Lifespan of Domesticated Cats

Picture of a British Shorthair Cat

If you’re a cat guardian and you’ve ever wondered how long you can expect your feline companion to live, it’s a good thing you’re reading this post. You’ll find all the important info on a cat’s life span below, including some of the medical problems that can affect it in a negative way.

We also included some tips on how you can make sure that your cat lives a happy, healthy, and long life. After all, that’s what we all want, right?

How Cats’ Life Span Has Changed Through the Decades

Everyone who’s ever been a cat parent knows that cats are usually expected to live for more than 12 years nowadays. But what they might not know is that back in the 70s or 80s, cats used to live to be just a little over seven years old. In 1995, their life span had already been dramatically increased, with most cats reaching the age of 9.

Twenty percent of cats in North America are estimated to be 11 or older (right now), and the expected life span of a cat nowadays is somewhere between 12 and 15.

If you take good care of your feline companion, the chances of him or her reaching the age of 20 are actually pretty good in this day and age. Some cats have lived to be as old as 38, such as a cat called Creme Puff, who used to live on a diet composed of eggs, broccoli, asparagus, coffee, and plenty of bacon.

Healthy Aging

A cat experiences several behavioral changes as he or she ages. There are also changes in the animal’s appearance, but also some that involve his or her physical health.

The whiskers of a cat that’s a little older can turn black or dark grey, and the cat’s skin may lose elasticity and become a little scaly. Your pet could also experience altered vocalizations, reduced stress tolerance, as well as a different sleep cycle.

In terms of appearance, some of the changes that you could notice range from yellow teeth to thicker nails, poorer vision, and lenticular sclerosis, which makes the cat’s pupils cloudy and blue-ish. Your feline buddy might experience a decline in his or her sense of smell and hearing and decreased mobility.

All of these changes, along with some that deal with the cat’s nervous system (such as disorientation, anxiety, or interaction changes), are not considered pathological if they start happening gradually as the cat becomes older. Ruling out disease is extremely important, however, since the aging cat needs to be as healthy as possible if you want him or her to deal with these modifications as best as possible.

Cat Years to Human Years

Since there isn’t a clear answer to the question ‘How long do cats live?’, calculating your cat’s age is a matter of math.

It’s said that a year of a cat’s life is the equivalent of seven years of a human’s life. Actually, this is a common misconception. Cats age differently compared to people.

The first two years of a cat’s life are the equivalent of about 25 years of a human’s life. That means that by the time your feline friend reaches the age of 2, he or she has already lived for a quarter of a century (according to our sense of time).

But once they get to be 2, cats age differently. Every year after roughly equals 4 human years, so that’s how cats that get to live to the age of 21 are thought to be 100 in human years.

Things that shorten a cat’s life span

Old age is something that humans and animals have to deal with as best as possible. But there are some things that can considerably shorten a cat’s life span, and we’d like to discuss them below.

First of all, cats that live outdoors are exposed to a variety of dangers that do not affect indoor cats. However, it can be quite difficult for a pet guardian to convince their feline friend to avoid going outside, especially if they have been doing it for many years. Outdoor cats are more exposed to internal and external parasites, but also dangerous infectious diseases, some of which can be passed on to humans.

Wild animals

Cats who spend the majority of their time outdoors can become the victims of larger predators. While it is true that most cats know how to stay safe and have excellent reflexes, sometimes they can be slower compared to those of big and wild animals such as racoons. A cat can even become the victim of a dog if she’s older and slower.


Some pet parents can make the mistake of thinking that a cat’s reflexes are so good that they are going to run fast and avoid a car. I’ve personally seen an accident where a cat was fatally injured, and it was a young one. Therefore, you can’t rule out this type of danger.


Both indoor and outdoor cats can have diseases, no matter if they are infectious or not. Some health problems are the result of them getting old, as we have discussed previously.

Although the overall life expectancy of cats has increased a lot over the past several years, one of the deadliest diseases that kill cats every year is cancer. It’s widely known that cancer is more common in senior animals than it is in young ones.

Although many scientific studies note that the prevalence of cancer in pets has increased in the past decade, the fact of the matter is that this has also happened because pet life expectancy has increased. However, it’s also a result of exposure to toxic substances, some of which are present in commercial pet food.

Carcinogenic substances are present in a lot of products nowadays, but a cat can also get cancer due to being exposed to a carcinogenic virus. In any case, since with this horrible disease, early diagnosis makes all the difference, you should try to take your cat to the vet at least once a year for a checkup. Twice is a lot better if your cat is older than 8.

Keeping Your Feline Companion Healthy

If your cat is a senior, try to keep an eye on your pet as best as possible. You can even perform a mini-physical examination yourself, such as checking your cat for lumps or bumps, looking at the animal’s eyes and visible mucous membranes (gums, for example). Also, look at appetite, water intake, coat quality, physical abilities, as well as grooming habits.

Make sure that you take your cat to the vet for routine vaccinations and regular checkups. Feed your cat a well-balanced diet in accordance with his or her age and make sure that your pet’s weight is within normal limits.

Engage in playtime with your cat every day, as this can help both with improving the animal’s physical and mental health. Some cats can get very depressed and bored if they don’t benefit from enough social interactions — and this is even truer for cats who don’t have a feline companion. If you know that you’re going to spend a lot of time at work, you should get two cats instead of one.

Last, but not least, the cat’s living environment needs to be as stress-free as possible. This means that the cat should always know that fresh water and food are readily available and that no other animals could get inside and put him or her in danger. Many cats hate noise, so avoid keeping them in noisy environments. If you tend to travel a lot, the best option is to get a pet sitter instead of boarding your cats.



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