One of the toughest parts of loving a cat is acknowledging the fact that the average lifespan of a cat is much shorter than the average lifespan of a human. This, unfortunately, means that your kitty will most likely pass away before you do. The comparatively short average lifespan of a cat can be difficult to accept. My beloved gray tabby, Bubba Lee Kinsey, passed away from cancer last summer, and I still miss his naptime snuggles, persistent headbutts and delicate meow, which always sounded too sweet and meek to come from such a handsome and robust predator. Still, I feel lucky to say that Bubba was my best friend and companion for 17 years, which is actually a fairly long cat lifespan (and is something like 84 in human years).
When it comes to determining the average lifespan of a cat, several factors play significant roles. While genetic factors do influence the average lifespan of a cat, many other lifestyle variations are even more important — which is actually good news, as it means you can do a lot to make sure your kitty lives a long and happy life.
In the wild, the average lifespan of a cat is anywhere from 2 to 16 years. A house cat has a longer average lifespan of 12 to 18 years, though it’s not uncommon for domestic kitties to live into their 20s. According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat ever, named Creme Puff, lived to be 38 years old. Keeping in mind that cats are considered “seniors” when they’re approximately 7 years old, the average lifespan of a cat contains a whole lot of golden years.
Certain cat breeds seem to live longer than others. Burmese, Siamese and Manx cats have some of the longest cat lifespans. On the flipside, much like humans, some cats simply get unlucky in the genetic lottery and are more susceptible to diseases that shorten their lifespans, like diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
But what’s more important than breeds or genetics in determining the average lifespan of a cat? The care that cat receives, including nutrition, veterinary care and plain old TLC. One of the most significant factors in extending the average lifespan of a cat is whether she lives indoors or outdoors.
“As well as breed and genetics, some factors affecting the cat’s lifespan are whether he’s indoor or outdoor,” says Dr. Leanne Landau Kasitz, a veterinarian at Stilwell Animal Hospital and Equine Center in Stilwell, Kansas. “An outdoor cat’s average lifespan is significantly decreased. This can be due to trauma (hit by car, predators, etc.), nutrition (if the cat is expected to be a hunter) or lack of veterinary care (no vaccinations, etc.) leading to disease or dental problems.”
If you want to increase your cat’s life expectancy, start by keeping those regular veterinary checkups. You might want to skip these appointments to save money, especially if your kitty seems fine, but catching chronic diseases is crucial, especially when it comes to extending the average lifespan of a cat.
“A cat’s lifespan can be extended by good veterinary care,” Dr. Kasitz says. “Wellness exams every six months with blood work for early disease detection can help manage diseases such as kidney disease, which is common in cats, or hyperthyroidism. Vaccinations against common diseases are recommended as well.”
In addition to veterinary care, good nutrition is also vital to ensuring a lengthy — and happy and healthy — cat lifespan. This means feeding your cat a diet that’s low in carbs, high in protein and minimally processed.
Proper hydration — via ensuring that your cat gets enough water and providing your cat with nutritious wet food — can also help extend the average lifespan of a cat. A combination of eating well and getting enough physical activity (don’t forget to bust out that feather toy or laser pointer!) will keep your cat spry and prevent obesity, which is another major factor that can shorten the average lifespan of a cat.
“Proper dental care and good nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy cat and extending her lifespan,” Dr. Kasitz says. “It is also very important to prevent your cat from becoming overweight, which can lead to diabetes or joint problems.”
Perhaps the easiest — and most enjoyable — way to help extend the average lifespan of a cat is simply to give him lots of attention and cuddles. Like humans, cats thrive when they’re given plenty of affection and loving care. Still, even if your feline friend vastly surpasses the average lifespan of a cat and lives, like my Bubba Lee Kinsey, to be a wizened old man, odds are it still won’t be long enough.
Tell us: How old was the oldest cat you’ve ever had or met?
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