrease in activity levels, and aggression towards objects or even you.
Under extreme stress, cats, like humans, face a reduced quality of life and a shortened lifespan.
Lifespans range among some pedigree cats as well.
While Munchkins have an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years, Siamese cats live between 14 and 20 years.
1. Environmental Conditions
A well-cared indoor cat can easily live into their 10s, while an outdoor cat is lucky if they can live up to 4-5 years of age due to poor living conditions.
How Long Do Indoor Cats Live?
If you don’t allow your cat to go outside but spend time to play with their favorite toys at home, then you are lucky.
With proper care, an indoor cat can easily live over 10 years of age, and even up to 15-20 years.
However, it is important to remember that there are hidden indoor dangers for an indoor cat, too.
Some Considerations to Protect Your Cat From Indoor Hazards
- As cats are attracted to warm places, your cat may find large and small household appliances such as a hot oven, grill or iron irresistible!
- Check where your cat is while you are cooking or ironing. If around, don’t let your cat go out of your sight. Make sure your cat is out before leaving the room.
- Keep sharp or breakable items out of your cat’s reach when not in use.
- Keep washing machine and tumble dryer doors closed.
- Your cat may want to explore household plants by chewing or digging! Remove poisonous plants or flowers (like daffodils, cyclamen, lilies).
- If you use chemical cleaning agents when cleaning, do not let your cat walk on wet surfaces.
- Keep cupboard doors to prevent access to household cleaners.
- Never let your cat around open fires such as a fireplace unless your cat is guarded by someone.
- Using a window screen can be a good option to ensure your curious friend cannot jump or fall out of the window.
How Long Do Indoor Cats That Are Allowed Outdoors Live?
If your cat follows their wild instincts and goes outside through a cat flap, then we can say they are more prone to dangers.
Of course, it is not possible to give an exact age or know certainly. However, compared to a cat living indoors only, a cat that is let in and out is more likely to suffer from more health conditions, which may eventually lead to a shorter lifespan.
Outdoor access may pose a danger to your cat due to risks such as traffic, cat fights, dog attacks, reptile bites, poisonous plants, fleas and parasites.
Tips for Protecting Your Indoor Cat Outside
Cat Flaps: Your cat will learn how to go in and out through the cat flap in a short time. I recommend choosing a microchip cat flap that unlocks by reading your cat’s microchip, allowing you to lock the door during rush hours when there is a higher risk of accidents.
The lock feature is also perfect for ensuring your scared cat does not have an accident while running away from loud and sudden noises (firework displays, parades, and garbage trucks).
This type of cat flaps recognizes your cat’s pre-programmed microchip and automatically prevents other cats from entering your home.
Window Screens: Installing a secure window screen is a great way to prevent indoor cats from escaping, going out when the cat flap is closed, or jumping out of the window.
Regular Garden Maintenance: Regular garden maintenance helps protect your cat from toxic garden plants, insects or reptiles as much as possible and minimizes the risks caused by unwanted guests.
Safe Walks: If you have time and really worry about your cat roaming outside, a harness that you can train your cat to walk on starting in the early years is a fun way to spend time with your cat.
How Long Do Street Cats Live?
Unfortunately, outdoor cats are not as lucky as indoor cats because they face problems such as food and shelter, and are more exposed to germs, viruses and parasites.
An average lifespan of an outdoor cat is 4-7 years.
However, due to infectious diseases, poor nutrition, extreme weather conditions, sometimes premature birth, kittens growing under poor environmental conditions, some outdoor cats die even before they reach 2 years of age.
In this regard, local governments, public, private and non-profit organizations across the country play a vital role in vaccination, providing shelter and food, and finding new homes.
2. Breed Traits
A cat’s life expectancy may vary depending on the breed.
Before listing the average lifespans of some popular cat breeds, let’s have a look at the types of cats, what non-pedigree and pedigree mean.
A non-pedigree cat is a mix of multiple breeds (in some cases, 3,4 or more) that have bred over generations.
Widely known as a mixed breed, they are also called moggies, domestic short or longhairs, house or street cats, ferals in different regions and countries.
