Changes in pet care help dogs and cats live longer lives
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By Mickey Zeldes  June 13, 2014 12:00 am

Dogs and cats are living longer and longer. Shifts in pet care, including the emphasis on keeping pets indoors and safely controlled outdoors, is definitely helping as well as advances in disease prevention and medical care in general. The Guinness Book of World Records says the oldest cat ever was named Crème Puff and lived to be 38 years old. The oldest dog was Blue, a cattle dog that died at 29 years, 5 months. That’s a long time to have the same animal.

The common thought is that every year in a pet’s life is equal to seven in a human’s life. But that is too simplistic. Think about how quickly a kitten or puppy develops – they reach sexual maturity at just 6 months old and are considered “teenagers” for the next year. It seems more logical to figure that the ratio is higher the first two years and then slows down. Some experts now say that the first two years are equal to 10 years each, and then it slows down to about four years thereafter. That still would have made Crème Puff equal to a 164-year-old person when she passed away. So that equation is still probably not very accurate.

For cats, there’s very little difference between life expectancy among the breeds, with the exception that Siamese-types are known to have long life spans. It is not uncommon to hear about cats living into their 20s. It’s so common, in fact, that I feel cheated that I’ve yet to have a cat hit that mark in spite of the good care I feel I give my pets. We’ve had two cats hit 17, which is good but only half what Crème Puff made it to. Guinness has the longest currently living cat at 25, and there were several contenders at that age actually.

Dogs have a noticeable difference in expected life spans based on size (more than specific breeds). Giant breeds are considered senior at 8 years old and finding one over 10 is rare. In general, the small dogs tend to have the longest life spans, with the exception of the extremely tiny breeds like Yorkies and teacup Chihuahuas. It’s not unusual to find Shih Tzu’s and miniature poodles in their late teens.

You might be surprised to learn some of the other age-related facts: the oldest rabbit ever lived more than 16 years; the oldest pet rat lived more than seven years, the oldest goldfish was more than 40 years old; the oldest horse ever recorded died at age 62; and the oldest macaw was 87 years old. Owning one of these pets really took a lifetime commitment to the extreme.

It would be interesting to find the oldest cat and dog in Sonoma County, so let me know if you have an oldie (that you can somehow prove the age), and we’ll do something special for the winner. Send in your nominee via email –, or snail mail – 301 J. Rogers Lane, Rohnert Park CA, 94928 and let’s honor our county’s four-footed golden oldies.

Upcoming events 

Kidz ‘n Critters Summer Camp is happening. There are still a few slots left for kids going into grades 2-7. Check out more information online at or by stopping by the shelter.


• No More Lost Pets: Free microchips and pet ID tags are available for residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Stop by the shelter during our open hours with your pet to get one. The shelter is open Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 1-5:30 p.m., and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at

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