OLDEST CATS

In countries with good veterinary care, the average life-span of a neutered domestic cat (barring accidents) is considered to be 14 years old although there are signs that this may be increasing. More and more cats are reaching their late teens or early twenties. Life-span is determined by several factors: good genetics, good general care, good health care, good diet and a relatively safe environment. In the wild, cats fall victim to accidents, illnesses, food shortages and predators and may live 6-8 years. Cats reach maturity quickly, but as they grow older, their rate of ageing slows down. A table comparing cat age and human age is given at the foot of this page.

Some owners contend that indoor cats are longer lived than indoor-outdoor cats. This does not always hold true since many indoor cats, while they are protected from traffic and other animals, may have their lives shortened through obesity (sometimes leading to diabetes or heart disease), lack of exercise and stress. Though cats generally slow down with age, not all elderly cats lose their vigour. Some remain active hunters until their late teens or beyond. On 21 December 1975, a 19 year old tabby female owned by Mrs F Arnot of St Neots, Huntingdonshire, killed a stoat (a small mink-like British carnivore able to kill rabbits) in a fierce fight. Queenie, a one-eyed tabby from Chelmsford, England, was still stalking pigeons (unsuccessfully) at the age of 19.

Given the right conditions, some feral cats have reached their twenties though most are being supported by feeders and carers, rather than relying solely on hunting and scavenging skills. The Cat Action Trust in the UK recorded a 19 year old feral female living on allotments and still breeding, demonstrating that even outdoor-only cats can reach advanced. Another outdoor oldie was 28 year old Mark, who lived at the Haslemere Cats Protection shelter until his death in 1997.

In 1940, Ida M Mellon conducted a survey into the maximum ages reached by cats. She sent questionnaires to cat owners in the USA and Canada. She collected 17 cases of cats aged between 21 and 31 years old, though most of these ages were owners' estimates. One cat was reported as being 33 years old. Nine neutered males and 4 females were aged 21-31 years old. Three unneutered males were aged 23-26 years old. One unneutered female was 31 years old and her age was fully documented.

In 1956, British gerontologist (old age expert) Dr Alex Comfort conducted a more scientific study. He located 10 cats confirmed as over 19 years old. The oldest cat found by Comfort was a 27 year old unneutered male who had been purchased as a kitten in 1927 and was alive in 1954.

Today, claims of record ages are regularly published in cat magazines. Increasing longevity and better cat care has resulted in a number of specialist books and articles on care of older cats such as Growing Old Gracefully and Towards the End.

To achieve an official Guinness World Record, the cat's age must be verified. Since most domestic moggies don't have birth certificates, this means pedigree cats have an advantage as their births are recorded on pedigree certificates. If a cat has been under the care of the same vet all of its life, veterinary records may stand in lieu of a birth certificate. There are may be difficulties in verifying the true age of a moggy. Unlike dogs, cats often keep their teeth until extreme old age and their fur does not turn grey with age. Human memory is fallible and owners may confuse their current cat with a similar looking or similarly named predecessor so a remembered event such as "fell off TV during the Queen's Silver Jubilee special" (1977) might have referred to its predecessor. A succession of cats bearing the same name e.g. Puss or Tiddles, further confuses the matter. In addition, proud owners are often not averse to adding a few years to their cat's age!

OLDEST EVER CATS

There is an unverified claim of a 43 year old cat. On 2nd January, 1972, a man living in Dumfriesshire, Scotland claimed that his cat (unnamed) had celebrated its 43rd birthday. Mr W Ferguson, of the Scottish Cat Club, wrote to the owner for further information, but received the following reply: "In reference to the cat, I am sorry to say it was killed this morning by a train. My brother bought it from the Millingonbush farm, where he worked, to Horsolholm in the summer of 1939. I have lived with the cat all my life. We were on the farm for 36 years. My brother who fetched the cat was killed by a train in the same place a month ago. I am the only one left, but I can assure you everything I say is true. I am 64 years old and I gave up farming and bought a house and have lived here ever since." One assumes they obtained the cat when it was already adult, had they obtained it as a kitten it would have been only 33 years old.

