You've probably heard the phrase "cats have nine lives." Unfortunately, most people know that this isn't literally true (unless your cat happens to have some unearthly, supernatural powers).
That said, many factors affect the number of years spent with your beloved feline. This comes down to things like health, breed, gender, and whether or not your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat.
If you are a cat owner and wondering "how long do cats live?" this guide is here to answer all of your questions.
Keep reading to learn more about the lifespan of a feline.
Life Stages of a Cat
Before going into the life expectancy of your average cat, it's important to know the basic life stages that your cat will go through. After all, cat years go much quicker than human years.
Here are the five life stages of a feline:
Kittenhood: the most adorable yet rambunctious stage of a cat. A cat is considered a kitten from the time of birth until six months old.
During the kitten stage, your cat will have the most energy. You will find them running around the house, jumping onto tall objects, and playing with their favorite toys or feline companions.
Since kittens are rapidly growing, they also have a higher appetite and should be fed more often throughout the day in comparison to older cats.
The second stage of a cat's development is the junior or adolescent stage. These are the teenage years of your cat. This stage occurs when your cat is between six months to two years old.
According to HillsPet.Com, "During this stage, a cat loses their babyish appearance as they reach physical and sexual maturity. They also outgrow their kitten personality and settle into their true temperament."
While your cat will likely still be energetic and playful as a junior, it will probably not have the level of energy it had as a kitten. You may find it acting more mature with an overall calmer demeanor. Don't be fooled by your feline's cool teenage persona. Your cat will still be learning and adapting to its environment at this stage, so they really won't have it all figured out yet.
When your cat turns one, it will start eating less than it did as a kitten and should be served adult food.
The prime stage of a feline occurs between the ages of three to six years old. At this point, your cat is now a fully-grown, mature adult.
You will likely know its true personality at this stage along with its little habits and quirks that make it unique. As for appearance, your cat will no longer have the youthful look of a young adult with a healthy coat and strong physique.
A cat in its prime will probably be much less playful than it was in the kitten and junior stages, but that does not mean it doesn't need playtime! It's important to learn how to initiate playtime with your cat to ensure they get the exercise they need.
Think of this as the middle-aged years of your cat. There aren't a ton of noticeable differences from a prime cat, but you may notice it slightly slowing down and becoming less active.
Its appearance may stay the same, but you may notice some weight gain due to the decrease in exercise.
It's also important to start watching for any signs of underlying health issues during this time as mature cats are at an increase for things health issues like cancer, diabetes, obesity, and thyroid issues.
As a senior of 10-14+ years old, your cat is in their golden years. Appearance in senior years varies from feline to feline (sort of like people). Some senior cats age very well and look the same as they did in their prime. Other cats will display noticeable signs of aging such as weight gain or a thinner, duller coat.
Your cat's activity level will be very low at this point and it won't be common to see them running around the house chasing mice as they did in their younger years. They are, however, known to be much more cuddly and affectionate at this stage.
Health issues are also a concern as a cat reaches its senior years, so it will need to be given a nutritious diet specifically made for senior cats.
The final stage of your cat's lifespan is the geriatric stage. This occurs at 15 years or older.
Geriatric cats look much older in appearance. They likely will have lost weight and muscle mass and have a thinner coat with spots of white and gray.
Health problems are usually inevitable at the geriatric stage, but frequent vet trips, a nutritious diet, and ample exercise will improve their quality of life tremendously.
How Long Do Cats Live at Home?
If you are someone who owns an indoor cat, you are probably wondering if your cat will live longer if kept indoors. The answer is yes.
According to ThinkingOutsideTheCage.org, "The average lifespan of an indoor cat ranges from 10 to 20 years." The oldest cat that has ever lived, according to the Guinness Book of World Records was a domesticated indoor cat named Cream Puff who lived 38 years and 3 days. Sure, this isn't the norm, but it goes to show that an indoor cat can live many long years.
While some indoor-outdoor cat owners may argue that their cat has always lived a safe and healthy life in the wild, every day they are outside is a risk.
Keeping a cat indoors keeps them away from the dangers of the outside world including diseases from other animals, being hit by a car, inclement weather, animal predators, animal abusers, parasites, and outdoor pesticides.
If you do wish to take your cat outdoors, it's best to do so with supervision using a harness, leash, or cat backpack carrier. According to PetMD, “If a cat spends any amount of time outdoors, no matter how limited or infrequent, the cat owner should mention it to their veterinarian so they can adequately discuss health risks to ensure the cat is properly protected from diseases, parasites, and more."
