The life expectancy of cats ranges between 12 and 18 years. Factors affecting the life expectancy of cats include the cat’s longevity and living situation. Cats living indoors and cats living outdoors have different life expectancies. 

Indoor cats have a lifespan of 15 to 17 years. Outdoor cat life expectancy ranges between 2 and 5 years. 

Cats living outside get increased mental and physical stimulation. Outdoor cats are exposed to more danger, reducing outdoor cat life expectancy. Indoor cats live in a safer environment and get a more nutritionally complete and balanced diet. 

The transition to indoor living increases outdoor cat life expectancy, considering the shorter lifespan of outdoor cats. Cat aging causes behavioral changes that are easier to spot when the cat lives inside the house and is under continuous supervision. 

Diagnosing age-related conditions in cats results in a better outcome. Ongoing veterinary care and open communication between veterinarians and cat owners promote indoor and outdoor cat lifespan. 

What is the Life Expectancy of Cats?

The life expectancy of cats is between 12 and 18 years. Genetically robust cats live up to 15 years or more. Cats that are well cared for and genetically robust  live for 18 to 20 years. The oldest cat was born in Austin, Texas, in 1967 and died in 2005 at 38. The name of the oldest cat was Creme Puff.

Outdoor cat life expectancy is much shorter than the indoor cat’s lifespan. Cat lifestyle, or whether cats live indoors or outdoors, is a primary determinant of the life expectancy of cats. 

Understanding cat longevity requires knowledge of cat life stages and years. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recognizes four cat life stages in cats. Life stage 1 is kittens or cats less than 1 year of age, young adult cats or between the ages of 1 and 6, mature adults or cats between the ages of 7 and 10, and senior cats 10 years or older.  

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) in the Senior Care Guidelines divides the senior cat stage into two substages: senior cats aged 11 to 14  and geriatric cats aged 15 to 25. 

How Long do Outdoor Cats Live?

Outdoor cats live for 2 to 5 years on average, according to researchers from the California-Davis University of Veterinary Medicine. 

Outdoor cats are exposed to danger, resulting in a shorter average cat lifespan for outdoor cats. Outdoor cats are exposed to the sun, increasing the risk of skin cancer. Outdoor cats contend with predators daily, including coyotes, cougars, raccoons, birds of prey, and parasites such as fleas and ticks. Speeding cars, traffic, and disease-causing pathogens are outdoor hazards for cats.  

Outdoor living decreases the cat’s longevity, and the average cat lifespan for outdoor cats is short; however, outdoor cats are able to live long and healthy lives.  

Does Indoor Cats Live Longer?

Yes, indoor cats live longer. The average life expectancy of indoor cats is between 15 and 17 years, according to scientists at the University of California-Davis. 

Indoor cats are not subject to daily dangers such as predators, parasites, and toxins and are not at risk of traffic accidents. Indoor cats get a more balanced and nutritionally complete diet, which improves life expectancy. 

What are the Factors that Affect the Cats’ Lifespan?

The factors that affect the cats’ lifespan are listed below. 

  • Lifestyle: Lifestyle is one of the most important factors affecting the life expectancy of cats. Indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats because they are in a safer environment. The outdoors is stimulating and enriching and is dangerous for cats. The lifespan of outdoor cats is affected by predators, traffic, toxic substances, parasites, and diseases. The University of California-Davis determined the lifespan of the outdoor cat is between 2 and 5 years, while indoor cats live for 15 to 17 years on average. 
  • Breed: The average lifespan of purebred cats is around 12.5 years, while mixed-breed cats live longer and have an average lifespan of 14 years. The genetic diversity in mixed cats reduces the risk of hereditary conditions. The purebred life expectancy of cats is breed-specific. Purebred cats that live up to 20 years include Savannah, Bombay, and Siamese cats. Purebred cats with life expectancies of 10 years include Abyssinians and Bengal cats. 
  • Gender: Female cats live longer than male cats. The life expectancy of female cats is 15 years. The life expectancy of male cats is 13 years. The cat’s breeding status is a major factor, with spayed or neutered cats having longer lifespans than intact males and females. Neutering prevents certain reproductive conditions and eliminates the risk of sexually transmitted diseases affecting the life expectancy of cats. 
  • Diet and Exercise: A healthy diet and regular exercise increases the life expectancy of cats. Diet and exercise prevent cat obesity. Cats require high-quality, nutritious, balanced food and a daily exercise regime. Regular overeating and under-exercising result in obesity, increasing the risk of potentially life-threatening conditions. The Veterinary Nurse published a study, “Nourishing dogs and cats through their twilight years,” in 2018, stating, “Proper nutrition and dietary management can improve the quality of life and life expectancy for senior dogs and cats.”
  • Veterinary Care: Ongoing and quality veterinary care is a critical factor in the life expectancy of cats. Veterinary care includes preventative treatments, such as vaccination, deworming, flea and tick control, and regular body examinations. Cats display age-related behavioral changes that owners assign to old age. The behavior changes are manageable age-related health conditions, according to Sordo L. and associates in the paper “Prevalence of Disease and Age-Related Behavioural Changes in Cats: Past and Present” 2020. Veterinarians must ask cat owners about behavioral changes in aging cats. Healthy communication between the pet owner and the veterinarian is key to catching health issues before they are irreversible. 

