How Many Companion Animals Are Too Many?
Recently Los Angeles, CA city council members raised a motion to increase the number of companion animals an individual is allowed to have in his or her household, specifically from three to five. This proposal had me wondering how many people might actually choose to have more than three companion animals in their household and what animals live in U.S. households.
Most U.S. households share their homes with at least one companion animal. According to a poll by Harris Interactive, 63% of U.S. households have at least one companion animal. Similar rates of living with companion animals have been found in Northern Ireland. However, the trend to live with animals is not universal. A study by Naikakufu Daijinkambou found that even though 66% of Japanese citizens like companion animals, only 37% actually live with one.
In the U.S., most people are living with cats and dogs. There are an estimated 82 million cats and 72 million dogs living in U.S. households. The aforementioned poll by Harris Interactive also found that, among those who live with one or more companion animal, 74% live with dogs and 46% live with cats. People also live with fish, birds, horses, rabbits, rodents, turtles, and lizards, though these animals are less popular companions (see Figure 1). Given that there are a greater number of cats living in U.S. households, but that a larger percentage of people who live with companion animals live with dogs, many people with cats are likely to live with more than one cat.
In general, most people who share their homes with companion animals live with more than one. Among the population living with animals, 65% live with two or more animals (see Figure 2). And people are willing to live with more than three animals, as the proposed Los Angeles legislation presumes; over a quarter of those who live with companion animals live with four or more. This is notable, considering many cities and towns have limits on the number of animals that can live in a single household. Who knows how many companion animals people would share their homes with in the absence of these restrictions?