Did you know a pet exists in every two of three American homes? This love affair with pets is beyond just sentimental; it’s become a way of life for many! As of 2023, 66% of American households own at least one pet. But this loving relationship doesn’t come cheap—to put things into perspective, the pet industry made an astonishing $136.8 billion in 2022 alone.
Combining data from the APPA with additional insights from Statista, this comprehensive analysis paints a holistic picture of American pet ownership.
We aim to offer a complete, accurate, and intriguing portrait of how pets have become a regular part of the family in the American way of life.
- Rising Pet Ownership: As of 2023, 66% of U.S. households have at least one pet, marking a 10% increase since 1988.
- Dogs Reign Supreme: Dogs continue to be America’s favorite pets, with around 65 million households owning at least one.
- Horses & Saltwater Fish are Less Favored: Both horses and saltwater fish are owned by only around 2.2 million households, making them some of the least popular pets.
- Pet Industry’s Massive Worth: In 2022, the U.S. pet industry reached a staggering value of $136.8 billion, with pet food being the highest-selling product category at $58 billion.
- State-wise Variances: Wyoming showcases the highest pet ownership rates at 72%, while Washington, D.C. lags with only 38.2% of households owning pets.
- Montana and Arkansas lead the U.S. as the top dog-loving states, each with a 52% dog ownership rate.
- In 2022, Vermont was the leading state in cat ownership, with 45% of its residents having cats, closely followed by Maine at 44%.
A 10% Leap Over Three Decades: Pet Ownership on the Rise
From 1988 to 2023, American households owning pets jumped from 56% to 66%. That’s a massive 10% increase, signaling that this is more than just a passing trend and is fast becoming the normal way of life for so many.
In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 70% of households had a furry, scaly, or feathery friend. Though these numbers have slightly dipped as life returns to ‘normal,’ pets in all their shapes and sizes are here to stay. We just can’t resist them.
Who’s Leading the Pack? Millennials!
Interestingly, pet ownership in the United States is distributed unevenly across the different generations.
As you can see, Millennials aren’t just killing industries; they’re making the pet industry thrive! In 2022, 33% of pet-owning households were millennial-driven, Whereas Baby Boomers and Generation X amounted to only 24% and 25%, respectively.
65 Million Households Bow to Dogs, The King of Pets
If pets had a popularity contest, dogs would always win paws down! And it’s no surprise really, considering how loyal and loving they can be.
Roughly 65 million American households opened their doors and hearts to at least one dog. Cats come in a close second, finding a home in 46.5 million households. Fish swim in at a distant third place, being owned by only 11.1 million homes.
Pet Type Ownership in the U.S. by Generation
Pet choices aren’t just a matter of personal preference but a generational statement for the ages. Historians will no doubt be fascinated by these trends for years to come.
Notably, dogs have emerged as the favorite pets among all generations, with a staggering 86% ownership rate. However, cats are only a few steps behind, securing their position as the second most popular pet with an 81% ownership rate.
Millennials, for instance, have shown an overwhelming love for cats, with every respondent in this age bracket owning one. However, 89% also own dogs, indicating the likelihood of multiple pet ownership in this group. Why choose between two when you can have both?
For Generation Z, the youngest demographic in the study, pet diversity is at its peak. While they do lean towards dogs (10%) and cats (10%), they are the most likely generation to own a variety of pets, including birds (7%) and hamsters or guinea pigs (5%).
On the other hand, Generation X showcases a more conservative pattern, with 56% of them having dogs and a mere 7% owning cats. Birds and hamsters or guinea pigs are even less common, at 5% and 2%, respectively.
Unleashing Billions: How Much Americans Spend on Pets
When splashing out cash on our four-legged companions, Americans don’t hold back.
Starting in 1994, Americans were already spending a massive $17 billion on pets. This expenditure saw a steady increase over the years. By 2001, the amount climbed to just over $28.5 billion. Between 2001 and 2008, spending consistently increased to $34.4 billion by 2004, and reached a whopping $45.53 billion in 2008.
