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.

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.

“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



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

  1. Kelli Christiansen

    My cat Pearl will be 27 in march 2023. She was born in my camper and lives indoors. Still going strong but slow.

    1. Our cat Elizabeth was 26. A Siamese who ran away 3 times!! Way before social media and thankfully for good people she was found each time.

  2. My cat Harley is a mix. He is an orange and white domestic short hair. He is 26 years old as of this writing (July 10, 2022). I found him in a rain puddle and fed him with an eye dropper from a tiny kitten. He thinks I'm his Mom. I'll take that any day. He is my life. He has been with me through 3 cancers, 30+ surgeries, chemo, radiation and epilepsy. I will never let him go without a fight. I pray that day never comes.

    1. Excuse me. I neglected to mention that Harley has been indoor cat since the day I pulled him from the puddle. He's loved every second. There's a catio, window perches, several cat trees, cat stairs and perches on the wall. He has it all. He wants for nothing. And STILL has bright eyes, plays with toys, goes upstairs, fights with his brothers and sisters, eats treats and meows loudly when his servant (me) doesn't snap to. :-)

  3. My cat Doc was born of a partially feral mother on a farm. I took him from his mother at approximately 8 weeks of age and socialized/tamed him and he became my companion for 24 wonderful years. Always independent. Once in a while he would grace you with jumping onto your lap and purr. I loved him so much.

  4. Years ago, I had a diluted tortie, mostly grey though. We adopted her
    for my Grandma. She was about two years old? She was my favorite and I took her in when my Grandma died. I lived at home with my parents and sister and Vimmy was loved by all. I moved to California from New York, but couldn't take the cat because my cousin, who I would be sharing an apartment, had a dog. Vimmy was about 9 at that time. After my cousin got married I was without a pet. My Mom came to visit and brought Vimmy. At age 17, Vimmy was very healthy and alert. I saw that she seemed to have something growing in her eye. It wasn't bothering her but I thought I should check it out. I went to the vet by cab. That ride was a wild one; up and down the hills so fast. I asked the driver to slow down but he wouldn't. When I got to the vet, Vimmy couldn't stand on the examining table. She kept falling over. The vet thought she had a stroke. I believe that she did given the wild ride we had in the cab. Now, she was used to riding in cars or cabs but of course not insanely wild rides. I took her home and from that time on, I had to hold her over the tub while she did her business. She lived another year but it was difficult for her. She died on Thanksgiving, 1979. I believe she would have lived longer if she hadn't had a stroke.

  5. Campbell was 17 years and 4 months old when he died. He was an indoor cat. My other 3 male cats didn't last that long. A prolapse, a hit and run, and an incompetent vet took my boys away. Now I have Belle. She turned 12 last week. She's been done and an indoor cat. And she's extremely bossy.

  6. I've had several cats over a 50+ year period. A feral stray who I've been feeding for about 3 years and had fixed/released about a year ago has recently started nervously coming inside to eat, she has sniffed around but usually goes back out soon after eating. I don't know if she will ever be at ease inside but maybe. She has let me pet her outside for over a year now. Before her I had an indoor female who simply stopped eating around 12 years old, eventually I had to have her put down, they couldn't identify the cause. But before her I had and indoor/outdoor cat who lived to almost 18 and before him another indoor/outdoor who lived to about 17.

    I understand all the reasons for keeping them indoors and some cats don't mind that (my 12 year old mentioned above) but for some I think it's unfair to keep them in. It's almost like trying to make them into something other than a cat and force them to give up their "cat life". Risks are always there but sometimes things are worth it. I've done a lot of risky things that I am glad I did… riding motorcycles for example. Even my vet (going against the mainstream) told me that cats that can go out seem to be better adjusted. So I think if you can keep them in without them seeming traumatized, that might be the best option, but if not let them be a cat and have the life they were designed for.

    I once adopted one from a shelter and he was fine in my home for a month or so but then when he started seeing other cats outside he went crazy… wanting to go out so badly. Tried a calming collar on him and "Rescue Remedy"… neither seemed to help. After a few more months he got to the point where he would not tolerate being anywhere but on a perch by one window. He would not come down for attention or even food or water. I ended up returning him and told them that he needed cat/people socializing if not going outside, and I didn't want to get another cat on the chance that he would calm down.

  7. Venetia Wright

    My cat lived till she was 27 and died of old age. Her son was 20 yrs old we live in the Isle of Man

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 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 ????

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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..

  20. 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.

  21. 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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