Cat Owners Really Are Different Than Dog Owners

 |  Nov 3rd 2008  |   12 Contributions



The AVMA recently published its U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook which provides tons of data on pet owners across the country. Of course, we all know that cat owners treat their charges like deities, whereas Fido is a dog owner's buddy, but there were other differences as well.

"Our studies have shown that there are some interesting differences between cat owners and dog owners," says James Flanigan, head of marketing at the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "Our surveys show that single people are more attracted to cat ownership, while dog owners are married with children. While the demographic information is interesting, some of it is concerning, too. One of the most concerning differences among cat and dog owners is cat owners are much less likely to seek veterinary care for their animals, they spend less, and this divide seems to be growing," Flanigan explains.

The Sourcebook shows that 82.7 percent of dog owners made at least one annual visit to a veterinarian,

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compared to 63.7 percent of cat owners, and the average veterinary expenditure per household for all pets was $366 in 2006. I know from personal experience that when we have cats for whom the vet trip is extremely traumatic (Rocky sometimes ends up with a UTI after vet trips, presumably from the stress), we are more inclined to take a wait-and-see approach when minor health problems arise. That's not necessarily recommended (and we don't think twice about a wallet-emptying trip to the 24-hr emergency vet when necessary), but if we had a dog there'd be no problem packing him in the car for a ride to the vet. And unlike dogs, feral and semi-feral cats can be considered members of your household, but you may not provide them with routine veterinary care for non-life-threatening issues. So I don't think this statistic proves that 36% of us are negligent cat owners, but speaks to the differences between caring for dogs and cats.

None of you will be surprised to discover that the cat is America's favorite pet. There are 81.7 million cats, compared to 72.1 million dogs, but there are more dog owners, 43 million compared to 37.5 million cat owners. This is because cat owners are more likely to have more than one cat. After all, once you've had one cat, how can you stop yourself from getting "just one more"?

The last fact left me aghast: In 2006, nearly half of pet owners, or 49.7%, considered their pets to be family members. Which means that over half do not. Who are these people, and why do they have pets if they don't consider them part of their families?


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The AVMA conducts surveys of pet owners every five years, and publishes the results in the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook.

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