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2012 - Pet Ownership on the Decline – Find out More!

By: PetPlace Staff

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Many of us grew up with pets as part of the family or have had animals for many years. For nearly a decade each year has brought more pet owners than the last. However, in 2011 pet ownership in the United States declined for the first time since 1991. Considering the recent recession and resultant financial struggles it's not a shock that many people have changed lifestyles, but this is still a surprising change for the vast numbers of pet lovers across the country.

Speaking numbers, since 2006 the number of dogs in American homes has decreased by nearly 2 million. That number might seem high, but it pales in comparison to the 7.6 million fewer cats living in homes across the country.

A recent study shows that most homes with pets have dogs, while the number of individual cats is higher. (Typically it is more common to see multi-cat households than multi-dog households.) Currently 30.4% of American homes house roughly 74 million cats while 36.5% of homes harbor 70 million dogs. One veterinarian stated that the percentage of households that owned at least one pet was down 2.4%. That's 2.8 million households which became petless, a number she later identified as a significant change.

Is the economy the sole source of the decrease in pet ownership? It's unlikely. While increased financial pressures certainly play a role in the decrease, another major factor in pet ownership has been changes in the family dynamic. There are far fewer people living in "typical" family units, and it is those units that are more likely to own pets long term. A shift toward leasing or renting rather than owning, as well as cohabitating with roommates, resulting in circumstances that often prevent pet ownership.

In addition to giving up pets that are already in homes, some people choose not to get new pets once their current pets pass on. The reasons for this are manifold. The owners themselves are too old to care for another pet for its whole life, they do not feel ready to handle the obligations associated with another pet, or they do not feel emotionally ready to move on from their previous pet's passing. Pets adopted or purchased in the mid to late nineties are nearing the end of their lifespan, and leaving in their wake an empty place in their owners' lives.

The unfortunate truth is that many families which were suited for pets in the past no longer have the necessary resources to maintain pet ownership. This is a difficult decision for everyone involved, and the addition of a pet to a family should not be taken lightly. If you are considering adding a pet to your family remember that pets are for life. Before you make the decision to get a dog OR a cat, carefully consider the responsibilities and costs involved. Most dogs live an average of 12 years and most cats live an average of 15 so before making that leap consider where your life might take you in that time. And if you can no longer care for your pet, please put forth the effort to find them a safe and responsible new home. Consider this their chance to find a wonderful new family who can give them the very best, and don't rush to "get it over with" out of shame or sadness. With extra love and care you can give a sad story a happy ending.



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