The Italians love their birds, the French love their reptiles and the Turkish love their fish – and we all love our cats and dogs… we take a look at pet ownership trends in Europe and speculate on why the pet population is increasing?

Over 70 Million households across Europe own at least one pet, and this includes 25% cats and 26% dogs. Irish households own less that the average with 20% having a dog and 14% a cat (compared to 24% dogs and 19% cats in the UK). Romania tops the chart with a whopping 45% of households owning a cat or dog.

The Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) in the UK commissions a pet population report each year, which looks in detail at pet ownership trends. It’s worth a read: http://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2014/

Pet population stats

Russians own the most dogs (about 12 and a half million), cats and small mammals (e.g. hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs); but you’ve got to remember that Russia also has by far the largest people population in Europe so it makes sense that they own the most pets. However, if you look at how many Russian households own a dog as a percent of the population, for example, it’s quite low compared to some other European countries. We’ve made it easy for you to compare countries by compiling the stats from the FEDIAF into the user-friendly tables below (the tables rank both dog and cat ownership in Europe from highest to lowest).

  • Russians own the most dogs (12.5 Million), followed by the UK (8.5 Million) and Poland and France (7.4 Million)
  • Russians own the most cats (18 Million), followed by France (11.4 Million), the UK (8.5 Million) and Germany (8.2 Million).
  • Italians own the most ornamental birds at nearly 13 Million
  • The Turkish own the most ornamental fish at 2.8 Million
  • The French own the most reptiles (e.g. lizards, turtles, snakes) at 2.7 Million
  • The Russians own the most small mammals (5.8 Million), closely followed by the Germans (5.3 Million)


Between 2001 and 2013 small dogs have grown a lot in popularity in the UK and large dogs have seen a similar decrease in popularity. Medium sized dogs’ popularity has stayed more or less the same.

Country

% of households owning one or more dogs

Country

% of households owning one or more cats

Romania

45

Romania

45

Czech
Republic

41

Latvia

40

Lithuania

37

Hungary

36

Poland

37

Norway

34

Hungary

33

Slovenia

33

Portugal

32

Lithuania

32

Slovenia

30

Russia

31

Slovakia

27

Austria

29

Spain

26

Poland

29

Latvia

25

Estonia

27

Belgium

24

France

27

Bulgaria

24

Belgium

26

United
Kingdom

24

Netherlands

24

Estonia

23

Finland

23

Finland

23

Switzerland

23

Italy

22

Czech
Republic

22

Denmark

21

Bulgaria

20

France

21

Italy

20

Ireland

20

Portugal

20

Norway

20

Spain

19

Netherlands

18

United
Kingdom

19

Russia

18

Denmark

18

Greece

14

Sweden

17

Germany

13

Germany

16

Sweden

13

Ireland

14

Austria

12

Greece

13

Switzerland

11

Slovakia

12

Turkey

6

Turkey

9

What social trends are driving pet ownership?

A really interesting study from James A Serpell on How Social Trends Influence Pet Ownership speculates that people are using non-human social support to compensate for a breakdown in traditional social support systems due to urbanisation. For example:

  • More people are living alone these days, especially in cities
  • More people are choosing not to have children, or to have less children (maybe choosing to be a pet parent instead?)
  • There’s a higher rate of divorce
  • People have fewer close relatives nearby that they can rely on for support
  • People are less involved in local communities
  • There’s a deterioration of friendships – people are too busy at work and have less time to socialise and so lose touch with their buddies.

It’s no wonder a companion animal is so attractive. And it also explains a lot about the trend in pet humanisation. But that’s for another day…