Did you realise 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 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 that? Are dogs less healthy than cats? Or are people more aware of a dogs ill health than is the case with the domestic cat who hides it so well?
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 behaviour, which in turn means that there are cats that should be at the vet but which 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.
What do you think?