When you’re considering buying or adopting a cat, it’s important to think about the cat’s lifespan. Becoming a cat guardian isn’t like buying a hamster — it’s a long-term commitment. In the bad old days when most cats lived outdoors, they tended to average only two or three years; a ten-year-old cat would have been highly unusual. Nowadays a lifespan of 15 years is the average, with some cats living well into their 20s. The oldest known cat was a tabby-calico named Creme Puff, who lived to be 38 years old.
How long do tabby cats live? Cats with tabby markings have the same average lifespan as any other type of cat: around 10 to 20 years. Although some breeds live longer than others, markings do not have any direct effect on a cat’s lifespan. Female cats tend to live longer than male cats but, unlike tortoiseshell cats, tabbies can be either sex.
You’ve arrived on this page because you have questions about tabby cats, their health and their longevity. Maybe you’re considering adopting a tabby or already have one and you’re concerned about your cat’s well-being. Perhaps you’re considering a pet for a household with kids and don’t want a cat who’ll pass on and leave them feeling sad.
- How long do cats live?
- Are there any breeds known for their longevity?
- What kinds of tabby marking exist?
- Whatever your questions relating to tabby cats, we have the answers.
Keep reading to find out everything you want to know.
How long do tabby cats live?
Tabby cats are domestic cats with attractive striped patterns in their fur. There are numerous types of tabby marking with lots of different patterns and colours. Since a cat’s markings don’t directly influence lifespan, and since tabby markings are not associated with any hereditary conditions, it’s reasonable to say that a tabby cat will live out an average feline lifespan of between 10 and 20 years. Although there’s some variance in lifespan between certain breeds of cat, tabby markings are not breed-specific and can’t tell you precisely what kind of heritage your cat may have. If you have a tabby cat who is fit, healthy, well-fed and properly cared for, you can expect her to live well into her teens and possibly beyond.
There are numerous factors that affect a cat’s longevity. One is breed — some breeds of cat simply live longer than others, due to having better health and being less likely to suffer from health problems. Other breeds have breed-specific health defects which make them less likely to enjoy long and healthy lives. Burmese cats are famed for their prodigious 18-25 year lifespans; while pure-bred Burmese come in solid colours, a mix might have tabby markings and the genes for Burmese longevity. Siamese cats and Savannah cats are also noted for their long lifespans. My favourite breed, the British Shorthair, is noted for both a long life and a healthy one, being prone to few feline ailments. At the other end of the scale is the less-fortunate Manx cat, who can only expect eight to 14 years of life. Breeds such as the Selkirk Rex may also have shorter lifespans.
Another factor is whether you keep your cat indoors or allow her to spend some of the time unsupervised outside the house. The difference in life expectancy between indoor and outdoor kitties can be quite shocking; in urban areas, an outdoor cat may only live for around three years, while an indoor cat might happily survive to the age of 20 and up. I strongly encourage other cat guardians to keep cats inside and resist the temptation to let them run around outdoors. There are all sorts of hazards, from well-meaning people who might mistake your cat for a stray and take her to a shelter, to fast-moving cars and badly trained dogs. It’s just so much safer for a cat to live indoors.
Proper care and nutrition are also vital for keeping your cat healthy and ensuring a long life. Cats should receive all their scheduled vaccines and checkups from the vet. Cats must be fed a sensible diet of good-quality food. They should also be given a rich, stimulating environment to explore, with equipment such as toys, scratching posts and puzzles to keep them active both physically and mentally. Cats need play, company and entertainment as well as physical care; allowing a cat to become miserable and depressed causes problems with both behaviour and physical health. In the following sections, we’ll look at this care in more detail.
