While our pets should be loved and appreciated every day, this Saturday February 20 is officially set aside as international ‘Love Your Pet Day’.
But just how much and in what ways do New Zealanders love our dogs and cats? Pet insurer PD Insurance has done the mahi to shine a brighter light on the topic. Last week it surveyed 1,000+ Kiwi dog and cat parents about sharing their lives with furry friends.
Chief operating officer for PD Insurance, Michelle Le Long, says “With the study we’ve concluded just ahead of Love Your Pet Day, we wanted deeper insights into why people choose to make a dog or a cat part of their family. We also wanted to look closer into the benefits associated with pet ownership. From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.”
Cats vs dogs, COVID lockdown & showing the love
When talking socially about pets, a big question is ‘are you a cat or a dog person?’ As it happens, almost half of us are both (46%). But in the race to win, the top dogs are canines – 38% of respondents said they preferred dogs and only 16% preferred cats.
Interestingly, 50% said spending more time with pets during lockdowns made them love their pets more and 33% are worried about their pet getting COVID-19. Asked if they would vaccinate their pet against coronavirus if this was possible, 26% said ‘yes, no matter the cost’, 27% said ‘yes, if affordable’ and 39% were unsure. Only 7% wouldn’t.
Demonstrating affection for pets takes many forms. When asked how they show their pet they love them, unsurprisingly most pet parents do so in a number of ways. The most commonly cited included giving cuddles whenever they want (94%), playing with them (93%) and talking with them (92%).
Le Long is particularly impressed with the high percentage of respondents indicating regular checkups at the vet (86%) are part of showing love. “That’s a big pat on the back for Kiwi pet owners; just as it is for humans, health is wealth for pets,” she notes.
Other demonstrations of love included giving their pet toys (84%), providing high quality food (83%), regular exercise (76%), and even sharing a bed (73%) with their fur babies.
Partners vs pets & the importance of de-sexing
For fun, PD Insurance asked if they loved their pet more than their partner. 27% said yes, 8% no, and 44% had equal love (22% were single).
“In the spirit of Love Your Pet Day and given its proximity to Valentine’s Day, we had to know!” laughs Le Long. “And with fewer than one in 10 loving their partner more than their pet the survey reveals just how much emotion we feel for our fur kids.”
In addition to recognising the necessity for quality food and healthcare, these pet parents were responsible in reducing the risk of unwanted pets. 91% believed desexing is important for non-breeding pets and only 1% said it’s unnecessary.
When asked why, the most common reason connected to the tragedy of unwanted and uncared for animals. Given the huge number entering shelters every day it’s heartening, says Le Long, that 34% had adopted from a shelter and 12% adopted a stray.
In a related question, respondents shared their views on whether cats in New Zealand should be legally required to be registered and chipped like dogs. Nearly three quarters (74%) said yes, 9% no, and 17% were undecided.
The survey also asked pet parents for their cheekiest memory. To the shock of teachers everywhere, at least one person said the dog ate their homework. Another ‘stole my mum’s false teeth’, while many naughty pups were noted as chewing expensive items.
Spare a thought for the midnight messes: ‘My cat once pooped on me while I was sleeping in the middle of the night and then tried to use the duvet to bury it!’ reports one pet parent. Another recalls an urgent challenge at an inconvenient time: ‘My border collie swallowed a whole sock during the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. He was rushed to the vet to remove it – don’t worry, he was ok!’
Le Long says Kiwi pet parents are as diverse as the population itself, however “what we do see is commonality in their love for the quirky, cheeky, lovable rascals that are our fur babies”.
“Love Your Pet Day is a great excuse to do something extra fun with the pets which bring us so much joy. And for those who don’t yet have pet insurance, it’s a good time to reconsider – reducing the worry of large treatment costs gives us more head space and greater capacity to show pets our love.”
Leandri Smith – The Mail Room
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