Can an Indoor Cat Live Longer Outdoor?

Yes, an indoor cat can live longer outdoors. The life expectancy of cats living indoors is 12 to 18 years, while the outdoor cat’s lifespan is 2 to 5 years. Exceptions to the average life expectancy of indoor and outdoor cats exist. 

Indoor cats die younger than outdoor cats if they have an accident inside or a genetic disease, while outdoor cats are able to navigate the dangers of the outside environment to live a long and healthy life. 

Can an Outdoor Cat Live Indoor?

Yes, an outdoor cat can live indoors. Cats  adjust to indoor living and pet owners  help cats adjust by feeding the cat inside and spending time inside with the cat. The outdoor cat lifespan is 2 to 5 years, and pet owners  increase the life expectancy of the cat by transitioning the cat to indoor living. Feral cats are unlikely to live outdoors, while stray cats respond  the same way as pet cats, but the transition is more extended. 

Christine Capaldo, DVM at The PETA Foundation, says, “PETA’s position is unequivocal: All cats should be indoor cats.” Capaldo notes that supervised outdoor activity is healthy, and when done properly, it does not harm the life expectancy of cats. 

What are Common Health Issues as Cats Age?

The common health issues as cats age are listed below. 

  • Cancer: Cancer is a common problem in senior cats and affects their life expectancy. PLOS ONE Journal published a study, “Longevity and mortality in cats: A single institution necropsy study of 3108 cases (1989–2019),” 2022. The study established that cancer is the most frequent cause of death in felines, affecting over 40% of the cats in the study. Frequent cancers in cats are mast cell tumors, lymphoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and bone cancer. Mast cell tumors arise from mast cells, white blood cells that form on the spleen, skin, or gastrointestinal tract. Lymphoma affects the lymphatic system based on location. There are different types of lymphoma, including mediastinal, renal, bone marrow, and gastrointestinal. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) develops from the squamous cells and is found in sparsely-haired skin areas. Osteosarcoma is a common bone cancer in cats, and it is aggressive and usually affects the limb bones or bones connecting to the spine, the ribs, pelvis, scapula, and skull. Cancer reduces the life expectancy of cats.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a prevalent metabolic condition in geriatric cats. Cornell University defines CKD as a “persistent loss of kidney function over time.” Barber P., in the 2003 paper “Diagnosis and management of chronic renal failure in the cat,” said that “The prevalence of spontaneous chronic renal failure (CRF) in the aged cat is estimated to be three times higher than in the aged dog.”Chronic kidney disease is progressive and culminates in kidney (renal) failure. The kidneys perform vital roles, including electrolyte balancing, blood filtration, hydration control, and urine production. The loss of function of the kidneys impairs these roles and is potentially fatal. The exact underlying cause of kidney disease is unknown. Old age, combined with genetics, kidney injuries, and pre-existing systemic diseases, contribute to CKD development and affect the life expectancy of cats. Persian and Abyssinian breeds are prone to issues that increase the risk of CKD. 
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is found in senior cats. Kooistra H., in the 2014 paper “Feline hyperthyroidism: a common disorder with unknown pathogenesis,” said that “feline hyperthyroidism is a common endocrine disease in domestic cats, with a prevalence of 8.7% in cats aged 10 years or over.” The thyroid consists of two glands on each side of the windpipe at the neck’s base and is responsible for metabolism. The thyroid is overactive in older cats and speeds up metabolism, causing weight loss, increased appetite, hyperactivity, poor coat quality, and behavioral changes. The risk of hyperthyroidism in cats increases with old age, eating canned food, and using cat litter. Certain breeds, such as the Himalayan and Siamese cats, have a lower-than-average risk of developing an overactive thyroid gland. 
  • Diabetes Mellitus: Diabetes is a serious and common condition in cats. Cats with diabetes experience blindness, kidney failure, and reduced life expectancy. Diabetes mellitus develops when the blood sugar levels are high due to a lack of insulin production (type 1 diabetes) or inadequate insulin response (type 2 diabetes). Type 2 is more common in cats and is linked to increased body weight or obesity and old age. A study, “Epizootiologic patterns of diabetes mellitus in cats: 333 cases (1980-1986),” published in 1990, concluded that “High body weight and age are significant risk factors for diabetes mellitus in cats, with age being the most important single risk factor.” Diabetes in cats causes increased food intake (polyphagia), increased thirst (polydipsia), and increased urination (polyuria). The risk of skin and urinary infections is greater in diabetic cats. 