In November 1972, the American Feline Society heard of a 37 year old cat living in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. When the AFS investigated, the claim turned out to be based on the combined life-spans of 3 different cats.

According to Guinness World Records, the oldest cat ever was Creme Puff, born August 3, 1967 and still living at the age of 37 in 2004. Creme Puff was owned by Jake Perry of Austin, Texas, USA.

Al and Mary Palusky of Duluth, Minn, USA claim their black cat, Baby, was born in 1970 and was 37 years old in 2007. This age will be recognised by the American magazine Cat Fancy. To be a Guinness world record, the owners will need to provide proof of their cat's age, for example continuous veterinary care over his lifetime.

After Creme Puff and Baby, the oldest cats ever are generally reckoned to be Puss (36 years, 1 day), Ma (34 years) and Granpa (34 years, 2 months). Puss was born in 1903 and was owned by Mrs T Holway of Clayhidon, Devon. Puss died on 29th November, 1939, one day after his 36th birthday.

Puss's case is not very well documented and doubts have been cast on its authenticity. The oldest reliably recorded cat was a female tabby named Ma, owned by Alice St George Moore of Drewsteignton, England. Ma was put to sleep on November 5, 1957 at the age of 34 years. Although 2 years younger than Puss, Ma's case is more reliably recorded. As a small kitten, Ma got her paw caught in a gin trap (steel jaw trap) and it was doubtful that she would survive. Though she survived, the injury worsened with age and Ma was cared for especially carefully. This was believed to be the secret of her longevity. Ma's natural diet of meat from the local butcher and a relaxed lifestyle (her owners were classical musicians) were also considered factors.

Mas story was reported in "The South Devon Journal", 20th March 1957: "The Guinness Book of records mentions a well authenticated case of a female tabby cat attaining 33 years in 1956, although 21 years is normally regarded as the limit for long-lived cats. [Rowley] set off to make an appointment with Grandma (aka Ma), the "well-authenticated case" who lives at Newton Barton. Newton Barton was once a farmhouse. There in a straw-lined basket near a stove, he found Grandma getting ready for her 34th birthday in May. She is deaf and rather blind and her front paws have been disfigured by a rabbit trap. Grandma is owned by Mrs St George Moore who came to Drewsteignton from Wales ten years ago; taking over Grandma from the previous owner. Mrs Daisy Werring who has worked at Newton Barton for 32 years testified that "the cat was her when I came, crippled just like she is now." Mrs Moore was inclined to doubt Grandma's record because she was aware that cats very rarely live beyond the age of 16 and even 21 is an age to strain credulity. But as Mrs Werring insisted, Mrs Moore wrote to a country magazine and her letter - according to Rowley - "sparked a correspondence that confirmed memory and made possibility certain." Grandma's recipe for extreme old age is meat and sardines - and plenty of sleep. Especially sleep. "It's in sleep," concludes Rowley in his delightful prose, "that she drifts like a twig down the meadow stream; lost in contemplation of the past until the present offers meat." Unfortunately, Grandma had to be put to sleep a few months later.

Granpa Rexs Allen, a Sphynx adopted from a Texas Humane Society, reached 34 years, 2 months and 4 hours old in 1998 (pedigree cats have the advantage of detailed birth records). He was adopted from the Humane Society of Travis County, Texas by Jake Perry on January 16, 1970. Granpa had been found as a stray in danger of being run over. Realising that Granpa was a Sphynx (then a rare breed), Perry put up posters in case anyone had any information about him. He received a call from the cat's former owner, Mme Sulinaberg from Paris, France. Sulinaberg had been visiting her daughter in December 1969 and her cat, Pierre, had escaped through an unlocked screen door. Sulinaberg checked the cat and agreed to let Perry keep the cat. She gave him Pierre's pedigree papers although by that time Perry had registered the cat as Granpa Rexs Allen with TICA as a household pet. The pedigree papers stated that Pierre had been born in Paris, France on the morning of 1st February, 1964. His sire was a Devon Rex (a permitted outcross for the Sphynx breed) called Pierre II and his mother was a Sphynx called Queen of France. Like Ma, Granpa was a cosseted cat, but his diet included bacon and eggs, broccoli, asparagus, mayonnaise and coffee with lots of cream!

