Researcher reveals the truth about cats and dogs

Mar 02, 2007

Ask most pet owners, and they will tell you they love their pets. So why is it that every year in Australia around 400,000 cats and dogs are surrendered to animal shelters or pounds?

UQ psychologist and postgraduate student Tamzin Barber has been working to discover what makes some owners progress from the enthusiasm of adopting a new cat or dog, to the decision of having to give the animal up – and she may have found the answer.

"Preliminary results indicate that pet owners who have to give away their pets, generally do care for their pet and are attached to their pet," Ms Barber said.

"However, there appears to be a discrepancy between what they would have liked their pet to be like, and what their pet was actually like.

"This is interesting because it can indicate why owners may have taken on the pet and how the relationship with the pet could have broken down if the owner's expectations were not met."

The results emerged after Ms Barber examined a number of factors involved in the decision to give up a pet, including the health and behaviour of the surrendered or abandoned animal, as well as the owner`s knowledge, bond with the pet and expectations of the pet's behaviour.

Ms Barber said her research highlighted just how important it was for prospective owners to be well-informed before taking on the responsibility of a new pet.

"This [research] leaves room for an intervention strategy to be employed with new or `would-be` pet owners, where they can identify what they expect from their pet and be educated on how these expectations may or may not be met and which types of pets would be best suited to them," she said.

"The matching of the person to pet before adoption is critical, I believe, and along with early age desexing, could help reduce the numbers of unwanted pets.”

Ms Barber said while for a lot of owners giving up a pet may be a last resort, many of the reasons that combined to force this outcome could be nullified if new pet owners were better educated about their pets.

"When looking at cats, many litters of unwanted kittens end up in shelters," she said.

"People genuinely believe that allowing their cat or dog to have a litter before being spayed is best for the animal.

"This is just not true, and may account for the great numbers of unwanted kittens ending up in shelters."

In any given year, just over half the dogs, but only one third of the cats that end up in animal shelters or pounds are adopted. Sadly, the rest of these pets must be destroyed – a figure Ms Barber is working to address.

"This current research I hope will bring some attention to the relationship we have with our pets and ultimately reduce the number of cats and dogs that are given up," Ms Barber said.

"This in turn will reduce the numbers of innocent animals that are killed simply for being unwanted."

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Rediscovering our mundane moments brings us unexpected pleasure

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Clean air halves health costs in Chinese city

27 minutes ago

Air pollution regulations over the last decade in Taiyuan, China, have substantially improved the health of people living there, accounting for a greater than 50% reduction in costs associated with loss of life and disability ...

How financial decisions are made

31 minutes ago

Jayant Kale didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a leading expert in corporate finance and mutual fund investment. But he's happy he invested in that market early in life.

We are all made of stars

42 minutes ago

Astronomers spend most of their time contemplating the universe, quite comfortable in the knowledge that we are just a speck among billions of planets, stars and galaxies. But last week, the Australian astronomical ...

Recommended for you

Clues to stopping teenage male aggression

14 hours ago

UNSW researchers are recruiting for a study that could reveal the drivers of aggression in boys, opening up new treatments to stem violent offenders in future generations.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

DeeSmith
5 / 5 (1) Sep 14, 2008
A primary reason for the discarding of pets (to animal shelters or simply dumping them far from home) is that owners are NOT prepared to meet their pets basic physical and social needs. That lacking has resulted in aberrant/neurotic behavior patterns in their dog/cat/bird.

This is clearly evident in your own neighborhood - the dog that barks incessantly, the owner fined repeatedly, and is faced with the decision to either keep the animal inside (to avoid reprisal) or discard it. These are the same owners that open the door to let Fido or Fifi (cat) out, without regard to rules. In urban centers, these are the owners who ONLY walk their dog far enough to piss/defecate on someone else's property.

Most the abandoned cats aren't neutered/spayed - they're females that are litter-making machines or they are males that are spraying up the house/yard or neighborhood. The ones that are 'fixed' and discarded often have neurotic tendencies (clawing furniture, disturbing owners sleep, or defecating outside the litterbox).

Pet birds that are given away also tend to be highly neurotic; their owners had no idea that their parrots were labor-intensive. By the time they are discarded, they have taken on offensive habits and probably are also 'self harming' (pulling out feathers).

All pets are social animals that (1) require socialization/daily interaction OUTSIDE of simple feeding and waste elimination activity, and need neutral discipline to curb unhealthy habits, (2) dietary needs to be met, (3) they need daily physical exercise, and (4) regular medical care (vaccines/exams).

Sedentary animals that lack regular physical activity and engagement *with their owner* (not just put out in a yard), are largely ignored, fed cheap foods with questionable nutritional content, and haven't been properly trained/socialized. They quickly become neurotic and hyper-active and aggressive.

If the idiot owner determines that the pet is 'bored', they may purchase pet #2, to provide companionship to their neurotic pet. All this does is quickly pass on bad habits to the second pet.

I have seen households of 3-4 dogs, all of whom are neurotic. Who would have thought that most cities/towns had to institute ordinances to curb the number of pets per home?? But that is the case, and it's widespread.

Because pet ownership has followed the trend of conspicuous consumption, we have many people purchasing pets who should NEVER own one - they have neither the discipline nor the time to devote to proper pet rearing and daily pet care.

And so we have significant pet overpopulation, animal attacks on humans causing one fifth of all emergency room visits, domestic animal pollution in urban environments (and now in streams that flow within these areas, across the US), emerging viral and bacterial infections in our pets, and a pressing pet discard problem...

All of that burden is passed on to the rest of us to resolve.