The Purrfect Pet? New Stats Reveal How Many Households Have Cats


Cats are one of the most popular pets in the United States, with around 30% of households owning at least one cat. The percentage of households that own cats has remained relatively stable over the past decade. This article will provide an overview of current cat ownership rates in the U.S., examine historical trends, explore demographic differences, discuss reasons for cat popularity, highlight benefits and challenges of cat ownership, compare cat ownership to dog ownership, project future trends, and summarize key takeaways.

The goal is to provide readers with a comprehensive look at cat ownership statistics to better understand this segment of the pet population. With cats being such common household pets, these insights can inform pet product innovations, veterinary services, animal welfare initiatives, and other feline-related businesses and organizations.

Current Cat Ownership Rates

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of 2022, 25.4% of U.S. households own a cat. This equates to around 31.9 million households with pet cats. The AVMA has been tracking pet ownership statistics in the U.S. regularly since 1982. Their surveys show that the percentage of cat-owning households has remained relatively steady over this time, fluctuating between a low of 25.3% in 2008 and a high of 30.9% in 1996, while remaining close to 25% for the past decade.

Another survey by The Zebra in 2023 also found a cat ownership rate of 25.4% of U.S. households. Their research aligns closely with the AVMA’s findings.

Based on multiple reputable nationwide surveys, it’s clear that around 25% of American households currently own at least one cat.

Historical Trends

Cat ownership rates in the United States have steadily increased over the past several decades. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the percentage of U.S. households owning cats has risen from 19.6% in 1988 to 25.4% in 2020 (AVMA). This reflects an increase of about 30% over the past 30+ years.

Looking further back, studies estimate cat ownership rates were even lower in the early-to-mid 20th century. In 1937, only about 7% of U.S. families owned a cat according to historical data analyzed by researchers (AVMA). Since that time, cat ownership has increased dramatically.

Regionally, some states have seen more growth than others. For example, the percentage of households owning cats in California increased from 15% in 1970 to 31% by 2000 according to survey data (Statista). Other western and southern states also experienced rapid rises during the late 20th century.

Overall, the data shows cat ownership has steadily trended upward over the past 70+ years across the United States, with the most rapid growth occurring from the 1960s onward.

Demographic Differences

There are some notable differences in cat ownership rates across various demographic groups. According to Packaged Facts, women are more likely to own cats than men, with 30% of adult women owning cats compared to 20% of adult men. Cat ownership also skews younger, with adults under the age of 30 being the most likely to own cats. In terms of race and ethnicity, white adults have the highest rate of cat ownership at 25%, followed by Hispanic adults at 19% and Black adults at 11% (Pet Food Industry).

There are also some regional differences, with cat ownership highest in the Pacific region at 28%, followed by the South Atlantic and Mid-Atlantic regions. Cat ownership rates tend to be lower in the West North Central region. Urban areas also see higher rates of cat ownership compared to rural areas (The Freedonia Group).

In summary, women, younger adults, white adults, those living in urban areas, and those in certain regions like the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic have the highest rates of cat ownership in the U.S.

Reasons for Cat Popularity:

Cats are consistently one of the most popular pets around the world. According to research, there are several key reasons that cats are favored by millions of households:

Cats adapt well to a totally indoor lifestyle. Unlike dogs, cats do not require being walked or taken outdoors regularly, making them ideal for urban or apartment living. Their smaller size also means they take up less space than larger pets. Source

Cats are easily housetrained and naturally inclined to use a litter box, whereas dogs require diligent training to learn to go outdoors. This makes cats very convenient and clean pets for their owners.

Cats tend to be quieter than many other pets and less likely to annoy neighbors with barking or howling. Their discreet and independent nature appeals to those who want a pet that doesn’t demand constant attention.

Cats provide comfort and companionship while still retaining an air of mystery and unpredictability in their behaviors. People enjoy learning their cat’s unique personality quirks and interpreting their unspoken communications.

With proper care and veterinary attention, cats can live 15-20 years, providing owners with many years of companionship. Their longevity makes them a loyal family member throughout much of a child’s upbringing or an adult’s adulthood.

Benefits of Cat Ownership

There are many benefits to owning a cat, both physically and psychologically. Cats can help lower their owner’s stress and anxiety levels. Studies have shown that just 10 minutes of interaction with a cat can have calming effects by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone. The repetitive motion of petting a cat releases oxytocin, the “love hormone”, which makes owners feel happy and creates a bonding experience with their pet [1]. Additionally, the purring sound cats make vibrates at a frequency that promotes healing, which can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels [2].

