For decades, cats have been the superior companion animal. Just ask any of them. While there was quite a surge in pet adoptions over the past few years, it’s mostly plateaued now. Yet, among many of the shelters we work with, they’re reporting a demand for cats available for adoption. A few have even said they’re experiencing a shortage in feline residents. This is great news, as kitten season is upon us, and we’re guaranteed to see an influx of arrivals in the coming weeks. It did make me wonder what was driving this trend though. So, I dug a little deeper and found some interesting factors that may be having a significant effect on this surge.
The number of cats and dogs living in American households has become fairly equal in recent years, and photos and videos of cats have dominated on social media. I’m not sure why we find them thoroughly decimating a Christmas tree entertaining, but I will watch every time. And I’m not alone. Pet pics and videos have become as popular as snippets of babies and children doing funny things as they’re learning to navigate life, but this wasn’t always the case. As recently as 20 years ago, considering your pet a “member of the family” was not common. Pets were simply considered companion animals and a part of daily life. However, these days, you’re likely to be met with a bit of disdain if you tell someone you love your pets, but you don’t consider them family.
JUNIOR POOS IN A BOX
This shows a change in people’s attitudes towards the definition, and boundaries, of a family. In general, people have started to count their pets as a valued part of the family, as they love and care for them as much as any other members. One likely cause is the decline in birthrate. With the number of family members decreasing, the demand for something, or someone, to express affection and care for is increasing. Moreover, the rise in working couples and urban population may be another contributing factor to the popularity of cats in particular. Cats are relatively low-maintenance pets compared to dogs, as they’re typically quieter, more independent, and don’t require daily walks. Not to mention the self-cleaning factor.
TINY HOUSE? YES, PLEASE
Given that many are still downsizing post-pandemic, with some living abroad in RVs or sprinter vans, cats are a great option because they don’t require a great deal of space, but more than fulfill peoples desire to have a pet in their lives. Cats even take advantage of vertical space, so, in apartments with small square footage, you can make the space comfortable for cats by adding different vertical levels. Personal preferences and choices aside, the rising cost of food for us has impacted nearly all of our budgets, and pet food has increased as well. However, with their small size and typically docile nature, cats don’t require as much food and have smaller appetites. And according the ASPCA, the overall cost of caring for cats is lower than medium or large dogs.
THE POWER OF THE PURR
Another consideration is the longevity of a cat. Any pet owner knows that losing a pet is a truly heartbreaking experience. Fortunately, when it comes to house pets, cats have quite a long-life expectancy. The average life span of a cat is 12 years, but it’s not uncommon for them to live into their high teens or even early twenties. Whereas a large breed dog may only be in your life for around 10 years.
Not only do you benefit from more time with your pet, but studies have shown YOU may live longer too.
A cat’s purr vibrates within the range of 20-140 Hz, which can have many therapeutic benefits including lowering stress levels. That vibration can decrease the symptoms of dyspnea, also known as difficult or labored breathing. The purring sound can reduce blood pressure, says the National Library of Medicine. One 10-year study has even shown that cat owners were 30% less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than non-cat owners.
Some of this may seem obvious, sitting down and stroking a cat is naturally a relaxing pastime. But a cat’s purr is beneficial on an even deeper level. The aforementioned vibration frequency can aid in joint and tendon repair, and with healing wounds.
Furthermore, in a study by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that children under the age of one who were exposed to a cat were less likely to develop allergies. The interesting part was that this wasn’t just limited to pet allergies, but all types of allergies. It appears that exposure to pets as a young child will protect you against not only pet allergies, but other common allergies such as dust mites, ragweed, and grass.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE CAT DADDY
This is an especially fun statistic that sheds new light on the adage that as single women reach middle age, they eventually collect cats instead of husbands and children. We’ve all heard the jokes. However, Washington State University veterinarian, Raelynn Farnsworth, herself the owner of three furry felines, provides some interesting new insight. In the 20 years that Farnsworth has been treating small animals, she has witnessed an evolution: More pet owners are living with more than one cat; and more men are cat owners.
“It used to be that only women brought their cats in for examinations. These days, I see a lot of men as well,” she said. “It’s more OK than it used to be for men to admit that they’re fans of cats.”
Raelynn Farnsworth, DVM
Washington State University
Judging from all the photographs, tweets and videos posted on the Internet, it’s more than OK. In “The Top Four Reasons Girls Love Guys with Cats,” published online on petMD, the author writes: “And boy, do women love a man who can handle a creature with personality issues. It says to us you can handle challenges; it says to us you’re mature and flexible.” Meow.
COFFEE WITH CLAWS
Unsure if you’re ready to join the cat craze? Well, if you want to dip your toe in kitty pool and see what it’s all about, visit a local cat café. If you live in a metropolitan area, you have one…and it’s awesome. Crumbs & Whiskers, located in Washington, DC, is an adorable café filled with rescue cats and kittens who are looking for their forever homes. You can play with them, cuddle with them, nap with them, do a photoshoot with them, and if you fall in love, adopt them! Since opening in 2015, Crumbs & Whiskers has placed 1,889 cats in loving homes, saved 3,882 from euthanasia, and donated 50K to charity across two locations, DC and Los Angeles. Not too, tabby! (Ok, I’m finished with puns, I swear)
If you’ve been on the fence about adopting a cat, or any animal, I hope this provided some perspective. Or at the very least, a little education and entertainment. And trendy or not, pets are for life, their whole life. Adopt responsibly, love unconditionally.