A sad orange ginger cat being held by a human.
A sad orange ginger cat being held by a human. Photography ©Dovapi| iStock / Getty Images Plus.

How Long Do Cats Live? Facts About the Average Cat Lifespan

How long do cats live? How long do indoor cats live? What about the life expectancy for an outdoor cat? And what factors play into how long a cat lives? Let's talk about cat lifespan here.
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“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. What did Chesterfield have in mind? How long do cats live, on average?

What are the facts on the lifespan of a cat? Here at Catster, we’ve done the research on the average cat lifespan and have all the information you need to answer the question, “How long do cats live?” 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.

How long do cats live? The average lifespan of a cat varies depending on many different factors.
How long do cats live? The average lifespan of a cat varies depending on many different factors. Photography ©sjallenphotography | Thinkstock.

So, how long do cats live? What is the average lifespan of a cat?

How long do cats live? Environment, maintenance, health, and whether the cat is spayed or neutered — all of these factors matter when thinking about the life expectancy of a cat. 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 up to 20 cat 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.

Cat breed is certainly a factor when it comes to answering the question, “How long do cats live?” We could list out the lifespan of each cat 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 our list of purebred and hybrid cat breeds.

When answering, “How long do cats live?” 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.

What if they’re indoor cats?

When it comes to the question “How long do 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.

Related: 5 Reasons to Adopt a Senior Cat

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.

How long do cats live — if they’re outdoor cats?

A number of challenges tend to limit the average cat lifespan of an outdoor cat. Of course, “outside” means different things depending on where a cat lives and when we’re answering “How long do cats live?”

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 into cat 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.

An elderly woman with her cat.
How long can cats live? Photography by Ramon Espelt Photography / Shutterstock.

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 when it comes to answering “How long do cats live?”

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.

Related: How to Increase Cat Life Expectancy

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.

Tell us: How long have your cats lived? 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 and memories in the comments!

Featured photo: Photography ©Dovapi| iStock / Getty Images Plus.

This post was originally published in 2017. 

Read Next: How to Calculate A Cat’s Age in Cat Years



245 thoughts on “How Long Do Cats Live? Facts About the Average Cat Lifespan”

  1. Earnest was an outdoor cat ,we had to have him put to sleep at the young age of 25 .
    He was found with a litter of kittens dumped in a Puddle left to drown most had died .
    He had been electrocuted twice after going into the local substation 250'000 volts presumably going after birds ( he didn't learn the first time ! ) Apparently he had caught fire & was quite charcoaled with no fur left & ears half the size.
    I never forget watching something unrecognisable trying to walk up the yard.
    He made a very good recovery & made the local press .
    After all this he lived a long life afterwards being loved .
    He has an engraved stone in the garden where he now forever sleeps.
    Purr in peace our Earnest

  2. I had one boy live until 23, he was indoors at night, but allowed to roam free in the day… my current boy is 19, he lives in a fully enclosed back yard, access to garden etc., but comes in at night.

  3. My 3 indoor cats are 21,20 and 18 and still enjoying life i hope they live for many more years I’ve had them all from kittens, they still find the energy to annoy each other too lol they have there own bedroom at home so enjoy the lazy life watching the birds and eating 😄

  4. My cat is a indoor outdoor cat she’s 13 years old. She would rather be outside then inside. In the winter she’s mostly an indoor cat.

  5. John F Rosenburg

    My cat, Taffy is going to be 21 this year!! I’m starting to think maybe he’s related to CremePuf the cat from Austin, TX. Taffy is a southern cat also, coming up to New York from Arkansas.

  6. Rachael Strahan

    I had an indoor/outdoor cat that lived to be 26! In the last couple years of her life, she went deaf and then blind.

  7. Hi,

    I’ve been trying to find concrete data on studies regarding outdoor cat life expectancy. I hear the ‘3 years’ number a lot, and here you used 3-30, but I haven’t been able to find any academic or otherwise scientific data on how these numbers are obtained.

