How Long Do Cats Live? A Guide to Your Furry Companion’s Best Life

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12 min read
12 min read

Updated - Apr 5th, 2024

Key points
  • A cat’s average lifespan is typically 13–17 years, depending on the breed.
  • Genetics are only one factor in your cat’s lifespan; diet and regular health checks are important for a long, healthy life, too.
  • Staying ahead of common illnesses and creating a positive home environment can help your cat live life to the fullest.

Whether you’ve just welcomed a new kitten into your home or you’re considering adopting a cat, you probably have wondered where they are in their nine lives. In other words, how long will your cat live?

Even though we know that the myth of nine lives is too good to be true, every cat owner hopes that their feline friend will live (at least) one very long and healthy life. While some of this comes down to genetics, there’s a lot you can do to ensure that your cat lives their life to the fullest.

So what should you expect in terms of the feline lifespan, and how can you keep your cat purring in contentment at every stage of their life? We’ve put together this guide to answer those questions and more. Keep reading to learn how proper nutrition, regular vet visits, and plenty of love can boost your feline’s chances of a longer, healthier existence. 

Let the purrs begin.

How long do cats live?

Ask an expert how long cats live, and they’ll probably tell you 13–17 years. But this is just an average across cat species. Believe it or not, some felines defy the odds and cruise past their 20th birthdays with grace.

Factors that affect cat lifespan

There are a few reasons why the average lifespan range for cats is so wide. Let’s consider the factors that affect your cat’s longevity.

  • Genetics: Just like humans, cats’ genes play a role in how gracefully they age. Some cat breeds have hit the genetic jackpot, inheriting traits that protect against vulnerabilities. If your feline is a Burmese or Siamese, she’s likely to live longer than cats of other breeds.
  • Health care: Prioritizing regular check-ups, vaccinations, and immediate attention to health issues is a no-brainer. It’s not just about how many years your furry family member has, but also the quality of those years. Catching any health hiccups early with regular check-ups means more cuddles and belly rubs.
  • Diet: Along with attention to ‌health care, a purr-fectly balanced diet and plenty of hydration can add an extra spring to their step. Sprinkle in some treats (not too many, though) and your feline companion will stay in tip-top shape.

Indoor cats vs. outdoor cats

While many cats are content lounging on the couch, these little hunters have a natural urge to explore the outdoors. Not every cat owner has access to a safe outdoor space, though, and you might wonder: do indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats?

While letting your feline outside to chatter at the birds and run with the butterflies sounds like a great idea in terms of cuteness factor, the outdoor lifestyle is not without its dangers. The truth is that outdoor cats have a shorter average lifespan than indoor cats. From exposure to predators and disease to the risk of car traffic, today’s cats face old risks and new ones every time they venture outside.

That’s not to say that your cat can’t go outside, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re concerned about longevity. A cozy indoor environment with a consistent diet and plenty of play can be just as enriching as letting your cat outdoors, with fewer threats to their health.

What are the different life stages for cats?

A timeline displays the stages of a cat's lifespan: Kitten (birth to one year), Young Adult (1-6 years), Mature Adult (6-10 years), Senior (10+ years)

Your tiny kitten has a lot of life to live, and each stage will come with its own joys and challenges. Understanding your cat’s life stages will help you be a better pet parent. It’s not unlike caring for a growing human — except for the first year of a cat’s life, which is equal to about 15 human years.

Kitten (0-1)

During a kitten’s first year of life, it’s all systems go. Your tiny furball will undergo rapid growth and development in this stage. While playtime rules the day, this period is also important for learning, training, and socializing your kitten. The latter helps to ease their fear of new places and people (and other furry companions), and is more easily done early in your cat’s life.

Another thing to keep in mind if you have kittens at home: Ask your vet about vaccinations. An experienced professional will know which shots are vital to keeping your kitten safe and healthy.

Young adult (1-6)

After age one, your cat transitions into their young adult years, which will last through age six. Think of your young cat as a teenager —  they’ve got an eye for exploration and a tendency to cause mischief. They might be growing bigger and more mature, but they’ll still need a little training to discourage countertop catwalks and 4 a.m. serenades. Keep reinforcing positive behaviors as they test their boundaries.

