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How Long Do Cats Live?

We have facts and figures on the average cat lifespan, for indoor as well as outdoor cats.

 |  Feb 20th 2014  |   37 Contributions


"A novel must be exceptionally good to live as long as the average cat." This aphorism is widely attributed to Philip Stanhope, the Fourth Earl of Chesterfield. Lord Chesterfield lived through the period of English literary history when novels were just becoming popular, and there was already a sense that all forms of media were ephemeral. This was the age of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels, two novels that are still read today, but also of Love in Excess and Hermsprong, two that have largely been forgotten.

What did Chesterfield have in mind? How long do cats live on average? What are the facts on cats' longevity? Here at Catster, we've done the research on the average cat lifespan and have all the information you need. We've crunched the numbers and can tell you that, like novels, the life expectancy of cats depends on a variety of circumstances, including environment, diet, and health. We'll give you information on everything ranging from the general question "How long do cats live?" to the average age of the "current" oldest living cat, the average of the outlying ages, and the averages for indoor and outdoor cat lifespan.

Cat lifespan depends on many factors, including environment and health. White kitten sitting in hat by Shutterstock.

Average cat lifespan

How long do cats live? Environment, maintenance, health, and whether the cat is spayed or neutered -- all of these factors matter when thinking about average lifespans. Sterilization can be a significant factor. Spaying and neutering removes the risk of developing diseases that can affect a cat's reproductive system in old age. It has become a truism on the Internet, that, with access to current medical and dietary advancements, the ideal cat "can" or "may" live to 20 years and older. Based on a survey of 10 reputable sites that discuss the average domestic cat, the numbers are more inconsistent, ranging from 10 to 20 years. The average domestic cat lifespan comes out to 15.1 years. 

Breed is certainly a factor. We could list out each breed, but then we'd be here forever. Our research suggests that mixed breed cats are, in general, hardier and live longer than purebred cats. Have a question about a specific breed's longevity? Please consult the Catster Cat Breed compendium! Here, we're concerned, like Lord Chesterfield, with "the average cat." On average, female cats live one to two years longer than male cats. On average, indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats. On average, wild, homeless, and feral cats live dramatically shorter lives than domestic cats. 

Jim-Jim is an average outdoor cat. He will live 5.625 years. Baby cat in nature by Shutterstock.

How long do indoor cats live?

All the research we've done overwhelmingly suggests that indoor cats live nearly three times as long as outdoor cats. How long do cats live if they're indoor cats? Indoor cats are typically sterilized, vaccinated, and removed from the stresses, risks, and dangers of the outside world. They are fed regularly and have easy access to water that is fresh and clean.

They require more attention, more distractions, and must be encouraged to get sufficient exercise to avoid obesity. Fortunately, attentive cat owners provide all of those things. The numbers varied widely among all the sites we visited, ranging from 14 to 20 years. Based on the numbers we chronicled, the average lifespan of an indoor cat is 16.875 years.

Bill-Bill is an average indoor cat. He will live 16.875 years. top view of baby cat kitten lying on jersey by Shutterstock.

How long do outdoor cats live?

Our research shows that outdoors, a number of challenges tend to limit the average cat lifespan. Of course, "outside" means different things depending on where a cat lives. Do you live in an urban, suburban, rural, or remote location? How many neighbors have outdoor cats? Do you live in a place with an abundance of predatory wildlife? Are there feral or stray animals nearby? Is the weather amenable year-round to an outdoor lifestyle? How close do you live to roads and thoroughfares?

These are all limiting factors, as are increased exposure to fleas, ticks, and other parasites and illnesses. Outdoors, cats can also get in fights and scrapes with other cats and are at increased risk of accidents. However, they also have the freedom to explore, mark out favored perches, and get natural exercise. Because there are so many more unpredictable variables, the numbers are generally not good, and cat lifespan ranges much more widely, anywhere from three to 10 years. The average cat lifespan outdoors is 5.625 years. 

This is my cat, Klesko, who has been an outside cat her whole life. Here she is at age 15. Photo by Melvin Pena.

How long can cats live?

I can hear you saying, "But my cat ..." These numbers are all averages. My cat, Klesko, has always been an outdoor cat and she's 15 years old. There are always outliers that defy averages. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the oldest recorded cat age was attained by Creme Puff, a cat who passed away in Austin, Texas, at 38 years and three days old, a truly grand, almost incomprehensible age. The age of the "current" oldest living cat is much more variable because that information can go out of date at any given moment.

Reviewing the last several years' worth of information, I've seen the "current" oldest cat have ages ranging from 23 to 36. In the last decade, the average oldest living cat is 29.857 years old. Who is the current record holder? Rather than risk our own obsolescence, we suggest that you check with the Guinness site. Its page on "Oldest Cat Living" wisely and expressly states that the current record holder is a flexible and changeable position.

This is Doctor Frankenstein, a Norwegian Forest Cat. She is an inside cat, adopted at age 7. Photo by Alexis Sparko.

How long have your cats lived?

The picture above is of Doctor Frankenstein, a Norwegian Forest Cat, adopted at the age of seven. Her owner, Alexis, avers that her cat will live as long as she does. That will be a record-breaking cat indeed!

We want to hear how old your cats are! What is the longest-lived cat you've ever owned, heard of, or seen? Share your stories, photos, and memories in the comments!

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