The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has just released the 2007 US Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. The book is based in part on a comprehensive survey of approximately 50,000 people.
Some of the findings are interesting. The Sourcebook estimates that 81.7 million pet cats live in 37.5 million households in the United States. 72 million pet dogs live in 43 million households. Life expectancies have gone up for both species.
One study finding troubled me. Fewer cats are receiving medical care. Cats go to the vet, on average, less than half as often as dogs. The average number of vet visits per cat has dropped 30% since 2001. 36.3% of households reported that their cats did not receive any veterinary care at all in 2006.
It is true that, in general, cats get into less trouble than dogs. This may explain part of the disparity. However, cats also have a tendency not to complain. Many of the cats who do not go to the vet may be silently suffering with painful conditions such as dental disease. These cats would benefit from treatment. Regular medical checkups are as valuable for cats as they are for dogs and people.
The AVMA speculates that feline veterinary visits have decreased as veterinarians have begun to recommend vaccines at less frequent intervals. Apparently, many people mistakenly believe that the main point of going to the vet is to get shots. I am happy that the profession is working to develop better vaccine protocols. However, even if cats don’t need vaccines every year, it’s still in their best interest to receive regular checkups.