How Long Do Cats Live?

Jennifer Coates, DVM
Written by:
Published: August 8, 2011
How Long Do Cats Live?

Pet parents want to know how long they can expect their cats to live. The information helps with practical planning and emotional readiness. And while nobody can tell you exactly how long an individual’s lifespan will be, statistics do allow us to answer the question “How long do cats live?” in a general way.

The feline life expectancy that is quoted in reference texts varies, but a good, average figure is 10 to 15 years. Another statistic that veterinarians commonly use in practice is the following:

Cats who spend significant unsupervised time outdoors tend to survive to be about 7 years old, while indoor-only cats can be expected to live to around 14 years of age.

These numbers may seem low, but they represent an average of the lifespans of ancient, well-cared-for kitties; unfortunate individuals who died early from disease or accident; and everybody in between.

Here’s an example using a rather typical litter of four. The senior citizen of the group makes it to 18 years old, with another sibling dying from an age-related disease at a very respectable 15. So far, so good. However, one littermate succumbed to an infectious disease as a kitten and the fourth cat was killed by a car at the relatively young age of 10. If you look at the litter as a whole, they fall on the low end of that 10- to 15-year life expectancy range, despite the longevity of two of the cats.

Another way to answer the question “How long do cats live?” is to look at the different aging rates of pets and people. In other words, we can ask “How old is my cat in ‘human’ years?”

An often-quoted formula says that we should multiply a cat's actual age by five to get its age in “human” years, but this is inaccurate because cats experience their entire infancy, childhood, and a large part of their adolescence in their first year of life. A chart produced by the American Animal Hospital Association and the American Association of Feline Practitioners does a much better job of comparing human and feline life stages:

Age of Cat


Age Equivalent

0-1 month

0-1 year

2-3 months

2-4 years

4 months

6-8 years

6 months

10 years

7 months

12 years

12 months

15 years

18 months

21 years

2 years

24 years

3 years

28 years

4 years

32 years

5 years

36 years

6 years

40 years

7 years

44 years

8 years

48 years

9 years

52 years

10 years

56 years

11 years

60 years

12 years

64 years

13 years

68 years

14 years

72 years

15 years

76 years

16 years

80 years

17 years

84 years

18 years

88 years

19 years

92 years

20 years

96 years

Continue to add four years for every year a cat is fortunate enough to live past the age of 20.

The best way to maximize your cat’s life expectancy, regardless of how it is calculated, is to provide excellent nutrition, ample exercise and mental stimulation, all necessary veterinary care including preventive medicine, protection from outdoor risks, and lots and lots of love and attention.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

See Also:

Pic of the day: Old Cat With Attitude by puck90

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