What Is the Average Lifespan of a Cat?

Ever wondered about the average lifespan of a cat — and is there anything you can do to extend the average lifespan of a cat? Let's find out here.

An older woman cuddling an older senior black cat.
An older woman cuddling an older senior black cat. Photography © GrapeImages | E+ / Getty Images Plus.

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.

Average lifespan of a cat — the basics.

An older black cat on the lap of an older or senior person.
What is the average lifespan of a cat? Photography © thodonal | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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.

What affects the average lifespan of a cat?

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.”

What can you do to extend the average lifespan of a cat? Good vet care goes a long way.

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.”

What can you do to extend the average lifespan of a cat? The right food makes a difference.

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.”

What can you do to extend the average lifespan of a cat? Cuddles count!

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?

Thumbnail: Photography © GrapeImages | E+ / Getty Images Plus. 

Read more about cat health and care on Catster.com:

49 thoughts on “What Is the Average Lifespan of a Cat?”

  1. Pingback: How Lengthy Do Cats Dwell? Info In regards to the Common Cat Lifespan – Cute funny cat kitten pictures videos

  2. My rescue Calico,Panda, lived beyond 18 years and departed with kidney failure. A gray and white neutered male, Buddy, adopted us after his owners divorced, took the dogs, but threw the cat out into the neighborhood. We had him 18 years, so he was at least that and more. My oldest-lived was Feival, whom we adopted from a feral litter. We had him 23-1/2 years and he went to sleep and died of just his age in my husband’s arms on July 4th -2 yrs. ago. He was an amazing and sturdy fellow.

  3. I don’t give upon a cat until they tell me to. I currently have 4 cats. One is 21, 2 are 20 (from the same litter) and one is 18. I know they live to stay with me and frankly I’m fine with that as long as they aren’t in any kind of pain. Cats are amazing animals. Don’t give up on them until they’re ready.

  4. I found my cat starving and it was the worst case i ever saw. She made it to 12.5 yrs and died from squamous cell carcinoma. She had a polyp in her ear. Unfortunately i took her to a vet that lasered it and the next day it spread. The fourth day at the vets l found out she was not given water or food. Thats right no food or water in 4 days. Their office said she was being treated medicinally and not for hospitalization. Thats when i went to their office and it wasnt pretty. They said that my cat would not eat. They didnt even have her on a iv. I gave them a tab of mertazipine to give to her. In 20 minutes she was eating again. It was too late. Put her down 4 days later. In severe pain,paralized, and going in cicles. Vets are like doctors. 70% should not be in practice!!!!!

    1. 1 of our cats is 25 now, my dad found him in a puddle , alone, so my dad picked him up, put him under his jumper in his pocket and he is the same age as my son,
      He rules the house over 4 dogs who are all scared of him

      1. LOL Thx…sounds like my old Cat Professor, He ruled the Neighborhood like your kitty rules your House. Past away recently at 17.

    2. So sorry to hear about yoyr believed cat and the appalling treatnent by the vet I can’t imagine how you must have felt. I hope this cruel vet was struck off!
      Liz Frances

  5. We started the year with 16 cats (all rescues) and are down to only 12. The are all getting old at the same time. One had congestive heart failure (13 yo) and one had Feline Infections Peritonitis all his life but lived a happy and contented 14 years. We have two litter mates who are 17 and in good health and the rest are less than 12 so we hope to have them a good while. We also hope that no more kittens show up on the doorstep since we are in our 70’s and would like to outlive them all.

  6. My first cat, Tux, came to me as a kitten and was my best friend for 21 years! I got him from a used bookstore and we had three other cats that came and went, but Tux (you can guess his coloring) didn’t care what happened as long as we were together. When he went to the Rainbow Bridge, I asked my vet to find me another cat – and he found me two! Simon and Blue Max lived to be 17 and 18 respectively. All mine have been strictly indoor cats, fed on standard Purina canned food (with plenty of crunchy treats). Right now I’ve got a pair of 7-year-old twins and I hope they live forever!

  7. Pingback: What Is the Average Lifespan of a Cat? – Cats Expert

  8. My mom’s cat Taffy, a pure bred calico, lived to be 24. I was just six when Taffy was so stiff from arthritis that she could only drag herself across the floor in the kitchen to stay warm behind the refrigerator. She’d been a good mouser, but mostly she was a grabby ol’ lady to me and wouldn’t pay me much attention because I was a young whippersnapper to her, only wanting to play and she couldn’t anymore. She didn’t like it either that we had a new puppy in the family and she played circles around Taffy, who hisses and nipped at her. It was a sad day when my mom discovered that Taffy wasn’t eating and she was barely breathing. Her resting place is in the backyard of our homestead under a ever blooming Mongolia tree, which sheds leaves of the colors of her coat every Autumn.

