How long do tortoiseshell cats live

This is a common question, especially among people that have not enjoyed owning a cat before, and there are many variables involved that will determine how long your tortoiseshell cat will live.

The average length of a cat’s life is around 15 years, but there are a number of factors in play that determine whether she lives to a ripe old age or not. Some breeds of cat live for longer than others, so because tortoiseshell cats are not a specific breed then this can have an impact. Genetics can also have an influence if your cat inherits any genes that can make her prematurely ill or shorten her life.

If you let your cat outside, then she will face dangers  and hazards that indoor cats won’t face, such as road traffic, poisonous plants, other wildlife (such as dogs), and mean people that just don’t like cats. Tortoiseshell cats are very inquisitive so they do love to be outside exploring the garden and the neighbourhood – she just would not be a happy cat if we kept her locked up indoors all the time! However, if you live in a very busy, urban environment or next to a main road then you probably should keep her indoors.

If you look after your tortie and keep her in good health there is no reason that she should not enjoy a long and happy life. Some cats do live to be beyond 20 years, although this is quite rare – but if you are just bringing a tortoiseshell kitten into your home then you have many years of fun to come with her!

How old is your tortoiseshell cat? Let us know if she has lived to a ripe old age and if you have any tips for us!

Category: Torties

26 thoughts on “How long do tortoiseshell cats live

  1. Debra Tucker on said:

    My tortie just died on Aug.4 2015. She was so cute and very social. She always met me at the door when I got home. She was 16 yrs.

  2. Deryay on said:

    My cat is currently 9 years old and I’ve had her since I was 5. Honestly, I can’t remember not having her. We’re really close and I just don’t want her to die. She looks pretty young still, but doess have grey hairs already.She eats 2 sachets of whiskers in jelly (we always get the fish box, because thats the only one she likes).I do give her biscuits during the day of the same brand and flavour, although she does not eat this as often. She spends most of the day outside, however I rarely see her drinking water!She’s had one bath when she was a kitten, and I was also wondering if baths were needed or what is the correct way to bathe a cat, although she really does HATE water with a passion. She has quite a lot of treats and once she had more than 20 dreamies in a day, as I didn’t notice it said on;y 20 dreamies a day on the packet.I’m 14 but I am in control of my cat’s life and I want her to have the best life. Also, its her birthday in December so what do you guys usually do for your cats birthdays? I usually bake her a cat cake, but she doesn’t really like it and my sisters cat and my dog usually eat most of it. (I use this recipe:

    Any advice on helping my cat to live a long, healthy life?

  3. Sarah on said:

    Our tortie, Mia, is now 19 and has amazed us; she was diagnosed with a heart condition at age 4 and had to have tablets every day. She collapsed several times and every time fought the vets who tried to treat her. I eventually stopped giving her tablets after she spent so much time outside and missed so many of them. She has been absolutely fine for the last 8 years! I recently took her to the vets because she had an ear infection and she proved that she was still as feisty as ever! She has become tolerant of the children who have arrived to invade her space but they know who is boss. Long may she live!

  4. Bill Roberts on said:

    I had to let my little girl Pretty go on the 11th of May 2015. She was a Calico Tortie.
    Pretty was a stray around the gardens for about 2 yrs before she adopted me. I was NOT a cat person, but early evening of the 22nd of May 2008 she just jumped off our shed and walked up to me. I could’nt believe it! A quick trip to the co-op a tin of Whiskers and the rest is history.
    What a wonderful time we had. And a steep learning curve for us both!!
    Her health declined since August 2014. I nursed her, and she fought a good fight, but on the 11th of May I could see by the way she looked at me my little girl had had enough. That late afternoon I took her to our vet whose had been wonderful throughout her illness and I just cuddled her as she slipped away.
    I am devastated. I’m nearly 70 and have shed a few tears in my life, but the pain of loosing my Pretty girl have cut me deeper than could ever have imagined.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my loss. I will get another like Pretty they are so special.

  5. Lorna on said:

    My tortie is 15 years old and still plays around like a kitten :) hope she lives for a few more years,I’ve had her since I was 8 years old! X

  6. My calico/tortie is going on 21 years. still fat and happy. her buddy passed a few weeks ago,
    Feed the best cat food, natural balance has worked well for val, and do not feed any fish, fish cat food.
    the fish cat food is made from fish heads, the thymus gland gives the cat hyperthyroidism.
    we have a new youngster in the house, expecting years of fun.

