Americans love their pets. In fact, the U.S. has more pet ownership than any other country, by far. Americans own about 70 million dogs and 75 million cats, about 42 million more canines and 20 million more felines than number two China, respectively.
From Georgia Bulldogs to Alaska Malamutes, Maine coon cats to California Spangleds, every state and every city has its own pet personality. But is it comfy indoor winter kittens in the North or Southern cities with plentiful dog parks that are the cat's meow? Across the U.S., what cities have gone to the dogs?
We scoured the nation and found more than 15,000 cities in the U.S. with at least one pet-related business (including pet shops, retail pet supply and food stores, trainers, wash and groomers, pet boarders and kennels, pet services spots, veterinarians and animal hospitals, plus public parks), for a national total of almost 130,000 pet establishments.
We then eliminated any city with a population less than 100,000, leaving us with the 310 largest American cities with at least one pet-related establishment, offering a total of more than 45,000 individual pet businesses in those cities. We then calculated the ratio of pet-related establishments per 10,000 residents in each to determine the cities deemed the top 10 best cities for pets and their owners in the nation. We also indicated whether a city has moved up or down in the rankings compared to last year.
Here are the top dogs when it comes to the best cities for pets.
Coming of age in the 1880s as the railroad came through town, Billings was founded alongside the Northern Pacific. Its growing size and central location allowed it to stake a claim as the most important city in the Intermountain Northwest.
Today, Billings is a significant 21st-century business and industry hub and was even named the national Chamber of Commerce magazine's No. 2 “Best Small City in Which to Start a Business" for 2019. And with more hotel rooms available than any city in a five-state area, Billings is a key location for conventions, regional sports and large events.
Your pets don't pay much mind to those sorts of things, but Billings is surely a land for pet lovers. The valley along the Yellowstone has always been a land of beasts, from the roaming buffalo to the workhorses taming the land.
But Big Sky Country is a wondrous wide open space for your dogs to frolic and a chilly northern range perfect for curling up with your cat in front of the fireplace. Despite being the smallest city in our top 10 at a population of just less than 110,000, Billings has the most pet services locations on the list and offers a phenomenal 43 veterinarians for its petite stature.
Atop the Bakken Formation, one of the largest oil discoveries in American history, Billings is a booming mountain town. And to find a place in this growing city, it will run you $1,007 for an average one-bedroom apartment each month.
One of the most famous pets in sports history was a large brown and white Saint Bernard named Schottzie. Schottzie (and her successor Schottzie 02) was the ever-present pooch belonging to Marge Schott, the brash and controversial late owner of the Cincinnati Reds. The very large dog mostly had the run of the house at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium, even on game days. It was not an unusual sight in the 1980s to see Schottzie roaming the field, taking off with equipment and even, well, leaving some things behind.
But even if your pet isn't the most famous dog in town, Cincinnati is a great city for pet lovers. Those same Cincinnati Reds hold four "Bark in the Park" promotional days when fans bring their pups to the stadium for a parade around the field before settling in to watch the game.
Northside Yacht Club and The Video Archive are two of the city's many pet-friendly bars, along with Woodburn Brewery, MadTree Brewing and Braxton Brewing Company brewers. End the workday with Yappy Hour at Over-The-Rhine's Washington Park downtown with drink specials outdoors. And wrap it all up with some sweet treats from beloved Putz's Creamy Whip in Mt. Airy, where you can grab soft serve for you and a “Pup Cup" for your companion.
They don't call Cincinnati the Queen City for nothing. This Ohio Valley burg is a regal gemstone. For a one-bedroom apartment, expect to pay $1,108 a month on average.
When it was founded just more than 65 years ago — a time when many current inhabitants were already alive — Scottsdale had only 2,000 residents. Today, the population has risen to nearly a quarter-million. With a downtown once described by The New York Times as "a desert version of Miami's South Beach," Scottsdale isn't a sleepy retirement town like so many of its Arizona neighbors.
But whether you've come for the warmth and nightlife or the retirement villages and mahjong, Scottsdale is a great place for your furry family members to frolic in the sun. The city offers 61 public parks, the third most among the top 10, only bested by the much larger Miami and Orlando. The crown jewel is the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt, which connects Vista del Camino, Eldorado, Indian School, Continental Golf, Chaparral and Camelback Parks through 25 miles of biking and walking paths.
As people discover Scottsdale's vibrant nightlife and fabulous public parks system, the population continues to rise. And with that increase in residents comes an increase in rental costs, with a one-bedroom unit running an average of $1,732 a month.
As a large city, it's not just Miami's size that matters in making it an amazing place for pet lovers. While the Magic City is just the 40th largest in the nation within its city limits, it has the third most pet shops and pet stores in America, behind only behemoths New York City and Los Angeles. That's a lot of places to pamper your pup or coddle your kitten with a new toy or a bucketful of treats.
