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How Long Do Cats Live?

A maine coon cat

When considering your cat's age, the traditional method of calculating "cat years" is now considered outdated. Recent research shows that a cat's lifespan is influenced significantly by its breed and size, with additional complexities that we are yet to fully grasp.

Understanding the lifespan of cats is complicated, as it depends greatly on the breed, as well as a lot of other factors. This guide will help you estimate your cat's lifespan more accurately and share insights on how to potentially extend the joyful years with your cherished companion.


The Average Cat Lifespan

The lifespan of a cat generally ranges between 12 to 18 years. Due to the extensive diversity in size, build, and appearance created by centuries of selective breeding, lifespan varies significantly among different breeds. Smaller breeds often outlive their larger counterparts. Larger breeds may face more challenges with age-related conditions like arthritis and kidney disease, which can sometimes lead to earlier euthanasia.

Genetics also plays a critical role in a cat's longevity. Purebred cats, for example, may be predisposed to hereditary diseases due to limited genetic diversity. Conversely, mixed-breed cats often benefit from a broader genetic pool, which can contribute to a longer and healthier life. Additionally, some breeds have been developed with physical traits that unfortunately may also shorten their lifespan, such as the brachycephalic breeds like Persians, which are prone to respiratory issues.

Lifespan by Cat Size

Small Cats

A siamese cat

Small breeds typically enjoy longer lives, averaging between 15 to 20 years. Despite their longer lifespan, small cats are susceptible to conditions like kidney and heart diseases, as well as dental issues which can complicate these conditions. 

Here are a few examples of small cat breeds and their average lifespans:

  • Siamese: 15–20 years

  • Burmese: 16–18 years

  • Cornish Rex: 15–20 years

  • Singapura: 12–15 years

Medium Cats

A british shorthair cat

Medium-sized cats have a lifespan that aligns more closely with the overall average of 12–18 years. Examples include:

  • British Shorthair: 12–20 years

  • American Shorthair: 15–20 years

  • Maine Coon: 10–15 years

  • Ragdoll: 12–15 years

Large Cats

A bengal cat

Large breeds tend to have a slightly shorter lifespan, typically 10–15 years. These cats are more prone to issues like arthritis and certain types of cancers. Examples include:

  • Savannah Cat: 12–20 years

  • Bengal Cat: 12–16 years

  • Ragamuffin: 12–16 years

Giant Cats

A maine coon cat

Giant breeds generally have the shortest lifespans, averaging between 8–12 years. For example, a 6-year-old Maine Coon is often considered a senior due to the significant wear-and-tear on their joints. Common health issues include heart disease and hip dysplasia. Examples include:

  • Maine Coon: 10–15 years

  • Norwegian Forest Cat: 14–16 years

  • Ragdoll: 12–15 years

Life Stages of Cats

Cats go through several distinct life stages:

  • Kitten: Lasts from birth to about 6-12 months, when they reach puberty.

  • Adolescence: Extends from puberty to about 2 years old, as they mature socially and physically.

  • Adulthood: Begins around 2 years old and lasts until they reach senior age, which varies by size and breed.

  • Senior: Cats become ‘senior’ when they enter their last 25% of life (large breeds 7-10y, small breed 10-15y).

  • Geriatric: Cats are ‘geriatric’ at life expectancy and beyond.

Are Cat Years Different to Human Years?

The traditional rule of thumb that one cat year equals seven human years is overly simplistic and does not account for the variability in cat lifespans based on breed and size. A more nuanced approach considers that cats mature more quickly in the first couple of years of life, and then the ageing rate diverges based on the size and breed.

Signs of Ageing in Cats

As cats age, they often exhibit both physical and behavioural changes. Physical signs include:

  • Greying fur, particularly around the muzzle

  • More pronounced dental issues

  • Loss of muscle tone and slower reflexes

  • Increased susceptibility to diseases

Behavioural changes can also be significant, such as:

  • Decreased activity levels

  • Increased sleep

  • Confusion or disorientation

  • Irritability or changes in social dynamics

Factors That Can Affect a Cat's Life Expectancy

Several factors can influence how long a cat lives:

  • Genetics: Some breeds have genetic predispositions to certain diseases that can affect lifespan.

  • Diet and Nutrition: Proper nutrition that's appropriate for the cat’s age, size, and health condition can play a crucial role.

  • Exercise: Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and supports cardiovascular health.

  • Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups and preventative care can catch and manage health issues early.

  • Environment: A safe living environment free from hazards and excessive stress contributes to a longer, healthier life.

Enhancing Your Cat's Lifespan

Research and Responsible Breeding

Selecting a responsible breeder who conducts health screenings and genetic tests is crucial if you're considering a purebred cat. Mixed-breed cats from shelters typically have a varied enough genetic background that may confer some health advantages, though breed-specific issues can still occur.

Veterinary Care and Preventative Measures

Adhering to your vet’s recommendations for vaccinations and preventative treatments is essential. Routine health checks can detect issues early when they are most treatable. Senior cats benefit from more frequent testing to monitor for age-related conditions.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Keeping your cat at a healthy weight is vital. Overweight cats may live shorter lives compared to those maintained at a healthy weight. Regular exercise and a controlled diet are key factors in managing your cat’s weight and overall health.

Understanding how long cats live and the factors that influence their lifespan can help you better care for your cat. By taking proactive steps in their health care and lifestyle, you can maximise your time together and ensure they live a full, happy life.

If you feel your cat's quality of life is significantly impaired and are based in our service area, contact our team via 0800 049 5944 or request an appointment.


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