The Silver Whiskers Club. Just How Rare is a 20-Year-Old Cat?

Average Lifespan of Cats

Domestic cats typically live 12-18 years on average. Indoor cats generally live from 12-18 years of age, with many living to be in their early 20s (Vetwest). The average lifespan for domestic cats ranges between 10-15 years (Wikipedia).

Purebred cats tend to have shorter average lifespans of 10-15 years. This is due to the genetic predispositions of certain breeds, such as heart disease in Maine Coon cats. However, with proper veterinary care and a healthy lifestyle, some purebred cats can still live into their late teens or early 20s.

Factors That Influence Lifespan

A cat’s lifespan is influenced by several key factors, including breed, being purebred vs mixed breed, living indoors vs outdoors, spay/neuter status, and overall health and medical care.

Breed plays a role in determining lifespan. For example, Siamese and Persian cats tend to live longer on average than other breeds, often reaching 15-20 years. Mixed breed cats generally outlive purebred cats across the board. This is likely due to mixed breeds having greater genetic diversity and hybrid vigor.

Living indoors provides a safer, more controlled environment for cats. Indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats average 2-5 years. Hazards of the outdoors like cars, predators, diseases, poisons, and weather severely impact lifespan. Keeping a cat indoors eliminates these risks.

Spaying or neutering is crucial for longevity. Unaltered cats are more likely to roam outdoors, contract deadly illnesses like FIV, and develop reproductive cancers. Cats spayed/neutered before 6 months of age live longer on average than those unfixed.

Lastly, regular veterinary care and a nutritious diet set the foundation for a long, healthy life. Annual exams catch issues early while quality nutrition prevents obesity and related diseases. With diligent preventative healthcare, cats have the best chance at reaching 20 years old.


20 Year Old Cats

Most domestic cats live to around 15 years of age, with some living even longer. However, reaching the age of 20 is very rare. Only an estimated 5-10% of cats will live to celebrate their 20th birthday.

According to data, the average lifespan for an indoor cat is 13-17 years, while the average lifespan for an outdoor cat is 2-5 years. Indoor cats generally live much longer as they are not exposed to dangers like cars, dogs, diseases from other cats, etc. With proper care, an indoor cat has a greater chance of reaching the 20 year mark.

A survey done by Quora found that only around 3% of domestic cats live past 20 years old. So a cat reaching 20 is quite rare indeed.

While genetics play a role, cats that live very long lives often have attentive owners who provide excellent nutrition, veterinary care, exercise through play, and a stress-free indoor home. With diligent care and a bit of luck, a small percentage of cats will beat the odds and make it to the big 2-0.

Verified Oldest Cats

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat ever recorded was a domestic cat named Creme Puff who lived to be 38 years and 3 days old. Creme Puff was born on August 3, 1967 and lived with her owner, Jake Perry, in Austin, Texas until passing away on August 6, 2005 at the incredible age of 38.

Another remarkably long-lived cat was Granpa Rex Allen, a Maine Coon cat who lived to be 34 years and 2 months old. Granpa Rex Allen was born on March 1, 1998 and passed away on May 14, 2022 in San Diego, California after having lived with owners Jake Perry and David Richardson. At the time of his passing, Granpa Rex Allen was confirmed by Guinness World Records as the oldest living cat.

Tips For Longevity

There are several things cat owners can do to help their feline friends live long, healthy lives.

Regular vet visits are crucial. Annual check-ups allow vets to catch any health issues early when they are most treatable. Vaccinations protect against dangerous diseases like rabies. Dental cleanings can prevent infection. And preventative care like heartworm medication keeps cats healthy. For the best chance at a long life, cats should see a vet at least once a year (source).

Keeping cats indoors increases longevity. Outdoor cats face many hazards like cars, predators, parasites, and communicable diseases. Indoor cats live on average 10-15 years, while outdoor cats only live 2-5 years on average (source).

Feeding high-quality, species-appropriate food promotes good health. Cats have specific nutritional needs that dry kibble alone won’t meet. A mix of wet and raw food with high protein and moisture content most closely matches what cats would eat in the wild and supports an optimal lifespan (source).

Daily exercise and playtime keep cats physically and mentally stimulated. Wand toys, puzzle feeders, scratching posts, and interactive play provide enrichment. An exercised cat has better circulation, weight control, joint health, and cognitive function (source).

