Australia is a nation of pet lovers.  According to the RSPCA, nearly 70% of Aussie households have at least one pet, which is one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world.

While dogs and cats are the most common, reptiles such as snakes and lizards are gaining in popularity for those who want a pet with a difference.  Smaller animals like guinea pigs, mice, fish, birds and even hermit crabs can be terrific pets if you don’t the time or space for a dog or cat.

One thing that pet owners agree on is that our pets have a positive impact on our lives.  In fact, many of us refer to our animals as ‘fur children’ and speak to them in the same way that we talk to our real children!  Similarly, we take delight in dressing our pets in cute pyjamas, jackets or even tutus, sharing photographs on social media.

It’s impossible not to smile at our pet’s antics sometimes.  Anyone who has ever had a pet can attest to the fact that they have their own endearing personalities and idiosyncrasies.  A cat might show affection by lying on the top of the sofa and playing with our hair, while a dog might choose to use our lap for a pillow when taking a nap. 

It’s behaviours like these that melt our heart and strengthen the bond between us and our animals. We know instinctively that pets are good for us, but research shows they are also great for our health.


Pet owners have fewer minor health problems and are more physically active than people without pets. They also enjoy greater levels of social support, feeling more connected with their community.

While these benefits are well known, the link between pet ownership and heart health is relatively unknown.

Studies show that pet owners (especially dog owners) have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and have improved survival rates after an acute coronary syndrome. 

This may be because pets are more likely to increase physical activity, or it could be because dogs are the most common pets owned and therefore studied.  

Whatever the reason, this is good news, but the benefits don’t stop there.  Pets also modulate mental illness and are a helpful therapy for those living with Parkinson’s disease.

Children and pets

Owning pets is great for kids, as those with pets have fewer emotional symptoms and peer problems than those without.

Primary school age is a great time to get a family pet.  Kids can be involved in the care of animals by playing with them, feeding them, or taking them for a walk. Responsibilities like these improve kids’ self-esteem and helps them to have empathy for others.

Pet ownership is also great for kids without siblings as they learn what psychologists refer to as ‘prosocial behaviour’ – the ability to share, help and cooperate with others. 

When they have a pet, kids get to experience the unconditional love of an animal, which is one of the best feelings in the world!