How long can a cat live?

cat closeup 300x277 How long can a cat live?

Cats can live longer than we think!

UPDATE Dec 2011: I’m excited to report that my research is done, my cat longevity eBook ready, and I’m giving it away FREE right now here.

How long is a cat’s lifespan these days? How long was it a few decades ago?

Some people think cats used to live longer. Some think they are living longer today. I hear different answers all over the place.

I am not satisfied with an answer I’ve seen a lot: “11-15 years is a normal cat lifespan.”

Even if it is the current average, I don’t think it’s normal.

My feeling

Many of us have met people with cats who have lived to 20 years or older. There are records of cats living to over 30 years of age.

So if 20 – 30 years is possible, why would we accept a third or even one half of that as “normal?” Doesn’t it strike you as odd?

Look at this interesting quote from Dr. Ihor Basko’s blog:

When I was just beginning to work as a veterinarian, I visited many farms that had “farm cats”. They seemed to live long into their 20’s! We never saw them come into the veterinary office for treatment. They were never vaccinated, except for a single rabies shot. They would only come into the office once or twice in their lives for cat fight wounds and abscesses, but none seemed to develop any serious diseases. What did the farmers feed them? Fresh leftover milk from the cows, and all the rats, mice, gophers, and birds they could catch.

I’m not that interested in averages, especially because I can’t find comprehensive historic research on it. I’m interested in a slightly different question now…

{ Quick aside: Someone will probably be tempted to mention the “feral cats only live 3-4 years” statistic. But ferals die early from accidents and from living in an unnatural habitat that lacks an abundance of prey for them. That’s why  I believe today’s non-rural feral lifespan (whatever it may be) says little about how long a cat should be able to live in a healthy environment with good nourishment. }

phil joel window cropped 300x245 How long can a cat live?

Our cats Phil and Joel

Your opinion and experiences?

After seeing too many cats dying younger and younger from cancer or kidney failure and too many cats with diabetes or thyroid disease and shrinking lifespans, what I’m interested in now is:

  • How long should or could a cat’s lifespan be?
  • How do we get there?

I’m launching a mission to answer those questions, which I’m calling The Cat Longevity Project.

Yes, I have my own opinions and gathered wisdom about these questions, but it’s time to get out of my own head and hear from you!

I’m interested in anything and everything you might have to say.  How you can help:

  • Share your opinions and stories about cat longevity & lifespan in the Comments below (or by contacting me directly).
  • Please send and post this Quick Survey designed for anyone who has had a cat live to 20+ years. (And please take it yourself if you’ve had a 20+ cat!).  I want to collect all answers to this 5-minute survey within a week, so please share it or take it now if possible. Thank you!

I can’t do this without you—thank you so much for your help! And stay tuned in the months ahead as the mission to learn and share continues.

UPDATE Dec 2011: My cat longevity research is done, and I’m giving it away FREE right now here!

23 Responses to How long can a cat live?

  1. Leslie Michel June 23, 2014 at 12:51 am #

    I’ve had 2 indoor-outdoor cats live to be 19+ years old. Miss Juliette, a long haired harlequin calico, had me as her guardian for all but the first 8 weeks of her life.
    I did not spade Juliette before she had a litter of kittens. Their dad was 4 year old ‘Little One’ (my other 19+ cat, manx, from a tough Potrero Hill, SF gang-cat feral mother) conceived during her first heat. She had 3 kittens in a basket as I watched. Little One was a maternally oriented Tom who shared kitten care with her. It was beautiful! I had a list of 10 wanting one of those kittens…
    As an aside, know I kept the cats INSIDE at night. They were allowed outdoors during the day. I did not use a litter box other than a box of garden soil on the patio for the kittens. If a health issue occurred I’d do a temporary indoor box as needed.
    I fed them a combo of wet and dry Nutro Max Natural and meat leftovers. They especially loved nibbles of Maguro or Hamachi sashimi from the sushi place. Both Juliette and especially Little One supplemented their diets with captured rodents and insects regularly.
    I used Advantage for flea control when it became available for cats. I bathed Juliette every 2 weeks for several years before Advantage. Little One slept in my studio in an outbuilding before moving inside. The vacuum was used regularly for flea control. I was delighted when Advantage was available for cats – before then Miss Juliette was treated for tapeworms twice. In California there wasn’t ever enough winter cold to wipe out fleas.
    About age 17 Little One began to decline – he had autoimmune issues and had skin cancer successfully removed from his cute pink nose. We got a new manx kitten, IggI, which brought him him back to full power! Little One adopted IggI. He groomed, nurtured, slept with and taught him everything including hunting and consuming prey.
    When Little One’s body wore out he could still jump up on the counter to eat sashimi – but the connective tissue in his jaw was gone. The vet came to our house to put him down as I held him in my arms. I kept him in his basket overnight. The other pets checked him out and I buried him in the morning.
    Something odd happened several years later with the Nutro Max food but I didn’t connect it to Miss Juliette vomiting. We had been to the vet several times but things didn’t improve until the day there was no Nutro at the store and the salesgirl gave us samples of other food. Within 3 days Juliette was not sick anymore! IggI ate more rodents and wet food than she did at the time and wasn’t having tummy problems.
    I wrote Nutro a letter about my experience – but heard nothing back. I was so disappointed! For years their chow was awesome, then something changed. So did I. I started buying Orijen.
    During Juliette’s last 2 years she developed kidney issues – which were caused by the melamine found in Nutro’s kibble. I injected subQ guilds her last year. Strange but true it was easy and she loved it! A month short of 20 she died at home. She’s buried by Little One.
    IggI is 13 this year and mighty as can be! I anticipate him thriving longer than the other two. I’ll be bringing a new kitten aboard this year too. It will be great for him to have another cat to play with – aside from the dog!

