Study investigates birth, death rates for dogs and cats for the first time

Study investigates birth, death rates for dogs and cats for the first time

Researchers explore factors related to pet overpopulation in national survey to determine the number of household animals
Sep 01, 2005

NEW YORK — In a first-of-its-kind study designed to benchmark national pet population trends, a split in the value placed on dogs compared to cats is revealed, as well as the number of animals dying annually by means other than euthanasia.

Insight into the pet overpopulation problem is offered by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) titled "Birth and Death Rate Estimates of Cats and Dogs in U.S. Households and Related Factors," the report attributes a large number of animal deaths by means other than euthanasia and most births attributed to lack of planning.

The statistics are based on 6,573 returned questionnaires by the dog- and cat-owning public, according to the report.

Conclusions drawn from the study, include a large number of animals dying each year by means other than euthanasia, says Dr. John New Jr., professor and head of the University of Tennessee Department of Comparative Medicine and the report's senior author.

TABLE 1. Estimates of U.S. cat and dog-owning homes in 1996; Unplanned litters by reason for not having mothers spayed
One of the sections of the questionnaire asked owners why pets disappeared from the home in effort to determine the unplanned number of pets leaving the home and whether dogs or cats are more likely to be retrieved.

"One of my gut feelings about the disappeared category is that it also reflects a different standard in society when we look at cats than dogs. I'm not implying owners are less bonded to cats than dogs, but more people are accepting that a cat can wander and disappear for a few days. They may not be as motivated to look for a cat and by the time they contact animal control, it might be too late," New explains.

The study also pinpoints birth and death rates of animals in this country.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) shared data collected in 2001 mirroring similar trends. The association plans to compare these data and release another report by year's end, New adds.

"One of the surprises with the results to me was that the death rates were so similar for dogs and cats," New adds. "One potential confounder is the large number of cats during this one year that were reported to have disappeared compared to dogs. Considering the dynamics of companion animals, cats that are allowed outdoors will change households if they find a better setup."

Data report shows

The crude birth rate for dogs and cats ranks at 11 percent while the death rate for household pets is only 8 percent, according to the report. More than 9 million owned dogs and cats died during the study period (1996 data).

While there are explanations for what researchers say is a low death number, NCPPSP says there is an underestimation because of the large number of dogs and cats reported to have disappeared from homes.

  • The crude birth rate of puppies and kittens born to owned dogs and cats was estimated at 11 percent.
  • 6.63 million kittens were born, 82 percent of which were from unplanned litters.
  • 6.04 million puppies were born, 43 percent of which were unplanned litters
  • 1.3 million more cats disappeared from households than dogs during this period.
  • Cost was the most frequent reason for not having the mother of the kittens spayed; "did not know she was in heat" was the most frequent reason for not having the mother of puppies spayed.