  7. william on said:

    our cats and both sisters and are nearly 18 years old now, we found them in a skip in 1997 and still running around and no health problems. they only look about 10 years old too!

  8. Jayme Masoner on said:

    My cat Nala is about 3 or 4 years old. I recused her when she was just a little kitten. We like that she may have been taken away from her mom too early but I have been having a problem with her constantly vomiting. I have taken her to the vet, they did some test. The tests came back fine. They asked me to try different cat foods which I did and that’s didn’t work. I’ve tried everything :(. If anyone has information or knows what’s wrong please let me know. You can email me at

    • Amanda on said:

      We are in a very similar situation with our cat Luna. She’s a 3 year old tortie. We adopted her from the shelter a few years ago. She throws up on a weekly basis. She has tons of energy and doesn’t show signs of being ill. I know she eats too fast and she gets too excited when a new scoop of food it put in her dish. I wouldn’t be too worried. We’ve also had the routine tests done and nothing has come up. I try putting a ball in her food dish so she has to eat around it and can’t eat everything in 20 seconds and if I give her soft food I mix it with hard food so she doesn’t inhale it. Please let me know if you figure out how to make yours stop vomiting up as I would like to know too!

      • Could the vomiting be caused by anxiety out nervousness? I had a cat that vomited quite often. After numerous vet visits, having tests run, and then trying different types of kibble, it was assumed that anxiety was causing the vomiting. And that cat lived until 18.

    • nathan on said:

      I had the same issue with my tortie. I had her on Blue Buffalo and switched her to Nature’s Variety Instinct because it is grain free. Once I eliminated grain from her diet she hasn’t had a problem. Also, when I introduced the new food, she ran right to it and gobbled it down.

    • jackie on said:

      I have a 5 1/2 year old tortie and she was constantly vomiting just like yours. I have had her on the same food all her life but all of a sudden she just started doing it. One day I accidentally bought kitten food instead of adult food. Completely solved the issue. I talked to the vet and he said it was fine tonfeed her the kitten food since she is very active just limit the amount of treats I give her. My cousin who works at the local Humane Society also says that’s what they give their cats who often vomit because it seems to be easier on their stomachs.

  9. Shelby on said:

    I have a tiny tortie named Emmy (we thought she was sick at first cause she was the same size for years, never weighed more than 6 pounds turns out thats a normal thing for a sub-breed called tiny torties) Shes about…. 11 or so years old? We rescued her when she was young (old enough to be away from momma but she was a stray and we’d never seen mom around) and she’s healthy as can be :3 hopefully I’ll have her for as long as we had our other tortie who died when i was about 7. she was roughly 27 or so. (another rescue someone left her behind when they moved and my parents opened their home to her and named her Rumpleteaser ^^) I hope emmy lives just as long I couldnt stand to lose my little girl

  10. I had two adorable tortoiseshell cats called Fatty & Lighty who both lived to the ripe old age of 22. These weren’t the original names given to them when I first got them as kittens but after a few years Fatty got fat & Lighty was lighter in colour & in weight. How cruel was I but I loved them to bits, they were my babies & still four years later it break my heart that there no longer with me.

  11. Our cat Cleo is 19 1/2yrs. She started having fits at the end of 2013 and we thought we would have to have her put to sleep. However we have an excellent vet and she now has Epiphen drops. She is an outdoor cat and has been on dried food most of her life. We now have to add the drops to her food so best to disguise in sardines, just a mouthful. The vet says she is otherwise a healthy cat, considering her age, and expects to see her for her annual booster in 6mths time, when she will be over 20yrs! She has also spent a lot of time in and out of the Cattery over the summer months which doesn’t seem to have affected her. We have a small tabby cat who keeps her company and she is 19yrs and in very good help despite her size.

  12. Pauline on said:

    My cat Calvin is 18 years and apart from being less energetic she is still in good health. She is a house cat, so that may explain why she has remained healthy.

    She has been on dried food (Science diet) throughout her life, but I will bear in mind the comments made in other posts if she starts to have difficulty eating.

    I have been lucky to have a very mild mannered cat who seems content at all times.

    It was nice to read that some other tortoiseshell cats have lived to their mid twenties. Hopefully my Calvin will too, as she is a big part of our family.