  2. Kathi Torok April 16, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    I have a 17 year old tabby who was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism a couple of years ago. She eats YD dry food exclusively, she refuses to eat the canned food. Is there another food, such as Prowl or Grace human grade food that she can eat that won’t affect her health? I hate that she doesn’t eat wet food. She drinks plenty of water. Any suggestions?
    I just lost my 20 year old Creamsicle in January. He had terrible arthritis in his hip and all of a sudden couldn’t walk with his back legs and stopped eating. It was so sad but he led a wonderful life (after we got him 15 years ago-a rough go of it beforehand) and I have no regrets. Just miss him more than words can say.

  3. Sherry October 8, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    Hi,
    I couldn’t find a link to your survey. My Lucy van Pelt is 22 years old. She is a bit thin, so we have been feeding her Hill’s AD formula canned. She is still fairly active, definitely indoors all the time. Last check up, all was well except for a bit of tartar the vet scraped off, I didn’t want to risk anesthesia at her age!

  4. MIss Kitty September 23, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    Our cat is 22 and her mother is actually still alive and living in our neighbor’s barn! Our Tuffy cat was spayed young and was a tough barn cat until about 3 years ago when she moved indoors because her hearing began to fail.
    I make her food. I cook beef bones for hours until the broth is mostly gelatin and is filled with glucosamine along with the connective tissue, then I toss the bones and add organ meat and cook it to mush. She gets a few tablespoons of this daily and has a self feeder for her dry food. She is active, beautiful, has no health problems and I am looking forward to having her here for a long time yet. She has never been overweight, and is always up to date on her immunizations. She looks like a kitten. I do believe this cat won the genetic lottery. She is a tuxedo/calico/tortoise,tiger mix with huge, huge bronze eyes.

  5. April January 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    I had the hardest time losing my cat in early 2012. It was one of the worst pains I have ever gone through. The hardest part was that I think he should have lived longer. My horrible experience with misdiagnosis is below:
    http://mycatcasper.blogspot.com/
    I LOVE your blog. I am dedicated to making sure my new little kitty does not have his life cut short like my beloved Casper.

  6. Heather January 5, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    My cat will be turning 18 in a few months and is still very healthy. She hasn’t been to the vet since she was a kitten and for the most part stays outside. She is slowing down some and thinner but still a beautiful lady at nearly 126!

    • Stacy March 21, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      I had to reply to your post as I am in the middle of the last days for my 20 year old Siamese. Please, all who read this, take your older cats in for bloodwork 2 times per year. I did not do that and my best friend is paying the ultimate price. Many older cats get diabetes or kidney failure if they live long enough. I changed both my cats, one is 20, the other 14 from Science Diet age defying over to Blue Buffalo thinking I was doing the best for them. Within 4 months the 14 year old developed the urine crystal problem. He is recovering thank God. 10 days later my 20 year old refused to eat and began drinking water like mad. Kidney failure. High protein, meat diets make the kidneys work HARD. Had I had his bloodwork done after the change, the vet would have seen the high protein in his blood and his outlook could have been so much better. High protein for old tired kidneys is like poisen.

  7. Sandy Balli December 7, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Our dear cat, Darby, is almost 22 years old. He is a Himalayan/Ragdoll type cat. He is really showing signs of age now and sleeps most of the time and eats very little. We feed him Senior Anova dry food and wet food. We put GNC Nourishcat (like Ensure for cats) on his wet food. We have done this for about a year. Prior to that he just ate high end dry food. He has always been mostly indoor but some outdoor time as well. He has only been to a vet twice and it was for getting a certificate to fly with us when we moved. We think that he has lived a long time because he is so emotionally comfortable with us. We talk to him as if he was a person. We ask him questions and he meows back at us in various tones to let us know what he is thinking. He still talks to us even at his advanced age. He loves to be with people, even the 5 grandchildren visitors and thrives on attention, brushing, petting, and even the pearl necklaces and feathers that our 5 year old granddaughter puts on him.we will miss him terribly when he passes which we believe will be soon.