    When you researched, did you find any sources you could share? Or if you conducted the studies yourselves, can you tell me more of it, about the methodologies used, length of the study, and so on?

    Thank you, and thank you for the article!

  8. My purebred Bombay is currently 21 years and 4 months – an indoor cat still enjoying life, albeit at a more sedate pace now! He has arthritis but still manages to get upstairs and jump on my bed each morning! He is now blind in one eye but it doesn’t seem to impede him at all. Loves lying in the sun and follows it round during the day. I owned his litter mate and he lived until he was 16 – a good age for a purebred cat.

  9. My previous indoor cat lived to be 20 and was healthy and active until the last two months of her life. Her mother was an outdoor cat and lived to be 21 years old! By outdoors I mean that she never came in the house but had regular meals, attention, vet care, flea/worm treatments and shelter to get out of the weather when she wanted. I think it’s impossible to really compare outdoor vs indoor lifespans because there is such a difference between a cat truly fending for itself and one that is cared for outside.

  10. I have had a formerly outdoor cat now for 6 years. When she introduced herself to me, she was already grey and long in the tooth. My neighbor who had been living in the house next to mine said she had been a community cat for the entire 17 years he had lived in the house. Except for 1 exceptionally cold winter she had lived outside the entire time.

  11. My calico Marigold lived to be 21 years 2 months. She suffered a stroke at which point I had the vet put her down. She was the oldest cat I’ve ever had. However the majority of the other cats I’ve had lived 15 + years.

  12. Terrie Lynn Balmer

    My part Maine Coon girl, Duchess, lived for 20 years and 7 months.. She crossed over to the Rainbow Bridge in February 2019.

    I have since adopted another part Maine Coon boy, and he’s currently 9 years old..

  13. I have a calico who is approx. 16 1/2 to 17 yrs old. The previous owner did not give me her birthdate. I have lived in an apartment for 8 1/2 yrs with a living room that opens onto a courtyard, which she loves. Ms Gabby & I are growing old together as I am 71. I’ve noticed she has started sleeping more. The vet she saw recently did bloodwork & had to pull a tooth that was broken. She asked me if Gabby had been drinking normally and urinating normally. As far as I could tell, she was. The bloodwork indicated a possible problem in the future with her kidneys. I keep her litter box in my bathroom. So I can tell that she is or is not urinating enough. But, how many xs per day should a normal cat pee? or poop? The one thing that prompted me to search for is that her hair has started coming out. I did read the article on here regarding hair loss. I would certainly like some feedback.

    1. Cats lose hair most commonly due to allergies, parasites (like fleas or ringworm), stress, and sometimes pain (licking the sore spot). Thyroid issues can also cause hair loss. Your best bet is to ask your vet for help. You may just need to change food or even fabric softener. Thyroid issues are usually fixed with an inexpensive pill. If your current vet hasn’t answered your questions, get a second opinion.

  14. My Lucifer was 22 and I don’t know how long he would have lived had I not put him down. His arthritis was so bad he couldn’t even bend his legs anymore and was almost totally blind. We build a set of stairs so he could still get up onto my lap where he spent most of his day. I never even minded cleaning up after him when he couldn’t make it to the litter box in time because I knew he tried but just couldn’t move fast enough, but the day he fell off the coffee table and just lay stunned on the floor I knew his quality of life was gone. It was selfish of me to let him suffer because I couldn’t give him up. I cried harder when I had to put him down then when any other member of my family has died. He’s buried up at my cabin with his own granite headstone that says he left paw prints on my heart.

    1. My two cats as of 20th October 2020 are 20 years old they where born on 4th October 2000 they are healthy and go out regularly… and are still fairly active although they dk tend to sleep a lot ????????

      1. Aww awesome. My cat Oliver also turned 20 October 2020. I don’t know the exact day in October he was born. ????

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