Pets are now family members

National study finds more pets are now ‘family members’ and we’re investing more in their care. A report published by Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) in December 2016 has identified key trends in pet ownership and explores the evolving nature of pet ownership in Australian communities. 


  • Australia’s pet population is now estimated to include 4.75 million dogs and 3.9 million cats. 
  • Increasing proportion of pet owners now consider their pet to be a member of the family. 
  •  Smaller dogs more likely to be ‘indoors dogs’ only. 
  • We now spend around $1475 per annum to keep a dog of which around $622 is for food. 
  •  Annual costs of keeping a cat are around $1029, food accounting for $576 per annum. 
  •  Pet food sales in Australia are reported to be around $3.77 billion annually, compared to the $100 billion Australian’s spend on human food and beverages. 
  •  Increased urbanisation and the rise of apartment accommodation is considered to be a major impediment to pet ownership looking ahead. 

Dogs remain Australia’s most popular pet with an estimated 4.75 million dogs now kept by around 38% of Australian households. This compares with cats, the country’s second most popular pet, with some 3.9 million being part of 29% of households. While the report states that there has been a decline in pet ownership over recent years, this is attributed to less pet birds and fish being kept with dogs and cats remaining Australia’s most popular pets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, when questioned, owners of both cats and dogs said that ‘companionship’ was the most common reason for wanting a pet. Although once our warm, cuddly companions become settled into our households, most owners report that their pets are a ‘member of the family’, rather than simply a ‘companion’. This is reflected in two-thirds of all dogs being kept both indoors and outdoors, with smaller dogs (less than 10 kg) more likely to be indoors-only dogs. This close bond between pets and their families also helps explain many aspects of changed attitudes and behaviours in feeding and care for our pets identified in the report, with growth in ‘premium’ pet foods, pet treats, veterinary services, pet insurance, pet grooming and leisure services.

The report explores a range of issues around pet ownership including costs, barriers and motivations for owning pets. It seems that many of us are now actively managing our pet owner responsibilities, with respondents advising that they are experiencing fewer difficulties in taking pets on holidays with them, cleaning up after them, grooming and exercising them regularly. This may reflect the development of an expanded range and higher levels of service delivery in pet related products and services.

Australians now spend around $1475 per year to keep a dog and some $1029 per year for a cat. Dog owners report they spend an average of $622 on food with vet fees being the next biggest expense. Food is also the biggest expense of owning a cat ($576 p.a.), again followed by veterinary services. All up, Australians are now reported to spend some $3.77 billion on food for dogs and cats, still a long way short of the $100 billion-plus that represents the Australian (human) food and beverage processing annual turnover 1.

“The shift in expenditure to more premium pet foods stems from the anthropomorphisation (or ‘humanisation’) of pets as they become much more a part of our families. In nations like Australia which have higher standards of living, higher order needs such as health and wellness are much more of a focus for the human population, and this is being relayed to our pets.”
(Pet Ownership in Australia 2016 Report AMA)

While it is expected that pet populations will remain fairly stable over coming years, urbanisation and the rise of apartment living is currently seen as the biggest impediment to pet ownership in Australia, particularly body- corporate rules that exclude pets in multi-dwelling developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting findings of the report is that people from non-English speaking backgrounds who have immigrated to Australia are more likely to want to own a pet and this is reflected in their having a higher level of intent to purchase a pet in the coming year. Given the widely recognised benefits of owning and caring for pets, this recent report reflects the changing nature of responsible pet ownership within our evolving communities.


Pet Ownership in Australia, 2016 (AMA Report 2016) Animal Medicines Australia (AMA), is the peak body representing the leading animal health companies in Australia. 

1. State of the Industry 2016 Report Aust. Food and Grocery Council. 

This article is for general information only
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only. For advice and information concerning treatment and feeding your individual pet, we recommend that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.