As they have many genetic variations, appearance and behavior differ and are not predictable. Mixed breeding has occurred over many generations, thus making it impossible to find a recorded breeding history.
They vary widely in size, shape, coat length or color.
Crossbred, a mix of two different breeds can also be categorized in this group. However, crossbred cats generally don’t have more than two breeds in their ancestry.
Crossbreeding creates a new breed that shares the traits of both parents, mostly the dominant breed. For example, breeders may crossbreed a Persian and a British Shorthair. Compared to mixed breed cats, it is possible to track pedigrees with known ancestry.
In addition, as some crossbreds have bred for years over many generations, they are eventually considered a new pedigree breed.
Breeders are as interested in producing crossbreds as pedigree breeds.
However, as I will explain later, especially in recent years, crossbred cats sometimes face serious health problems due to irresponsible crossbreeding.
The main factors that threaten the health and lifespan of non-pedigree mixed breed cats are anomalies resulting from inheriting the traits of multiple breeds, premature births, and the number of homeless cats reproduced from uncontrolled breeding.
Pedigree cats are born through the process of selective breeding of cats of the same or similar breed with registered ancestry stretching back through four or more generations.
In short, they have a registered family tree.
They are also called purebred. They show distinct physical, behavioral and temperamental characteristics.
An eligible cat that meets certain breed standards defined at the beginning of the 20th century is registered by cat registries worldwide.
Here are the total numbers of pedigree and crossbred cats recognized and registered by some associations as of 2020:
- The International Cat Association (TICA): 71 breeds
- The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA): 44 breeds
- Federation Internationale Feline (FIFe): 43 breeds
Today, there are over 100 pedigree cat breeds. However, as each cat registry defines its own required qualifications, a breed may not be recognized by another registry.
Accounting for 5 to 10 percent of several hundreds of millions of domestic cats worldwide, pedigree cats are heavily outnumbered by non-pedigree cats, and of course, come with a high price tag.
Every pedigree is a domestic cat, but not every domestic cat is a pedigree cat!
Pedigree cats also face serious health problems due to overbreeding and a limited gene pool resulting from pure breeding only.
The increasing interest of cat lovers as well as the irresponsible breeders who give higher priority to people’s desires and demands than cat health have endangered various purebred breeds over the years.
For example, respiratory problems in the Siamese, joint problems in the Munchkin due to their short legs, and skull changes in the Persian.
It is worth noting that:
Cat breeding is often criticized for causing unintended consequences such as abnormalities, health problems and infertility in cats, and leading to a lower quality of life and a shorter lifespan.
Animal lovers protest breeders for reasons such as giving higher priority to variable “human tastes” than animal health.
Cat registries, leading animal rights activists and especially veterinarians and animal health professionals strongly emphasize that the excessive breeding in recent years has led to an increase in life-threatening diseases and painful health conditions in pedigree cats. As life quality reduces, the lifespan shortens as well.
It is also important that breeders follow responsible and ethical breeding practices prioritizing cat health, and cat lovers become more conscious of the health conditions of pedigree breeds.
While there are numerous cats in the shelters that can be adopted for free, it does not seem functional and useful to increase the population of pedigree breeds through overbreeding.
The Average Lifespan of Some Popular Cat Breeds
Of course, there is no guarantee that your cat will live a long and healthy life.
However, there are some things you can do to maximize your cat’s life expectancy such as providing balanced nutrition, regular exercise, regular health check-ups, proper care, and of course lots of love, attention, and affection.
Regardless of the breed, your cat’s quality of life is as important as the lifespan.
The list below shows the average and general lifespan figures.
If you own or want to have one of these breeds, remember that:
The average lifespan can differ depending on hereditary or sudden diseases, unexpected accidents, and a safe and healthy environment you provide for your cat.
