GENERAL BREED INFO

Indoor Cat Lifespan: How to Help Your Cat Live to a Ripe Old Age

Image showing a cat laying on her owner and relaxing
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

We all love our little furry friends—so much so that we never want to be parted from them. But as is the case with all living beings, a cat’s lifespan is limited. Indoor cat lifespan is usually significantly longer than the lifespan of outdoors felines, but that doesn’t make them immortal. Even so, there are things you can do to prolong your cat’s lifespan so they will live to a ripe old age and keep you company for as long as possible.

You probably already know that routine vaccination and a balanced diet can prolong your cat’s lifespan, but with our help, you will gain a deeper understanding about some other things that play a big role in determining your feline’s life expectancy. By paying attention to behavioral changes, environment, and anticipating issues before they could become a major problem, you’ll be able to help your feline lead a happy and healthy life indoors.

Image showing a cat laying on the carpet

This guide will help you learn all the necessary information so you can share a big portion of your life with your best fur friend. How many times you need to take your kitten for checkups, why you should not overfeed your cat, and how different cat breeds have a different life expectancy are just a few of the many topics we will discuss with you in this article in hopes that your cat will be able to live longer.

Indoor Cat vs. Outdoor Cat Lifespan

Studies have shown that an indoor cat’s lifespan can range from 14-17 years. Some people successfully shared their lives with their beloved cats for more than 20 years. A stress-free lifestyle and a lack of dangers ensure that house cats, in general, live seven years longer than the felines who occasionally goes outside.

Outdoor cats are more prone than indoor cats to contracting diseases, getting serious injuries from fights with other cats, and some may even get in a car accident. Because of all these things, they usually don’t make it past their 10th birthday.

A ginger cat sitting in outdoors in the garden ready to explore

Even if your cat only goes outdoors from time to time, every time she leaves the house, she faces potential dangers that can shorten her lifespan. However, even if you decide not to let your cat out of the house anymore after learning about how it can shorten their lifespan, there’s no guarantee that your newly-indoor cat will live to see her 20th birthday. There are factors like breed or some hereditary conditions that can affect house cat lifespan.

How Old is Your Cat in Human Years?

Before we explain the factors that affect an indoor cat’s lifespan and how to prolong it, we would like to take a minute to explain how to calculate your cat’s age in human years. We believe this will help you get a clearer idea of how much care your cat really needs and how carefully you should treat them—if they are elderlies, you will have to monitor them very carefully and bring them to the vet for health checkups often, whereas if they are a teenager, you should give them some space.

There is an overall agreement that the first two years of a cat’s life equal the first 25 in human years. And after that, one cat year equals four human years. So if your kitty is 3, in human years that is 29.

Image showing a fat cat laying on her back on the couch

Another method says that a one-year-old kitten is equivalent to a 15-year-old person. At age two, your cat will be 24 in human years. From the age of 2-14, your cat will age at the rate of 4 human years per cat year. And after the age of 14, every cat year is two human years. If math is not your strong suit, just consider one year of your cat’s life as equivalent to 7 human years. In the end, whichever method that you choose, your cat will probably always be older than you.

How to Prolong the Life Expectancy of Indoor Cats

If you want your cat to reach old age, other than keeping her indoors, there are many more things you can do to prolong her lifespan for several years, such as:

Regular Veterinary Exams

Taking your cat on regular veterinary exams is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your cat will be there with you for the long run. Creating a long lasting and routine relationship with your vet can make a huge difference in a house cat’s lifespan, as your vet is someone who can spot signs of trouble early so any illness or injuries can be treated before they become life-threatening.

Vet checkups are most frequent during the first year of your kitten’s life. Your kitten should be tested for Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and receive her first vaccines.

Image showing a cat at the veterinary for the regural exam

During her adult life, your cat should visit the vet annually for shots and overall health checkup. In their adult period, some cats are prone to developing diseases like feline diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and arthritis. Catching these diseases in their first stages can prolong your house cat’s lifespan for several years.

Cats older than ten are considered seniors, and they should be checked twice a year, or even more often if they are suffering from some chronic disease. Treat your cat’s health as you would your own, and remember that preventive care goes a long way in ensuring your cat’s longevity.

Ensuring Nutritional Balance

A well-rounded and nutritious diet is the key to prolonging your house cat’s lifespan. Obesity amongst indoor cats is one of the biggest problems owners are faced with. We all have difficulties resisting the pleading round eyes they direct at us in hopes of getting a few extra bites of her favorite food. Try to stay strong because overfeeding is a no-no.

image showing a little cat in front of her food bowl

Set up regular meals, and if you have more than one cat, separate them in different rooms until they finish eating. A high quality and balanced diet are fundamental to a healthy and long life. Nowadays you can find different types of food that consist of different nutrients specially designed for specific stages in a cat’s life. This is important because your cat’s nutritional needs change as she progresses in life.