  9. I got Trixie when she was six weeks old. She was a petite Marmalade who never got very big. I had her for 21 years. I lost her in 2006 and I still think about her every day.

  10. I have a cat that was 21 in April – ‘The Bambino’. He is in renal failure. Eating well and happy – he is monitored by his vet. Dread the day The Bambino tells me it is time for him to go.

  11. Pingback: Best Food Diabetes Cats

  12. We’ve had three rescues that lived to be 18 and 19. Two succumbed to kidney failure and one had a stroke. Needless to say we miss them very much. I recently adopted an unwanted sickly pure black kitten. With vet care, good food and lots of cuddles, she’s doing well. Hope she’ll have a long and happy kitty life.

  13. i was a wrecker driver for AAA, and had a tow with a nice older couple, it was freezing and their engine was torn up (hit a median head on), and they said they had a cat. they held a small, 6 pound little kitty they said was 23 years old. i got them all in the truck and we took off on a hundred mile tow to the end of highway 12, the outer banks, nc. being a 100% indoor kitty can literally be a life saver for him. feed moist/canned approved food (no “people” food raw or cooked), and vet physicals. play with him at least 5 minutes, twice a day–it’ll save on the ankle-biter trait. and snuggles. 6 y.o. baxter is the best feet-warmer around, and requires about 9 square feet at the bottom end of the mattress. we still miss our patches-marie, sadly left us at 17 1/2.

  14. Simon was three when his owners felt he was dangerous around their newborn infant. I had just lost Charlie a chocolate point Siamese when I adopted Simon. He came to us needing so much love. He had been rejected because of their unfounded beliefs. He was such a loving cat. He lived to 21 and would have lived longer if he didn’t have bowel disease. It has been 4 years and I still miss him.

    1. RIP, Simon.

      So glad you and Simon found each other, you giving him the love he needed and you receiving the blessing to have him. A shared life with one you love is indeed true happiness.

      Thank you for sharing your experience of Simon.

  15. We have been caretakers of the many feral cats in our small town. We moved here almost 20 years ago with our 2 cats JJ and Samantha. While Sam was beset by respiratory problems, JJ was always in good health. We began taking in feral, strays, oldsters and sickly cats. They have been spayed/neutered, vet care and fed and watered and we even built a condo for them in our yard. The cats have come and gone over the years, JJ was 17 when he went to the bridge, Sam was considerably younger. No matter how many we help there are always more. Anyone helping the strays and feral, you are doing a great job. Love them all and miss them, there will always be more. I still miss JJ to this day.

    1. May God, continue to bless you for your wonderful loving work.

      And thanks for the story which inspires me. I’m age 73 and want another Cat, my Cat died this past January, thats almost 8/months ago but, I’m still waiting to see when the right time will be to get another.

  16. During my life my family has own many cats but the oldest one was a female that my mom named “One Eye”. When she was a stray and was hit by a car when she was a kitten. When we captured her and took her to a vet she had lost one of her eyes. Despite that bad start she lived to 22 years old.

    1. So sad about her eye, but Great that you still loved her
      and made her part of your family. God works his loving miracles.
      And she also lived to a old age, she was probably happy and the love she dwelled within encouraged good health beyond average so that she lived to old age.

  17. Our two cats, a PixieBob and a Maine Coon each died from different types of cancer in their 14th year, about a year apart. I can only hope our current cats live longer. They are two brothers who are 7 years old and their mom who is about 10 months older.

  18. My Tripod made it to 19 before kidney failure made the last trip to the vet necessary. Fortunately a friend of mine took her. I was entering a homeless shelter and just couldn’t cope with seeing my precious little girl cross the Rainbow Bridge. She was the oldest pet my family and I have ever had.
    Believe me, though, my next cat will get better vet care, and I will make it a habit to brush teeth and make regular vet visits, etc.. So much has changed in cat care in her lifetime and beyond.

  19. I had two barn cats who lived to age 13. I had two indoor cats who lived to age 19. One was a Lynx-point Siamese, and the other was just a plain ol’ cat. But they were both special kitties! I lost my 12-year old Exotic Shorthair kitty last December to congestive heart failure.

  20. I lost my oldest boi last November, he was 18. He was the sweetest, most loving orange tabby. I stole him from a horse farm that I was moving my horses from. They weren’t feeding him when I got there and he was so unsocialized. I started feeding him and within a week was holding and cuddling him. When I left five years later, there was no way I was leaving him to go back to live an unloved and unfed life. So he became my number 10, and while he didn’t really care for the rest of the herd, he got along and absolutely LOVED the warmz in the winter and the ayr condishuns in the summer. >^..^<

  21. Peregrina was 19. She’d now be 54 if she hadn’t gotten oral cancer. I thought that cat would live forever. Ginger and Fred both lived to 21. Hooray! But Booger only made it to nine. He was a purebred Persian rescue, and the vet said he had genetic problems. I was devastated when he died.

