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Demographics – life and death of cats in England

O’Neill DG, Church DB, et al. Longevity and mortality of cats attending primary care veterinary practices in England. J Feline Med Surg. 2015 Feb; 17(2):125-133.

Large-scale studies can be utilized to improve understanding of the lifespan and mortality in pet cats. This data can support improved breeding, husbandry, clinical care, and prevention of disease strategies. The United Kingdom has approximately 8.5 to 10.3 million owned cats with 19-25.5% of the households owning a cat.

The study looked at a database of 118,016 cats attending 90 practices in England where 4009 cats with confirmed deaths were randomly included in the study. A large majority (n=3660, 91.7%)) were crossbred, 8.3% were purebred; 50.7% (n=2009) were female and 64.8% (n=2599) were neutered. 

Across all ages of the cats with a cause of death specified, the most frequent causes were trauma (n=405; 12.2%), renal disorder (n=399; 12.1%), non-specific illness (n=370, 11.2%), neoplasia (n=356; 10.8%) and mass lesion disorders (n=336; 10.2%). In the group of cats dying before 5 years of age (n=516), the most frequent causes were trauma, viral infectious disorders, and respiratory disorders. For older cats dying at or after 5 years of age (n=2793), the most frequent causes found were renal disorder, non-specific illness, neoplasia, and mass lesion disorder. It was speculated that though mass lesions could include cysts, inflammation, and infection, many of these lesions could have been undiagnosed neoplasia. If so, neoplasia could account for almost 25% for the cause of death in older cats. Overall, the median longevity in all of the cats was 14 years.

Additional results indicated that crossbred cats had a longer median lifespan (14 years) compared to purebred cats (12.5 years). Individual cat breeds did vary considerably in their longevity. Of interesting note was the different longevity of purebreds – the longest-lived breeds were the Birman (16.1 years) and Burmese (14.3 years), the shortest-lived breeds were the Bengal (7.3 years) and Abyssinian (10.0 years). Increasing body weight was associated with a decrease in longevity; neutering was cautiously associated with an increase in longevity in this study. In regards to cats 5 years of age or less where trauma was the number one cause of death, greater than 90% of cats in the UK have daily outdoor access compared to 80% in Australia and 50-60% in the USA. Overall and in breed-specific cases, greater than 85% of deaths involved euthanasia, therefore in many instances owners opted for involvement in termination of life for their cats (VT)

See also:
O’Neill DG, Church DB, et al. Prevalence of disorders recorded in cats attending primary-care veterinary practices in England. Vet J. 2014 Nov; 202(2)286-291.