HEALTH & CARE

How Long Do House Cats Live: From Kittenhood to His Golden Years

the oldest cat sitting
Stella Noble
Written by Stella Noble

With the discovery of better health care, nutrition, and lifestyle among other things, life expectancy has increased over time. Cats have not been left behind either; they can live for way over 20 years now. However, whether a cat is indoor or outdoor is a great determinant. Indoor cats generally live way longer than their feral and outdoor counterparts. This begs the question: how long do house cats live?

There is so much more to long life than just keeping your cat indoors. The kind of life your cat lives plays a great role. This is where we come in. Helping your house cat live his life to the fullest doesn’t have to be such a hassle if you know what to do and what to look out for.

indoor cat lying on floor

Do you want to know how much time you have left with your feline friend? How can you make your cat’s golden years shine even more? Have you also wondered how your cat’s age compares to yours? You will find all that and more below.

Factors that Affect a Cat’s Life Expectancy

Several factors determine how long a cat lives. They explain why an indoor cat has a better chance of living longer than other cats. Those factors are:

Health and Nutrition

vaccinations for cats

Health practices such as neutering and spaying increase your cat’s life expectancy. Spaying female cats keeps off uterine infections and cancerous breast tumors while neutering saves male cats from testicular cancer and prostrate issues.

Also, if not timely treated, illnesses can significantly reduce a cat’s life expectancy. Vaccinations, therefore, play a great role. Regular visits to the vet can also take care of this and help detect any health issues in time for treatment. Check this article out to learn how often your cat needs to be taken to the vet.

As for nutrition, adult cats have difficulties digesting carbohydrates and lactose while large portions of proteins are a welcome treat in their diet. A cat that is fed the right amount of food rich in proteins, amino acids and vitamins can better fight off diseases that come from poor nutrition. This significantly increases his lifespan.

Lifestyle

cat walking outdoor

As far as lifestyle is concerned, some cats are kept indoors, others outdoor, while some others switch between both environments. Outdoor cats live a significantly shorter life compared to the strictly indoor and the indoor/outdoor cat.

Outdoor life exposes cats to accidents, attacks by wild animals, diseases, and parasites, not to mention the harsh elements. Indoor life not only shields them from these but also ensures that they have access to a controlled diet and better health care.

Breed/Genetics

Generally speaking, mixed breeds and crossbreeds live longer than pure breeds. This is because they come from a wide pool of genes that protects them from inheriting some diseases and disorders which their parents may otherwise have predisposed them to.

Some cat breeds are known to have longer lifespans compared to others. For example, the Siamese has a reputation for outliving other breeds. Still, others belonging to other breeds have also been known to live for quite long. A presumed mixed breed called Crème Puff lived for 38 years. A Burmese named Kataleena Lady lived for 35 years. A Sphynx, Grandpa, lived to be 34. If you want to know more about the world’s oldest cats, check out this article.

Exercise

fat orange cat taking nap

Without exercise, cats can easily become overweight. Obesity is associated with health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, ligament damage, as well as breathing and liver problems. These can greatly affect the longevity of your cat.

On the other hand, exercise helps him live a fulfilled life by reducing aggressiveness and depression that may be brought about by boredom or too little interaction. Don’t know how to exercise your cat? Learn how to best engage them in fun and games in this article.

The Life Stages of a Cat

Just like humans, the life of a cat is defined in stages. They are classified from birth to their old age. Below are descriptions of their various levels of development.

Kitten

kitten rolling on floor

 

This stage ranges from a cat’s birth to when they are about six months old. During this period, kittens spend most of their time exploring their surroundings. They learn movement and coordination. It is during this period that their senses become sharper. A high rate of growth is also observed. They also develop immunity in this stage. Worried that you can’t take good care of a newborn kitten? Get some help from this article.

Junior

This stage stretches from when your cat is 7 months old to 2 years old. Growth decelerates during this stage. Their immunity is stronger. Hence, they are able to repel most diseases. They are sexually mature and can reproduce. Most cats reach their full size during this period.

Prime

prime cat on window sill

Comprises of cats age 3 to 6: As the name suggests, this is the dominant stage in a cat’s life. Their behavior is more defined. They are healthier, mature, and physically fit.

Mature

Ranges from age 7 to 10. At this point, your cat will become less active. Diseases such as arthritis may develop at this stage. Your cat will benefit from routine checkups at the vet’s.

Senior and Geriatric

old cat sitting

Starts when your cat reaches 11 years of age to 15 years and over. These are considered old cats. They have low immunity. They may have reduced hearing and seeing ability at this stage. They require more attention and more frequent visits to the vet.

Cats grow the fastest during the first two years of their lives. At one year old, a cat’s development is comparable to that of a 10 to 15-year-old human. By the end of his second year, he is already 25 years old in human years. The development pace slackens a bit after this, and the cat now ages about 4 to 5 human years every 12 months. Click on this link to learn more about cat to human age conversion.

Changes that Occur as a Cat Ages

Aging in felines comes with its fair share of challenges. To ensure that your cat gets to enjoy his life, it is important that you are able to identify the signs and changes that take place as he progresses.

Physiological, behavior and physical changes occur throughout a cat’s life. The appropriate care and attention are pegged on your ability to identify them. Below are some of the changes that you should be on the lookout for.

old cat lying on sofa

  • Older cats will require more grooming to avoid hairballs. As cats grow older, their coat becomes shorter and duller. Black fur becomes gray with time. The luster can be restored by giving him supplements as recommended by the vet.

