It’s True: Queer Women Own The Most Cats

Welcome to our very first post containing information drawn from the 2018 Autostraddle Lesbian Stereotypes Survey! Over 12,000 people completed the survey, and these are the demographics of the respondents:

We’re kicking off our analysis with a topic near and dear to the hearts of far too many of us: pet ownership. Specifically, is it true that “lesbians love cats”? My friends — it’s… mostly true. Despite 26% of Europeans and 12% of Americans being allergic to cats, including me, queer women and non-binary people continue obtaining, raising, and loving cats with absolute abandon, at relatively significant rates. Conversely, despite the general excellence exhibited by dogs throughout human history and the superiority embodied by my dog Carol specifically, queer women and non-binary people are not more likely to own dogs than your average everyday heterosexual Jo. (jk there are no heterosexual Jos).

Overall Pet Ownership

Before we get too deep into this important news, let us first declare that we are also a little bit more likely to own pets in general. 68.6% of U.S. residents on our survey said they own at least one pet, compared to 62% of all Americans (according to a 2015 Harris Poll that surveyed 2,205 U.S. adults), but it’s worth noting that our survey group skews young, which is not an inherent characteristic of a queer group, and young people are apparently more likely to own pets.

65% of millennials own pets, according to that same Harris Poll, whereas 66% of our 18-to-34 group does. They found 71% of Gen X-ers owning pets, compared to 76% of our 35-to-44-year-olds. So age did indeed give us an edge, but we’re still doing a lot of the heavy lifting ourselves. However, most of our lift takes place in the realm of… cats.

Your Animal Kingdom

There are only two types of pets we are more likely to own than straight people: cats and reptiles/amphibians.

Some other interesting comparisons:

  • We’re Switching It Up On Crossover Ownership: On our survey, 30% of U.S. cat owners have dogs, and 37% of dog owners also have cats. On the Harris poll, 49% of cat owners have dogs and 34% of dog owners also have a cat.
  • More Kids = More Pets: On the Harris poll, 73% of Americans with kids in their household had at least one pet, compared to 57% of those without. On ours, 79% of kid-households had at least one pet — and so do 67.6% of those without. So, childless queer folks are significantly more likely than childless straights to have pets. 
  • In fact, a full 71% of survey-takers who don’t want to ever have kids have pets, because who needs babies when you have fur babies.
  • People in relationships are more likely to have pets than those who aren’t — 48% have cats and 37% have dogs, compared to 37% of single people with cats and 31% with dogs. Once you get married, you commit to pets, too: 53% with cats, and 48% with dogs.
  • Residents of rural areas were most likely to have pets (84%), followed by suburbanites (75%) and city-dwellers (64%).
  • Only 26% of our city-dwellers have dogs, and 38% have cats; compared to 51% of those in rural areas with dogs and 57% with cats.
  • The only cities where dog-owners outnumbered cat owners were all in warm climates: Los Angeles, Dallas/Ft.Worth, Atlanta, Phoenix, Miami, San Diego and Austin.

Yes, Cats?

This survey’s cat-ownership numbers were a little higher than what we’ve seen in prior surveys. Our 2016 Autostraddle Reader Survey showed 37% of all respondents and 40% of all U.S. residents admitting to cat ownership, but that number has crept forward over the last two years. This may be because a queer woman in possession of a cat is exactly the type of person who would want to take a survey about lesbian stereotypes, or perhaps everybody went out and bought a cat in 2017 because they needed something to hold onto while democracy dies.

Still, even those old numbers are at least slightly higher than overall numbers of cat ownership, regardless of which survey you compare ours to — and there are plenty to choose from!

Now, let’s venture into new lands.

Cats of the Commonwealth

We had enough survey-takers in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada to look at their numbers, too. And the preference for cats over dogs gets even more dramatic outside of the U.S., as does our apparent indifference towards fish and birds:

Apparently in these three countries, the preference for dogs over cats amongst all humans is not quite as dramatic as it is in the U.S..

Autostraddle’s very high cats vs. dogs numbers in Canada specifically might be due to 76% of our Canadian survey-takers living in urban areas (compared to 62-63% of others), where it can be easier to own a cat than a dog. Four times as many Montreal residents, for example, own cats rather than dogs. On a related note, Montreal is a lovely city and also the coldest place I have ever been, and also there are apparently just a lot of cats in Canada.

But… why are queer women and non-binary people at least slightly more likely to own cats than the population-at-large? The obvious answer is: because women are more likely to own cats than men, and our group is mostly women. I mean, that’s what pop culture has told me. Hell, Shutterstock’s got 426 pictures of women with cats, but only 96 for men.