  • Feline Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is an inflammation and degeneration of one or more joints associated with old age. Hardie E., in “Management of osteoarthritis in cats,” published in 1997, wrote that “osteoarthritis in cats is a geriatric condition, with symptoms including weight loss, anorexia, depression, and lameness.” Arthritis, or joint disease, is prevalent in older cats. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a paper, “Radiographic evidence of degenerative joint disease in geriatric cats: 100 cases (1994-1997)” in 2002. The authors found that 90% of cats over 12 show radiographic evidence of joint disease. Cats with normal bone joints have shock-absorbing cartilage that shields the two bone surfaces. Older cats suffer wear and tear, damaging the cartilage and allowing the two bone surfaces to rub against each other, resulting in inflammation or arthritis. 
  • Heart Disease: Heart disease is frequent in senior and geriatric cats and affects their life expectancy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the prevalent heart disease in cats. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs when the muscle walls of the heart thicken, which reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently in distant parts of the body. HCM is a progressive condition that results in heart failure. The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published “International Collaborative Study to Assess Cardiovascular Risk and Evaluate Long-term Health in Cats with Preclinical Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Apparently Healthy Cats: The REVEAL Study” in 2018. The study included 1730 client-owned cats and stated, “Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most prevalent heart disorder in cats and principal cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.” The second most common heart problem in senior cats is degenerative valve disease. 
  • Dental Disease: Dental issues are widespread among older cats. The most frequently seen feline dental conditions are gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption. Gingivitis is an infection of the gums and develops due to plaque buildup. Plaque is a biofilm harboring bacteria, and if not regularly removed, it absorbs minerals from the saliva, hardens, and transforms into tartar or calculus. The tartar pressures the gums, causing inflammation. Untreated gingivitis progresses into periodontitis or inflammation of the tissues supporting the tooth (periodontium). Tooth resorption is the culmination of dental disease and has either unknown origin or is the result of advanced periodontitis. A 2013 study, “Risk Assessment of Feline Tooth Resorption: A Portuguese Clinical Case Control Study,” found that “Tooth resorption in cats is strongly associated with age and gingivitis, with mandibular third premolar and molar teeth being most affected.”
  • Liver Disease: Liver problems are common in older cats. The four most common causes of liver disease in cats include feline hepatic lipidosis (known as FHL or fatty liver syndrome), cholangiohepatitis (inflammation of the liver and biliary tree), lymphoma (a cancer type), and feline infections peritonitis or FIP. Hepatic lipidosis is the number one cause, and it is described as a cat-specific condition that develops after three or four days of anorexia: no eating and reduced food intake. Anorexia in cats is followed by a buildup of fat cells in the liver. The disease is potentially fatal unless treated promptly and aggressively. The risk of hepatic lipidosis is greater in cats that were overweight or obese before the anorexia period. Reduced appetite is triggered by an underlying condition in more than 90% of cases according to VCA Animal Hospital.
  • Feline Cognitive Dysfunction: Feline cognitive dysfunction or FCD is widespread in seniors, affecting over 55% of cats between the ages of 11 and 15 and more than 80% around 16 to 20 years old. FCD is the cat equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease in humans and results in the deterioration of learning abilities, awareness, memory, hearing, smell, and sight perceptions. FCD does not affect the life expectancy of cats directly but harms their quality of life. The International Society of Feline Medicine published a paper in 2022 titled “Survey of risk factors and frequency of clinical signs observed with feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome.” The study found that cats living in rural environments are less likely to develop feline cognitive dysfunction. The reasons rural cats have lowered risk of FCD is unproven but believed to be associated with air pollution, social interactions, and environmental enrichment. 

