You Had Me at Meow: A Portrait of Cat Ownership

According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2017-2018 survey, 47 million US households include 1 or more cats. Cats have purred their way into our hearts, second only to dogs in pet popularity. Cool cats have also taken over the online realm with apps that put cute kittens in your photos, memes to make you laugh, and celebrity felines followed by millions. Are you curious to find out more about the nine lives of cat lovers? Don’t be a scaredy-cat, this curiosity won’t kill you (and no cats were harmed in our survey). We won’t play cat and mouse with you – all the stats are right here. Read on as we let the cat out of the bag with the likes and dislikes of 1,000 US consumers who share their homes with cats.

Crazy Cat Ladies (and Dudes)

When asked what they call themselves, cat owner was the number one response chosen by 42% of respondents, the second most popular with 28% were both catMom/catDad and pet parent. FurMom/furDad was the choice of 17%, and crazy cat lady/man garnered 13%. Trailing far behind was pet guardian with 6% and animal guardian with 5%. 25% of respondents volunteer with cat-related non-profit organizations. This includes donating food/supplies to local animal shelters as well as volunteering their time helping with feral cat colonies, fostering cats, or working with low-cost spay/neuter programs.

The majority of respondents (54%) have lived with cats for 7+ years. 18% have had cats for 4-6 years, 19% for 2-3 years, 8% for 1 year, and 7% were newbie cat owners, having cats for less than one year. How many cats are living in the house? Most of our respondents have just one cat.

  • 47% – 1 cat
  • 30% – 2 cats
  • 12% – 3 cats
  • 5% – 6+ cats
  • 5% – 4 cats
  • 2% – 5 cats

By far, the primary reason for getting a cat was companionship chosen by 61% of the cat owners we surveyed. Other reasons included for your children (12%), wanted a pet that could be home alone (8%), companion for another pet (5%), pest control (3%), service animal (1%), and other (10%), 

Raining Cats and Dogs

57% of cat owners have other pets along with their cats. Going against conventional wisdom, 88% of homes with multiple types of pets had both cats and dogs. The next most popular pet to have along with cats was fish, chosen by 22%. 12% of cat homes also have birds. When asked how their cats get along with their other pets, it would appear that they are not fighting like cats and dogs. 

  • 43% – they are best friends
  • 56% – they tolerate each other
  • 6% – they can’t be in the same room

If you are like me and love a good story about a cat and dog friendship, check out the adventures of Henry and Baloo over on Instagram.

Finding the Purr-fect Companion

There are many options for finding a cat that will be the best companion for you. The cat owners we surveyed obtained their cats in several different ways. Top responses included from family or friends (36%), adopted from an animal shelter (35%), adopted from a private rescue organization (17%), purchased from a pet shop (5%), and purchased from a breeder (5%). Another 26% chose Other and the most popular other response was “took in a stray”.

Among those who adopted their cat, the most common reasons were “I love cats” and “They needed a home”. 76% of those adopting cats adopted one at a time, while 20% adopted a bonded pair, and 3% adopted three or more.

Among those who purchased their cat, here is what they told us were their reasons. 23% wanted a specific breed and when asked further stated this was due to knowing the temperament they would get. 21% wanted to know the health history of the parents, 20% plan to show their cat. 17% needed a hypoallergenic breed, and 11% wanted a cat for future breeding.

Just Kitten Around

The majority of our respondents (76%) got their cats when they were kittens. [Side note: this data provided me with a good reason to include a cute kitten photo in this post, as if I really needed a reason.] 29% brought a young adult into their home, 12% an adult, and 2% a senior. 

Here are some other fast facts about our respondents’ cats:

Hair length: short haired (85%), long-haired (30%), hairless (2%)

Where cat(s) live: inside (92%), outside (8%)

Sleeping spot: in the bed with owner (42%), in a different room (29%), in their own bed in owner’s bedroom (15%)

Most popular names: Kitty, Bella, Shadow, Callie

Cat Got Your Wallet

Cat owners love their cats and spend billions of dollars on them annually. According to the American Pet Products Association the number one expenditure is food. The choices of what to feed your cat are endless. Here is what our respondents’ cats are eating:

  • 95% – dry food
  • 63% – wet food in a can
  • 20% – wet food in a pouch
  • 3% – freeze-dried raw diet
  • 3% – frozen raw diet
  • 3% – other

Another expense for cat owners is cat litter and again, there are many varieties to choose. The top three types used by our respondents were clumping clay (70%), non-clumping clay (19%), and silica gel crystals (9%).

