How long do cats live?

The average lifespan of a cat overall in the UK is 14 years, according to a study carried out by the Royal Veterinary College. The study, which looked at the deaths of 4009 randomly-selected deceased cats in 2015, found that crossbreed cats had an average life expectancy of 14 while purebred cats had a lifespan of 12.5 years. However, this is only an average age — some cats can live past 20.

A domestic cat’s life expectancy can be influenced by several factors including whether they are vaccinated, whether they are a healthy weight and whether they are indoor or outdoor cats (as well as a stroke of luck).

How long do outdoor cats live?

Over 90% of domestic cats in the UK are free to roam outdoors every day and these ‘outdoor cats’ generally live shorter lives than cats that are kept indoors all the time. This is because they are exposed to dangers such as road traffic accidents or attacks by other animals.

A study using Vets Now data found that autumn is the worst season for cat road traffic accidents, with young, male and crossbred cats most at risk.

Image of a cat outside for Vets Now article on cat lifespan
The average lifespan of a cat is 14 years but outdoor cats are less likely to survive as long as indoor cats due to the dangers they're exposed to

What do cats usually die from?

Some of the most common causes of death in cats in the UK include trauma (particularly road traffic accidents), kidney disease and cancer.

Is my cat sick or just old?

Cats are great at hiding illness so owners should pay attention to any changes in behaviour. Changes such as moving around less, difficulty jumping as high and weight gain or loss could be put down to ageing but they could also be a symptom of illness. If you’re concerned at all it’s best to contact your vet or out of hours your nearest Vets Now for advice.

Some subtle signs of illness in cats to look out for include:

  • Hiding away/wanting to be alone
  • Weakness
  • Looking more scruffy/ungroomed than usual
  • Eating or drinking more or less than usual
  • Going to the toilet more or less

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Cat age chart

Just like humans, cats may experience different health issues at different stages of their lives. Kittens may be more at risk of certain diseases until their immune system is fully developed and cats under five are significantly more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents than older cats. As they enter the more mature stage of life they may be more susceptible to weight gain and eventually decrease their level of activity as they relax into their senior years (although cats love playing at any age). Our cat age chart below will give you an idea of the different stages of your cat’s life.

Cat age chart
Life stage Cat's age
Kitten 0 - 6 months
Junior 7 months - 2 years
Adult 3 to 6 years
Mature 7 - 10 years
Senior 11 - 14 years
Geriatric 15+ years