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PandEcats

The Premier Online Magazine
devoted to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

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Close this search box.

PandEcats

The Premier Online Magazine devoted
to Persian & Exotic Shorthair Cats

Search
Close this search box.

Life Expectancy Of Different Cat Breeds

A recent report published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery by researchers from the RVC and the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan, revealed the life expectancy of different cat breeds. Their results have sparked controversy amongst cat fanciers around the world. 

Methodology

Researchers assessed data collected from 6 large corporate veterinary chains in the United Kingdom; IVC, CVGS, Linnaeus, Medivet, Vets4Pets and VetPartners. 

  • From over 1 million records, 159,000 records were identified as having “death” associated to them. These numbers were manually scrutinized and reduced to 7936 records of individual cats to be included in the study. 

From those 7936 records: 

  • 10% of cats were pedigreed (819). 
  • 83.7% of cats in the study were euthanized. 

The Results

The results of the study led to the following conclusions:

  • The average life expectancy of all cats studied was 11.7 years.
  • Female cats live longer than male cats: with the figure higher for female cats at 12.5 years, while male cats averaged another 11.2 years.
  • Neutered/Spayed cats live longer than  felines that are left intact.
  • Cats with a median body weight have a longer lifespan than those that are under or over ideal weight.
  • Mixed breed cats live longer than pedigreed cats: Mixed breed cats have a life expectancy of 11.9 years in their first year of life, compared with 10.4 years for the pedigreed cats.
  • Purebred cats are 1.83 times more likely to die before the age of 3 years than mixed breeds.
  • Longest Lived Breeds: Burmese and Birmans have the longest life expectancies at 14.4 years.
  • Shortest Lived Breed: The Sphynx breed has the shortest predicted lifespan at 6.7 years.

Life Tables For Cat Breeds

From their data, the research team produced the first ever “life tables” for different cat breeds, which “predict the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups in any given population”. 

Questions Regarding The Study’s Methodology & Conclusions

Immediately following the publication of the study, questions about the accuracy of the results were raised by feline professionals, particularly criticizing the format and methodology of the study:

  • The Sample Size of Specific Breeds Was Too Small: The number of cats of a specific breed reported in the article range from 15 to 194, with Norwegian Forest Cat at only 15 individuals, Sphynx at 18 and Russian Blue at 19 cats. These numbers are so small, that the results are statistically meaningless. Even the numbers of the “longest-lived” breeds were low, with Birman at 38 individuals and Burmese at 45. A similar study conducted by the same researchers on dog longevity included the statement, “… the high variation of lifespans of French Bulldogs could be due to high health risks in early life… and a relatively small sample size (n = 232)”. If a sample size of 232 French Bulldogs is so small as to raise questions about the accuracy of results, significantly smaller sample sizes for cats must be viewed with  skepticism.
  • Definition of Life Expectancy: The study does not present life expectancy data by breed for cats that survived to adulthood. Instead, the numbers include kittens that died at birth or soon after birth. This would clearly lower the average life expectancy of the breed. 

  • Expected lifespan Ending In Euthanasia: 83% of the cats in this study were euthanized. Why? Were the cats euthanized due to trauma or accident? In the United Kingdom where it is common for owners do allow their cats to explore the great outdoors, cars are the number one reason for cats deaths.  Was the cat euthanized because the owner was unable to afford treatment? In evaluating a typical lifespan, death should be due to natural causes. If euthanized subjects are included in a study, it should only be as a last resort for failing health. Accidents, trauma or financial considerations must be excluded.
  • Lack of Diversity: Because of the small sample size, the study may have included pedigreed cats from a single breeder or bloodline. This would also screw the results.

  • Responsible Cat Breeders: The study does not differentiate between the life expectancy of cats produced by responsible breeders (whose selection of breeding stock includes genetic testing before breeding), and the casual or backyard breeder (who may produce kittens without DNA testing the parents or providing adequate health care).

Final Thoughts

Life tables are widely used in human public health. More recently life tables have started to be used for dog and cat populations. Understanding typical feline lifespan can provide information that could help cat owners, cat rescues and veterinarians make better informed decisions about treatment options to protect a cat’s overall wellbeing. While the goal of this study is laudable, more studies are necessary to confirm the lifespans predicted for the various cat breeds, and arguably incorporating a more refined methodology. For life tables to be useful, they must be reasonably accurate

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“Just watching my cats can make me happy.”
*Author Paula Cole (American singer-songwriter)

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