Countries with developed economies are more likely to have more balance between cat and dog populations than countries with emerging economies, according to household pet data compiled by market research firm Euromonitor.
In the U.S., for example, cats only slightly edge out dogs, with 73.6 million cats versus 71.6 million dogs. The ratio is similar in other developed countries like Italy, Finland, and the U.K.
But dogs outnumber cats 10 to 1 in India, and 6 to 1 in the Philippines. Despite a handful of outliers like Indonesia, which favors cats by 4.5 to 1, emerging economies in Asia and South America generally favor dogs over cats.
“Some regions, like the Middle East and part of Africa, have an especially long-standing appreciation of cats,” Jared Koerten, a pet industry analyst for Euromonitor, told the Washington Post. “In Latin America it’s the complete opposite. Dogs are part of family life there.”
In other countries, both cats and dogs are nearly nonexistent: Saudi Arabia, a country with 30 million people, has just 100,000 cats and virtually no dogs.
It’s unclear why the correlation exists between economic development and balanced pet preference. Pet preferences, while rooted in history and culture, can evolve rapidly in countries with expanding urban and middle classes. In Brazil, where 85% of the population is concentrated in crowded cities, there are now over 100 small dogs, such as shih tzus and chihuahuas, per 1,000 people.
As trends evolve, at least one thing remains certain: cat memes are universal.