Cats provide companionship and emotional support, especially for those who live alone. Having a pet cat reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation. Cats are independent, which allows owners to still feel a sense of freedom despite having a pet. The entertaining antics and affection cats display boosts their owner’s moods and makes them smile. Multiple studies show cat owners have a lower risk of heart disease and heart attacks because cats give purpose and meaning to their owners’ lives.

Additionally, caring for a cat encourages responsibility and routine. Having to remember to feed, clean litter boxes, and keep vet appointments helps cat owners develop positive daily habits. The exercise involved in playing with cats also keeps owners more physically active. Overall, the physical and psychological benefits of cat companionship make pet ownership a rewarding experience [3].

Challenges of Cat Ownership

While cats can make excellent pets, owning a cat comes with certain challenges that owners need to be prepared for. Some of the main difficulties of cat ownership include:

Litter Boxes – Cats need litter boxes that are scooped 1-2 times per day. Litter boxes can generate odors, so they need to be kept clean. Owners need to dedicate space in their home for a litter box setup. Some cats may have accidents outside of their boxes that require cleaning. Many owners struggle with proper litter box maintenance. How to Be a Responsible Cat Owner

Vet Costs – Routine veterinary care like vaccines, checkups, and preventatives can cost $200-$400 annually for a cat. Emergency vet visits for illnesses or injuries can be much higher. Older cats often develop chronic health issues that require specialized care and treatments. The expenses of proper medical care can be a financial strain for cat owners. Understanding the Feline Mind: How Cats Really Feel

Scratching Furniture – Cats instinctively need to scratch to keep their claws healthy. They often use furniture and carpeting for scratching which damages owners’ belongings. Providing proper scratching posts along with nail trims can help mitigate this. But it’s an ongoing issue that owners must consistently address. Aussie Seniors And Cats: A Guide To Companionship And Challenges

While challenging at times, the companionship cats provide is often worth the extra effort. Preparing for potential difficulties can help owners better care for their feline friends.

Comparison to Dog Ownership

While cats are popular pets, dogs remain the most common pet in households according to the 2021-2022 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. The survey found that 70% of U.S. households own a pet, with 63.4 million households owning dogs compared to 42.7 million owning cats.

The trend of higher dog ownership rates holds true historically as well. According to the 2017-2018 National Health and Aging Trends Study, 56% of older adults reported owning a dog at some point in their life, compared to only 28% reporting ever owning a cat.

While the overall rate of pet ownership has increased over the past few decades, growth in dog ownership has outpaced growth in cat ownership. From 1988 to 2021, dog ownership increased from 56 million to 63 million households. In contrast, cat ownership grew at a slower rate from 35 million to 43 million households in the same period.

The preference for dogs over cats can be attributed to several factors, including dogs’ greater trainability, tendency to form strong social bonds with humans, and ability to provide protection and security.

Future Projections

Predictions are that cat ownership will continue to rise in the coming years. According to the American Pet Products Association, the percentage of U.S. households that own a cat is expected to increase from 38% in 2021 to 39% in 2022 [1]. Looking further ahead, a survey by the ASPCA found that 70% of current cat owners plan to get another cat in the future [2]. This indicates a strong, ongoing demand for cat companionship.

Some key factors likely contributing to continued growth in cat ownership rates include urbanization, later marriage/children, and cultural shifts. With more young professionals living in apartments and condos, cats make an ideal pet. Their smaller size and lower maintenance needs fit well with busy, urban lifestyles. Additionally, people are marrying and having children later in life, leaving more years in early adulthood for cat ownership. Cats are also gaining cultural cachet through media and internet fame, making them a trendy, appealing choice.

While dogs currently outnumber cats as pets in the U.S., cat ownership is on the rise. If current trends continue, cats could someday overtake dogs as the most popular pet in America.


In summary, cats are one of the most popular pets, with around 25-30% of households in the United States owning at least one cat. While dogs are still slightly more popular, cats have many benefits such as being lower maintenance, having unique personalities, and helping children develop nurturing skills. The percentage of cat ownership has remained relatively steady over the past decade, with moderate increases driven by higher adoption rates of rescue cats. Demographically, single women are the most likely group to own cats. Looking ahead, cat ownership rates are expected to remain stable or continue growing slowly as more households discover the joys and comforts of feline companions.

The key takeaways are that cats are beloved pets for millions of American families, with their popularity on par with man’s best friend. Their appeal comes from their independence, quirky behaviors, and loving bonds they form with humans. While cat ownership requires responsible care and vet visits, the rewards of sharing life with a furry feline friend remain timeless.

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