Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

ADVERTISEMENT

This question, typically rephrased as, "How long will my cat (or dog, horse, chinchilla, etc.) live," is something veterinarians hear on a daily basis. Of course, nobody can tell you how long a particular individual’s life span will be, but statistics can give us a general idea of what to expect.

 

The feline life expectancy that I came up with when I was doing the research for my book, Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian, was 10 to 15 years. I averaged the somewhat disparate values I found in several reliable references to come up with these numbers. Another statistic that I commonly use in practice is that cats that spend significant unsupervised time outdoors tend to live to be about 7-years-old, while indoor-only cats can be expected to make it to around 14 years of age.

 

I can hear your howls of protest, but remember these numbers cover what we typically see across a large population. Owners invariably think of their pampered, ancient kitties and claim that these numbers are way too low, but you can’t forget to include the unfortunate ones that died early from disease or accident.

 

Here’s a good example. My kitty, Keelor, is still going strong at 17 (knock on wood). He came from a litter of four, one of whom died when he was only a few months old. His sister was euthanized just last year at 16, but his other brother died at a relatively young age (around 10, if I remember correctly) from necrotizing pancreatitis. So if you look at the litter as a whole, they will fall on the low end of that 10 to 15 year range, despite Keelor’s and Scout’s longevity.

 

The oldest cat I ever had the privilege of knowing was 25. Rosie had lived with her owners ever since she was a kitten, and they didn’t seem the boastful type, so I believed them. Plus, Rosie looked 25 when I knew her! She was a calico domestic long hair, probably a little Persian thrown in there because she had a face like an Ewok. I can still picture her fur sticking up every which way around her pursed little old lady face.

 

I was her doctor at the end of her life when she was dealing with chronic kidney failure. She probably weighed about four pounds, had no teeth, and would have walked with a cane if she could. She still had a lot of fight left in her though. We even managed to get her through a particularly nasty kidney infection with a course of imipenem (an intravenous antibiotic reserved for the worst of the worst) and bought her another six months of good quality of life. I remember her owners carrying her into the clinic on her pillow to begin this treatment. She was the queen and knew it.

 

I hope I have half of Rosie’s spunk when I’m her "age" … which would be 116 by my calculations!

 

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

 

Pic of the day: Old Cat With Attitude by puck90

 

Comments  12

Leave Comment
  • 03/23/2013 02:00pm

    So sorry to hear about your cat..i just went through it last night my cat Bonzai at 10 years old, took him to the vet twice and he could not be helped I had to make the tough decision of putting him to sleep to stop the pain.I prayed for him that God would take care of him and said my goodbyes today is the first day without him I know it will get better but it is tough thank you for your story it has encourage me. http://www.catster.com/cats/612106

  • 03/23/2013 02:02pm

    So sorry to hear about your cat..i just went through it last night my cat Bonzai as 10 years old, tool him to the vet twice and he could be helped I had to make the tough decision of putting him to sleep to stop the pain..I prayed for him that God would take care of him and said my goodbyes today is the first day without him I know it will get better but it is tough thank you for your story it has encourage me.
    http://www.catster.com/cats/612106

  • 03/23/2013 02:04pm

    So sorry to hear about your cat..i just went through it last night my cat Bonzai as 10 years old, tool him to the vet twice and he could be helped I had to make the tough decision of putting him to sleep to stop the pain..I prayed for him that God would take care of him and said my goodbyes today is the first day without him I know it will get better but it is tough thank you for your story it has encourage me.
    http://www.catster.com/cats/612106

  • My Baby Died
    01/10/2013 12:50pm

    I don't know what made Hobbs sick. He started drinking alot and eating alot of table food and his own food. He quit hunting at night and started to sleep in bed with us at night. He slowly lost weight over the summer.
    When we returned from Mexico last week he had lost so much weight in that week he was just bones.
    Over the next week he quit eating then drinking and started peeing on the floor. He got an infected mouth. I tried to feed him pedealyte by srynge but he was so far gone. He didn't groom or make any sound for the last three days. We took him to the vet and they said his organs were shutting down. We said we didn't want him to suffer and they put him to sleep. It was horrible I didn't expect the three needles to work in 30 seconds. I wasn't ready and It broke our hearts. I can't stop crying. I wish I knew what made him so sick.

    Hobbes was 14 years old. I have relationships that have lasted less time.

    Bye Hobbes - I love you!

  • 07/11/2013 10:42pm

    My cat is an outdoors cat, he's been living for about 11-13 years.. He is looking very skinny and losing weight. He usually loves treats but won't take any I offer him. He doesn't get up to come into the house he just sits at my back porch and I have to carry him in. He's eating a lot. What should I do?

