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How to Increase Your Cat Lifespan

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What decreases cat lifespan most?

The leading cause of death in cats is from road accidents related to runaway situations. So if you want to keep your cat alive longer, the best thing you can do is to keep your cat secured in your home.

In short:

Keep track of your cat!

Not only that but parasites from interaction with feral cats impact your cat’s health. Cats are also a hazard to the environment and wildlife. Keeping your cat at a healthy weight also helps increase lifespan.

In this article, I’ll walk through all the things to help increase your cat’s lifespan.

I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions. The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.

Let’s get into the article.

How Long do Cats Live?

The average domestic cat lives between 13-17 years. This is based on research on 4,009 cats passing away in England. The medium lifespan of cats is 14 years.

Your cat’s breed affects its lifespan. Crossbred cats live slightly longer (14 years average) than purebred cats (12.5 years). The longest-lived breeds of cats are the Birmans, who live a robust 16 years.  

Some breeds are more prone to a shorter lifespan for a variety of health and lifestyle reasons:

Bengals lived just over 7 years old, and Abyssian cats lived 10 years.

Cats have a longer lifespan under the right conditions. The world records for cat lifespan go past 20 years, with the longest living cat (Creme Puff) living an astonishing 38 years.

From 1994 to 2004 researchers found a two-fold increase in cat longevity among pet cats older than 6 years of age. This is due to improvements in nutrition and vet care.

A cat getting a vet checkup.

What Factors Determine a Cat’s Lifespan?

Road accidents are the main cause of death in cats. In a study of domestic cats brought into a Canadian veterinary clinic, trauma was the cause of 39% of deaths in cats. The majority of those (87%) cases with related to road accidents.  

Aside from road accidents, cats are also susceptible to other problems such as:

  • Kidney disease (12.1% of total cat deaths)
  • Illness and infection (11.2%)
  • Neoplasia (i.e. tumors) (10.8%)
  • Mass lesion disorders (e.g. warts and cysts) (10.2%)

Another study using an animal-borne camera with cats in a suburban area in the United States found that 45% of cats crossed a road during the monitoring period.

To see what cats were doing, the National Geographic channel attached a GPS to cats

It turns out some of the cats were clocking up the frequent flyer miles. Whilst a few cats stayed close to home, some of the cats went for trips around the neighborhood.

One cat even went for a 1-mile expedition to its previous home to find its owners that left for the weekend.

These cat adventures may seem like ‘natural’ things for a cat but can result in missing animals and reduced lifespan.

What Other Things Influence My Cat’s Lifespan?

A few other things that affect a cats lifespan include gender, neutering, and crossbreeding. Here’s how they affect your cats lifespan:

  • Female cats live longer than male cats (15 vs 13 years)
  • Neutered cats live longer (15 vs 11 years)
  • Crossbred cats tend to live longer than purebreeds

Crossbreed cats live longer due to a hypothesized hybrid vigor

The idea of hybrid vigor is that there is a genetic advantage to mixed breeding to reduce the risk of disease.

Neutered cats tend to spend less time pursuing outdoor adventures, reducing the risk of hazard exposure.

Cats can live longer than the average cat lifespan if they are generally healthy and well cared for.

Purebred cats and males aren’t doomed to a short life if given good care.

A cat running away with a dog.
“C’mon Fido, let’s get out of here.”

Why Do Female Cats Live Longer Than Male Cats?

Female cats live 2 years longer than males on average. Neutered males, however, tend to live as long as females. This points to hormonal and social factors influencing lifespan, similar to humans.

Neutered cats roam less then unneutered males. Roaming around can decrease lifespan due to road trauma, fighting, and disease.

Orange tom cats may be the most promiscuous cat and have a higher risk of death.

Learn more: 11 Fun Facts About Orange Cats

What Is the Average Life Expectancy of an Indoor Cat?

An indoor cat lives on average 10-15 years, whilst an outdoor cat may only live 2-5 years on average. This increase in lifespan is due to protection from road trauma as well as environmental hazards like parasites.

