A gray cat with black stripes nuzzling its kitten in a white wicker basket.

How Long Do Cats Live?

Pets are an important part of the family, and while everyone wishes they would live forever, unfortunately this isn’t what happens. If your cat is showing a little grey around their whiskers and starting to prefer sleeping over playing, it may have you thinking “How long will my cat live?”

No one knows for sure how much precious time they will have with their cat, but you can look at the average life span of cat breeds to give you an idea. There are also things you can do to try to extend your time together.

How Long Will Your Cat Live?

The average life span of a house cat is about 15 years. But, of course, every cat is different, so an individual cat’s life may be longer or shorter. Some of the factors that can influence your cat’s life expectancy are their lifestyle and how they are cared for (their nutrition and health care). Your cat’s weight has a huge impact on their life span, as cats of a healthy weight can live up to 2.5 years longer than an overweight cat. That’s a lot of extra time with your favorite kitty.

Breed and genetics also play a part in a cat’s life expectancy. For example, Persian cats can easily live for 15 years, with some living past 20 years, according to the Cat Fanciers Association. PetMD tells us that Maine coon cats only live for around 13 years on average. Your cat could definitely live for years past their breed average, though. If they’ve already beaten the odds, maybe they can snatch the oldest cat record away from a tabby called Creme Puff who lived for 38 years!

One of the main factors that affects your cat’s life expectancy is whether they live inside or outside. Outdoor cats only tend to live about 4.5 years on average. The increased risk of injury and disease for outdoor cats contributes to their lower life expectancy. Some of the situations that are potentially hazardous for outdoor cats include cars, loose dogs, wild animals, animal cruelty, toxins and poisons. Outdoor cats are also at greater risk of being exposed to infectious diseases and parasites.

Life Stages Help Determine Your Cat’s Care

A kitten’s health care needs are very different compared to a mature or senior cat’s needs. To help veterinarians ensure cats receive the proper care for their life stage, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) developed guidelines that define the life stages of cats. The 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines categorizes cats into four age-related stages as well as an end-of-life stage that covers all ages. The four age-related life stages are:

Interior graphic outlining the four age-related life stages of cats - Kitten: birth to 1 year, Young adult: 1-6 years, Mature adult: 7-10 years, Senior: Older than 10 years.

According to these guidelines, if your cat is older than 10, they are considered a senior. However, if your cat is 12 and has no health issues (for example), your veterinarian may also use the mature adult guidelines while caring for them. The guidelines are just a starting point to help your veterinarian develop individualized care recommendations for your cat.

If you’re wondering how old your cat is in human years, the AAFP can help you estimate your cat’s human age. You can see that if you have a 20-year-old cat, that’s 96 in human years. No wonder they like to sleep all day!

Tips to Help Prolong Your Cat’s Life

How can you help extend your cat’s life? Make sure they’re getting proper medical care and they’re being fed a nutritious diet. This includes taking them for regular checkups with your veterinarian and ensuring their vaccinations stay up-to-date. This will help detect and treat any medical issues early on and help prevent them from contracting a potentially serious disease. You should also seek medical treatment if they are injured or sick.

Feeding them a complete and balanced diet and watching their weight will also help them stay healthier for longer. Providing nutritious food should begin early in life to ensure kittens get off to a healthy start and continue right through to feeding a senior cat a food that supports any health issues they may have. As we mentioned earlier, keeping your cat’s weight under control can also help prolong their life and it can reduce the risk of diseases associated with obesity like diabetes, arthritis, lower urinary tract disease and nonallergic skin diseases.

When the End Is Near

No matter how well you care for your cat, unfortunately their time with you must come to an end eventually. Hopefully it’s after a long, happy and healthy life, but sometimes it’s due to a terminal disease. A terminal diagnosis doesn’t always mean that compassionate euthanasia is the only way to prevent your cat from suffering, though. You may be able to provide palliative care to control their pain and other symptoms, with the goal of providing them with greatest comfort and quality of life possible. Keep in mind that palliative care requires regular veterinary visits and medications, so this could be costly for you.

Cats are experts at hiding pain so it’s important that veterinary professionals regularly evaluate them to see if their palliative care medication needs adjusting. You will also need to monitor their quality of life. To help with this, Dr. Alice Villalobos developed a Quality of Life Scale that you can use to assess your cat’s welfare.

If your cat is in their end-of-life stage, you can help make them more comfortable by adjusting some things around your home. You can add steps up to their favorite resting place, raise their food and water dishes and use a pet gate to stop them stumbling down stairs. Also, make sure their litter box has low sides and is in an easily accessible and private place. A warm, padded bed can also be comforting for them, and don’t forget lots of cuddles.


No one wants to think about the time with their pet ending, but it is good to know how you can help prolong your time with them as much as possible. And if the end is near, there are things you can do to help them feel as comfortable as possible until it’s time to say goodbye.


RELATED POST: Debarking Pet Myths: The Truth About Cats and Their Nine Lives


The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.


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