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Published: Sep 21, 2012

Most pet owners consider their cats and dogs members of the family and cannot imagine life without them. However, recent data 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 is released every five years, polled more than 50,000 Americans last year. 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.

A separate study conducted by the American Humane Society looked at the reasons why some people don't open their homes - and hearts - to a furry friend.

According to, 1,500 adults were polled for the study. Some had previously owned a cat or dog, while others never had a pet. The study, titled "Reasons For Not Owning A Dog Or Cat," revealed there are three main reasons people hesitate to get a pet - the costs associated with caring for an animal, lack of time and the grief over the loss of a previous pet.

The good news is that many of those interviewed for the study indicated that pet ownership isn't out of the question for them in the future. Nearly half (45 percent) of previous dog owners said they would consider getting another, while 34 percent of previous cat owners said they may bring another feline friend into their homes.  Many also indicated that they would choose an animal at a shelter for their next pet.

Among those who have never owned a pet, 25 percent said they were "probably" or "definitely' open to bringing a dog into their family, compared to 10 percent for cats. More than half (51 percent) said they would adopt or rescue a dog, while 42 percent said they would choose a cat from a shelter.

"By understanding the reasons why so many Americans do not own a pet, and learning what we can do to increase lifelong retention of those that do, we can take the necessary steps to change minds, change policies and change activities to help get more of these beautiful animals out of shelters and into the arms of loving families," Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, told

Whether you purchase, adopt or rescue a cat or dog, pet health experts say owning a pet is a responsibility that requires time, effort and some expense. In addition to ensuring you provide your pet with proper nutrition, exercise and attention, regular visits to a veterinary hospital are essential to the long-term health and well-being of your animal.

Veterinarians also recommend pet owners have their animals spayed or neutered in order to control the animal population and ensure the health of their pets. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, spaying is the surgical removal of a female animal's reproductive organs. Neutering is the surgical removal of a male animal's testicles. Both operations are performed when your pet is under general anesthesia.