Pet Ownership Statistics [2024]: 10 Surprising Facts

Read on if you're curious about who owns pets, how much we spend on them, and what type of animal companions are sharing our beds, yards, and lives.

cat and dog sleeping together
Updated May 28, 2024
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Pet ownership is undeniably popular in the United States, with more than 90 million households owning some type of animal. Certain species are unsurprisingly more popular than others, though.

In fact, the humble dog remains man's best friend and is by far the most likely pet you'll find when visiting households across America. But there are other pet ownership facts that will surprise you.

If you're curious about the demographics of who owns pets, how much Americans are spending on their cats and dogs, and what type of animal companions are sharing our beds, yards, and lives, these 10 fascinating pet ownership statistics can shed light on this topic.

Key takeaways

  • Dogs remain the most popular pet, owned by 69 million households.
  • Cats are a distinct second, owned by 45.3 households.
  • Freshwater fish are the only other animal owned by more than 10 million households across America.
  • Total annual expenditures on pet care hit $109.6 billion in 2021, with the bulk of this money going to food, treats, and veterinary services.
  • Millennials account for 32% of pet owners, while 60% of households with incomes above $80,000 are pet owners.
  • Just 3.45 million pets are insured in the United States.
  • Dog owners are much more likely to insure their pets, with dogs accounting for 82.9% of all insured animals.

Dogs are by far the most popular pet, owned by 69 million households Man with dog

America is a nation of dog-lovers, with 69 million households counting a canine among their numbers according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This is leaps and bounds above any other type of animal.

By comparison, just 45.3 million households own cats. 

Freshwater fish come in a distinct third, with 11.8 million households owning them. 

More exotic animals like birds, reptiles, horses, small animals, and saltwater fish are also far less popular, with fewer than 10 million households owning any of these types of pets.

(Source: American Pet Products Association)

Millennials are the most likely generation to own a pet

hedgehog94/Adobe dog walker enjoying with dogs while walking outdoors

Millennials are the biggest animal lovers of any generation or age group, accounting for 32% of U.S. pet owners.

The American Pet Products Association reports that Baby Boomers come in a close second and make up 27%, while Gen Xers account for 24% of U.S. pet ownership.

The youngest generation — Gen Z — accounts for just 14% of pet owners and Builders (also known as the Silent Generation) own only 3% of all pets across the country.

(Source: American Pet Products Association)

Pet ownership increases with income

otsphoto/Adobe Dog in sunglasses

Pets aren't evenly distributed across the income spectrum. In fact, 60% of households with incomes topping $80,000 have pets according to the U.S. Census. By comparison, only 36% of households with incomes under $20,000 are pet owners.

Given the cost of pet ownership — from cat litter, to dog food, to vet visits — it likely won't come as a surprise that people with more disposable income are more likely to bring a lovable but expensive animal companion into their lives.

(Source: United States Census Bureau)

Phoenix, AZ, is the metro area with the highest rate of pet ownership

Monkey Business/Adobe Dog wearing glasses working at office desk

City-dwellers are much less likely to own pets in general, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Just 46.1% of urban households have pets compared with 65.9% of rural households. Since many urban residents live in tight quarters with limited room for furry friends, this isn't surprising.

However, people in some urban areas are far more likely than others to own animals. Phoenix is the top metro area for animal lovers, with 54.3% of households in Phoenix owning pets compared with just 32.0% in New York.

Riverside, California, is the only other metropolitan area where more than half the population owns pets. Specifically 53.5% of Riverside residents share their home with an animal.

(Source: United States Census Bureau)

Pet owners are more likely to own multiple birds than multiple dogs or cats

piyaphun/Adobe Two pet birds on a branch

Owning more than one of the same animal can provide companionship for your pets, but can add to the expense and time of pet ownership.

You might guess that the number of pets is likely to be higher with dog and cat owners.

Surprisingly, owners of birds and horses are the most likely pet owners to be multi-pet households. Among households that own them, the average number of both birds and horses is 2.1.

