by Jennifer Viegas
Has the recession affected your spending habits? A new survey reveals that the economic doldrums have impacted many cat owners. "Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses," says Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal at The Pert Group, which conducted the survey with Brakke Consulting. "The recession has not only decreased what consumers spend on their own health, but what they spend at the veterinarian."
Cats have especially taken a hit. John Volk, a senior consultant at Brakke Consulting, shares the reason why -- as well as promising news for cats and their owners.
Fewer Cats Are Going to the Veterinarian
On the downside, the Pet Owner Channel Use Study found that less than 50 percent of cat owners took their cats to the veterinarian last year. "Some have never even been to a veterinarian," says Volk. He believes additional research is needed to dig into the reason as to why that's the case, but he offered these possible explanations:
A lot of first-time pet owners are cat owners. They haven't developed proper habits for routinely taking their pet to a veterinarian.
Cats are often indoor animals, so owners may feel they can spend less on health care prevention, such as heartworm and flea and tick products. (All of these problems can hurt indoor cats, as any owner fighting a home flea invasion knows.)
In comparison to what's available for dogs, there aren't as many health-related products available for cats.
Factor in the recession and the cost of veterinary care and you can see why owners could be postponing trips to the veterinarian. A lot of people are tight on funds now.
Longtime cat owners, however, realize that preventive care can help stave off health issues, ultimately saving pet owners money. If your cat is 6-7 years old or younger, schedule a veterinary visit once yearly for a routine examination. Cats older than age 7 would benefit from twice-yearly vet visits. The visits will include the basics, such as a full physical, a dental evaluation and a parasite check. Routine blood work and a urinalysis should also be included, especially for older cats.
Pet Insurance Spending Is Increasing
One positive outcome from the study is the finding that cat owners are now spending more on pet insurance. Insurance is another tool for combating the recession, allowing for regular veterinary visits and safeguarding against the cost of required special care, such as hospital stays and treatments for serious illnesses.
Volk says there is growing interest in health insurance for pets, so expect this business sector to continue to grow in the years to come.
Food Spending Remains the Same
Compared to a similar study conducted in 2007, the findings of this latest pet owner study show that cat food expenditures are basically the same. "There are more purchases of cat food, but actual expenses are higher for dog owners because dogs are often bigger than cats and eat more," says Volk.
The Way We Buy Pet Health Care Products Is Changing
The study found that more and more cat owners are turning to the Internet for their shopping needs. The reasons? Variety, sometimes-lower costs and convenience. Still, the trend is worrisome to Volk, who supports one-on-one interaction and expertise rather than online ads and in-store displays.
He and his colleagues are also concerned about the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011. This legislation was introduced last year and referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health. Among other things, it would require veterinarians to write a prescription whether or not they will dispense the product. The majority of survey respondents have already indicated that they would fill those prescriptions outside of their veterinarians' offices at least some of the time. How veterinary offices would react to the change remains unknown.
Signs of Improvement
In the few months since the new Pet Owner Channel Use Study was conducted, there are "anecdotal reports that veterinarians are seeing increased volume," says Volk. However, Volk also adds that it is too soon to tell whether or not the recession and other problems of recent years are finally on the way out.
Nevertheless, at least one major pet health insurance company has "reported a good uptick in revenue for the first quarter of 2012." That, food sales and other indicators provide hope that cat owners have learned to cope with financial challenges and are looking ahead to an even brighter future for themselves and their pets.
- Is Your Dog Cut out for Field Trials?
- Should You Crate-train Your Puppy?
- How to Play Soccer With Your Dog
- The Best Way for Your Dog to Ride in the Car with You
- Good Dog Park Etiquette
- What Is Freestyle Dancing With Dogs?
- Canicross: An Easier Way to Run With Your Dog
- Reading Your Dog's Body Language
- Kitten Kindergarten
- Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe While Flying
- Keep Your Dog Warm in the Winter
- Scottish Deerhound: The Ideal Exercise Buddy
- Teach Your Dog to Fetch
- Is Your Dog Bored?
- 7 Ways to Pamper Your Cat
- The Best Games to Play With Your High-Energy Dog
- Dog Feeding Mishaps Corrected
- How to Succeed at Off-Leash Dog Play
- ID Your Relationship With Your Cat
- Photographing Your Elusive Feline
- How to Keep Your Pet Safe During the Holidays
- When Good Dogs Turn Bad
- From Finicky Fido to Chowhound Charlie
- Insure Your Kitty's Health
- Unconditional Love: My Cat Forgives Me Every Day
- From Feline to Family Member
- Is Water From a Christmas Tree Stand Harmful to Cats?
- A Day in the Life of a Sheepherding Dog
- Go on a Desert Retreat With Your Dog
- Dog Food Goes Natural and Holistic
- Determining a Food Allergy
- Exercise Gone to the Dogs
- Find the Right Sport for Your Dog
- Make Your Dog a Part of Your Wedding
- Hydrotherapy Helps Dogs Get in Shape
- How Your Cat Says 'I Love You'
- Lost Cats Found
- De-stress Veterinary Visits for Your Cat
- Keeping Cat Food Fresh
- Second-Hand Cat, First-Rate Pet
Pets | Cats: How to Manage Your Cat's Health Care