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An Urban Experience
D. O’Neill1
1Royal Veterinary College, Pathobiology and Population Health, Petts Wood- Kent, United Kingdom
Feline - Longevity and Diseases in Cats: Purebred vs Domestic
Dr Dan O’Neill
MVB BSc(hons) GPCert(SAP) GPCert(FelP) GPCert(Derm) GPCert(B&PS) MSc(VetEpi) PhD MRCVS
Veterinary Epidemiology, Economics and Public Health, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane,
North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA,
United Kingdom
The last decade has seen unprecedented discussion
in relation to perceived health differences between purebred and crossbred dogs (1). These discussions have promoted some notable developments in purebred dog health strategies and data collection. However, cats have also not been immune to concerns about health differences between purebred and crossbred types (2). This presentation will explore some aspects of the state of knowledge on longevity and diseases in cats with a particular focus on differences between purebred and domestic varieties.
Cats are often considered as just small dogs but there are huge differences between the species in terms of breed structure, morphology and biology that demand separate epidemiological paradigms. Thanks to the indefatigable desire of mankind for ‘better’ morphology, the dog is now the most phenotypically diverse mammalian species on the planet. Wide variation in the longevity and common diseases across breeds of dogs have been well documented (3). Pet cats have been much less altered in terms of their size and variation from their wild progenitors. However, this does not mean that mankind has not played god with feline breeds as well and imprinted modern cat breeds with their own unique disease and longevity profiles.
In order to investigate longevity and disease in pet cats, representative and multi-faceted data sources are required. Veterinary epidemiological research has relied on referral data for many decades. However, it is now increasingly recognised that selection biases in the disorders and cats that are referred conspire to make referral data highly unrepresentative of the
wider population and therefore poorly useful for general epidemiological research (4).
Insurance data have also been widely investigated in
cats and offer a useful research resource. Research application is more reliable in countries with high insurance update (4). However, insurance data are
limited by omission of clinical events that are excluded from policy cover, disorders where the cost exceeds
the deductible excess and recurrent events for some disorders and death data are often constrained beyond the age specified as the cut-off for claiming life-cover
(4). Despite these limitations, several useful insurance studies have been published on overall morbidity (5) and mortality (6) cats. Among insured cats in Sweden from 1999 to 2006, 8.4% of cats had at least one claim per year. At a breed level, many pure breeds had significantly higher proportions of cats with at least one claim per year than the domestic cat. Siamese (13.77%, 95% CI 12.00- 15.54), Burmese (13.39%, 95% CI 11.26-15.53) and Abyssinian group (13.33%, 95% CI 10.99-15.66) were among some breeds that were at significantly higher risk compared with the domestic cat (8.04%, 7.85-8.24) (5).
There is now renewed emphasis on primary-care veterinary clinical data for clinical research in the
UK with the development of the VetCompassTM Programme. VetCompassTM at the Royal Veterinary College in London collects anonymised clinical record data on 2.5 million cats from a network of 600 UK practices. A VetCompassTM study of 4,009 confirmed deaths randomly selected from 118,016 cats attending 90 practices in England reported that the median overall longevity overall in cats was 14.0 years (IQR 9.0-17.0; range 0.0-26.7) (7). This study reported that the median longevity of crossbred (domestic) cats (14.0 years, IQR 9.1-17.0; range 0.0-26.7) was greater than purebred cats (12.5 years; IQR 6.1-16.4; range 0.0- 22.0) (P < 0.001) (7). However, there were pure breeds with longevity values on both sides of the crossbred longevity (Table 1).

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