Report: Louisiana near bottom in cat ownership

It may rain cats and dogs in other places but in Louisiana it’s just dogs.

Louisiana ranks 48th in the nation for households with cats, placing the state near the lowest point of the bottom 10 list, according to data recently released by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In Louisiana, 25.9 percent of households own a cat, the data shows.

The two states with lower cat ownership than Louisiana are New Jersey, with 25.3 percent, and Utah, with 24.6 percent.

The data comes from a survey the American Veterinary Medical Association conducts every five years that includes a breakdown of pet ownership by state. The data in the most recent report came from a questionnaire distributed by email to 222,244 random U.S. households in 2011.

Other states in the bottom 10 for cat ownership include California, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Illinois.

Vermont tops the top 10 cat list with 49.5 percent of households owning cats. Other states in the top 10 list are Maine, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, Kentucky, Idaho, Indiana and New Hampshire.

Louisiana moved up the list 11.2 percent from the survey conducted in 2006 when Louisiana ranked dead last for cat ownership.

So why so low?

Dr. Joe Taboada, an LSU Veterinary School veterinarian, said part of the answer may come from the differences between urban and rural geography.

“You normally have more cats in an urban area because people are in apartments or smaller living areas. Everybody has cats in New York City,” Taboada said.

Taboada said you have more outside cats in rural areas that are semi-owned, or just fed, but not counted by residents as a household pet.

Taboada said the number of cat owners in Louisiana is probably underrepresented.

New Orleans veterinarian Dr. Kathy Dunn of The Cat Practice said she was surprised by the ranking and also said people can be reluctant to bring cats to veterinarians.

“One of the problems is people won’t bring cats to veterinarians,” Dunn said. “They don’t like to bring cats because cats hate it. They throw up, they freak out.”

The culture of the deep South may play a role in the data, said Hilton Cole, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control and Rescue Center.

“We tend to be hunters in the deep South and hunters have dogs and men like dogs more than cats. Men usually like dogs and hate cats while women who like cats also like dogs,” Cole said.

When it comes to dog ownership, Louisiana did not land in the top 10 or bottom 10 list for dog ownership, according to the data. Louisiana had 36 percent of households with dogs.

Peggy Polk, president and founder of the Baton Rouge cat rescue organization Project Purr BR, agrees with Cole’s assessment that many dog owners don’t like cats but that people who like cats also like dogs.

Still, Polk said the main reason people don’t have as many cats as dogs is because of misconceptions about felines.

“People say they don’t like cats because they really don’t know anything about domestic cats. All they know about is feral cats which are wild animals,” Polk said. Wild animals, Polk said, have a fight or flight response to humans.

Polk said people have misconceptions about owning a cat, including having to deal with litter boxes and cats shedding.

“A litter box is no big deal. You have litter now where there’s no smell. It takes a minute to pick up. Cats don’t shed as much if you comb their hair, Polk said.

Polk said there are many people who won’t own cats because they are allergic.

Polk said it’s impressive Louisiana moved up in the rankings, from 50 to 48 in a five-year period, and said it will be interesting to see how the state fares in the next survey.