Well, my friends: it’s all a lie.

The Patriarchy Also Loves Cats

If you search “how many men own cats” you’ll get a lot of articles like “8 Reasons You Should Consider Dating A Guy Who Owns A Cat” and “Is it Usual for Straight Men to Own Cats?,” but despite this apparent cultural unease, men are living with cats like there’s no tomorrow.

In 2001, a Gallup poll declared “the stereotype of older women loving cats — and lots of them — is not supported by the Gallup results.” They found older men just as likely as older women to own cats, and “little difference” between these two genders for cat or dog ownership across age groups.

The 2016 gfK survey found 40% of men and 38% of women in the U.S. owning cats. Last year, multiple news outlets in the U.K. reported that more than two-thirds of cat owners are men. Mintel Research, in the U.S., also found that men were more likely than women to have a cat, with a whopping 46% of millennial men owning cats. In 2008, The New York Times wrote a trend piece about busy working men who found cats to be the perfect furry companion for their lifestyles, declaring the rise of “a growing number of single — and yes, heterosexual — men who seem to be coming out of the cat closet and unabashedly embracing their feline side.” In 2016, an Australian newspaper hailed “the rise of the cat man.” I missed all of these articles because I don’t care about men, but there’s so many more where those came from.

So, it’s not our gender that makes our group more likely to own cats than the population-at-large. I can only conclude that it is a worldwide conspiracy against me, but I am open to theories from cat-lovers in the comments.

Some Fun Stats Regarding Different Types of Pet Owners

This survey got a ton of responses and is teeming with bizarre information, which makes it a virtual playground for irrelevant data collection. I set SurveyMonkey to compare all different types of pet owners, and then went on a terrific jaunt through the rest of the survey to see what their algorithm declared statistically significant.

Before I give you this information, let me be clear: when I say “cat owners are more likely than dog owners to be vegan.” I don’t mean that most cat owners are vegan! I just mean that the number of cat owners identifying as vegans was declared significantly higher than the number of dog owners identifying as vegans.

So, here we go:

Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to be vegan (6%), identify as hard femme (7.5%), be trans (which includes non-binary people) (28%), be queer-identified (29.5%), have an undercut (20%), not remove any body hair (11%), have long nails (8.6%), use menstrual cups (29%), have complete confidence in their sewing abilities (48%), read their horoscopes regularly (23.4%), be an unaffiliated atheist (25%), do at least some witchcraft (23%), have gone to a women’s college (7%) and to prefer non-monogamy (22.4%). Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to live in the city.

Dog owners are more likely than cat owners to be tomboys (21%), be married (24%), have children (12%), identify as lesbians (45%), prefer monogamy (68%), shave their legs (68%), have complete confidence in their stick-shift driving abilities (27%), be Catholic (3.6%), be a Pisces (9%), be sports fans (35%), play sports (the only sport where cat-owners outnumber dog-owners is roller derby), have been hunting or fishing within the past year (12%) and been camping overnight within the past year (42%). Dog owners are more likely than cat owners to live in the country.

Other interesting situations include that small mammal owners are the most likely to be vegan or vegetarian and reptile/amphibian owners are the most likely to have ever seen a ghost. Like… by far. 39% of reptile/amphibian owners have seen or been in the presence of a ghost — all other pet owners are at around 28%-30%, and non-pet-owners are at 18.5%. I can therefore safely conclude, with the authority vested in me by the fact that it’s too late at night for another editor to edit this post before it’s published in the morning, that ghosts are attracted to reptiles and amphibians as well as animals in general. If you’d like to see a ghost, you should probably buy a lizard.

Unsurprisingly, those who own horses and other farm animals are the handiest around the house by far, as well as the most environmentally conscious and the most likely to be former vegans and vegetarians.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of weird narratives around cat ownership for straight people, like the aforementioned concern that only gay men own cats. Then there’s the “crazy cat-lady stereotype,” most strongly associated with not just unmarried women, but undesirable unmarried women, which has thrived for some time. In “The Crazy History of the Cat Lady,” Linda Rodriguez notes that after centuries of cat ownership being associated with witches and widows, followed by several decades of terrifying media depictions on shows like Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, “Cat ownership by an unmarried woman had come to signify a kind of mutual capitulation of that woman to a society that wouldn’t or couldn’t marry her.” Rodriguez believes that the stereotype is changing, however, thanks to Taylor Swift having a cat, the evolution of the role of marriage in society, increased visibility of actual cat owners on the internet, and a cultural shift initiated by marketers to embrace pet owners with outsize affection for their furry friends. I’ve got another theory to add to that stack, though. Maybe — just maybe — it’s got something to do with us.

