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Blog posts for October 2015


Media Release: New data reveals a worrying early warning that Australian pet populations are in significant decline


Aussie cat and dog numbers falling despite proven benefits of pet ownership

Pet ownership in Australia should not be taken for granted is the underlying message of new research released today by Mars Petcare Australia that shows a decline in both cat and dog populations across the country.

The pet population data1 - made public for the first time today - reveals that cat numbers have declined by 200,000 and dog numbers by 100,000 over a 12 month period. Since 2001, when there were 2.6 million cats, the feline population has declined by 15.5% to around 2.2 million Australia-wide. Dog numbers have been steady for over a decade, peaking at 4.2 million in 2009 and 2013, but the number of older “senior dogs” has increased, indicating that numbers will fall in the near future.

A third of cat owners (31%) and dog owners (34%) currently look after a senior animal aged eight or more years old. The average life span for a dog is between 8-11 years (dependent on breed) and the average for a cat is between 12-15 years.

Tim McCallum, Director of Research and Development at Mars Petcare Australia, said: “Like with the human population in Australia, we’re facing an aging pet population and there are several lifestyle and societal changes that are to blame. This new data is an early warning that pet populations will decline further unless we address some of the factors affecting the pet ownership decision, for example, with more people renting we should look at encouraging more pet-friendly properties.

“There is still time to turn this situation around, but we can’t take pet ownership in Australia for granted or lose sight of the enormous value pets bring to our lives,” said Mr McCallum.

The recent decline in pet populations has been recorded despite decades of academic research by the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition that shows the health benefits humans can experience from pets. WALTHAM research into human-animal interaction has found that pets offer a range benefits to their owners from childhood well into old age.1 Studies have found that:

  • Dog owners walk 48 minutes more per week than non-dog owners.2 
  • Pet owners have been found to have greater self-esteem and are able to cope with social rejection better than non-pet owners.3
  • Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) benefit from exposure to animal-assisted activities within an 8-week period.4

A recent study5 from the University of Western Australia and the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition showed that pet owners are more likely to meet new people and make meaningful friendships. A separate study found that pet owners had greater self-esteem, undertook more exercise, fared better on measures of wellbeing and were better able to cope with social rejection than non-pet owners.6

The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, owned by Mars, has been a leading scientific authority on pet nutrition and wellbeing for fifty years. In 2014 alone, WALTHAM published 46 peer reviewed scientific papers.




For more information or to request an interview please contact:

Ben Seal                                                 Sonya Friesen

Palin Communications                               Palin Communications

02 9412 2255 / 0402 386 392                    02 9412 2255 / 0423 495 392  

ishtar@palin.com.au                                   sonya@palin.com.au



  1. Mars Petcare Australia, Pet Population and demographics: Australian Cats & Dogs. 2014
  2. Cutt, HE, Knuiman, MW, Giles-Corti, B, 2008, ‘Does getting a dog increase recreational walking?’, International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 5. pp. 17-27.
  3. McConnell, AR, Brown, CM, Shoda, TM, Stayton, LE, Martin, CE, 2011, ‘Friends with benefits: on the positive consequences of pet ownership’, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, vol.101, no.6, pp.1239-1252
  4. O’Haire, M, McKenzie, S, McCune S, Slaughter V (2013)  Effects of Classroom Animal-Assisted Activities on Social Functioning in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine. Volume 20, No.3, pp 162-168
  5. Wood L, Martin K, Christian H, Nathan A, Lauritsen C, Houghton S, et al. (2015) The Pet Factor - Companion Animals as a Conduit for Getting to Know People, Friendship Formation and Social Support. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0122085. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0122085
  6. McConnell, AR, Brown, CM, Shoda, TM, Stayton, LE, Martin, CE, 2011, ‘Friends with benefi ts: on the positive consequences of pet ownership’, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, vol.101, no.6, pp.1239-1252


Notes to Editor:

Mars Petcare Australia

Mars Petcare is the world’s leading pet food and veterinary care business that strives to make A Better World for Pets® every day. Mars Petcare believes that pets make our lives better and that pet ownership brings joy and benefits which should be accessible to everyone. Mars Petcare has a number of leading brands including PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, DINE®, ADVANCE®, OPTIMUM®, SCHMACKOS® ROYAL CANIN®, EUKANUBA® IAMS®. Key specialty brands include the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition®, a leading scientific authority on pet nutrition and wellbeing.  Mars Petcare has more than 37,000 Associates worldwide.


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The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition

The WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition is a leading scientific authority in pet nutrition and wellbeing and has been advancing the frontiers of scientific research into the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Located in Leicestershire, England, the renowned state-of-the-art science institute focuses on the nutritional and behavioural needs of pets and their benefits to humans, enabling the development of innovative products which meet these needs in a practical way. In collaboration with the world’s foremost scientific institutes, WALTHAM has pioneered many important breakthroughs in pet understanding and nutrition and leverages this knowledge through Mars Petcare brands to make a better world for pets.



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