The Purrfect State. Which US State is the Most Cat-Friendly?


With over 94 million cats living in households across the United States, cats are one of the most popular pets in the country. Choosing where to live with your feline companion is an important decision, as some states have more cat-friendly laws and resources than others. Identifying the most cat-friendly states can help cat owners decide where their furry friends will thrive.

Cat-friendliness encompasses various factors, including adoption rates, licensing laws, spay/neuter policies, shelter conditions, health research, cafes, and more. Evaluating how states compare on these metrics reveals which regions offer the best environments for cats. Understanding the differences helps inform better policies, promotes cat welfare, and allows owners to make the most informed choices.

Most Popular Cat States

When it comes to the states with the most feline friends, parts of New England take the lead according to States With the Most Cats as Pets. Vermont tops the list with the most cats per capita at 46% of households owning at least one cat. Maine and New Hampshire follow closely behind with 38% and 37% of households owning cats, respectively. Rounding out the top 5 cat-loving states are Oregon with 35% and West Virginia with 34% of households counting a feline as part of the family.

Why the feline attraction in New England? Some possible reasons include the colder climate keeping cats happily indoors as well as a more rural environment providing space for active, indoor/outdoor kitties. With large portions of New England households choosing cats, it’s clear the area embraces its reputation as a haven for felines.

Cat Adoption Rates

Cat adoption rates vary widely across the United States. According to research from Creelighting, some states have much higher adoption rates from animal shelters than others. Maine has the highest cat adoption rate at 160%, meaning for every 100 cats brought into shelters, 160 are adopted. New Hampshire and Delaware also have high cat adoption rates at 140% and 128% respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, some states have very low cat adoption rates. Nevada’s rate is only 20%, meaning for every 100 cats brought to shelters, only 20 find homes. Arkansas and Mississippi also have low rates at 21% and 27%.

According to the ASPCA, approximately 2.1 million cats are adopted from shelters each year nationwide. However, these numbers can vary greatly depending on local attitudes, shelter resources, spay/neuter programs, and other factors affecting pet homelessness in each state.

Cat Licensing Laws

Cat licensing laws vary greatly by state. Only one state, Rhode Island, requires cats be licensed under state law. Some other states like Hawaii and Massachusetts require licensing only for breeder cats or cats that go outdoors. Most states do not require licensing for indoor pet cats at all.

According to Detailed Discussion of State Cat Laws, cat licensing laws started in the late 1800s to control rabies outbreaks. Now they are used more for general identification and regulation of cats. Fees collected go towards animal control services.

While some states require licenses for outdoor/free-roaming cats, others like New Jersey have gotten rid of mandatory cat licensing due to low compliance rates. Indoor cats are almost never required to be licensed. Enforcing licensing for indoor pets is seen as difficult and an unnecessary burden on owners.

Overall, there is a wide variation between states on cat licensing requirements. But the trend has moved away from blanket licensing laws except for breeder/outdoor cats. Rhode Island remains the only state to require licensing for all cats under state law.

Low Cost Spay/Neuter

State programs that provide low cost spay/neuter are an important metric for evaluating cat friendliness. Making spay/neuter accessible reduces unwanted litters and pet overpopulation. Programs like SpayUSA and New Jersey’s Animal Population Control Program provide low cost sterilization to pet owners receiving assistance. Some states may have more robust programs through government funding, nonprofit collaborations, and the number of participating vets and clinics.

When comparing states, it’s best to look at the availability and accessibility of low cost options throughout the state. The percent of residents utilizing these programs can also indicate if they are being properly promoted. While no state has solved the issue of pet overpopulation fully, some states demonstrate greater initiative through reduced cost, partnerships, and outreach.

Cat Friendly Shelters

More and more animal shelters are designing their facilities to be cat-friendly in order to reduce stress and improve health for homeless cats awaiting adoption. Some of the features of cat-friendly shelters include:

  • Dedicated cat play rooms filled with toys, cat trees, and other enrichment to allow cats to play and exercise.
  • Private cat condos or suites to house cats individually rather than in communal rooms. This reduces disease transmission and allows shy cats space.
  • Quiet rooms for fearful cats to relax away from noisy dogs.
  • Programs to provide cats positive human interaction and socialization.

According to Pets In Need, some of the most cat-friendly shelters in the country include Oregon Humane Society in Portland, Oregon, which has a separate cat care center with a free-roaming cat room. Additionally, Houston SPCA in Texas has a similar open playroom for cats as well as peaceful pavilions and bungalows. These types of enriching environments keep cats happy and healthy while waiting for forever homes.

Feline Health Research

Leading states for feline health studies and research include Michigan, New York, and North Carolina. The Center for Feline Health and Wellbeing at Michigan State University focuses on the top feline health issues like behavioral problems, dental disease, and urinary issues. The Cornell Feline Health Center in New York conducts and sponsors breakthrough research to prevent and cure cat diseases. The NC State Feline Health Center advocates and advances feline health through innovative research and education.

Cat Cafes

When looking at which states are the most cat-friendly, the number of cat cafes is an important indicator. Cat cafes allow people to interact with cats in a relaxed setting while enjoying food and beverages. According to sources, some of the top states for cat cafes in the U.S. include:

California – With major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, California leads the country with over 20 cat cafes. Popular spots include Cat Town in Oakland and Crumbs & Whiskers in Los Angeles.[1]

New York – As a bustling, pet-friendly state, New York has over 15 cat cafes statewide. Well-known cafes in New York City include Meow Parlour and Cafe Meow, while upstate has Purr Cat Cafe.[2]

Florida – Warm weather and a large retiree population make Florida ideal for cat cafes. The state has around 10 cafes, including Miami’s The Cat’s Meow and St. Augustine’s The Witty Whisker.[3]

Other states with a significant cat cafe presence include Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

Anti-Declawing Laws

Several states have passed laws banning the declawing of cats. New York was the first state to ban declawing in 2019, followed by Maryland which prohibited the practice in 2022 according to PETA. While only these two states have fully banned declawing so far, the tide is turning with several other states considering anti-declawing legislation.

Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Austin, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and others have enacted declawing bans at the city level. At the state level, bills to prohibit declawing are currently moving through legislatures in Rhode Island and Massachusetts according to World Population Review. Several other states allow declawing only under certain medical conditions, including New Jersey, California and Oregon.

The anti-declawing movement has gained momentum in recent years due to increased awareness of declawing as an inhumane practice. Declawing involves amputating part of a cat’s toes and has been shown to cause pain and other medical problems. By banning declawing, states are taking action to protect cat welfare and prevent unnecessary suffering.


Based on the factors of cat adoption rates, licensing laws, low cost spay/neuter programs, cat friendly shelters, feline health research institutions, presence of cat cafes, and anti-declawing laws, it appears that is the most cat friendly state in the US.

has high cat adoption rates at shelters and rescues across the state, showing that cats are highly valued as pets. The state also requires licensing for cats, ensuring they receive proper veterinary care and can be identified if lost. Low cost spay/neuter programs and subsidies are widely available, preventing unwanted litters and cat overpopulation. Shelters utilize cat friendly policies like group housing. is also home to leading veterinary schools and feline health research centers. The growing number of cat cafes provides community gathering places for cat lovers. And anti-declawing legislation prevents this painful practice. With all of these cat-friendly factors combined, emerges as the state that likely has the most comprehensive policies, resources, and culture supporting cat welfare and cat ownership.

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