It's no surprise that pet parents want to know what the average lifespan of a house cat is so they can gauge how long their adored feline friend will be around. Knowing the lifespan of your feline can help you understand what stage of life your cat is in and give you some emotional readiness as they get older. It also helps to understand what health issues or behavioral quirks to look out for as your cat grows.
While no one can say exactly how long a cat’s lifespan is, statistics can give a general answer to the question. Every cat is different and will go through their own set of experiences.
Several different factors play into the years your cat is around, such as breed, genetics, and where they live their life (read: indoor or outdoor cat). Let’s take a look at some of the factors that play into life expectancy for your feline friend.
What is the average lifespan of a house cat?
No two cats are the same, which means that it’s not always easy to pinpoint how long your cat will live. Typically, cats are known as rather healthy and independent creatures that can do well surviving on their own. They don’t always need a human to care for them, but it sure is nice to be pampered in a warm house!
House cats have really settled into their domestic lifestyle, with food being given to them throughout the day without having to hunt, sunny spots dedicated specifically for their bodies to warm up in, and all the pets and toys they could ask for. It’s hard to imagine a life where your domestic cat would want to work any harder simply to survive—but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t if they had to.
A common question cat parents have when deciding if they should let their cats explore the great outdoors is, do indoor cats live longer? According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, the average life expectancy of a house cat is 10 to 15 years, while outdoor cats may only live on average 2 to 5 years.
While every cat is different, indoor cats generally live longer due to fewer threats in their environment. Inside, your cat is safe and easily accounted for. You can’t always say the same if your cat is wandering outside alone.
Creme Puff, a tabby mix out of Austin, Texas, lived to be 38 in a happy, long life! Today, the oldest cat is Flossie, whose 27th birthday was celebrated by the Guinness Book of World Records.
How do breeds and genetics impact a cat’s lifespan?
While cats are known for being generally healthy pets, some breeds tend to have more health-related issues, sometimes lowering their lifespan. Breed and genetic makeup can impact a cat’s lifespan, just like it can influence size, coat, and physical attributes.
Some purebred cats are known to have a shorter life expectancy than mixed breeds due to selective breeding. This can lead to a higher likeness of certain diseases and ailments, as these cats inherit health problems passed down from their parents.
What are the lifespans of common cat breeds?
While pet parents always wish their fur babies would stick around longer, cats have a much faster metabolic rate than humans—so one year of our life is equivalent to several years of our cats’ lives. However, some breeds do tend to live longer than others.
If your goal is to get the most quality time with your cat, consider choosing a mixed breed (or “moggy,” also known as a Domestic Shorthair or Domestic Longhair). “Hybrid vigor,” or a combination of the best genetic material arising from a diverse gene pool, often leads to a lower risk for inherited diseases and common medical conditions found in purebred animals.
Other cat breeds with long lifespans include the American Shorthair, Bombay, and Russian Blue (although many more make this list).
Factors that can increase a house cat’s life expectancy
Why do indoor cats live so much longer than outdoor cats? In part, their lives are longer because house cats live in much safer conditions. Without dealing with stressors from the outside world, your cat may live a more relaxed and rudimentary lifestyle. You can take other preventative measures to potentially keep your cat around longer, from a balanced diet to routine veterinary care and daily exercise.
Here are ways you can add years to your cat’s life:
Routine vet visits
In the early years of your cat’s life, you should take them to the vet at least once a year. When your furry feline is a senior cat, take them to the vet at least twice yearly or every six months. Older cats and those with chronic medical conditions should go more often. Geriatric and chronically ill cats, including those with compromised immune systems, might go to the vet three or more times per year.
It never hurts to call your veterinarian if you find your cat behaving strangely, including behavioral issues that seem to arise out of nowhere. Acting quickly and not taking any chances is the best way to ensure that your cat lives as long as possible.
Checkups should consist of physical exams, vaccinations, and blood work. A vet will be able to perform lab work and take X-rays to determine any health problems with your pet. Even if your cat seems to be in good health, being proactive with general care is important to prevent any serious health issues.
Spaying or neutering
Cats that are spayed or neutered typically live longer lives and are at less risk of contracting certain diseases, so it’s a good idea to get your cat fixed as early as possible. On top of potentially keeping your pet around longer, you can play your part in lowering cat overpopulation—experts believe there are between 60 and 100 million homeless cats in the United States.
Overbreeding adds to the outdoor cat population and makes it difficult for shelters to keep up with all of the animals that come into them. When cats experience an unintended pregnancy, that litter ends up in the hands of the human that cares for that cat.
Many people don’t know what to do with a litter of kittens, and cats that give birth outside of their homes may not be able to care for their kittens on their own properly.
Feeding your cat a healthy, individualized diet
It’s important to feed your cat a diet of quality food with balanced nutrients. Like humans, a diet high in appropriate nutrients will help your cat stay healthy and live a longer life. Check with your vet to find out if your cat needs any special type of cat food. The type of food you should be feeding them can vary based on their life stage and any type of medical condition.