How much are cat owners spending each month on their cats? Most of our respondents (46%) spend $21-$50. 22% spend $51-$75, 17% spend less than $20, 9% spend $76-$100, 4% spend $100-$150, and 3% spend 150+ each month.

Taking care of cats involves more than food and litter, our respondents also use the following services to keep their cats happy and healthy:

  • 73% – veterinarian
  • 12% – groomer
  • 11% – pet sitter
  • 5% – webcam
  • 2% – behaviorist/trainer
  • 2% – animal communicator
  • 1% – chiropractor/acupuncturist
  • 15% – other

Don’t Stress Meowt

Cats are known to be finicky creatures filled with what some call cattitude. Whereas dogs aim to please, cats aim to please themselves. One of the most popular “other” responses to the what do you call yourself as a cat owner question was “servant”. Cats’ independent nature can lead in some instances to behavioral problems. 54.4% of the cat owners surveyed said their cat has some type of behavioral issue. Among those respondents, these were the issues they were facing: scratching furniture (29%), fear of loud noises (24%), accidents outside the litter box (18%), separation anxiety (11%), biting (10%), other (3%).

Cat behavioral issues have spawned a booming market for products that claim to lessen and in some cases stop various cat problems. Among our respondents who had cats with issues, the methods used to deal with them include: calming spray (21%), calming pheromone diffuser (11%), medication prescribed by vet (8%), calming collar (8%), CBD treats/oil (7%), and cat behaviorist (2%). An interesting side note here is that 43% chose “other” and most wrote in “none” or “nothing”. Looks like they were more than willing to deal with some bad behavior as it was most likely outweighed by their cat’s general awesomeness.

Feline Groovy

Sorry to start this section off on a down note, but you may have seen that Grumpy Cat (RIP), the most famous of the famous cats passed away recently. Loved by millions, Grumpy Cat will forever be an icon in the world of celebrity catdom. When asked what famous cats they follow on social media, Grumpy Cat was our respondents top pick.

47% – Grumpy Cat10% – Lil Bub the perma-kitten10% – Cole and Marmelade (rescue kittens)7% – Venus the two-faced kitten7% – Maru master of boxes5% – Monty (born without a nasal bridge)
4% – Garfi the world’s angriest cat3% – Honey Bee the blind hiking cat3% – Henri le chat noir3% – Shironeko the world’s happiest sleepiest cat3% – Samhaseyebrows

Along with celebrity cats to follow, there are also celebrities with cats. Taylor Swift and her adorable cats — Dr. Meredith Gray, Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button was the cat-loving celebrity most followed by our respondents. 

  • 15% – Taylor Swift
  • 12% – Miley Cyrus
  • 10% – Drew Barrymore
  • 9% – Martha Stewart
  • 8% – Norman Reedus
  • 7% – John Travolta
  • 7% – Cameron Diaz
  • 6% – Ricky Gervais
  • 5% – Penelope Cruz
  • 4% – Russell Brand

The Cat-clusions

Number one takeaway from this survey — cat lovers LOVE their cats. Aside from that, while cat owner was their top choice, it seems many don’t mind being called crazy cat ladies (or men). It is also good to know that cats and dogs can live together in harmony. Perhaps this bodes well for the US as a whole. Most of the cats loved by our respondents live inside, have short hair, eat dry food, see a veterinarian when needed, relieve themselves on clumping clay litter, and sleep in bed with their owner. There you have it – we will cat-ch ya later.

If you are interested in seeing the results of our similar survey of dog owners, you can find it here

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allie Smith
Allie Smith is the former Director of Charts for eMarketer with over 15 years of experience in the world of market research. Her love for charts and graphs is only outweighed by her love for her whippets. She spends her free time watching Law & Order reruns while knitting cute hats for dogs.