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Australians love for their pets skyrockets!

Australia’s pet population is not the only thing to have boomed during the pandemic, our love for our pets has skyrocketed with 4 out of 10 owners preferring that their pet - rather than their partner - sleep next to them, PETstock’s 2022 Pet Parent Report found.

With more Aussie pets than people – over 30.4 million
[1] – it’s no surprise that furry, feathery and scaly pet parents across the country take the health and wellbeing of their pets very seriously.

A new survey of almost 1,600 Australian pet owners confirms that more people believe their pets should be valued at least as highly as other humans.

The PETstock 2022 Pet Parent Report findings reveals dogs are still the most popular type of pet, and it seems that the emotional connection is one of the strongest experiences dog owners share, with a whopping 96 per cent believing that their dog will mend a broken heart and sense when their owner is not feeling themselves.
“Pets provide us with comfort, companionship and a sense of security. This has been especially important for many pet parents during the pandemic.

Lengthy lockdowns and working from home has helped many people to bond even more with their pet and has provided others with an opportunity to bring a new pet into their lives because they were home more,” explains Animal Behaviourist Dr Kate Mornement.

“Our pets really helped us cope with the stress, uncertainty and loneliness we experienced during the pandemic, which is testament to the strength of the human-animal bond,” says Kate. “It’s no wonder so many dog owners believe their dog can mend a broken heart because dogs are very perceptive of our emotions and behaviours. They can often tell when we’re feeling blue.”

Almost half (44 per cent) of pet owners are content to have a pet, rather than the idea of having children and the number of respondents who take their pets out in a pram, backpack or on their bike is growing (currently 7 per cent).

Pet parents who also have children strongly believe that pets teach good values and behaviours to their kids, and 57 per cent of all pet parents include the “fur kids” in family portraits or Christmas photos.
“Learning to care for a pet is such a wonderful experience for children. They learn responsibility and empathy towards animals and the needs of others and caring for a pet connects children to the natural world,” explains Kate.
More Aussies are adopting pets with 44 per cent owning a rescue pet, the report found.

“The rate of animal adoptions increased dramatically during the pandemic, which is great news for rescue pets. Pet parents are seemingly more open to different types of animals and breeds.

Provided they make a considered and sustainable choice when adopting a pet, taking into account their circumstances and lifestyle, this will give rescue pets the chance to live a wonderful and happy life.

“The fact that an increasing number of Australians have or are considering adopting a rescue pet, especially those most in need, such as senior pets, adult cats and bonded pairs, is just fantastic,” says Kate.
Even workplaces are increasingly pressured to allow “pawternity leave” when pets need care with the demand far higher for it than the 6 per cent of workplaces which currently offer it, the survey found.

“We benefit so much from sharing our lives with our pets, whether it’s just their company or the oxytocin release we get while patting them, that the trend towards pet being valued family members will become a stronger cultural force in the workplace,” she says. 
“It may even get to the point where employee packages are more competitive because they provide benefits which make it easier to care for a pet while at work.”
As many Australians are more conscious of their health and diet, this rubs off on what pets find on their plates and the new data finds many pets are being fed supplements, less are being fed scraps and almost four out of every 10 pet owners of people will cook for their pet, particularly if they have a dog.

When it comes to pet safety, the survey reveals Australians are highly responsible pet owners with 95 per cent of pets microchipped and a similar number of homes (93 per cent) which have been pet-proofed.

Roughly 40 per cent leave on TV or radio on to keep pets less stressed when they are alone, and the rise of using smart devices or even specialised streaming - like DOGTV - is also noticeable.

“Pet technology such as DOGTV, pet cameras and treat dispensers can be very beneficial when we do need to leave our pets at home. These types of technology can provide our pets with entertainment, help them cope with being on their own and also allow us to check in on them or give them a treat when we’re away from the home,” says Kate.

The growth of on-demand streaming entertainment in our homes, and possibly the increased time many spent inside during the pandemic could have contributed to a surge in naming pets after a TV or film character (up to 22 per cent), while the standbys of choosing a name based on the pet’s character or sticking with a name it was already given continue to be popular.

And when it comes to money, Australians follow through on their love of “all creatures great and small” spending an average of $1,801 per year, with half of women surveyed preferring to donate to pet charities over human charities and almost 18 per cent mentioning their own pet in their wills.

Other key findings of the PETstock 2022 Pet Parent Report:

● Almost one in three (29 per cent) of owners have outfits and costumes for their pets, while up to 5 per cent of those surveyed say they buy matching outfits for themselves and their pet.

● Up 25 per cent of pet owners admit to having held birthday parties for them.

● Almost six out of 10 dog owners use code words around their pet, so it “doesn’t understand what I’m saying”.

2022 PETstock Pet Parent Report

Research was undertaken by PETstock in March 2022. Total sample size was 1583. The figures are representative of Australian pet owners aged 18+ nationally.

Dr Kate Mornement

Dr Kate Mornement is an Applied Animal Behaviourist, consultant, expert witness, educator and media spokesperson based in Melbourne. She has a PhD in canine behaviour, from Monash University, and a Bachelor of Science with first class honours in zoology (Animal Behaviour) from La Trobe University.

[1] Animal Medicines Australia, Pets and the Pandemic, 2020

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