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September 8, 2021 |0 min read

What Is the Average Lifespan of a Cat?

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Anyone who has ever loved a cat can tell you that each one has its own distinct personality. Jinx is sly and mischievous; Bonnie is rough-and-tumble; Cookie is a total lovebug. And just like their differences in disposition, cats can have varied lifespans based on a variety of factors.

Generally speaking, cats live between 10-20 years, with the average cat age being around 16 years. But if you’re a nervous pet parent wondering about Jinx, Bonnie, or Cookie, you might want more information about how long you can expect your furry friend to stick around and what you can do to prolong your cat’s lifespan.

In this blog, we’ll be answering what is the average lifespan of a cat by discussing the factors that affect lifespan and how addressing their needs can aid in your cat’s longevity. 

Estimating Cats’ Age in Human Years

Have you ever heard that every single cat year is the equivalent of seven human years?

The old “7 years” rule of thumb is somewhat of an oversimplification, but there are handy charts for determining your cat’s “human” age.

After the kitten (0-6 months) and junior (6 months to 2 years) phases, here is a general idea of the stages of your cat’s life and the human ages that coincide with them:

  • Prime – 3 to 6 years or 28 to 40 in human years
  • Mature – 7 to 10 years or 44 to 56 in human years
  • Senior – 11 to 14 years or 60 to 72 in human years
  • Super Senior – 15+ years or 76+ in human years

As you know, some people pass away before they become eligible for senior citizen discounts, while some thrive into their 80s, 90s, and beyond. And just like humans, cats’ potential to live out their golden years depend on a number of environmental and lifestyle factors. 

Next, we’ll take a closer look at the biggest lifestyle difference of them all—where a cat spends their time.

Pets vs. Community or Feral Cats

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you are the pet owner of a cat or you’re a hopeful owner doing their research (good work!). 

Still, it’s helpful to know the difference between cats who are pets and cats who don’t have owners, known as community cats. 

Pet Cats’ Lifespan

Pet cats have different lives and life spans based on whether they stay inside all the time, are always outside, or experience some combination of the two environments. 

  • Indoor cats – The average lifespan of an indoor cat is 12-18 years, generally speaking, but they can live even longer. They are safer from environmental factors such as traffic, predators, and disease.
  • Outdoor cats – Outdoor cats are exposed to many more risks than their indoor counterparts. This cat’s life expectancy is around 2-5 years. Urban and suburban areas tend to be riskier because of high traffic. Still, rural areas can also pose a great risk to outdoor cats due to the presence of predators such as bobcats, coyotes, and even owls.
  • Indoor-outdoor cats – Indoor-outdoor cats are exposed to less risk than all-outdoor cats but more than all-indoor cats. It’s important to determine what is right for your cat based on where you live and your cat’s needs and abilities. A cat is pretty much always safer inside than it is outside.

white and gray cat in brown cardboard box

Community Cats’ Lifespan

Like outdoor cats with owners, community cats have a lifespan of about 2-5 years. These cats vary from strays who are lost or have been abandoned to somewhat friendly semi-ferals to ferals who want no human contact. Community cats are exposed to many of the same risks as outdoor cats in addition to the harshness of the elements. 

People who work in TNR (trap, neuter, release) programs help give these cats some of the same benefits of outdoor pets.

The Role of Veterinary Care in Lifespan

Another differentiating factor between indoor pets and outdoor community cats is access to regular veterinary care.

Visiting the doctor can be stressful for us humans. Likewise, cats aren’t generally at their most pleased when it comes time to be placed in the carrier and brought to the veterinarian. But we all—kitties included—need trusted health professionals in our lives to help us get and stay well.

Next, we’ll look at a few essential veterinary services.

Spay/Neuter

Community cats are far from the only ones who benefit from being spayed or neutered.

Getting your cat “fixed” is one of the best ways to help them live a long life.

Besides eliminating nuisance behaviors like spraying and yowling, here are some ways that the procedure positively impacts your cat’s health:

  • Lower cancer risk – Intact males are at risk for testicular cancer, but male neutered cats simply aren’t. Female cats who have been spayed have a much lower risk of reproductive diseases such as uterine or mammary gland cancers.
  • Less roaming – Cats who are neutered or spayed have a much lower desire to roam in order to find a mate. Less roaming means less risk of your indoor/outdoor cat getting lost and potentially ending up in an accident involving a vehicle.
  • Less fighting – Cats looking to mate have sort of a one-track mind, meaning their safety might not be a priority. Male cats in particular will fight over a female cat, biting and scratching one another without mercy. These kinds of injuries can lead to infections that can make your cat seriously ill when he comes home.
  • Overall longer life – Studies have shown an incredible increase in cat lifespan in those who have been spayed or neutered. Neutered males live 62% longer than unneutered cats, and spayed females live 39% longer than unspayed cats.

