Pets and Pet Ownership

These findings are sure to make you feel warm and fuzzy! Oregonians talk about pet ownership, service animals, and recent pet adoption.

From June 2–11, 2022, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including beliefs about pets and pet ownership. The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire (Q22–29). 

Recent Adoptions

One in three Oregonians adopted a pet since roughly the onset of the pandemic (34%), and one in three Oregonians have a close friend or family member who adopted a pet at the peak of COVID-related closures (32%) (Q22, Q23).

 In the past two years, many Oregonians have welcomed a new pet to the family, especially women and families or households with children (Q22). 

Nearly half of people with school-aged children at home adopted a new pet recently (47%), compared to 31% of other households (Q22). Women are more likely than men to have adopted a new pet (38% to 29%) (Q22).

Oregonians with household incomes of $100,000 per year or more are more likely to have a friend or family member that adopted a pet during COVID closures than people with lower incomes (41% to 29–31%) (Q23). Folks whose family or friends adopted a pet overwhelmingly say the pet seemed to make the person happier (85%) (Q23A). 

Did Covid-19 Influence Pet Adoption?

One in six Oregonians say COVID-related stress influenced their adoption (18%) (Q22B). 

One in four residents with children at home say the stress of the pandemic factored into their adoption decision (25%), compared to 15% of people without kids at home. 

“I was going to get a dog anyway, then COVID happened to go down. It ended up being very difficult to actually find an available one to rescue!” 

—Woman, age 30–44, Multnomah County, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

“Always important to my family, but never more so than during this pandemic.  I do not know. My wife and I could have gone crazy without them.” 

Man, age 55-64, Marion County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native, and White

“Some pets are a nice relief from mental pain. Other pets are just annoying and stressful all on their own.” 

—Man, age 18–29, Jackson County, Hispanic or Latino/a/x and white

Oregonians are More Fond of Dogs than Cats, But Not by Much

More Oregonians added dogs to their households than cats, but not by a large margin (49% to 40%) (Q22A). 

One in ten Oregonians broke from the traditional dog-cat route and adopted a different kind of pet (11%). People of all walks of life adopted dogs and cats at mostly comparable rates, although men were more likely to have adopted a dog than women (56% to 44%).

“Can’t equal the pure unconditional love provided by a dog.”

—Man, age 55-64, Lane County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White

“Cats are a mystic creature with compassionate tendencies.”

—Man, age 18-29, Union County, Black or African American and White

Only 4% of Oregonians Have Never Had a Pet

While one in three Oregonians adopted a pet within the past two years, two in three Oregonians have a pet at home (67%) (Q24). Just 4% of Oregon adults have never had a pet. 

Pet ownership is higher among women and people with children at home (72% and 78%) than among men and people without children in the home (61% and 64%). 

Laughter is the Best Medicine

People enjoy a variety of benefits from owning a pet, but the most universal experience is that pets make people laugh (93%) (Q24AA). Pets can also help people feel less lonely or reduce stress levels (86% and 85%) (Q24AB, Q24AC). This is especially true for women as compared to men (90% to 81% for loneliness and 88% to 79% for reducing stress). 

“People need to be more like pets: faithful, loyal, non-judgmental, protective and loving at all times.” 

—Woman, age 55–64, Yamhill County, Native American/American Indian/Alaska Native

Oregonians Agree: Pets are Family too

Nearly all Oregonians consider their pets part of their family (93%). And, as family members, most pets get to sleep in their owners’ beds (71%) (Q24B, Q24C). 

There are no notable demographic differences when it comes to regarding pets as family members (Q22B). 

Bed privileges vary somewhat. Homeowners, men, and people with high incomes are among the most likely to have a “not on the bed” rule (Q24C). 

34% of homeowners say pets are never, or only occasionally, allowed on the bed, compared to 19% of renters (Q24C). 33% of men won’t allow it, compared to 24% of women (Q24C). For people with incomes of $50,000 per year or less, just 21% say no pets on the bed. That figure climbs to 37% for people with incomes of $100,000 per year or more (Q24C). 

“Pets are just animals, they are not ‘fur babies.’ I like pets and I feed the strays, but people are too sensitive about animals these days.”

