The 8 Most Popular Pets in 2023

Janelle Leeson

Janelle Leeson

. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Updated Jan. 24, 2024
red cat and australian shepherd lying on a couch together

Ekaterina Sidorova/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Adoption rates for all sorts of pets soared during the pandemic as people sought furry, scaled, and feathered friends for companionship. In 2023, that hadn’t changed.

People value the companionship of pets and the positive impact of having a loving creature in their lives, says Charlotte Reed, a pet trends expert and host of The Pet Buzz podcast. Just look at the numbers: As of 2023, 66% of U.S. households have a pet—that’s about 87 million homes. The latest pet trends show that Americans continue to embrace unconventional companions. Yet, the popularity of canine and feline friends remains unbeatable.

Here’s an inside look at the latest pet stats compiled by the American Pet Products Association (APPA).

bar graph depicting the most popular pets in the united states

1. Dogs

No surprise here for cat and dog enthusiasts: Dogs lead as the most popular pets in the U.S., with 65.1 million households including a pup.

In a twist for 2023, the French Bulldog overtook the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog breed. Labs had been the top dog for 31 years. “Pop culture plays a large role in preferences,” Reed says, referring to the flat-faced dog’s long list of celebrity pet parents, including Lady Gaga, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Madonna, Snoop Dogg, Reese Witherspoon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Hugh Jackman.

With go-get-em attitudes and a knack for being couch potatoes when the time is right, it’s easy to see why dogs reign as the most popular pet year after year. However, potential pup parents should consider the time commitment and financial responsibility involved in dog care. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dog parents spend $367 per year on veterinary care, $339 per year on dog food, and $99 a year on grooming. 

2. Cats

Loafing in the number two spot of the most popular pets in the U.S. are cats. They ruled 46.5 million households in 2023. 

So, where do all these cats come from? The AVMA reports that 43% of cat parents purchased their cat from a store, 40% from an animal shelter or rescue, and only 7% selected their feline companion from a breeder’s litter.

While cats are dubbed lower maintenance than dogs, cat parents aren’t off the hook for providing feline friends with plenty of exercise and stimulation. Nor are they free from financial obligations—cat parents spend the most on pet food, veterinary care, and toys, according to the AVMA.

3. Freshwater Fish

Freshwater fish serve as excellent companions for 11.1 million households, thanks in part to their compact size and minimal space needs.

Depending on the species you choose, setting up a freshwater aquarium includes selecting the appropriate aquarium size and installing essential gear, such as air pumps, filters, and a light. Including an eye-catching aquascape adds to your home’s aesthetic and improves your fish’s quality of life.

4. Small Animals

Comprising friendly critters like hamsters, gerbils, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, mice, and ferrets, small animals rank as the fourth most popular pets in the U.S. They can be found in 6.7 million households.

Even though these pets are often associated with being kept in cages, it doesn’t mean they don’t require socialization, play, and exercise just like any other pet. In addition to spending quality time with them outside their cage, embellish their living space with toys that spark mental stimulation and physical exercise. And before bringing home a pair, thoroughly research their breeding habits. 

“In the last year, shelters nationwide have reported an abundance of guinea pigs available for adoption,” Reed says. “Many folks adopted pairs without realizing how rapidly they multiply.”

5. Birds

Birds are lifelong companions to 6.1 million U.S. households. And we mean lifelong—some bird species can live well over 60 years. The oldest parrot, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo named Cookie, enjoyed 82 years of life. 

While Cookie may be an outlier, many more common pet bird species offer impressive lifespans. Cockatiels are one of the most popular species of pet parrots, and they typically live 15–25 years in captivity, with the oldest recorded living for 35 years.

Just like any other pet, birds require dedicated care. Annual veterinary checkups are essential, and birds require nutrition tailored to their specific breed. Remember that birds are intelligent companions that crave social interaction, so spending time with their humans outside a cage is a must for their well-being. 

6. Reptiles

According to APPA, 6 million U.S. households share their home with a reptile, whether it be a turtle, leopard gecko, bearded dragon, or other variety. Like fish, birds, and small mammals, there are so many reptiles to choose from. The selection can be based on the size of pet you can house, their lifespan, and even their dietary preferences, which typically consist of crickets, worms, veggies, or mice.

7. Horses

Though horses might not share the physical house, 2.2 million U.S. households call a horse part of the family. Horses make affectionate pets—as herd animals, they thrive on daily one-on-one interaction with their caretakers or other horses.

Just make sure you have enough space or access to a boarding facility. An average 1,110-pound horse needs a minimum of a 400-square-foot dry lot, a 72-square-foot shelter, and access to pasture, according to the University of Minnesota Horse Extension.

Horses also eat a lot. In addition to high-quality grain, Dr. Jennifer Rice, veterinarian and veterinary writer for PetMD, says horses should eat about 1–2% of their body weight in forage, or the edible parts of plants, every day. That means an average 1,000-pound horse should eat 10–20 pounds of forage per day.

8. Saltwater Fish

Saltwater fish bring joy to 2.2 million U.S. households. Though tending to the habitats of many saltwater fish takes meticulous care, beginner saltwater fish enthusiasts will appreciate a less-demanding choice: the cardinalfish. Well-suited for smaller aquarium systems, they’re also quite hardy, both in terms of their health during shipment and disease tolerance.

Nevertheless, the variety of vibrantly colored saltwater fish for your aquarium is virtually limitless.

Finding the Right Pet for You

Even if the pet you’re considering, such as a chicken or arachnid, didn’t make the year’s list of the most popular pets, it doesn’t mean they’re not the right fit for you or your family. The key factors in determining the right pet for you include assessing your lifestyle, available space, budget, and commitment to providing daily care throughout their lifespan.

Janelle Leeson


Janelle Leeson

Freelance Writer

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