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What is the most wanted pet?

When it comes to choosing a pet, there are many factors to consider before deciding which one is right for your family and lifestyle. Some of the most popular pets today include dogs, cats, fish, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, snakes, lizards, turtles, horses, and even chickens! But when looking at overall pet ownership statistics, which animal comes out on top as the most wanted and owned pet? Let’s explore some quick facts and figures about today’s favorite furry, feathery and scaly friends.


Man’s best friend holds the number one spot when it comes to preferred pets. According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 70 million US households own a dog. This equates to around 90 million pet dogs total in the United States. Some quick reasons why dogs take the top position:

  • Dogs have been domesticated as companions for thousands of years. They are loyal, affectionate, and trainable.
  • With hundreds of dog breeds to choose from, there is a perfect dog for any family.
  • Dogs are active and enjoy exercise, games, training, and outdoor adventures with their families.
  • Dogs provide security, protection, assistance, and therapeutic benefits to households.
  • The dog-human bond tends to be very strong due to their social nature and dependence.

It’s easy to see why the dog has held the #1 pet spot for so long. Their unique ability to bond closely with humans while providing practical benefits gives them an edge over other domestic animals. As pack animals, dogs thrive when they can be included in family activities and feel like they have a purpose through work, training, or companionship.


Independent yet affectionate, cats are the second most popular pet with around 58 million households owning a feline friend. Here’s a quick look at why cats make the top pet list:

  • Cats have been domesticated since ancient times to control rodents and pests.
  • Selective cat breeding has produced many types of cats from Siamese to Maine Coon to hairless Sphinx.
  • Cats are self-cleaning and easily litter box trained, making care easy.
  • Cat don’t require walking like dogs and are content indoors.
  • Cats are playful and entertaining with their hunting behaviors.
  • Their independent nature fits busy modern lifestyles.

Cats tend to have a more aloof and independent personality than dogs, but still enjoy human interaction on their own terms. Their cleanliness, compact size, and lower maintenance needs make them an adaptable pet for many families and living situations.


Beautiful, relaxing, and mesmerizing – it’s no wonder fish round out the top three most common pets. Around 12 million US households keep freshwater or saltwater fish tanks. Let’s dive into some quick facts on their popularity:

  • Watching fish swim provides calming relaxation and stress relief.
  • Caring for fish tanks can be an engaging hobby for all ages.
  • Thousands of unique fish species offer variety and interest.
  • Fish are quiet and kept safely contained in aquariums or ponds.
  • Small tanks can fit anywhere from desktops to hospitals and waiting rooms.

The vibrant colors, graceful motions, and aquatic tranquility that fish provide is unmatched. Fish require less daily interaction than dogs or cats, but successful aquarium keeping does involve proper tank maintenance and care. Overall fish make the top wanted pets list for their visual beauty and relaxing qualities.


From parrots to parakeets, canaries to cockatiels, birds are the 4th most common household pet owned by around 12 million US families. Let’s look at some fast facts on bird companionship:

  • Birds are highly intelligent, social, and can bond closely with owners.
  • Their bright plumage and songs bring cheerful energy to a home.
  • Teaching birds to talk or do tricks is enjoyable for bird lovers.
  • Watching them fly freely around a room or aviary is fascinating.
  • Small bird cages fit well in apartments and homes.

Birds provide a unique way to interact with a pet – through flight, mimicry of speech, and intellectual challenges. Caring properly for birds does require research and preparation for their specialized needs. But for dedicated bird owners, the rewards of sharing life with a feathered companion are great.

Small Animals

Rounding out the top most common household pets are small mammals like rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, rats, mice, and gerbils. Here are some fast small animal facts:

  • Over 5 million US households own a small animal like a rabbit or rodent.
  • Their small size and cage housing makes them apartment-friendly.
  • Mammals like rabbits offer cuddly companionship and play.
  • Rats and mice are highly intelligent and can learn tricks.
  • Watching active hamsters run on exercise wheels is entertaining.

Small animals appeal to adults and children alike for their cute appearance and personalities. Their lifespans of 2-8 years is much shorter than cats/dogs, meaning more frequent pet turnover. Proper cage sizes and enrichment are essential for small pets to thrive indoors.

Exotic Pets

Moving beyond traditional pets, approximately 5.7 million U.S. households own a more exotic pet like a snake, lizard, turtle/tortoise, or small animal like a chinchilla, hedgehog, or sugar glider possum. Why do exotic pets appeal to experienced pet owners?

