How long do cats live? This is quite a sticky question in some ways as it specifies cats in general – a wide range of species and circumstances. My moggie stray cat that I rescued and who has given me so much pleasure and who is, I confess, overweight, is still going strong (fingers crossed) at the age of about 18 years or more. I am not sure of the actual age as she was picked up off the street. Note: this was written about 12 years ago 😊. I currently live with a tabby male ex-feral cat. I have upgraded the page as at Feb 2022.
Yet, in contrast to my experiences I have read about a women who bought several modern Siamese cats from a breeder and she was lucky (no, the cats were lucky) if they lived beyond the aged of 10, she said. That is not to say that all modern Siamese cats live short lives, they do not. In her case the immune systems of her cats were compromised resulting in cats that were, it seems, rarely fully healthy.
In my experience a healthy, well looked after domestic cat that does not stray widely (but who might venture out under supervision) should live to between, say, 15-20 or so years. These are figures that come from my head not a book. If the domestic cat strays and wanders then earlier death in accidents and catching a disease will, on average, shorten the life span by a few years.
The experts say that pure feral cats live for anything between 3-6 years or so, much shorter. This is because they are adapted for domesticity and not for being a wild cat in a suburban environment. Although feral cats managed by volunteers in TNR colonies can sometimes have lifespans equivalent to those of domestic cats. And they can have good lives too.
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The small wild cats, such as the Scottish wildcat live about 11-12 years, so I am told. This slightly shorter life than the one I quoted above, for the domestic cat, is probably due to their harder lifestyle, despite their excellent survival abilities.
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It is the controversial point about purebred cats that I am reluctant to raise here. Some say (one being the biologist, Desmond Morris) that the domestic purebred cat has a shorter life on average that the mixed breed moggie as the gene pool from whence they came is generally much narrower. The entire population of some purebred cats (Bengal for one) can be traced back to a few cats. Another entire breed that has a high coefficient of inbreeding is the Burmese. There are others.
Neutering of domestic cats that roam has an effect on average age as unneutered boys will tend to fight more that neutered boy cats.
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— Pets Clan (@pets_clan) February 23, 2022
Note: This is an embedded tweet. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
It is the natural desire by cat breeders to produce a wonderful specimen in line with the breed standard that can, on occasion, become so overriding as to effect the health of the particular cat and the breed as a whole. Inbreeding depression can take hold (weakened health due to recessive genes that are damaging to health coming to the fore and being visible rather than hidden). It is these cats that will have shorter lives, on average, for this reason. How long do cats live in respect of the purebred domestic cats? I would say on average about 9-14 years but this is not based on any survey just general reading.
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Inbreeding is not confined to domestic cats. It has happened in the wild and in captivity for wild cats. The cheetah is inbred and it seems to me that a substantial percentage of captive wild cats, the big cats such as the tigers and lions, are also inbred. As the populations diminish inbreeding increases. We don’t see these “defective” animals, a travesty of the magnificence of these fantastic cats.
But they are hidden away and probably killed for tiger parts for the Asian medicine market. Some of these animals have visible congenital defects. When we see what should be a fabulous animal reduced to that at the hands of humankind it makes me sick of humankind. These large captive wild cats might only live a few years with their deaths “unexplained” or explained away. However, captive wildcats can live for considerably longer than cats living in the wild, for obvious reasons.
However, it is not all bad news, of course. A health tiger or lion in the wild in the good old days might live on average for 10-15 years or 16-20 years in captivity.
Wild cat lifespans – some more notes
Here are some lifespans of wild cat species which may interest you:
In captivity, caracals have lived to be 16 years old. Jungle cats have been known to live to 9 years and 10 months of age. Captive European wildcats have lived to be 16 years old. Jaguarundi in captivity have lived for more than 10 years. In captivity, ocelots are known to live for 20 years but longevity in the world is almost certainly less. One female oncilla lived to be 17 years old. As for the serval, they have been known to live for 20 years in captivity. As for the Canada lynx one female lived to 14 years and 11 months old in captivity. As for the bobcat, there are records of captive bobcats living to 25 and 32 years of age. In the wild they have been records of bobcats living to 17 years of age. This is a long-lived wild cat species. Captive Asiatic leopard cats have lived to 13 years of age. Flat-headed cats have lived to 14 years of age in captivity. The oldest rusty-spotted cat in captivity was 12 years of age. A lioness in Nairobi National Park died at the estimated age of 22 years. In Etosha, another lioness lived to be more than 16 years old before she disappeared. In captivity, jaguars have lived to be 20-25 years old. One female lived to the age of 32. Longevity in the wild is unknown. One expert estimated that some jaguars in Belize lived to be more than 11 years old. The jaguar is a long-lived wild cat species. As for the leopard, a female in Israel lived to 16 years of age.
How Long Do Cats Live — Here is a summary:
|Indoor domestic (neutered)||15|
|Indoor/Outdoor domestic -estimate||13|
|Very old domestic cats||late 20s|
|Oldest domestic cats||late 30s|
|Purebred indoor domestic||11|
|Small wildcat in the wild||12|
|Large wildcat in the wild||12|
|Healthy and large wildcat in captivity||20s|
Cat to human age comparison
Here is a human/cat comparison chart. I have added to this assessment since writing this page. Please click on the link below to see it:
|Cat Age||Human Age|
|12 free bus pass||61|
|13 retirement and pension||65|
|22 letter from the Queen||101|