How is the Dental Health of Cats as They Grow Older?

The dental health of cats as they grow older is poor and tends to decline. The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says, “Between 50 and 90% of cats older than four years of age suffer from some form of dental disease.”

The three biggest dental problems in felines are gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption. The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery published a study, “Periodontal disease in cats: Back to basics – with an eye on the future,” in 2014. The study explains the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis, saying that gingivitis is “reversible and controllable” while periodontitis is an “irreversible and progressive condition.” Regular visits to the veterinarian mean dental issues do not affect the life expectancy of cats.

Dental diseases in cats culminate in tooth resorption, and many senior cats have fewer teeth. Tooth loss is painful and impairs the cat’s ability to eat normally. Cat treats and food formulas designed for older cats feature a soft consistency that is easy to chew. 

How is the Weight Fluctuation of Cats as They Grow Older?

The weight fluctuations of cats as they grow older are significant and change over time and through different life stages.  

The Journal of the American Veterinary Association published a study titled “Investigation of relationships between body weight and age among domestic cats stratified by breed and sex”  2019. 

The study included 19 million cats living in North America and found that cats put on weight as they mature, reaching peak body weight at around eight years old. Cat body weight declines after 8 years of age. 

The reason older cats lose weight and get skinny is age-related conditions such as diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease, hyperthyroidism, dental issues, and inflammatory bowel disease, which affect the life expectancy of cats. 

How is the Kidney Health of Senior Cats?

The kidney health of senior cats is poor. Old cats are at high risk of developing chronic kidney disease leading to kidney failure. 

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is senior cats’ most widespread metabolic condition. The exact cause of CKD is unknown, but older age is a significant contributing factor. 

Sage Journals published a paper titled “Chronic Kidney Disease in Aged Cats” in 2016. The paper’s authors explain that CKD typically affects senior cats over the age of 12 and that the issue is primarily initiated by aging. 

Chronic kidney disease in cats is a progressing condition and requires a multimodal treatment, including medications, dietary changes to improve, and healthy hydration to support the cat’s kidney. Hemp-sourced CBD is a great addition to CKD management. 

CBD helps improve the quality and life expectancy of cats with chronic kidney disease. CBD oil is excellent for managing the main CKD symptoms, such as pain, inflammation, nausea, and anxiety.

Can CBD Oil Help Cats’ Well-Being?

Yes, CBD oil can help cats’ well-being. CBD boosts immunity, cognition, and general health while aiding the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, hyperactivity, kidney disease, allergies, seizures, and cancer.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural compound sourced from the hemp version of the cannabis plant. Cannabidiol is safe to use daily in cats of all ages and sizes. CBD is non-psychoactive and non-addictive, and cats do not overdose on cannabidiol. 

CBD is well-tolerated in cats and has rare, benign, and temporary side effects. CBD oil for cats’ health is compatible with many mainstream medications and is part of a complex, multimodal, veterinarian-approved treatment plan that improves the life expectancy of cats, whether living indoor or outdoors. 

Do Cats’ Life Get Shorter as They Suffer from Depression?

Yes, cats’ lives get shorter as they suffer from depression. Depression is not fatal and does not directly affect life expectancy in cats. 

Depression in cats has an indirect effect on longevity; according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), depression “can cause your cat’s health to deteriorate to a dangerous point.”

Cat depression results in reduced or absent appetite, which increases the risk of feline hepatic lipidosis (FHL). 

Feline hepatic lipidosis, known as fatty liver syndrome, is specific to cats and occurs after a period of not eating. FHL causes liver failure and is fatal unless treated promptly.