Puppy

Understanding the Data

Obtaining accurate statistical data about pets in the United States isn’t easy. Most of the information is based on estimates derived from two periodic surveys, and the various survey-takers do not agree. Data reflecting shelter/rescue animal populations is spotty due to a lack of reporting requirements, which leaders in animal welfare are aiming to address with the Shelter Animals Count project.

There are two main sources of pet demographics in the United States: the biennial APPA National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association, and the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) which is published every five years. These surveys provide data about trends in pet ownership and produce estimates of the total number of dogs and cats.

The Numbers

U.S. Pet Ownership Estimates
Fact 2012 AVMA Sourcebook 2015-2016 APPA Survey 2017-2018 AVMA Sourcebook 2017-2018 APPA Survey 2019-2020 APPA Survey
Total number of U.S. households   124.587M 125.819M    
Number of households with a pet 66.5M (year-end 2011) 79.7M 74.4M 84.6M 84.9M
Percentage of households with a pet 56% (year-end 2011) 65% 56.8% 68% 67%
Pet-owning households with more than 1 pet 62.2% 42% 61%    
Estimated number of pet dogs and cats 144.1M 163.6M 135.2M 183.9M  
Percentage of pet-owners who consider their pets to be family members 63.2%   80%    
Percentage of pet-owners who consider their pets to be pets or companions 35.8%   17%    
Percentage of pet-owners who consider their pets to be property 1%   3%    
Dogs
Fact 2012 AVMA Sourcebook 2015-2016 APPA Survey 2017-2018 AVMA Sourcebook 2017-2018 APPA Survey 2019-2020 APPA Survey
Households that own at least one dog Nearly 43.3M (36.5%) 54.4M (44%) 48.3M (38%) 60.2M (48.5%) 63.4M (50%)
Estimated number of pet dogs 70M (year-end 2011) 77.8M 76.8M
(year end 2016)
89.7M  
Percentage of U.S. population that owns a dog         50%
Leading source from which dogs are obtained         Animal shelter (19%), Breeder (19%), Friend / relative (18%)
Dog-owning households with small dogs 39.3% 50%   50% 48%
Dog-owning households with medium dogs 33.4% 26%   28% 33%
Dog-owning households with large dogs 27.3% 37%   35% 33%
Percentage of dog owners who consider their dogs to be family members 66.7%   85%    
Percentage of dog owners who consider their dogs to be pets or companions 32.6%   14%    
Percentage of dog owners who consider their dogs to be property 0.7%   1%    
Average amount spent on veterinary care per year, per dog $227 $1,542 $495 $1,386  
Percentage of owned dogs who are spayed or neutered   86% 69.1% 85% 78%
Percentage of dogs who are "pure breed"   62% 48.7% 60% 56%
Percentage of dogs who are mixed breed/"mutts"   47% 51.3% 51% 51%
Cats
Fact 2012 AVMA Sourcebook 2015-2016 APPA Survey 2017-2018 AVMA Sourcebook 2017-2018 APPA Survey 2019-2020 APPA Survey
Households that own at least one cat 36.1M (30.4%) 42.9M (35%) 31.9M (25%) 47.1M (38%) 42.7M
Percentage of U.S. population that owns a cat         34%
Leading source from which cats are obtained         Animal shelters (26%)
Estimated number of pet cats 74.1M (year-end 2011) 85.8M 58.4M (year end 2016) 94.2M  
Percentage of cat owners who consider their cats to be family members 56.1%   76%    
Percentage of cat owners who consider their cats to be pets or companions 41.5%   20%    
Percentage of cat owners who consider their cats to be property 2.4%   3%    
Average amount spent on veterinary care per year, per cat $90 $1,200 $335 $890  
Percentage of pet cats who are spayed or neutered   90% 80% 93% 87%
Percentage of cats who are "pure breed"   18% 16% 16% 27%
Percentage of cats who are mixed breed/"mutts"   87% 84% 90% 77%
Where Do People Acquire Pets?
Fact 2012 AVMA Sourcebook 2015-2016 APPA Survey 2017-2018 AVMA Sourcebook 2017-2018 APPA Survey 2019-2020 APPA Survey
Dogs adopted from a shelter or rescue 84.7% 37% (up from 35% in 2012/2013) 28% 44% 44%
Cats adopted from a shelter or rescue   46% (up from 43% in 2012/2013) 31% 47% 43%
Dogs taken in as strays 10.1% 6% 5% 4% 5%
Cats taken in as strays   27% 25% 32% 21%
Dogs acquired from friends or relatives 15.1% 20% 26% 25% 18%
Cats acquired from friends or relatives   28% 25% 26% 21%
Dogs purchased from a pet store 4.2% 4% (down from 5% in 2012/2013) 6% 4% 9%
Cats purchased from a pet store   2% 3% 1% 12%
Dogs purchased from a breeder 19.1% 34% (up from 32% in 2012/2013) 22% 25% 19%
Cats purchased from a breeder   3% 3% 4% 3%
Dogs bred at home/from owned pet         4%
Cats bred at home/from owned pet         2%
Dogs received as a gift         5%
Cats received as a gift         3%

Efforts like The Shelter Pet Project are helping to increase the number of pets adopted from shelters and rescues, as opposed to from inhumane sources like puppy mills.

