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72% of veterinary patients are dogs and 28% are cats - Discuss

Did you realize that American people take their cat to the vet far less often than people take their dog to the vet despite the fact that there are more companion cats than dogs in the United States? So says the results of a 2012 survey of over 8m patients of over 2 thousand veterinarians across the United States.

The survey, conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association, indicates that if we look at the percentage of patients from the companion dog and cat sector, 72% of veterinary patients are dogs and 28% are cats.

What do you think about that? Why is there this huge disparity? Are dogs less healthy than cats? Or are people more aware of a dog's ill health than with the domestic cat who hides it so well?




Image (modified) in public domain

I'll try and speculate. There are far more purebred dogs than purebred cat breeds. There are far more companion dogs that are purebred. Purebred cats are relatively rare. This is probably because dogs have been domesticated for much longer than cats. Purebred animals are deliberately bred. They are bred primarily for appearance. Inbreeding firms up - fixes - a desired appearance. But the trade off can be less healthy animals due to inherited diseases carried by what should have been dormant recessive genes, which are brought to the fore. I feel pretty sure that this is one reason why there are almost three times the number of dogs as patients as there are cats.

But I doubt that that is the only reason. I sense that a major reason is that the domestic cat is self contained. They amuse themselves and sleep and generally are there but not imposing themselves on their human caretaker to the same extent as a dog. This allows people to become less intimate as to the cat's health and behavior, which in turn means that there are cats that should be at the vet but who are not.

In the same vein, cats hide illness well. Perhaps people take their cat to the vet late in the day at which point less follow up visits take place. An early visit to the vet will probably lead to a request by the vet for a follow up visit. That would add to the statistics.

Or perhaps the reason is much more mundane and simple. People just don't care as much for their cat as people do for their dog. This may be a symptom of the nature of the relationship. Dogs are pack animals and the man (usually) is the leader. There is a close leader/follower bond. This may be a factor.

Alternatively another factor might be that cats are usually preferred by women. A single woman might keep a cat. It is still a man's world - let's be honest, although I don't condone that. In a man's world women will have less earning potential. Their wages are consistently lower. Budgets are tighter. This may lead to fewer visits to the veterinarian. Women, too, may be more able to treat and care for a sick cat than a man is able to treat a sick dog.

From the vet's point of view. He or she wants more cat patients. They see that as an untapped market. Maybe if they stopped declawing cats it would present a more friendly face to the public? Perhaps the vet has blotted his copybook with regards to the cat caretaker. The vet could be seen as far more friendly and empathetic towards cats if he or she stopped mutilating them for profit. There are specialist cat friendly veterinary clinics.

What do you think? Ruth below believes the obstacle of getting cats to vets is a factor......

I think a main reason cats aren't taken to the vet is that most cats really hate to leave home. Pull out the carrier and the cat vanishes-- and then just try to put him into it. It's stressful for both cat and caretaker.

My sister's cat Kobe hasn't been to the vet since the time he had a UTI several years ago. He's an elderly cat now and though we talk about taking him in for a check up we also know that the experience traumatizes him. He seems healthy enough, so why put him through that? Perhaps others with a cat like him feel the same way.

When I was a child we seldom took our cats to the vet. They were all barn cats, so maybe there was that attitude of "it's just a cat." But barn cats are pretty hardy, so perhaps there weren't health problems requiring a vet's care. The idea of a cat getting a check up would have seemed silly to me as a child.

Although in my immediate family people went to the doctor, my paternal grandmother never did. My father was born in a house, not a hospital. When Grandma fell and broke her thumb she just wrapped it in a hankie and had a crooked thumb for the rest of her life. Whatever came up in life, she just handled it on her own. She wasn't one to ask for help. Do more independent spirits like her have cats than have dogs? They would be more likely to try to treat pet health problems with home remedies.

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