  • Unique appearance, behaviors, and needs.
  • Conversation starter when people meet the pet.
  • Enjoyment of learning about and providing proper care.
  • Interaction with animals not commonly kept as pets.

Owning an exotic pet requires extensive research before bringing the animal home to meet very specific housing and diet requirements. Local laws may also prohibit ownership of certain exotics like monkeys, exotic cats, venomous animals, or native wildlife. But for qualified owners willing to properly care for them, exotic pets can be interesting companions.

Farm Animals

Traditional farm animals like horses, chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, and cows are also finding their way into family life as unique pets. Let’s look at some quick farm animal pet facts:

  • Over 2 million households own horses, whether kept at home or boarded at a facility.
  • Backyard poultry like chickens and ducks provide fresh eggs and pet potential.
  • Goats and pigs are highly intelligent and bond closely with owners.
  • Cows produce ample milk when frequently bred and make gentle giants.
  • Farm animals allow families to experience a “country” lifestyle.

Caring for traditional livestock takes extensive commitment to provide proper housing, feeding, health management, training, and space to roam. Local zoning laws may limit or prohibit farm animal ownership too. The substantial investment in time, space, facilities and veterinary care makes farm animal pet ownership challenging but rewarding for animal lovers.

Most Popular Pets – By the Numbers

Now that we’ve covered quick facts on today’s favorite pet types, let’s look at some statistics on the actual numbers of the most commonly owned pets:

Pet Number of U.S. Households Owning
Dogs 70 million
Cats 58 million
Fish 12 million
Birds 12 million
Small animals 5 million
Reptiles 4.7 million
Horses 2.25 million

Based on overall pet ownership, dogs come out as the most popular pet with 70 million households having a furry canine friend at home. Cats follow closely behind with 58 million households, then fish and birds nearly tie with 12 million households each. Small animals and reptiles have niche followings of 5-4.7 million pet-owning homes. And around 2.25 million U.S. households have the facilities and resources to care for a horse as part of the family.

Most Desired Dog Breeds

Since dogs rank #1 overall as America’s most wanted pet, which specific dog breeds rank at the top of wish lists for prospective owners? According to 2021 AKC registration statistics, here are the top 5 most desired dog breeds that families bring home:

Dog Breed Annual AKC Registrations
Labrador Retriever 89,994
French Bulldog 69,929
Golden Retriever 62,783
German Shepherd 50,466
Poodle 41,275

The friendly, active Labrador Retriever holds the #1 spot as most popular dog for the past 30 years running! Labs make wonderful family companions with their affectionate personality and versatility. French Bulldogs have recently skyrocketed to the #2 spot due to their fun smooshy faces and moderate exercise needs. Classic choices like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Poodles also make the top 5 due to their intelligence, trainability, and loyalty. Across 175 AKC recognized breeds, these top dogs dominate as America’s most desired canine pets.

Most Popular Cat Breeds

Now switching the spotlight to felines – which cat breeds top the charts as most sought-after? The Cat Fancier’s Association tracks cat breed popularity and registrations. Here are the current top 5 entrants:

Cat Breed CFA Registrations
Exotic Shorthair 64,694
Persian 43,162
Ragdoll 30,268
British Shorthair 24,947
Maine Coon 24,326

With their teddy bear faces, squishy bodies, and playful personality Exotic Shorthairs clinch the top spot for desired cat breed. Elegant long-haired Persians come next as a classic luxurious feline. The affectionate, laid-back Ragdoll cat claims #3 and continues rising. British Shorthairs and Maine Coons round out the top 5 with their beautiful coats and family-friendly temperaments. Among 71 recognized breeds, these pedigreed kitties rank highest on wish lists of cat lovers across the country.


Reviewing pet ownership statistics and registration data makes it clear that dogs are the #1 most wanted and loved pet animal in America. Man’s best friend dominates households from coast to coast thanks to their trainable, affectionate nature and ability to bond tightly with families. Labrador Retrievers lead the pack as the quintessential family canine companion. While independent, entertaining cats hold second place overall with millions of fans beguiled by their amusing antics and soft fur. When it comes to picking a pet for pleasure and companionship, you really can’t go wrong with a dog or cat by your side. They top the charts as America’s most cherished domestic animals according to the numbers.