Regular Check-ups

Cats can hide symptoms of illness incredibly well.

That’s why it’s important to schedule regular visits to the vet. Taking on the responsibility of caring for a pet is a big deal, and it does cost money. As we continue to recognize how important animal companions are (a quarter of U.S. households own at least one cat!), there are more and more options for getting them the care they need and staying within budget. 

For example, many cities offer low-cost clinics. Pet insurance is also an option, and so are health-monitoring technologies that can help you save on emergency visits to the vet.

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Supporting General Health as a Pet Parent

Besides keeping your cat indoors and going to the vet, there are two additional ways you can impact your cat’s health at home every day: diet and exercise. 

Next, we’ll cover best practices for cat people.

A Well-Rounded Diet

Cats need protein in their diet, and they should ideally get it from food that’s not packed with grains. It’s important to find a food that meats your cat’s needs. PrettyLitter cat food is filled with 24 essential vitamins and nutrients formulated to keep cats healthy, energetic, and strong. Additionally, establishing a twice-a-day eating schedule can help your cat maintain a healthy weight. A good diet helps your cat avoid serious health problems associated with obesity such as:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Joint issues
  • Bladder problems

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise can help cats keep off weight and lead to overall better health. And what’s more fun than watching our feline friends get silly? Here are some ideas for exercise disguised as playtime:

  • Cat toys – If your cat is the type who will actually play with something you buy them, congratulations! Different cats respond to different types of toys. Some like feathers, others like bells. Some like crinkly catnip-filled mice, and others prefer plastic balls they can bat around.
  • Laser pointers – There’s simply something entrancing about that glowing red dot. Where’d it go!?
  • Scratching posts and tunnel structures – If you have the space, a place where your cat can run around and get out all that pent-up energy is a great way for them to get their exercise.
  • Leaves – Really! Outdoor and indoor-outdoor cats can find crunchy fall leaves to be very enticing. A twig with brown leaves still attached? The perfect improvised toy for getting your kitty to chase after you in the backyard. If playing in a leaf pile, make sure there’s nothing under the surface of the leaves that your cat could hurt themselves on, like a pointy stick.
  • The classic paper bag/box – Did you buy something for your cat that they ended up having no interest in? There’s a good chance you’ll find them peeking out from its box or diving into the paper sack and sliding around the kitchen floor. Oh, cats!

PrettyLitter: Helping Cat Owners Monitor Health for a Better, Longer Life

You love your cat and obviously want the best for them. You’ve read about many ways you can impact their lives for the better and do your part as an owner to ensure those lives are as long as possible—keeping them inside, getting them fixed, scheduling regular vet appointments, and providing them with a healthy diet and lots of playtime. 

You might be wondering, Is there anything more I can do? The answer is yes!

Did you know that there’s an easy way to monitor your cat’s health through their litter? Well, there is. 

PrettyLitter is designed to improve the lives of both you and your cat. This silica litter changes color based on the pH levels and other indicators in your cat’s urine. By monitoring your cat’s litter box for changes, you can act quickly before a potential health problem becomes serious. 

PrettyLitter also eliminates odors and only needs to be changed once a month. Learn more about PrettyLitter here and be on your way to giving your cat a better, longer life.

Sources: 

International Cat Care. How To Tell Your Cat’s Age in Human Years. https://icatcare.org/advice/how-to-tell-your-cats-age-in-human-years/ 

PetHelpful. A Pet’s Life Expectancy. https://pethelpful.com/pet-ownership/Pet-Life-Expectancy-The-Lifespans-of-Popular-Pets 

Humane Society. Why You Should Spay-Neuter Your Pet. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/why-you-should-spayneuter-your-pet 

Banfield Pet Hospital. State of Pet Health 2013 Report. https://www.banfield.com/Home/pet-health/State-of-pet-health

American Veterinary Medical Association. U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/us-pet-ownership-statistics 

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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