How Old Can Cats Get (And How to Keep Them Healthy)

average lifespan of a cat

As cat-parent, we ask ourselves, how long will my kitty stay with me in this life? How old can cats get? What is the average cat’s life expectancy? 

When googling this question, you will not get a precise answer and are likely to get a range of somewhere between 8 and 20 years old.

This range seems plausible, but it would be good to have a more precise range to pinpoint the average life expectancy of YOUR cat and what you can do to help your feline companion live as long as possible in good health.

So, I went to work and gathered everything I could find, scattered all over the internet, speaking with others and some expert advice (a couple of vets that help me care for my cat, Max).

What is the average life expectancy of a cat?

The average life expectancy for cats is roughly between 8 and 20 years. However, this depends on several factors like their environment, gender, whether they’re a purebred or a mixed breed, spayed or neutered, nutrition, and overall physical and mental health. 

So basically, when talking about a cat’s life expectancy, there are several factors to consider. All of these can contribute to their maximum age positively or negatively.

Looking at the above average, there are certainly outliers in both directions. Just googling the internet, you will find extraordinary stories about 30-year-old cats and sad stories about cat parents who had to let their babies go at a much too young age.

Keeping that in mind, it is possible to give a more accurate range when looking at the general life expectancy by breed. 

These are, in some cases, still pretty broad; however, it sets the general range. After that, we can start looking at specifics that influence a cat’s overall health and its likeliness of reaching old age.

The below table shows the average range of minimum and maximum ages for popular breeds.

minimum age
maximum age
American Bobtail1315
American Curl1216
American Shorthair1520
American Wirehair1016
British Shorthair1520
Cornish Rex1114
Devon Rex915
Egyptian Mau915
European Burmese1518
Exotic Shorthair815
Havana Brown1520
Japanese Bobtail916
Maine Coon915
Norwegian Forest Cat1416
Oriental Shorthair1215
Russian Blue1520
Scottish Fold1114
Selkirk Rex1215
Siberian or
Siberian Forest Cat
Turkish Angora1218
Turkish Van1218
Looking for our overview of cat measurements by breed? See our extensive research here

Do mixed cat breeds live longer?

On average mixed breed cats live longer than purebreds because mixed breeds possess a more diverse gene pool. This makes purebreds more susceptible to inherited health issues.

I don’t know about you, but, personally, this always sounded pretty counter-intuitive to me. You might expect purebreds to be stronger. Perhaps this comes from the word “pure” and would suggest that they only have the best (or “purest”) genes.

However, that is precisely the reason why purebred cats generally live shorter than mixed breeds.

Let me explain:

To keep the breed pure, pedigree breed cats are often ‘inbred’. Due to the smaller gene pool, problems such as inherited diseases or other genetic abnormalities are more prevalent in purebred cats.

With mixed breeds, mother nature has much more opportunity to let natural selection run its course and (over time) build stronger bloodlines with the weaker genes ‘filtered out’ due to evolution.

In my opinion, it’s hardly a reason to select a mixed breed over a purebred, but it is something to keep in mind.

girl with two grey cats
Sometimes cats come across as aloof and keeping to themselves however, they often crave attention, and spending time with your cat is good for their (and your) mental health and helps to extend their life

Indoor versus outdoor cats

As a general rule, indoor cats have a better chance of reaching old age than outdoor cats. This is because outdoor cats are exposed to more dangers such as getting into fights with other cats, being hit by traffic, or picking up diseases or infections.

To determine the risk for your cat, it’s best to look at your living environment.

For example, living in a quiet neighborhood, away from heavy traffic, or when your cat usually stays in the garden, the risks are considerably less. 

On the other hand, the risks would be higher for city cats or those who like to keep a large territory.

Another thing to consider is that females usually stay closer to home than males.

Also, if you prefer to keep your cat indoors, make sure it does get enough opportunity to exercise because a low level of activity can cause obesity and even depression in cats. This is another risk to their health and thus their lifespan.

The right nutrition to keep healthy

This one is pretty clear and easy to understand because it is relatable. 

Just like eating well keeps us humans healthy, the same applies to your furry friend. Ensuring your cat gets the proper nutrition, a varied menu and the right quantities almost ensures a long, happy, and carefree life.

Nutrition for cats can be a study in itself and it’s definitely more complex than I can cover in this article. I’ll cover the most important recommendations below however if you’re interested in getting more information on cat nutrition, have a look here, here, or here

So, without getting into the weeds on this topic, there are just three main things to keep in mind when feeding your cat a healthy diet:

  1. A varied menu
  2. High-quality food
  3. The right quantity at the right time

A varied menu

No one likes to eat the same food every day. The same applies to your cat. However, apart from that eating the same menu day in and day out will bore even the most boring cats, it’s also not very healthy.

Different menus contain different nutrients, all of which your cat needs to stay healthy. So, regularly switch your feline’s menu. It will make your furball look forward to feeding time more but it also improves cat health.

By variance, I don’t just mean trying a different taste of the same generic canned food brand. Although that’s a nice start, try to experiment a bit with different foods and see what your cat likes. 

Some choices will be more successful than others and all cats have different preferences.

Switch up your cat’s diet and try the following:

  • Different ‘tastes’, different brands
  • Alternate canned food with fresh meat or fresh fish (check here for how to do this)
  • Both wet and dry food benefit a cat’s health so feed both (explained in our article right here)
  • Some cats like fruit and vegetables. You can experiment with this but the main diet should consist of meat. (see what vegetables cats can eat and which ones to avoid, here)

High-quality food is best for your cat

This one seems pretty straightforward. Just like us, cats can eat “junk food” every once in a while, as long as their main diet consists of (relatively) high-quality ingredients.

