If you’re an animal lover then there is one common question that you’ll have definitely been asked at least once in your life: Are you a dog or cat person? Dogs and cats are the two most popular pets globally and on average, around 60% of the population identifies as a ‘dog person’. This is a little bit ironic considering that cat ownership is higher than that of dogs in almost every country, including the USA and the UK.
There are big similarities and differences between these two domestic animals. Both of these adorable pets are cute, cuddly, and make great companions, offering emotional support to humans. However, dogs are generally considered to be playful, loving, and loyal, whereas cats are known to be more aloof, self-sufficient, and often only like giving affection on their terms. The biggest difference of all between these two animals is the average lifespan of each. Cats live longer than dogs, to an average age of 15 years. Dogs on the other hand unfortunately only live for around 12 years.
There is some confusion among pet owners as to why this is the case. Dogs and cats are equally loved and cared for by their pet owners, so why do cats live longer than dogs? There are many reasons why, with some evidence pointing to social habits, and others naming evolutionary factors as the main cause. Here we have compiled a list of the most common theories that explain why cats have a longer lifespan than dogs and have included some tips on how you can ensure that your pet lives the longest and fullest life possible.
Cats Are More Independent Than Dogs
If you think about how dogs and cats are represented in media and online, you’ll know that they are perceived very differently. Cats have a persona of being cooler and acting in a more distant fashion towards their owners. Contrastingly dogs are known to be ‘man’s best friend’, and are mankind’s most trusted companion. If you’ve ever owned one or both of these animals as pets, then you’ll know that there is some truth to these stereotypes. And interestingly, one of the most prominent explanations as to why cats live longer than dogs is due to the simple difference between the two animals’ personalities: the fact that cats are more solitary animals than dogs.
This may sound strange, as it has been proven scientifically that most animals live happier, healthier, and ultimately longer lives when they have good social interaction and a group of others around them. So why wouldn’t cats be the same? Dogs are similar to humans and thrive off of group interactions, but cats prefer to be alone. If you have more than one pet cat, you may have even noticed that they don’t mix a lot, and prefer to sleep at opposite ends of the house.
So how does a cat’s solitary living routine, help them when it comes to outliving dogs? The answer is simple. By being alone for a majority of the time, cats reduce the risk of catching and spreading infectious diseases. This is different from dogs, who have a pack mentality, and love to play and interact with other pooches they meet in the park or on the street. Cats on the other hand enjoy staying far away from other felines, and by doing so, they are protecting themselves from being exposed to potentially harmful viruses and diseases. Just like humans are asked to socially distance during outbreaks of deadly diseases, cats naturally isolate themselves from too much socialization, and are therefore less likely to spread infections.
Despite this fact, it is important to not worry about your dog mixing with other pooches and catching dangerous diseases! Dogs’ immune systems are there to help them. So, as long as you keep an eye on your dog when he is playing with other pups, and keep him up to date with regular vaccinations, it should be perfectly fine for him to mix with other dogs.
Cats and Dogs Have Evolved Differently
The oldest cat to live was a 38-year-old feline from Austin, Texas named Creme Puff. This is a big difference when compared to the oldest dog on record, an Australian pup named Bluey who died at the age of 29. The difference in the age of death here shows just how much longer domestic cats can live. One of the main factors that affects this lengthier lifespan in felines is due to the nature of genetics and how dogs and cats have evolved.
For example, although dogs have a fearsome set of teeth, that no one would want to receive a bite from, cats have the killer package of possessing both piercing teeth and extremely sharp claws. Together these natural weapons can cause real damage to predators. If you’ve ever been scratched by a cat, then you’ll know that their little paws can wreak havoc and pain on us. On top of the tiny sword-like claws they have, cats are also smaller than dogs and more agile. This naturally makes them better than canines at hiding from predators and aids them in avoiding an earlier demise.
For these reasons, over time cats have grown to become excellent fighters and protectors. Their good natural defenses mean that they survive for longer in the wild. Therefore, cats’ bodies have evolved to be stronger and healthier and helped them to live longer, which has allowed more evolutionary changes to take place. Nowadays, our pet cats reap the benefit of their ancestors’ behavior and fantastic survival instincts and ultimately live longer than canines due to this evolutionary factor.
The Breeding of Dogs
Most dogs are known by a type of breed. There are over 350 dog breeds in the world, with each type having distinct physical differences and varying personality traits. If you wish to buy a pure-bred dog, it can be a costly investment, as many dog breeds are known to get different medical problems that can cut their life short earlier than other canines. For example, Great Danes and Bullmastiffs are known to have shorter life expectancy rates than smaller breeds such as Maltese or Jack Russell dogs.
