Once upon a time, the average house cat lived its life mostly outdoors and lived between five and ten years of age most of the time.
Today, however, much has changed in this regard; from advances in veterinary medicine to education about keeping cats indoors, and even knowing how to allow your cat a safe way to enjoy the great outdoors can expand a cat’s lifespan dramatically.
Seven years to nine lives
There is an old adage that one human year equals seven years to a cat.
This has since been debunked as cats age quite differently that that in fact.
New charts have been created which show the approximate age of a cat by human years. This chart, provided by raisingyourpaws.com gives a much more accurate idea of the age your cat may be in reference to your age.
However, it is important to keep in mind that all cats are different; various breeds and sizes, plus lifestyle, genetic and health related factors, play a part in determining how long your cat will live.
Your cat’s lifestyle
The number one factor determining the lifespan of your cat is her lifestyle.
Cats that live exclusively indoors have a much higher average lifespan than those allowed to roam free outdoors.
On average, cats that do not go outside can easily live to be 17 years or older, where their outdoor counterparts will have an average life of two to five years.
There are many reasons for this discrepancy. (1.)Cats that roam free are subject to many dangers.
Number one, but not exclusive, is being hit by cars. Other dangers include, yet are not limited to:
- Wild animals can attack your cat, as they see them either as a threat or a food source.
- Poisoning. Humans leaving dangerous substances out, such as antifreeze spills, rodent poisons, and even weed killers can cause sickness and even death.
- Plants. Poisonous plants can be eaten or chewed on.
- Humans. Unfortunately, not all humans love cats and someone disgruntled by your cat getting in their garden or digging through their garbage, even leaving paw prints on their newly washed car, can promote them to harm your pet.
- Car engines. In winter, cats seeking a warm place to sleep may climb into a warm car engine. Once the engine is started, the cat can get caught in the fan and maimed or killed.
If you do indeed keep your cat indoors, keep in mind your pet’s instincts and needs.
Make sure she receives plenty of playtime, sunshine (a cat perch on a sunny windowsill is heaven to a cat), tall cat trees to climb and scratch (which will also expand the life of your furniture).
How diet can lengthen the lifespan of your cat
You are what you eat is an adage not exclusive only to humans.
Diet to a cat is just as important. Cats are true carnivores. This means they require taurine, found only in red meat, in order to thrive.
If you have a neutered male, be sure his diet consists of low magnesium foods, as high magnesium levels, such as is found in most cheaper brands, can cause painful urinary crystals and infections that can make your cat very ill and be deadly if not caught quickly enough. (2.)
Not that females cannot also suffer from UTIs, but they have a larger urethra and can pass crystals more easily than a male cat.
Obesity should also be avoided at all costs in cats.
Diabetes in cats is growing as quickly as it is in humans it appears, and this disease can shorten your cat’s lifespan dramatically.
Many people believe cats that are spayed/neutered and living exclusively indoors will become fat and lazy.
This is an old wive’s tale. With the proper diet, regular veterinary care and check-ups, exercise, plus physical and mental stimulation, most cats can maintain a good weight even while living indoors.
The genetic factor and breeds
Today, many specialized breeds of cats have been created for the benefit of humans.
Some of these breeds are well known to have health issues that no cat should have to suffer through.
Persians, for instance, have breathing difficulties due to the flattening of the face, which has become more pronounced through the years.
The Veterinary Hospital of Rowlett Veterinary Clinic offers a list of purebred cat breeds and genetic diseases inherent in many of them. You can find the whole list here.
I would recommend researching heavily before buying any purebred cat to be sure you will not be spending too much time suffering over the animal’s health issues and possibly losing your expensive pet at an early age.
Wild vs domestic vs feral
A wild cat is an animal that was born to the wild and has never been domesticated to live with humans.
These cats have adapted to this lifestyle and do not do well in the same situation as your average house cat would.
Wild cats should never be brought into a domestic situation unless they are unable to live in the wild, usually due to injury or something of the sort.
These cats should always be brought to trustworthy zoos or organizations where they have the knowledge and facilities to care for them properly.
Feral cats are domestic cats, just like those you find in your own home, but were born away from humans.
A true feral cat is one who has had no contact with humans by a certain age (usually about 6 weeks old).
Ferals will generally never fully accept humans.
Even a feral cat brought in as a house cat when it is a kitten will retain a suspicious nature, but will live a longer life without the dangers of outside.
Letting your cat out
It is certainly not recommended for less experienced cat owners to allow your cat free roam, but there are things you can do to offer your cat outdoor time safely.
Here are a few ideas:
- Screened in porch
- Leash training
- Outdoor enclosures
- Fenced in yard with screening across the top to prevent escapes.
Keeping your cat’s needs in mind as well as her safety should help her live a long, prosperous and happy life.
Now that we have answered “how long do cats live”, and looked more into a cat’s lifespan you may also enjoy reading about why cats meow.