The big winners in the seattle pet adoption pandemic

It has been widely reported that animal adoption rates have risen during the pandemic across the country as people have spent more time at home and alone. Now we have some local data to back that up — and in the Seattle area, cats were the big winners.

According to data from market research giant Nielsen, the number of adults in the Seattle metro area who owned a cat jumped 18% in the first months of the pandemic, compared to a more modest 4% for dog owners.

854,000 Seattle-area adults said they owned a cat, according to data from surveys conducted between February and August 2020. That’s an increase of more than 130,000 compared to data for the same time period in 2019.

The larger increase in cat ownership makes sense for Brandon Maks, a PR specialist at Seattle Humane.

“It makes sense in this area where there are a lot of breed restrictions with respect to animals in rental units,” he said, “and of course we have a dearth of housing and many people who are not able to adopt these breeds, so sometimes it can be a lot easier.” Owning a cat.

Although the number of dog owners hasn’t increased nearly as much, there are still far more dog owners than cat owners on the subway. An expected 1.06 million adults said they owned a dog in the first half of 2020, up nearly 43,000 from the same period in 2019.

Far fewer people in our subway own other types of pets, but the data shows a significant increase in ownership of pets other than dogs or cats. The number of adults with another type of pet increased by 16% in the early pandemic, reaching 340,000.

The Seattle metro area includes King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The total number of adults is expected to reach 3.16 million in February-August 2020, an increase of 2% over 2019.

The increase in demand for pet adoptions across the country during the pandemic has had a significant impact on operations at Seattle Humane, according to CEO Christopher Ross.

“The number of animals being produced locally…was always supplemented by the number of animals being produced Ross said, noting that before 2020, about two-thirds of Seattle Humane Society’s animals came from other areas, primarily Texas. But there has been a huge local demand across the country for the animals during the pandemic, which has led to a significant drop in the number being brought into the Seattle area.

The supply shortage to meet animal demand rose around March 2020 and has remained consistently high since then at Seattle Humane. (But if you’re thinking of adopting a pet, Ross added that they have a lot of kittens and puppies coming this week.)

With the huge increase in cat ownership, about 27% of adults in the Seattle metro area cohabitate with a cat — that’s much higher than the average of 22% for metro areas in the United States. Roughly 34% of adults in the Seattle area own a dog, which puts us just below the national average of 36%.

I’m not taking sides, but I think you could argue that Seattle is more of a city for cats than it is for dogs (full disclosure: I have a cat).

However, we can’t hold a candle to the Spokane area, where 37% of adults own a cat, according to Nielsen data for the first half of 2020. That makes Spokane one of the best metros in the US for cat-owning.

A deep dive into the demographics of cat and dog ownership in the Seattle area shows some distinct differences between the two groups. There is some overlap of course. Data shows that approximately 300,000 people own a cat and a dog. So I looked at the data only for cat owners who don’t have dogs, and for dog owners who don’t have a cat.

It is more typical for a person who owns a dog to settle in the Seattle area for a bit, than it is for cat owners. Dog owners are, on average, slightly older than cat owners. They have a higher average household income. They are more likely to be married, to be the father of a child under the age of 18 and to own a home. They are also more likely to live in a single-family home or townhouse.

It seems reasonable. Sure, a dog is more business than a cat — sometimes people compare having a dog to having a baby. They need more attention, and a walk at least twice a day. And while plenty of city dwellers who live in apartments have a dog, it sure is a bonus to have a backyard for Lucy (the No. 1 dog name in our area, last time I checked) to run around in.

Interestingly, more women than men own either a cat or a dog in the Seattle metro—and data shows that’s true nationally, too.

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