A recent online survey in which over a thousand Australians participated show that dogs are the most popular pet, followed by cats and fish. The survey, commissioned by Coles Supermarkets and conducted by Evolve Research, also showed that two in five buy their pets from shops that offer pets for sale, and that only 10 percent of Australia’s pets have been adopted from shelters.
After dogs, cats and fish, the most popular pets among the survey takers were birds, rabbits and guinea pigs. More than 50% allowed their pets to sleep on the bed (I assume there are few fish owners in this group) and roughly 30% sing to their pet. The survey takers spent an average of $58 a month on pet food, and purchased pet health products, pet medical care and pet accessories for $550 last year. Nearly one in five admitted to watching a TV show they believe their pets like, and 17% carry a picture of their pet in their wallet. One in five has taken a sick day to care for a pet.
A lot of this probably boils down to the fact that 83% of survey takers feel that their pet makes them happy when they feel down, and nearly 70% believe that their pet can sense their mood.
A large chunk of the survey takers turned out to be fond of giving their pets gifts and other special treats. Nearly 25% cooked special meals for their animal companions, 46% bought Christmas gifts for them and 40% purchased spontaneous presents. A minority even bought Valetine’s gifts for their pets.
On a related note, the Australian Companion Animal Council has called for pets to be included as a normal part of evacuation procedures in the wake of the recent Queensland flooding.
“We understand that in some situations there has been very little time to prepare for the disasters that have affected communities and priority has to be given to ensuring people are safe,” says Council President Dr Kersti Seksel. “But, ironically, in not allowing pets into evacuation centres, people’s lives are being put at risk.”
Rather than heading for an evacuation center that won’t accept animals, many Australian pet owners choose to stay at home since they do not want to leave their pets to fend for themselves during a flood or cyclone.
“We simply have to include pets in evacuation procedures,” Seksel explains. “At a time of great stress, people are being asked to make the impossible choice of leaving family pets behind and they are just not prepared to do it.”
Lifeline* spokesperson Chris Wagner says that maintaining contact with pets during a natural disaster can provide vital support and companionship.
“This is especially true for children who can be significantly impacted by crisis and can benefit from a ‘friend’ they can connect with,” says Wagner.
In the United States, the House of Representatives passed the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The law requires states wanting federal emergency assistance to include pets and service animals in their evacuation plans.
* Lifeline is an organization that provides crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services. As a part of their crisis support, they help communities recover after large traumatic events, such as cyclones, flooding and earthquakes.