Our long-lived fur friends

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It’s estimated that in 2016, nearly 80 million families are sharing their homes with a cat or a dog, a number that’s been rising every year. When choosing a pet dog or cat, in addition to considering color, coat and personality, prospective pet owners might want to consider life span.

The old rule of thumb to determine a dog’s age was to multiply their age by seven, and for cats, to multiply by four. But that’s old thinking. For cats, it’s more of a breed-by-breed comparison, with some of the longest-living cat breeds often reaching 15 or more years. With dogs, it’s size that counts. Generally, the larger the dog, the shorter the life. Here are some of the breeds with the greatest longevity.

Manx cats are usually recognized by a lack of tail (a rumpy), or very short tail (a riser), both natural mutations. They have double coats that can be short or long. Friendly, people-oriented lap cats, they can even learn tricks. They are medium sized and mature slowly. The Manx typically lives 16 to 21 years.

Persians, the most popular cat breed in the U.S., are known for their sweet, laid-back temperament, round heads, flat noses and lovable expressions. Their fluffy coats, coming in dozens of colors, can make them look larger than they are. They require frequent bathing and brushing. The Persian will be your friend for 15 to 21 years.

Siamese cats are easily recognized by their long, sleek bodies, almond-shaped blue eyes and a coat pattern that makes them look mysterious. They are intelligent, active cats that communicate vocally (and loudly) and demand constant attention from their people. You’ll have her around for 16 to 20 years.

American Shorthairs are one of the healthiest cat breeds, with few genetic problems, and a life span of 15 to 20 years. They are compact, muscular cats, coming in a number of colors and patterns. Considered working cats, they are natural mousers, are affectionate and get along with kids and dogs.

Bombay cats, a comparatively new breed, are a cross between sable Burmese and black American shorthairs. They are intended to resemble a miniature black panther, with a short solid black coat and gold eyes. Playful and smart, they get along with kids, other pets and strangers. They need very little grooming. The Bombay will be a companion for 14 to 19 years.

Chihuahuas are the smallest of the recognized dog breeds, weighing only two to six pounds and standing six to nine inches tall. Despite their size, they are fearless, ready to protect their owners and their home, often successfully. They come in short- and long-haired varieties. They can become one-person dogs for as long as 16 to 20 years.

Toy Poodles, the smallest of the poodle family, are smart, happy dogs. They are easy to housebreak and train, love to learn tricks and make devoted friends with everyone. Their curly, fluffy coat needs regular grooming and clipping. They shed less than most breeds, good for people with allergies. Toy poodles weigh from five to ten pounds and will be with you for 14 to 18 years.

Lhasa Apsos, at 12 to 18 pounds, are sturdy dogs with long dense coats that come in a variety of colors. They need firm training or they will become the boss. While they can be loving family members for 13 to 18 years, they may not be as friendly with outsiders.

Shih Tzus are one of the world’s oldest breeds, possibly going back to the sixth century in China. Originally bred as lapdogs, they love everyone. Their long beard and moustache make them easy to recognize but require frequent grooming. They look just as cute in a short puppy cut. They weigh from 9 to 16 pounds and live for 14 to 18 years.

Dachshunds, although small at 16 to 30 pounds, were originally hunting dogs and love the outdoors. They need exercise and a strong relationship with their people that can last for 12 to 17 years. They can be affable and loyal but will bark (and bark) at strangers.

Some people claim that mutts and moogies are healthier and live longer than purebred pets. But mixed-breed cats live an average of only six months longer and no studies show that mixed-breed dogs live significantly longer than purebred dogs. There are too many variables.

No matter the breed of your dog or cat, you can help your pets live longer and be healthier. Take your pets for yearly vet check-ups, keeping their vaccinations up to date. Spay or neuter, keep them trim and feed them healthy diets and low-calorie snacks. Take your dog on daily walks or runs. It’s good exercise for both of you. According to the ASPCA, indoor cats live twice as long as those who run wild, so keep your cats inside.

Your companion animals depend on you and return your care with absolute love. Don’t let them down. HLM

Sources: calculatorcat.com, pedigree.com, petcarerx.com, vetstreet.com and yahoo.com.