The Clawsome Cat-Loving States in America

Is Your State a Cat-Loving State?

Cats are America’s most popular pet, with an estimated 44.6 million domestic cats living in U.S. households today. But not all states are equal when it comes to how much they love cats. Some parts of the country have significantly higher rates of cat ownership and are more cat-friendly overall.

In this article, we’ll look at metrics like household cat ownership rates, spending on cats, shelter adoption numbers, and cat-friendly laws to determine which states could be considered the most cat-loving. If you’re a proud cat parent, you might be surprised to see where your state ranks!

Most Households with Cats

According to Pet Ownership Statistics by State 2024, Vermont has the highest percentage of households that own cats at 49%. Maine and Oregon follow close behind at 44% and 43% cat ownership among households. Some other top states for cat ownership include New Hampshire (42%), Washington (41%), South Dakota (40%), and West Virginia (40%).

Many of the states with the highest cat ownership are located in New England and the Pacific Northwest regions. These areas tend to have cooler climates that cats may prefer. The high cat ownership rates may also reflect the more rural nature of some of these states, where cats can freely roam and hunt outdoors. Demographically, the top cat-loving states tend to have lower populations and be less ethnically diverse.

Most Cats Per Household

According to data from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the state with the highest average number of cats per household is Oregon with 2.4 cats on average per cat-owning household. Vermont and Maine come in second and third with averages of 2.3 and 2.2 cats per cat-owning household respectively. Other states rounding out the top five are West Virginia and Idaho with 2.1 cats on average.1

Some factors that may contribute to higher numbers of cats per household in these states include larger properties providing more space for cats, colder climates leading owners to have indoor cats, and more rural areas allowing for cat ownership. Additionally, states like Oregon and Idaho have large rescued and stray cat populations which could lead to higher adoption rates if owners decide to take in multiple cats.1

Cat Ownership Rates in Big Cities

Analyzing cat ownership rates in major metropolitan areas can reveal interesting patterns about where cat lovers congregate. According to research from the AVMA, pet ownership tends to be lower in urban states compared to rural states.[1] However, some cities seem to buck that trend and report high rates of cat guardianship.

For example, despite California having one of the lowest statewide pet ownership rates, the city of San Francisco has one of the highest cat ownership rates among large cities in the U.S. Nearly 1 in 5 households in San Francisco own at least one cat.[2] On the other hand, a city like Houston, TX shows lower cat ownership numbers, with only around 11% of households reporting they have a cat.

We also see relatively high cat ownership rates in other progressive cities like Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. This suggests that cat-loving culture may thrive more in liberal urban areas. More research could examine if certain city demographics and housing situations impact cat ownership. But it’s clear that vibrant cat communities exist even within states that may not be known as the biggest cat lovers.

[1] https://www.avma.org/news/press-releases/where-not-so-wild-things-are-avma-releases-data-top-bottom-states-dog-cat-and
[2] https://wabi.tv/2023/08/16/americas-cat-capitals-exploring-states-with-highest-number-feline-friends/

Spending on Cats

When it comes to spending on cats, some states shell out more cash than others. According to data from Caliper’s Maptitude Map, households in the Northeast spend the most annually on their feline companions. New York cat owners top the list at $1,549 per household each year. Following closely behind are Rhode Island ($1,456), Massachusetts ($1,268), Connecticut ($1,209), and New Jersey ($1,168).

Out West, Washington cat parents spend an average of $1,362 a year on kitty costs. In the Midwest, Illinois households budget $1,074 for cats, while down South, Louisiana families allocate $851 annually. On the lower end, Arkansas cat owners only dole out $476 per household each year.

When looking at spending per cat rather than per household, the order shifts somewhat. According to Pettable’s research, the average annual cost of cat ownership ranges from $500-$1,000 per feline. DC cat owners invest the most per cat at $1,729. Massachusetts and New York follow at $1,514 and $1,287 respectively. At the other end, Mississippians only spend $367 per cat each year.

Higher spending doesn’t necessarily align with higher cat ownership rates. For example, Arkansas has a relatively low spend per household, but a 28% cat ownership rate. Comparatively, Rhode Islanders shell out over 3 times more on cats, but only 20% of households own a feline. Cultural factors, cost of living, and income levels all play into how much families budget for Fluffy.

Cat-Friendly Laws

States vary widely in their laws regarding cats. Some states have extensive laws protecting cats, while others have minimal regulations. Key areas of cat laws include licensing requirements, breeding regulations, and anti-cruelty statutes.

