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Longest-living cat breeds revealed by life expectancy study

The longest-lived breeds of cats, including Birmans and Burmese, live more than twice as long as the shortest-lived breed, according to a study of thousands of pet cats in the UK.

“In terms of life expectancy, there has been very little research done on cats,” says Dan O’Neill at the Royal Veterinary College in the UK. “They’re kind of invisible to science, especially compared to dogs.”

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To learn more about cat longevity, O’Neill and his colleagues analysed data on 7936 cats that died between 2019 and 2021, taken from vets in the UK.

Overall, cats had a life expectancy of just over 11.7 years. Female cats outlived their male counterparts, with an expected lifespan of 12.5 years compared with 11.2 years.

Crossbred cats tended to live longer than purebreds, with the two groups having expected lifespans of 11.9 and 10.4 years respectively.

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Twelve breeds, including crossbreeds, had 15 or more deaths in the data – enough to estimate their life expectancy. Topping the longevity list are Birman and Burmese cats, both with life expectancies of 14.4 years. At the bottom are Bengal cats and sphynxes, with life expectancies of 8.5 and 6.7 years respectively.

Unlike with dogs, how long cats live doesn’t appear to correlate with traits such as body size.

“Cats are boring – the variance between cats is usually just the length or colour of their hair,” says O’Neill. “We’re not talking like in dogs, where some breeds have twisted spines or no muzzles.”

The team also created what are known as life tables, which predict the average remaining lifespan of cats at different ages and can be used to help cat owners decide how to treat their ill pets.

“If your cat is 11 or 12 years old and is only expected to live another year, then it’s probably not worth doing surgery, for example,” says O’Neill.

Journal reference:

Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery DOI: 10.1177/1098612X241234556

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