Cats on the Decline

Why do people own fewer cats? Hear the recent pet ownership statistics for an overview.

By Steve Dale, CABC | Posted: January 22, 2013, 10 a.m. EST

Steve Dale
Author Steve Dale

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Man Reading to Cat
While more cats than dogs (69.9 millions dogs) live in the United States, cat population numbers have declined for the first time since an annual survey began.
Do cats always land on their feet? The 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographic Sourcebook reports that cats plummeted precipitously in popularity, down 9% from five years ago.

Now, 74.1 million cats live in the United States, according to this pet-census report. Ownership declined as well; in 2011, 30.4% of all U.S. households owned a cat, down 6.2% from 2006.

In the first AVMA survey, in 1983, 55.6 million dogs and 55.2 million cats lived in this country. Overall, the growth of pets in America is impressive, even exceeding the growth in human population. In 1987, cats overtook dogs and haven't looked back since.

Cats aren't alone. Dog numbers declined by 3%. Bird numbers totally crash landed, according to the AVMA sourcebook, falling about 26% from five years ago to 8.3 million. The horse population took the biggest hit, down about 33% to 4.9 million horses, compared to 2006. The economy likely plays a role in the decline, especially for expensive large birds or costly-to-maintain horses.

Dr. Douglas Aspros, White Plains, NY-based president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, is cautiously concerned about cats. “The AVMA sourcebook is about data, facts and figures. Interpreting those numbers is another matter. Still, I worry – maybe fewer families be interested in adopting cats? I hope that's not the case.”
Aging Cat Population Leads To Fewer Felines
The number of cats per household went down slightly, from an average of 2.2 cats per home five years ago to 2.1 cats in 2011. The number of kittens declined by just over one percentage point over the past five years. The number of cats one to five years took a dip by just over four percentage points, while the numbers of cats over 6-years went up by a few percentage points. In general, the trend has been an aging pet population.
Increasingly, dogs and cats are living together (and presumably in peace) in record numbers. According to the survey, 36% of homes with dogs also feature at least one cat. And of home with cats, today nearly 44% dare to live with at least one canine.

Currently there are more cats in shelters than dogs and more cats are euthanized in shelters than dogs. Do these new numbers from the AVMA predict a dire future for cats? “I absolutely wouldn't go that far at all,” Aspros says. “But certainly many are looking at these numbers seriously. The other side is that cats remain the most popular pet – certainly millions of people love cats.”

Where The Cats Are At
According to the Pet Demographic Sourebook, the 10 states that had the highest percentage of cat owners in 2011 were Vermont (49.5%), Maine (46.4%), Oregon (40.2%), South Dakota (39.1%), Washington (39.0%), West Virginia (38.1%), Kentucky (36.8%), Idaho (34.6%), Indiana (34.4%) and New Hampshire (34.2%).

The 10 states with the lowest percentage of cat owners in 2011 were California (28.3%), South Carolina (27.8%), Rhode Island (27.6%), Alabama (27.4%), Florida (27.3%), Georgia (27.3%), Illinois (26.3%), Louisiana (25.9%), New Jersey (25.3%) and Utah (24.6%).
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Cats on the Decline

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Reader Comments

TJF    Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2/8/2013 2:45:50 PM

Its a sad fact that many people can't afford pets in this services, as least in my south Florida area, is very expensive...I think that a good solution is to get pet insurance, which I have had for years does off-set the costs to a degree. Its easier for me though because I don't have kids to feed...just two cats and a dog. I have empathy for those who were foreclosed on that had to leave their homes and were not able to find pet-friendly housing in an emergency.

TJF    Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2/8/2013 2:42:17 PM


Cathy    Hubbard, OH

2/5/2013 5:26:37 AM

Much of this comes from the age old saying that keeps being spouted - NEUTER/SPAY your pet! There are so many organizations out there to help out if needed. Always adopt also. Great Article. Thanks Steve!

Bethany    Los Angeles, CA

1/31/2013 2:08:08 PM

I pray that animal abuse is declining drastically. That news would be great news! = )

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