Categories: cat age

What percentage of cats live to 20?

20 year old cat. You can see the age in his face and to be honest he looks miserable. He may be ill. The photo is from Wikimedia Commons.

What percentage of cats live to 20? This is a question asked by a sizeable proportion of internet surfers. The truth of the matter is that we don’t have an answer. We can’t look it up in a book or on a website because the statistics are not available. No one is counting or doing surveys.

However, 20 years of age is exceptional for a domestic cat, indeed any cat if one takes all cats in all places into consideration. Nearly all domestic cats will die before their 20th birthday. Some will live into their 20s and exceptionally rarely some will live into their 30s.

If one took a sample of 1000 cats I’d expect about 5 to live to 20. That is a big guess and in percentages it is 0.5% (half a percent). This is probably being a bit mean. If ten cats in 1000 lived to 20 that would mean 1% of all cats lived to 20. However, it depends on where the cat lives. Tyler (a commenter – see below) says it is uncommon for a cat to live to 20 where she lives (I believe she lives in the US). But in other countries it will be much rarer. Perhaps in the US I’ll concede that cats uncommonly live to 20. How about that?

Jennifer, a visitor to the site says this:

Vets are now saying it is MUCH more common for cats to live to be in their 20s. I’d say I’d revise your numbers a lot. Every vet I’ve talked to has said they’ve had 20 year old cats in their practice..

…which clearly indicates a trend towards more 20+ year-old domestic cats. Good. I believe she lives in the USA also. The increase in lifespan probably follows that of humans – due to improved health care. Her comment indicates to me that around 2% of cats are aged 20 or over.

Rather than guessing percentages it is probably more sensible to state that a small percentage of cats live to 20. Twenty is almost 100 years of age for a person.

Note: We are discussing domestic cats. The title refers to ‘cats’ in general which should include strays and ferals. Clearly these almost never live to 20.

P.S. Around 40 years ago the expected lifespan of domestic cats was between 9 and 15 years with 16 not being unusual (source: Dr Desmond Morris). You can see how are expectations have improved which is probably due to improved veterinary services.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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