Cats and dogs are everywhere -- literally. It's not just Americans who love their pets. The number of pets living in households around the world varies, though. Some countries favor dogs, while others have a feline inclination. Rich or poor, though, the love for animals is universal.
The United States
The U.S. is a pet-friendly country. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are 86.4 million cats and 78.2 million dogs in homes around the U.S. More people own dogs dogs than cats, but the number of cats is higher because cats owners tend to have two or more felines sharing their home. Sadly, just 21 percent of dogs and 21 percent of cats were adopted from shelters. On the other hand, most pet owners have chosen to spay or neuter their companions -- 78 percent of dogs and 88 percent of cats living in American homes have been desexed.
It's hard to estimate how many pets live in European households because of the many countries involved. The largest pet survey to date was taken by the World Society of the Protection of Animals in 2008. The survey estimates that there are 6.7 million dogs and 9.8 million cats in the United Kingdom, for example. Italy and Poland actually have similar numbers. Germany has a more evenly divided love, with 7.8 million cats and 5.2 million dogs. Other countries are more pro-feline -- Switzerland's houses, for example, are home to an impressive 1.4 million cats but fewer than half a million of dogs.
Despite the high population numbers of some Asian countries, pets don't enjoy the same popularity there as they do in the West. For example, there are fewer than 11 million cats and 26.8 million dogs in China, despite the fact that the country has almost five times more people than the U.S. Japan has an impressive number, considering how small the country is -- 13.1 million dogs and 9.8 million cats.
Statistics for Africa are scarce because many countries cannot be properly surveyed. Poverty, social and political instability and other problems make pet ownership a less likely event in the continent. The WSPA estimates there are just 25,000 dogs living in homes in Chad -- and there are no statistics for cats. Ethiopia has a pet dog population of just 5 million, with just 250,000 cats. South Africa has the largest numbers, with 7.4 million dogs and 2 million cats. According to the survey, spaying and neutering is more common in developed African countries, because people have easier access to vets, the financial ability to pay for the surgery and the knowledge of how important the procedure is.
The Rest of the World
Statistics are lacking for much of South America and large parts of Oceania, except for Australia. Australia has a relatively low number of pets, in part because there are strict rules and regulations in place regarding pets -- according to the survey, there are 3.5 million dogs and 2.4 million cats in Australian households. Small islands in Oceania are hard to survey, and the WSPA has little information regarding how many pets share their lives with people there. In South America, Brazil leads the pack, with an impressive 30 million dogs and 14.7 million cats.
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.