Australia is a nation of pet lovers. It is estimated that 63 per cent of Australian households have some type of pet with more than 50 per cent of us owning a dog or a cat.
Over many years, Australian and international research has shown that owning pets can help improve a person’s mental and physical health, reduce the effects of stress, help children learn about responsibility, facilitate social interaction between people and build a sense of community.
And according to a recent release by the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) the structural shift to smaller density living has the potential to impact our love of pet ownership and the benefits we derive from having a beloved moggy or ridiculously cute sausage dog called Kransky.
In many countries, according to PIAS, where high-density living has been the norm for a longer period of time, pets have been successfully integrated into city life. And while it appears more and more landlords and bodies corporate in Australia are open to tenants and owners having a pet, we still have a long way to go before we reach the acceptance levels of our compatriots overseas.
I have always been a cat person. I grew up with cats with imaginative names like Sylvester, Panther, Sebastian and Spike. Although, our first-ever cat was called McFur, which I must admit is pretty damn cool.
I was pet-less for about 15 years as I wandered around the globe, but about four years ago I inherited a cat whom a colleague had found living in a drain. The story goes that the previous owners had packed up and quite purposely left the cat behind. Something, I still shake my head about to this very day.
Now this cat lived in a drain for several weeks and was only rescued once it decided to start stealing food from people’s houses. She was obviously very hungry, but also admirably resourceful. The vet nicknamed her “Worms” and she lived there for two months before the last day of her existence was nigh. My colleague, an avowed animal-lover who already had a large enough collection of pets herself, put out a last desperate call for someone to save the cat’s life. For some reason, I answered that plea and within six hours had a very frightened, pitch-black, green-eyed fur-person delivered to my townhouse. Her first toy was a feather duster.
We named her “Trixie” (Trixie McMoo Moo in reality, which is quite embarrassing for me and for her) and she is the most affectionate, clumsy, slightly crazy cat I have ever known. We kept each other company over those years, but like so many people when I decided to move into a new property, there was a “no pets” policy. I thought about sneaking her in, but decided against it. The next best option, of course, was to call my mum.
No doubt there is research out there somewhere about the tens of thousands of animals that end up living with mum and dad. Mum was due to retire, had lots of outdoor space for Trixie to roam around and roll in, and best of all, I could still see her whenever I wanted. I saw her yesterday actually, but I must admit (as cats are wont to do) her affection for me has waned and is now firmly lodged with my mother. But that’s okay because she is happy and healthy where she is. But if I’m completely honest, part of me still pines to have her back living with me – especially now that it’s winter so she could keep me warm under the covers.
The Petcare Information & Advisory Service provides non-commercial information on socially responsible pet ownership.