    I don’t know how old Jinx was. He came from the SPCA, and when he got gastrointestinal lymphoma I was heartbroken. Cuddles made it to 15 1/2, but she got oral cancer, too.

    Isaac Isaiah was 10 and Murphy was 11. I knew I was adopting seniors with disease problems. I hope to have one and a half or two years with them, but Isaac Isaiah died of kidney failure after four months, and Murphy died of the same lymphoma as Jinx after ten months. We were not surprised, but we’d hoped for a little more time.

    1. Thats disappointing to hear of how soon Isiah and Murphy died, because I want to adopt an old senior no younger then 10years but ideally around 12years. My reason for the age is that I’m age73 so I want to make sure to outlive whatever Cat I adopt. I presume that sickness could come soon with a senior whose so old but, like you, I also hope to get years before the ill health would come.

      I have not, yet, seen a Cat that I want but I keep looking. I sure hope my experience will not be that the Cat will die so soon.

  22. My mum in law had a cat for 25 years, and it had walked into her house a fully grown cat and adopted her, he was called Bobby a huge black and white moggy. Ruled the house

  23. My oldest Cat (Brandy) lived to 22, he was half Siamese. A friends cat had a litter, and when they got old enough to adopt, I got Brandy. He’s been gone for almost 30 years and I still think of him a lot and still get tears when I think of him. I’ve had 7 cats total including Brandy. My guy now (“Tiggy” Orange Tabby, I also had his identical twin) is 15, and hope he makes it many more years. Whenever I see a doctor, I tell him/her “I don’t want to die before my CAT.”

    1. Yeah! I don’t want to die before any Cat I might adopt, that’s my worry, at my present age 73.
      ANYWAY, sure hope your Cat Tiggy lives many more years. praise God.

  24. I caught and TNR’d about a dozen cats back in 2008-9. Today there are two still remaining. With only food, water and shelter these two have survived longer than I could have imagined.

  25. Domino is a 12 year old Siamese/Tortie mix. He adopted us when he was 5 weeks old. He is a complete indoor cat. He can still make the four foot leap to the kitchen counter when there’s KFC around and I’m not. He’s still as active at 12 years as he was when he was a baby. He sees a doctor more often than I do. Despite having all his claws and teeth, he has not punctured the air mattress when he climbs on it. He lets me know it’s time for a bite of his food when he sits in front of the kitchen. Although I know all living things eventually die, sometimes I think Domino is too ornery to die before I do,

  26. Catherine D Sarginson

    My friend got two barn cat kittens for her two daughters as Christmas presents. They both lived until 22 and died with six months of each other. I have one cat right now that is 17. I adopted him with a littermate. The littermate died at 8 from cancer. You never can tell. It is like human beings. No matter how long they live you want them to live longer.

  27. Bonnie Brown McNeill

    I own a pet sitting service and had a client whose cat died over a Labor Day weekend when I was caring for her. Precious was verifiably 26 yrs. old as my client’s mother had gotten her as a kitten when she went off to college. When her mom died, she “inherited” Precious.
    Purrfect Pet Care

  28. My rescue princess Sissy is 17 years old. Her biggest health issue now is Osteoarthritis in her hips & “shoulders”. She has taken Dasuquin for this since 2011 and it has worked really well, and now she receives a Depo-Medrol shot as needed (about twice a year). She has steps and mostly she has me to help her on & off the bed, where she sleeps with me every night. Sissy loves her heated bed. Santa Claws brought her an orthopedic bed last year for Christmas. She purrfers her heated bed! She might be a little spoiled :)

  29. Pingback: Diabetes Diet Feline

  30. I have a 26 year old, that has lost a tooth or two and needs a step stool to get on the couch and bed. She has lost muscle tone, but has me at her whim. Mostly, she is still the respected queen of all 16. If a disagreement breaks out, she goes over and gives the look, and peace is back. She has never been sick, but I’m getting her a senior check up soon.

    1. yes what was her diet . I have three cats a 9year old female (formal feral) and two males 8 years old. The female rules! and she is half the size of my orange tabby Butch!

  31. great article! will you be writing about the movie that lil bub will be in starting november? “i’ll be next door for christmas” proceeds go to lil bubs’ special needs animals fund.

    1. Hi Lee,
      Thanks for reaching out! We did write about Lil Bub’s movie right here — check it out:

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