  • 07/12/2013 03:23pm

    He needs to see a veterinarian for a physical exam and probably a few diagnostic tests.

  • 07/31/2013 10:43pm

    My 17 year old cat has not been eating the past few days. I took her to the vet who did blood work and said that all looked good except her kidneys may be starting to go into kidney failure. I didn't think it was at the point of being critical, that it would be a gradual thing, but she still isn't eating. He gave her a cortisone/B12 shot which seems to have had no effect. This evening she had an episode of coughing/wheezing and I convinced myself that maybe she just has a big hairball obstruction and it isn't the kidney failure thing. Besides the labwork, the vet really didn't even examine her, listen to her vitals, etc. Do you think I could be right or do you think that she is rapidly declining with the kidney disorder, coming on quickly? I don't know what to do. I know she isn't going to last for long not eating. I did buy her Pedialyte and put it in her water tonight and I tried to give her a little bit of olive oil, in case of hairball issue. Am I just deluding myself that it could just be a hairball issue? Should I take her back to the vet. Is she in pain and should I accept that it is a kidney disorder and take her to be euthanized? Does kidney failure happen suddenly like this has seemed to come one? I did just recently put her on a new flea med, Revolution. Could that have caused her issues? Could she have had heartworms and the meds killed the worms and are now killing her? What to do?

  • My quick and short story.
    08/02/2013 09:14pm

    I was at work one day when I received a phone call from my wife that my cat "Ada" was being mauled by a dog. I immediately stopped what I was doing and sped to the house. When i got there, there was a police officer and a couple of neighbors just watching my cat getting killed. I stopped the car in the middle of the street and ran as fast as I could to my cat. She was underneath an SUV while the dog had her by her thigh. The cop from what I was told had tried to mace the dog but he managed to mace my cat, a neighbor and the inside of my neighbors car. Hence the reason why supposedly they were not doing anything about the situation. I quickly reacted by grabbing hold of the dogs neck where a human's adams apple would be at, and squeezed as hard as I could with my fingers to choke it. It worked but now he wanted to attack me. At that moment my cat limped her way from underneath the SUV and I am not lying or exaggerating when I say she tried biting the dog's leg. He switched his attention back to the cat but when he did I instantly grabbed hold of his genitals and squeezed while lifting him off the ground. He squealed loudly and began running and licking his private parts. When I looked at my cat, I will never forget the look on her face. She was dying, in pain, breathing very hard and fast. Every time I tried grabbing her she cried in pain. I took off my shirt and wrapped her with it. Carried her to the car and took off to the vet. Unfortunately it was a Sunday afternoon and it was "closed". There was a car there and I figured there had to be somebody inside. I started pounding on the door as hard as I could. I kept going from the door to my car to check on my cat. The last time i did that, she had pooped on the floor and that was when I panicked. I started kicking the door and pushing against it. I was going to save my cat, even if I had to do it myself. But at that moment a lady came to the door and yelled she was going to call the cops. I yelled to please save my cat and she walked off. I thought she was calling the cops but then the veterinarian himself opened the door. I took him to the car and he quickly took her inside and gave her some pain medicine. In the end, I payed about $700 and my cat spent 3 days at the Vet before I could take her home and continue to care for her. She had broken bones, gashes all over he body and a couple puncture wounds. She survived. The vet told me that if I had not reacted quickly, she wouldve died since her body had already gone into shock, hence the poop. Also, it was a miracle he was there on a Sunday afternoon. He told me he was there performing surgery on a dog. In the end, my cat was saved. She is good and well now. Just has a bit of anxiety when loud noises happen. Or when the fan is on for some reason. But other than that, she is back to normal. As for the vet, I see him every other day since he actually eats at my restaurant now and from time to time I tell him the tab is on the house.... He has never accepted my gratitude and continues to pay his tab.

  • 08/02/2013 09:16pm

    Oh... and she is currenty 12 years old and im sure she will be living another 12 as strong as she is.

  • My cats life length
    01/22/2014 03:01pm

    That assumption about outdoor cats is wrong. My cats have been outdoor for almost 9 years.

  • 15-year old cat
    07/06/2014 05:42pm

    I'm not sure of my cat's age because I took her in when she was abandoned. She seemed to be a fairly young cat so I guessed she was about a year old when she came to me. That would make her 15 1/2 now. She has had digestive troubles her entire life and uses probiotics when she has a flair up. Recently she had another bout of vomiting which seemed worse than usual. Since then she seems to want food but will eat very little. She is losing weight. Based on the reading I've done, I suspect kidney failure. I'm taking a wait and see approach since she has been sick so often during the past 14-15 years. What do you think?

  • 07/06/2014 10:02pm

    It's impossible to say what might be going on and what could be done to help without an exam and probably some lab work.

Meet The Vets