- American Bobtail lifespan: 13- 15 years
- British Shorthair lifespan: 12+ years
- Maine Coon lifespan: 12- 15 years
- Bengal lifespan: 12-16 years
- Ragdoll lifespan: 12-17 years
- Sphynx lifespan: 13-15 years
- Scottish Fold lifespan: 15 on average
- Munchkin lifespan: 12-14 years
- Turkish Van lifespan: 12-17 years
- Persian lifespan: 15+ (Some Persian cats even live into their 20s)
- Siamese lifespan: 15-20 years
- Russian Blue lifespan: 15-20 years
The most important factor that affects a cat’s lifespan is undoubtedly proper care.
What Does a Healthy Cat Look Like?
- Bright and clear eyes with no persistent squinting, discharge or redness. No inflamed third eyelid when eyes are fully open.
- Shiny coat.
- Healthy coat with no bare patches, scratches, skin injuries or irritations.
- Well-proportioned body. Most of the cat’s body covered with thick hair. No saggy skin due to excessive fat deposition.
- Clean rear end and the inner side of the ear, free of discharge or dirt.
- Clean mouth and teeth. Pale pink gums.
- Cool and moist nose.
How Does a Healthy Cat Behave?
- Vigorous, active and agile appearance.
- Sits, lies down, runs and jumps easily.
- Calm and friendly interaction with people.
- Normal appetite and thirst.
- Normal consistency and smell of urine and stool. Easy bowel movements.
Your kitten may need more frequent visits to the vet for a vaccination schedule, but it is equally important that you schedule at least one veterinary appointment for your adult cat.
How Can I Provide a Long and Healthy Life for My Cat?
In this part, I will share some useful tips for all cat owners, and some warning signs regarding your cat’s health.
Your cat can’t be vegetarian! Meat is the main source of nutrition for cats because it contains essential proteins, amino acids and fatty acids required to maintain good health.
Cats can’t convert plant-based fats and proteins in vegetables and derive the nutritional needs. Regardless of your own food preferences, you can’t feed your cat a vegetarian diet. Otherwise, you may threaten your cat’s health and even their life.
Check the label Complementary Food: Commercial cat foods in supermarkets and pet shops are generally formulated to provide all the essential nutrients your cat needs.
However, some foods are labeled as complementary. Designed to be a part of your cat’s diet, these foods need to be combined with other foods. Complementary foods alone do not meet the nutritional requirements to provide balanced nutrition.
Stay away from one type of feeding: You have 3 feeding options for your cat: dry, wet and homemade.
Dry food is a more popular choice as it can be left out for a long time without spoiling. However, you shouldn’t give your cat dry food all the time because it is high in fat, salt and sometimes contains additives.
Wet food and homemade food – if you have made fish or meat at home (make sure it is well-cooked to kill parasites and bacteria) are healthier options.
You can feed your cat dry food in the morning when you are not home, and wet in the evening.
Always provide a bowl of fresh water: Cats need clean and fresh water, especially if their diet solely consists of dry food.
Make sure your cat always has easy access to clean and fresh water to maintain energy and overall health.
Most cats don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest milk and dairy products. Do not give raw eggs, meat, and fish to your cat because they contain bacteria and harmful enzymes. You can give cat milk which is specially formulated for cats. Grapes and raisins may lead to kidney damage. Read more about this on human foods cats can and can’t eat.
Compared to dog care, cat care may seem easier.
In fact, cats clean themselves grooming a few times a day.
So, this actually means you don’t have much to do. However, some long-haired cats still need some help!
Long-haired cats need brushing once or twice a week, while some need every day.
Grooming gives you a chance to remove tangles in the coat, prevent infestations of skin parasites such as fleas and lice, control excessive seasonal shedding, and provide a shiny coat for your cat.
A grooming toolset including 4-5 tools comes in handy for proper grooming.
In your first grooming session, let your cat sniff the tools and get used to them. Brush gently so you don’t startle your cat. If your cat seems uncomfortable, let them go and try again later.
Trimming the Claws
If you have a scratching post or board at home, your cat probably trims their own claws by scratching them.
However, you can also trim your cat’s claws with cat nail clippers every two weeks. Gently press down on the bone just in the middle/on the bottom of each claw with your finger, get nails fully extended and clip the very tip of each nail.