Several other cats have been verified as reaching their 30s. In September 1955, a cat from Los Angeles, California died at the ripe old age of 33 years, 4 months. The name was not given, but the cat had been born in Surbiton, Surrey, England in 1922 and had gone to the USA with its owners. Bobby, a neutered male owned by Miss B Fenlon of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, died on 5 July, 1973 at the age of 32 years 3 weeks. Selina, a silver tabby shorthair, owned by Mrs Margaret Chapman of Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England, died on 28 August 1983 at the age of 32 years. Fluff, a black-and-white domestic Persian-cross longhair, bought as a kitten by neighbours of Marjorie and Ken Wren of Gosport, Hampshire, UK, became the oldest living cat in 2003, at the age of 31. Fluff's longevity was attributed to her laid-back life style .

Longevity is partly influenced by genes which explains why "twin" cats (i.e. littermates) Ginger and Sandy both lived into their twenties. They were born on 18 May 1956 and owned by Miss Pat Hillman of Birmingham. Sandy died aged 20 years, 5 months and 3 weeks on 7 January 1977. Ginger was put to sleep aged 21 years, 3 months and 3 weeks on 8 September 1978.

On the whole, moggies are considered to be longer lived and more robust than purebred cats (due to the greater degree of inbreeding in purebred cats). Fluff, a Blue Persian owned by Mrs Mary Forster of Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, died on 15 October 1982 at the age of 29 years 7 months. An unnamed blind Blue-Point Siamese owned by Mr Howard Little of Redwood City, California, USA was recorded as being 25 years and 8 months in November 1975. A 27 year old Burmese called Kataleena Lady, owned by Mrs V Hayward of Melbourne, Australia was still living in 2004.

In November 2007, Pussywillow, a 26-year-old black cat from Ratlinghope, Shropshire, England was a contender for the title of oldest cat in the UK. Pussywillow's owner, Lin Brown, reported the cat to have all her faculties. Pussywillow, a former semi-feral, lived off animals she hunted herself until the age of 22. At 22, she survived a fox-attack and became more tame. After the attack she began to curl up indoors in the warm and was given cat food. Marion Micklewright of Shropshire Cat Rescue, said she had not heard of any other cats living for 26 years - in spite of several well-publicised cases around the world (also listed on this web page) including those in Guinness World Records!

OLDEST LIVING CATS

"Oldest living cat" is naturally a category where the title-holders change frequently as they finally succumb to advancing age. As well as an official record holder, there are numerous unverified records of longevity. Some of these contenders die before their claim can be verified while others are handicapped by lack of birth records. This means that the category is biased in favour of pedigree cats and against domestic moggies. Some of the unverified claimants achieve national fame through magazines or international coverage in news reports.

In 2004, it was reported that the oldest living cat (verified) was a 27 year old Burmese called Kataleena Lady owned by Mrs V Hayward of Melbourne, Australia. Kataleena Lady was born on March 11th, 1977. In March 2005, a cat called Amber from west Wales was a contender for the oldest living domestic cat. Amber was a fully grown stray of 2 - 3 years old when adopted by Diane Sleeman of Ferryside in 1978. Diane believes Amber is approaching 30, which would make her almost 5 years older than the verified record holder, however Guinness World Records require evidence of Amber's longevity. Amber was toothless, but fit and healthy although less active than she used to be. Diane attributed Amber's longevity down to a diet which included hot cod, chicken and prawns in addition to regular cat food. In March 2005, the oldest living cat (verified) was 23 year old Spook from Ontario, Canada.

