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Feature March 2013 Issue

Cats: Vermont Loves ‘Em

Cats have had a long, symbiotic relationship with humans — 8,000 years, in fact, according to some historians. Currently, Vermont leads this country in cat ownership with almost 50 percent of households owning at least one, according to recent research by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said Dr. Lynn Martin, veterinarian at the Country Animal Hospital in Bethel, VT. “When I’m at veterinary conferences, cats are overtaking dogs as the most numerous pets because people are more mobile, live in apartments and find that cats are easier to take care of. You can travel with them or leave them behind and have a neighbor come in to take care of them.”

The 2012 statistics are based on the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, which revealed that Vermont also ranks first in pet ownership, with 71 percent of households owning a pet.

Pet owners and nutrition

A recent petMD survey (www.petmd.com) on the topic of pet nutrition revealed confusion among pet owners regarding the nutritional needs of cats and dogs. While 57 percent of respondents read pet food labels for information about the ingredients in their pet’s food, that information is often misunderstood. “Understanding how to feed our pets properly is critical to their well-being,” states Jennifer Coates, DVM, a spokesperson for petMD. “This knowledge gap is worrisome, but also represents an opportunity for improving the health and longevity of our companion animals.”

The survey revealed that owners often misunderstand terms like meat by-products, often are unaware of potential food allergens, do not necessarily appreciate that the best way for a company to establish a diet’s nutritional completeness is to conduct controlled feeding trials (if feeding trials have been conducted, this will be indicated on the label), often don’t completely understand the concept of balanced nutrition; and often are skeptical about the accuracy and completeness of pet food labels.

“Misconceptions surrounding pet food and feline and canine nutrition can lead owners to make ill-informed choices about what to feed their companions,” states Dr. Coates. “Veterinarians are the best source of information about what to feed pets. They can take into consideration a pet’s unique combination of life stage, lifestyle, and health to make individualized diet recommendations.”

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