If you are going to do it for the first time, I recommend asking your vet about specific advice.
Cleaning the Eyes and Ears
There may be wax or crust in your cat’s eyes or ears. Use damp cotton wool and gently clean around the eyes, nose, and ears.
Make sure you use separate cotton wool or tissue for each eye and ear.
It is a great opportunity to check your cat’s teeth and gums!
You should brush your cat’s teeth about every two weeks.
Do not use human toothpaste. Always use specifically made cat toothpaste.
Gently open your cat’s mouth, start with the back teeth, brush each tooth in a circular motion and massage the gums.
If your cat seems uncomfortable, you can try using meat-flavored toothpaste so your cat will like it.
Regular check-ups are vital.
It is very important to make sure starting in the early life stages, your cat receives regular vaccinations against serious diseases such as rabies, and preventive treatments for internal/external parasites.
Regardless of signs or symptoms, schedule annual check-up visits to your vet.
Regular eye and dental checks with your vet are also essential.
Potential eye or dental problems may indicate some diseases that affect not only an area but the overall body condition.
What to Expect as Your Cat Ages? Senior Cat Care
If your cat has reached 10 years of age, then they are the equivalent of a human who is almost leaving their 50s behind.
Let me remind you that indoor cats today are living a healthy life into their 15 and even early 20s.
You may watch for some symptoms and make adjustments to care for your senior cat, but if you have taken good care of your cat for years, then you have a good understanding of what to do in their senior years as well.
It is certain that in your cat’s senior years, you and your cat will still have the same fun as you can have with a kitten!
Not all cats in their 10s show any obvious signs of aging. Some cats don’t exhibit reduced activity or loss of appetite.
As your cat begins to show signs of aging, it is important that you also know these signs in order to be prepared for this life stage.
Signs of Aging in Elder Cats
- Reduced activity and mobility
- Decreased interest in social interactions
- Excessive vocalization
- Difficulty grooming
- Increased thirst
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Thick, brittle nails
- Impaired sense of hearing, smell, and sight
- Memory deficit, spatial disorientation
- Weight and appetite loss
- Increased appetite and weight
- Excessive shedding
- Bad breath, painful oral and dental problems
- Rear-limb or muscle weakness[/su_service][/su_note]
Some Basic Care Tips for Your Senior Cat
Your senior cat may need a new diet: Your cat may tend to move less and eat more. Obesity in senior cats is much more dangerous than in other stages.
The other way is also possible: your cat becomes less interested in eating. This may be due to an impaired sense of smell or indicate an underlying health condition.
Consult with your veterinarian to learn about balanced nutrients for your older cat and prevent a potential health problem.
Daily brushing is essential: Cats may become less keen or efficient in grooming themselves every day. This could form hairballs or increase the amount of excessive hair your cat swallows.
It may also lead to parasites such as fleas and lice. So, long-haired or not, check your cat’s coat daily and brush daily or every few days.
Regular brushing is a great way to check your cat’s body for problems such as injuries, discharge, lumps, and bumps.
Check litter box regularly and more often: Senior cats need to drink more water due to some health problems such as kidney failure or hyperthyroidism that are common in older cats.
They may try to drink water out of their water bowls, from inappropriate places such as pool and vase.
This also means an increase in urination, checking the litter box more often, and providing enough fresh water in the water bowl.
Dental problems may be signs of other health conditions: Proper dental care is essential for senior cats. Unhealthy teeth may be one of the reasons for a loss of appetite. Poor dental hygiene may cause pain and an unpleasant odor.
A dental problem may also indicate an age-related disease.
You may need to brush your senior cat’s teeth more often than every other week.
Simple adjustments for memory deficit: As cats grow older, they may experience a deficit in memory.
Senior cats may display problems including spatial disorientation, loud vocalization (excessive meowing) around the house, difficulty finding food bowl or defecating outside the litter box.
Making simple adjustments to your cat’s environment such as placing food and freshwater bowls in different locations around the house and providing multiple litter boxes would make life easier for both you and your cat.