  8. Hairless Cat November 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Hi Liz,

    I’ve seen too many cats die from being overweight, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer.

    I think some of the main causes are poor diet, not enough exercise, and not enough water.

    Dry cat food is extremely dry. It sucks up all the water out of the guts and over time that leads to disease.

    We like to give our cats raw food and canned food. We do give them a little high end dry food too. They like the crunch. But the moisture in the raw and canned food is a huge help in keeping them healthier and living longer.

    We make sure we change the water three times a day. They get plenty of moisture from the water dish and the wet foods.

    We give them a very small amount of select table scraps and keep adding cat toys to the toy chest as well as purchase new cat furniture for them. We also interact with them a lot and participate in their play. This helps them keep in shape and keeps them emotionally satisfied.

    Good points in your article. I think that if a cat lives into his late teens or into his 20’s he’s doing well.

    Routine vet visits also help with health and longevity.

    Glad your doing this project. It’ll educate the cat parent population and help create awareness.

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

  9. Liz-cat June 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Gin, fabulous – 23 years old! I think a 20+ cat life is more common – and more possible – than many people realize.

    Congratulations on your 15 and 16 year old cats too. It’s amazing to me when I meet people who think that age 11 constitutes “the final days” in cat years. Let’s prove them wrong as much as we can. : )

  10. Gin Shreve May 27, 2012 at 6:19 am #

    I missed this survey (having just now found this fabulous site!) but I just wanted to add that I had a tortoise haired cat who lived to be 23! The vet said she just died of old age, but I wonder now if it was undiagnosed hyperthyroidism – as I look back on the symptoms, she behaved similarly to my cat who was recently diagnosed with that. (This was almost 20 years ago, and I do not remember them testing for this stuff back then.)

    She was indoor/outdoor for the first half of her life, indoor only for the last half, and ate dry food only occasionally supplemented by wet.

    My two cats now, who are 15 and 16, eat raw food almost exclusively – and every time they see the vet, he comments about what great shape they are in for their ages. I attribute it to the raw diet that they have been on for the past 10 years!

  11. Molly October 6, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    Dear Liz,
    In regards to my 14-year-old, I didn’t really change his diet – maybe a few less opportunities to eat human food, but otherwise he’s eating the same stuff he’s been eating for years. I’m hoping that there is a natural way of keeping him healthy – for humans, there are a lot of natural remedies (such as milk thistle to help keep the liver healthy) – so if you know of any resources that can help me keep him healthy and safe without spending a lot of money, I would appreciate it a lot!!! :) Like I said before, I can’t imagine life without him…

    • Liz-cat October 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

      Thanks Molly. Finding natural and affordable ways to keep our cats healthy longer is exactly what I’m all about.: )

      With the survey results and a lot of research I’ve studied, I’m putting together a free ebook focused on this. It helps to have a summary in one place instead of spread across blog posts.

      My current top pick in the supplement category (since you mentioned that) is Omega 3 fish oils (Carlson, Nordic Naturals, and Iceland Pure are all good brands). I would invest in that—and good prices can be found at onlynaturalpet.com and Amazon.com.

      A great supplement for antioxidant and enzyme power is Biosuperfood–there are stunning reports of what it has done to turn health conditions around for animals.

      For reference on these choices, see these articles from Dr. Jean’s site:
      http://www.littlebigcat.com/nutrition/top-4-pet-supplements/
      http://www.littlebigcat.com/health/biosuperfood-for-super-health/

  12. Molly October 3, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Dear Liz,
    I think that cats can live as long as they are healthy and pain-free. I have a 14 year old indoor cat who is still going strong in his second kitten-hood! :) He used to be 30 lbs and so big he couldn’t lick himself – I was terrified that he wouldn’t survive to age 12! I couldn’t get him to move or play or anything! Then, the vet told me to make him run for his food – take him to the other end of the house and make him run to where his food was. He quickly lost the weight, and is now happily getting into all kinds of trouble. I think that if I had been cruel enough to let him stay fat, he probably wouldn’t be around today despite the fact that my four-legged-children all eat healthy foods – no grocery store crap for our kids. However, I think that diet is a huge factor in keeping a cat healthy and giving them a long life. My cats only go to the vet when they absolutely have to since I can’t afford otherwise. They all seem to be in good health, anyway! I hope that I can keep my cat healthy for the next 16 years – I can’t imagine my life without him (kind of like my husband, only different). My grandmother had a cat who lived to the ripe old age of 19 – he was an indoor/outdoor cat.

