The Secret to a Long, Happy Life for Your Cat


The average lifespan of domestic cats has increased significantly in recent decades. While cats were once thought to live 10-12 years on average, modern veterinary care and improved nutrition allow domestic cats to live 16-18 years or even longer. However, many factors affect feline longevity.

Genetics, diet, environment, veterinary care, and other lifestyle factors all contribute to a cat’s health and lifespan. Indoor cats who eat quality food, see the vet regularly, and live in a safe, enriched home tend to live the longest. Outdoor cats face more dangers from cars, predators, diseases, and accidents. Spayed/neutered cats also live longer than intact cats on average.

While 12-16 years is often cited as the average lifespan of domestic cats, well cared for cats can reach 20 years or even older in some cases. This article will examine typical cat lifespan ranges, factors that affect longevity, and provide tips for helping cats live a long, healthy life.

Typical Lifespan

The average lifespan for domestic cats has increased in recent decades due to advancements in veterinary care and improved nutrition. According to pet care experts, the typical lifespan range for domestic cats is between 12 to 16 years, with some cats living well into their late teens and even early 20s.

A 2022 study published in Scientific Reports analyzed over 30,000 cat records and found the median lifespan for pet cats was 14 years. However, there was significant variation based on breed, with mixed breed domestic cats having a median age of 14.2 years, while purebred cats had a median age of 12.8 years. The study confirmed that indoor cats generally live longer than outdoor cats, with median ages of 14.5 years and 13.2 years, respectively.

While 12-16 years is considered the norm, genetics, lifestyle factors, and medical care all impact lifespan. With attentive care, it’s not uncommon for domestic cats to reach 17-19 years old. But cats have been known to exceed 20 years in rare cases. The oldest cat in history was Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years old.

Oldest Cats

Cats have been known to live to very old ages, with well-documented cases of felines reaching their late 30s. According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat ever was Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years and 3 days old. Creme Puff lived with her owner in Austin, Texas, USA and was born on August 3, 1967 and died on August 6, 2005 [1].

The current verified oldest living cat is Flossie, a 26-year-old black and brown female from Orpington, UK. Flossie was born in 1995 and was adopted from the Cats Protection charity in 2007 when she was 12 years old [2]. Other cats who lived to record ages include Scooter, a Siamese from Mansfield, Texas, USA who reached 30 years old, and Tiffany Two, a black and orange tabby from San Diego, California, USA who lived to 27 years old.

Breed Differences

There are significant differences in average lifespan between cat breeds. Some breeds like Siamese and Manx tend to live 12-15 years on average. Other breeds are known for their longevity, such as the Maine Coon which often lives 15-20 years. According to Maine Coon Central, the average lifespan for a Maine Coon is 15-20 years, with some living even longer into their 20s.

In general, larger cat breeds like Maine Coons and Ragdolls tend to have longer average lifespans of 15-20 years. Smaller breeds like Siamese have shorter average lifespans of 12-16 years. However, any individual cat can exceed the averages for their breed with proper care and some luck with genetics.

There are also differences in lifespan between mixed breed cats and purebred cats. Purebred cats from responsible breeders tend to live longer than mixed breed cats on average. However, a mixed breed cat in a loving home can also easily reach 15-20 years.

Indoor vs Outdoor

Whether a cat is kept indoors or allowed outdoors can have a significant impact on its lifespan. According to the ASPCA, indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats live on average 2-5 years [1]. Keeping a cat indoors protects it from threats like cars, predators, weather, parasites, and infectious diseases. Outdoor cats are also more likely to get into fights with other cats over territory. One study found the risk of death for outdoor cats was over 3 times higher than for indoor cats [2]. Allowing supervised outdoor time or creating an enclosed patio area are safer options to give cats outdoor access while maximizing lifespan. Overall, keeping a cat strictly indoors throughout its life is recommended to help it live to 17 years or longer.


Spaying or neutering cats can significantly increase their lifespan. According to the ASPCA, “Spayed female cats live 39% longer than unspayed females, while neutered male cats live 62% longer than unneutered males.” This is likely because spaying eliminates the risks associated with pregnancy and birth, while neutering eliminates the urge to roam and fight, reducing cats’ exposure to disease and danger.

