Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

The Truth about Cats and Dogs—by the Numbers

A potpourri of interesting statistics and facts concerning dogs and cats

dog pet puppy human animal bond cat kitten demographic statistics number
A set of new surveys has given us an interesting snapshot about the status of dogs and cats, at least in the United States. The first thing to note is that there are more cats can dogs in the U.S., with 86 million owned cats compared to 78 million owned dogs. However there is a quirk here, since 39% of all American households own a dog compared to 33% of American households with cats. The reason is that cat people like higher numbers with 52% owning more than one cat, as compared to dog owners where only 40% own more than one dog. It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States however recent estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. Between two and 4 million puppies are born annually in "puppy mills".

The majority of dogs and cats are obtained from acquaintances and family members. Twenty-six percent of dogs are purchased from breeders. For both dogs and cats approximately 21% are adopted from shelters and rescues, and 2 to 10% are purchased from pet shops. At least one-third of cats are acquired as strays. An interesting sidebar is that while animal shelters report that black dogs have more difficulty getting adopted, there seems to be a strong preference for black cats since 61% of the cats or kittens adopted from shelters are black or mostly black.

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Approximately 5 to 7 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters in the U.S. every year, and approximately 3 to 4 million are euthanized (around 60% of dogs and 70% of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals that are surrendered by their owners and those picked up by animal control. Less than 2% of cats and only 15 to 20% of dogs are returned to their owners. Most of these were identified with license or identification tags, tattoos or microchips. By the way a new technical evaluation of pet identification microchips reports that they will last at least 25 years after being implanted in a dog or cat.

In general cats are more likely to be spayed or neutered (88%) compared to dogs (78%). However it turns out that only 10% of the animals surrendered to shelters are spayed or neutered.

Cat owners appear to be a bit more sexist in their choices of pets. While the number of owned male and female dogs is approximately even, estimates are that between 65 and 80% of owned cats are female.

Both dog and cat owners seem to have strong feelings about their pets and report that they are considered to be "part of the family" (79% of dog owners and 63% of cat owners). Nonetheless, less than 1% of households cover their animals with pet insurance. By the way, there are more than 54 thousand veterinarians in the U.S. which is a 55% increase from 15 years ago.

When it comes to vacations and family outings, dogs have more fun. In 75% of dog owning households the dog is treated to rides in the family car compared with 8 % of cats who get to ride along. In addition 34% of households surveyed reported that the dog goes along on family vacations, in contrast to only to only 11% who bring the cat along.

Still both dogs and cats seem to be on people's minds when important choice are made, since 16% of dog owners and 14% of cat owners claim that their choice of a house or a car was influenced by the fact that they wanted it to be convenient and appropriate for their pet.

When it comes to furniture privileges, cats seem to come out winners since in 70% of their households, the cats are allowed to lie on the furniture compared to only 40% of dogs who have similar permission. Furthermore in 65% of cat-owning households, the cats are permitted to sleep at night on some family member's bed compared with 39% of dogs.

Finally, when a pet dies 58% of pet owners bury their pets on their own property. Although the percentage is virtually the same for cats and dogs, the likelihood that the grave will be marked in some way is twice as high for dogs than cats (41% versus 20%).

One last statistic of interest is that the amount of money spent on cat treats is well in excess of $100 million a year, and while this seems like an astonishing figure it is tiny compared to the more than $1 billion a year that is spent on the dog treats.

The statistics reported above come from surveys published by the American Pet Products Association, the American Association of Animal Hospitals, the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark; Do Dogs Dream? The Modern Dog; Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History; How Dogs Think; How To Speak Dog; Why We Love the Dogs We Do; What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs; Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies; Sleep Thieves; The Left-hander Syndrome

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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