Surprising domestic cat numbers in US Census’ American Housing Survey

The United States Census Bureau has provided us with their American Housing Survey (AHS). They tell us how many households have pets and they break it down into cats and dogs and other animals. They also break it down into multi-cat and multi-dog homes.

Cats in home survey for US
Cats in home survey for US throws up strangely low figure for domestic cats. Image: MikeB.

The survey has thrown up a very surprising number for the domestic cat population in America. And it makes me wonder whether this survey is accurate. According to this organisation the number of cats and households in the USA is 28.1 million whereas the number of dogs in households is almost 63.8 million.

Yes, over the years we have been fed data on the internet telling us that there are nearly an equal number of companion cats and dogs in America and that the number of domestic cats is somewhere near 80 million with a similar number of feral cats. Although to be honest, nobody knows how many feral cats there are, and I’ve seen a wide range of numbers from less than 20 million upwards.

But the key issue is the number of pet cats in the country and at 28.1 million it falls far short of what I had always thought was the true number.

Nathan Winograd believes that this may be due to the fact that there is a large undercounting because many people rent property. Landlords rarely allow people to keep cats in rental properties and therefore people keep quiet about it and the survey is based on questionnaires.

However, this does not explain the disparity between cats and dogs because the prohibition on keeping cats in rented property extends to dogs normally. So, I am somewhat confused by this number. Have I missed something? Please clarify.

Perhaps the reason is this: there are many households with a reasonably large numbers of cats (5-10), and they are undeclared in the AHS questionnaires because owners keep quiet.

However, Winograd believes that cats are affected by ‘housing discrimination’. I think he is saying that the ban on cats is more often encountered that it is the dogs. But I don’t know if that’s true or not.

You can see that around half of US households have a companion animal. In respect of cats, there are 2.3 million homes with four or more cats. And there are 9.4 million homes with two cats.

As for dogs, there are 1.8 million homes with four or more dogs and 13.6 million homes with two dogs. There are 48.9 million homes with one dog. And there are 28.1 million homes with one cat.

The data also states that cities with the largest number of single-family homes reported the largest number of dogs. Cities like New York with many apartments reported fewer dogs.

My thanks to Nathan Winograd for pointing out this survey. It is interesting but very surprising to me.

Please share your thoughts on the low number of domestic cats in the US.

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