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A pet’s life expectancy - How long do pets live for?

Pets play a key role in so many people’s lives, but how long can we expect them to be with us? We take look at the life expectancies for popular breeds of dogs, cats and rabbits.

Plus, how owners can help their much-loved animals reach old age. And we share a vet’s take on the conditions to protect against in pets of any age.

Cat sleeping in the owner's arms

Giving your pets a happy, healthy life

As a beloved member of the family, it’s always hard to say goodbye to our pets. But how long can you expect your pet to live for?


How long do dogs live for?

Research by the Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass programme reveals the average lifespan for dogs is 11.2 years. This can vary greatly between different breeds. Jack Russell terriers come out top at a lengthy 12.7 years, while French bulldogs average around just 4.7 years.

Interestingly, cross breeds have, on average, an extra year’s life expectancy compared to pure breed dogs, benefitting from something known as the “hybrid vigour” effect. This is the cumulative effect of the best health and longevity qualities gained from the breeds of both the parents.

Female dogs tend to have a longer expected lifespan of four to six months over male dogs. Both genders benefit from being neutered, with six months to one-year extra life.

Breed Average lifespan
Jack Russell terrier 12.72 years
Yorkshire terrier 12.54 years
Border collie 12.10 years
Springer spaniel 11.92 years
Cross breed 11.82 years
Labrador retriever 11.77 years
Staffordshire bull terrier 11.33 years
Cocker spaniel 11.31 years
Shih-tzu 11.05 years
Cavalier King Charles spaniel 10.45 years
German shepherd 10.16 years
Boxer 10.04 years
Beagle 9.85 years
Husky 9.53 years
Chihuahua 7.91 years
American bulldog 7.79 years
Pug 7.65 years
English bulldog 7.39 years
French bulldog 4.53 years


Source: Nature, 2022


How long do cats live for?

Cats are typically one of the household pets that live the longest. As with dogs, cross breed cats tend to outlive pure breeds. The average life expectancy is 14 years for cross breeds compared with 12.5 years for pure-bred felines.

A cat’s lifespan can be reduced by up to six months for every extra kilo of weight they carry. Birman cats can live for as long as 16 years, while Maine Coons have an average life expectancy of 9 years.

Unsurprisingly, domesticated cats have a longer average lifespan than feral cats. Housecats tend to live longer than outdoor cats as they are less likely to be involved in road accidents or attacks by other animals.


Protect your pet in case of injury, illness, loss, future health conditions and more

Average life expectancy of popular cat breeds

Breed Average lifespan
British shorthair 12 – 17 years
Ragdoll 12 – 17 years
Birman 12 – 16 years
Bengal 10 – 16 years
Cross breed 12 – 15 years
Siamese 11 – 15 years
Abyssinian 10 – 15 years
Persian 10 – 15 years
Russian Blue 10 – 15 years
Maine Coon 9 – 15 years


Source: Murkote, 2022


How long do rabbits live for?

Rabbits have a much shorter lifespan than either dogs or cats yet are one of the most popular pets to keep in the UK. The VetCompass study by the RVC found male rabbits tend to live longer, at 5.2 years on average, compared with 3.7 years for females.

However, some rabbit varieties can live well into double figures. Dwarf and lop ear rabbits have a longer life expectancy over giant breeds, extending up to 14 years for miniature lops.

It can be difficult to tell if your rabbit is unwell; as a prey species, rabbits can easily disguise outward signs of illness. The RVC’s VetCompass infographic is a handy quick reference of issues for any owners who think their pet may be poorly.

Average life expectancy of popular rabbit breeds

Breed Average lifespan
Miniature lop 7 – 14 years
Netherland dwarf 8 – 12 years
American rabbit 8 – 12 years
French angora 7 – 12 years
Holland lop 7 –10 years
Miniature rex 7 – 9 years
Lionhead 7 – 9 years
English spot 5 – 9 years
Rex 5 – 9 years
Dutch rabbit 5 – 8 years
English lop 5 – 8 years
Flemish giant 5 – 8 years


Source: Pets Love to Know, 2022


How to help your pet live for longer

Keeping your animals fighting fit with regular vet checks and a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to extend their life expectancy.

Excess weight in domesticated animals can seriously curtail lifespan. Taking your dog for a walk and using activity toys as stimuli for cats and rabbits can help to keep the extra pounds off.

It’s also a good idea to take out pet insurance as soon as you get a new pet, whether bought from a breeder or adopted from a rescue centre. Insurance can help to cover medical and veterinary costs as your animal ages. It can also provide cover in the event of theft, straying and locating your lost animal, or having to cancel a holiday to be back home if your pet needs you.

