Let the Fur Fly: What Are the Best Cities for Dog Lovers and for Cat Lovers?

Which side are you on?  America is bitterly divided into two warring groups these days. One is welcome in your home and considered family. The other is despicable and makes your blood boil.

So cough it up: Are you a you dog person or a cat person? And don’t give us that independent voter nonsense—we know you have a preference. Everyone does.

Catios or dog runs? Aloof cuddliness or goofy rambunctiousness? Automated litter boxes or hands-free, app-controlled pooper-scoopers?

Surprise: The camp you find yourself in might just help determine where you should live. As the animal-loving realtor.com®data team found out, some metros are particularly welcoming to canines and the folks who adore ’em—while others are hot spots for full-on feline frenzy.

One thing’s for sure: Pet ownership is climbing across the United States. Something about the current state of the nation seems to spur more of us to seek solace in turning to our clawed, furred, or taloned friends. They’re warm, loyal, and—canaries aside—almost never tweet.

In terms of popularity, dog lovers dominate. Around 54 million American households have at least one, compared to 43 million households that have at least one cat, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

“The best cities for pet lovers really take into account the human-animal bond,” says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club. So where should dog or cat lovers go to forge those ties?

We took the 150 largest metros and then analyzed a wide variety of pet data. We only included one metro per state, for geographic diversity. Our criteria included:

  • Percentage of single-family homes on realtor.com with dog-related home features (i.e., doggie doors) or cat-related features (i.e., catios)
  • Pet services per capita, including boarding, photography, and stores*
  • Veterinarians per capita*
  • Dog walkers per capita*
  • Percentage of restaurants that allow dogs*
  • Percentage of realtor.com rental listings that allow dogs or cats
  • Google searches for “cats” and “dogs”
  • State dog and cat ownership rates*

We found that, as with politics, pet preference is local. Regional predilections abide. New England is crazy about felines—the region had three of the top five cat-loving cities. Vermont and Maine have the highest rates of cat ownership in the country (those furballs help keep you toasty during those frigid winter nights). Meanwhile, the wide open spaces, mild weather, and outdoorsy/crunchy lifestyles out West seem tailor-made for pooches—three cities on the West Coast ranked highest for canines and the people who can’t live without ’em.

“The West Coast is far more climatically friendly [to dogs], especially if you like going to dog parks and schmoozing with other owners every weekend, even in the winter,” says Marc Morrone, host of the now-cancelled “Petkeeping With Marc Morrone” on Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “The East Coast is freezing in the winter, and a lot of dogs don’t like to go outside in the cold city streets.”

Oh, and there’s this: “Cats are so much less work than dogs.” They don’t need to be walked and can live happily in itty-bitty spaces.

Got it? Grab your leashes, and let’s take a look, starting with the best havens for hounds.

1. Austin, TX

Dog ownership rate: 44%
Median home list price: $372,000

The whole “Keep Austin weird” thing isn’t just for homo sapiens—there’s plenty of seductive oddness for canines here as well. Is Humbert the husky seeming a bit angsty lately? Help him achieve a higher level of consciousness with a few sessions of mongrel yoga at Austin Doga. Does Cherry the chihuahua seem eager to strut her stuff and show off that knockoff Louis Vuitton collar? Let her vogue out at the annual Chihuahua Beauty Pageant.

“In Austin, you can take your dogs everywhere,” says Troy Pfeifer, co-owner of the Sit Means Sit dog training branch in the city. “There are no shortage of bars, restaurants that allow dogs.” There are reportedly over 200 eateries and 60 hotels here that allow furry companions (and no, beards don’t count).

There’s even an outlet mall near Pfeifer’s home that allows pups to peruse most of the stores. Let’s hope the majority of visitors aren’t big shedders.

Pfeifer says the dog craze shows no sign of slowing down in Austin. After living here for a year, he decided to quit an office job and open his doggie training center in 2011. The business has taken off, and he now trains more than a 1,000 dogs a year.

A standout among the many dog runs and parks is Red Bud Isle, a sweet spot where canines and their owners bond over refreshing dips in the lake.

It’s also worth noting that this is also the largest no-kill city in the United States for unclaimed pets, according to a local advocacy group, Austin Pets Alive.

2. Reno, NV

Dog ownership rate: 37.1%
Median home list price: $422,500

As the gateway to both Lake Tahoe vacationers and travelers to the annual Burning Man festival, Reno is accustomed to hosting an eclectic crowd. So it’s no wonder that nearly all breeds, ranging from Labrador retrievers to shih-tzus, are popular in this city, according to the American Kennel Club. Diversity rules!

And for owners looking for a fun afternoon and a chance to make a difference, there’s the DogFest Walk ’n Roll, a charity walk whose proceeds go to the Canine Companions for Independence—a group that provides assistance dogs free of charge to adults and children with disabilities.

3. Salinas, CA

Dog ownership rate: 32.8%
Median home list price: 
$904,500

Need a nosh after a long run through the park? Then stop by SUR at The Barnyard. We highly recommend the poached free-range chicken breast. If it’s a truly special occasion, then try the black-and-blue charred rare filet mignon tips with a wedge of Point Reyes blue cheese. Oh, wait—did we mention that this is the doggie menu?

So the dogs eat better than you do in the area around Salinas (and more than one in five restaurants in the town allow canine companions). Doggie love has a long history in Salinas. The town’s most famous son, John Steinbeck, chronicled a 1960 road trip around the United States with his standard poodle in the book “Travels With Charley.”

“People love walking their dogs on Pebble Beach, which has such beautiful views,” says Billy Quon, founder of SUR at The Barnyard. “There are endless trails here to take your dog hiking.”