For example, feeding your adult cat with food that is made for kittens is going to result in obesity. Kittens need extra calories to grow, but an adult cat doesn’t. Consult your vet if you have trouble picking the food that will suit your cat’s age and activity levels, and also if your cat has a health condition that makes her require a special diet.

Anticipating Health Risks by Cat Breed

As we have mentioned before, different cat breeds have different lifespans. What we didn’t mention was that different cat breeds have specific diseases that they’re vulnerable to as well. Check out the table below to see the life expectancy and some diseases that are commonly found in some popular purebred cats:

BreedLifespanCommon diseases
Balinese18-22Amyloidosis, Asthma, Congenital Heart Defect
European Shorthair15-22Polycystic Kidney Disease
American Shorthair15-20Asthma, Heartworm
Russian Blue15-20Leukemia virus, Lower urinary tract disease
Siamese15-20Respiratory problems, Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Purebred cats are prone to be stricken with hereditary diseases, so it is important to find out about any health problems your kitten’s parents might have. Also, studies have shown that mixed-breed cats usually live longer than purebred cats. But if you own a purebred cat, don’t get discouraged by this information.

Image showing a Persian cat relaxing

Good health and tender loving care trump genetics. Keeping your purebred puss as an indoor-only cat and doing all the things we listed here will keep her healthy and ready for that 18th birthday celebration.

Spaying/Neutering

Recent studies are conclusive in their assertions that sterilization adds additional years to a house cat’s lifespan.

Why You Should Spay Female Cats

Spayed female cats live on average 39 percent longer than unspayed ones, and have a 14 percent less chance of developing breast cancer, as opposed to unspayed females who have a 90 percent chance of getting a malignant tumor. Also, chances of getting ovarian diseases are minimal.

Why You Should Neuter Male Cats

Male neutered cats live on average two years longer than the ones who are not sterilized. After neutering, your cat will run a much smaller risk of suffering from life-threatening diseases such as cancer and hernia.

Image showing an orange male cat laying down

Their overall behavior will also be much calmer. The lack of testosterone will transform restless males into a fun companion who is now interested in you and not just the neighboring females.

Paying Attention to Their Dental Health

Felines are animals that take great care of their overall hygiene, so owners usually overlook the fact that they need some assistance in oral care. Most cats develop a dental problem in their adulthood. To prevent this, you must start taking care of your cat’s teeth from a young age.

Poor dental hygiene can cause various problems under the gum line. If the problem has developed to such a state, it can only be treated by your vet. However, frequently owners don’t realize that something is wrong until it’s too late.

Image showing a cat playing with a theet brush

Dental problems can have a big impact on your cat’s lifespan, but you can easily avoid any undesirable consequences by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. We know how hard it can be to accustom your puss to a toothbrush, so there are alternatives in oral wipes, oral rinses, and dental sprays to keep those canines white and shiny.

Be Aware of Behavioral Changes

Cats don’t have a vast array of facial expressions the way we do, so to express their feelings they use subtle signs to tell us that something is wrong. Any behavioral change, even if it seems small, can be an indicator of some bigger issues or perhaps even diseases.

It is important to know your kitten’s daily routines and habits, so you can realize in time if there are changes in her behavior. Often the first signs go unnoticed by the owners, so here we will describe a few of the most common changes in feline behavior that are indicative of some potentially serious issues:

Behavioral Warning Signs #1: Changes in Appetite

If you have not changed your cat’s usual favorite food to a new brand and yet she is exhibiting signs of change in her appetite, this is a cause for concern. Loss of appetite can be traced back to a toothache, or it could be the first signs of kidney failure. If your cat is not eating well, it could further damage her immune system and make her susceptible to many other conditions.

Two cats eating together from the same dish on the floor

On the other hand, if your cat becomes too ravenous, it can be a sign of hyperthyroidism. It is very important to notice changes in your kitty’s eating habits because if they are not addressed as soon as possible, they can have a big impact on your cat’s lifespan.

Behavioral Warning Signs #2: Changes in Water Consumption

Water consumption plays a big role in your cat’s health. If you often notice that your kitty is licking her water bowl dry despite that you’ve just refilled it not too long ago, it can be a sign of kidney disease or feline diabetes. On the other hand, not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, which is also very dangerous. Clean and easily assessable water is a big factor in your house cat’s lifespan. Cats are sometimes picky when it comes to the type of water they want to drink.

