Sat, Apr 03, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Cats prove more popular than dogs in the pet race

STREETWISE Stray cats have a higher chance of survival than stray dogs because they can rely on wild rats and birds for food. Wild kittens also have a lower mortality rate

By Chung Li-hwa  /  STAFF REPORTER

The battle between cats and dogs has long been one of Hollywood’s favorite themes, and although a winner has never been formally declared, felines seem to be gaining the upper hand in Taiwan.

Fei Chang-yong (費昌勇), a professor at National Taiwan University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, said cats are the most popular house pets in the country. Since 1999, however, the number of pet dogs has decreased by 22 percent from 1.63 million to 1.27 million last year.

In the same period, the figure for cats has climbed 44 percent, from 195,000 to 281,000.

Animal experts say cats’ “independence” is their biggest selling point for people, especially animal-loving urban dwellers.

“Cats don’t take up too much space and they don’t need to be walked; they are perfect for busy city people,” Fei said, adding that the same trend could be seen in other metropolises such as New York and London.

Dog lovers, however, are not yet ready to throw in the towel because although the number of pet dogs is declining, many of them now live in royal fashion — a dramatic improvement over the dog kennels and leases they lived with in the past. Dog owners, Fei said, are known to spend up to NT$80,000 for a carrier or styling their furry kids in haute couture clothing.

On the other hand, most cat owners are more casual about their cats’ lifestyle, he said.

While pet owners get catty over their pooches and pussies, animal rights groups say that both kinds of animals should be chipped.

In Fei’s study, he found that although cats beat out dogs in the popularity contest, the number of feral cats was also on the increase.

Last year, the stray dog population totaled 84,000, while there were an estimated 122,000 stray cats running around the country, up 44 percent from 11 years ago.

The figure has prompted animal rights groups, such as the Taipei City Stray Cats Association, to urge the government to enforce the same mandatory chip implant requirement in cats that it has for dogs.

The Council of Agriculture said that unlike stray dogs, street cats rarely attack people. Currently, local governments are authorized to decide how to deal with feral felines.

Compared with dogs, Fei said cats have a better chance of survival on the streets because even without a stable food source, cats can feed on rats and birds.

Kittens born in the wild also have a lower mortality rate than their canine counterparts.

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