Signs Of Aging

As cats get older, their bodies and behaviors start to change. Here are some of the most common signs that a cat is aging:

Graying fur – It’s normal for cats to start getting gray hairs around their face and paws as they get older, usually starting around age 6-10. The graying tends to spread from there. Some cats even turn entirely gray or white in old age.

Cloudy eyes – Aging cats often develop cloudiness in their lenses, which can eventually lead to cataracts. This impairs their vision and makes it harder for them to see clearly.

Hearing/vision loss – Cats can gradually start to lose hearing and vision as they age. This happens at varying rates between individual cats. Some remain sharp into old age while others decline more quickly.

Weight loss/gain – An aging cat’s metabolism changes, often resulting in weight loss or gain. Tracking their weight can help identify problems early.

Behavior changes – Older cats tend to sleep more, play less, meow more frequently, and become less agile. Some develop cognitive decline and anxiety. But each cat ages differently.

These changes can start happening between ages 10-15 for most cats. Catching them early allows time to adjust care accordingly. Work closely with a vet to monitor age-related changes. Sources:,

Caring For Senior Cats

As cats reach their senior years, typically starting around 11-12 years old, their needs change and they require some special care and considerations[1]. Here are some tips for caring for an aging cat:

Monitor their health closely. Senior cats are more prone to diseases like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and cancer. Take them to the vet for checkups every 6 months to screen for issues[2]. Monitor their weight, activity levels, grooming, litter box habits, and appetite for any concerning changes.

Adjust your home for limited mobility. Place litter boxes on each level of the home. Use lower-sided boxes for easier access. Add pet steps to help them access beds and furniture. Keep food and water bowls in easy to access areas.

Encourage cat-friendly exercises. Short, gentle play sessions can help improve muscle tone, balance, and cognitive function. Use wand toys for light activity. Moving treats around the home can promote walking.

Provide mental stimulation. Rotating toys, food puzzles, and interactives feeds keeps their mind engaged. Provide puzzle feeders rather than free feeding. Use treats and catnip for additional enrichment.

Saying Goodbye

Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your beloved cat can be difficult. Quality of life is the most important factor – when your cat is suffering and no longer enjoying daily activities, it may be time to consider euthanasia. According to Paws into Grace, you’ll know it’s time when your vet has diagnosed a terminal illness and your cat’s quality of life has significantly declined.

At-home euthanasia can help make your cat’s passing more peaceful. Your vet will come to your home and administer an injection that quickly and painlessly ends your cat’s life. According to American Humane, your vet will ensure your cat feels no pain or distress.

After your cat has passed, you’ll need to decide on cremation or burial. Many vet offices offer private cremation services to return your cat’s ashes. Burial is another option, but check your local laws on at-home pet burial first. The important thing is giving your beloved companion a dignified farewell.

Famous Long-Lived Cats

Throughout history, there have been several famous cats that have lived to the remarkable age of 20 years old or beyond. Here are a few of the most famous long-living cats:

Creme Puff lived to be 38 years and 3 days old, making her the oldest cat ever according to Guinness World Records. She was born in 1967 and lived with her owner Jake Perry in Austin, Texas until her passing in 2005.

Granpa Rex Allen, named after the singer, lived to be 34 years old. He was born in Paris, Texas in 1964 and passed away in 1998. At the time, he was recognized as the oldest living cat by Guinness World Records.

Tigger, a domestic longhair orange tabby, lived to be an impressive age of 24 years old. He passed away in 2020 and was owned by Ginny Macaluso-Gooding in Massachusetts.

Rebecca, a tortoiseshell cat, lived to the age of 24 years and 2 months. She passed away in 2022 and resided in Manchester, UK with her owner Michelle Foster.

Baby, a female tabby cat, lived to age 24 years and held the Guinness World Record for oldest living cat until her passing in 1987.

The Takeaway

Reaching the age of 20 is a remarkable milestone for a cat. While the average lifespan ranges between 12-18 years, a small percentage of cats exceed expectations and live into their late teens and beyond. With attentive care, regular veterinary checkups, proper nutrition, exercise and enrichment, some cats defy the odds. While genetics play a role, a loving home and high quality care are key factors enabling cats to celebrate 20 candles on their birthday cakes. For those lucky pet parents of geriatric kitties, savor every purr and play session knowing you’ve been blessed with a remarkably long-lived feline.

Scroll to Top