  13. Miranda D on said:

    My tortoise shell (Cheech) is 6 years old now. She loves to escape outside and hunts all the time. Her brother from the same litter is an orange short hair, and they were both really sick as kittens. Her mom looked just like her and her dad looked just like her brother. I found out that she has feline leukemia, probably something she never got over as a kitten, despite numerous trips to the vet. At two years old she ran away and I kept searching and searching for her. On the third day, I heard faint meows and went searching for her and found her hiding under the car with a broken back leg. I took her to an amazing surgeon to have a steel plate put on her leg so she didn’t have to have it amputated. She has had chronic problems with her teeth and respiratory infections. I decided to go the holistic route because all the times I have taken her to the vet, she has never gotten better. One even caused blunt trauma to her eye that took an entire year to heal, if it is even completely better. If you cannot tell, I love her more than anything. She is the sweetest cat and everyone that meets her loves her. She is pretty vocal but it could be from her ailments. She doesn’t fear anything unless it is a VERY load noise. Oh, and she fears the evil people in white coats (veterinarians). When our roommate’s cat or dog tries to play or attack her, she simply ignores them but is more cooperative with the dog. She snuggles my husband and I every night, and sleeps between our legs.

  14. MATTHEW NICOLL on said:

    Torties can live to a ripe old age. Pepper – our one has only recently ‘gone upstairs’ but she was 22 years old. The biggest problem we had later on was with her teeth and she struggled to eat dry cat foods so was on wet food and at the latter stages was on a special nutrient diet for associated problems. Don’t feel guilty about putting your cat to sleep when the time is right. If you feel guilty and sad about it it means that you have provided a quality life and bond with your cat which is something that is reciprocated. My wife and I think of all the great times we had and know we did not want our cat to be in pain at the end. If torties don’t like their environment they soon let you know or wander off somewhere else so safely say if they have hung around there was a good reason to. For such a small cat she was incredibly territorial and regularly saw off other cats even at the end. They are incredible characters and will really change your life and home.

  15. Judy on said:

    Our tortie is not even a year old but I looked up how long will she live, because we have never fallen for a cat like this one. She does insist on going out but she’s fenced in from other dogs than our own, and I believe she went exploring awhile back and got lost. Now she stays around the greenhouse and back door and goes and comes thru the doggie door like the mutts. She prefers to be around us and if we go in from chores, she’ll follow like she’s a dog. She is a brilliant cat, will chase and bring back rolled up pieces of note pad, she demands much loving and rubbing and scratching. If you seem to be slowing down, she closes her eyes and baby meows so cute. I tell everyone, look for a tortie to adopt. Ours found us at about 12 wks, someone probably put her out.

  16. Carol T on said:

    We have just adopted a lovely tortie but she is sick every few days. Vet can’t find anything wrong. Is this a tortie thing?

  17. Alycee Stoner on said:

    We still have ours because she is only a few months to be egsact she is 18 weeks and we all love her but at times she can be cheeky…

    She also loves her treats and had her very first christmas in December

  18. My cat regan was 14 and a half,I had to have her put to sleep 4 day’s a go,I’m absolutely devastated,my vet told me it was for the best but I feel so guilty,I miss her so much my home just isn’t the same…

  19. Sheena on said:

    My cat Sophie was 25 years old when i called the vet to my house to put her to sleep she went deaf at 23 years then one day at 25 just went blind over night she was so distressed i tried for a few days to see if she would be ok because she was healthy in every way but it was clear she was desperately unhappy.the vet that vaccinated her as a kitten put her to sleep in my arms

  20. My beautiful Sunrise lived to be 19. Unfortunately she was in pretty poor health in her last year and a bit, but up until then she was fit and active, still able to jump up on my bed :) I think she went downhill after the death of her brother, a year earlier than her. She seemed to need a lot of reassurance right after that and would snuggle as close to us as she could, even sleeping around our necks like a tortoiseshell scarf :)

  21. Paul b on said:

    My cat Ruby is now in her 21st year. She has digestion problems which means that she eats a lot of food but doesn’t digest it efficiently. Despite that, she is in good health, & has a good weight.

    • Ginger on said:

      Paul, I would offer a recommendation of probiotic for your tortie with digestion problems. You can get a powder in individual packets to add to the feeding from your vet or feed a teaspoon (or more) of plain yogurt 1 – 2 times a day. Most cats and dogs enjoy plain yogurt! I have a 15 year old tortie named Sara. Hope this helps.

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