Regular drinking bowls can’t preserve the level of freshness they prefer for a long time. If your cat figures out that she can drink directly from the tap, let her. Just make sure she is consuming enough water every day.

Close-up image of a cat drinking water

Water fountains are probably the best source of fresh water for your kitty. Cats respond well to them. If you have trouble getting your cat to drink water from a bowl, consider getting a water fountain as a solution. Water plays a big role in supporting your kitten’s health. Not enough or too much can lead to many health problems, but achieving the golden middle is going to prolong your kitty’s life expectancy considerably.

Behavioral Warning Signs #3: Unusual Things in the Litter Box

If you notice anything out of the ordinary regarding the consistency, color, or smell of your cat’s poop or urine, notify your vet immediately. Any unusual discharge can be a sign of digestive problems.

Behavioral Warning Signs #4: Weight Change

Cats are relatively small animals, and any fluctuation in their weight can lead to serious health problems. If your cat suddenly starts to lose weight, it could be a sign of cancer, parasites, or thyroid disease.

Image presenting a Siamese cat laying down

It is desirable and highly recommended to measure your cat’s weight regularly. There are many options for a good and highly accurate pet measuring scale that will detect even the slightest changes in your cat’s weight. It is a good investment that will help you maintain your feline at a healthy weight throughout her life.

Exercise is Important Too

Keeping your puss as a house cat does wonders in prolonging her lifespan. But while all the neighboring cats are running and trying to catch birds outside, yours is spending most of her time by the window or sleeping. Inactivity can lead to many problems—like depression—and can have a big impact on the quality of your kitty’s life.

When we say exercise can prolong your house cat’s lifespan, we don’t mean that you need to come up with a fitness plan for your cat and make her run laps around the couch until she is sweating bullets. All that your cat needs is 30 minutes of your time every day. Play with her. You can use laser light to make your cat jump around or run in circles or any of her favorite toys.

Close-up image of a cat playing with the camera

There are many benefits you can expect from everyday exercise. Your cat is at a much lower risk of getting overweight, and there will be no threats of depression because you keep her mind occupied with fun activities.

Also, playing with your cat will provide some level of safety for your furniture and other house items. Your cat won’t demolish them if her attention is occupied elsewhere. Playing together will also strengthen the bond between you and your kitty. Enjoy the fun that you will be having and remember that this way you are ensuring many more years of fun and play with your best furry friend.

Environmental Enrichment

Cats have natural behaviors like chewing and scratching that they continue to practice indoors. It is your job to prepare a suitable environment so your cat wouldn’t feel deprived of her natural instinct.

Image showing two cone cat for scratching

Because cats enjoy climbing onto everything, it is recommended that you build some vantage points near the windows or in some other locations that your cat finds interesting. You should also purchase a scratching post and a variety of other toys to keep your cat occupied.

Environmental enrichment plays a key role in prolonging your house cat’s lifespan. By equipping your house with all the things that will let your cat act normal, you are not just prolonging her life; you are creating a safe haven for her.

Regular Grooming

Cats spend a great amount of time tending to their hair. But overgrooming themselves can lead to the accumulation of hairballs in their stomach. Your kitty will get rid of a hairball by vomiting it. Although this is a natural behavior, it sometimes can be life-threatening.

Image showing a woman brushing a cats hair

On the way out of your cat’s stomach, the hairball must pass through the narrow esophagus, and if it gets stuck there, it can obstruct your cats breathing. Lethargy, diarrhea, constipation, and a lack of appetite are all symptoms of a potentially life-threatening blockage.

That’s why it is important to help your cat in her everyday effort to keep her hair soft and shiny. Groom your cat once a day to reduce chances of hairball development. This routine will help you bond with your kitty, make her feel more beautiful, and prolong her lifespan.

Wrap Up

Spotting anything out of the usual in time is very significant for prolonging your house cat’s lifespan. If your kitty changes her behavior in any way, don’t hesitate to call your vet. Listen to your intuition and always be aware of anything that is out of your feline’s usual habits.

Keeping your feline indoors gives her better chances of reaching senior years, but more than that, you must incorporate all of the things mentioned above if you truly want to prolong your kitten’s life expectancy.

A cat laying down and playing with a mouse

Did we miss anything? If you know any other ways that will help us and other cat owners prolong the lifespan of our beloved felines, please comment below.

About the author
Stella Noble
Stella Noble

Stella Noble lives in Warren, Michigan with her family and three cats. She is a Certified Cat Trainer and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

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