The average domestic cat has a life expectancy between 14 and 16 years – assuming it stays indoors.
Cats that roam around outside have a much shorter lifespan because they can be hit by cars, attacked by dogs or other animals, or exposed to lethal diseases like feline leukemia.
An outdoor cat’s life expectancy, in fact, is barely half that of a cat that stays inside: around seven years.
While 14 to 16 years is the average life expectancy, some cats live longer. It is not unheard of for cats to live upwards of 20 years.
According to “The Guinness Book of World Records,” the world’s longest-lived cat was a cat named Crème Puff (1967 – 2005) who lived in Austin, Texas, and died three days after turning 38.
How long can a tabby cat live?
The average lifespan of a tabby cat will be as long as other cats live and can reach 17 years old. The term “tabby” doesn’t refer to a specific breed, but to a group of coat patterns.
Tabby cats have stripes, spots, or both. There are four main types of tabby coat patterns:
- Classic or blotched
- Ticked or agouti
Wikipedia describes a classic tabby as having broad stripes that often form a swirled or whirled pattern on the cat’s sides that look a bit like marble cake. Some cats will have a bull’s eye pattern on their sides.
Both classic and mackerel tabbies will have dark bars on the cheeks and legs. Many tabbies also have an “M” on their forehead.
The mackerel tabby, which is the most common type, has stripes running down their sides that are at right angles to the spine and are somewhat reminiscent of a fishbone. These cats are also described as having tiger stripes.
Spotted tabbies are variations of the mackerel tabby and classic tabby in which the stripes are broken up into spots.
Agouti tabbies have ticked hairs in which each hair has bands of different colors on it. The cat’s fur has a sandy look to it like that of a mountain lion.
The cat may have faint “ghost stripes” on the face, lower legs, stomach, or tail tip. There may be also a long dark line extending down the spine.
Other variations of the tabby pattern include the tabby-and-white, in which the cat has white blotches as well as stripes or spots. In the patched tabby or “torbie,” the cat also has a tortoiseshell pattern. The below YouTube video shows a patched tabby:
The following YouTube video shows a litter of Manx kittens. They are tabby-and-white, and the tabby parts show the mackerel pattern.
Can any type of cat be a tabby?
The mackerel pattern is the most common tabby pattern and thus occurs in both random-bred cats and many breeds. By contrast, some of the other patterns are found mainly in specific breeds.
Franny Syfy, a writer for “The Spruce Pets,” lists the different breeds that can produce tabby cats. Of the 40+ breeds recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA), 26 can be tabbies.
The Abyssinian, for example, has the ticked tabby pattern as a breed trait. The Somali, or long-haired Abyssinian, is also always a ticked tabby. So is the Singapura, which is also often described as the world’s smallest cat breed.
The Cat Breeds Encyclopedia describes a hybrid called the Chausie, which is typically bred by crossing an Abyssinian with a jungle cat (Felis chaus). The result looks like an Abyssinian – that can weigh up to thirty pounds!
Animal Planet’s “Cats 101” provides some more information about the Chausie in the following YouTube video:
The Egyptian Mau is always a spotted tabby. Other spotted tabbies include Ocicats and Bengals. Many of the hybrids, like the Savannah, are also spotted tabbies.
Bondi Vet’s video describes the look and temperament of the Ocicat, an American breed new to Australia:
The American Shorthair is often a classic tabby, as is the Maine Coon. The latter is probably the most popular pedigreed tabby cat. While Maine Coons are often brown tabbies, they can come in a variety of colors and patterns.
The below video shows a couple buying a pair of male American Shorthairs at a cat show and bringing them home.
Both cats have the classic tabby pattern, complete with a bull’s eye on their sides. Cats with their particular black-and-light gray coloring are also described as “silver tabbies.”
Tabbies can also occur in the following breeds: American Bobtail, American Curl, American Wirehair, Birman, Colorpoint Shorthair, Cornish Rex, Devon Rex, Exotic, Javanese, LaPerm, Manx, Norwegian Forest Cat, Oriental, Persian, Ragdoll, Scottish Fold, Selkirk Rex, Siberian, Turkish Angora, and Turkish Van.
Do tabby cats have any health issues?
According to Emily Parker, a writer for the Catalogical website, tabbies do not have any health problems or genetic conditions linked to their coat patterns.
Unfortunately, some breeds are prone to certain health problems, and tabbies belonging to those breeds are just as likely to develop them as are other cats.
The veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Coats, who writes for “PetMD,” lists some of the most common genetic disorders affecting cats.
Topping that list is Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD), which can occur in cats of any breed. It affects about one out of every 25 cats.
While diabetes is most common in Burmese cats, it can develop in other cats. Diabetes in cats tends to resemble the Type II diabetes seen in humans.
Persians are susceptible to polycystic kidney disease, while Ragdolls and Maine Coons are vulnerable to a type of heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Manx cats owe their taillessness to a mutation that can affect both the spine and neighboring nerves. They are thus vulnerable to a neurological condition called Manx Syndrome that can impair the cat’s ability to control their rear legs, bladder, and bowel.
Abyssinians, Somalis, and Ocicats are all susceptible to a genetic disorder called Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Cats with the condition gradually lose their sight as they age.
When is a tabby cat considered old?
Regardless of their coat patterns, cats age at around the same pace. The International Cat Care website describes the “life stage” chart used by veterinarians:
- Kitten – 0 to 6 months
- Junior – 6 months to 2 years
- Prime – 3 to 6 years
- Mature – 7 to 10 years
- Senior – 11 to 14 years
- Geriatric – 15 years and above
A kitten is a young cat that has not yet reached puberty, while a junior cat is a teenaged cat. A prime cat is a young adult, and a mature cat is middle-aged. If Tiger the Tabby is 11 years old or above, he is considered old.
Has there been any research about feline longevity?
There’s been at least one study on the life expectancy of cats. The website “International Cat Care” described a 2015 study that was published in the “Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.” Researchers in Great Britain analyzed data collected between September 2009 and December 2012.
The researchers examined records from 87 veterinary practices that described 4009 cats. They found that the average age of death in domestic cats was 14.0 years and that the number of deaths peaked at age 16.
The researchers’ graph showed another spike in mortality in young cats about a year old. They found that these were outdoor cats that had been hit by cars or had died from various diseases. One way to ensure that a cat lives to a ripe old age is thus to keep them indoors.
Spaying or neutering also helps extend a cat’s life expectancy. Altered males live an average of 0.6 years longer than do intact males, and spayed females live 1.7 years longer than their intact sisters.
Mixed breeds generally lived longer than pedigreed cats; they averaged 14.0 years to the pedigreed cats’ 12.5 years.
There were some exceptions, however: Burmese, Siamese, Persian, and Birman cats tended to live at least as long as mixed breeds.
Ragdolls, Maine Coons, British Shorthairs, Bengals, and Abyssinians, unfortunately, tended to have shorter life expectancies. The researchers noted that the larger breeds generally had shorter life expectancies than the smaller breeds.
There are thus many factors that determine how long a tabby lives, including its health, breed, reproductive status, and how much time it spends outdoors.