2013 ended with an expenditure of $55.7 billion, which signaled a slight decline in growth rate between 2008 and 2013. However, from 2013 onwards, more rapid growth is evident, and within two years, 2015 saw a surge in expenditure of $69.51 billion (maybe the pets were making their owners feel guilty with cute puppy eyes). This growth only continued; by 2018, Americans were spending a whopping $103.6 billion on their pets.
The last available data points, from 2019 to 2022, show a consistent increase in pet spending, reaching its peak in 2022 at $136.8 billion.
In simple terms, over the span of almost three decades, Americans have significantly increased their spending on pets. From a modest $17 billion in 1994, they went on to spend over eight times that amount in 2022, highlighting that these animals have been promoted to more than just a secondary part of the family and are now included in the family photo.
Between 2016 and 2018, 60 million households reported buying pet products in person compared to 13 million online, showing that these pets always deserve a personal touch when choosing what is best for them.
In 2022 alone, the total pet industry expenditure reached an eye-watering $136.8 billion. That’s a billion with a “B”! Most of the chunk—$58 billion to be precise—went to pet food and treats, with veterinary care coming in not far behind, raking in a whopping $35.9 billion.
Top 10 States With the Highest Pet Ownership
The United States has diverse climates, landscapes, and environments, indicating that a suitable environment for one type of pet might not be ideal for another.
- Wyoming takes the lead in pet ownership, with 72% of its residents owning a pet, underlining Wyoming’s strong affinity for animals.
- West Virginia closely follows, with 71% of its population having a pet; like Wyoming, West Virginia holds a deep-rooted pet culture.
- Idaho shares the third spot with Vermont, both boasting a pet ownership rate of 70%. Idaho’s love for the outdoors extends to their pets as well.
- Indiana and Arkansas have identical numbers, with 69% of their residents owning pets, indicating 7 in 10 households with pets.
- Next in line comes Mississippi, with 66% of its residents being pet owners, closely followed by Oklahoma, with a pet ownership rate of 65%.
- Kentucky and North Dakota stand at 64%, showing that nearly 2 out of 3 households have pets. Even in colder climates, the pet culture remains strong.
Top 10 States With the Highest Dog Ownership
The data underscores the leading states where dogs are an integral part of American households.
Montana and Arkansas are at 52%, ranking as the top two dog-loving states. Mississippi closely follows, with just a hairline difference, registering a 51% rate, suggesting that more than half its residents are accompanied by man’s best friend.
West Virginia and Indiana share an approximate 50% dog ownership rate, with Oklahoma not too far behind at 48%, highlighting a nationwide trend where half of the households in these states have dogs.
Finally, Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky have very similar figures, with each state boasting a dog ownership rate of 47%. The uniformity implies a consistent pet-loving culture across diverse regions of the country.
Top 10 States With the Highest Cat Ownership
In 2022, Vermont stood out as the top state for cat ownership, with nearly half (45%) of its residents owning cats. I’ll let you decide on what this says about the psychology of the people of Vermont.
Following closely, Maine had a 44% cat ownership rate, making it another state where cats are exceptionally popular. West Virginia and Indiana both have 38% of their populations owning cats.
Other states like New Hampshire and Iowa showed appreciable numbers too, but it’s clear that Vermont and Maine lead the pack in feline affinity.
We primarily relied on data from The American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) and the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) 2023-2024 National Pet Owners Survey. This survey stands as a benchmark in pet research due to its extensive reach and recognized global credibility.
For historical context and to ensure a seamless flow of information, figures from before 2021 were sourced from previously published articles and databases made available by the APPA.
Our team then processed, analyzed, and interpreted this data to create a cohesive narrative, making it easier for our readers to comprehend the evolving dynamics of pet ownership over the years.
Recognizing that pet ownership isn’t one-size-fits-all, the survey goes granular into generational data. From Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials to Gen Z, it maps out how pet ownership preferences and patterns change with each generation.
The United States, just like its pet ownership patterns, is vast and diverse. The survey offers a comprehensive breakdown of pet ownership rates by state, giving insights into regional preferences and trends. So whether it’s dogs, cats, fish, or even those quirky turtles, you’ll find everything you need to know about pet patterns in this definitive survey.