Cool and aloof, the cat will never be known as man's best friend. But its solitary nature may be the key to its long life, say scientists.
In the battle of cats and dogs, cats clock up an average age of 15 compared with a dog's 12-year lifespan. This bucks the general rule of the animal kingdom that the larger a creature is the longer it lives.
US researchers say that while dogs are sociable creatures, cats like to keep to themselves - so cutting their odds of catching and spreading disease.
Dr Steve Austad, a lion trainer turned biologist, said: "There is an evolutionary theory of ageing ... that suggests that things live longer in safe conditions. Think of cats' solitary ways. Unlike dogs, which are pack animals, they live at low density and that tends to prevent them from catching infectious diseases."
But it's not just a cat's independence that gives it an advantage. They also have more "weaponry" to protect them from attack. While dogs boast a fearsome set of teeth, cats also have sharp claws and "tremendous" agility.
Dr Austad, who researches the biology of ageing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said: "Cats are less susceptible to predators because they are so well armed.
"Dogs can be fierce but they only have their mouth."
He added that dogs' lives may also have been shortened by the creation of exotic breeds, which can be more prone to ill-health, adding: "We haven't changed cats nearly as much as we've changed dogs."
The journal Science reports that learning more about ageing could help us - and our pets - live longer.
Dr Joao Pedro De Magalhaes, of Liverpool University, said: "I don't think there is a set maximum longevity for any species ... Maybe a thousand years from now, you could have a dog that lives 300 years."
- Daily Mail