It’s important to check with your vet about your feline’s dietary needs during this period. They need fuel to continue growing, but you don’t want them tipping the scale, as obesity in cats is associated with more health problems as they age.

Mature adult (7-10)

All that teenage energy mellows out during the mature adult stage. Instead of pouncing on imaginary prey, you’ll find your furry family member lounging luxuriously in the sun or on their favorite perch.

But don’t be misled by their relaxed demeanor. Cats have a knack for hiding discomfort, so any subtle change in their day-to-day routines could reveal underlying health issues. Now’s the time to keep a close eye on any changes in your cat’s appetite, behavior, or litter box habits.

Senior (10+)

Your once-rambunctious fur baby has now entered cat retirement. Expect lots of lounging on your lap and hours of bird-watching. 

Aging this gracefully will require some nutritional changes. You should visit the vet more frequently during your cat’s golden years, and remember to ask for diet recommendations to benefit joint health and digestion. Both are key factors in your senior cat’s quality of life.

How can I boost my cat’s longevity? 

Two senior cats, shown with glasses and grandparent accessories

Just like humans, a cat’s lifestyle will impact their health and how long they live. Finding the right diet and environment for your fur baby could be the key to their longevity, so keep these tips in mind as you care for your cat.

Feed your cat properly

Food is fuel, so quality matters. You have probably heard the tail-twitching debate over dry food vs. wet food. While there are pros and cons to both, the ingredients are what matter most. 

As a pet parent, you want to be sure your cat is getting the right nutrients and plenty of hydration. You should check with your vet to make sure you’re on the right track, but in general, your cat’s food should contain lean proteins, essential fatty acids, and a blend of vitamins and minerals. 

Provide play time and exercise

Cats are hunters by nature, and toys that mimic prey (think laser pointers and feather wands) challenge your furry companion both mentally and physically. With each play session, you’re keeping their reflexes sharp and their muscles toned.

There’s an emotional element to play, too. Human-cat play sessions not only help you bond, but also provide a sense of security and safety for your cat.

Cat-proof your home

Illustration of cats in a home with knocked-over items, showing why you should cat proof your home

We all know that cats are curious. Think of your home as a giant playground for a very inquisitive toddler (but with a tail). Cat-proofing is going to be key. 

When preparing to open your home to a cat or kitten, make sure to:

  • Remove access to small items that can be ingested (like loose rubber bands or hair ties). 
  • Secure heavy items that could topple over (like floor lamps or shelving). 
  • Tie back anything that swings (think cords on window blinds), or find a less tempting alternative.
  • Don’t forget about household items that are toxic for your feline (like chocolate, onions, and certain plants).

Stress less

Even the most aloof of cats can pick up on their human’s bad mood. Unfortunately, we can’t remove all of our stress with a wave of a wand (or a belly rub). What cat owners can do is maintain a consistent routine for feeding and playtime amid life’s chaos. This will provide your cat with a sense of comfort when they need it most.

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups

Even though this is last on our list, routine veterinary visits shouldn’t be an afterthought. Annual check-ups and vaccines are crucial for keeping your cat healthy. Remember, cats are masters of hiding pain, so having a trained vet look them over once a year will help you get a better sense of their health.
Signing up for pet insurance can be a smart decision for your cat’s years to come.

Pumpkin Pet Insurance plans make it easier to afford a vet visit if your cat gets sick or hurt. And on a good day, knowing you’re prepared for any unexpected health issues provides you with peace of mind, which is priceless.

Do certain cat breeds have longer lifespans?

There’s no doubt that each breed (and individual cat) is unique. If you were to read their paws like palms, certain cat breeds would have a longer life line than others. For instance, you’ll find Siamese, Burmese, Manx, and Savannah cats counting more candles on their birthday cakes.

Why? It seems that these breeds won the genetic lottery. But, mixed-breed cats (like American Domestics) also have the advantage of genetic diversity, which protects them from certain diseases that can be passed down their bloodline. Some of the longest-living cats on record were likely mixed-breeds.

Take Creme Puff, a regular old cat from Texas, as a record-breaking example. She lived to the ripe age of 38 years and 3 days, until she passed away in 2005. She’s still the reigning champ in the Guinness Book of World Records, though.