  • Your cat’s skin becomes thinner and drier as he ages. This makes him more susceptible to injuries and skin diseases.

  • His feeding reduces with age. This is due to difficulties in digestion. Loss of weight can ensue. Take a look here to see how you can help your cat regain his weight. This can be remedied by giving him small portions of food evenly spread throughout the day as opposed to one big meal.

  • His activity level is reduced with age. He will play less and become lazier. This can also be a sign of arthritis and treatments should be administered to manage the pain.

  • He may become easily irritable. Changes in the home environment should be made gradually; this will help him cope more easily. Find information on how to better prepare your cat for changes in his environment in this article.

  • Loss of hearing occurs with age. This may reduce his alertness—which could expose him to danger. Complete deafness becomes a possibility if the condition is not treated early enough.

  • Changes in the eyes will be noticeable as he ages. Cloudiness on the pupil and a blue hue around the lenses are common. These changes do not usually affect his eyesight.

  • Dental problems become more pronounced in older cats. Feeding him sugary treats that are not meant for felines may result in cavities later in life. Their teeth may fall out, and he may get gum diseases which cause a lot of pain. This will adversely affect his feeding. Tooth brushing and general dental hygiene will go a long way in reducing these incidences.

  • Kidney disease is also prevalent in older cats. A significant increase in water consumption is a major sign of the disease. How much water is too much? Find out by reading this article. The onset of the disease can also be signified by frequent urination. These signs are easily noticeable if you pay close attention to him.

  • As his ability to groom himself reduces, his claws will grow longer, thicker, and brittle. This puts him in danger of his paws getting trapped in curtains and clothes. Regular clipping is advised.

  • Hyperthyroidism is another disease that may affect cats as they age. Among the signs to look out for include increased heart rate and heart murmurs. Antithyroid medication should be administered in mild cases. Severe cases may require surgery.

  • Hardening of the mammary glands may affect female cats. Although it might appear normal for old cats, it could be an indication of tumor. You should massage your cat and feel for any bumps or lumps in the mammary gland. Spaying will reduce the chances of your cat falling victim to this as she ages.

How to Increase a Cat’s Life Expectancy

Considering the unconditional love that your cat gives you, it is only normal to wish that he would live forever. However, this is impossible. The best you can hope for is being with him for as long as possible. Apart from this, it is also important that he gets to live happily and meaningfully. Here are some handy tips to help you achieve this:

Step #1: Monitor Your Cat’s Health

vet examining cat

It is ill-advised to visit the vet’s clinic only when health issues arise. Take your cat for annual health exams; it is necessary for cats under ten years of age. Beyond this age, the cat requires more attention, and hence biannual visits are recommended. 

The examinations will be crucial in identifying disorders that might otherwise stay hidden, e.g. feline cancer. Some cats come predisposed to certain health issues from their parents. These genetic diseases can only be taken care of with proper help from the vet and the breeder. 

Step #2: Keep Your Cat on a Proper Diet

cat eating broccoli from fork

Overfeeding can make your cat grow overweight. What he wants may not be what he needs. Treats are high in calories which may make him overweight if given in unregulated amounts. All this puts him at risk of diabetes. His core dietary need is meat which should be the bigger portion of every meal. A healthy and fit cat has a higher chance of living longer.

The amount and the type of food go a long way in determining how long your cat lives. Plan your kitty’s diet while taking into account his different needs. Age, level of activity, and health requirements are important in determining the type and portions of food that you give your cat. This topic is further explained in this article.

The saying ‘water is life’ holds true even for our feline friends. Always accompany your feline’s dry food with plenty of water. A dehydrated cat may fall victim to kidney failure. Cats prefer to drink from water fountains.

Step #3: Keep Your Cat Indoors

cat lying on carpet

Keeping your cat indoors allows you to provide him with proper diet, care, and protection from outdoor dangers. Mostly, adventures attract your cat to the outside world. To recreate this in your house, provide your cat with lots of toys and play areas such as scratching posts and places where he can perch.

To give him a taste of the outdoors, you can take him out for walks instead of letting him loose alone. Here’s how you train your cat to walk on a leash. Also, a room with large windows would be a great place for the cat to indulge in the happenings of the outdoors. You can build a DIY window perch for him.

Step #4: Offer Companionship to Your Cat

man massaging cat

Being a social creature, your cat recognizes your presence and associates it with safety and fulfillment. Whenever you are around him, make him feel as secure as possible. This helps in forming a strong bond that keeps both of you happy.

You can take your bond to the next level by playing with him, involving him in your activities to make him feel that he is a member of the family, petting him, and giving him a massage. A feline companion for him would make him happier too. You will be amazed at the amount of trouble that these activities will save you in terms of your kitty’s health and well-being.

Wrap Up

old orange cat wearing glasses

Cats go through several stages of development. There are specific developmental milestones achieved at each of these stages. During the later stages of life, there are several signs to look out for to ensure that your kitty ages gracefully. With the above information at your disposal, you are sure to walk hand in hand with your cat from when he is a newborn kitten to the geriatric stage.

While keeping a cat indoors may assure you of his long life, other factors like health, breed, lifestyle, and exercise have a big role to play. Your effort is required to make them work to your cat’s advantage by not only increasing his life expectancy but also by ensuring that he lives a happy, fulfilled life.

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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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