Survey to investigate pet ownership and attitudes to pet care in metropolitan Chicago dog and/or cat owners

Amber Freiwald, Annette Litster, Hsin-Yi Weng
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 2014 August 1, 115 (3): 198-204
The aims of this descriptive cross-sectional study were to investigate dog and cat acquisition and attitudes toward pet care among residents of the Chicago area (zip codes 60600-60660); to compare data obtained from owners of shelter-acquired pets with those of residents who acquired their pets from other sources; to compare data from dog owners with cat owners; and to compare pet health practices among the respondents of different zip code income groups. In-person surveys administered at five pet store locations collected data from 529 respondents, representing 582 dogs and 402 cats owned or continuously cared for in the past 3 years. Median household income data for represented zip codes was also obtained. Shelters were the most common source of cats (p<0.01) and were the second most common source of dogs. Cats were more likely to have been acquired as strays, while dogs were more likely to have been acquired from friends/family/neighbors, pet stores, breeders or rescue organizations and to be kept as outdoor-only pets (p<0.01). More cats were kept per household than dogs (dogs mean=1.32/household; cats mean=1.78/household; p<0.01). Pet owners were most commonly 'very likely' (5 on a 1-5/5 Likert scale) to administer all hypothetical treatments discussed, although cat owners were less likely to spend time training their pet (p=0.05). Cat owners were less likely to have taken their pet to a veterinarian for vaccinations or annual physical exams (p<0.01). Shelter-acquired cats were significantly more likely to have been taken by their owners to the veterinarian for annual exams (p=0.05) than cats obtained as strays. Owners of shelter-acquired pets were at least as willing as other respondents to administer hypothetical treatments and pay ≥$1000 for veterinary treatment. Respondents from site #3 lived in zip codes that had relatively lower median household incomes (p<0.01) and were less likely to spend ≥$1000 on their pets than those at the four other sites (p<0.01). Over 90% of pet owners from all acquisition categories expressed very high levels of attachment (≥8-10/10 on a Likert scale), except for owners of cats acquired as strays (84.9%) or from the 'other' category (75.0%). Survey respondents commonly acquired their pets from shelters and those who did were at least as willing to pay for and provide veterinary care as respondents who owned pets acquired from other sources. The data collected provides a snapshot of the attitudes of survey respondents in the Chicago area toward pet acquisition and care.

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