New research from the RVC predicts the future life expectancy for companion cats

Photo Credit: Jackie Cardwell
Photo Credit: Jackie Cardwell

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), in collaboration with researchers from the National Chung Hsing University (NCHU) in Taiwan, has produced the first-ever ’life tables’ for the UK companion cat population. This represents a major step forward in how we understand the lifespan of companion cats and revealing new information on mortality rates and influencing factors.

Using records from the RVC’s VetCompass Programme, the researchers analysed data from 7,936 cats under primary veterinary care in the UK that died between 1st January 2019 and 31st March 2021. The results were then broken down by breed and sex and presented in life tables.

Life tables predict the remaining life expectancy and probability of death across a range of age groups in any given population. This information on remaining expected life can be used for cats from any age of interest and can help, for example, prospective owners and cat rehoming centres to predict how much longer a cat for rehoming may live.

Understanding typical remaining lifespan can also support owners and veterinarians when making complex decisions about the best treatment option to protect a cat’s overall wellbeing.

Key findings from the study include:

  • The overall average life expectancy at age 0 (their first year of life) for UK companion cats was 11.7 years
  • Female cats had a 1.33-year longer life expectancy than male cats at age 0.
  • Burmese and Birman breeds had the greatest life expectancy from age 0 at 14.4 years, followed by Crossbreed (11.9 years) and Siamese (11.7 years).
  • Sphynx cats had the shortest life expectancy, at 6.8 years from age 0.
  • Factors such as being purebred and non-ideal bodyweight (either too light or too heavy) were linked to shortened life expectancy.

  • Dr Kendy Teng, Assistant Professor of Animal Welfare Epidemiology at National Chung Hsing University, and lead author of the study, said:

    "The development of life tables for the UK companion cat population represents a significant milestone in understanding the life of cats.Knowing the expected lifespan of their cats, we’re not just raising awareness, we’re helping the owners to make ’pawsitive’ decisions for their cats."

    Dr Dan O’Neill, Associate Professor of Companion Animal Epidemiology at RVC, and co-author of the study, said:

    "Since the early civilisation of man, predicting the future has been one of our greatest fascinations. These new life tables finally enable owners of cats to do just this and to predict the future life expectancy for their cats based on novel scientific methods and the power of Big Data."

    Kendy Tzu-yun Teng, Dave C. Brodbelt, David B. Church and Dan G. O’Neill, (2024) Life tables of annual life expectancy and risk factors for mortality in cats in the United Kingdom. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

    The full paper will be available at: https://journals.sagepu­­full/10.11­77/1098612­X241234556

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  • About the RVC

  • The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK’s largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London.
  • It is one of the few veterinary schools in the world that hold accreditations from the RCVS in the UK (with reciprocal recognition from the AVBC for Australasia, the VCI for Ireland and the SAVC for South Africa), the EAEVE in the EU, and the AVMA in the USA and Canada.
  • The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2023.
  • The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
  • The RVC is a research-led institution, with 88% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2021.
  • The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.
  • About the VetCompass? Programme

    VetCompass? (The Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System) is an epidemiological research programme at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) which investigates anonymised clinical records from veterinary practices to generate evidence to support improved animal welfare.

    VetCompass shares information from more than 1,800 veterinary practices in the UK (over 30% of all’UK practices) covering more than 28 million companion and equine animals.

    To date, VetCompass? has led to more than 130 peer-reviewed publications that have supported welfare-focused work across the range of animal stakeholders including the wider general public, owners, breeders, academics, animal charities, universities and government.

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