Cats Have It Hard, Too!

America’s most popular pet is not doing well, and I’m not talking about man’s best friend.

Over 30% of households in the United States own a cat—that’s more than 81 million of our small, furry friends who have become a part of our families. Still, compared to dogs (with only 72 million in U.S. households), the cats living in our homes have fewer options for veterinary care, therapies and cat-specific enrichments. Our feline companions are subject to a lower status than their canine friends by almost every measure.

And we cannot forget the tens of millions of cats in the U.S. who are not lucky enough to have a home, or that those who do end up in shelters are often euthanized without a chance to become a beloved pet. As June comes to an end—and with it American Humane Association’s Adopt-A-Cat Month®—I encourage you to celebrate cats every month!

Cat Facts

The Issues

  • Only 2% of stray cats are reunited with their owners, compared to 10% of stray dogs
  • Alley Cat Allies estimate that 50 to 90 million feral or community cats live on U.S. streets with 7 to 22% of households reporting feeding stray cats
  • Some communities are now neutering and vaccinating stray cats and returning them to site of pickup
  • “Homeless” animals is one of the top three social issues recognized by the public1

Cat Ownership

  • Owners report fewer pet cats in 20112
  • Veterinary visits for cats have declined over past decade3
  • Annual money spent by owners for veterinary care is less for cats than dogs2

Future Cat Ownership

  • 1,102 respondents using an online survey tool (Zoomerang) indicated that 18 to 24 year-old men are the most likely demographic group to be future U.S. cat owners4
  • A growing Hispanic population, with owners having high human-animal bond affinity5

The Trends

  • Budget cuts in many states are reducing animal control services6
  • Oklahoma state law prohibits counties with less than 200,000 people from issuing animal control ordinance – which also prohibits the operating of an animal shelter7
  • Higher numbers of cats are surrendered to shelters nationwide than are dogs8
  • Seven of every ten cats entering a shelter in the U.S. are at-risk for euthanasia9
  • Since 1985, the relative number of dog intakes at the MSPCA has declined much more rapidly than for cats10
  • Colorado data (2000-2007) illustrates that statewide, the number of intakes per thousand residents decreased 10.8% for dogs and increased 19.9% for cats; euthanasia rates also increased for cats11
  • Most people report that they sought to adopt or purchase a dog; more cats owners report that their cat “found” them (strays)

1 Petsmart Charities, IPSOS Survey, January 2010
2 American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey
3 CATalyst Q/A,
4 Morris Animal Foundation Survey – 2009
5 Schoenfeld-Tacher R. et al., Comparison of strengths of the human-animal bond between Hispanic and non-Hispanic owners of pet dogs and cats, JAVMA, 236(5), 529-534, 2010
6 Bloomberg Business Week, July 4-10, 2011
7 Coppola T. Communities as Shelters: Examining America’s Pet Overpopulation Crisis. Controversy and Solutions, September 2010 (draft). P 44
8 Society for Animal Welfare Administrators, 2011
9 National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy – Shelter Statistics Survey, 1994-1997
10 MSPCA data, provided 2011, compliments of Carter Luke, President
11 Morris et al., Trends in intake and outcome data for animal shelters in Colorado, 2000-2007, JAVMA, 238(3), 2011

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