In the USA, the number of companion animal veterinary practitioners has increased significantly. However, the number of cat owners has decreased slightly. A third statistic has always disturbed me: the number of annual visits to a veterinarian by a typical cat owner is less than half that of a dog owner. Is that because dogs are sicker than cats or because owners are less concerned about cat health than dog owners? The reason is likely to be the latter.
Over the ten years to 2007, US companion animal veterinary practitioners increased in numbers by 48% (44,785). At at 2013 there are about 49,000 exclusively companion animal veterinarians or those predominantly involved with companion animals, so the 2007 figure has continued to increase. This is a hefty expansion of providers of companion animal veterinary services chasing a smaller potential client base. For the first time in 20 years cat and dog ownership has declined.
The number of cat visits to vets has declined since 2001 and not risen in the past five years, while dog visits have increased.
Spending by dog and cat owners at vet clinic has been flat since 2006 taking into account inflation. In fact Dr. Chip Beckett, a veterinarian and a recent member of the AVMA’s House of Delegates states that the incomes of most veterinary clinics has dropped since 2008. If a vet simply maintains his turnover and profit margin year on year on year he is happy. This equates to a fall when inflation is taken into account.
The bottom line is that if vets are under financial pressure, the less scrupulous ones will tend to find work and that will probably include the entirely unnecessary procedure of declawing. Or cat vaccinations will be encouraged despite the fact that they might be unnecessary too.
The pressure for a vet to find work is set against a slight shift in opinion, amongst the veterinary profession in North America, against declawing. That is what I sense. It would be a shame if the brakes were put on a movement against declawing because there are more vets chasing less consumer spending.
Why has pet ownership declined? The obvious reason in the long recession in America. The rapid expansion of the internet has probably had an impact too. People are more involved with the internet and perhaps also with moving home more to chase work. Cats and dogs make moving home more difficult. It might be the case that pet ownership has reached saturation point in the USA when set against the continuing financial difficulties in the country. I believe that uncertainty about one’s future impacts on one’s decision on adopting a cat or dog. The modern world presents an uncertain future for many people, anywhere. This is why older people are more naturally suited to keeping a cat. Their lives are more stable.
- Sources of information (interpretation by MB): AVMA as interpreted by Vin News Service and the AVMA direct.
- Thanks: to Ruth aka Kattaddorra for her poster that was originally created for an article on vets generally and declawing as I recall. I reused it here.