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How Long Do Cats Usually Live? The Lifespan of Felines

Updated on June 3, 2013

The lifespan of the average house cat depends on many factors: breed, diet, lifestyle, and whether the cat is an indoor or an outdoor cat. While nobody can say definitively how long any particular cat may live, here are some general guidelines that may help you determine how long your particular cat may make it.

Note: I've been an owner of cats my entire life and have had a couple live more than 20 years - and those were outdoor cats for much of their lives. However, I suspect their extended lifespan was also due to them becoming mostly indoor cats for the latter half of their lives.


Indoor Cats (12-14 Years)

Keeping your cat indoors is the best thing you can do for them to live and long and healthy life. Additionally, having them spayed or neutered and taking them for regular visits to the vet also help. Indoor cats usually get plenty of exercise, so that should not be a concern. The reason that indoor cats live so much longer than outdoor cats has to do with exposure to disease, other animals, and the general risk of being outdoors.


Outdoor Cats (3-4 Years)

It's not uncommon for cat owners to argue for the importance of letting their cats roam outdoors. After all, the domestic house cat is related to much larger wild cats who are hunters and hunting can only be done outside. However, cats are perfectly content inside. It is a rare cat who demands to be let outside (and I've owned them). Usually though, a cat who is kept inside is happy and doesn't need to go out.

If you decide to let your cat outside, just know that not only will you lower its life expectancy, you expose it to many other elements that will raise your cost of ownership. Consistent vet visits are absolutely necessary with an outdoor cat. The lower life expectancy of outdoor cats is due to this exposure. Sadly, in my day, many of my outdoor cats were hit by cars and this problem undoubtedly leads to the sharp decline in life expectancy.

Feral Cats (2-3 Years)

Feral or stray cats have the shortest life expectancy of the common house cat. They are subject to much exposure and are often sick in some way when they are captured and brought into shelters. Shelters are often forced to euthanize feral cats due to that disease. Having never visited a vet, these cats carry all sorts of nasty bugs that can be transmitted to other cats.

The short life expectancy of the feral cat should be a warning to cat owners who choose to let their cats outside as those cats experience much of the same exposure.


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  • profile image

    Hannah102395 5 years ago

    My cat is 15 years old and has no sign of dying anytime soon!

  • hildred profile image

    hildred 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

    My family is lucky that they've never had an outdoor cat(that reached maturity, as one of our old females used to abandon her kittens all the time) that didn't live past 10, minus one (mine, of course!) But it also has to do with the fact we live out in the countryside away from roads. Most of our outdoor cats eventually died from being hit =( The one that died at five contracted FIV from a feral cat.

    Only one of our four cats (two are mine) now insists on being outside. And at over 10 years old herself I'm fairly sure she'll never change. The others would love to be indoor cats if my mother would let them. Sadly, my mother is incredibly prejudiced agaisnt having cats in the house for whatever reason. When I have my own place to keep my cats, they'll have to be content with a fenced in balcony or the sunshine through the window, dangit.

  • Carol Petretti profile image

    Carol Petretti 6 years ago from California

    We adopted two feral kittens that arrived in our yard and 1 other kitty that showed up. One of the kittens choose to come in the house, the other does it kicking and screaming. After 9 years, the now fully adult cats when outside,stay near the house,come when called, are never let out at night, and are always in when we are not home. The third kitty has choosen to be an indoor only cat. I think all cats, if allowed outside, can be taught to stay within a safe area. Most of our cats, have lived 17 to 25 years. The few we lost at younger ages left us do to various cancers.

  • FloraBreenRobison profile image

    FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

    My cat is already old but I have no idea how old. She was abused before she was rescued. She has to be at least 13, and is likely more. Later this month I will have been with her for three years, with lots of vet bills and a lot of love.

  • The Dirt Farmer profile image

    Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

    Awesome, Lucky Cats. My cat Gus, who was a stray, is 22--and still going strong. Hope he makes it to 25 (at least). Enjoyed the hub, Sychophantastic.

  • Lucky Cats profile image

    Kathy 6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

    Very good advice! Cats can live long and happy lives if cared for properly and protected from predators, disease, and injury/accident. Excellent "how to" when bringing in a kitty to the family.

    My rescue cat, Lucky, lived to be 25 years old; she was my friend, family and faithful companion through some pretty interesting a well as fun times...everything I've done since her death as been in honor of her....the name Lucky Cats is in deference and love for my little Lucky. UP Useful and Interesting!

  • Sehnonimo profile image

    Sehnonimo 6 years ago from San Bruno, CA

    Nice article. It's really pisses me off when people think you're being cruel to your cat by keeping them indoors! What they don't understand is that outdoor cats usually have their lives cut short! No, no, much better to leave the cat indoors and make sure you give him things to do! Toys, towers, food puzzles, and attention! Thanks for setting the record straight!