Pet Ownership Estimates from Underserved Communities

While the figures referenced previously tend to reflect “mainstream America,” the Pets for Life team of The Humane Society of the United States has spent years working in, and collecting data from, our nation’s most underserved communities which lack affordable, accessible pet care. We have found startling differences in pet ownership. People living in these communities love their pets as much as pet owners anywhere else in the nation. However, they don’t have access to veterinary care, spay/neuter providers and other services most Americans take for granted, and this difference is reflected in the data:

  • Pets living in underserved communities in the U.S.: 19 million
  • Percentage of pets living in underserved communities who are not spayed or neutered: 88%
  • Percentage of pets living in underserved communities who have never seen a veterinarian: 69%

Learn more about our Pets for Life program

Community Cat Estimates

Cats are divided into three distinct populations—those who are personal pets, those being cared for by shelters and rescues and those who live their lives out in our communities. Community cats are friendly stray or abandoned cats as well as feral (unsocialized) cats. These cats are unowned, but may be provided with food, water and/or shelter by caring individuals. The HSUS advocates for a trap-neuter-return approach to humanely managing community cats.

  • Estimated number of community cats in the U.S.: 30 to 40 million
  • Percentage of community cats who are spayed/neutered: Unknown (this will vary by community based on implementation of community cat management strategies)
  • Average number of litters produced by an intact female community cat: 1.4 litters/year [1]
  • Mean number of kittens in each litter produced by intact community cats: 3 kittens/litter [1]
  • Estimated survivorship of community kittens, 0-6 months: 25% [1]
  • Estimated annual survivorship of adult community cats: 70% [2]
  • Percentage of people who believe leaving a community cat outdoors is preferable to having him or her caught and euthanized: 81% [3]
  • Percentage of people in the U.S. providing food for community cats: 10% of the general public and 17% of pet owners feed free-roaming cats. [4, 5]
  1. Nutter, F.B., J.F. Levine, and M.K. Stoskopf, Reproductive capacity of free-roaming domestic cats and kitten survival rate. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 2004. 225(9): p. 1399-402.
  2. Gehrt, S.D., et al., Population ecology of free-roaming cats and interference competition by coyotes in urban parks. PLoS One, 2013. 8(9): p. e75718.
  3. Chu, K. and W.M. Anderson, "U.S. Public Opinion on Humane Treatment of Stray Cats" Law & Policy Brief 2007, Bethesda, MD: Alley Cat Allies.
  4. Levy, J.K. and P.C. Crawford, Humane strategies for controlling feral cat populations. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 2004. 225(9): p. 1354-60.
  5. APPA, 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey. 2018, Greenwich, CT: American Pet Products Association.

Learn how to help community cats >>

Shelter & Rescue Group Estimates

Accurate data from shelters and rescue groups is difficult to obtain because there is no central data reporting system for these institutions, and most states don’t require reporting. The Humane Society of the United States is working with a wide variety of stakeholders to change this through Shelter Animals Count, an initiative formed to create and share a national database of sheltered animal statistics, providing facts and enabling insights that will save lives. In the meantime, here are the best estimates we've found:

Cats and Dogs
Pet # Entering Shelters Annually # Euthanized in Shelters Annually % Euthanized in Shelters # Adopted from Shelters # of Strays Entering Shelters Who Are Returned-To-Owner % Returned-To-Owner
Cats & Dogs 6.5M 1.5M (down from 2.6M in 2011) 23% 3.2M 710,000 11%
Cats 3.2M 860,000 27% 1.6M 90,000 3%
Dogs 3.3M 670,000 20% 1.6M 620,000 19%

*Source: ASPCA

  • In some regions of the United States, 50-75% of the shelter population is cats.
  • The number of cats and dogs entering shelters annually is down from 20+ million in 1973. (Source: Dr. Andrew Rowan, Jan. 2019)
  • Estimated amount spent by humane organizations annually: $3 billion (about $10 per capita) (Source: Dr. Andrew Rowan, Jan. 2019)
  • Estimated amount spent by animal control organizations annually: $800 million to $1 billion (about $34 per capita) (Dr. Andrew Rowan, Jan. 2019)
  • Estimated number of brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the US: 3,500
  • Estimated number of rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in North America: 10,000

See also

The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP)

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