As for the current oldest living cat, that honor goes to Flossie, a British tortoiseshell cat. She will be celebrating her 28th birthday in December 2023 and is approximately 120 human years old!

What are common health issues for cats?

Keeping an eye on your cat’s health is one of the best things you can do to give them a long and healthy life. It’s a big responsibility, but with the help of a trusted vet, you’ll be better prepared to detect and respond to any health hiccups your cat may face.

Purchasing pet insurance can also help you prepare for illnesses that may occur as your cat ages. You might not want to think about your healthy cat getting sick someday, but it’s wise to consider insurance before you’re hit with the vet bills.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common health issues that affect cats as they age.

  1. Diabetes

Unfortunately, cats can get diabetes, too. Some of the symptoms of diabetes in cats include endless slurps at the water bowl, more frequent trips to the litter box, or losing weight (without an extra kitty workout). 

Consistent vet checks can help you determine if your cat is having trouble breaking down sugars. Insulin shots might be needed, but you can also prevent and manage cat diabetes with a balanced diet. 

  1. Urinary tract infection (UTI)

This nasty bacterial infection can make it difficult for your cat to pee. Male cats tend to develop this issue more than females, but any cat could face this painful condition as they age.

If you notice any yowling mid-pee, spots of red in the litter box, or frequent and short visits to the litter box, your furry companion may have a UTI. Catching it early can save your cat a world of discomfort, and some felines may need a special diet if they’re prone to UTIs. To help prevent this infection, make sure your cat has access to plenty of fresh water and a clean litter box.

  1. Upper respiratory issues

Sniffles, sneezes, and coughs aren’t just for us. Your cat can get a cold that turns their nose into a mini-faucet. If this happens, try to keep them away from your other feline family members (if you have them). 

Upper respiratory infections in cats are usually caused by Feline Herpesvirus and Feline Calicivirus, so an early vaccination can do wonders to protect your cat from the sniffles.

  1. Dental disease

Your cat’s bad breath might be more than just last night’s tuna dinner. Cat-safe dental treats can help keep their breath fresh and prevent dental diseases — or, if you’re feeling daring, you can try to clean your cat’s teeth with a special toothbrush and toothpaste (ask your vet for recommendations).

Dental diseases like gingivitis can lead to worse issues than bad breath, though. Bleeding gums, difficulty picking up and chewing food, and irritability can make your furry pal uncomfortable and unhappy. If this is an issue for your cat, your vet might suggest regular dental check-ups, too.

  1. Cancer

No one wants to talk about the big C, but we have to mention it. Unfortunately, your cat could develop age-related diseases, and cancer is a relatively common one. Keep an eye out for any mysterious lumps or bumps, unexpected weight loss, or changes to your cat’s behavior that can’t be explained by their age.

This is another reason to maintain regular vet check-ups. Your vet will be able to spot something that you might miss, and we know that early detection is key for successful treatment

Always trust your gut, and when in doubt, don’t hesitate to take your furry family member to the vet. Regardless of the ailment, it’s all about catching curveballs early so your cat can continue living life to the fullest.

Do cats live longer if they have a feline companion?

Two purring felines can mean double the joy and possibly longer lifespans for both. Having a companion often leads to more physical activity and mental stimulation. 

Sounds good, right? Just make sure you introduce your furry friends slowly and carefully. It may take them some time to adjust, and you don’t want a catfight on your conscience.

Ensuring a happy and healthy life for your cat

Pumpkin plans are available to all cat breeds, and never reduce or decline as your pet ages.

Being a pet parent, you’re no stranger to the fuzzy joy that comes with having a cat at home. Providing them with the care they need for a long, healthy life is a great way to say “thank you.” 

Regular vet visits, a nutritious diet, and a safe environment are the cornerstones to ensuring your fur baby lives the healthiest life possible. Keep the purrs rolling in with active play and, of course, an abundance of love.

And, for an extra safety net, consider Pumpkin Pet Insurance plans. Because, really, every purr matters.

Pumpkin Team

Pumpkin Team

Passionate Pet Experts & Parents
We are a team of writers, designers & product developers who all double as passionate (ok, obsessive) nerds of the pet world.
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