It’s no secret that humans value their furry pets. In fact, as human populations grow, so do those of their canines and felines. When human societies thrive and are comfortable, they tend to welcome animals into their families and living situations more readily.
People like to have animals for friendship, a reason to exercise and socialize, and a boost to mental health. With the advent of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and subsequent lockdowns worldwide, the yearning for animal companionship seemed to skyrocket. So it could be that numbers are even higher now than before COVID.
But just how many people own a dog? A cat? Below, we’ll break down dog ownership and cat ownership by country and show you the populations around the world who count dogs and cats as members of their homes.
Pet Populations by Country Rank
USA (#1 for Both Dogs and Cats)
- United States Dogs – 70 Million
- United States Cats – 74 Million
The U.S. is the world leader in pet ownership of both dogs and cats. Americans don’t hold back on their love for their animals, either. They get professional photos done, throw them elaborate birthday parties, and even construct them their own living spaces within their humans’ homes.
More than half of U.S. citizens have a dog or cat in their household, meaning there’s a good chance you could open any random door in the neighborhood and meet a new furry friend. Out of those pet owners, nine out of ten consider their dog or cat to be a member of their family.
The U.S. as a country is welcoming and encouraging of this human-animal lifestyle. Dog parks, cat cafes, doggie daycare, pet-friendly travel accommodations, and the recent burgeoning of pet insurance options show Americans’ love for their animals isn’t slowing anytime soon.
Brazil (#2 for Dogs, #4 for Cats)
- Brazilian Dogs – 35.8 Million
- Brazilian Cats – 12.5 Million
The growing middle class in Brazil most likely contributes to the exploding popularity of pet ownership in recent decades. Interestingly, with the human population density so high in this country, it holds the lowest dog ownership per capita (but still tops the list in numerical stats). Considering the national birth rate, this means Brazilians have more pets than children!
Brazil owns the most small dogs of any population in the world. As an epicenter of biological interest, thanks to the Amazon Basin’s flourishing ecosystem, this country holds the most variety in animal species, including mammals, fish, birds, and insects.
Sadly, Brazil’s other side of animal life is not so sunny. The stray dog problem is rampant, and many dogs are simply abandoned when they reach senior status, and their owners don’t want to care for them anymore. In particular, the island of Greater Sao Paolo holds an enormous population of stray and abandoned pets who get sick and pass away without veterinary care.
China (#3 for Dogs, #2 for Cats)
- Chinese Dogs – 27.4 Million
- Chinese Cats – 53.1 Million
The pet industry in China has grown a whopping 2000% in the past decade. Though the Chinese population surpasses that of the U.S. by a factor of five, pet ownership in China actually topped the U.S. for one year in 2019.
About half of Chinese pet owners are less than 30 years old, leading researchers to believe that the younger generations are more open to the idea of sharing their living space with animals. This mirrors advancements in other areas, such as higher education and more cosmopolitan/urban living than their predecessors.
This shifting attitude towards pets would have been very surprising to the region earlier than the late 20th century. China has gotten a bad reputation in the past century or so for its emphasis on dog meat for human consumption.
Under Mao Zedong’s socialist rule, dog ownership was banned, and animal welfare was disregarded. Fortunately, as discussed earlier, this culture is rapidly evolving, and animals fare much better in China in the 21st century.
Russia (#4 for Dogs, #3 for Cats)
- Russian Dogs – 12.5 Million
- Russian Cats – 17.8 Million
Seeing as Russia has one of the greatest landmasses in the world for one country, it’s no surprise that it tops the list of most dense pet populations. More than half of Russians own a cat, and about one-third own a dog.
There is a significant feral-animal issue in cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg, which means responsible pet owners should take special care to watch that their pets don’t eat poison or other entrapment measures off the sidewalk when out and about. Heavy traffic in these urban areas poses a safety problem to domestic pets too.
