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Published: Sep 20, 2012

A recent study released by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) revealed that fewer American households include pets.

The 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, which has been released every five years since 1983, polled more than 50,000 Americans last year.

Overall, it found that total pet ownership dropped 2.4 percent from 2006 to 2011. During that time, cat ownership decreased 6.2 percent, while dog ownership dropped 1.9 percent. Still, there are more than 74.1 million pet cats, and 69.9 million pet dogs in the United States.

The Chicago Tribune reports that cats overcame dogs as America's most popular pet in 1987 and remain so today, even if fewer people are making the commitment to become pet owners.

Many suspect a difficult economy may be to blame for the decline.

"The drop in pet ownership certainly appears related to the downturn in the economy," AVMA spokesman Michael San Filippo told Fox Business News. "While we have heard about people abandoning animals because they couldn't afford them any longer, it's more likely the decline in ownership is due to people choosing not to bring new pets into their households after their old pets have passed away."

An aging "Baby Boom" generation may also play a part in the decline. Experts say they may opt against the responsibility of a cat or dog as they age.

"Even though there are a lot of studies out there that show how good pets are for older people, we don't see it happening," Stephen Zawistowski from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) told the news source. "When the kids leave home, people tend not to have pets."

While fewer people may be taking pets into their homes, the amount of money pet owners spend on their animals is increasing. The AVMA reports that the cost to bring a cat or dog to see a pet health expert has risen in recent years. Vet care expenses for dogs rose by 13.5 percent from 2001 to 2006, while the cost of vet care for cats was up 11.1 percent in the same period.

More people are bringing their dogs to veterinary hospitals each year, too. Vet visits for dogs increased 9 percent. However, the number of people bringing their feline friends to the vet for preventative care each year is down 4 percent.

Even though the majority (80 percent) of those surveyed are happy with the care their pets receive from their veterinarians, many admit to seeking out pet health information online.