That generic brand in your local supermarket might be cheap and your cat will eat it but it will not be beneficial to its health.

More high-quality brands such as Hills, Royal Canin, or Orijen will use better, fresher ingredients with balanced nutritional content and less or no potentially harmful additives. 

Even if you decide not to go for an A-brand, please stay away from the cheapest brands a go for a mid-range brand such as Friskies, Whiskas, or Purina.

Yes, better quality cat food will be more expensive but your cat will love you for it and it will save you veterinary costs in the long run when your cat stays healthy for longer.

Want a convenient way to have your cat food automatically delivered to your doorstep at a competitive price and with free shipping? Check out our sponsor Chewy.

Create an individual order or choose auto-ship and never worry about running out of cat food again. Chewy now offers 50% off on your first auto-ship order.

The right quantity at the right time

It’s very easy for cats to over-eat and because of this, cat obesity is a huge problem.

In the wild, especially when looking at big cats, felines depend on the hunt and can easily go days between meals. Because of this, some cats will still instinctively eat as much as they can in a single sitting, even when fed regularly.

The ideal feeding schedule for cats is to eat relatively small amounts of food throughout the day. This would also mimic their hunting behavior where they might eat a few smaller prey during the day.

Cats who are obese can develop a range of health issues like problems with their joints or diseases like diabetes which is nowadays very common in cats, difficult to treat, and will surely lead to a quick and painful death.

Even without those issues, obese cats are often less active as well which, in turn, can cause mental health issues.

Don’t overfeed your cat and spread out their meals across the day as much as possible. This can be done with things like puzzle feeders or timer feeders (sponsored links to Amazon).

In general, try to stick to the below reference for your cat’s calorie intake. Not sure what’s best for your cat? Consult your vet and get advice for your cat’s specific situation.

Daily recommended calorie intake for cats5 lbs10 lbs15 lbs20 lbs
Kitten200 kcal400 kcal600 kcal800 kcal
Lean Cat170 kcal280 kcal360 kcal440 kcal
Overweight Cat180 kcal240 kcal280 kcal310 kcal
Pregnant Cat336 kcal603 kcal850 kcal1090 kcal

Have a challenge getting your cat to eat enough? See our article here to find out why your cat might not finish its bowl.

Exercise and playtime is essential for a cat’s health

Exercise and playtime!

Knowing how lazy our cats can be sometimes it is hard to imagine that they actually enjoy being active as well. I’d even say it is essential for their health.

In the wild, cats are very active as they need to hunt for their food on a daily basis and usually eat a few smaller prey per day. As a result, cats evolved for this. They are lean, fast, and strong.

As our pets, cats have become a bit spoiled and are not as active as they should be which sometimes has a detrimental effect on their health.

To keep your cat in physical top condition, she should get some exercise every day. Outdoor cats get this automatically but for indoor cats, a bit of persuasion is sometimes needed.

One of a cat’s favorite things to do is to spend time playing with you. Playing with your cat for about an hour each day does wonders for its health, both physically and mentally.

Need some inspiration? Have a look at this overview at Amazon for some great ideas.

Final thoughts and tips

As loving cat parents, we want our cat-children to stay with us as long as possible. It goes without saying that we want them to spend their years in good health.

Keeping a cat healthy and ensuring a long and happy life is not rocket science. Generally, what is healthy for us, is healthy for our pets. Apart from a healthy diet, enough exercise, and basic safety, make sure to go for regular checkups at your vet.

For kittens, schedule a checkup every 6 months and for adults and seniors at least once a year or when needed. Most health issues can be treated successfully. Especially when found at an early stage, these treatments usually don’t break the bank. Also, make sure your cat receives all required vaccinations to avoid unnecessary costs and worries.

Suggested reading

  • Are Siamese Cats Smarter Than Other Cats?

    Are Siamese Cats Smarter Than Other Cats?

At Cat & Friends we are passionate about everything feline. We are a team of cat parents and writers who love to write about everything related to cats. Our goal is to provide the most helpful and accurate information about our little furry friends through extensive research and experience.


  1. My comment pertains to the following paragraph…

    Cats who are obese can develop a range of health issues like problems with their joints or diseases like diabetes which is nowadays very common in cats, difficult to treat, and will surely lead to a quick and painful death… I have now shared my life with 2 diabetic cats so I’m speaking from my experience and what I’ve seen and learned from others at Diabetic Cats in Need- Facebook… Neither of my cats were obese, neither were overfed and neither died due to being diabetic. I am still sharing my life with 1, Ms Bitsy, but my Aristotle lost his battle with cancer in 2020, he was 18. I do hope this will enlighten folks… diabetes is not a death sentence nor is it difficult to treat. It is 2 shots of insulin a day, unless a change of diet does make to glucose numbers come down, which for some that’s all it takes sometimes… off the dry food and onto a good canned pate. Cats don’t eat kibble in the wild… let that be food for thought. 😉

    1. Hi Terri,
      Thanks for visiting Cat & Friends and for commenting! It is heartening to read that you’ve cared so well for your two diabetic cats. I personally have experience with my late Russian Blue who suffered from diabetis. Neither he was obese and indeed, when treated well and consistently, cats can live with diabetis. When writing this article, I didn’t mean to say that all obese cats get diabetis, neither are all cats with diabetis obese. Some cat are simply more prone to getting diabetis and it is often caused by a combination of factors. However, what I did mean is that statistically, obese cats have a much higher chance of getting diabetis. And, because diabetic cats need constant care, testing and insulin shots, it is something that takes time and effort to manage by a cat parent. I’ve seen this care fall by the wayside too often and when this happens diabetis is very much life-threatening for cats. Much love for Ms Bitsy and the care you give her. May she have a long life ahead of her.

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