—Woman, age 65-74, Washington County, Native American, American Indian, or Alaska Native and White

Demographic Trends

Identifying what unites us, understanding what divides us.

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, urban and rural Oregonians, and age groups. Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives.  

Young adults, residents in rural areas, and BIPOC Oregonians are more likely to have adopted pets in the last two years (Q22). 

Nearly half of Oregonians under 30 adopted a pet recently, the largest percentage of any demographic group other than people with children in the home (47% each). Additionally, 40% of people 30-44 adopted a pet recently, and 37% of people 45–54 adopted in the same time frame. Adoption rates begin to peter off with Oregonians ages 55–74 (26–28%) and reach their lowest with seniors 75 and older (15%). 

Rural residents are 10 percentage points more likely to have adopted a pet in the past two years than urban residents (39% to 29%). Rural residents are also much more likely to own a pet at all (76%, compared to 58% for urban residents) (Q24). 

Although not by much, BIPOC Oregonians adopted more often than White folks over the last two years (41% to 32%).

Reasons for Not Owning a Pet

For BIPOC Oregonians, the most common reason for not currently owning a pet is that pets are not allowed where they live (24%). White Oregonians are significantly less likely to say restrictions where they live keep them from owning a pet (11%) (Q24D).

White residents are more likely than BIPOC residents to avoid pet ownership in order to make room for travel (20% vs. 5%).

BIPOC residents are more likely than white residents to have registered a pet as an emotional support animal for mental health reasons (19% vs. 11%) (Q27).

Are You a Dog or a Cat Person?

Those 54 or younger are among the most likely to adopt pets other than cats and dogs in the past two years, and people in their 30s and early 40s are among the most likely to adopt dogs (Q22A). 

About one in six people under 30 who adopted a pet recently chose an animal other than a cat or dog (17%), perhaps due to their living situations or other factors. Interestingly, many people 45–54 also opted for a different kind of animal (21%), even though there is no difference between households with or without children when it comes to these types of pets (13% to 11%). 

Just 4–6% of other age groups adopted a different type of pet. More than half of people aged 30–44 who adopted a pet in the last two years chose a dog, and the same percentage of people aged 65–74 also chose dogs (53% each). Dogs were popular choices for other age groups, too (38–52%), with people under 30 being the least likely to have adopted a dog. 

Pet Restrictions

One in three Oregonians under 30 and about say that a restriction where they live means they cannot have a pet (31%). Meanwhile, about one in four seniors 65 and older say they want to be able to travel without worrying about a pet (26-30%) (Q24D). 

One in five people 30–54 also say a restriction where they live impacts their ability to own a pet (20–21%). Older age groups do not typically face these restrictions (2–11%). 

While some people in their mid-50s to 60s also want to reserve the option to travel (19%), concerns about freedom to leave home are not prominent among younger age groups (5–9%).

“May I vent about pet rent/deposits? It is discriminatory that landlords are allowed to charge large, non-refundable fees for pets when children and adults can be just as destructive. This is an unfair burden on responsible families.”

—Woman, 45–54, Multnomah County, White

Oregonians 18–54 are more likely than older folks to have registered a pet as an emotional support animal for mental health reasons or to bring it with them to different places (Q26, Q27). 

One in four adults under 30 have registered a pet as an emotional support animal for mental health reasons (24%), more than any other age group (0–17%) (Q27). 

Additionally, 8% of Oregonians overall have registered a pet as an emotional support animal for the sole purpose of bringing it places. For people 18–55, 10–13% have registered a pet for this reason. For people 55 and older, 0–6% have done this (Q26).

Adopting a Pet During the Pandemic

While rural residents are more likely than urban residents to have adopted a pet in the past two years, it is urban residents who say stress from the pandemic factored into their decision (Q22B).          

More than one-quarter of urban residents say COVID-19-related stress definitely or somewhat influenced their decision (27%), compared to just 5% of rural residents. 

Some of this difference could be attributed to age distribution across the state. About one-quarter of people under the age of 45 also say stress was an adoption factor (24–25%), compared to 4–16% of people in other age groups. 

Methodology: The online survey consisted of 1,446 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

Statement of Limitations: Based on a 95% confidence interval, this survey’s margin of error for the full sample ±2.5%. Due to rounding or multiple answer questions, response percentages may not add up to 100%.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.