Pet Ownership in the U.S.
According to the American Pet Products Association, roughly 62 percent of American homes have at least one pet. The most popular pets are cats and dogs. There are 93.6 million pet cats in the U.S., with one-third of U.S. households owning at least one cat. The average owner has two cats. Dogs are owned by 39 percent of households, for a total of 77.5 million dogs. Nearly one-fourth of dog owners have two dogs.
There are many things to consider when choosing a pet. Owners need to be willing to provide food, proper shelter and veterinary care. That’s a commitment that can last a long time – up to 20 years for a cat and 10 to 15 years for a dog. On average, pet owners spend a little more than $200/annually for routine veterinary care. The cost of vet care tends to increase as the animal gets older and becomes more susceptible to age-related health problems.
Cat Person or Dog Person?
How does a person decide on a cat or a dog? Sometimes families have no choice about which pet they own. They may have a rental agreement that bans dogs or they may move in with someone who already owns a pet. Lifestyle choices may play a role. Cats tend to be a little more independent than dogs. A dog, on the other hand, needs to be walked (or let outside) several times a day. Most dogs want companionship with humans.
What makes one person want a cat versus a dog? Sam Gosling, Ph.D., Psychology Researcher with the University of Texas at Austin, says, when no outside factors influence the decision, it comes down to human personality. He and his colleagues conducted an online survey of more than 4,500 volunteers. Each participant was assessed on five personality dimensions: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. At the end of the survey, each volunteer was asked if he/she could be described as a “cat person,” “dog person,” both, or neither. The researchers found 12 percent of the respondents described themselves as cat people and 46 percent were dog people. Roughly 28 percent of the participants said they were both cat and dog people, while nearly 15 percent said they were neither.
Investigators found cat people were rated about 12 percent higher in neuroticism than dog owners and 11 percent higher in openness. On the other hand, dog people were rated about 15 percent higher than cat owners in extraversion, 13 percent higher in agreeableness and 11 percent higher in conscientiousness. The personality findings were similar for both men and women.
Gosling says the personality scales may not necessarily influence what kind of pet a family chooses. However, the information may help those who do pet assisted therapy determine whether a client will respond better to a cat or a dog and improve the effectiveness of the therapy.
American Veterinary Medical Association, http://www.avma.org
The ASPCA, http://www.aspca.org
The Humane Society of the United States, http://www.humanesociety.org
Ramon, M., et al., “Repeatability of a Telephone Questionnaire on Cat-Ownership Patterns and Pet-Owner Demographics Evaluation in a Community in Texas, USA,” Preventive Veterinary Medicine, June 15, 2008, Vol. 85, No. 1-2, pp. 23-33.
Vitulli, W., “Attitudes toward Empathy in Domestic Dogs and Cats," Psychological Reports, December 2006, Vol. 99, No. 23, pp. 981-991.
Wells, D., “Association Between Pet Ownership and Self-Reported Health Status in People Suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, April 2009, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp. 407-413.
Westgarth, Carri, et al., “Factors Associated with Dog Ownership and Contact with Dogs in a UK Community,” BMC Veterinary Research, April 3, 2007, Vol. 3, No. 5.
Research compiled and edited by Barbara J. Fister