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01 Apr 2017

Pets Around the World

While dogs and cats are the undisputed leaders of the pet world, lots of other animals are also capable of being loved and domesticated. From fluffy bunnies and guinea pigs through to snakes, birds and tortoises, each culture develops its own favourite animal companions. Lifestyle differences and historical factors both influence a pet's regional popularity, with the dispersion of pets around the world offering a fascinating insight into humanity.

According to a Society for Consumer Research survey of over 27,000 respondents in 22 countries, 57 percent of people own pets. Dogs are the most popular pet globally, owned by 33 percent of respondents, with cats owned by 23 percent of people. Other popular pets include fish at 12 percent ownership and birds at 6 percent. According to separate figures from Live Science, people own over 142 million freshwater fish in the United States alone, making them more popular than both dogs and cats when counted on an individual basis. Reptiles such as snakes and lizards are also getting more popular, especially in the United Kingdom.  

Argentina has the highest rate of pet ownership in the world at a massive 82 percent, followed by Mexico at 81 percent and Brazil at 76 percent. Romania has the most balanced pet population, with 45 percent of households owning dogs and 45 percent owning cats. While pet owners in the west normally let their cats and dogs inside, South American and Asian pets are less likely to be allowed indoors. Dogs are considered unclean in many Muslim and Arab cultures, with animals rarely kept as pets across Africa.  

While dogs and cats definitely rule the roost across most of the world, plenty of other animals are also capable of offering great companionship. Bunnies, birds, and even crickets are extremely popular in Japan, thanks mostly to their small size and vegetarian diets. Cats are said to bring good luck in China and Hong Kong, with goldfish another popular option said to bring wealth and good fortune. Goldfish breeding began in China over 1,000 years ago, with more than 50 different goldfish breeds available today. Tortoises are highly prized pets in Taiwan and other parts of Asia, where they are associated with long life and have links with ancient mythology.

Dogs are much less popular in Muslim and Middle Eastern nations, with people more likely to own cats, birds, fish, bunnies, and turtles. Pigeons are especially popular in large modern cities such as Dubai and Kuwait, with Middle Eastern breeders often raising birds inside their homes in order to show them off at local competitions. Birds are also extremely popular in Brazil, where over 191 million birds are kept as pets, dwarfing any other nation. Mediterranean people have a special relationship with songbirds, including finches such as the canary which have been bred into numerous shapes and colours over the centuries.

Image source: Ermolaev Alexander /