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What are Cat Years?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A simple formula for measuring dog years is to consider each year as equivalent to seven years of human life. This would make a dog seven at the age of one, in human years, and fourteen at the age of two. There is some dispute regarding how to calculate dog years, and most vets agree this formula is very inaccurate for cats. Cat years need to be measured by other standards, especially since some cats can live to be about twenty years of age.

One way of measuring cat years is to look at the maturity of the cat in its first year of life. Many cats reach sexual maturity at the age of six months and are able to reproduce at this time. Some people consider cats to be fifteen years old when they are six months, and about twenty-four years old at the end of their first year of life. There may be some argument regarding this too, and others suggest that a cat reaches the age of fifteen at one year old, then ages the equivalent of nine years the next and would be twenty-four in human years at the age of two.

When you look at charts regarding cat years, there does appear consensus that the aging process slows down once a cat is fully mature. If cat lifespan is compared to human life span, then cat years after the age of one or two are roughly equivalent to four human years per one year of a cat’s life. Depending on which calculation you use, this would make a twenty year old cat about ninety-six or a hundred years old.

You can see why this may be a more accurate measurement than the seven-year plan applied to dogs. Presently, no humans have lived to be one hundred forty, but under the seven-year plan, plenty of cats would reach this age. The common way of calculating dog years really wouldn’t work for measuring cat years, given the advanced age of some cats.

It may be more important to calculate the actual lifespan of your cat, rather than measuring it in cat years. Sadly some cats won’t reach old age because of choices owners make. Unaltered cats tend to have shorter lives and are more at risk for certain kinds of cancer. Cats that live exclusively indoors usually live longer, an average of fifteen years.

The unsupervised cat that lives mostly outdoors may have an average lifespan of about three years, according to the United States Humane Society. Cats with indoor/outdoor privileges may still have long lives, but this really depends upon the safety of the area in which they live and the degree of owner involvement. Sadly many cats don’t make it past the first year or two or are euthanized as kittens due to failure to spay or neuter pets at appropriate times, before they reach sexual maturity.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon133725 — On Dec 11, 2010

my cat is 19 years old. we give her the option of going outside. i have even brought her outside the gate but she just comes back indoors. we put her on the lowest branch of a tree when she was younger and she got stuck lol, but i love her so much! she is very healthy for her age and when she was about 17 the vet said she wouldn't last another year but she's still here.

By anon115959 — On Oct 05, 2010

my cat went in and out as she pleased. I was thrilled that we didn't need a litter box! She lived 18 1/2 human years. Very healthy till the last few months.

By gremlin — On Mar 10, 2009

I let my cat outside and we live near a house with a lot of cats. I don't know if that would be considered safe or not, but I want my cat to live for a long time. I can't make him stay inside because he is already used to going outside everyday. Though I am happy he does not need to use the litter box, I am very sad that I may have shortened his life span.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a All Things Nature contributor, Tricia...
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