By comparison, among-cat owning households, the average number of felines owned per household is just 1.78 and the average number of dogs in canine-owning households is just 1.46.

(Sources: American Veterinary Medical Association, American Pet Products Association)

Americans spent a whopping $123.6 billion on pets in 2021

benevolente/Adobe Cute dog in a sleep mask tucked in under blankets

Pets across the country are well-provided for, with Americans collectively spending $123.6 billion on their animal companions according to the American Pet Products Association.

Pet food and treats are the largest driver of expenditures, accounting for $50 billion of total annual costs. Vet care and vet visits account for another $34.3 billion in spending.

Supplies, live animals, and over-the-counter medicine come in a distant third at $29.8 billion and miscellaneous other services account for the remaining $9.5 billion in spending.

(Source: American Pet Products Association)

Only a very small percentage of pets are insured

Rita Kochmarjova/Adobe dog and kitten

While the American Pet Products Association indicates that more than 90 million U.S. households are pet owners, many of these animal companions are uninsured.

In fact, as of a May 2022 report by the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, only around 4.41 million pets had insurance coverage in North America.

Without an insurance policy, cat ownership and dog ownership is more likely to become expensive. Owners are more likely to incur substantial veterinarian bills or to be forced to make choices about care that are influenced, in part, by cost concerns.

(Sources: American Pet Products Association, North American Pet Health Insurance Association)

Interest in pet insurance is growing rapidly

iVazoUSky/Adobe Cute kitten

Although much of the U.S. pet population is currently without insurance coverage, that's changing quickly. The pet health insurance industry has seen 21.5% average annual growth over the past five years. As more Americans view their animal companions as being more like family members, interest in pet health insurance is clearly increasing.

(Source: North American Pet Health Insurance Association)

Dogs are significantly more likely to be insured than cats

Abigail Marie/Adobe girl hiking with dog in backpack

While interest in pet insurance is growing among all owners of animal companions, dogs are currently significantly over-represented in the number of insured animals. 

Approximately 81.7% of insured animals are pet dogs compared with 18.3% of cats. 

However, this shift could change over time, as the growth rate of insured cats exceeded that of insured dogs between 2017 and 2021.

(Source: North American Pet Health Insurance Association)

Dogs go to the vet more often than other pets

Seventyfour/Adobe young confident veterinarian giving medical advice to female pet owner

According to the AVMA, a trip to the vet is more likely to be on the calendar for people who own dogs than it is for people who own other types of pets. The mean number of yearly veterinary visits per household is 2.4 for dogs, compared with 1.3 for cats, .3 for birds, and 1.6 for horses.

Horse-owning households do tend to spend more on veterinary services, though, with mean yearly veterinary expenditures per household coming in at $614 for equines compared with $410 for dog-owning households, $182 for cats, and $40 for birds.

(Source: American Veterinary Medical Association)

How to care for your furry family without breaking the bank

MeganBetteridge/Adobe girl holding her dog on comfy chair

Pet ownership is clearly popular, and increased during the coronavirus pandemic. But it also comes at significant cost. The good news is, you can provide a good life for your animal companions without busting your budget, whether you're bringing a new pet into your home or caring for an old furry friend. 

To save money while caring for your pet:

  • Keep up with preventative care: Regular veterinary visits, including for routine care such as vaccines and tooth cleaning, can help to prevent more serious and costly issues. Pet insurance may also cover some pet dental costs.
  • Consider buying insurance coverage: The best pet insurance can ensure that your animal companion is able to get the care they need without you having to go into debt or drain your savings.
  • Look into subscription services: There are many online subscription services where you can buy everything from toys to pet food to prescriptions at a discount if you sign up for auto-shipping on a regular schedule
  • Use a rewards card: Shopping for pet products using one of the best rewards credit cards can help you to earn points, cash back, or miles when you buy items for your furry friends
  • Work with a friend: If you and a friend can trade pet-sitting during workdays and vacations, you can save on paying for daycare or other professional services.

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy

Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.