Australia’s most comprehensive pet population survey has revealed the boom in pet ownership seen during the COVID-19 pandemic has levelled-out to a ‘new normal’ of strong pet ownership in Australia, with 69 per cent of households across metropolitan, regional and remote Australia now home to one or more pets.
Animal Medicines Australia’s latest Pets in Australia study found an estimated 28.7 million pets are now calling home around 6.9 million households across Australia. Many of these people are first-time pet owners, having brought their pet into their home during the pandemic.
Dogs and cats have led this sustained growth in pet ownership, with almost half of all households having at least one dog and a third of all households housing at least one cat. Meanwhile the numbers of other pets have remained largely steady since 20193.
For many pet owners, typical reasons for getting a pet include companionship, rescuing animals, relaxation and mental health.
“The research identified four distinct segments of pet owners,” AMA CEO Ben Stapley said.
“The largest cohort are driven by affordability and convenience, meaning they are less likely to spend money on non-essential items.
“Others—many of whom are retirees and empty-nesters—are looking for simplicity and reliability to maintain a happy and well cared animal companion.
“For 27 per cent of pet owners—who are typically middle to higher income families—‘care and quality’ is a key driver in their approach to pet care, with them being willing and able to spend money across all pet products and services, including preventative care.
“Interestingly the least experienced cohort—but arguably the ones more likely to have more pets—are driven to care and share experiences with their pets, even if it means stretching the budget.”
Despite the growth in ownership, housing constraints and costs are key barriers holding back would-be owners and current owners hoping to grow their ‘pack’.
Current non-owners, particularly renters and apartment dwellers, are especially likely to point to unsuitable homes or issues with landlords, body corporates and strata laws as a reason not to bring a pet into their lives.
While a family member or friend remains the most popular choice for rehoming a pet if they can no longer care for it, more people are now likely to take their pet to a shelter.
“To ensure that as many Australians as possible can access the myriad benefits associated with pet ownership, we seek a policy environment that facilitates responsible pet ownership practices,” Stapley said.
“This could be achieved by improving strata laws, providing support for vulnerable pet owners, or through greater national consistency in companion animal policy settings.
“We need to encourage informed and thoughtful decision-making by governments, policymakers and others when considering issues that impact Australia’s estimated 28.7 million pets in 6.9 million households.”