The Cat Prospective Ageing and Welfare Study, being conducted at the University of Liverpool, is aiming to find answers on how to improve an ageing animal’s overall health and welfare.
What is believed to be the largest study of its kind is being undertaken to define the ageing process in cats, and the factors that influence feline health and ageing.
The Cat Prospective Ageing and Welfare Study, being conducted at the Feline Healthy Ageing Clinic at the University of Liverpool Small Animal Practice, will follow a cohort of around 300 cats over a period of four to five years.
Cats aged between 7 and 15 are being recruited through the university’s practice to take part.
‘Largest of its kind’
The team is directed by Alex German, while cat vet and PhD student Nathalie Dowgray is leading the project, supported by RVN Kelly Eyre.
Miss Dowgray said: “To our knowledge, with its longitudinal ageing study design, we do believe it’s the largest of its kind.
“What we’re hoping to be able to do is define the ageing process in cats to understand what changes occur – not just normal age-related changes vets may see, but also what changes are occurring that may be precipitating, or pre-cursors, of age-related diseases. We’re really trying to define what is ‘good ageing’ in cats.”
The long-term study will be wide-ranging. As well as regular, standard veterinary health checks, researchers will carry out a number of diagnostics, including retinal examination and photography, and blood and urine sampling.
With the help of owner-observed information submitted on questionnaires before each clinical examination, the team will also be looking at coat condition and grooming behaviours.
Miss Dowgray said: “We’re hoping, at the end of this study, we’re able to define what is good ageing and, potentially, pick up on why cats aren’t ageing well. Then, we can see if there’s something we can do proactively to improve the way these animals age.”