As pet owners, when we think about how long our cats should live, the answer is almost nothing short of "forever, obviously." The thought of losing our beloved four-legged companions is either something pet owners worry about way too often and unnecessarily, or is an unthinkable scenario that they can't even begin to fathom, but the hard sad truth is that, like everything, someday our cats will pass on. Every cat's lifespan is as unique and particular as that cat, but some factors can help you get an idea of how long you may be able to expect your cat to live.
Whether or not you should allow your cat to roam freely outdoors or keep them confined to the walls of your home is an issue that's been up for debate for ages, and ultimately, the decision will be up to you. Many people keep their cats indoors because they simply fear what could happen to their feline companion if left to their own devices in an unpredictable world, and when it comes to that reasoning, it is hard to disagree. Because indoor cats are usually kept within a fairly controlled environment, they are subject to fewer risks and environmental stress than their outdoor counterparts will be.
According to VetWest Animal Hospitals, a healthy indoor cat can be expected to live anywhere from 12 to 18 years, with some felines reaching numbers well into their mid to late 20's. Indoor cats are still susceptible to health issues, however, and the often sedentary and sometimes understimulated lifestyle can lead to its own problems over time. Indoor cats can suffer from obesity if they aren't properly exercised, and some may even exhibit ADHD-like symptoms and behavior if they become bored or their natural prey drive is neglected due to a lack of things to chase, stalk, or climb.
While indoor cats certainly have some of their needs compromised by being kept indoors, they do tend to live much longer than outdoor felines. Between busy streets filled with cars, other cats who may be territorial enough to seriously injure another who creeps too close to their claimed area, and inclement weather, and exposure to diseases, the life of an outdoor cat is tough, risky, and oftentimes, short. The ASPCA reports that full-time outdoor cats who are left to fend for themselves usually live an average of about two years. Sometimes, cats can find their way into colonies where a caretaker or a group of people check on them regularly and provide food and some type of shelter, in which case they will have a much better chance at surviving for longer.
A few things to keep in mind
Of course, there are cats who fall somewhere in between the indoor/outdoor label and may spend their time alternating between both lifestyles. Healthy cats who get to enjoy the best of both worlds can expect to live longer than cats who live outdoors all the time with no one to care for their basic needs, although they are still certainly prone to some of the dangers that come with being a cat outside. Regardless of where your cat spends her time, you can give her the best shot at a long and happy life by making her physical care a priority.
Keeping your cat current on all of her vaccinations if she goes outdoors is the first place to start. Protecting your cat from pests like fleas will also prevent discomfort, along with possible exposure to certain diseases, like tapeworms, according to Erlich Pest Control. Finally, if you live in an area where cats tend to roam, you should be mindful when allowing your cat outdoors. Cats are territorial creatures and clearly mark their own areas, but boundaries can certainly be crossed, which can lead to fights and the injuries that go along with them.