How long do cats live?

How Long Do Cats Live on Average?

February 5, 2014

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The question “how long do cats live on average” is one that is asked by many people choosing a pet. With improvements in nutrition and veterinary care as well as better vaccines and medicines, cats are living longer than ever. Living to 15 years is quite normal today, with many cats living to 20 years and more. The oldest known cat was born in 1967 and passed away in 2005 at the amazing age of 38 years.

How long do cats live is often related  to whether they spend their time indoors or outdoors. Indoor cats usually avoid a lot of the traumas associated with outdoor cats such as road accidents and dog attacks, and they are much less susceptible to viruses like feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukaemia that are often spread by contact or fighting with other cats.

How long do cats live – Factors that influence life expectancy

  • The breed of your cat
  • Your cat’s physical condition
  • Any hereditary conditions
  • Your cat’s diet
  • Quality of veterinary care
  • Your cat’s lifestyle – indoors or outdoors

Keeping your cat indoors should certainly increase it’s life expectancy and will certainly decrease the risk of trauma and injury from road accidents or fighting with other animals. However a supervised mix of indoor and outdoor activity, with outdoor activity restricted by fencing or an enclosure, can provide stimulation and environmental enrichment that can enhance a cat’s general mental and physical well-being.

How can you keep your cat fit and healthy?

There are many things you can do to assist your cat to live a happy and fulfilled life, particularly in its twilight years.

  • Observe your cat:
    • Keeping a keen eye on your cat’s behaviour and demeanour is essential, so that you can quickly pick up any changes in its behaviour or general well-being.
    • Conducting regular physical examinations yourself (ask your vet about this) will also help you to pick up early signs of trouble.
    • Always be on the lookout for changes in fluid intake, eating and appetite, coat and grooming, lumps or bumps, breathing and coughing, physical dexterity and toilet habits.
  • Routine vaccinations: These are critical in ensuring your cat stays healthy and happy. You should also give it regular parasite (worms and fleas) treatment.
  • Regular check-ups at your vet should include a comprehensive physical examination
  • Ensure good dental care: Unhealthy teeth and gums can have a detrimental impact on a cat’s general well-being and if left untreated can lead to pain and infection. Bacteria from unhealthy teeth and gums can move to other organs (eg liver and kidneys) which, in the worst case, could cause organ failure.
  • Ensure your cat enjoys a well-balanced diet that accords with its age and condition
  • Ensure your cat maintains a healthy weight range for its age and condition
  • Regular exercise is important: Encourage your cat to have a regular time for play – once again matched to its age and physical ability
  • Providing a stress-free environment for your cat ie free of loud noise or sudden trauma – will help it to live longer

What happens as your cat gets older?

A cat’s ageing process will directly affect the question “how long do cats live for”, and as a cat ages you will  notice several physical and behavioural changes, so understanding your cats ageing process is important. These are changes you may notice:

  • The immune system is less able to fight off viruses and infections.
  • The skin will become thinner and less elastic and, with blood circulation reduced, will be more prone to infection.
  • Grooming will become less frequent which can result in matted hair, skin odour and inflammation.
  • The claws may become overgrown and brittle and will need clipping more often.
  • Poor hearing or loss of hearing is not uncommon in older cats.
  • Eyes can become hazy but this is not usually serious unless other conditions like high blood pressure are also present.
  • Tooth and gum disease is quite common in older cats and can cause significant pain and eating problems.
  • A loss of appetite or reluctance to eat is also not uncommon. This can be caused by discomfort in the teeth and gums or a decreased sense of smell.
  • A cat’s kidneys will often undergo changes that could lead to impaired kidney function or ultimately failure. It is important to keep an eye out for changes as early detection and treatment will provide a better quality of life.
  • Arthritis is not uncommon in older cats. A cat with arthritis will usually groom less and may not appreciate a pat near its hindquarters.
  • Other conditions that are more prevalent as cats age are:
    • Hyperthyroidism (often results in over-activity)
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Diabetes
    • Bowel inflammation
    • Cancer
  • Just as with humans, changes in a cat’s brain as it ages can lead to symptoms of senility like wandering, excessive meowing, disorientation and avoidance of social interaction.

In general, answering the question “how long do cats live?”, will depend on their environment and if yours is an indoor cat, it is highly likely that you and your cat will live together for a long time, which means it could be around for 15-20 years of love and companionship. Wanting to know how long do cats live for is all part of pet ownership, as a bond between a cat and its owner is something that only a cat-lover will ever understand so protecting your cat and keeping it happy and healthy can only mean one thing – a longer life together!


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