Pets can provide COVID-19 comfort

Cats are kings in the Canadian pet world. There were 8.1 million cats as household pets in this country, a 2020 figure that does not include the many barn and feral cats that likely roam farms, ranches and acreages.

In contrast, pet dogs numbered 7.7 million in 2020, slightly up from 2019 figures of 7.6 million.

The figures were provided Feb. 15 by the Canadian Animal Health Institute, which does an annual pet survey that was conducted this year by Kynetec, the former Ipsos survey and marketing agency.

Some 3,500 Canadian households were surveyed, showing about 58 percent of them own at least one dog or cat.

“Healthy pets mean healthy Canadians,” CAHI said in its news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the special relationship we have with our pets; they are our loyal companions who keep us active and improve our quality of life and our mental health.”

CAHI, a trade association of developers and manufacturers of animal health products, also tracked use of veterinary care among pet owners and found an increase in veterinary help sought by cat owners.

“Within the population of dogs and cats, the percentage of pets receiving veterinary medical care during the past 12 months increased more significantly for cats than for dogs,” CAHI reported.

“The increase in veterinary visits for cats was most pronounced in the months following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The institute has been tracking consumers’ perception of veterinary care since 2018 and has found improvements in the number that rate that care as good. Veterinarians and clinic staff lead all information sources in perceived credibility on pet health, it said.

Research lead Colin Siren of Kynetec said patient activity, especially cats provided with veterinary care, has increased since the start of the pandemic. However, CAHI programs director Colleen McElwain said fewer cats than dogs receive such care.

Figures show about 58 percent of cats access veterinary care, a figure lower than that for dogs.

A study published in November by Narrative Research, which polled 1,231 Canadians, indicated a “significant increase” in pet owners since the pandemic began. Its figures said about 18 percent of current pet owners acquired another pet in the past year.

The firm said residents of British Columbia and the Prairies are statistically more likely to own a dog when compared to other regions. In contrast, residents of Quebec and Nova Scotia are more likely to own a cat.

As well, Narrative Research provided figures indicating nine percent of households surveyed had fish, six percent had birds and six percent had other types of pets. People aged 18 to 24 were most likely to have bought a pet since the start of the pandemic, it said.

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