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U.S. Pet Ownership Is Dropping

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The pet supply industry is thriving as we spend more and more money on our pets -- but apparently there are less of them to spoil. A new study from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) found that Americans have nearly ten million less pets than they did in 2006.

Cat ownership has seen the biggest drop-off, with 7.6 million less cats owned at the end of 2011 compared to the end of 2006. Dogs aren't suffering as badly, with only two million less owned over the same time period.

There is a greater number of cats than dogs in U.S. households, but cat owners are more likely to have multiples. A great percentage of U.S. pet owners actually have dogs: there are about 70 million of them in 36.5% of homes, compared to cats -- at 74 million -- who are in 30.4% of homes.

These figures mark the first decline since 1991.

Why is this happening?

According to Karen Felsted of Felsted Veterinary Consultants, in Richardson, Texas, "It's clearly the economy. The percentage of households that owned at least one pet was down 2.4%. It's a significant number."

Stephen Zawistowski, science adviser to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York, offered another explanation to USA Today. He noted that pet ownership is more common in nuclear family models -- while singles, childless couples and the elderly are less likely to own pets. Americans have notably been moving away from the traditional family structure, which likely has had an impact on pet ownership.

To stress the point about the older population, he noted, "There's an old saying. Retirement starts when the last kid leaves home and the last dog dies."

The following statistics are from AVMA's 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook:


The dog population was 70 million, down from 72 million.
36.5% of households had a dog, down 1.9%.


The cat population was 74.1 million, down from 81.7 million.
30.4% of all households had a cat, down 6.2%.


The pet bird population was 8.3 million, down from 11.2 million.
3.1% of households owned birds, down 20.5%.

The pet horse population was 4.9 million, down 32.9%, from 7.3 million.
1.5% of households had horses they considered pets, down 16.7%.

Specialty and exotic pets

6.5% of households owned fish.
10.6% had exotic or specialty pets, which includes fish, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, rodents, turtles, snakes, lizards, reptiles and livestock kept as pets.
Exotic and specialty pet ownership was down 16.5%.


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