Whilst keeping your cat indoors benefits lifespan it is important to keep an indoor cat active to prevent weight gain.

An indoor cat needs an opportunity to remain active if kept inside and cannot leave the house.

Cat trees and/or outdoor enclosures are ways to increase indoor cats’ activity levels (e.g. catio).

A cat tree with a cat.
I own you now Karen.

Why Do Outdoor Cats Have More Diseases?

Outdoor cats are exposed to more diseases from other cats, animals, and pests. Diseases include feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), bartonellosis, and rabies. 

These viruses and parasites suppress the cat’s immune system, increasing infection risk. Transmission of these diseases occurs through bites or close contact with infected cats. Casual contact, such as mutual cat grooming increases the risk of disease exposure.

Older cats are most at risk of parasites due to having weaker immune systems.

20 out of 55 cats (36%) in suburban areas ingested liquids and solids not provided by an owner during unsupervised outdoor access, research finds.

A study from Canada showed that 28% of owners allow cats to free roam without supervision.

How Can I Extend My Cat’s Life?

The best way to extend your cats lifespan is to secure your property so they cannot escape. This cuts down risk of death from road trauma and infections from other animals. Avoiding obesity through diet is also an important factor in improving lifespan.

More than half of US pets are overweight or obese. Obesity predisposes cats to a higher mortality rate from many conditions. It is well known that the risk of diabetes increases with obesity.

Other problems include:

  • High blood fat levels
  • Mobility and arthritic disorders
  • Reproductive disorders

Cats are carnivores and thrive off a higher protein and moisture diet of animal foods. Hunting cats consume a high protein, low carbohydrate diet.

Here are some other factors involved in weight gain:

  • Lower cost pet food and giving your cat a lower quality diet
  • Free feeding (i.e. giving your cat acces to food at all times – especially low quality foods)
  • Too many cat treats if given too often

Choosing species-appropriate nutrition for cats and having a feeding schedule are two strategies to help reduce obesity risk.

Learn more:

A cat resting.
A cat loaf…or bagel I guess.

Why do cats only live 15 years?

Different species age faster or slower. It’s not clear what the exact reason is, but may be due to metabolic rate factors.

Some scientists suggest that smaller animals tend to age faster since they have a higher metabolic rate. This seems to produce more wear and tear compared to slow metabolic rates.

However, some research seems to refute this as some small animals live long. Dogs are larger than cats, but large dogs tend to live a shorter life.

There’s many factors at play including diet, disease, environment, and genetics. What we do know is 15 years is an average, but it’s not a ‘death sentence’ as cats can live longer.

Can cats live 20 years?

Yes. At least 1% of cats live longer than 20 years according to recording data from veterinary practices in Italy. The maximum lifespan of cats is considered 38 years old.

Can cats live 30 years?

Yes, although it is extremely rare. The oldest living recorded cat lifespan is 38 from Creme Puff.

Cat Lifespan Comparison Chart

This chart compares the lifespan of different types and breeds of cats.

Breed/Type of catLifespanNotes
Manx cat lifespan9-13 years
Persian cat lifespan12-17 yearsBreed has a high risk of death from urinary tract disease
Black cat lifespan15 yearsMay live longer than average due to melanism
Tabby cat lifespan15 yearsNot a breed. Lifespan varies.
Domestic shorthair cat lifespan12-14 years
Bengal cat lifespan~7 years
Birman cat lifespan16 years
Siamese cat lifespan12-17 yearsSimilar lifespan to Persian cats

Conclusion

The most important factor in improving your for cats lifespan are supervising your cat and not allowing them to roam far from home. It is also important to make sure your cat stays at a healthy weight.

Cats kept indoors are not exposed to the dangers of the outdoor environment and have a better chance of living out a healthy life. Staying indoors reduces the chance of injury from road accidents and parasites.

Keeping your cat healthy with calorie controlled diet and frequent vet check-ups also help improve longevity.

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