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Helping Pets More through the 'Net ... and Less at the Vet?

Survey results show that fewer pet owners are turning to their veterinarians for information as increasing numbers seek advice online

Survey results show that fewer pet owners are turning to their veterinarians for information as increasing numbers seek advice online

Judging from the results of the eighth National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, some shelters might want to consider expanding the contents of their websites. More pet owners are getting their information from the Internet than ever before.

The pet owners who most often seek out animal care information on the Internet are those who have small animals and reptiles, at 28 and 34 percent, respectively. Fourteen percent of dog owners and 19 percent of cat owners use the Internet as a source, compared to just 5 percent in 1998. The number of pet owners who turned to animal shelter staff for information in 2002 remained at 5 percent for dog owners and dropped to 5 percent for cat owners since the last survey conducted in 2000. Most people rely on veterinarians, friends, relatives, written sources, and past experience. The number of pet owners using their vets as a provider of information is steadily decreasing, however—from 81 percent in 1996 to 68 percent in 2002 for dog owners, and from 68 percent in 1996 to 50 percent in 2002 for cat owners.

Whichever sources they use, more people seem to be heeding advice to spay and neuter their animals, according to the survey results. Seventy-two percent of dogs are spayed or neutered, up from 70 percent in 2000. Even more cat owners are helping to curb overpopulation—84 percent of cats are spayed or neutered, also showing an increase of 2 percent.

Households with pets numbered 64.2 million, up from 63.4 in 2000. The number of owned cats increased from 73 million to 77.6 million as dog numbers decreased from 68 million to 65 million. Multiple-dog households have decreased while single-dog households have increased.

The survey found a slight decrease in the proportion of dog owners who adopt their friends from shelters. In 2000, 20 percent of dog and cat owners reported adopting their companion animals from shelters; in 2002 the figures were 18 and 16 percent, respectively. However, the percentage of dog owners obtaining their dogs from pet stores decreased significantly—almost by half, to 5 percent. Nine percent of ferret owners and 4 percent of rabbit owners said that they adopted from shelters.

Almost 14 percent of households own fish, 6 percent own birds, 5 percent own small animals, and 4 percent own reptiles.

Percentage of households owning cats 34% Percentage of households owning dogs 39%
Number of households owning a cat 35.4 mil. Number of households
owning a dog
40.6 mil.
Number of owned cats 77.6 mil. Number of owned dogs 65
Percentage of Owners Who Acquired Cats:   Percentage of Owners Who Acquired Dogs:  

 From friend/relative:

43%  From friend/relative:  32%
 As strays: 30%  From breeder:  28%
 From animal shelter: 16%  From animal shelter:  18%
 As kitten of own cat: 13%  From newspaper/private party:  14%
 From newspaper/private party: 9%  As strays:  8%
 From pet store: 5%  As gifts:  7%
 As gifts: 4%  As puppy of own dog:  6%
 From breeder: 4%  From pet store:  5%
 From veterinarian: 3%  From veterinarian: 1%
 Other: 6%  Internet:  1%
     Other:  5%


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