By Cheryl Lock
Pet owners hope that any cat breed they decide to bring home will remain healthy for the duration of his or her life. Diet and environmental factors have a profound effect on life span and day-to-day health of cats, according to Roger Brown, DVM, and The Cat Fanciers’ Association’s (CFA) scientific advisor and director at large. “Good veterinary care and at least annual physical exams will also reduce the risk of a shortened life span,” he adds. At home, the most important things owners can do to promote their cat’s longevity, regardless of breed, is to help them maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle while preventing unsupervised access to the outdoors, says Jennifer Coates, DVM.
But besides diet, exercise, environment, and luck of the draw, certain cat breeds may be predisposed to be “healthier” than others, according to Rachel Barrack, DVM, certified veterinary acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, and Jennifer Maniet, DVM, staff veterinarian at Petplan insurance. “Domestic short haired and domestic longhaired cats are known as the mutts or mixed breeds of the feline world,” says Barrack. “Lacking some of the inbreeding that can be associated with their pedigreed counterparts, these cats tend to be among the healthiest, in my experience.”
But, if you’re going the purebred route and you’re wondering which options tend to be the healthiest, you might want to read up on the following breeds:
Barrack includes the Balinese in her list of longest-living cat breeds, since these cats have an average lifespan of 18-22 years. According to the CFA, the Balinese takes the elegance and intelligence of the Siamese and throws in a luxurious, silky coat that makes it extra attractive.
The Bombay is another option when it comes to long-living cats, says Barrack. With a typical lifespan of 15-20 years, this “miniature panther” is a hybrid breed, known for its mischievous nature and outgoing personality.
A relatively new breed, Maniet suggests checking out the Chausie for another healthy cat breed option. According to The International Cat Association (TICA), the Chausie is a mixture of Jungle Cat, which dwells from the Nile Valley to the Caspian Sea, mixed with domestic cats to create hybrids across North American and Southeast Asia. “When several different pure breeds are mated with each other, their genes also mix together, creating a large pool,” says Maniet. “This is known as genetic diversity, and this means that their kittens may be less likely to be born with or develop inherited conditions that their parents were more susceptible to develop in their lives.”
The Havana Brown is another cat breed developed from a mixture of previous breeds (chocolate point and seal point Siamese bred with solid black domestic shorthairs and a dash of Russian Blue, according to TICA) that tends to be fairly healthy, says Maniet. In fact, you can expect about 12-15 years of companionship with your Havana Brown, if you properly care for him.
With a lifespan of approximately 15-18 years, Maniet says the Japanese Bobtail—a very active, outgoing and intelligent breed, according to TICA—is a good option for those looking to bring home a cat that’ll most likely remain in good health for the long haul.
Approximately 10-15 years is what you can expect to get from your LaPerm, an inquisitive breed with a loose, light, curly coat. While Maniet points to genetic diversity as one of his founding characteristics for healthier cat breeds, he also points to the unknown as a reason for including some breeds—like the LaPerm—on his “healthiest” list. “Another reason why these breeds are considered the ‘healthiest’ is that we may not know everything there is to know about them, yet,” she says. “As of now, these breeds seem to be less prone to acquire certain feline conditions.”
For a longhaired breed with exotic green eyes and a silky blue coat, check out the Nebelung, a cat whose name was derived from the German word for mist or fog, according to TICA. They’re also one of the healthier breeds on Maniet’s list, with a lifespan of about 15-18 years.
If you’re looking for a stunning shorthaired breed that’s intelligent and playful, look no farther than the Russian Blue Cat. It also helps that they tend to live fairly long lives, says Barrack (approximately 15-20 years, when properly taken care of).
Again, while there are many important factors in feline health (including vaccinations, nutrition and weight control, internal and external parasite control, etc.), Siamese cats are one of the breeds that typically lives the longest, says Barrack. The graceful, intelligent and social breed can live anywhere from 15 to 20 years, even though they do have a higher incidence of health problems than some of the breeds on this list. Overbreeding related to the breed’s popularity might be to blame, says Coates.
Vets and cat associations alike caution that any list of “healthiest” cat breeds is an estimation, and there is a lot of room for variation within any of the cats on this list. Keep vigilant about your cat’s physical and emotional needs—no matter his or her breed—to ensure yours lives the happiest, longest life possible.