Japan (#5 for Dogs; #10 for Cats)
- Japanese Dogs – 12 Million
- Japanese Cats – 7.3 Million
While coming in at number four for dog populations, Japan ranks only number ten for cat populations. Unsurprisingly, both numbers rose during the coronavirus pandemic.
Living situations in Japan are not as naturally pet-friendly as, say, the United States. Due to cramped urban areas and a scarcity of dog parks, restaurants, and other welcoming environments, most Japanese opt for smaller pets when they can. More than two-thirds of Japanese dog owners choose small breeds, such as Pekingese or Shiba Inu.
Philippines (#6 for Dogs)
- Filipino Dogs – 11.6 Million
With such high numbers of pet ownership in such a small country, it’s no shock that the Phillippines has strict pet regulations to ensure the island doesn’t become overcrowded with animals. Each household is limited to four pets, and owners must abide by rabies vaccination policies and other welfare measures.
Strangely, Filipino citizens aren’t crazy for cats, making it one of the only countries that tops the list in one animal ownership but not the other.
France (#5 for Cats; #10 for Dogs)
- French Cats – 11.5 Million
- French Dogs – 7.6 Million
It’s easy to imagine a scene of French urban dogs as they accompany their master to a cafe for a coffee and a cigarette. Poodles, papillons, and French bulldogs make up some of the most popular breeds in France. Over half of French citizens claim to own at least one pet, meaning that if the country were the size of the U.S., it would edge out our list in worldwide pet ownership!
India (#7 for Dogs)
- Indian Dogs – 10.2 Million
Due to religious beliefs, some animals hold a sacred space in Indian culture. Most people are familiar with the Indian people’s reverence for cows, but it would seem that other species are rising in popularity as well. Unfortunately, the country’s love for pets is outgrowing its ability to keep up with policies that guard animal welfare, causing strife among urban communities.
Germany (#6 for Cats)
- German Cats – 8.2 Million
The German population seems to be keener on felines than canines. There is speculation that the national dog tax affects Germans’ decision of which kind of pet to keep in their homes.
Argentina (#8 for Dogs)
- Argentinian Dogs – 9.2 Million
Argentina boasts the highest number of dogs per capita, as well as the highest number of dogs in any Latin American country.
The UK (#9 for Dogs, #7 for Cats)
- UK Dogs – 9 Million
- UK Cats – 8 Million
Like many other countries, Great Britain saw an unprecedented rise in pet ownership during 2020 coronavirus lockdowns.
Italy (#8 for Cats)
- Italian Cats – 7.4 Million
It is a policy in Italy that all pets must be microchipped. The culture may view this as a way of helping cut down on the stray animal problem in Italy. There is also a national registry where owners can enter their pets’ information for tracking purposes; 90% of Italian owners do this.
Ukraine (#9 for Cats)
- Ukrainian Cats – 7.3 Million
Pets get a pass in Ukraine—this is one of the few countries where neither quarantine nor import permit is required to bring in a pet from out of the region!
After the top ten listed above, a few more countries appreciate both dogs and cats and round out the top 20 for both. Number 11 for both species is Poland. After that, both dogs and cats enjoy popularity in households in Spain, Romania, Australia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
A few more dog-loving countries that round out the top 20 include South Africa, Italy, Germany, and Ethiopia. Some top countries that prefer cats but not dogs are Argentina, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Belgium.
In places like the United States, we love our pets so much that it seems crazy that there could be regions that feel differently. But indeed, in several countries in the Middle East (such as Saudi Arabia), there is a strikingly low number of pet owners due to religious beliefs.
Indonesia and Egypt join this anti-pet culture, constituting fewer than two dogs per one thousand people. In the Maldives, pet ownership is banned!
What About Other Animals?
After dogs and cats—clearly the two most popular pet choices worldwide—there are also non-furry pets to consider. Fish make up the third most common choice for a pet at around 12%, followed by birds (6%).