In a purrrfect world, our feline friends would live forever. However, most kitties only live between 12-18 years.
Of course, there will be a difference between the longevity of strictly indoor cats and those that venture outside. In addition to their lifestyle, other variables will influence lifespan as well. Let’s dive into how long cats live and some ways that you can keep them around just a bit longer.
What Factors Affect a Cat’s Lifespan?
To give your cat the longest life possible, you need to understand what influences their lifespan:
1. Inside or Outside Cat
Probably the most significant factor affecting longevity in cats is whether they go outside. Going outside not only leaves the comfort of the indoors behind, but it also leaves the safety and security of it. The outside world is a dog-eat-dog (or cat?!) world with many dangers to our domestic kitties. There’s the threat of cars, predators, and diseases that can cut some outdoor cats’ lives short.
A good diet sets a cat up for good health and increased longevity. Since cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need a lot of meat, the cat food you choose should reflect that.
Choosing a product that is “high protein” isn’t good enough. You need to choose a high-quality protein as well. Look for cat foods made with whole meats and fewer fillers. It should be easily digestible and will have some added benefits like omega fatty acids and antioxidants to help up a cat’s lifespan.
While proper nutrition goes a long way in keeping a cat healthy, preventing diseases, parasites, and other health issues should be considered as well. Regular checkups with a vet, along with proper vaccinations and preventative medications, can help your kitty live a longer life. Maintaining a proper weight through diet and exercise is also extremely important. It’s hard to admit, but most of our indoor kitties are overweight, leading to things like joint issues and diabetes.
4. Intact vs. Sterilized
There’s more to having your cat spayed or neutered than just whether you want kittens or not. Cats that are sterilized tend to live longer.
The reason behind this is they don’t have that drive to roam around looking for a mate. This usually means they are more likely to at home, which provides them with safety.
Many diseases, such as certain types of cancer and uterine infections, go along with holding onto those reproductive parts that can lead to an earlier death.
How to Help Your Cat Live a Longer Life
The lifespan of cats is based on two main factors: genetics and environment. While you really can’t change your cat’s genetic makeup, you can influence their environment to get as much time with them as possible.
1. Keep Your Cat Indoors
First and foremost, if you want your cat to live longer, keep them indoors. Don’t subject them to the dangers that come with being outside. If they still desire a little fresh air, consider an enclosed cat porch or supervised time out only.
2. Regular Visits to Your Veterinarian
Seek regular veterinary care; this includes staying up-to-date on vaccinations and having your kitty spayed or neutered. Your veterinarian is there to answer any questions you may have on nutrition, exercise, disease symptoms, and prevention. And believe me, they would rather help you prevent a health condition than treat it later on.
3. High-Quality Diet
Provide your cat with a high-quality diet based on whole foods that give them the protein they need without the extra fillers and stuff they don’t need. Again, your veterinarian is an excellent source of recommendations for this.
4. Fresh Water and Exercise
Always have fresh water available and give your kitty plenty of exercise. If you just rolled your eyes at the thought of taking your cat for a walk, hold it right there. Cats can get plenty of exercise through play, especially if it’s with you. Look into interactive toys that get your cat up and moving, or find them a furry friend that doubles as a workout buddy/playmate.
Finally, if you want to help your cat live longer, love them. Kitties are social animals, and they thrive better when they’re part of a clan. Give them attention every day, include them in family activities, and let them know that they matter to you.
Do Some Cat Breeds Live Longer Than Others?
There are some breeds of cats that live longer than others, on average. This is partly due to their genetic makeup, making them more or less prone to certain types of diseases.
Specific Breeds That Tend to Live Longer:
- Ragdoll cats
All of these breeds commonly make it into their late teens, if not 20s. Russian Blues and Savannah Cats also have lengthier lifespans.
In general, mixed breeds tend to live longer than purebred kitties due to “hybrid vigor.” Purebred cats are purebred because they come from a very limited genetic line. There are rarely new genes introduced.
This means if some of those genes lead to a higher propensity for cancer, all offspring will be at a higher risk. Mixed breed cats are getting new genes mixed in all the time, helping to dilute out those bad genes that can decrease a cat’s lifespan.
So, while the above breeds tend to live longer, that doesn’t mean that a Heinz 57 cat that you pick up at the shelter won’t experience a life just as long if not longer.
No kitty is born with their lifespan mapped out. Many factors can influence how long they will live, most of which can be affected by you. If you want your cat to live longer than the average, take good care of them, frequent your veterinarian, and give them the attention they deserve.
Dr. Chyrle Bonk has been practicing veterinary medicine since 2010. She lives in Idaho with her husband and two sons, where they spend their free time exploring the great outdoors that is right in their backyard.