New Jersey is considered one of the most cat-friendly states. It requires all cats over 7 months old to be licensed annually, with proof of rabies vaccination. New Jersey also prohibits debarking of cats for non-medical reasons, bans hybrid cat breeding, and has strong anti-cruelty laws with felony-level penalties (Feral Cat Laws by State).

On the other end of the spectrum, South Dakota has very minimal cat regulations. The state requires no licensing and has no laws concerning debarking, hybrid cat breeding, or specific protections against cruelty. Anti-cruelty laws only apply to “domestic animals”, which may exclude feral cats (Feral Cat Laws by State).

When looking across states, stronger cat regulations tend to correlate with higher cat ownership rates. States can encourage responsible cat care and ownership through licensing programs, breeding oversight, and felony anti-cruelty laws.

Shelter Cat Adoption Rates

According to the ASPCA, approximately 2.1 million cats are adopted from shelters each year in the United States. However, cat adoption rates vary significantly by state.

A 2021 study by Creelighting analyzed cat adoption rates by state using data from shelters across the country. The study found that Maine has the highest shelter cat adoption rate at 160%, meaning shelters in Maine adopt out 60% more cats than the number brought in. Vermont ranked second with a 140% adoption rate, followed by Oregon at 128%.

States with the lowest shelter cat adoption rates included Mississippi at 12%, Arkansas at 20%, and Louisiana at 24%. High population states like California, Texas, and Florida fell in the middle with adoption rates between 60-80%.

There appears to be a correlation between high cat ownership rates and shelter cat adoption rates. States like Maine, Vermont, and Oregon with very high adoption rates also have some of the highest rates of cat ownership per household according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This suggests cat lovers in states where cat ownership is more popular are more likely to adopt cats from shelters.

Social Media Cat Content

When it comes to cat-related posts, shares, and hashtags on social media, some states generate more online cat content than others. According to a 2019 analysis by Litter Robot, the state with the highest rate of cat hashtags on Instagram was California. With over 2 million cat hashtags, California led all other states by a wide margin. New York and Texas had the next highest usage of cat hashtags on Instagram, with around 500,000 each.

Another report from Rover looking at general social media mentions of dog and cat breeds found that over 50% of all breed mentions came from Californians. This suggests the state’s residents frequently discuss their pets online across multiple platforms. Some specific cat breeds that were popular discussion topics in California included the Ragdoll, Maine Coon, and Sphynx.

Beyond California’s dominance in cat-related social media activity, other states with high levels of cat content included Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, and Washington D.C. Residents in these areas frequently shared their love of cats through photos, videos, blog posts, and other online forums. The popularity of cats in these states was further evidenced by cat-focused events, shelters, and businesses flourishing in local communities.

Across the U.S., social media provides a fun glimpse into which states are the most enthusiastic and vocal about cats online. From Instagram hashtags to breed discussions on Twitter, different states certainly have unique cat profiles based on the type and volume of feline content residents produce and engage with. California clearly emerges as the epicenter of cat obsession nationwide.

Conclusion

Overall, the data points to a few key states that seem to love cats the most. New Mexico tops the list with the most households owning cats and having the highest average number of cats per household. West Virginia and South Dakota also rank highly for cat ownership rates. Meanwhile, cities like Memphis, Tennessee and Glendale, Arizona have very high proportions of households with feline friends.

Americans collectively spend billions per year on their beloved cats. Popular Cat breeds like the Exotic Shorthair and the Ragdoll originate from America. Many U.S. states have enacted laws protecting cats from harm. And social media trends point to America’s ongoing fascination with all things cats.

Of course, this analysis has its limitations. Loving cats is subjective and hard to quantify. Some people may lavish their one cat with affection, while others casually own multiple cats. Surveys and statistics can only reveal so much. At the end of the day, America’s love for cats appears fierce, though the truest cat lovers may be the millions of unnamed folks who share their homes and hearts with their feline companions.

References

Allen, George. “The 2019 Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics.” APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 2019.

Humane Society of the United States. “Pet Statistics.” Accessed August 8, 2020. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/pet-statistics.

Insurance Information Institute. “Facts + Statistics: Pet statistics.” Accessed August 12, 2020. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-pet-statistics.

King, Marissa. “Here Are The Most Cat-Crazy Cities In The U.S.” Rover.com, April 29, 2019. https://www.rover.com/blog/heres-where-the-most-cat-crazy-cities-are-across-the-u-s/.

Meyer, Katie. “The Cost of Owning a Cat.” The Balance, June 30, 2020. https://www.thebalance.com/the-cost-of-owning-a-cat-4768749.

Pets on Board. “The Most Cat-Friendly States in America.” Accessed August 12, 2020. https://www.petsonboard.com/blog/the-most-cat-friendly-states-in-america/.

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