Everyone knows that dogs are “man’s best friend.” And cats? We tend to associate them more with women. To me, this seems like a silly distinction — but then, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and in our corner of the country, guys love cats.
That’s not just my opinion. Data backs me up.
According to market-research giant Nielsen, among the 25 largest metro areas in the U.S., Seattle and Portland have the highest percentages of single men who have a cat — let’s call them “cat dads,” the male equivalent of the much more famous “cat lady” trope.
In the Seattle metro area, there are roughly 725,000 unmarried men. About 170,000 of them — close to 24 percent — have at least one cat. Among large metro areas, that ranks Seattle second behind Portland, which is the clear leader for cat dads: Remarkably, 31 percent of single men in the Rose City have at least one cat.
Riverside, Calif., is the third-place metro area, with nearly 22 percent of single men being cat dads.
Miami is at the other end of the spectrum, with a cat ownership rate of just 11 percent among single men. In Washington, D.C., and Boston, cat dads are also relatively rare, at 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
Nielsen surveyed more than 390,000 adults nationally, including nearly 6,300 in our metro area, from June 2020 to October 2022. The Seattle metro includes King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
Geoff Brown is among Seattle’s many cat dads and said he wasn’t surprised to learn that men are more likely to have a cat in this part of the country.
“I think it makes sense because it’s a more progressive part of the country,” said Brown, a supervisor at Seattle Public Utilities’ engineering records vault. “I think there’s more freedom to not be ‘toxically masculine’ in this part of the country. So that idea of cats as a feminine thing is easier to shake.”
Brown has a Ragdoll cat named Ellsworth that he adopted as a kitten four years ago. Ellsworth is his second cat. His first was another Ragdoll that he rescued with his ex-wife. That cat died four years ago, and about four months later, Brown took home Ellsworth.
“I missed having a cat in my life, having a buddy,” he said.
While it may be seen as less manly for a guy to have a cat in some other places, Brown doesn’t think it’s been an issue for him when it comes to dating in Seattle. “The women I’ve dated have been into my cat — I mean, he’s more handsome than me,” he said, laughing.
Here’s another finding in the Nielsen data that solidifies the Pacific Northwest’s status as the nation’s cat-dad capital: Seattle and Portland are the only two big metro areas where single men are about as likely to have a cat as a dog.
No surprise, but in most of the country, single guys clearly favor dogs over cats. Nielsen’s data shows about 26 percent of single men in the 25 largest metros are dog owners, 9 percentage points higher than the number for cats.
But that big gap between cat and dog ownership simply doesn’t exist here. Portland, in fact, is the one large metro where single men are (slightly) more likely to have a cat than a dog — just about 30 percent have a dog, a bit lower than the 31 percent who have a cat.
In Seattle, it’s basically a draw between cats and dogs, both with an ownership rate of around 24 percent among single men. There are about 176,000 Seattle-area single men with a dog, barely edging out the 170,000 who have a cat.
Minneapolis gets the bronze medal, with single men favoring dogs by a small 4 percentage-point margin over cats.
In some large metros, the gap between dog and cat ownership is huge. The metro area that skews most heavily toward canines is Orlando, Fla., where single guys favor dogs over cats by a whopping 21 percentage points. The gulf is nearly as large in the Charlotte, N.C., and Riverside, Calif., metro areas, where there are gaps of 19 percentage points.
Aaron Jobe is another Seattle cat dad who wasn’t surprised to learn that single men with feline friends are more common in this area than the rest of the country.
“Just knowing my friend group — a lot of the guys have cats,” he said.
Jobe, a logistics engineer at Expeditors, a Seattle-based freight-forwarding company, adopted his cat, Bruce, from the Seattle Humane Society in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
“I was lonely and by myself in my apartment all the time,” he said. Because of COVID-era restrictions, Jobe couldn’t even meet Bruce in person before adopting him. Fortunately, Bruce turned out to be an affectionate cat who loves people.
Like Brown, Jobe thinks the high percentage of cat dads in the Pacific Northwest could be related to a local culture that places less emphasis on masculine stereotypes.
“It might partly be our higher LGBT population … My group of gay friends are the ones who have cats,” Jobe said.
Jobe thinks the fact that cats are more self-reliant than dogs is a big factor in Seattle, with its high percentage of people who live alone.
“I have an automatic food feeder and water bowl — I don’t have to worry about him constantly,” he said. “I’ve seen my friends get dogs and it takes over their lives.”
And while this is not specific to gender, both Brown and Jobe also mentioned the weather as a possible factor in the appeal of cats in this area.
“It’s nice to snuggle up with a cat in the wet season,” Brown said. “A lot of people hike here, and sure, it would be cool to have a dog to go on hikes. But I’m inside a lot more than outside.”
Or as Jobe put it: “Who really wants to walk a dog in the rain every day?”