But being the home of "Miami Vice" and "Ballers," Coconut Grove and Brickell, the Rico and the suave, your pet also has to look its best for walks on the beach or a night out on the town. Good thing Miami also has the most pet groomers in the nation behind only Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. That's a good pet city.
But don't just take our word for it. Mars Petcare has also certified Miami as a “Better City For Pets," a high mark for pet-friendliness from the organization that works with local governments, businesses and non-profits to help communities be the best for pets. Even just here for a visit? No problem, as Reward Expert named Miami one of the “Most Pet-Friendly U.S. Vacation Destinations."
Whether you're taking your pet to one of the best luxury pet hotels in the world or grabbing a brew at one of the city's many pet-friendly bars and restaurants, Miami is a pet-lovers beachy paradise. But to find that perfect sunbeam full time, it will cost you $2,563 a month on average for a one-bedroom apartment.
Gorillas, turtles and birds. The most popular pets in Wilmington? Probably not, but even if you don't know a lot about this North Carolina coastal city, you've probably seen it on the big and small screen in movies like "King Kong Lives," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "The Crow." The EUE/Screen Gems studio (and the surrounding city) have been the production home of a slew of movies and TV shows since 1984, including those and the likes of "Dawson's Creek," "Iron Man 3," "One Tree Hill," "We're The Millers," "Eastbound and Down" and the Stephen King films "Firestarter," "Silver Bullet" and "Maximum Overdrive."
But even if you don't have crows and ninja turtles kicking around your house, Wilmington is one of America's best cities for pet owners, with more than 50 veterinarians and a dozen pet hospitals to go along with more than 20 pet wash and grooming salons. Pet medical care, shops and stores and boarding facilities abound in Wilmington, which actually jumps up to the No. 2 best pet city in the nation if you exclude public parks.
With seven miles of coast along the Intracoastal Waterway, access to the adjacent Wrightsville Beach on the Atlantic and a two-mile Riverwalk on the Cape Fear River, there's ample space for your pets to play in Wilmington. Residents here have a pretty good deal, with an average one-bedroom apartment listing for $1,168 monthly.
The largest city between Orlando and Tampa, Lakeland is well known for its … well … lakes. In fact, within its 75 square miles there are 38 named lakes and many more unnamed. That's great news if your pup likes to take a splash after a brisk walk (although we wouldn't recommend it, there are also alligators here).
While beaches and high-rises fill the peninsulas and harbors of Tampa and St. Petersburg, Lakeland's green and open spaces make it an ideal getaway community for Tampa Bay and Central Florida pet owners out for a day trip.
But unlike many of its Florida neighbors, Lakeland is not a resort town. Instead, it's had a history in the citrus, cattle and phosphate mining industries, and as a shipping and transportation hub. But the town offers Florida weather, an abundance of water sports, Detroit Tigers' spring training and 16 golf courses to go along with its plentiful 32 public parks.
Whether your owner is a FedEx logistics worker or a Tigers' rookie, a pet master will be paying $1,031 a month for an average one-bedroom.
It may not be as famous as places like Tuscaloosa, State College or South Bend, but Columbia is one of America's great college towns. Like a few others on this list, pet-friendly cities and college towns often go hand in hand. The influence of students and young graduates, like those at the University of South Carolina, nudge cities to improve parkland, revitalize downtowns and offer a slew of services for them and their pets.
Columbia is a town built on history and warfare. The South Carolina Secession Convention was held here in 1860, where the state became the first to vote to secede from the Union leading directly to the start of the Civil War. Towards the end of the war, the city was one of the last burned to the ground by the advance of General Sherman's troops during the waning days of the War Between the States.
Today, the city is home to Fort Jackson, the largest U.S. Army Basic Combat Training installation in the nation. And there's always a war on the floor every college basketball season as the nationally-recognized Gamecocks men's and women's teams battle at Colonial Life Arena, the 10th largest on-campus basketball arena in America.
But cats and dogs are not concerned with war nor the matters of man. More important is a bed to sleep in and a window on which to view the world. A Columbia one-bedroom unit rents for $1,090 a month on average.
Orlando should be on any list of the best cities for pet lovers simply for the sheer amount of food dropped on the ground at the city's 11 major amusement parks. But outside of the 70 million people that visit Orlando each year, the city is for locals, too, of course, a pet-friendly city for the Central Florida mecca's 285,000 full-time residents. From Pluto to Hedwig the Owl to Santa's Little Helper, it's no doubt that Orlando loves pets as much as pets love Orlando.