I honestly expected the numbers to be even more dramatic than they are — but maybe that’s because the real difference isn’t that we own oodles more cats than everybody else, it’s that we talk about cats a lot more than everybody else.

So many lesbian stereotypes come down to one thing: a perception of lesbians as unashamed to be enthusiastic about things straight women are supposed to avoid or, at the very least, stay quiet about. For example: being fat, sporting body hair, dressing for comfort over style, foregoing makeup. “Being obsessed with our cats” would fit neatly onto that list, I think.

Proud cat ownership, much to my personal despair as somebody who is allergic to the furniture in the homes of 40% of my potential dating pool, is just another example of us setting trends and being way ahead of the curve.

In conclusion, my dog Carol is really great!!!!


Stereotype: LGBTQ+ Women & Non-Binary People Love Cats
Verdict: thumbs up True

Riese is a Jewish lesbian and the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2606 articles for us.

78 Comments

  1. My takeaways:

    Being in the 3.5% 44+ crowd helps me understand why I often feel like an old fogey here.

    LTR = having pets. When you live with pets, no matter how long you’ve been with your partner you will ALWAYS have something to talk about.

    Even though we have 2 swell cats (including a demonic but adorable kitten) and our dog is so addlepated we’ve given him “pet emeritus” status, I firmly believe that “dogs are better than cats.” I match up better with the dog people traits than the felinephiliac ones.

  2. “the only sport where cat-owners outnumber dog-owners is roller derby”
    I *may* have sent that survey link to a whole bunch of queer roller derby skaters who own cats ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    I am super excited to hear more results from this survey!

  3. I mean I love cats, my wife and I own four cats (she used to be in animal control, don’t @ me), but its not like we don’t love and want a dog. We just can’t have one right now. We’re waiting until we can afford more space and yard, because it only seems fair to the animal. Dogs have trickier logistics is all!

    • i actually mention that possibility in the post!

      that hypothesis ended up not checking out though — 63% of our US residents are in urban areas, and 62.7% of US residents in general are in urban areas. so that can’t explain the discrepancy. :-/

  4. What’s the stats like on owner v rental when it comes to property? Here in the UK it is virtually impossible to own a pet if you rent. So much so that it was something the government actually said that letting agencies and landlords should be more flexible about, because of how good pets are for your mental health and wellbeing!

    • Good point. I live in one of the southern cities where dog owners outnumber cat owners and it is also shockingly easy to rent with a dog here. Lots of apartment buildings specifically advertise as dog-friendly. I’ve poked around renting in other cities and it’s definitely not the norm elsewhere.

      • Ok, I initially read this as “shockingly easy to *rent a dog* here” – which had me utterly confused when reading the last sentence regarding poking around in other cities for *dog rental* hahaha…. My after work brain was working in overdrive, why would someone want to rent a dog (vs owning)? Apartments offer dog rental? Whaat?! And so on… lol! I might need dinner and a nap!

    • that’s really interesting about the UK and explains those numbers, then! I don’t have the data on owner vs. rental property — didn’t ask on this survey. But I know we asked on some past survey (i can’t remember which one though so I can’t find it!) and most people were renters by far.

  5. Was the data that you compared this to where the language of “all-girls college” came from? If not please change it, generally there’s a lot of animosity for a lot of reasons for that languages at women’s colleges. Firstly the use of “girl” is often demeaning, and secondly “all girl” is innacurate. “Women’s college” works because that’s the languages these spaces use for themselves already and it pushes away from the “all” exclusionary language. Thanks, from a nb recent Wellesley grad.

    • Shaved legs: check. Stick-driving: check. Sports fan: check. Spends 90% of free time being an iron-pumping bro: check. OWNS A CAT who is sitting on me yelling right now. BREAK DOWN DEM STEREOTYPES.

      I feel like a lot of people aren’t actually clearly cat or dog people – the people I know tend to be more “animal people” or “non-animal people”. I have a cat but I think dogs are great, along with basically anything else that is cute and fluffy. I completely understand dog-people, but I have a hard time understanding people who are meh about animals in general. What is WRONG with you.

  6. I wonder if queer women are more likely to have more cats per household, as well? My wife and I have 5 cats…and yes, most people think we’re crazy.

