Global Trends in the Pet Population

What you need to know

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There are currently billions of pets worldwide

Families in the US, Brazil, EU and China alone account for nearly 1 billion pets and more than half the world is estimated to have a pet at home.

Pet ownership is rising globally,

particularly in millennial households, which tend to be smaller families and have children later in life.

Pet ownership leads to improved human health outcomes

for people including better heart health, lower levels of depression and anxiety, and more.

Pet ownership

The ownership of cats and dogs has been steadily increasing across the globe, including in emerging economies.

How many pets are there in the world?

Sources1AVMA – Pet Ownership & Demographic 2018 PDF,2,3–sullivan-chinese-pet-owners-spend-an-average-of-rmb3-969-per-year-300823597.html,4,5,6,7,8[/mfn],8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18

How many people own a pet?

Billions of households around the world are unified by a common theme – pet ownership. Sharing your home with a pet is a common language that cuts across country and culture.

More than half of the More than half of the global population is estimated to have a pet at home.19

Families in the US, EU, Brazil and China alone have 841 million pets.have over 1 billion pets.

Globally, dogs are the most popular pet, present in around one in three homes. Almost a quarter of pet owners have a cat.21

Pet Growth

The evidence is clear – pet populations worldwide are rising and there is little indication it will slow down anytime soon.

Why is pet ownership on the rise?

Demographic changes, rising income levels and the Covid-19 pandemic have driven more people to adopt pets.

  • More than two million people adopting a pet during the UK’s pandemic lockdowns.22
  • China’s rising pet ownership levels coincided with a relaxation of pet ownership regulations and a falling birth rate.
  • Rising levels of disposable income in key markets is also being spent on acquiring and caring for pets.
  • Pets play increasingly important roles in single-person households, in families without children and for couples whose children have grown up and left the family home.

Demographic changes, rising income levels and the Covid-19 pandemic have driven more people to adopt pets.

“There has been a huge change in the culture of pet ownership, and this will also occur in emerging markets – South-East / South Asia, Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe.”

Dr Shane Ryan, Veterinarian and Past President, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

What are the emerging markets for pet ownership?

Growth is most evident in those countries which are witnessing the expansion of the “middle class”, which is also contributing to shifting attitudes and the emergence of a new “pet culture” based around the increased humanization of pets and increased number of pets kept for companionship alone.

In China, a relaxation of pet ownership regulations and a falling birth rate were additional contributors to an increase in pet ownership. Pet ownership increased there by 8.2% in 2017 alone23 and the pet industry was the fastest growing sector in 2020.24 Elsewhere in Asia, pet ownership in South Korea grew from 5 million to 7.5 million between 2014 and 2018.25

“Pet ownership has a lot to do with disposable income. Because of that, fast-advancing countries, like the Asian countries, but also Eastern Europe will certainly see further increase of pet ownership.”

Dr. Wolfgang Dohne, Veterinarian and Senior Vice President, Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations

What age groups are driving pet population growth?

Trends in pet ownership are closely linked to global demographic changes.

  • Millennials, adults between their early 20s and late 30s, represent a growing constituency of pet owners as they are more likely to have children later in life, work from home or in hybrid formats and have a higher income and level of education.26
  • In the United States, millennials now account for a third of all pet owners, the largest proportion of any generation.27
  • In the UK, 35% of millennials report owning a pet or planning on adding one in the near future.28
  • Older age groups are also increasingly likely to have pets for the companionship and health benefits that companion animals can provide.

Early analysis also shows that Gen Z, despite their young age, represents a growing segment of pet owners (14% in the USA) and may continue the ‘pet boom’ that has accelerated in recent years.29

In the United States, millennials now account for a third of all pet owners.

“The really emerging demographic is the millennial couple first-time pet owners. Before having a child, they’re going to adopt a pet. That’s the training wheels for them to become parents.”

Alex Douzet, CEO, Pumpkin Pet Insurance, USA

What challenges can the growing pet population create?

More people are recognising and enjoying the positive benefits of companion animals but this also brings animal health issues to the fore.

  • A growing global pet population means an increase in veterinary caseloads. Almost half of practices reported an increase in a 91-country survey.30
  • This places greater strain on veterinarian and their practices, which recent surveys show is taking a significant toll on veterinary mental health.
  • Increased demand also creates the risk of irresponsible breeding practices to increase supply.

A growing global pet population means an increase in veterinary caseloads. Almost half of practices reported an increase in a 91-country survey.

Pet abandonments are also on the rise. Up to eight million animals enter rescue shelters every year in the US, with about half of these eventually euthanized.31

However, industry data found that fears of a ‘pet abandonment’ crisis following the pandemic pet boom has not come to fruition. Rehoming levels were actually down in 2021 vs 2019, both in real figures and as a proportion of animal populations.32Data from PetPoint

“We know that the cat population [in Brazil] is growing three times faster than dogs. We have a lot of big cities here in Brazil, people living in apartments, delaying having children, they don’t have children as soon as they get married.”

Leonardo Brandao, DVM, Pet Health Industry Regional Manager, Brazil

The Human-Animal Bond

Studies have shown time and time again – pet ownership leads to better health outcomes for people.

What health benefits do pets provide to people?

Pet ownership provides a range of therapeutic, physiological, psychological, and psychosocial benefits to owners.33 These include:

  • Decreased blood pressure.
  • Reduced risk of heart attacks.
  • Increased physical activity.
  • Increased sensory stimulation, emotional support.
  • A stronger sense of physical and psychological well-being.

Pet ownership has also been strongly linked with a reduction in healthcare costs in the US, contributing to fewer visits to doctors and improved general health.34

Studies have also shown that these benefits remain even when adjusted for demographic, socioeconomic factors, education, medication use, etc.,35 showing that the link between pet ownership and better health is persistent and strong.

“Pets are healthier and well cared for because their status has changed…as we’re more attuned to our own wellness, it translates to those we love around us.”

Dr Siraya Chunekamrai, President, World Small Animal Veterinary Association

How do pets improve our health?

Researchers attribute the clear link between pet ownership and improved health to:36

Increased levels of outdoor physical activity that often accompany pet ownership (e.g. regular dog walking).

The sustained mental health benefits brought on by pet companionship.

Greater exposure to germs that can ‘favourably alter the gut microbiome of an owner’.

This is why the American Heart Association has stated that dog ownership “may have some causal role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk” and “may be reasonable for reduction in cardiovascular disease risk”.37

Case Study –
The Impact of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on pet ownership, as shown in recent research by Animal Medicines Australia. There has been a steady rise in pet ownership in the country, with the number of Australian households owning pets having increased from 61 percent in 2019, to 69 percent in 2021. This means the total number of pets in Australia has increased from 28.5 million in 2019 to 30.4 million in 2021.

Millions of Australians decided to adopt a pet during the pandemic, adding more than a million dogs to the total pet population, rising from 5.1 million owned dogs in 2019 to 6.34 million in 2021. The pandemic has been a key motivator for pet ownership, with 19 percent of dogs and 24 percent of all cats owned by Australians acquired since the beginning of the pandemic.

New owners stated that owning a new pet during the pandemic was not a spontaneous decision, however, but that pandemic restrictions had helped to “on-board” a pet that they had previously wanted, such as through greater time spent at home, for instance.


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