Senior cats don’t like change: As cats age, they tend to be a bit grumpier.
They may begin to dislike guests, an outdoor cat they see from the window, and even a new object in your house.
To make your cat feel comfortable and remind that they are safe and loved, you can place your cat’s favorite toys or blanket in different places where they lie down or sleep.
I recommend you think carefully before moving into a new home or introducing a new pet in your cat’s senior years. A senior cat may be negatively affected by these changes.
Aging is a natural process. Just like in humans, some diseases and health conditions are more common in older cats.
This list includes some symptoms that will help you understand the signs of the common health conditions your cat might experience in the senior years.
The Common Health Conditions in Senior Cats
Chronic Kidney Disease
Symptoms: Increased thirst and urination, vomiting, lethargy, weight loss.
Treatment: Unfortunately, it is not reversible, but can be successfully controlled if diagnosed early and treated appropriately. Improved treatment methods and new medications are very effective.
Symptoms: Similar to human diabetes, factors including diet, lifestyle and breed are very important in increasing the risk of feline diabetes. Weight loss, increased thirst and urination, increased or decreased appetite.
Treatment: A special diet and medications prescribed by your vet.
Symptoms: Increased appetite and thirst, weight loss, hyperactivity, increased anxiety.
Treatment: Early diagnosis is vital. Your veterinarian can diagnose it with blood tests and prescribe medications to control the disease.
Symptoms: Oral pain, difficulty eating, gum problems. Research suggests that 80% of cats over the age of 3 suffer from various dental problems.
Some dental problems lead to other health issues such as heart and kidney problems.
Treatment: Regular dental care at home
Scheduling annual dental examinations with the vet is essential. Your vet is in the best position to inform you about potential causes and treatment options if any unusual situation is noted.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Symptoms: Vomiting, weight loss, diarrhea.
Treatment: IBD, a condition where a cat’s gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed, can be treated with dietary modification and medications.
Feline Senility (Cognitive Dysfunction)
Symptoms: Resulting from aging, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) or dementia leads to behavioral changes. A playful cat may become lethargic, and a calm cat may become aggressive.
Sleep-wake cycles change. Inappropriate vocalization, spatial disorientation, loss of appetite may be noticed.
Treatment: Feline Senility can also develop with other health conditions. A thorough exam by your vet can give an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes medical therapy is efficient.
Symptoms: degenerative, painful changes to the spine and joints result in reduced activity and mobility, stiffness.
Treatment: Your vet can detect it by taking radiographs (X-rays). New treatment methods are effective in achieving great results.
You should never give your cat painkillers for pain relief without veterinary guidance!
Symptoms: Depending on the type and location of cancer, symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, open wounds, lethargy, bloody urine or stool, vomiting.
The most common types of cancer in senior cats are lymphoma, leukemia, skin, mouth, liver, and bone.
Treatment: Early diagnosis is very important in treating many types of cancer. Make sure you take your senior cat for regular vet check-ups.
Warning Signs of Health Problems
- Unexplained lethargy
- Decreased interest, hiding in dark and closed places
- Wheezing, coughing
- Unusual decreased or increased appetite
- Excessive weight gain or loss
- Bloated abdomen
- Fast, slow or difficult breathing
- Lameness or limping
- Stiffness, reduced mobility
- Change in appetite or difficulty eating
- Vomiting or regurgitating shortly after eating
- Increased thirst
- Poor coat condition, excessive shedding
- Difficult urination, crying out while urinating
- Lumps, bumps, open wound, bleeding
- Squinting, eye discharge
- Bloody stool, urine or vomit
If you notice any of these symptoms, please consult with your veterinarian immediately.
If noticed and diagnosed in the early stages, it is much easier to treat diseases and health problems, allowing your furry friend to go back to happy days much more quickly.
Always remember that the more you love, care for and show affection to your cat, the longer they will be with you to make your life better and more colorful.
When I say the lifespan of a cat, all I can think of is a wonderful adventure including the most memorable moments I have had with my cat.
I hope she feels the same way too! What do you think?