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The truth about cats and dogs (and other pets)

The American Veterinary Medical Association has produced its 2007 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook. The statistics included make fascinating reading. For example, while there are 43 million dog owning households in the USA, there are 37.5 million cat owning households. However, there are more cats – 81.7 million – than dogs – 72 million – in the country. So clearly there are a lot of multi-cat houses.

Cat and dog owners make other different choices too. Cat owners are more likely to be single, while dog owners are more likely to be married with children. Another difference discovered was that while 82.7% of dog owners visit the veterinarian at least once a year, only 63.7% of cat owners do so.

So what does all this mean? Does it mean that one cat is never enough, or that dogs meet our needs more effectively so we don’t yearn for more? Does it imply that once your freedom has been curtailed by marriage and children, you might as well get a dog? Does it mean that cats are just healthier than dogs, or are they just too darn difficult to persuade into a cat carrier to make the journey to the veterinarian?

To be honest I don’t know, but I’d love to find out! In the meantime reading the statistics and making up my own reasons will have to do. Other intriguing facts brought to light are that women are the primary caregiver to most pets, almost two thirds of pet-owning households own more than one pet, and they spent a staggering $24.5 billion – yes billion! – on those pets in 2006 alone.

The Sourcebook is published every five years, and is clearly a significant publication.

"Veterinarians aren't the only ones who will find this data interesting. People involved in every aspect of the pet industry, veterinary medicine and the general public will find facts and figures in this study that interest them. In fact, the data is considered so important that even the U.S. Census Bureau cites our statistics," said Dr. Gregory S. Hammer, president of the AVMA.

"The Sourcebook is the most complete source of data and analysis on pet populations, veterinary care and spending on veterinary care, and pet owner demographics. The data used in the development of the book is drawn from responses from nearly 48,000 U.S. households—a much larger sample than that used by other pet studies," explained Allison Shepherd, senior manager of market research with the AVMA.

The "U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook" is available from the AVMA for $189 ($174 in a downloadable PDF) for AVMA members and $279 ($264 in downloadable PDF) for the non-members. The study can be ordered calling (800) 248-2862 at or at www.avma.org/reference/marketstats/sourcebook.asp.

Whatever the differences between pet owners, I think we have a lot of common ground. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a budgie or a goldfish care for, our lives our the richer for it.

Take care,

Julie x

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