Before adding a pet to your household, I am sure you have wandered about how much owners actually spend on their pets? What are the worst parts about owning a pet? And perhaps most importantly, are more Australians ‘dog people’ or ‘cat people’? Select Opinion Leaders answer these questions and more to help ensure you get the perfect pet.

Australia’s most popular pet…

A lot of factors come into consideration when it comes to bringing an animal companion home, and the majority of Australians decided that the benefits were worth any downsides, with 7 out of 10 Australians owning at least one pet, and of those, 37% having multiple animals.

But are more Aussie’s ‘dog people’ or ‘cat people’? Actually, 7% are owners of much rarer types of pets, such as reptiles, rabbits and birds, but as for the rivalry between cats and dogs – 68% of pet owners polled have a dog keeping them company, while just 45% have a cat slinking around their feet. The third most owned pet in the country was fish (14%), followed by birds (12%), rabbits (3%), guinea pigs/hamsters (1.6%), and reptiles (1.6%).

Finding the furry friend that suits us…

We asked what the most important characteristics were when it comes to choosing a pet, and you might think that Aussies are interested in an animal that is either house-trained (53%) or easy to train (47%). Whilst these qualities were still significant considerations, the things that Aussies seek most from their pets are how affectionate the pet will be (80%), as well as the loyalty it will give them (73%).

If the driving factor when getting a pet is the love and loyalty it will provide, most people will take into consideration the type of pet, as well as the type of breed in some cases. The most reported breeds of dogs Australians own were Maltese, Labrador, Staffordshire Terrier and Jack Russell. Dog owners are much more likely to be knowledgeable of their pet’s breed (or mix of breeds), with 99% knowing the type of dog they had. While cats are often themselves fussy, their owners are not as fussed with their pet’s breed, with 20% having no idea what type of cat they have.

It seems a lot of Aussies are specifically looking for a small pet when they are making their choice (40%), and for others; a pet that is low energy (23%). With many Aussie pet owners living in Metro areas, or having busy lives, this makes a lot of sense, especially given that the most common factor in deciding on a pet is that it fits in with the owner’s lifestyle (74%). Other important elements that Australians are factoring in are if the animal can be left alone during the day (68%) and much exercise the pet will require (53%).

The good, the bad, and the fluffy…

Around 57% of Aussie pet owners rated ‘low maintenance (in terms of grooming, etc)’ as an important attribute when choosing their pet. When asked what the biggest negative of having a pet was, 20% of current pet owners did have fur, poo, or other cleaning-related grievances! But the two most common answers were the cost (26%), followed by the inability to easily travel (22%), as expressed by one respondent “They’re expensive and I always have to make sure I plan ahead if I’m traveling so they are cared for”.

Pets really can be expensive, and considering that from those polled, the average weekly spend on pets was $29.40 on food alone, it is surprising that only 34% of Aussies listed ‘cost of food’ as an important consideration when deciding to get a pet! However there are many other costs to consider, if your pets need paid grooming, the average spend was $252 per year, and $23.95 per month on items such as treats, toys, supplies, etc.

In terms of health the average yearly vet and medication costs were $510 and that’s after having pet insurance which our participants reported an average spend of $612 per year.

The more the merrier!

Even with the costs of their current pet, the vast majority of cat owners who have just one feline friend, are considering getting a second cat (84%). This was even more likely for sole dog owners, with 93% thinking about getting a second.

Naturally, it seems that the less space the animal requires, the more of them the owner is likely to have. It seems owners of dogs and cats stick to 1-2 animals on average, owners who prefer birds have an average of 4, those who keep reptiles have an average of 5 and owners of spiders keep an average of 7! That’s a lot of legs to keep track of!

All you need is love!

Despite the downsides that owners reported, when asked about how getting a pet has changed their life, many respondents had all-round positivity – “[My pet] brings a huge amount of love and joy into my life… someone to “talk” to and love you when you get home”. The most common answer to how pets have changed lives was that they provide affection (16%), followed by providing love (11%) and making their owner happy (11%).

While there are certain inconveniences or disadvantages to pet ownership, it seems the vast majority do not regret their decision (95%). For all the time they take up, most pet owners agree that it is worth the effort – “They are a significant part of my life. Practically, I have to consider them in everything I do – how long I spend at work, what to do with them when I go away, my finances, etc. But there is no better feeling than coming home to my fur-babies!”.

Paw-some benefits for everybody…

Pet ownership can be beneficial to a broad range of demographics and sometimes in ways we might not have even expected. One such group are retirees, who find pets are helping provide a structure to their routines, “[We get a] better daily schedule in our retirement. Gets us out and about!” one respondent explains. And for Australians that live alone, pets can lessen the feelings of loneliness, and provide companionship.

Pets can also have huge impacts on family life, and one respondent explains how pets have the potential to change a whole dynamic for the better –  “As a single mum struggling day-to-day, having the cats and dogs around has softened me and given the kids and I a purpose outside of what was our normal daily life. It’s teaching the kids about being responsible for another living being and has extended our small family in the most pleasing of ways”

Santa Paws is coming to town…

Many Australians have faced weeks or even months of Covid-19 lockdown this year, and never have pets been so appreciated – for all the love and comfort they have provided during the extra time many have spent at home. In fact, pet ownership has increased dramatically this year, with there even being instances of shortages of pets available from shelters or suppliers, due to the overwhelming demand for pets. With Christmas just around the corner, there will be many more little stockings hanging for the four-legged members of our families. It is the season for sharing love and joy, but for pet owners this will be the case all year round!

859 pet owners where surveyed in June on Select Opinion Leaders to provide these results.

Ekas Research
Ekas Research