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FYI Guy

Seattle Times news librarian Gene Balk crunches the numbers

February 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM

In Seattle, it’s cats, dogs and kids — in that order

Phineas grew up in Ballard and now resides in Belltown (Photo: Adrian Lambert)

Seattle has more dogs than children.  We’ve practically become famous for it.  OK, not as famous as we are for coffee or rain, but still.  The nation has certainly taken notice.  Our canine-to-kid ratio has been written about in USA TodayThe New York Times – even the National Post of Canada.

It’s not just out-of-towners. Seattleites find it fascinating that we have more dogs than kids, too.  The fact has reverberated through the local media since at least 1997, when The Seattle Times first noted that the scales had tipped in favor of dogs here. And it shows no signs of abating; just last year, public radio station KPLU devoted a segment to the phenomenon.  Seems like we never tire of talking about it.

But it’s high time we stopped. I’m calling for a moratorium on the more-dogs-than-kids thing.  Why? Let me explain.

As you may already know, there’s hardly anyone under 18 inside the Seattle city limits.  We’re second only to San Francisco for the scarcity of children.  So naturally, we have more of a lot of things than kids in Seattle. Dogs just happen to be one of them.

Click to enlarge

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that we don’t like dogs.  We do.  But dwelling on the fact that we have so many more of them than kids misses the real story here.

And what is the real story?  Cats.  We might like dogs in Seattle, but we love cats.

Take a look at the chart to your left.  It compares Seattle with our peers in urban childlessness, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.  These three are the only major U.S. cities where less than 20 percent of homes have children.  Look at how Seattle stacks up for the percentage of cat, dog and kid households.

As you can see, we’re not unique in having more dogs than kids.  In fact, San Francisco has a higher percentage of dog households than we do, and their dog-to-kid imbalance is even more pronounced than ours.  But in neither San Francisco nor D.C. do cats trump kids.

Now check out Seattle.  Cat households outnumber kid households by a staggering 50 percent.  And cats have a 17 percent advantage over dogs.  So why is it that we’ve become famous for having more dogs than kids? Why not more cats than kids?  Cats are our true obsession here.

It’s not just Seattle, either.  The entire Pacific Northwest is cat crazy.

Click to enlarge

Take a look at the map to your right.  It highlights the top metro areas in the country for both cat and dog ownership.  When it comes to cats, it’s almost a clean sweep for the Northwest.  We have four of the top six metro areas, ranked by the percentage of people who have a cat.

Maybe you didn’t realize that you live in the cat capital of the United States.  But how could you, when people keep going on about how many dogs we have?  And yet, refer back to the map again.  Other than Spokane, the top areas for dogs are all far away from us.  Seattle-Tacoma only ranks 62nd out of 81 metro areas for dog ownership.  Portland and Eugene, Ore. are outside the top-25, too.

So let’s right this wrong.  The next time somebody trots out that tired old factoid about Seattle having more dogs than kids, set them straight.  Dogs may get all the press, but in Seattle, cats are the real No. 1.

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Follow me on twitter @genebalk

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Scratchy relocated from Southern California to Seattle (Photo: Gene Balk/The Seattle Times)

Interested in adopting a cat?  Here are some websites to get you started:

Comments | More in Market Research | Topics: animals, cats, Dogs

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