MSPCA Dorr Research

Dog and Cat Populations in Massachusetts

Research conducted in October 2006, October 2001, October 1996, and October 1991 by the MSPCA and Dorr Research Corp.  In 2006, 1,857 households were contacted (margin of error = +/- 2.3%), and 619 surveys were completed (margin of error = +/- 4.0%).

Populations

33.3 % of households own a dog and/or cat (30.7% in 2001, 31.4% in 1996 and 36.0% in 1991.)

19.0% of hh own a cat (18.5% in 2001, 20.2% in 1996, 22% in 1991)

20.1% of hh own a dog (17.1% in 2001, 16.5% in 1996, 21% in 1991)

There are 1.6 cats per cat-owning hh (1.6 in 2001, 1.8 in 1996 and 1.6 in 1991)

There are 1.3 dogs per dog-owning hh (1.2 in 2001, same in 1996 and 1991)

816,000 owned cats in 2006 (723,000 in 2001, 817,000 in 1996 and 791,000 in 1991)

702,520 owned dogs in 2006 (502,000 in 2001, 444,000 in 1996 and 566,000 in 1991)

Annual Births

12% of owned adult female cats (including those that are sterilized)
 have had at least one litter.  

10% of owned adult female dogs have had at least one litter.

Acquisitions

There has been a significant increase in shelters serving as a source for
acquiring a cat: 31% in 2006 (23% in 2001, 17% in 1996). Dogs obtained from shelters is down slightly: 23% in 2006 (24% in 2001, 16% in 1996).

Six months is the median age of a cat at acquisition (compared with 2   months in 2001).  In addition to shelters (31%), other significant sources of cats are those received from an acquaintance (31%) and strays (17%).

Four months is the median age of a dog at acquisition (compared with 2 months in 2001).  Private breeders are the primary source for dogs (30%), along with shelters (23%) and those received from an acquaintance (21%).

Sterilization

Sterilization rate of owned dogs  -    87 % (89% in 2001, 77% in 1996)
Sterilization rate of owned cats   -    94 % (89% in 2001, 1996, and 1991)

The cost of sterilization surgery is the second most significant factor in whether an owner sterilizes his/her cat (31%); thinking the cat is too young is first (38%). 

Except for low income dog owners, cost is not a factor in whether an
owner sterilizes his/her dog.

Other findings

Cat / Dog-ownership Profiles and Trend Diagnostics

Compared with Massachusetts Census figures, owners of both cats and dogs are heavily skewed toward relatively larger households with children living in owner-occupied homes enjoying higher-than-average income:

 Census Own Cats   Own Dogs  Mass.
 Mean people per household   3.2  3.7   2.5 (in 2005)
Presence of child(ren) under age 18   32%  38%  31% (in 2005)
 Own home    81%   85%  65% (in 2006)
 Median household income  $67,500         $72,500            $52,184 (in 2005)

Single people continue to represent about one-quarter of cat owners, but comprise only 8% of dog owners.

Median duration of ownership:
For cats:
5.3 years if obtained from an acquaintance
4.9 years if obtained as a stray
4.5 years if purchased from a friend
4.0 years if obtained from a shelter
1.2 years if obtained from own litter

For dogs:
4.8 years if purchased from a friend
4.2 years if obtained from a breeder
3.5 years if obtained from a shelter
3.2 years if obtained from an acquaintance
2.0 years if obtained from a pet store
 
Declawing:
16% of owned cats are declawed (17% in 2001).

Summary of Apparent Factors in Pet Population Increases

The populations of owned cats and dogs in Massachusetts have undergone a significant increase during the past five years, rising 13% for cats and 40% for dogs.  It appears that the increases in pet population may be a function of several factors:

• A rise in the number of MA households from 2001 to 2006: 246,420 added households, of which it is likely that 19% (46,820) have cats and 20.1% (49,530) have dogs.

• An increase of 8% in the mean number of dogs per dog-owning household (from 1.2 to 1.3 dogs per dog owning household)

• Substantial increases in prime pet-owning population segments:
--Childless households (170,000 added since 2001)
-- Higher income households (median household income in MA has increased 13.2% from $50,502 in 2001 to $57,184 in 2006)

• Increase in consumer sense of financial well-being (the Consumer confidence Index has risen 23% since 2001 – from 85.3 to 105.1)