Be mindful of how many treats they consume throughout the day. If your cat is not very active and likes to lounge, watching how much they eat can balance out their lack of activity. If your cat does burn a lot of energy and is always in the mood to play, more nutritional snacks are not a bad thing.
If you’re concerned about your cat’s eating habits, consider an automatic feeder like Feeder-Robot. That way, you can track their meals and automate feedings to make things easier on yourself. Be mindful of refilling your cat’s feeder and cleaning it often.
Exercise and playtime
Exercise and play are known to help reduce and prevent stress, which ultimately leads to a happier and healthier cat. Cats need to be able to tap into their natural instincts like hunting, pouncing, and interacting.
One way to help your cat express their needs to exercise and play is with cat furniture. Cat trees that provide your cat with multiple levels to jump, climbing holes, and scratch pads are ideal.
Interactive play also helps cats express their natural instincts and provides mental stimulation. Give your cat toy balls, plush or catnip mice, teaser toys, or a laser pointer to provide entertainment. If you have a kitten, be mindful not to overstimulate them during playtime. Kittens (and even full-grown cats) can become aggressive toward humans or other animals if they get too worked up.
The classic rechargeable laser pointer will provide mental stimulation and entertainment for your cat. Make sure if you use a teaser toy or laser pointer that you give your cat something tangible to “kill” and “eat” at the end of the chase, such as a catnip toy or a few treats.
Proper support from bedding will help relieve pressure on your cat's joints. As your cat ages, relieving pressure may be vital to their comfort. Updating your living space and adjusting to your cat’s new needs can help them throughout the aging process. They will begin to require further assistance from you, and adapting to their needs can improve the quality of their life.
A memory foam ped provides spacious and supportive bedding for your cat. And it’s easy to clean with pet-safe cleaner spray or wipes. A clean and tidy space isn’t just good for your mental health; your cat will benefit too.
Brushing your cat regularly will help keep them from consuming too much hair when they groom themselves, avoiding digestive issues and hairballs. It will also allow you to check your cat’s body and recognize any new lumps, bumps, or sore spots.
Make sure your cat gets regular teeth cleanings to remove plaque and keep their mouths healthy. Dental or oral disease can result in bacteria being channeled through the body, which can lead to serious health issues. Remember to wipe away discharge around the eyes and nose, and trim your cat's nails regularly.
Common health-related issues
Another key factor in answering what’s the average lifespan of a house cat is being able to identify and address common diseases, like diabetes or kidney disease. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on common diseases your cat could contract to help with prevention and to diagnose them as soon as possible if signs of illness occur. When you know what symptoms to look for, you’ll be able to take your pet to the vet for treatment.
Some of the common health-related issues that your cat might face, depending on their breed, are:
- Mobility disorders, like arthritis
- Urinary infections
- Neurological diseases
- Kidney, heart, or liver failure
What to expect as your cat ages
As your cat enters their elderly years, you’ll start to notice changes in their physiology and their behavior. You may even notice your elderly cat isn’t as active or is having accidents outside of the litter box, which could be a sign of arthritis.
All cats will get older eventually, and you will begin to see the changes in them that show this process. Physical changes may include reduced ability to taste, smell food, and digest fat and proteins. They may also experience reduced hearing, lower immune function, skin elasticity, and stress intolerance. Your cat may begin to lose their vision or change their coat coloring.
Most often, an aging cat might not be as spry and agile as they once were. They could move a little slower and take their time with obstacles they used to burn through. Being patient and supportive can help alleviate any stress they’re feeling.
Your cat is going to become more tired and less active as time goes by. As your cat gets older and into the later years of their life, they may no longer act like the kitten you once knew. They may be milder and more relaxed now, with more of a draw to sleeping than playing.
Additionally, behavioral changes can include a reduced or picky appetite and less frequent grooming. While these signs may be alarming at first, know that this is a natural part of your cat’s journey.
Help your cat live a happy, healthy life for years to come
Finally, maintaining a clean litter box can help keep your cat healthy. Scooping litter should be part of your daily cat care rituals. It will keep your house smelling fresh, help you notice any changes in bowel or urinary habits, and help reduce accidents outside of the litter box.
Don’t have time to scoop litter daily? Solve your problem easily with Litter-Robot! This self-cleaning litter box separates waste from the clean litter after your cat exits. When you download the app, you’ll be able to effortlessly monitor your cat's waste habits with updates sent right to your phone.
The average lifespan of a house cat varies between 10 and 15 years. But following these guidelines can help your cat live a longer, healthier, and happier life!
- Cats: Indoors or Outdoors? | Animal Health Topics UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
- Stress and Feline Health | NCBI
- Periodontal Disease In Cats: Back To Basics--With An Eye On The Future | NCBI
- Prevalence of Disease and Age-Related Behavioural Changes in Cats: Past and Present | NCBI
- Flossie, the world's oldest living cat, is nearly 27 years old | CNN
- Feral Cats | PETA