    • Liz-cat October 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

      “Kind of like my husband, only different”—I like that Molly. So cute: ) Many of us can relate.

      Congratulations on helping your beloved 14 year old cat get healthier. The running for his food idea is clever. Did changing food play a role too, or was it just the running?

      Thanks for mentioning your grandma’s cat’s ripe old age. Everytime I hear of another cat whole lives that long, I smile. Evidence.

  13. Laura September 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    My diabetic cat is 14 years old. She is an orange/black/white beautiful Maine Coon and my best friend. She was showing symptoms and diagnosed in November 2007. Even though my cat is not over 20 I will be sharing this with everyone on my two facebook pages to hopefully aid you in getting the information you require. I am very interested in holistic pet care and know many others who are too.
    I love your blog and read it all the time. More power to you!

    • Liz-cat September 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Laura, great to see you here! Thanks so much for sharing (and spreading) enthusiasm for this topic. A couple of the 20+ year old cats in the survey have been maine coon so far, by the way.

  14. Steph September 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    According to Science Diet and their new “Longevity” food, when your cat is 11, it’s 60 in human years. Yeesh… Don’t think so. That’s a statement that really concerns me, I hate it when people think that 15 is a great age.

    We had a cat who lived to be 16; we fed him cheap, terrible, commercial dry food; he was also an indoor/outdoor cat. Two things I’m now not too happy with (now that I am grown and know more about nutrition and health). He succumbed to mouth cancer, but I know that eating wild prey as part of his diet was part of what kept him (relatively) healthy. He was very alert, active, and playful up until the end. Love you, Bandit. Wish I could have provided better care for him.

    • Liz-cat September 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

      Steph, I know, those age charts drive me nuts! As one person said in a conversation recently, if a cat was verified to live 38 years (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creme_Puff_cat), “we’re missing something about cats.”

      Bandit sounds so great. I think we have to remind ourselves we did the best we could with what we knew at the time. (At least *I* have to remember that.) Our love for them makes that clear.

  15. Felice | Feline Instincts September 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    It has been my personal goal to have my cats live well into their late 20’s or longer if I can. I have recently started my cats on a daily immune system wafer to see if I can build a stronger immune system to help prevent cancer. I did a great deal of research and had talks with my vets about the ongoing epidemic of cancer in all our animals. Every one of the vets said they see more cancer now they have in their whole life as a vet.

    Yes, most of us know that cancer stems from vaccines and commercial foods, but there is more that causes cancer and its right under our noses. I talk to cat lovers daily and I sometimes ask them what they use for watering bowls and dishes and all of them say they use those plastic watering fountains. As soon as I tell them my story of why my cats got cancer and how I know this, they throw theirs out just like I did when I realized how cancerous they are. My article will explain this and more with a comment from my vet Dr Reeves.

    I have been asking myself the same questions about how long can our cats live and getting the same answers as you have and I’m just not satisfied at those answers. BrightHaven has cats that come to them with health challenges I have never had to deal with and several of them have lived to the high 20’s and early 30’s with the holistic care and raw diets like I do.

    It is my personal opinion that cats can live longer if we care for them as close to natural as possible and support their organs along with a healthy balanced raw diet. We do have to remember though we live in a toxic world filled with cancer causing toxins. The air we all breathe is more toxic now then 30 years ago; this is why we need to support their immune system, individual organs and detox their liver more often before we see the liver ;levels creeping high on their blood work or see signs of liver failure stating. Generally by then it’s almost too late to reverse.

    Did you know the liver is the easiest organ to cure? The liver in both humans and animals can rejuvenate itself daily but when it gets too many toxins over a long period of time without detoxing it, you’ll see liver failure happen very fast.

    Whew, I can go on but have to get back to work now.

    • Liz-cat September 10, 2011 at 8:37 am #

      Felice, I think you make a good point about the more toxic world we are in now and the feline cancer epidemic. Brighthaven sanctuary is a fascinating place indeed and I am including their work in my exploration of this topic! Thanks for sharing so much and for your passion for helping cats live longer.

  16. JP September 9, 2011 at 7:44 am #

    I am shooting for 25-30 years for mine. it seems totally do-able. it is weird, and very cool, to think i will still be with them when i am 65-70! i think that the more folks get into raw food diets which is just getting back to the cats original (wild) diet we will continue to see the trend of them living longer.

    • Liz-cat September 9, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      JP, here’s to growing old with our favorite cats!

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