One study by the Humane Society found the average lifespan for an indoor unspayed female cat was 14.1 years. For indoor spayed females, it was 15.6 years. For indoor unneutered males, it was 11.2 years, and for indoor neutered males it was 13.0 years.

The lifespan extension from spay/neuter can be up to 5 years on average. So for a cat to live to 17 years old, spaying or neutering early in life significantly improves their chances. The health and behavior benefits make spay/neuter an essential part of responsible cat ownership.


A cat’s diet plays an important role in impacting their lifespan. Studies have shown that cats fed a high-quality diet rich in protein, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids tend to live longer, healthier lives compared to cats fed lower quality commercial diets.

According to a 9-year Purina study, cats fed a diet containing a blend of nutrients including antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids had a median lifespan of 13 years, while cats fed a base diet without this nutrient blend had a median lifespan of 11 years. The study concluded that this specialized diet promoted longevity by supporting the cat’s overall health and protecting cells from oxidative damage (Purina Institute).

Cats fed a diet high in processed carbohydrates and fillers are more prone to obesity, diabetes, urinary tract disease, and other conditions that can shorten lifespan. Choosing a meat-focused diet that resembles what cats would eat in the wild supports digestive and metabolic health.

While homecooked and raw diets can be risky if not properly formulated, feeding human-grade canned or fresh foods is preferable to heavily processed kibble. Portion control is also key to prevent obesity and related diseases.

Overall, feeding cats a high-protein, meat-based diet free of artificial ingredients and fillers can promote longevity when paired with regular veterinary care and an enriched lifestyle.

Veterinary Care

Regular veterinary care is crucial for cats to live a long and healthy life. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), annual vet visits can “detect diseases early, before they become more serious and more expensive to treat.”

During annual exams, vets will check a cat’s overall health, administer vaccines, conduct screening tests, and look for any developing issues. Preventative care like dental cleanings, parasite control, and nutrition counseling can also help avoid costly illnesses down the road. One study found indoor cats that visited the vet annually lived nearly twice as long as those who did not (source:

In addition to preventative care, senior cats require more specialized veterinary attention to manage age-related diseases. With regular vet visits and prompt treatment when issues arise, many cats today are living well into their late teens and even early 20s.

Lifestyle Factors

A cat’s lifestyle plays an important role in longevity. Enrichment, exercise, and stress levels all impact lifespan.

Providing indoor cats with proper mental stimulation and enrichment can reduce stress and boredom. There are many creative DIY cat enrichment ideas like food puzzles, new toys, cat trees/scratching posts, and rotating novel items that stimulate curiosity and engagement. Having time to play with interactive toys each day also provides exercise and bonding. Studies show environmental enrichment extends lifespan in animals by reducing stress.

While indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats on average, some argue keeping cats inside is cruel and limits natural behaviors. However, there are humane ways to provide safe outdoor access like leash walks, catios, or supervised playtime in a secure yard.

Minimizing stress is also key. Gentle handling, adequate routine care, and a calm home environment all promote longevity in cats.


While reaching 17 is uncommon for cats, various lifestyle and care factors can help increase the odds. Key factors that help cats live into their late teens and beyond include:

  • Keeping cats indoors – Outdoor cats face many dangers from cars, predators, diseases, etc. Indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats average 2-5 years.
  • Spaying/neutering before 6 months old – This greatly reduces the risks from pregnancy complications and roaming behaviors.
  • Regular veterinary care – Annual exams and vaccinations help diagnose and prevent issues early. Dental cleanings also improve long-term health.
  • High quality diet – Wet and dry food formulated for each life stage provides complete nutrition for long-term health.
  • Mental stimulation – Engaging with toys keeps cats mentally sharp and slows cognitive decline.
  • Healthy weight – Avoiding obesity reduces strain on joints and vital organs.

While genetics and luck play a role, focusing on these key factors gives cats the best chance at joining the 17 club.

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