Smaller dogs are well-known to live longer than larger canines. This is because big dogs, grow quickly and therefore their bodies age faster than their small dog counterparts. They are also more prone to health issues and bone problems, again caused by their accelerated growth. This is another reason why cats live longer than dogs, as cats all grow to a similar small size, so don’t experience as many varied health issues as dogs.
As well as this theory, many vets argue that certain dog types which have been the subject of years of breeding are more likely to develop problems as they have a lower variety of DNA in their genetics. This causes them to be more susceptible to genetic diseases as they haven’t been reproducing with other canine breeds. Unlike dogs, there is much less demand for certain cat types as fewer cat breeds exist. Although Sphinx and Persian cats are sought after, the majority of cat owners are perfectly happy to adopt or buy a ‘moggy’, a cat that is the product of two random felines. Moggies will usually be healthier and have less bred genetic issues that could cause an early demise. Since most domesticated cats are moggies, this explains why most cats live longer than dogs.
Factors That Shorten a Dog’s Lifespan
There are several explanations as to why cats live longer than dogs. But aside from evolutionary and behavioral factors, what else is there that reduces a dog’s lifespan? One factor that can drastically affect the lifespan of your pet, particularly in dogs, is neutering. Neutering can either reduce or increase the number of years your pup lives.
Statistically speaking, neutered female dogs are more likely to live for a longer amount of time than their un-neutered female counterparts. Female dogs who are spayed have a lower chance of ovarian cancer and other problems. Interestingly, male dogs who don’t get neutered will likely outlive male dogs who are snipped. This is because dogs who have been neutered have a higher chance of passing away from autoimmune diseases or cancer, with scientists believing that sterilization can weaken a male dog’s immune system.
Many people advocate for neutering dogs but others are totally against it. Vets recommend that you don’t spay your pet immediately after getting them. Instead, wait several months to see if it is a procedure that you really want for your pet. Some argue that neutering has fantastic benefits and others say it is harmful to dogs. The best thing to do is talk to your vet about the options and the benefits and risks of each. Depending on your animal’s behavior, sterilization may not even be something you want to do! But if you want to find a way to help your dog live a longer life, then it’s important to know if sterilizing your pup will be beneficial or not in helping to do so.
Ways to extend your pet’s lifespan
By now it’s obvious that cats live longer than dogs due to mostly genetic reasons and ancestral factors. But there are things that you can do to ensure your pet, be it a dog or a cat, lives a long and healthy life.
Firstly, ensure that your indoor cat or dog has a lot of opportunities for physical activity. Indoor pets live longer than outdoor pets due to the warmth and comfort of their surroundings, but it is important that they can still be active and explore the great outdoors. By using their bodies as they would in the wild, whether that is through hunting or simply playing in nature, your pets will keep their hearts healthy, maintain a leaner frame, and won’t be at risk of obesity.
Another way to extend the lifespan of your pet is to feed them with good quality pet food. For your dogs, try to choose food that has a high meat content and includes vegetables. A food that is also rich in Omegas 3 and 6 is good too, as this will keep your dog’s coat looking healthy. Similarly, it is important to feed your cat food with good meat content. You can feed your cat a mixture of dry and wet food as wet food will give your cat more water and is a good way to keep them extra hydrated.
Dry food on the other hand is great for keeping cats’ teeth healthy. For both dogs and cats, it’s important to take care of your furry friend’s teeth. If your pet experiences a toothache, this will severely deplete their appetite, which could lead to further problems. Tooth issues in pets have been shown to reduce their lifespan, as it can cause immense pain and prevent your pet from eating, or can increase the risk of infection spreading around the body. Many types of dog and cat kibble are formulated specifically to help strengthen and reduce plaque on your pet’s teeth. Similarly, you can brush your pet’s teeth every so often, to give them a helping hand in this area.
Finally, the most important and arguably the easiest way to extend your dog or cat’s life is to show them lots of love and affection. Even though cats may seem less affectionate and shy away from attention at times, it has been proven that both canines and felines thrive off of human interaction. A pet that lives in a happy home with loving owners is more likely to live a longer life due to feeling less stress. Therefore, make sure you let your beloved pooch or cat know that they are safe and loved, and you’ll be able to enjoy many more years with them.