USA Veterinarians Treat More Dogs Than Cats

This article is about the United States.

It is almost common knowledge that more dogs receive veterinary care than cats.  Although the underlying reason is that cat owners are traditionally less likely to take their cat to the vet than a dog owner, I would like to present some statistics and then speculate why this apparent anomaly occurs.


Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Note: It is also reported that due to declining veterinary visits for the past ten years there has been an increase in the prevalence of certain ‘pet diseases’ as a consequence (in part, perhaps) of less preventative action. For example, for cats in America there has been a 10% increase in dental disease for the period 2006-2010 and a 16% increase in diabetes for cats over the same period (the increase in diabetes may in part be due to increased obesity in cats following the human trend or an increase in full-time indoor cats).

Here are some stats…

CriterionYearStatisticSource – Note
Number of cat owner visits with cat to vet in USA.200170,000,000 (70 million)AVMA – American Veterinary Medical Association.
Number of dog owner visits with dog to vet in USA.2001117,000,000 (117 million) despite there being more cats kept as ‘pets’.AVMA
Amount spent on veterinary visits.2001Cats: $6.6 billion
Dogs: 11.6 billion
AVMA  – cat declawing represents a large percentage (my comment).
Number of cats and dogs in USA.2001Cats: 70,796,000
Dogs: 61,572,000
AVMA. The figures for 2007 are: 81,721,000 and 72,114,000 respectively.
Veterinary visits per household per year for cats.20011.8 (compare with 2007 below)AVMA
Veterinary visits per household per year for cats.20071.7AVMA – in 2011 the AVMA reported ‘for almost a decade veterinary visits have decreased while pet populations have increased’.
Veterinary visits per household per year for dogs.20012.6AVMA
Percentage of owners who had pet health insurance for cats and dogs USA.20021% of cat owners and 2% of dog owners?
Percentage of owners who had pet health insurance for cats and dogs in England and Sweden.200415% of pet owners in England and 57% of pet owners in SwedenAPPMA
Most frequent reason for a visit to a vet.2002‘Physical exams’. Cats 67% of visits and 69% of visits for dogs.AVMA
Reason for vet visit involving drugs and medication.200218% of cat visits compared to 31% of dog visits.AVMA
Percentage of visits involving vaccinations.200271% for cats and 64% for dogs.AVMA
Percentage of visits involving sterilisation.2002Cats: 14%.
Dogs: 6%
How many more cats than dogs are there in the USA?201113% moreAVMA
Percentage decline in cat visits.Period 2001-200630%AVMA – this trend started before the financial crisis and job losses etc.
Percentage increase in cat population.Period 2005-20093%AVMA
Percentage increase in dog population.Period 2005-20095%AVMA

You have the cold statistics. Here is the tricky bit. The statistics clearly indicate that, overall, cat owners take their cat to the vet less often than dog owners despite:

  • the larger population of cats;
  • more vaccinations for cats over dogs

Dogs are prescribed far more drugs than cats but this seems to be inline with the increased number of visits.

There are probably seven reasons why cat owners take their cat to the vet less often than dog owners:

  1. Cats are healthier than dogs. This sounds improbably but may be true. Note: the AVMA does not provide us with their opinion as to why cats are taken to vets less than dogs. There are more purebred dogs than cats and the breeding of companion animals predisposes them to a shorter lifespan and more genetically inherited health problems.
  2. Dog owners are more caring and concerned than cat owners (highly unlikely).
  3. Dog owners, being usually men, have more money than cat owners who are often single women. In a male dominated world men, generally, earn more than women. Vets are expensive. Is the expensive nature of a vet’s service a form of sex discrimination against women as a consequence?
  4. Being a pack animal, dogs are more involved with the human caretaker (owner) and therefore the owner is more likely to respond to illness or potential illness (unlikely).
  5. Cats hide pain better than dogs and are more aloof or apparently independent. This makes the owner less aware of cat health problems.
  6. The systematic declawing of cats in the USA has dented the image of the veterinarian in the eyes of the cat owner to the point were the cat owner resists going to the vet. This may apply to the better educated and better off cat caretaker. Intelligent women represent a large segment of cat caretakers.
  7. All or part of the above.

The general decline in vet visits also needs to be discussed and I’ll raise that topic in another post.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

1 thought on “USA Veterinarians Treat More Dogs Than Cats”

  1. Michael I can tell you in my case the cats have more. They tend to get sick more easily and deteriate more rapidly than a dog. While most of my dogs have never been sick, the cats get URIs easily and require medication.

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