The city's hot and sunny weather year 'round, the same reasons Walt Disney put his theme park here, is great for outdoor time with your pet through every season. But O-Town has just as many veterinarians as it does public parks. The city is a hub for pet medical care with more than 80 vet practices and 30 pet hospitals. And, of course, because Orlando is a tourist town where you have to look your best, the city offers 45 pet washing and grooming facilities for that perfect pet shampoo and trim.
For full-time residents and their pets fighting for space with short-term or seasonal occupancy part-timers, demand for permanent space and lease prices often run high. Whether permanent or periodic, $1,523 a month will snag you an average one-bedroom rental.
Manufacturing, shipping and industrial engineering. Insurance, legal and healthcare. And, of course, aviation and aerospace. As a central location between Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis and sitting within 500 miles of about 60 percent of the nation's population, it's no wonder Dayton is a key to a myriad of industries. But the Birthplace of Aviation isn't just a cold Rust Belt city for industrialists. It's also one of the best cities for pet lovers.
One of the reasons Dayton is such a great place for pets is its residents' love of the outdoors. In 2019, Dayton was named a National Geographic “Outdoor Adventure Capital of the Midwest." The city features 16,000 acres of parkland with its five main waterways — Stillwater River, Mad River, Great Miami River, Wolf Creek and Twin Creek — drawing 3 million visitors last year.
The centerpiece is downtown's RiverScape MetroPark along the Miami River that offers a performance pavilion, “inventors" Riverwalk highlighting great Dayton thinkers, fountains, a café, festival plaza, ice rink and hiking and biking trails along the waterfront. And most city parks are completely pet-friendly, including a number of urban trails downtown.
From dignitaries visiting Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to business titans out lunching, everyone in Dayton loves the outdoors and everyone loves their pets. And an average one-bedroom for you and your pet in Gem City leases for $985 a month.
For the second year in a row, it's Tennessee's third-largest city that's the nation's top dog. Led by its nearly 30 boarding facilities and kennels and 93 vet practices, Knoxville is America's best city for pets.
Knoxville is East Tennessee's most important city, situated in what's known as the Great Appalachian Valley, surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. The city is most well-known for the main campus of the University of Tennessee, just to the west of downtown along the Tennessee River.
While the school is one of the top research universities in the South, it's most famous for its major conference athletics programs. Vols crazies can catch the school's men's and women's basketball programs in action at Thompson-Boling Arena, the third-largest on-campus arena in America, and the Volunteer football team at massive Neyland Stadium, the sixth-biggest stadium in the world.
Looking for some smaller-scale sports action? Toss a ball or a Frisbee with your pup at one of Knoxville's eight specialized dog parks, most of which were built in partnership with the PetSafe fund. Additionally, the city offers residents a “Dogs on Patios Permit" for just a one-time registration of $20 that allows diners to bring their dog with them to have a meal on the patios and porches of participating Knoxville restaurants, cafes and bars. These are just part of the reason that Knoxville was named one of the “12 Metro Areas Where People Love Dogs The Most" by LawnStarter.
Knoxville, the home of the 1982 World's Fair and its famous Sunsphere, is the best city in America for pet people. And to find a home for you and your furry friend, you'll be shelling out $1,221 a month on average for a one-bedroom apartment.
So, what lies beyond the top 10? Want to know if your city is among the best for pet lovers? Here's a list of the top 50 cities that are experiencing some puppy love.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Pet-Related Businesses||Businesses Per Capita (10k)|
|12||West Palm Beach||FL||111,398||99||8.9|
|42||Salt Lake City||UT||200,591||129||6.4|
But where can you find the most total number of pet-related businesses, services and parks? No surprise, it's some of America's largest cities, with a definitive skew towards warm-weather cities in the Sun Belt.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Pet-Related Businesses||Businesses Per Capita (10k)|
But it's not just folks in big cities that love their pets, especially in Florida. Here are the shaggy dog and cool cat cities between 50,000 and 100,000 residents that are the best for pet lovers, using the same criteria. Per capita calculations will appear high because of a lower population.
|Rank||City||State||Population||Pet-Related Businesses||Businesses Per Capita (10k)|
To determine the best cities for pet lovers, we looked at every city in the U.S. with a population over 100,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 population estimates and at least one pet-related business (defined as pet shops, retail pet supply and food stores, trainers, wash and groomers, pet boarders and kennels, pet services spots, veterinarians and animal hospitals) and public parks. From there, we divided the total number of pet-related establishments by the total population. We then multiplied that number by 10,000 to determine the number of establishments per 10,000 people. The cities with the highest per capita ratio were deemed to be the best cities for pet lovers in our quantitative report.
Total pet-related establishment counts are from a database of 8 million commercially available business listings. These listings may not reflect recent openings or closings.
Rent prices are based on a weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory throughout the entire year of 2019. Our weighted average formula more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type. This specific methodology was used because it provides a better overall average for the year as a whole and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.