    We brought to our relationship my 2 cats that I’d had since high school and her geriatric beagle (RIP Zeke). When we moved into a 2nd story one bedroom apartment, we took the cats but left the dog at her parent’s, since he had a yard, accessibility, and familiarity as he was going blind and deaf and did not handle change well. Also my mother in law may have been devastated if the dog and her only child left the nest at the same time.

    We then found 2 barely weaned kittens behind our apartment and rashly decided to rescue them, get all their vet care, and well, they’re family now. The 5th kitten was 5 months old at the local rescue and I’m not sure what happened but now she lives with us and I love her.

    My wife was solidly a dog person and I was a cat person when we met but now that she’s a SAHB (stay at home butch) with 5 cats I think she’s a nuttier cat lady than I am.

    We are still in the one bedroom and have a human kiddo on the way, so while I won’t rule out having a dog one day, it’ll definitely be when we have a house, yard, fewer cats, and children out of diapers.

  7. I had two cats at home when I fell in first lesbian love.
    My best friend had a cat a year before she embarked on her queer journey.
    Finally, our new housemate moved in as a straight girl with a cat, and proceeded to crush hard on another girl.

    Thus. Cats queer us?

    • Yes! I feel so affirmed in my bisexuality by this comment! If I could *only* pick one animal companion species, I’d have to choose dogs, but I love cats too! Having both is my ideal life, although I am living a sadly petless existence at the moment. I’m making an intercontinental trip next week to visit some of my feline/canine nieces and nephews (and their associated humans, but let’s be real), and I can’t wait!

    • “I’m always afraid they are going to randomly claw or bite me, so I avoid being around them”

      Well yeah that’s what they do. They’re apex predators but when they do that they aren’t trying to be mean. They’re practicing and teaching you to be a predator and how to be alert to predators stalking you. A cat owner is always aware of her surroundings.

  8. Resisting the urge to make a (very bad) joke about lesbians and lack of fish ownership…..

    (but in good spirits…I’m a lesbian and I own fish haha)

    Also, in agreement that it would be interesting to see the rent vs ownership with regards to pets….when I lived in the UK I knew very few people who rented and had larger pets (cat/dog). Here in Spain it seems to vary a lot, but my apartment says “no pets” and so I got fish as a workaround, but now we’ve rescued a teeny tiny kitty because fuck the rules….

  9. Kinda wish that whenever there’s an article about cats the comment section wasn’t full of comments about how people dislike cats or think dogs are better. Both are good pets that will love you if you take care of them properly, it’s not a competition! I know it’s not that serious, it’s just kind of a bummer to see.
    Anyway, good article and I’m looking forward to seeing more sweet, sweet statistics from the survey in the coming weeks.

    • A cat ripped out my dog’s eyeball with his claw… he was only a few weeks old. Cat wasnt mine but i had been feeding him and taking care of him for a few months so i trusted her. Now my puppy is missing an eye and i dont know how to get that cat to leave and she still is very hostile to the dog. Cats are scary, okay?

      • Gosh, how helpful of you to give an example of the type of stunningly unproductive, needlessly aggressive, gratuitously upsetting comment that Noel politely asked to avoid. I’m sure that improved everyone’s day and made it much easier to assume good faith in the comments section.

  10. It was really sad to have to say that I don’t have any pets in this survey, cause I’m such a cat person! I really wish I was living with a cat!!! I’m hoping in the next year or so I will have a fuzzy friend. For now I heavily rely on friends with pets, most have dogs though

  11. “39% of reptile/amphibian owners have seen or been in the presence of a ghost — all other pet owners are at around 28%-30%, and non-pet-owners are at 18.5%.”
    I’m totally going to use this the next time I have to explain why stats need caveats to my colleagues.

  12. Excellent insight, I really do love all the AS surveys and analysis!

    Can confirm that it’s standard in UK for rentals to have no-pet clauses, but I also know several people that have flouted that and kept cats on the down-low; I think dogs would be a lot harder to hide.

    Also, one chart I’d like to see would be income for cat households vs dog households as you’d imagine dogs have higher economic barriers to ownership.

  13. I had a weird ghost/supernatural/unexplained experience as a kid and did not report owning a reptile, as we are a cat and dog household now, BUT you damn well know I had a gecko at the time a weird ass light showed up in my bedroom, “The Honeymoon”-style

  14. Having chosen my name deliberately as a dog whistle to other queers, I can affirm that THERE ARE NO HETEROSEXUAL JOs. I just got whiplash from that unanticipated wave of validation.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.