Australian pet ownership is high
Maria Venter – South Africans to Oz
According to the RSPCA, Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world.
About 63% of Aussie households own pets, with dogs being the most common at 39%, and 29% going to cats.
The rest goes to birds, horses, rabbits (although they are now illegal in Queensland due to wild rabbits being considered a pest), guinea pigs, fish, reptiles and other small mammals.
Another popular pet I have noticed in local pet shops is the hermit crab. These are kept in aquarium tanks with multiple decorated shells available for purchase!
Australia is a dog loving nation
I have found that Australia is a mostly dog-loving nation. Many people have cats but in my experience, they aren’t as tolerated as they are in SA.
I own two cats and have some neighbours who are not very happy at the prospect of living beside our kitties. The reason behind this attitude is the preconceived idea that every cat is a ruthless wildlife murderer and cannot be trusted!!
Well I have had my cats for around 8 years now and can count on one hand the number of birds they have collectively managed to catch.
Lizards on the other hand are a different story, as my one cat loves nothing more than to spend a lazy afternoon lying in the sun trying to catch a tasty skink or other critter for her afternoon snack!
I try and save them when I can and do not allow them near the scarcer water dragon or blue tongue lizards.
I also keep both cats indoors at night time and have a bell attached to their collars to warn any creature of their presence which I think makes a big difference to the number of kills that are made.
Dogs are the favourites
Since cats are more independent and don’t need as much exercise as a dog they are the preferred pet for me.
However, dogs are still the favourite in many households in Australia, and most are well cared for and exercised daily. Unfortunately I have witnessed many big dogs locked up in a tiny yard all day while the owners are at work.
I find this very cruel and heart breaking to see and it is totally unacceptable in a country like Australia where it is safe to walk your dog in the streets and there are plenty of dog-friendly parks and beaches where you can exercise your fluffy friend!
Becoming an Australian pet owner
In most states, a dog or cat purchased or adopted has to be microchipped by a vet and penalties apply in this is not done. You can add your details on the National Pet Register, which comes in handy if your pet goes missing.
As far as adoption goes, there are many private breeders in Australia.
Please pay careful attention to how these animals are cared for before supporting the business.
You can also pick up a cute puppy or kitten from most pet shops, but this have been frowned upon of late as there is talk of this encouraging unsavoury ‘puppy farms’ when there are already enough pets out there that need a home.
So, if you were sadly forced to re-home your beloved pet before leaving SA and are in search of a new one to complete your new home, then please make your first stop the RSPCA.
They are very helpful in helping the breed you might have your heart set on, and for a reasonable fee (much less than a breeder), they will take care of the pet’s de-sexing and immunisations.
When you arrive in Aus, one of the first things you notice are the beautiful, colourful birds and parrots you see flying free. Birds you would have only seen in captivity back in SA.
It actually took me a while to stop thinking that someone has lost a pet every time I saw one of these birds flying past me! And because it’s so wonderful to see them flying free, I cannot fathom why so many people have them as pets here too!?
Most native animals are protected and cannot be kept at pets.
Some people do care for injured or orphaned possums, bats, birds and kangaroos for a while but since they require very specific diets and care, correct advice should be gained from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Once rehabilitated they have to be returned to the wild.
A safer option would be to hand them over to a registered wildlife carer, zoo or wildlife park in your area.
Being an Australian pet owner can be expensive
If you do own a dog or cat, the other thing to note is if you decide to go away you will have to factor in the cost of boarding kennels.
This can really add up with the average price for a cat or small dog starting at $25 a day or $35 for a bigger dog. Another option is to get a pet sitter to care for your animal at their house or yours. Prices vary for this service.
For my two fur-balls what I’ve found to be the easiest option for a shortish holiday is to request our neighbour’s kids to pop over and feed and play with my cats for a bit of extra pocket money.
For longer periods away I try get a house sitter in to care for them and look after the house. I do not usually pay for this, but some house sitters may charge a small daily fee.
Another pricey thing to remember is the cost of a visit to the vet when your furry friend is sick.
For serious illness or injury these bills can be sky high, and for this reason a Australian pet owner usually opts for pet insurance.
Premiums are generally based on the breed and age of your pet but the average cost for a dog comes to around $390 per year. And cats average at around $200 a year for accident and $410 for accident and illness.
And finally, if you plan on taking your pet along with you when you hit the road there are a number of pet friendly options in terms of accommodation, but bear in mind pets are not allowed into national parks Australia wide.
A great resource for an Australian pet owner is: holidayingwithdogs.com.au