Facts about the health and behaviour of cats and dogs adopted from 3 animal shelters in America

An interesting study about the health and behaviour of cats and dogs one week and one month after adoption from an animal shelter is on the Internet and it was conducted by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and published in 2008. I have summarised the long report.

Emma Chamberlain and her new kitten Frankie just after adoption from a shelter. I like the screenshot as it has the flavour of a vlogger.
Emma Chamberlain and her new kitten Frankie just after adoption from a shelter in her car. Image: Screenshot from video.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Here are some facts from this study:

  • Around 2,500 animals participated in the study which was a survey in which the scientists asked adopters questions about their experiences.
  • I understand the shelters concerned to be partners with the McCook Humane Society runnining 3 animal care centers in Detroit, Westland, and Rochester Hills.
  • 51.9% of cats and dogs had health problems one week after they were adopted from the shelter.
  • After one month this percentage had dropped to 10.3%.
  • 60.6% of adopters visited a veterinarian within the first week after adoption. This presumably accounts for the fact that their health improved over the first month.
  • 75.8% had visited a veterinarian within the first month after adoption.
  • Dog adopters were more likely to take their dog to a vet than cat adopters.
  • They were more likely to make a vet appointment if the rescue animal was young at one years of age or younger and had more than one health problem. There were also more likely to go to veterinarian if the animal had adjusted nicely to their new home.
  • The most common health problem for both cats and dogs was a respiratory tract disease.
  • RELATED: Why should I avoid adopting a traumatized cat?
  • In terms of behaviour, cats had fewer problems than dogs.
  • The most common behaviour problem was house training for dogs concerning chewing, digging and scratching objects while the behaviour problems for cats were scratching objects as well as digging and chewing, as I understand the report – see further below.
  • The conclusion was that there could be improvements in the number of adopters who visit a veterinarian after adopting an animal from a shelter.
  • The most common reason for returning an animal shortly after adoption involved health and behaviour problems.
  • The percentage of adopters who experienced a cat behaviour problem was less than those with a dog behavioural problem.
  • It was suggested that the reason why dogs had house training problems was because they were young. 70.7% of the dogs adopted were at or under one year of age. One month after adoption house training was not reported as a problem. This indicates that the owners had housetrained their dogs.
  • Inappropriate elimination problems were less common for cats than for dogs in this study.
  • The low frequency of inappropriate elimination cats has been put down to the fact that many of the cats adopted were young and young cats are less likely to eliminate inappropriately.
  • RELATED: Optimising cage space of shelter cats increases likelihood of adoption
  • Both one week and one month after adoption the most commonly reported behaviour problem was “chewing, digging or scratching at objects” both for the dogs and cats. Of course, scratching is a normal behaviour for cats and this would imply that adopters were not always totally au fait with this knowledge. It would also imply that there might be a slight education issue about cat behaviour which could be addressed to ensure that adopters were fully up to scratch (excuse the pun) with feline scratching behaviour.
  • High levels of chewing, digging and scratching by dogs has been put down to anxiety and dogs were more likely to have behaviour problems than cats.
  • Young dogs can be unruly with a propensity to explore objects in their new environment and of course play socially which involves biting, chasing, barking and mounting.
  • In this study, 42.3% of the dogs were micro-chipped while 11.2% of the cats were micro-chipped. In this study, a high percentage of dogs at 93.7% had some sort of visual identification when in a previous study the percentage was 43%. Identification normally means a collar and tag.
  • Regarding cats, 46.2% of cats had a collar and a tag which is higher than in a previous study at 17.5% of cats in Ohio. These high levels of a physical identification may be due to the fact that the shelter concerned provided an ID tag but they did not provide a collar.

RELATED: If you wanted to adopt a cat, would you adopt a really mean one to spare his life?

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