A black and white British cat called Whiskey, rescued from a dustbin when a tiny kitten, was also a contender for the title of oldest cat at the age of 33 (unverified). Tiger, a tabby cat owned by Roy and Linda Gilbert of Coseley, near Dudley in the West Midlands was believed to be 27 years old in 2001. The previous oldie was Spike, who died in 2001 at the age of 31.

A 31 year old (unverified) tomcat called Kiko was reported from a small village in Estonia in 2001. Although Kiko looked like a 10 year old, the vet believes him to be 31. Kiko's claim is based on that fact that he had been a present for the owner's 2 year old son; the son was 33 years old in 2001. Kiko had glaucoma, but was otherwise in good health. Kiko was believed to have reached this age because he did not roam, lived mostly indoors and had a good diet including egg and fresh milk. Kiko apparently still chased dogs.

OLDEST BREEDING CATS

Unlike humans, female cats do not have a menopause and remain fertile throughout their lives (unless neutered of course). As they age, their litters tend to become smaller (1-2 kittens instead of 3+) and less frequent and are less likely to be reared successfully. Although they continue to mate, they may always not conceive. Likewise, elderly tomcats are still capable of impregnating females but may be less fertile.

In 1987, a 30 year old cat called Kitty, owned by George Johnstone of Croxton, Stafforshire, England, produced a litter of 2 kittens at the ripe old age of 30. Kitty died 2 years later, aged 32. A 28 year old tortie female called Smutty, owned by Mrs Eileen Martin of Chacewater, near Truro, Cornwall, produced a black-and-white kitten on 6 July 1953. She successfully reared her kitten. Smutty was a retired rat-catcher who had apparently not had time to raise kittens during her working life (by which one assumes that any previous litters died or were destroyed).

A 25 year old black-and-white female called Tish, owned by Mrs Beatrice Briscoe of Maltby, Yorkshire, produced and reared 2 kittens on 23 June 1958. A 24 year old female called Tiger, owned by Mrs Evelyn Bush of Leytonstone, London, England, produced a single kitten in April 1956, but the kitten did not survive. A 23 year old tabby called Mick (though it was, in fact, female) produced a single kitten in 1980 after mating with a Siamese tom cat. She reared and weaned the kitten successfully, but died soon after, presumably due to the strain of late motherhood. In 1933, a 21 year old tabby called Tippy, from Kingston-upon-Hull, Humberside, England, was still breeding at the age of 21.

The 19 year old feral female reported (and spayed) by Cat Action Trust was still producing kittens. Older female cats tend to become less fertile, producing fewer and smaller litters.

AGE COMPARISON

 

CAT'S AGE

EQUIVALENT HUMAN AGE

COMMENTS

2-3 months

9-12 months

Weaned and becoming less dependent on the mother.

4 months

2-3 years

Talking (children). Kitten fully independent of the mother.

6-12 months

12-15 years

Both are sexually mature and able to breed although they may not have reached their full growth.

2 years

24 years

Could already have offspring.

3-6 years

28-40 years

Human career-making

6-9 years

40-52 years

Middle age spread, menopause for some women.

9-13 years

52-65 years

Human menopause and retirement. Cats are slowing down.

13-17 years

65-85 years

Active but ageing. Signs of senility in some individuals, senses becoming less acute, injuries heal more slowly or incompletely. Internal organs are less efficient.

17-19 years

83-92 years

Growing frailty; bones less dense, less subcutaneous fat, poorer muscle tone, more fragile skin, less supple. Hearing, sight and mobility affected.

19-22 years

92-100 years

Ripe old age. Female cats have bred at this age.

22+ years

100+ years

Exceptional old age, but becoming increasingly common in domestic pet cats.

30 years

136 years

Several cats have attained this age.

34-36 years

152-160 years

Longevity records noted in the Guinness Book of Records.

43 years

188 years

Unverified feline longevity claim.

MESSYBEAST CATS : CURIOUS CATS AND MEDICAL ANOMALIES

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