It’s been widely reported that animal adoptions surged during the pandemic around the nation as folks spent more time at home and alone. Now we’ve got some local data to back that up — and in the Seattle area, cats came out the big winners.

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

A projected 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 when compared with data for the same time period in 2019.

The bigger increase in cat ownership makes sense to Brandon Macz, public relations specialist at Seattle Humane.

“It does make sense in this area where there are a lot of breed restrictions regarding animals in rental units,” he said, “and of course we have housing scarcity and a lot of people who are unable to adopt these breeds, so sometimes it can be a lot easier” to own a cat.

Even though the number of dog owners didn’t increase nearly as much, there are still significantly more dog owners than cat owners in our metro. A projected 1.06 million adults said they owned a dog in the first half of 2020, up by about 43,000 from the same period 2019.


Far fewer people in our metro own other types of pets, but the data shows a big increase in non-dog-or-cat pet ownership. The number of adults who have some other type of pet increased by 16% in the early pandemic, hitting 340,000.

The Seattle metro area includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The total number of adults is projected at 3.16 million in the February-to-August 2020 period, up by 2% from 2019.

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

“The number of animals being produced locally … was always being supplemented by the number of animals that were being transferred in from other markets,” Ross said, noting that before 2020, about two-thirds of Seattle Humane’s animals came from other regions, and in particular Texas. But there was so much local demand around the nation for animals during the pandemic that the number being brought into the Seattle area reduced drastically.

The lack of supply to meet the demand for animals spiked around March 2020 and has stayed consistently high since that at Seattle Humane. (But if you’re thinking of adopting a pet, Ross added that they have a lot of kittens and puppies coming in this week).

With the surge in cat ownership, about 27% of adults in the Seattle metro area now cohabitate with a cat — that’s well above the 22% average for U.S. metro areas. Close to 34% of Seattle-area adults own a dog, which puts us slightly below the national average of 36%.


I’m not taking sides, but I guess you could argue that makes Seattle more of a cat town than a dog town (full disclosure: I have a cat).

Even so, we can’t hold a candle to the Spokane area, where 37% of adults have a cat, according to Nielsen’s data for the first half of 2020. That makes Spokane one of the top U.S. metros for cat ownership.

A deeper dive into the demographics of Seattle-area cat and dog ownership shows some clear distinctions between the two groups. There is some overlap, of course. The data shows nearly 300,000 people own both a cat and dog. So I looked at the data just for cat owners who don’t have a dog, and for dog owners who don’t have a cat.

It’s more typical for a person who owns a dog in the Seattle area to have settled down a bit, when compared with cat owners. Dog owners are, on average, a little bit older than cat owners. They have a higher median household income. They are much more likely to be married, to be a parent of a kid under 18 and to own a home. They are also more likely to live in a single-family home or a town house.

It makes sense. A dog is certainly more work than a cat — sometimes people even compare having a dog to having a kid. They need more attention, and at least a couple of walks per day. And while plenty of apartment-dwelling urbanites have a dog, it’s definitely 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 the data shows that holds true nationally, as well.