Pet Populations and Ownership – Comparing Countries

by Michael

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

On this page I look at pet populations compared to human populations in relation to the top 15 countries that have the highest population of pets (at 2002). Note: I don't like the word "pet" or "ownership" (of animals) but the terms are used here because the people who produce the statistics use these terms.

The objective behind this comparison chart is to see if we can conclude which countries are more animal (or at least companion animal) friendly and to look at companion animal preferences. The chart below also lists the numbers of companion animals that are not cats and dogs ("other" referring to animal such as birds, fish, reptiles, rabbits and ferrets).

In an absolute sense countries with large populations will tend to have the most pets. This is true for the USA and China but India, a high population country, does not follow this trend. It is ranked 29th for pet ownership (2002). At the other end of the spectrum a country with a relatively small human population, Australia, has the highest number of pets to humans in the world. The point to make, though, is that Australians prefer pets that are not cats and dogs.

Also, although China has the second largest number of pets it has the lowest pet to human ratio and cat to human ratio of the top 15 countries ranked by pure pet population size.

I have highlighted the highs (green) and lows (red) of pet population and ownership on the chart below.

Factors that impact pet ownership are:

Urbanisation: Trends towards easy to care for companion animals. This favours cats over dogs and fish for example.

Working Animals: Countries were companion animals are regarded as working animals show lower growth in pet ownership. The concept of a "pet" (an animal as a companion) leads to an expansion in ownership. Trends away from the concept of working dogs and cats but rather towards treating them as pets plus improved living standards and disposable incomes have led to an expansion of pet populations in Turkey, Brazil, China and Thailand. Over the period 1998 - 2002 pet numbers in Turkey increased by 39% and the increase for Brazil was 28%.

Senior Citizens: In countries where there is a higher percentage of senior citizens (people over 65 years of age) there were more pets. Pets benefit the elderly in terms of health.

More Cats: Cats outrank dogs in the USA and some other countries including China. The reason is referred to above (urbanisation) and people are living longer so we have more elderly people who prefer cats.

More Dogs: Where there are high crime rates, where hunting is more popular and where human population densities are low, dogs are generally preferred.

Other Pets: In the chart above you will see that pets other than cats and dogs were far more numerous except in one country, Brazil.


1. Picture of cat and dog: by b1ue5ky (Flickr) under license.

2. Source: Pages 48-50 of The Welfare of Cats Edited by Irene Rochlitz ISBN 978-1-4020-6143-1

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