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Keeping your tabby kitten healthy
Like other cats, tabby cats need the right sort of care in order to thrive and reach a ripe old age. This starts in kitten-hood. Baby kittens should not be separated from their mother unless it becomes absolutely necessary — for example, because the mother is dead, is seriously ill or has completely rejected the infants and poses a risk to them. Kittens must stay with their mothers until at least the age of 12 weeks. My preference is to keep them with the mother until 14 weeks, as this makes for a more emotionally stable and sociable cat. In an ideal world most cat owners would not be interacting with baby kittens, as you would be adopting a strapping three-month-old; if you do find yourself caring for a litter of kittens, make sure they have warm, clean bedding and that their mother has everything she needs right by her chosen nest. Keep the mother and the tabby kittens in a kittening room — somewhere quiet, separate from the rest of the house and where the mother and babies won’t be bothered.
Once the kittens are old enough they should be spayed or neutered. They must also be given their vaccines by the vet to prevent infectious illnesses. A kitten’s vaccine schedule can begin as early as six weeks old.
To ensure that the kittens make a healthy transition from milk to solids, you should start providing small quantities of high-protein, nutrient-rich foods from four to five weeks. While older kittens get on just fine with adult food, I would recommend kitten food for younger babies. Mash the food with milk or water to make a sort of soup at first, then gradually reduce the fluid as the kittens get older.
Keeping adult tabby cats healthy
Once your tabby passes the vulnerable kitten stage, she’d more robust but still needs proper care. Like other cats, your tabby should get a regular check-up at the vet once a year (at least) and should receive any scheduled vaccines. Illnesses and injuries should receive prompt attention from a veterinary professional.
To maintain their health, cats need an appropriate diet. This means food formulated for cats — so no dog food and no food for humans. Choose a good brand of wet food, as dry food doesn’t provide the fluid that cats need. Foods should be grain-free, based on meat ingredients rather than vegetables, and the ingredients should be named. I prefer to give cats rabbit or poultry-based foods as these are closer to their natural diet. Do not overfeed your cat. It’s tempting to give her treats and chunky cats look cute but obesity in cats can be quite unhealthy. For a long life, make sure your tabby doesn’t overeat.
If your tabby is a longhair, make sure she’s properly groomed so she doesn’t develop matts or snarls. Comb out her fur a few times a week. It’s a good idea to brush any cat from time to time but it’s vital for longhairs. Matted fur can harbour dirt and bacteria, and causes discomfort for your cat.
It’s a good idea to brush your tabby’s teeth from time to time. Some cats object to this, while others thoroughly enjoy the procedure. I would encourage you to brush at least once a week, using a pet toothbrush and a meat or fish flavoured toothpaste that your tabby enjoys. If your cat really doesn’t like having her teeth brushed, just give them a quick rub with a clean, damp cloth wrapped around your finger.
Keeping your tabby fit and entertained
Cats need plenty of stimulation and exercise. You can help here by providing cat trees and other fun equipment.
One item that’s absolutely necessary is a scratching post. This doesn’t just discourage your cat from vandalising the furniture — cats need to scratch in order to keep their claws in good condition. It’s also vital for muscle and tendon health. Scratching posts need to be tall enough that the cat can stand up with her legs fully extended, in order to pull down and stretch her body properly.
The home environment should have perches, things your cat can climb on and habitats to hide in. I’m a fan of cat trees for this purpose. If you don’t have room for a fancy cat habitat you can help by providing a nice wide shelf, covered in a scrap of carpet or something with a similarly pleasant texture.
Give your tabby plenty of toys. I like treat balls which the cat must roll around and chase across the floor in order to be rewarded with a piece of kibble. These help limit your tabby’s intake of treats while providing valuable entertainment and exercise. Make sure you spend at least 15 minutes engaging your tabby in energetic play twice a day. For this, I really like fishing-pole teasers. You can generate a lot of movement with these without having to wear yourself out. Spending time playing with your tabby every day helps keep her happy and lets you bond with her — both conducive to a long, contented life.
Article by Barbara Read
Barbara Read is the heart and soul behind CatBeep.com. From her early love for cats to her current trio of feline companions, Barbara's experiences shape her site's tales and tips. While not a vet, her work with shelters offers a unique perspective on cat care and adoption.