Nearby, the charming oceanside town of Carmel is home to the Cypress Inn, an upscale hotel which allows dogs throughout the premises. Co-owned by actress and animal activist Doris Day, the hotel was once named “the most famous dog-friendly hotel in the country” by Sunset magazine. We don’t know exactly what that means, but expect plenty of Akita and Egyptian pharaoh hound sightings.

As for Billy Quon’s miniature schnauzer, named Sport, he has a particular fondness for the half-pound all-beef patty at SUR. Good call, Sport.

4. Denver, CO

Dog ownership rate: 42.5%
Median home list price: 
$499,500

What better way to relax after a hard week’s work than a trek with your pooch? Dog owners in Denver don’t have to go far. Want to stay near downtown? Head to Platte River Greenway Trail. Looking for snow-capped mountain views? Grab your leash and drive 50 miles to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

On your hike, you’re likely to run into some noticeably large canines. Denver is something of a hub for Bernese mountain dogs, Great Danes, and Siberian huskies.

The Colorado Kennel Club has hosted dog shows for more than 115 years. Its members know their stuff. When the hiking trails are snowed over in February, head over to the group’s Dog Days of Denver Showcase of the Performing Arfs.” During the three-day dog show, you’ll see more than 150 dog breeds.

5. Portland, OR

Dog ownership rate: 38.8%
Median home list price: 
$450,000

If Portlanders have a craft beer in one hand, then the other is holding a leash. Who can blame them? The region is among the country’s leaders for dog parks, with 33 major off-leash areas.

Of course, all dog owners thinks their dog is the cutest. So put your Toto or Lassie to the test and compete in Portland’s Next TopDog Model contest, hosted by the Oregon Humane Society. The competition is fierce. In 2012, a poodle with “rasta-poodle dreadlocks” took home the top prize. Last year’s winner was a three-legged, rescue pit bull named Jenny.

Rounding out the top 10 best metros for dog lovers were Seattle, WAOklahoma City, OKTucson, AZAnn Arbor, MI; and Raleigh, NC.

OK, now let’s take a tour of the best municipalities for mousers.

1. Albany, NY

Cat ownership rate: 29.1%
Median home list price: $422,500

Looking for the perfect palace for you and your pussy partner? The capital city of New York deserves a close look. Homeowners here have taken extraordinary steps to making their homes kitten-friendly, with the latest decor. Yes, cat patios are real. Finding those pesky mice is a lot easier from atop your cat ladder. Paw-sitively claw-some, say local felines.

If you’re looking to meet up with other cat lovers, try the Orange Street Cats annual Kitty Bowl, where mavens unite at the local bowling alley to raise money for a local animal shelter. Or swing by Happy Cat Rescue—an animal shelter that brings in abandoned cats from all over the country. “We always have cats looking for new homes,” says Marcia Scott, the shelter’s president.

2. Eugene, OR

Cat ownership rate: 40.2%
Median home list price: $325,000

OK, so raising a kitty isn’t quite the same as a baby, no matter how much cat people might try to convince you otherwise. But that doesn’t mean it is completely effort-free, either. So living somewhere with a lot of pet services, like Eugene, is a big plus.

Leaving town for the weekend? Drop your kitten off at a myriad of boarding facilities, for example, Willamette Valley Dog & Cat Motel, Auntie’s Cat Kennels, or Kitty Cat Hotel. Want some cute pictures of Travis the Turkish angora? Set up a photo shoot with Dream Storm Photography, a local specialist in pet portraits.

3. Seattle, WA

Cat ownership rate: 39%
Median home list price: $485,000

Seattle is more than just the coffee capital of the U.S. It’s also one of the country’s prime cat meccas.

At Seattle Meowtropolitan, those two local favorites can be found in one place: You can order your favorite java and pastry and then snuggle up to a purring cat. And if you like the animal enough, you can take it home. The cat cafe, which opened in late December 2015, partners with a local shelter to find these felines homes.

“Before we opened, we did our research [and found] Seattle is very cat-friendly, the ideal place for this,” says Louisa Liu, co-founder of Seattle Meowtropolitan.

If you’re looking to adopt a cat, you should also mark your calendar for Black Friday: The day after Thanksgiving, Seattle Humane waives adoption fees. For black cats, that is.

4. Portland, ME

Cat ownership rate: 46.4%
Median home list price: $340,000

If you want to stretch out on your yoga mat while an adorable, adoptable tomcat meows in your ear, you’d better be quick. Tickets to kitty yoga go fast. We’re talking Hamilton fast.

“Kitten yoga is something new we started this year. It sells out within a day or two after posting the registration link,” says Jeana Roth, director of community engagement at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland. “We have about 15 kittens in the room bouncing and roaming. It’s a lot of fun. And it raises money for our adoption program.” The kittens are all rescue animals.

5. Manchester, NH

Cat ownership rate: 34.2%
Median home list price: $314,900

The region’s love for cats made it easy for Cathy Hilscher to open up a pet store dedicated solely to her favorite animal.

“If you go into a big pet store, only one or two aisles are for cats—meanwhile … nine aisles are for dogs, and sometimes entire rooms are for fish or birds,” says Hilscher, owner of Cats Kingdom. “My store is two stories exclusively for cats. Nothing against dogs; I just have a special place in my heart for these creatures.”

Hilscher offers premium foods and environmentally friendly cat goods. Unexpectedly, her store has become a hot spot for the younger crowd.

“Millennials are not choosing to have kids right away,” Hilscher says, or choosing not to have kids at all. The cat scene, she says, is more the niche for them in Manchester than dogs. “They want their cats to be like their kids.”

The rest of the top 10 metros for cat obsessives are Oklahoma City, OKStockton, CAAustin, TXReno, NV; and Lexington, KY

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