Friday 11 May 2012

Cats live longer because of better cat food?

No, there is no hard evidence to support the view that cats live longer in 2012 than they did in say 1889. I refer to 1889 because Harrison Weir mentions in his book Our Cats and all about them (that is exactly how the title is written) cats of 20+ years of age. The upper age limit for cats seems to be very similar then as it is now. If this is correct it is disappointing because the great advances in veterinary care that have taken place over the intervening years should extend lives. Of course I am speculating.

Perhaps there are competing forces. In the United States the veterinarians must be far better than they were in 1889 because they are better trained and they have better knowledge. This should result in longer lives for our cat companion. However, there is a caveat: the application of today's vet's better knowledge and skills depends on the client (the cat's owner - caretaker) requesting that the vet exercise those skills.  If the cat's caretaker is more eager today to euthanise their cat then no matter how good a vet is, the cat will die. I am not saying they are; just making a point. Also vets 100 years ago did not declaw cats in the USA. Declawing can lead to abandonment due to behavioral problems and euthanasia.

There is probably greater control over the destiny of the cat today than in over 100 years ago. That may translate to shorter lives because where there is more control there is a demand for greater convenience. It can be convenient for a person to abandon a cat or euthanise a cat.

Also today in the USA people are considerably heavier. About 30% are obese apparently. The normalization of obesity in humans translates to allowing the domestic cat to become overweight with the incumbent health issues and a shorter life. These are all potential factors that might shorten a cat's life.

As to cat food, back in 1889 there was no commercial cat food. It simply did not exist and many years were to elapse before it did. Referring to Harrison Weir's book again, at page 118, he..

"advocates several meals a day, at least three, with a variety of food, such as raw shin of beef, cut very small; bones to pick; fish of sorts, with the bones taken out, or refuse parts (this probably means human waste food); milk with a little hot water; boiled rice or oatmeal...and grass..some boiled vegetables..."

He focuses on raw shin of beef as a core food. That is a typical good cat diet of 120 years ago in England, UK. What do you think?

It looks OK to me and is probably better on the whole than modern super convenient commercially available dry cat food.

Let's speculate again. Modern dry cat food might be a force against longevity. Irresponsible cat breeding tends to work against a long cat life. There a quite a lot of purebred pedigree cats in the USA today and these live shorter lives on average than moggies. In 1889 there were very few purebred cats in the West.

Although 100 years ago people let cats outside all the time there was much less traffic and less hostility towards the cat because there were less cats. That may have reduced the risks

Conclusion? - I sense that there have been improvements and set backs in cat care over the past 120 years. The result: house cats' lives have a similar length.

Associated: Cat posters (contains a cat age chart).

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