Pet ownership statistics

How does pet ownership in Australia compare to other countries around the world? What are some of the drivers and barriers to pet ownership in this country? How much do we spend on our pets? Are pet numbers rising or falling?

In November 2016, Animal Medicines Australia released its 2016 Pet Ownership in Australia report, after releasing its first report in 2013. This report helps to answer these questions and provides insight into the state of pet ownership in this country.

Pet ownership statistics – what’s changed from 2013 to 2016?

In 2016 it was estimated that there were more than 24 million pets in Australia. At 62%, Australia continues to have one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world with around 5.7 million of Australia’s 9.2 million households home to a pet.

Dogs remain the most popular type of pet with almost two in five households (3.6 million) owning a dog. There was an estimated dog population of 4.8 million in 2016; 20 dogs for every 100 people. The dog population rose slightly from 2013 to 2016 by approximately 600,000.

Cats were the next most common type of pet with nearly three in 10 households owning a cat (2.7 million). While cat ownership remained stable from 2013 to 2016, the cat population increased from 3.3 million to 3.9 million during that period; 16 cats per 100 people.

Fish were the most numerous pet type, with a total population of 8.7 million in 2016; this is down by 2.4 million compared to 2013. Bird ownership is also down by 11% (526,000 birds) compared to 2013 with a total bird population of 4.2 million in 2016. There were close to 2.5 million other pets in 2016 including 537,000 small mammals and 415,000 reptiles.

The decline in fish and bird ownership led to a fall in Australia’s pet numbers by almost 9% from 2013 to 2016. However, while the pet population shifted, household penetration of pets remained stable overall (63% in 2013 versus 62% in 2016).

Barriers to pet ownership in Australia

Over half (53%) of Australians would like a new type of pet but of those only 13% confirmed that they intended to buy a pet in the next 12 months, which indicates there are significant barriers to owning a pet – with cost cited as a barrier.

The shift towards higher-density housing in urban areas of Australia to manage population growth is the biggest current threat to pet ownership in Australia – particularly in the current environment of strict body corporate or strata rules that exclude pets in multi-dwelling developments. Other barriers include having an unsuitable home or lifestyle, the responsibility of pet ownership and the issue of other members of the household not wanting one.

The emergence of the fur baby

Australian households are spending more than $12.2 billion annually on pet products and services. This is an increase of 42% from 2013 to 2016. More than a third of expenditure is on food ($4.2 billion), followed by veterinary services ($2.2 billion) and then other healthcare or general pet products. Expenditure by pet type has dogs leading the way at $7 billion, followed by cats at close to $4 billion.

Companionship was cited as the number one reason for owning a pet in 2013 and in 2016. However, in 2016 there was a marked increase in cats and dogs being viewed as part of the family with 65% of households with dogs and 66% of households with cats regarding them as part of the family. The term ‘fur baby’ has been used to describe this phenomenon with both the Oxford English and Macquarie Dictionaries admitting the term into their pages in 2015.

One in two pet owners are now turning to the internet for advice and information and there has been a related drop in the proportion of owners turning to their vet for preventative advice since 2013 (down by 12% from 2013 to 2016).

There’s been a shift in thinking about the role of veterinarians from 2013 to 2016 with pet owners increasingly viewing the role of their vet as to keep their pets healthy (71%), not just to treat them when they are sick (72%). Topping this list of the most common reasons for veterinary visits was check-ups, followed closely by vaccinations, and then illness or injury and finally desexing.

Healthcare products

Parasiticides (treatment for external and internal parasites) for dogs and cats make up 64% of all pet healthcare products sold in Australia. Vaccines and antisera are the next largest product category, accounting for 15% of manufacturer product sales in 2016.

Rates of desexing have remained stable for both dogs and cats since 2013. Microchipping and registration of dogs and cats is compulsory across most states and territories and rose from 2013 to 2016 (up 7% to 83% of dogs and up 9% to 72% of cats nationally).

Although the rate of pet insurance increased from 2013 to 2016, it is still not widely used, with only 26% of households with dogs and 19% of households with cats having insurance policies. Key reasons cited for not purchasing insurance were not seeing the value, the cost of insurance, and not having thought about it.



(Data from 2016 Animal Health Alliance publication, Pet ownership in Australia).

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