How Long Do Stray/Feral Cats Live?
While a domesticated, indoor cat can live as long as two decades, the lifespan of a stray or a feral cat is only between two to five years. That's obviously a huge difference from indoor cats; those cats who can live longer may have gotten lucky by living in an area with adequate shelter, weather, and consistent food and water.
Stray cats are usually cats who were previously domesticated and have become lost or abandoned by their owners. Feral cats are cats who were born into colonies with little to no human contact, making them skittish and sometimes aggressive. Since they are usually not neutered or spayed, feral cats are constantly breeding which puts them more at risk down the line.
While stray and feral cats are typically more street-smart than indoor cats, can withstand harsher temperatures, and are accustomed to hunting and fending for themselves, the outdoor risks put them at a much higher disadvantage than indoor cats.
If you notice stray or feral cats in your neighborhood, there are ways to help increase their life span besides giving them necessities. The most popular way is the Trap-Neuter Release Program which has the goal of decreasing the population of cats in the wild.
According to WebMD, the American Association of Feline Practitioners states that "Stray and feral cats are 'humanely trapped, examined, vaccinated, and surgically sterilized by veterinarians.' Feral cats are then returned to their familiar environment and, hopefully, cared for by volunteers who may provide food and shelter and monitor them for sickness."
Do Male or Female Cats Live Longer?
Many people are aware of the fact that human females have longer lifespans than male humans. Well, it's the same when it comes to felines.
Kittenbnb.com states that "On average, female cats live a year or two longer than their male counterparts." This is not always the case, however, as many different variables play a role in how long your cat will live.
If you have a male cat, a good way to increase the chances that it will live longer is to have him neutered. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "Neutered male cats live a mean of 62 percent longer than unneutered male cats."
One of the most common diseases that affect both neutered and unneutered male cats more than female cats is feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) and urethral obstruction which is life-threatening without immediate treatment.
If you have a male cat, it's important to look out for signs such as straining to urinate, frequent trips to the litter box, urinating outside the litter box, bloody urine, painful urination, and crying or moaning when using the litter box.
Life Expectancy Based on Your Cat's Breed
Another factor that affects your cat's overall life expectancy is the breed of your cat. According to MitchellVets.ca, "Mixed-breed cats and dogs often are longer-lived than their purebred counterparts because they have a broader gene pool with less risk of inherited disease."
That being said, there are certain breeds of cats that are prone to having a longer life span and fewer health issues in comparison to other breeds. If you are wishing to avoid the heartache of losing a cat at a young age, you may wish to know which breeds are the most and least prone to health issues and longevity.
The breed of cat that's known to live the longest is the Burmese cat with an average lifespan of 18-25 years. While they are at a higher risk of glaucoma and cranial deformities, their lifespan outweighs every other cat breed.
Likewise, Siamese cats are also known for their longevity, living between 12-20 years. This popular breed is only at risk for certain respiratory diseases and dental conditions but nothing that is typically life-threatening.
Other cats known for their longevity include ragdolls, Balinese, Russian Blues, Bombays, American shorthairs, sphynx cats, savannah cats, and Egyptian maus.
Bengal cats are known to have the shortest lifespan among other cat breeds, coming in at around 9-15 years. This is because Bengals are known for their hereditary health issues such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), lymphosarcoma, kidney disease, pancreatitis, and FLUTD.
Other cats with the highest risk of health issues include Persians, Abyssinians, Himalayans, and exotic shorthairs.
Keep in mind that the life expectancy and genetic health dispositions of the breeds listed are based on statistics, but a cat's life expectancy may differ based on other environmental factors.
Increasing the Life Expectancy of Your Cat
While health problems are inevitable among cats, there are ways to increase the life expectancy of your feline besides keeping them indoors. First, your cat must be spayed or neutered. Failing to do so can put your cat at a 50% increase in developing cancer later in life.
Cats should also receive an adequate amount of wet food to keep them hydrated and have a constant supply of water available.
Finally, cats should receive plenty of playtime along with love, affection, and attention to keep their stress levels down (on their terms, of course).
This article filled you in on the lifespan of your average cat. All in all, while you can take certain measures to increase your cat's lifespan such as adopting a female cat or adopting breeds with the least amount of health concerns, keeping your cat indoors is the best way for them to live as long as possible.
Unfortunately, even the best cat owners will one day reach that terrible day when it's time to say goodbye. That's why the most important thing is to ensure your cat has the best quality of life with your unconditional love.
Thank you for reading, and if you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with your cat-loving friends and family.