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How Long Do Cats Live? Everything You Need to Know!

We’ve all heard that cats have nine lives. But how much of that is actually true? Do cats seem to escape brushes with death regularly? And if the cat lives an expected average of years, how long is that usually?

The typical house cat usually lives between 12 and 20 years. However, that can be much longer depending on the specific breed of cat and other life factors. So, what are some things to consider when you think of a cat’s lifespan? Let’s hash it out.

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Nine Lives —What Does it Mean?

So, where did the expression cats have nine lives ever come from?

The Egyptian sun god Atum-Ra is associated with the number nine. Atum was part of a unity called The Great Ennead. The other eight gods of the nine are Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, and Set.

Since Egyptians believe that Ra took on a cat’s form, it was assumed that he and the other eight gods took on the feline’s longevity.

Nine is also a lucky number in Chinese culture, as it is considered a long-lasting symbol. Today, many believe the concept of nine lives has to do with luck.

There is no denying that cats seem to get lucky often. Whether it’s barely dodging a darting car or landing on their feet from great heights—cats seem to have the universe on their side.

cat sitting while staring
Image Credit: Thomas Bormans, Unsplash

What is Considered Old for Cats?

Most cats are considered seniors from age 10 onwards. At this stage, your cat’s body begins to decline naturally. As they age, your cat could develop bones and muscle mass issues like arthritis and dental disease.

While it isn’t unusual for cats to live close to 20 years or more, you will need to make specific accommodations for them after a while. They will need comfier beds to support their joints and possibly a specialized diet for aging.

How to Calculate your Cats Age

By the time your cat is a year old, they will have lived roughly 15 human years. In the second year, your cat will age 9 more human years. With every subsequent year, it totals 4 human years.

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Health Issues that Impact Lifespan

As with any species on the planet, health issues impact the life expectancy of cats. Some issues are breed-specific, circumstantial, or spontaneous.

Illness

Many illnesses are preventative, but some aren’t. Genetic disorders and certain cancers or conditions are inevitable for some cats. So, what are the most common cat illnesses?

  • Diabetes
  • Joint disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Feline leukemia
  • Rabies

Sudden Death

Of course, accidents happen. Issues like animal attacks or being hit by a car can cut things off prematurely. Sudden death isn’t something you can foresee or prevent.

Defects

There can be issues from birth that impact feline lifespan.

  • Achondroplasia—while not always deadly, this form of dwarfism can shorten your cat’s expected lifespan.
  • Organ defects—many internal defects can affect the longevity of your cat.
  • Disabilities—there are inherited disabilities and defects that can affect many cat breeds.

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Breeds that Exceed Lifespan

Certain breeds have incredibly long lifespans for cats.

Burmese: 10-17 years

European Burmese cat
Image Credit: fotoliza, Shutterstock

Burmese cats are large-eyed beauties with stocky, athletic bodies. The longest living Burmese cat lived up to 35 years.


Siamese: 15-20 years

wedge head siamese
Image Credit: vivver, Shutterstock

Siamese cats are one of the only Asian cat breeds with distinctive coats and blue eyes. The oldest male Siamese was named Scooter from Mansfield, Texas, who lived to see his 30th birthday.


Persian: 10-17 years

orange long haired bi color doll face persian cat
Image Credit: Light Hound Pictures, Shutterstock

 There was a Persian named Crème Puff from Austin, Texas who lived 36 years.

Neblung: 15-18 years

Though there is no “oldest” Neblung cat, they do typically live longer than other breeds.

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Breeds with Shorter Lifespans

Due to breeding, body structure, and other factors, certain breeds live longer than others. Let’s take a look at the average lifespan estimates by breed: 

Manx: 8-14

black smoke manx cat
Image Credit: Edi Libedinsky, Shutterstock

There is no specific health issue that causes the shorter lifespan of the Manx.


Munchkin: 12-15

Twin Munchkin Cat_Phannasit_shutterstock
Image Credit: Phannasit, Shutterstock

Due to skeletal issues in the breed, munchkin cats might not have a full life.


Maine Coon: 10-14 years

ginger Maine coon cat
Image Credit: Meriluxa, Shutterstock

Even though Maine Coons are very strong and hardy, they still have a lower than average lifespan.


Japanese Bobtail: 9-15 years

Black and white japanese bobtail
Image Credit: dien, Shutterstock

Japanese bobtails don’t have any musculoskeletal issues because of their tail, but they do have shorter life expectancies.

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Healthy Eating Habits

One thing to look out for in cats is a poor diet. The staple in a cat’s diet is plenty of whole protein. Cats are carnivores, so they need at least 30% protein in their daily diet. They also need healthy carbohydrates, fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Commercial dry kibble is recommended, but it doesn’t have a ton of moisture. Many owners combine wet and dry food to reap the benefits of both. Wet food provides plenty of hydration but is terrible for your cat’s teeth. Kibble evens things out by giving everything a nice crunch.

Food-related issues like poor diet, lack of hydration, and overeating can cause way more significant issues down the line.

cat after eating food from a plate
Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

Regular Vet Visits

Your cat benefits greatly from regular vet checkups. In the first year, your kitten should see the vet between five and six times. Your vet needs to make sure your kitten is on par with their milestones—from growth to mental health.

Your vet will also administer vaccines and provide you with routine tick and flea prevention.

Importance of Vaccines

You can protect your felines so much just by keeping up with routine vaccinations. Vaccines help with several bacterial or viral diseases that can plague cats.

Vaccines might not seem like that big of a deal if you have an indoor cat. However, if they were ever to escape the safe, snuggly quarters of their home, they are exposed to various illnesses.

Immunizations strengthen your cat’s system to eliminate potential threats. First-year vaccinations are the most frequent. After they reach 12 months, they will only need annual boosters.

vet makes an injection to a cat
Image Credit: Vovantarakan, Shutterstock

Here is a chart that shows you a little about vaccine purpose and frequency.

Age Vaccines Purpose
8-10 weeks Panleukopenia

Calicivirus

Rhinotracheitis

Preventing feline leukemia viruses, respiratory infection, and pulmonary infection
12-14 weeks Panleukopenia

Calicivirus

Rhinotracheitis

Preventing feline leukemia viruses, respiratory infection, and pulmonary infection
16-18 weeks Rabies

Panleukopenia

Calicivirus

Rhinotracheitis

Preventing feline leukemia viruses, respiratory infection, and pulmonary infection, and rabies
1-3 years Rabies

Panleukopenia

Calicivirus

Rhinotracheitis

Preventing feline leukemia viruses, respiratory infection, and pulmonary infection, and rabies

Non-Core Vaccines include:
  • FeLV
  • Bordetella
  • Feline chlamydia
  • FIV
  • FIP

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Final Thoughts

Even though most felines have admirable life expectancies, it’s still sad that our furry friends can’t stick around longer. To ensure that your cat lives to reach a ripe old age, make sure to feed them a well-balanced diet, take them to regular vet appointments, and provide safety in the home.

Hopefully, your kitties thrive well past their prime.


Featured Image Credit: jsmars, Shutterstock