Companion Animals in New Zealand 2020 Report

March 15, 2021

New Zealanders still some of the world’s greatest pet lovers

The results of Aotearoa’s largest general survey of pet owners have just been released by Companion Animals New Zealand (CANZ).

Nearly two thirds of Kiwi households have at least one companion animal, a figure unchanged in the last five years. With 41% of New Zealand households having a cat, our rates of cat ownership are higher than both Australia and the US, and more than double the rate of the UK. Dogs are also an increasingly popular pet, with 34% of New Zealand households having at least one dog, up from 28% in 2015.

Dogs may be ‘man’s best friend’, but cats are not far behind. 78% of survey respondents consider their dog to be a member of the family, while this figure is only slightly lower at 74% for cats. This sentiment was echoed in thoughts on animal healthcare, where cats and dogs were the species considered most important to have vaccinations and veterinary visits if the animal becomes sick or injured.

“It appears that pet owners recognise the scientific evidence which has repeatedly proven the mental and physical health benefits of pet ownership,” says David Lloyd, CANZ General Manager.

Questions were also asked of the non-pet-owning population. More than half of the households in New Zealand that don’t currently have a companion animal would like to have one, with the three biggest barriers to pet ownership being an unsuitable home or lifestyle (37%), living in rented accommodation where pets are not allowed (33%) and cost (30%).

Lloyd says that given the large numbers of animals in New Zealand looking for a home, it is disappointing that many landlords continue to disallow pet ownership in rented accommodation.

However, he noted that although the initial outlay for a companion animal is often very low, owners needed to be mindful of the long-term commitment and potential cost of acquiring a companion animal. According to the report over half of cats, a third of rabbits, and a quarter of horses and dogs are acquired for free often through informal networks like getting an animal from a friend or family member.

In addition, Companion Animals New Zealand notes it is concerned that there are too many animals available through uncontrolled animal breeding in New Zealand, especially for cats and dogs.

“Despite there being no scientific evidence to support it, the opinion that a cat or dog should have a litter prior to being desexed remains widespread,” says Lloyd.   “Owners of 16% of non-desexed cats and 13% of non-desexed dogs use this as a reason for not having their animal desexed,” he says. “This practice alone has the potential to produce large numbers of puppies and kittens, which then may be given away for free in a pet market flooded with other unwanted litters.”

The report quantifies a wealth of information from how many pets are in New Zealand, where they are sourced from and whether they are desexed or microchipped, to understanding the role and importance of companion animals for their owners.   The report is made available for free to researchers, policymakers, educators and the all companion animal guardians. Click this link to access the report: LINK