Vet Anna Foreman with her cat, Spud (Image courtesy Anna Foreman)
Vet Anna Foreman with her cat, Spud (Image courtesy Anna Foreman)


Health concerns in popular pets

As a nation of animal lovers, we care deeply about our pets. What are the main health issues to look out for as our pets age?

We talked to Anna Foreman (pictured), a small mammal vet based in Cambridgeshire. We asked her which common health issues to look out for in our dogs, cats and rabbits.

“Arthritis is a condition that affects all three types of animal, but is subtly different in each species”, says Anna. “I certainly see many more cases in dogs than I did a few years ago. It’s because the lifespan of dogs is so much longer now as they are better looked after and excellent healthcare is available for them.”

Arthritis is also a concern in cats, but as Anna tells us, can be much more difficult to spot. “Arthritis in cats is more subtle, and be much harder to pick up on, as we don’t exercise our cats in the same way as we walk our dogs. Signs to look out for are less jumping up to higher surfaces, walking with a stilted gait, overgrooming of their rear end, or matted fur and dirty ears where they are unable to easily reach to groom.”

And it’s an increasingly common condition in our pet rabbits, too. “People are much more aware of good rabbit husbandry, so we’re now seeing rabbits live to between eight and 10 years old,” says Anna. “It can make it very difficult for rabbits to groom themselves effectively, leaving them vulnerable to horrible conditions such as flystrike.”

Other health issues to be aware of

What other issues should we be looking out for in our pets? As Anna tells us, the list can increase with age. “In dogs, skin allergies are common, and endocrine disorders like diabetes. I also see lots of gastrointestinal problems – dogs happily eat whatever they want, even when it’s not good for them, and then invariably end up at the vets.”

As for cats, “they can suffer from chronic kidney disease, diabetes and an overactive thyroid. I see these conditions regularly in older cats. Signs to keep an eye out for include drinking much more water and losing weight.”

In rabbits, dental disorders are one of the easiest conditions to spot. “One of the most common issues is something called malocclusions, where the teeth misalign. This can be addressed by improving your rabbit’s diet – a vet will be able to give you best advice here. Other conditions to be aware of in rabbits include bacterial respiratory diseases and urinary issues, particularly bladder stones.”

How to keep your pets healthy and happy

What advice does Anna have to help keep our pets in tip-top condition throughout their lives? “Make sure your animal has all vaccinations available to it, and where applicable, is also microchipped. That way, if they go missing or are hurt in an accident, a vet will be able reach you quickly. I also think annual check-ups are a good idea, and of course, always seek medical advice sooner rather than later if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.”

She’s also an advocate of pet insurance, whether you animal is young or a bit more mature. “Insurance can help with the big one-off costs, such as if your pet is injured in an accident. But what people don’t tend to consider are the costs of lifelong ongoing conditions like skin allergies, arthritis and diabetes. Insurance can really help pay for things that may not cost much each month but can last for the animal’s whole life.”

You can read more from Anna on pet health conditions, and why pet insurance can make all the difference, in our article on why it’s important to insure your pet.

Key takeaways

•    Seek veterinary advice if you think your pet is poorly
•    Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date
•    Keep your pet’s weight at a healthy level
•    Ensure you pet has plenty of exercise and stimuli
•    Take out pet insurance as soon as possible after you get new pet


Put protection in place for your much-loved pets


  • If you’re taking on an older animal as a pet, it can seem like an unnecessary expense to insure them. So, is there merit in taking out pet insurance, especially when living costs are high? 
    Depending on the type of pet insurance you choose, in the future it could help you to cover costs such as:

    • Veterinary fees and treatments
    • Theft and straying
    • Holiday cancellation
    • Finding lost animals
  • Depending on whether you have a dog, cat or rabbit, pet insurance can have slightly different age limits.

    You can commonly start dog insurance any time from eight weeks up to their 8th birthday. However, for certain breeds of dog, insurance can start from eight weeks up to their 5th birthday.

    You can generally start cat insurance from eight weeks up to their 10th birthday.

    For rabbit insurance it’s typically from eight weeks up to their 5th birthday.

    Typically, once insured and if you keep paying the premiums, you animal will be insured for life.

How we help protect your pets

  • Dog Insurance

    Protect your puppy or dog in case of unexpected vet bills, loss or theft, and conditions they develop in future with Post Office Dog Insurance.

  • Cat Insurance

    Whether your stays indoors or goes out, our cover helps protect them against the unexpected, including unexpected vet bills, loss, theft and more.

  • Rabbit Insurance

    Rabbits are much-loved members of the family too, and need protecting. Post Office Rabbit Insurance can help give the reassurance you need.